Knoxville Marathon

Knoxville Marathon Race Recap

After months of training and lots of sweat and a few shed tears race day was finally here!  I spent the day before the race leading a hike and then driving from Cosby to Knoxville and back home for the expo.  While I was kind of stressed that my entire day was consumed by only two things, it helped to keep my mind off the upcoming race.  Here is my experience running the Knoxville Marathon.  Spoiler alert - I'll be back next year!

NoKey captured this beautiful Knoxville sunrise shot after the starting gun.  Follow him on Instagram here -  @NokeyRules

NoKey captured this beautiful Knoxville sunrise shot after the starting gun.  Follow him on Instagram here - @NokeyRules

PreRace: We arrived about 30 minutes before the start and immediately got in line for the Port-A-Potties.  I hopped back in line just in case I'd need it before the race started.  Since I've never run for that long before, I wanted to make sure I wouldn't need to use them along the course!  After queuing through the line twice, I went over to the starting line to get into my corral.  A friend of mine was running as a pacer for the 4:00:00 group, so I ran over and said hello and got some last minute advice from him ("After mile 20 it's going to suck," he says.  "Power through and look for the beer cooler at mile 22 and you'll be fine!")  The national anthem is sung and then we're off!

Miles 1-3:  I tried to stick between the 4 hr and 4:15:00 pace group at the beginning to avoid taking off too fast.  The first mile is mostly uphill and then we go down and back up.  Undulation is the theme of the Knoxville Marathon - lots of rolling hills!  I kept my pace steady for the first mile but was shocked to see I was running a sub 9-minute mile for mile 2.  I tried to dial it back a bit before we got to the Sequoyah Hills portion of the race. Mile 3 along Kingston Pike included lots of church goers in their Sunday best cheering for us as we ran by. 

NoKey got this amazing shot after all the runners came through. 

NoKey got this amazing shot after all the runners came through. 

Miles 4-7 (Sequoyah Hills):  This beautiful neighborhood is part of the Dogwood Trail - a driving tour through Knoxville people take to see the beautiful blooming trees.  It's a nicer upscale neighborhood with the greenway system running up the middle of the street.  There were a ton of inspirational signs throughout the neighborhood including my favorite sign of the race - "This would be MUCH FASTER if you drove!"  There were tons of spectators and cheering sections, snack stops and water stations, and also the first relay exchange station.  Another great sign just after the relay exchange said "If you were running the relay you'd already be done!"  From here - we ran up a huge hill with a huge reputation - Noelton Drive.  Lots of funny signs were here too - and some spectators set up a couch and a firepit with margaritas in their driveway just in case you wanted to go ahead and call it halfway up the hill.  

Casual Pint had some great signs (stole this post from Instagram)

Casual Pint had some great signs (stole this post from Instagram)

Miles 8-11 (Third Creek Greenway): After exiting the neighborhood out onto Kingston Pike, we ran through the Third Creek Greenway system in Bearden.  I loved being here again as I had many a nice walk on this greenway system when I used to live out in Knoxville.  The familiar territory was super comforting.  The race pack had thinned out a big after climbing Noelton Ave., and my legs were still feeling amazing.  By the time we reached Tyson Park I had high fived so many spectators and enjoyed the race so much I was shocked I had already run 10 miles.  Around the end of the stretch my stomach was starting to let me know it might be time to take a pit stop, but it wasn't bothersome so I pushed on.  

Miles 11-14 (Fort Sanders/World's Fair Park): The hills started feeling harder here.  I had been running consistently and comfortably to this point, but I could feel my legs starting to slow down a bit on the uphill here.  We ran past the site of an epic house party in the Fort, evidenced by the many abandoned red solo cups and beer bottles (this neighborhood, for those who don't know, is where college students cram as many people into one house as possible while going to UT).  There were also what seemed to be tons of turns to take in this neighborhood as we zig-zagged the streets.  I think the turns are always harder on my body than the hills are!  By the time I finally reached a good downhill stretch they were directing the half runners up the hill and the full marathon runners downhill.  I yelled to the volunteers "WHY AM I GOING DOWN?!" and they were laughing and wishing me luck.  Holy crap, the race REALLY thinned out now.  I continued running down with only 2 runners in my immediate sightline.  I crossed the half marathon checkpoint and asked the guy for the time and he just shrugged and said "I don't know? 2:04, 2:05, 2:06, something like that."  Seriously dude?

Miles 14-18 (Fourth and Gill, Old City): This is where I met the struggle bus.  I desperately needed a bathroom break but after the guy at the half point not even knowing the time (despite having the computer next to him) I was afraid to ask a volunteer where the next rest stop was.  Not knowing how much longer I needed to "hold it" probably would have wrecked me.  Thankfully around mile 14.7 there was a set of four Port-a-Potties and there were two open ones!  No waiting!  Afterward I felt much better, but was getting a bad stomachache.  For these four miles I struggled, trying to drink water and eat my Honey Stinger chews, walking a little and stretching to try and alleviate my cramp.  Around mile 17 the 4:15:00 pace group passed me and I was surprised to see them BEHIND me.  I lost them around mile 3 and thought they were ahead.  I was a little disheartened because I really wanted to keep up with them, but trying to run too hard on my stomach cramp just made me feel a lot of pain.  I alternated walking and running with a couple running their first marathon together so it was nice having some familiar faces with me.  

Miles 19-25 (Island Home): After finally alleviating my stomach cramp after alternating with the walk/run method I was finally able to keep running again.  I did stop and walk through the water stations on this stretch and I needed to stretch my legs on mile 21 and 24, but I finally was feeling strong again.  I also saw my friend who was pacing the 4 hr group and we high fived.  By the time I ran through the beautiful Island Home neighborhood (with many supportive spectators and adorable kids giving high fives), I finally felt like I was back to my old running self.  Toward the end of this section we ran up Sevier Ave. to Gay Street, and through Market Square.  All the spectators here in the square were eating brunch and cheering us on.  I also had a traffic cop start cheering for me and telling me I looked strong.  This was the rally I needed.  Hitting mile 25 there was a view of Neyland Stadium and our finish line and I started getting pretty excited!

Miles 26-26.5 (FINISH!): Running down through the starting line area there were tons of spectators cheering and yelling "almost there!"  Usually I hate hearing this, but now I couldn't stop smiling!  As we rounded the corner to head down the hill to Cumberland Ave. I remarked to another run this was the most painful downhill I've ever run in my life!  From here, there was a smaller than I remember uphill finish into Neyland Stadium.  There were a LOT of people walking in this section and I pulled out my phone to text NoKey I was on my way in while dodging the crowds.  The last .25 miles of this race were so emotional.  I felt the tears and the gasping of breath coming but tried to shake it off as I entered the stadium.  I heard the announcer say my name and hometown as I readied to run through the finish and I felt like I had run the entire race.  I remember screaming "I DID IT! with my arms raised high.  I finished with the couple running their first marathon together and hugged them and congratulated them, as I know they were struggling like I was.  

The after party involved me eating a ton of food and chatting with other fellow racers.  I met the 4:45:00 pacer and found out he and his father were also going to be running the Millinocket Marathon in December so we talked for a few minutes before heading home.  We made the decision to walk back to the car instead of taking the shuttle, which I credit to helping my legs stay loose after the race.  I also walked my dog before we went out for a huge dinner at the Chinese place here in town.  Other than a few kinks in the middle of the race, I had a really REALLY enjoyable race and I'm so happy I ran my first marathon.  The training was long and difficult, but in the end I finished strong and I cannot wait until next year.  

Credit, again, goes to my amazing coach Abby from Back At Square Zero.  Without her encouragement I really have no idea if this race would have gone as well as it did.  If you're thinking about training for a bigger than you're used to race, please check out her site - you'll be glad you did!

Sunday Runday - Week 14 of Marathon Training

My final week is here!  I cannot believe I've spent nearly 4 months of my life training for something. With this being my final week and the marathon being at the end of the week, I'm going to use this post to summarize all my feelings about the week.  I'll be doing a recap of the race for my Sunday Runday post next week.  Here's everything I got to do this week: 

Monday - ZERO MILES. I mean zero. I didn't even walk my dog today, which was fine because she took herself for a walk!  This afternoon I had a lot of posts to schedule for the blog and was outdoors testing some gear and refreshing my bear line tossing skills when my dog picked up a scent and ran off.  An hour later, NoKey picked her up running down the road with a giant raspberry briar dragging from her tail and hind legs.  We should have punished her, but she just seemed so happy to have taken an adventure that we just let it go. 

Tuesday - 8 mile work hike.  I had to hike the beautiful Ramseys Cascade Trail for work today (I know, what an awful task, right?!)  This hike is considered more strenuous, but hiking approximately 1-1.5 miles per hour isn't really strenuous for the guides.  I got my legs out and moving today, which is helping to keep me sane during my taper!

Wednesday - 3 easy miles.  I took to the greenway near my house for three easy effort miles, again, just to keep my legs loose.  I did some extra stretching and foam rolling for good measure. 

Thursday - 1.5 hour easy nature walk. Today is a big day for me as my boss finally signed me off to be a full fledged hiking guide!  It's really more of a formality being that I've already been out leading my own backpacking trips, but for day hikes we have to cram a lot of information into shorter hours.   I was given her blessing as a guide with the only feedback being to project myself more.  As a tiny lady, I can definitely stand to work on this!

Friday - 2 miles gentle hiking (work hike).  At the last minute a co-worker booked a hike in one of my favorite areas of the park - Greenbrier.  As a last minute add on I couldn't be more thrilled.  Like I said, taper madness is KILLING ME!  

Saturday - 3 miles hiking plus a long walk with my dog.  I should have run today, but my clients were an HOUR late for my hike, then I had to drive out to Knoxville to pick up my race packet. I really HATE when races don't offer pickup on the same day as the event.  It's really inconvenient when it's a 2-hour round trip drive.  I've never enjoyed race expos because I don't have all the extra money to pay for the overpriced T-shirts and stickers. I didn't get home until 5 p.m. It was a LONG DAY, but at least staying busy helped keep my mind off the event. 

Sunday - RACE DAY! I got up at 5 a.m. and was so nervous.  My first marathon... I can't believe after all this it's finally here.  I'm going to post a race recap in two weeks, but I will tell you that I finished, finished strong after a few crappy (and I mean crappy) miles in the middle of the race.  I finished in 4:25:05, but I think if I hadn't had stomach issues I could have done it in 4:15;00.  I'll be back next year Knoxville Marathon!

Well guys, that's it! My marathon training is complete.  My work schedule really makes it too hard for me to run in the spring, summer and fall.  My next scheduled race isn't until December - the Millinocket Marathon with NoKey!  He will be running his first ever half marathon then and I'm hoping to add a few 10K's or half marathons to my schedule in the fall as well.  Only time will tell how much training I'll be able to squeeze in.  I am going to run some miles here and there and I've set a goal of running twice per week for the next few months just to maintain some level of fitness for my legs.  With my job as a hiking guide I'll still be getting in plenty of miles, but something inside of me really wants to keep running.  

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community Share-it Saturday!

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 12 of Marathon Training

I cannot believe it's my biggest week of marathon training!  I have to say, going into this week I was kind of discouraged just because my last big run day was so tough and hot... I've honestly wondered what the HELL I was thinking signing up for something so huge and then signing on to do a week-long section hike of the AT mere hours later... but here's how my week went. 

I'm definitely feeling springy!

I'm definitely feeling springy!

Monday - 6 miles. This was supposed to be a speed work run. In reality, it was a full on struggle bus!  My legs just really didn't feel warmed up. I never hit my projected pace and was so hot I could hardly breathe!  It didn't help that there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the smells of the car exhaust and fresh mulch on the greenway were so strong.  I was just happy this run was done1

Tuesday - Rest day!  I was definitely grateful for the rest, especially since it was so hot!  It seems like Tennessee went straight from winter to summer with spring being left behind!

Wednesday -  I had a 9 mile progression run scheduled for today.  I ended up getting up too late to get those miles in and had to work all day.  I did 3 easy recovery miles right at sunset just to get some miles in because I knew Thursday was going to be crazy! 

The beauty is called Bloodroot - the sap that runs from the stem is red. 

The beauty is called Bloodroot - the sap that runs from the stem is red. 

Thursday - 12 miles hiking with clients. We had a last-minute addition to my schedule and I hiked Mt. LeConte with some clients.  This hike took all day and I didn't get back to my car until it was dark outside.  I got in over 4500 feet in elevation gain, though... so it's not a total loss!

My hike for Thursday!

My hike for Thursday!

Friday - Recovery. I really needed it after the long week.  Thankfully, I got to spend some time walking my dog for a nice leisurely afternoon. 

Saturday/Sunday - Backpacking 101.  I did a total of 8.2 miles of hiking for the two days, hiking at a slow speed on an easy trail.  I'll be posting more about that trip very soon!

Hiking up Porters Creek Trail in the misty rain.  

Hiking up Porters Creek Trail in the misty rain.  

So while my week was supposed to be a huge week with a 20-miler scheduled for the weekend, it didn't quite work out that way!  I'm really glad I decided to not beat myself up over my mileage, despite the fact that I'm so close to my taper for the marathon, which is now only 14 days away!  I will be making up my long run tomorrow, so I'm hoping it goes well!  I'm so incredibly nervous to see than 20 miles on my watch!  I have done many 20-mile hiking days in the past, but running it is a whole other game!

How has your week been going? Are you training for any events? I'd love to hear about them! Leave me a comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter to get the conversation started!

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community for Share it Saturday!

Women's Running Community