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March 3, 2008

Team Juggernaut race report

The Sunday morning of February 17th started very well. The Butlers, Cardozos, and Sinellis all met at Josh and Erin's house with no problems. Josh and Erin's friend Ted picked us up and took us to the starting line with no problems. This was much better than taking the shuttle buses from the various hotels. I guess an 8:30 starting time has some benefits. We were not rushed at all.

When we arrived at the start, there were tons of potties available and we checked our bags. Just before the race, we met up with the #1 Juggernaut, Mike Hensley. With Mike, the Juggernauts had a strong chance of having the overall winner in the race. He looked focused, but not too tense.

As Josh, Erin and I lined up, I remarked that I have never seen a 8:20/mile pace group so close to the front of a race with over 7,000 participants. The beginning of the race was very relaxed, and the bridge at mile 1 was no big deal. I did find myself surging, and looking pack and seeing Josh and Erin maintaining the pace. Having them was very helpful to stay on target. Crossing the Intracoastal Waterway, we saw a fireboat spraying water. There was a helicopter hovering in the area filming the runners.

Once off of JTB, we started working our way through the beach neighborhoods. Crowd support was incredible. As we ran onto the beach, we were a little ahead of target, but not enough to worry about going out too fast. Running onto the beach was awesome. The entrance was lined with folks and they were really cheering. For the 2.5 miles we were on the beach, there were tons of folks cheering. Our pace was a little slower, off maybe 5 seconds per mile. Nothing to worry about.

As we ran off of he beach, I saw Aunt Joyce. She was sick but still came out to see her Juggernaut nephew. We then worked our way through the streets of Neptune Beach. Once in Atlantic Beach, I needed to make a quick pit stop. I went right before the race, but for some reason had the sensation that I really had to go. I had to pick up the pace for the next quarter mile to catch Josh and Erin, but didn't burn too much energy. Just past the 11 mile mark we arrived at the house and our families were cheering for us and handing us water and sponges. Erin and Josh both made a quick pit stop. I stayed out front and talked to Karen. We had some time in the bank, so we were OK.

We then headed for the Ocean Walk and Selva Marina neighborhoods. Going into Selva Marina, Josh's sister Jessica joined us to pace us the last 12 miles. At this point, I started to feel my left hamstring tighten up. It was starting to be a little more of an effort, but still no real worries. I saw Karen, Emily and Maggie again just past the 15 mile mark. They had walked a half mile south to see us come through again. As we approached mile 18, things deteriorated quickly. It was becoming an effort to maintain the pace, and my friends slowly pulled away from me. I was happy for my friends because they were still running strong and I hoped for the best for them.

Once past 18, it became a run/walk effort. As I approached mile 20, I caught Josh, Erin and Jessica. Erin's stomach was no longer processing fluid and PowerAde was sloshing around in her gut. She wanted to puke but couldn't. After a brief rest, I decided that I needed to keep going before I cooled down completely and couldn't get started again. Jessica volunteered to escort me to the finish line. The last 10k was TOUGH. Jessica stayed with me and grabbed water bottles for me and motivated me to keep going. She pretty much kept everyone around us in good spirits despite the misery we were experiencing physically.

I was so glad to see that finish line, and I was able to accomplish the goal of not going over 4 hours. I finished in 3:59:09. My worst marathon ever. Or was it?

Despite the disappointment in my finishing time, the race was inspirational. The crowd support on the course was incredible, and seeing signs that said "You are running for me" or "You are running for my Mom" really humbled me. And folks thanking the runners for running the race? Still gives me goose bumps to think about what the race really represented to many people, and how much money was raised for research.

I probably won't run the full next year (go ahead and mark the calendar that the weather will be excellent!). The timing of the race is squirelly for triathlon training. Too much run focus when I should be on the bike. I will run the half marathon next year, and I'm already looking forward to it.

Pete ended up finishing around 4:20, a time he was very proud of. Erin and Josh came through a little after 4:30. Erin promptly puked 3 times after crossing the finish line. James scaled back his race, but still finished 18th overall in 3:10, perhaps good enough for prize money as the 3rd male from Jacksonville. Mike didn't win, but he did run well, finishing just under 2:35. That was good for 7th overall. So team Juggernauts had 2 guys in the top 18. Not bad!