I left my house in Central Florida at 4:15 Saturday morning. It was an uneventful drive through northern Florida and all the way up the middle of Alabama. 10.5 hours door-to-door, which was pretty good time. Got the the running store where packet pickup was, got my tacky neon-colored tie-dyed t-shirt and my chip and headed over to my hotel. I was bored, so I drove around Tupelo a bit.
Saw a Bed Bath & Beyond at a strip mall, and because I'm a glutton for punishment, I stopped in. (Even smaller than my store.) I never hooked up with the Tallahassee 50 Staters, so I just found a couple of slices of pizza and headed back to the hotel, where I settled in for the evening, reading and texting some friends.
Woke up at 3:30 AM again, got dressed, and headed out into the darkness to find the race site. It was out on country backroads, and I just assumed that the only people dumb enough to be out in the middle of nowhere at four o'clock on a Sunday morning were other runners :) Hung out, chatted with a few people, then went to find the starting line. Took off at 5:05 AM. In the dark. Pitch black dark. A few people had glowsticks and headlamps, but mostly it was dark. Which was good because it was hot, already in the high-70s, and very humid. But still a little eerie.
So the first ten miles were run in the dark. Then the sun came up. Then it started getting hairy. The eventual winner, Chuck Engle (certified hottie and all-around nice guy,) who pretty much owns this race, passed me on the out-and-back course when I was near mile 11, and he had just passed mile 15. I got his picture as he was running by. (Update: It didn't come out well. He was very small in the photo.) He told me I was looking good. Speedy lying b*stard ;)
Moving on up and down the friggin' hills, it was probably in the mid-80s by the time I hit the halfway mark, where the marathon runners turned and the smart people (those running the 14.2 miler) went on ahead to their finish line. We were off the backroads and in a really nice subdivision with ginormous houses for this part of the course. Not too many people out yet, but those that were were really supportive. Then it was back out on the roads. Around mile 15, I slowly reeled in this cute guy who was looking pretty ragged. He turned down my offer of Clif Shots and/or salt tablets, so on I went. I don't know if he finished. Right around mile 16, my race strategy changed from Run Like Hell and Don't Die to Just Don't Die. I decided to walk up the hills and run down them, and run the "flats." Not that there were many of those.
Around mile 17, I made my way up Mt. Kilamanjaro (or so it seemed.) This hill lasted the whole friggin' mile. I was not amused. Then at mile 18, the craving started. All I could think about was an icy cold pop. More than life itself, I wanted a fountain beverage, one of those Ginormo-Gulps. I'm talking 108 ounces of high fructose corn syrupy goodness. That thought spurred me on until mile 22, when the Calf Cramps From Hell started. Crap. Every time I started to run, both calves cramped right up. I'd stop and stretch them out, try to run again, and they'd cramp up again. My salt intake was good and steady, so I'm guessing the combo of heat and hills I wasn't completely used to. So I wound up walking entirely the last 3.5 miles, which pissed me off. This is NOT how I wanted to finish. But I just wanted to finish. At this point, I knew sub-6:00 was out of the question. I rolled across the finish line at 6:04:06, got my medal, and stood under the little sprayers they had just past the line, thankful to be done.
(Some cheering spectators)
They had a nice little setup: grilled hot dogs, the thought of which turned my stomach, and a cooler full of water, Gatorade, pop, and beer. I had one of each :) Chatted with some of the volunteers, stretched out in the shade for a few minutes, and thought about how disappointed I was with my time. But then I decided not to be, because just six months ago, I ran New Orleans (super-flat and not nearly as hot) in 6:28, and in April I ran Nashville in 6:24. I'm not sure how the hills stacked up, but Tupelo seemed worse. And Nashville wasn't nearly this hot. So I can't really be too bummed out with my time.
Went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and started my drive home. Got a speeding ticket in Alabama from a cop who looked to be all of 15 years old. I wanted to ask him if this was his after-school job, but didn't feel like being cuffed and frisked (although he was a cutie--red hair and freckles.) I just kept thinking, "I can't believe I'm getting a speeding ticket from Opie Taylor...." Made it home at about 12:45 AM.
Next up: Mount Desert Island in Maine. I looked at the elevation chart. Those hills are diabolical. Time to crank the treadmill up :-P
(Where can I NOT wear this bad boy??)