The last time I raced in Memphis was December '07, the result was my first sub-1:50 half marathon and was hopeful for another PR. I left work 2 hours early and hit the road before rush hour. For dinner, I stopped at an Applebee's in Tupelo, MS, one of my favorite small cities, and arrived in Memphis just after dark. Memphis has some rough areas and it appeared that my motel was not located in the best part of town. On the same block, there was a liquor store with bars on the windows. Ouch. Fortunately, it was also next to the interstate and just 5 minutes away from the starting line at Graceland. It seems as if no race weekend is complete without a mild flare up within 48 hours of the gun. I felt fine on Thursday despite back to back quality days on Tuesday-Wednesday and okay on Friday morning as well. By the evening on Friday, I was beginning to feel some stiffness in my legs. The next morning, despite a 2 day rest, I was worse. Fortuantely, I am well in tune with my body and knew what to do about this. I took a double dose of chromium, which knocked out most of the stiffness but left me a bit jittery. Whenever I warm up, I usually have a good idea of how well I will perform when the gun sounds. Today looked to be good but not great but I never know for sure.
This one begins and ends at Graceland on Elvis Presley Blvd but most of the course was through residential neighborhoods. Since Memphis is just outside of the Mississippi Delta region, I expected a pancake flat course and a good shot at a PR. Not so fast. Nothing was terribly steep or long but the rollers were relentless and flat sections were few and far between. Overall, it was about a 4 (5 at the most) in terms of difficulty on a scale of 1-10. Temps were in the upper 70s with moderate humidity so it was not the best conditions but I've run in a lot worse. There needs to be a decree that all races in the South between Memorial Day and Labor Day must start at 7 AM, not 8.
I was out well despite being caught in a bit of a crowd. The first .1 was uphill then it went back down and that might as well describe the whole course. My breathing was labored almost immediately and my arm action was a bit sloppy. No doubt that I needed extra chromium but I may have overdone it a bit. I had no choice but to do my best and accept the result. I backed off after the 1st quarter mile but a quick look at the Garmin showed that I overdid it. From that point on, it was an all out effort to the line. My first mile was on target for a sub-19 but I just could not hold on. I was hurting after Mile 2 and was well back of PR pace. Still, barring a ghastly fade, I would come in well under 20. Anything under that barrier is a good race in my book. I gutted it out and despite hurting, managed to maintain my 2nd mile pace. With a tenth of a mile to go, the course went back downhill. I am known for my finishing kick but today, with a PR out of reach, a sub-20 secure and nobody within my reach, it was not one of my faster finishes. Gun time: 19:39. Watch time (no timing mats at start): 19:37. I was pleased overall.
-#4 all time, #2 since my comeback. I'll give myself a B+ on the day.
6:03-6:28-6:30-36=19:37 (6:18 pace).
-26th overall (23rd male)
-Second place in my age group and I got a nice little plaque out of it.
Aftermath: Plenty of food and beverages and I was in good spirits as I chatted with other runners. Long cool down around the Graceland property for a 6 mile total on the day.