Kiawah Island Marathon – Blisters At The Beach

Kiawah Island Marathon has been on the calendar since October 25th, the day I decided to register on a whim, not drunk, 2 weeks before my initial goal race in Marshall, West Virginia on November 6th. Why?.. Hmm.. the WhyGuy himself ponders such absurdities.. the obvious question, why register for another marathon when you haven’t yet run the intended race? I have no clear answer other than runner’s run and I am a gluttony for punishment. Turns out the Result in Marshall recapped here “We are NOT Marshall,” conveniently, I had some unfinished business for the Start Line in Kiawhat the heck was I thinking… The diagram to the right shows the new part of the anatomy that my running hobby has taught me.. I now have running to thank for my intricate working knowledge of the knee, shin, ankle, and butt.. or piriformis that is.

Butt I wasn’t alone.. My neighbor and running friend Aaron Linz had scoped out the race after his attempt to break 2:40 this past October in Toronto, left him with an appetite to try once more before the New Year. I had been toying with the idea of racing more like Michael Wardian, a man who runs multiple marathons monthly and seems to require little to no down-time between races. It reminded me of some of the greats like Alberto Salazar, Bill Rodgers and Dick Beardsley who toe’d the line multiple times with no recovery. How can I compare myself to these legends? I mean, I’ve never even run with an Olympian, or have I? Stay tuned.

Coincidentally, I got a chance to ask Beardsley himself this past month at the Charlotte ThunderRoad Marathon Expo, “Why did you race so often and what do you think of the new generation of Professional Runners that only race sometimes twice a year? His summarized response was simple. Money. Back then they did not receive the amount of money, if any, for “appearance fees” or product endorsements. We spoke of Ryan Hall deciding to run the Chicago Marathon recently and his 400K appearance fee. Can you blame him? No, but I can hate him. Just kidding.

Conversely, Beardsley and the others had to win races to make money. The undeniable benefitting factor of this multiple-marathoning or repeated-racing was the invaluable experience. You cannot simulate a race in training he mentioned, and you only can learn from trial and error when it comes to tactics involving surges and race day strategies. So that brings me to my race.. not sure how.. but its time to get to the race.

This was another Marathon-induced Out-n-Back with a Family-Conscious tone as I was set to return in a matter of 27 hours door-to-door. We left Friday afternoon at 3:00pm and filled the car with Aaron, myself, & J-Mar. Who is J-Mar? J-Mar is Jason Martin, 32 year old Charlotte native and Running enthusiast. He is a coach for the Trinity School’s girls XC team and a teacher of some subject, nothing too complicated I’m sure. Ha! j/k Jason.

Alarm set and Wake-up at 5:00am as I testified that would be the only 5:something that I would see on the clock the entire day because the race plan and my fitness was not indicative of anything below 6:00min pace, it never is really. Ready to go and on the Island with near 2 hours before the 8am start. We managed to stay entertained using the live camera feed from the start-line to the waiting area. We as in me, and entertained as in I didn’t realize there was a big screen in the other room. The screen we saw was only about 32 inches in the lobby. Now imagine someone, not me, mooning this screen. D’oh!

Luckily, we were traveling with local running celebrity and 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Caitlin Chrisman, (See Red Run) as she was able to get us ‘regular folk’ into the Elite Runner tent. This is where the port-o-let has 2 ply-paper, the bananas come peeled, and no one over 160 lbs is allowed in the tent. A mere 30 feet from the start-line and heated – the feeling was 5 diamond fantastic! It was here that I bumped into Dane Rauschenberg, (See Dane Run) another running celebrity, as he was preparing for his 52nd lifetime half-marathon, somewhat significant coming from a guy that ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 2006.

Star Spangled Banner, saw Scott Kennedy off in the distance, high-fived Chase Smith and his father Christopher then Alice Rogers, some random CRC chants and we’re off…

Settled in to a 6:30 pace after the 1st 2.5 miles ranged in the 6:10-15 neighborhood.. typical race, it feels like magic and super easy in the first miles and I go out like I’m late for a meeting or just missed the bus. Scott Kennedy, Rock Hill Strider/CRC Member, finally caught up to me and even mentioned, “Man, you went out kinda fast for just trying to run sub 3 hours.” One day I’ll learn. Scott has been running a lot of races recently and we had similar goals between 2:49 and 2:59 so we thought we’d run together. We jokingly remarked how easy it felt and how we would likely reminisce upon this fresh feeling in the later miles. Seems so silly now. It was near this point that I had a hot-spot forming on the ball of my right foot, but nobody likes a complainer so I kept this to myself for the time being. It was only mile 3.

At mile 6 or so I saw Alice Rogers and Justin Breland smiling and cheering us along. It halfway crossed my mind to stop and steal Justin’s socks but I felt that the damage had already been done. We cruised along thru 8 miles steadily in the 6:25-6:30 range faster than anticipated but keeping the door open to a miracle sub 2:50!?! Reminds me of that SNL skit Really? with Seth and Amy.. Really?!? So your last long run was October 23rd and you are going for sub 2:50, Really? You’ve run 10 marathons and you still go out like a rookie, Really? Feeling my blister begin to take up more and more real-estate I backed off slightly and watched Scott pull away.

By mile 10, it was evident that the pain was only going to become so great and it couldn’t get any worse so I had become accustomed to the slight sting every strike of the pavement.

The course is a double loop and mile 13 conveniently comes back to the start, the perfect storm of sorts for the quitter, or the guy that wants to bail. I couldn’t imagine running another 13 miles on this incessant blister, however, nor could I imagine back-to-back marathons with a DNF (Did Not Finish). So I made a right hand turn instead of the left turn towards the music, chocolate fountains, laughter, recliners with grapes, and any other awesome image that popped into my head. Time to get to work.

Crossing the halfway timing mat, I realized I was stride for stride with a little lady that had tucked in behind me. I jokingly said, “It’s a $20 fare to the finish,” as I was blocking the headwind as we plodded along. She responded in an unfamiliar accent, “I’ll give you a pair of shoes instead.” When I asked where she was from she said, “South Africa,” and when asked I responded, “New Jersey.” From that point on I simply called her ‘South Africa’ and she tabbed me ‘New Jeresey.” Little did I know that ‘South Africa’ was actually a former World Record Holder and Olympian Track Star named Zola Budd. Only later did I find all of this out from my friend Jay Holder thru a Facebook post. Which, by the way, he should name his kid World Record, so he can say his son is World Record Holder. Am I right? Or perhaps, Olympic Record if he has twins. :) Sorry, you can leave anytime you’d like; the door is in the upper right hand corner.

Zola is widely known for the 1984 Olympic Finals in the 3000m where she inadvertently bumped one of the favorites Mary Decker in the closing stretch. See minute 2:04 below to better understand or knock the dust off the memory bank.

Apparently, she has kept on running and resides in nearby Myrtle Beach, but for right now she lives in my back pocket. So we chatted a bit and I asked her if she has ever run the Comrades Marathon, (the world’s largest and oldest Ultra-Marathon, 56 miles) which is the only combination of that country and running that I could muster up for conversation purposes; she said next year will be her first. So there you have it Runner’s World, breaking news from my little blog over yonder..

In speaking with my Grandmother today about the race, she asked if I had gotten any pictures with the famed runner and at first I said no, but after hanging up the phone, I thought back and distinctly remember several course photos taken with Zola and myself neck and neck. That will be a must-have photo for certain.

@ mile 16, I saw the digital clock. 1:45:xx, I did the quick math and thought 7 minute miles home would bring me about 2:55 or so, minus the .2 miles. Easier said than done. If you want a quick way to feel like crap in a marathon, start thinking about the finish with 10 miles to go. This time the out-n-back section was increasingly long it felt like but actually it was, they increased the turnaround point an extra 50m so the finish could be in the same place as the Half-Marathon.. you may say it’s only 50m further in one direction and 100m total, but it was like someone had said, “Syke” and pulled their hand back from a handshake. I felt duped.

Plane was crashing down and my foot was going numb. I decided I wouldn’t walk until I completed the out-n-back portion, this way the others I know  wouldn’t see me walking. Seems silly now, but it’s what I was thinking at the time. And, if we really get into what I was thinking, I might mention that passing-out or feigning a pass-out move was high on the list of “ways out of this bad movie” but I did not want to deal with the paramedics if they insisted on taking me to hospital and charging me for ambulance services or helicopter fees.. I imagined I couldn’t just say, “I was kidding guys,” or “look I just needed a ride,”

So finally mile 21 or so I pulled up the breaks and was giving Jeff Galloway all kinds of credit and accolades for his ingenious Run/Walk method in marathoning. I walked for a bit, then pressed on and ran to mile 22 then walked for a bit more. This continued until the end of mile 24, I walked a total of 5 times. The interesting thing is, right when Zola would catch up to me and try to pass I would start my shuffle again and run by her. We were laughing back and forth. Around mile 24.5, Chris Page, of Charlotte and understudy of Mark Hadley passed me and gave me a nice, “C’mon Mike” which shook me out of pity party for a bit. Btw, he went on to an impressive 2:58:xx.

I said to myself, as sure as there is a God, there is a Finish-Line. Somewhere along the way you begin to doubt the whole existence of a finish-line, but it was good to remind myself of it and at Mile 25 the clock read 2:51:09. Oh Geez, just enough to make it interesting. All I needed to do was press it the last mile for a sub 3:00 marathon. Could I do it? Was anything left in the tank? I gave it a push but my blister was not cooperating, I had since invented a running style that rolled the outside of my right foot as to avoid the ball of my blister and this was not very efficient.

In the final turn I saw the clock at 2:59:45 but there was no sprint in me as was evident from the look in the children’s eyes as they grabbed their mother’s arms after looking at my face. I heard in the distacne, “Did you see…” I’d imagine I looked like a woman trying to give birth without an epidural. Each step was an increasingly awkward cringe and strain upon my marathoning mug. Done. 3:00:05 Ha! Perfect Irony, Murphy’s Law of Marathoning, I walked just enough to miss a sub 3. Do’h!

I learned how to hurt. No doubt there will be a race when I get a blister again and I will draw from this experience as the time I didn’t quit, which will serve as an assset for the future. Really bad medal though, horrible even, Really?? Kiawah.. I mean, Resort Hotel, Spa, 6 Golf Courses with a plastic hokey medal that resembles a Christmas Ornament, Really?? Oh well, hopefully they mail me the 3rd place age group award, my X-mas tree could use the help.

Results Here (scroll to the way bottom for Marathon).. Congrats to J-Mar who pounced a PR and squeaked into NYC next year in 1:22:xx, Caitlin with a PR and 3rd place Female in 1:18:xx and Scott Kennedy with an impressive PR 2:51:xx.

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