Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Charlotte Thunder Road Half Marathon 2009 Race Report

The Expo

I’m not much of an expo kind of person but the expo for the Charlotte Thunder Road was pretty good. Although I didn’t get a chance to enjoy it, some of the vendors had great products for sale. There was one vendor I couldn't help but stop and view. It was Finish Line Framing.

Over the years I have collected a couple of finisher medals and race bibs; some more sentimental than others. The problem is my bibs and medals, even the sentimental ones, are packed away in the garage somewhere. This lady’s framing was beautiful. She had one of her personal finisher medal’s from the Marine Corp Marathon framed. What a site to behold! The finishing medal alone was reason enough to put MCM on my list of things to do.

Race day morning.

All week the weather was calling for a wintery mix. I was prepared for the worst but praying for the best. As the week progressed, the weather forecast for Saturday’s run continued to improve…slightly. By slightly I mean instead of a wintery mix we were only going to expect freezing temperatures.

I was a little nervous about the temperature for the run. Not that I haven’t run in freezing temperatures before. However, my last run in the freezing cold didn’t go so well. I didn’t have enough cold weather gear and following the run my knees were frozen and painful. It was from this experience I decided I needed to invest in some additional cold weather gear. I didn’t get much; just gloves and a moisture wicking under shirt.

On race day, December 12, 2009, I woke up at 5am even though my alarm was set for 5:30am. I slept ok for most of the evening but the adrenaline and excitement about finally settling the score with this race kept me wired! I checked the temperature and saw two numbers that should never be associated with running; 29 DEGREES! I’m not sure what the starting line temperature was but I believe it was around the mid to upper thirties.

I meet up with my run group whom I have not seen because of my work schedule and noticed they were small in number. I get down to the start site and into the starting chute. It didn’t look like a lot of people. Apparently, people were huddled rather closely! Pre-race announcements- blah blah blah. Followed by the Star Spangled Banner! This song always gets me pumped! After 4 years in the army, it is definitely one of my favs!


The small crowd that once huddled so closely together became a sea of bodies in motion! As far as the eye could see, there were bodies running. Nearly 4,500 people moving on the same plane with a common goal; cross the finish line. It was an estimated 3000 half marathon finishers and just under 1500 full marathon finishers.

As I approached the start, I started my trustee Garmin 305. I had been here at this start before; two years prior. This race felt very different than it had two years ago. I was nervous then. Unsure if I could complete a half marathon as it was my first attempt. This start I was excited and ready to confront those Demons past! It was a battle to me. Alcoholic Hassan (2 years ago) vs. Sober Hassan. I was game on!

It was so cold at the start that if they said the only way you would warm up was to run a half marathon, even YOU would have gladly said OK! The start was fast as to be expected. My run group and I tried to maintain our pace but it was nearly impossible. It was like a stampede. Running of the Bulls! Every man, woman, and small child for himself! We ran a pretty fast first mile. We expected as we moved forward the crowd would slow down and we could find a rhythm.

Let me also add the first three miles were pretty bad for me. It felt like I was running on ice sickles for feet. After about mile three, things began to settle. The congestion had passed and my run club and I were in our grove. My feet were beginning to feel like feet again. My hand, thanks to Under Armour cold weather running gloves, felt like they were in a toaster. These gloves were seriously the best cold weather running gloves I have ever used!

Everything was perfect! Well except I really had to go potty!!! At mile four, the feeling did not pass. In the distance I saw a tall, slender, beautiful green plastic sccene of joy! A PORTA JOHN! It was at the mile 4 aid station. I knew my group would take a little time moving through the aid station and I could partake in some relief! Oh yeah baby this is great!! I “sprint” to the Porta John and a LINE! I never felt so betrayed or rejected; so violated; so used! But like most relationships, I healed and moved on in search for the next one.

This particular aid station was on Providence Road. I hate Providence Road. Seemingly, every half marathon in Charlotte will have two hills; Providence Rd. and Morehead St. Providence Rd isn’t that bad. It just seems like forever! It just seems to go up and up! I finally Peak the top of Providence and turn right on Sharon Amity (I believe). This is always a great section of the run. There is a good group of people that stand here and cheer for the runners.

As we approached the 10k split, its time to gel and take Endurolyte capsules. I take out my capsules and they spill all over the ground and into the dirt! The 5 second rule was totally in effect! Not taking these capsules now meant severe pain and cramps at mile 9 through 13.1. Without blinking, I grabbed those powder filled capsules of joy and ingested them; dirt and all! At the 10k split, I am feeling really good! We nailed the 10k split right on target for time.

Mile 8 I  jokingly asked fellow runners, "Does holding your pee burn energy?" I was really needing to go at this point. Unfortunately, as to be expected every porta john had a line. I knew I was on track to hit my target time so I just held it! And held it…and well…held it!!

Mile 9 I began feeling the stress of this run. I was beginning to feel a blister on my right foot. I usually use body glide on places I have had blisters before in the past. Never had I had an issue at this particular location. So, of course, Murphy’s Law, the ONE place I didn’t use Body Glide was the ONE place I had a blister. (lesson learned.). At mile 9 I also began feeling a cramp in my right groin area. I’m sure this was an electrolyte issue because at mile 10 it had passed. Note: I will probably need to use the electrolyte capsules before the 6 mile mark.

Mile 10 was a glorious marker for me. When I ran this race two years ago, it was here I wanted to quit and almost did. Except two years ago, I knew my brother was working a traffic point at mile marker 11 ( he was a police officer too). He was my motivation to get to mile marker 11.

When I got there he was waving a 13.1 sticker and asked me how badly did I want it?! I shouted, “Hey bro! I’m hurting!” There was no hiding it! The pain and agony. Like Lance Leo said about the Ironman, there was no hiding from this pain. My brother, in uniform, ran down to me and then ran alongside me for about a tenth of a mile! What support! That was one of my fondest memories of that race!

On this day, unfortunately my brother wasn’t at marker 11. He has since left the department and moved to Germany with his family. Although he was not there, that memory was still very much alive in me. I began to relive that moment and I yelled hoping he could hear me all the way in Germany! “I’m OK BRO!!!” When I finished this race, I talked with my brother about his tenth of a mile run with me two years ago. He told me I looked like I wanted to quit and so he risked getting in trouble by leaving his post to run with me that short distance. Is there anything we are not willing to do to see our loved ones succeed? He was right! I wanted to quit and had spent the last mile before seeing him deciding how I wass going to quit. Seeing him and having him run with me changed my race. I dont know if he really knows how much that meant to me!

At mile 12, the marathoners and half marathoners separated. Boy did that last 1.1 mile seem to last forever! And did I mention I had to potty! UGH! You know when you rush home, the closer you get to the door, the more you have to go! That is what was going on here. Along the race were bands and other entertainment. I remember at the Aquatic Center, mile 12 through 13, there was a band playing and they were singing we have hope…or at least that is what I heard. That song seemed to shorten the last mile for me. I made eye contact with the lead singer and shouted a thank you to them. She smiled back and I have to wonder. How many other runners where inspired by their song as they moved toward the finish line?

I turn the corner and the streets were lined with people! Mile marker 13!!! One glance at my Garmin! I know I’m going to make my target time! I try to conjure up a sprint! I dig deep! Scream GET SOME (from my old Army Days) and take of on the heroic sprint to the finish!!!!!! Yup! I felt like I was sprinting. Buuuuut, I’m sure it didn’t look like it to some of the spectators!

I raise may hand to the Glory of God and look up to thank Him. I know without His grace and love, I would not stand here today the determined person I am!

I would like to tell you that after holding the potty for 13.1 miles, I rushed off to the restroom and the day was saved! It didn’t exactly go that way!!! After crossing the finish line, NOTHING! I didn’t have to go anymore!!! How in the world did that happen! People and our bodies! Geesh! This was a great run! I did a personal best at this race by 15 minutes! I will likely never run this full marathon because it looked so lonely out there. The final score card! Who won?! Alcoholic Hassan v. Sober-God Loving Hassan. We all know the answer to that question.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I wrote this when I had time over the last three days.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story! I saw you off at the start of the race and was waiting for you at the finish line....but now I know all the amazing details that went on in between! It's always inspiring to hear your perspective and I love the memories that spurred you on and gave you the warmth and encouragement you needed to finish so strong! Great Race HP!!! I'm proud of you! Thanks for sharing!