Friday, November 14, 2014

Trust Your Training - Rock n Roll Savannah Half Marathon 2014

This is a race that almost didn't happen. With Rock n Roll Heavy Medal Series announcing a new Hall of Fame for anyone doing 15 races in North America in 2014, we just needed to add one more. The only weekends we had left were Cleveland (the second weekend on October) and Savannah (the second Saturday in November). We already had The Biggest Loser Six Flags Discovery Kingdom scheduled for the day after Savannah, so we opted for Cleveland.

Then Clevelend got cancelled due to low turnout.

This may send ordinary traveling marathoners into full panic mode, but Susan took it in stride. She found a flight that would get us back from Savannah in time to get to our hotel in Vallejo Saturday night. It looked tight, but doable.

Then TBL got cancelled, again due to low turnout.

Since changing the flight to Sunday would have cost us an extra night in the hotel and another $200 in higher airfare, we decided to keep the Saturday flight back.  We loved racing the Inaugural Savannah Full in 2011 so we were bummed that we were only there for a little while. After Denver, Vancouver and Panama City Beach and with Disney/Vegas the week after I have to admit I was getting eerily used to the traveling.

Oh, and did we mention the flight was in and out of Jacksonville, a two hour drive south? Thanks to Kevin for suggesting the route so we could take use the Southwest credit from Cleveland. Flying east, with the drive at the end, made for a really long Thursday. We landed after sunset, hopped in the rental car to head up highway 95.

Then the blue flashing lights showed up behind us.

One thing I need to do when I get behind the wheel of a rental car is to make sure I know the controls. Mirrors, seats, and ESPECIALLY the lights. The Ford Focus was equipped with running lights so I could see ahead of us on the highway, but the tail lights were out. Fortunately, the patrolman let us off with a warning.

Halfway to Savannah and 10 hours into the travel day, we stopped at Taco Bell in Oakdale for drive through. Apparently I wasn't speaking clearly enough to get my order for a crunch wrap, but she DID hear me ask for extra mild sauce.

The Friday visit to the expo at the Trade and Convention Center went a lot better than it did in 2011. Parking monitors kept traffic flowing really well, even when the cars stacked up close to closing time. Joe Harris reminded us that even though this was 3 races past our Rock Idol 10th for 2014, its still an achievement we should be proud of. Back in 2011, the first year they offered the Rock Idol Heavy Medal, Susan and I made matching shirts to wear for RNR Miami Beach.  The sappiness factor was pretty high.

At the Expo, Thao introduced us to Erin Zeman. Her husband Jake passed away at the finish line at Savannah in 2013 and Erin started a fund for their son's college tuition under the name Team Trust. Jake was fond of ending emails and texts with a single word -  "Trust". We've been blessed to support a number of charities that we encounter on the circuit. It just seemed right to honor the memory of a many who loved to run. Erin has raised almost $29,000 so far. If you'd like to make a donation, follow this link.

This was going to be a pretty low key race for us so instead of doing lunch and dinner in the city, we grabbed some snacks and picked up fresh pasta, veggies and bread from The Fresh Market near the hotel to make dinner in our room and watch The Amazing Race. I did manage to get in a quick heart rate training and take a really nice sunset picture from the Convention Center parking lot.

And no, the tub of Parmesan did not survive the evening. Susan saw to that.

About this time we were hearing from folks at other races. Kevin was heading to Wine and Dine at Disneyworld and forecasts were for non-stop rain. Santa Barbara had highs reaching into the high 70's and New York was looking like low 40s and brutal winds.

Then I realized we really owe the weather gods big time. The Savannah forecast would be high 40's to start ending in the mid 60's. It was pretty much perfect race weather.

Those are absolutely NOT brand new shoes that have never been worn for training. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Very little has changed on the course. The full and half marathons stay together until about mile 12. I remember in 2011 thinking how easy it would have been to just turn off for the last half mile, but that was back when we wanted to have at least one full marathon a year. We also knew how fast the course was. Savannah ended up being Ron's PR that stood for over 3 years until Punta Arenas.

The sun rises behind us up one of the only hills on the course.
About mile 2, I passed multiple world record holder, Larry Macon. Savannah was his 1380th full marathon life time. He's on track for 1400 by the end of this year.

The parts of the course through residential sections had a lot of classic southern feel to it with Spanish Moss just about everywhere you look.

We committed this year to educating ourselves about training and getting smarter about racing. After checking some data using the Firstbeat Training Effect metric, I found that I'd been pegging most runs at the top end of 5.0 "Overreaching". I tried to keep my heart rate down in the 140's for at least the first 10 miles. I kept a walking pace of about 12:30 minute miles.

That's when mind numbing boredom set in. Good thing Rocker Dude showed up. I know he's usually around mile 10 so it wouldn't be long.

I stopped the watch, reset the workout and tried to see how much I had left in the tank for the last 5K. I was able to push down to about 11 min/mile, finishing just under 2:40, a relaxed race by all standards for me. Sadly, neither the long slow 16K segment or the fast 5K segment were relaxed enough to get below the 5.0 TE.

Susan had no such restrictions and was enjoying the course. She finished at 2:35 which is her 8th fastest time. Eight of her 10 fastest races are this year and her Training Effect values are between 2.6 and 3.4, meaning that she's got a lot of speed left in her, should she choose to use it.

I nearly got ran over several times trying to cross the finish chute to say hi to John Bingham.  He has two more Rock n Roll races left before his retirement in San Antonio.

Thanks to Cassidy at CGI, we were able to get a parking pass as a thank you for loyalty after the RNR Cleveland cancellation. We had a great location between the start and finish lines that gave us an extra half hour to say some quick goodbyes and catch up with more of our RNR Gypsy friends.

Joe was a few days out of the ER with a kidney infection. He still got down to Savannah to finish RNR number 16 for the year.

Juan finished his 17th RNR in Savannah. Jessica flew a red-eye, drove four hours and set a PR for the half. 

If we had more time, we would have found the bigger fountain in Forsyth Park, but you know how hotel check out deadlines can be.
Many, MANY thanks to Juan for navigating through Luggage Gate.
With three more race weekends planned this year, we didn't have as much time to enjoy the trip as we would have liked. We didn't even have time to stop for hush puppies. 

When we get back to Savannah - and that's a WHEN, not an IF - we'll be sure to make that right.


Rock n Roll Savannah is in its fourth year. Other than St. Patick's Day, its one of the bigger tourist events in the city. Locals turn out early and with great enthusiasm, making this race one of our favorites. In 2014, the half had 10,631 finishers (median finish time 2:20), 2,796 finishers in the full (median time 4:34). There were also 5K and 1 Mile options available for the Remix Medals. About 1500 participants finished those distances.

Race temps were pretty much ideal, starting in the mid 40's and warming to the low to mid 60's by the end of the half marathon. The course started on East Bay street next to the Savannah River, heads east about a mile and a half before doing a counter clockwise loop ending in Forstyh Park. The full splits from the half at mile 11.5 to loop south towards Daffin Park. There is minimal elevation change to the course, making this an ideal PR race.

US Air and several other airlines do fly straight to Savannah from the west coast, but if you're cautious and don't want to risk the change fees like us, Southwest goes into Jacksonville (2 hour drive) or Charleston (3 hours).

RNR Savannah crossed off our 20th state for Half Marathons and our 4th new state this year. We've also checked off British Colombia to add to Quebec (2013) for two Canadian provinces. We're up to 148 halfs, 26 fulls and an Ultra lifetime with 4 more events each left this year.

We haven't signed up for RNR Savannah 2015, but may have it on our 2016 or 2017 calendar.

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