RACE REPORT: Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon 2009

admin | February 16, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (9)

It was still some hours before sunrise when the alarm on my cell phone went off. I had already laid out my running duds, as I knew I’d likely forget something in the foggy stupor of “just woke up.”

I considered takin’ “Jack” with me, who I’d met just the day before on my first deep-sea fishing adventure, but he elected to just “chill” in the hotel room while I headed out to run the Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon. I sensed he might be offended that the race was named after grouper and not amberjack, so I assured him I’d take him out for dinner sometime soon.  He never said anything, so I assumed he was good with that.

Besides, on that day…I was running alone.

Okay…not alone alone. Some thousands of other folks were saddling up for the 2009 Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon just like me; a smaller number were takin’ on the full marathon distance. Just nobody I knew; I was on my own.

And that was the plan all along. I’d come to Florida because I was not going to sit in Nashville alone on Valentine’s Day weekend…and a long hard run was exactly what I wanted. What I needed.  Fishing for Valentines” the day before was, well, what it was – an uncommon opportunity making for a uniquely appropriate Valentine’s Day.

I hadn’t run my own race in over two years. I’d run numerous half marathons and two New York City Marathons since November 2007 as one of the leaders of the Team McGraw endurance program; in each race, I’d run with various members of our team, done damage control for injured or troubled runners, (some Team McGraw folks, some not), gone back after stragglers or just chatted my way along the course at someone else’s pace.

I had no idea what I might deliver if I took all of my own stress and strain, joy and anger, and left it all out on the course on my own terms.

Today I would find out.

My buddy Mick showed up early at my hotel to head to the start with me. Dude, you did not have to get up this early, I told him. “I ain’t runnin’, but you’re my boy, so I’m gonna be here to support ya!” he said.

He’s a good ‘un.

February or not, it was hot and humid in Florida, so the runners took to the line in the dark to escape as much of the heat as possible. The course was simple: start at the Ringling Brothers museum, finish at the Ringling Brothers museum. An out-an-back. Less chance of getting lost. I was good with that.

Something felt kinda strange – after running two New York City marathons — but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I remember thinking, everyone seems so distant, unfriendly, almost evasive. Wait…that’s not it…they’re just…spread out? Yeah, that’s it! It was a smaller race, so we weren’t stacked on top of each other as we shuffled into position, shoulder-to-shoulder for forty blocks between inflexible hard plastic corral fencing.

I was likin’ this.

My pal disappeared as I headed towards the start. There’s the gun. I’ll be walking for a good while. Oh, I’m already running. Right…smaller race. I forgot.

Not a lot to see, as it was still dark. We kept the water to our right as we wove through some pretty nice neighborhoods; I was told they were nice…but I really couldn’t see much. I took their word for it.

“McMAHON!!!” There’s Mick , all climbed up on a lightpole with his camera. How’d he get up there? No matter. He’s all about the cheerleading, without the jumps. Like I said…a good ‘un. Yo, Mick.

I settled on ten-minute miles. The math was simple, and I just wanted to lock in. The miles clicked by. As the sun came up, the view of the water was pacifying, and the course was essentially flat.

The race was well-staffed and water-stocked, and I had two Espresso flavored Hammer Gels in my pockets.

It’s hot. So what. Run. Don’t think. Just run.

Well, I say don’t think. When I run, I still listen. Listen to my legs. Listen to my body. If I get a tweak, I’m not gonna miss it for the the current hit by the Blackeyed Peas hammering out from my iPod.  I prefer the hammering of my feet on the street; I prefer listening to me.

I wish this story was more dynamic, but it’s just not. I turned back at the halfway mark, and started it all over again. There was a slight incline on the causeway at the turn around, but since we spun there, it really negated itself. Tens were working, I was thinkin’ I could hold ‘em, and thought I might even have something left at the end for the last mile.

I did. Coach Kevin calls it “packing all that emotion and anger and inspiration and hope and bitterness and frustration into a bottle and holding onto it until that last mile…and then opening the bottle.”

I opened it. The last mile was my fastest of the race, resulting in a finishing time of 2:10:38…and a personal best.  Done.

Now…time to get back to the team.


9 Responses to “RACE REPORT: Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon 2009”

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

  1. Comment by KevinFebruary 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm  

    Negative split… fast final mile… personal best…. i like that!

  2. Comment by JennyFebruary 18, 2010 at 4:40 pm  

    I love this Jeff!! Thanks for sharing!!
    Jenny 😉

  3. Comment by Carrie — February 18, 2010 at 7:10 pm  

    Jeff, you really do ROCK! Love reading your stories as much as running along side you…ok, after you’ve finished and come back to find me! Ya Gotta Believe!

  4. Comment by Billie Hubbard — February 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm  

    Proud of you as eating a box of chocolate would be easier 🙂 Great job!!

  5. Comment by Tink — February 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm  

    (McMahon)~
    This story may not be as dynamic as you wish. Sometimes simplicity speaks volumes. I had much more of a profound impact from reading this than any of your other blogs. Congrats on your personal best.
    One final hug,
    Tink 😉

  6. Comment by Jaycee Dugard — February 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm  

    Dear Mr.McMahon,
    I am a new fan of your music. My sister has been a huge fan for years. Through my sister, I have discovered your music and all the things you do for your boss’s charity. It is very generious of you to so freely spend your free time helping others…although you may have been running alone. As many times as you share your passion for running with others, it makes those times you get to do to it alone more bittersweet.

    Honestly, I have no clue who the Blackeyed Peas are or what there current it was during your run. Too bad you didn’t have a picture of your friend on the light pole to share with us. Thank you for being such an inspiration and hope to so many of us. May you find much peace and all the answer you seek in your life’s journey.

    All the best,

    Jaycee Dugard

  7. Comment by Cook What You Catch « Road Dog RunnerFebruary 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm  

    […] won.  I’ve wrapped him and packed him for our return to Nashville following my completion of the 2009 Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon, and I’ve run a personal best for the distance.  Yea […]

  8. Comment by Cheryl — February 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm  

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations on the PR.

  9. Comment by RACE REPORT: Gasparilla Distance Classic 2009 « Road Dog RunnerMarch 8, 2010 at 9:19 am  

    […] weekend.  I was anxious to run another race, especially after a surprisingly strong finish at the Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon two weeks earlier.  Okay…surprisingly strong for me…and for me, that works. Besides, Tom […]

Leave a Reply

You can use these XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>