Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rocket City Marathon 2012 Race Report

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I got up today at 5:40 thinking that I needed to shower and get the kids ready to leave by 6:20 a.m. (they were going to my mom's house).  At 6:20, I called her in a panic and told her that I was running late and wouldn't be leaving the house until 6:25.  She asked, "Late?"  It turns out that I told her I'd bring them at 6:45!  As you can tell, I was nervous and had a lot on my mind.  So with the extra time, I set up the camera to take a quick picture of me before we left the house.

VERY helpful---taped a pace bracelet to the pace sign
Getting ready to leave the house
I drove the minivan to the start line, and my mom took over driving to take the kids back to her house.  Before they left, my son asked, "But Mommy, how come you get to run with a stick?  I thought you told us not to do that!"  Mom and I laughed about this one, and I explained that we are careful with the signs and we don't point the stick up!  It was about 7:15 a.m. by then, and I headed inside the Holiday Inn to wait and go to the bathroom.  A trick I learned was to hide my pace sign in my bag.  No one asked me about the course, etc. this year as I waited to go to the bathroom!
The Race
Everyone knew the weather would affect us this year.  We've had unseasonably warm temperatures, and the race started in the 50s and ended near 70.  Very warm for December!  I headed out to the start line at 7:45 and enjoyed not being cold, but later in the race I was sweating so much that I could almost wring out my shirt!  At the start, I was instantly swarmed by people who said, "We are glad you're here!"  What a nice welcome!  There are 1,500 people registered for this race, and the start line was not overly crowded.  People were spaced according to pace by large signs with pace ranges (3:30-3:45 etc.) being held by volunteers, and us pacers carried smaller signs with our specific paces. 

Rick came into the start area with a few minutes to spare.  He'd been doing course sentry volunteering since 4:00 a.m. that morning.  He was head of that area and served on the marathon committee, requiring lots of meetings and pre-marathon preparation.  The pacing was the last thing on his mind that morning, he told me, since the other work was important and had to be done.  Imagine if there wasn't someone at even one intersection or turn!  He also coordinated the sentry volunteers' shirts.  A free shirt is a small return for each person who stands outside for 4-5 hours directing the runners!  Through talking with Rick before and after the race, I gained a deeper appreciation for these volunteers.

After the gun sounded, we quickly passed the start line and began the race.  We are told to run off of chip time, so we pressed "start" on our watches about 17 seconds into the race (as we crossed the mat).  Rick wore two watches--his regular watch and our Garmin, but the Garmin wasn't working and shut off early in the race!  This could have been disastrous for our pacing, but we found our stopwatches and my pace bracelet (taped to my sign) to be adequate.

Our group was large for the first 15 miles or so, so Rick and I did not stay side-by-side the whole time.  I found it fun to pull alongside people and have conversations with them.  I ran into my friends Susan and Kristi and others I knew.  And I met many people, though I had trouble learning their names.  Two girls I called Blue Shirt and Pink Shirt stayed just in front of us for much of the race.  They were very consistent for being young and first-timers. 

The miles passed uneventfully in the beginning.  It felt like an easy pace to maintain (I have been running lots of miles at this pace for practice lately).  Rick and I had a runner in our group who helped us during the miles with his Garmin's times.  At each mile marker, I would announce the amount of time we had in the "bank."  At the halfway point, we had between 60-70 seconds banked.  Though even splits or even negative splits are nice, I think it was good to have a small cushion to allow for a little slowing down in the later miles.  And our Pace Team Coordinator had told us, "Based on the experiences of the last 2 years, most people found that being about 60 seconds faster than even pace through the first half worked the best. Your goal should be to finish between 0-60 seconds ahead of your time, no more."  We were right on pace. 

Right before we turned onto Chaney Thompson to head back along the half marathon course (about Mile 14.5), we saw Race Director and Fleet Feet Huntsville owner Dink Taylor on the course.  It turns out that he only came out for a little while to see how the course was flowing.  He's never done this before.  He later said that each pace group was easy to spot because they were huge!  Right before and after this, I saw a couple of friends on the side of the course.  Each was dropping out.  I was extremely sad for each of them and had to distract myself from thinking about them too much.  I knew I would hear their stories later, and I needed to be there for the runners around me. 

We are "peacekeepers" according to this photo caption
Picture found here
The End of the Race
Our group gradually faded, so much so that for the last 2-4 miles, we were on our own and running together (a nice little date!).  We took turns sharing favorite running quotes (my idea).  Mine was, "One day you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day."  It really spoke to me today, since running with Rick like this was an unusual event.  We normally run our own pace in marathons, so we found this time to be enjoyable and special.  Since I wasn't racing, I found that I was able to trot/walk at each aid station and actually drink the water/Gatorade instead of sloshing it all over me like usual!  I also took things handed out on the course--a peppermint from "Santa" at Mile 24 and a salt packet before that (I guess because it was so warm?).  The salt was great!  The volunteers did a great job handing out the Gu.  I got 2 vanilla ones--one at 13 and one at 18.

With 2 miles left to go, I could feel fatigue setting in.  Rick said I was "taking off," but it felt like I was doing a 10 minute mile.  We were both having trouble judging pace without a Garmin by this point, but we wanted to try hard to still be on pace.  We intentionally slowed miles towards the end to bring our overall pace back to 3:45, using the pace bracelet for guidance on that.  If you look at our splits, Miles 22, 24, and 26 are slower miles, while Miles 23 and 25 were faster.  This shows some of the struggle we faced when trying to maintain evenly paced miles at the end.  It was hard pulling back because I knew we'd get there sooner if we sped up!  I encouraged several people as we passed them, but no one stayed with us.

I made sure to be loud as we neared the "one mile to go" sign.  "One mile left!!!!" I shouted.  And I asked each group of people we passed to cheer for the runners, knowing they would need the encouragement in this last mile.  Rick and I turned the corner to head to Mile 26, and I got a great feeling over me, knowing (or hoping) that we were about to see the kids at the finish.  They've never seen us finish a marathon for various reasons but mostly because they are at the hotel at the different states we travel to and not at the finish line.  Then, we saw them!  It was such a special moment for our family!  I loved it!  They were on the curb watching us, and Rick high-fived them as we passed. 
Seeing the kids on the curb with their grandpa
Heading to the finish at Mile 26.1(?)
Shortly after that, Rick grabbed his leg and said he had a cramp.  He stopped to hold it.  I don't remember my exact words, but I think I said, "Oh no you DON'T!!!!  Get up here!!!" I was not going to have him stop now!   He ended up being fine, and we headed towards the finish together.

Checking my watch as we near the finish line
I was saying, "Slow down, slow down" because he kept speeding up!  He had said we would "celebrate" at the end, but I thought that meant holding hands or high-fiving the crowds or something.  I knew we could be dead-on if we just maintained our pace.  No need to speed up!  It turns out, he had a surprise planned!  He grabbed me and pulled me in for a kiss---me and my snotty and salty face! It was very sweet, but I felt like a clutz and was completely taken by surprise! We were just short of the finish line for this, and, even though I liked the kiss, I wasn't done thinking about that finish.  So after that, we both crossed the mat together.   They have us listed at 3:44:37.

All photos below courtesy of Gregg Gelmis

Rick about to make his move (I am just to his left--see my sign?)

The reaction to this kiss has been really sweet.  I posted a picture on facebook and got lots of "likes."
Race Director Suzanne Taylor asked in an email, "Did Katie and Rick renew their vows at the finish line? WOOP!"  Rick replied to that, "It was a rare opportunity that Katie was within snaggin' distance at the finish. I had to take it. ;):"  Our Pace Team Coordinator even mentioned it in the blog and email to us pacers, "Rick and Katie Maehlmann wrapped up their flawless pacing duties with a kiss at the finish line."  It is a fun memory and something that I am glad Rick decided to do!

With our kids at the finish
We were given our medals and a finisher's hat.  It felt good to be finished, and I was happy to have been on pace at the finish.  I was a little bummed because I had run in size 9's and ended up with a black toenail, but other than that, I felt fine.  We met us with our family and stayed to cheer on some of the runners we'd seen that day.  We ate a great post-race lunch at the hotel of warm vegetable soup, ice cream sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

We had a great time at the post-marathon banquet that night, sitting with some of Huntsville's fastest and funniest runners!  There was a mix of generations there, as the table next to us had some of the founders of the race and original runners (the race is in its 36th year). 

I've included my splits.  Rick was not right next to me the entire time so his differ by a bit.  You can see that they range from 8:16 to 9:03, when we were aiming for an 8:31ish pace.  Not bad, but we both agreed that we could have improved that with a Garmin.

1 8:33
2 8:32
3 8:24
4 8:30
5 8:20
6 8:44
7 8:26
8 8:39
9 8:24
10 8:28
11 8:16
12 8:38
13 8:33
14 8:30
15 8:35
16 8:39
17 8:35
18 8:24
19 8:40
20 8:31
22 9:03
23 8:18
24 8:50
25 8:22
26 9:00
.2 2:02

3:44:37 Overall (chip time) Pacer for 3:45 group

I plan to do another post about pacing (things we said along the way that I think were encouraging) and one about the media night I went to last week.  And more about training for Mountain Mist! 


  1. Love love love this post! Y'all are so cute and fun. That seems like something Jason would do if we were to pace together (and I'd SO LOVE to do that).

    Okay, so you showered before the race?? That cracks me up. Although I've heard many people say they do. I guess it wakes you up? :)

    Thanks for sharing such a fun experience!

  2. Those splits are so consistent!! And I have to say you are the cutest pacing team together I have EVER seen! Love the finish line kiss!!! ;-)

  3. You guys did a great job together as a pace team! I would be a little worried when the garmin died, but you all pulled off a great pacing job!

    Smart of you to hide the pace sign when you were at the restroom. I can imagine the delay that could cause.

    Beautiful ending with the kids waiting and the kiss. Those are some great shots!