Race Recap of Peak to Creek Marathon
Let me first preface this article with the brutal honesty that I am not a good writer, nor a good story teller. I hope that the content of my articles helps make up for the lack of proofreading that will take place in the next few hundred words I am about to share with you all!
As many of you know (and for those that do not), I coach an endurance team of athletes called Without Limits. I coach athletes local to Greenville/Upstate South Carolina as well as some dedicated runners remotely. An athlete of mine had a lot of success running her first marathon last fall at the Peak to Creek Marathon that is held at Jonas Ridge North Carolina. She ran so well she wanted to sign up for it again to improve upon her time. She talked about it enough that 6 other athletes wanted to join her in this endeavor of running marathon PRs! I was one of those 6. Back in July I was pressed to register because this race only holds 400 people and it was nearing the sellout capacity! So I pulled the trigger and gave myself 16 weeks to get my shit together and actually train for that damn thing!
Let me also preface all of my times, paces, and goals are ALL relative to me as an individual and do not reflect the general running community. I love the mid-packer, the age grouper, the sweeper, and the “barely make the cut-offer”. Actually it’s the “elite” crowd of runners that tend to get on my nerves with running jargon. Just put one foot in front of the other. Ohh on another note. I will ramble and get off topic quite regularly.
So with 16 weeks ahead of me I wrote a very loose mileage training plan that includes one weekly long run (that I barely got in) and one weekly progression run where I would start off really slow and finish really fast. This style of running for me has physical benefits but more so it has mental boost of confidence that I like to use in my preparation for a run. I was able to hit my weekly mileage for the most part and was actually feeling very confident about my running. I was running stronger, mileage wise, than I have in the last 2-3 years where I was just “faking” it until I made it scenario.
While having our 2nd child this September I was even able to transition into that stage of our life while maintaining my runs due to my amazing wife. Here is a nod to all the mothers out there (and fathers) that allow us to continue our training through chaos. Back to the 16 weeks… I didn't sign up for any races, mainly because I was race directing a lot of them (Reaper, Jones Gap, MUT Camp, Cottonmouth, Beerlay, Paris Mountain). That gave me more time to just plug away and grind it out.
Okay enough about preparation, let's talk about the race! Well Friday afternoon we met with 4 of the 7 runners heading up and we carpooled up to Morganton and enjoyed a great dinner at Bella Vino (def recommend) and then walked out our dinner a half mile to packet pickup. It was very quiet and quick and had us back to our cars before dark. I booked a lovely Airbnb and was accompanied by two missionaries from Africa that were back home for some family weddings! We are now friends on Facebook and they were shocked when they found out I got 2nd at the race… SPOILER ALERT.
Friday night I tucked myself into bed and fell asleep listending to this new Murder/Crime podcast that is actually based out of Greenville SC! Check out Murdet ETC and learn about the crime hierarchy of Greenville and how TO TODAY some local politicians and police personnel could potentially be involved. Crazy stuff! Anyhow. 10pm and lights were out and 4am came in a flash.
Now I have a very strict protocol for my morning of pre race ritual and getting up early is one of them. The race started at 8am so I now have 4 hours to get my body “right”. The first thing, COFFEE! Second thing, POOP! Then I grab another cup of coffee and we sit in the shower for about 10 minutes. Yeah I am a primadonna! I ate a Jimmy Deans breakfast sandwich and a bagel with butter! It should come as no surprise as an ultra runner that my stomach is a FURNACE, meaning it will burn pretty much anything as long as I give it 3 hours to do so. My crew picked me up at 5:15am and we headed to the finish line to await the buses to pick us up. The trip was about 40 minutes to get to the buses and another 40 minutes to get to the start line since it is a point to point race.
When we arrive we see about 300 other people walking back in forth not really sure where to go or where to stand to wait for the buses. Thankfully it wasn't cold out and one of our athletes rented one of the Yurts right on site so we made another pot of coffee and used the bathroom 1, 2, ahh 3 more times just to make sure. 6:30 rolled around and people started to get a little chummy! NO BUSSES! They were late… By about 30 minutes. Some people were upset but as a RD I do not like to give grief about anything that can and will go wrong in a race so I sat there quietly knowing that they are not going to start the race without us so why bother getting worked up. I just went into the woods to poop one more time. Did i mention that when I get nervous for a race it is my natural laxative.
Hey BUSES are HERE! The management of the bus situation was clearly unaware of what the hell was going on as they brought 6 buses when only 3 were needed. So each bus was filled half way so I found an entire row to myself to stretch my legs out. As we were driving up the mountain the sun finally peeked its head over the mountains and IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! One of the best sunrises I have ever seen. We arrive at the race site and the line for the portable toilets stretched past the first mile marker. I gave them the ole “Shit or get off the pot” command and they all seemed to “move” pretty quickly. There was no announcement when the race was going to start but since it was 8:20 and the race was supposed to start at 8:30 I assumed they would give people enough time to use the john and head down to the road to the start line. Luckily I was already down there because the RD nonchalantly walked up to us with his megaphone and said, “...well I guess we better start this thing” and literally 30 seconds later he shot the gun (or said go I can’t remember) and we were off.
First mile I am sitting back in about 20th place. I am not the fittest guy there but if there is one thing I pride myself in, is that I do not go out too fast and I have run enough long ass races to be able to judge my fitness and pace myself appropriately. It wasn't until mile 6 were the pack started coming back and people started to relax into position. We actually started talking about the race, goal times, etc. Most of them were targeting under 3 hours and I kindly reminded them that the pace we were running currently would net them a 2:48 for sure. They questioned me at first but our next mile was 6:16 and apparently their GPS watches were not working so I gave them the split and they immediately slammed on the breaks. And then I was alone. I always count how many runners are ahead of me and by mile 9 I knew there were only 2 more people in front of me but I knew not to get stuck in the competitive game of chasing them and that I had to run my own race. Leading up to this race I had three goals: Run even splits, Run a 2:45, and Win. I looked up previous years times and I knew 2:45 would be close to pulling it off and after hearing horror stories of people bombing down the mountain blowing out there quads I knew I had to keep it even keel. I guess I should tell you that this race has 10 straight miles from mile 6 to 16 where you are literally running downhill on gravel rocks. Not as fast as you may think and my quads 4 days later are screaming at me.
Mile 13 came and I ran out of Tailwind. They sponsor my race series and I actually love the stuff and carry it with me in my own hydration bottle. Along with music from my phone and my two sugar packets that's about all the nutrition I need to get through a full marathon. When I ran out I simply stock up with water at every aid station and the halfway point was it. As soon as I made these winding switchback around mile 14 I could see a glimpse of someone in front of me. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. It could have been the excitement of being back in the race again or it could have simply been the Metallica that was jamming in my ears! Needless to say, I was pumped and on a slow and steady mission!
Mile 16 comes by and this is the HARDEST part of the course. It is a mile out and a mile back section on road where you can see runners that are behind you and ahead of you.
PRO TIP: If you are ever in a race and an out and back comes you can accurately determine how far (time wise) the person or a certain person is in front of you. If they are on their way out and you are on the way in you can wait until you cross paths and look at your clock. Split your watch there and when you get to the turnaround junction and double it. That is the total time that said person is in front. This could be useful to some or many of you are saying who gives a shit just get me to the finish.
Anyhow I knew the leader was 2:30 ahead of me by mile 17 so I knew it could be tough to catch the leader but I still had my sights set on 2nd place who was only 40 seconds ahead of me with a very low cadence so I knew we were both on the same bus… the struggle bus. I focused on form and high cadence. They do not tell you this but when you run downhill for 10 straight miles even running on flat surface or a slight incline feels like climbing a mountain.
18 came and went, 19 came and went, finally 20 miles was here and so was 2nd place. Its hard to tell if they are going to stick with you while you pass them but I made it a point to put on a tiny little surge around 6:15 pace for about 400 meters just to make a gap. It probably hurt me more than it did him but as soon as I hit mile 22 I turned back and there was no one in site. This is kinda where the race got boring for me. I wasn’t racing anyone. I knew I couldn’t catch the leader (who eventually ran 10 seconds off the course record in 2:39) and I was just running in this safety zone of not blowing up so I wouldn't be caught by others. I looked at my watch and I was still able to average 6:27 per mile the last 2-3 miles so I knew I was going to achieve that first goal of maintaining even splits for the race. I fell short of my 2nd and 3rd goals of running 2:45 and winning the race but that was my first “raced” marathon in about 4 years and I was really proud to finish the race strong and to cheer on my teammates! We had a masters winner, 2nd place age group young punk, and 4 total PRs!
The finish was right on the river where I got to soak in it for a few minutes before my teammates came in!
All in all it was a great marathon and the course was quite beautiful with the fall colors!
Next up: Kiawah Marathon
Goal: 2:44 and top 5
I run some and I love my kids. My wife keeps me in check and balanced. I enjoy a good beer and am the king of board games.