I’d like to call this race the ultimate dichotomy. It was not my day and it was my day. Confused? Read on …
I should probably start this recap at the start line of the race, but of course, I’d rather back up and start … somewhere else … perhaps at the beginning of the training cycle. If you’ve run a marathon, you know that there is so much more to a marathon than the race itself. This training cycle involved 5 friends (all training for the same race), 9 races, 35 workouts and 1,300 miles. Sharing the journey with friends made this one really special and I honestly think the camaraderie carried us to the finish line.
I started training for this race the first week in September. On paper, the training was a 9 week fundamental phase, a 9 week specific phase and a 1 week taper. In actuality, it probably looked more like a 9 week fundamental phase, a 5 week specific phase (culminating with pacing the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon) and then 5 weeks of chaos. I won’t rehash all of it, but basically I didn’t recover as quickly as I expected to from pacing the marathon, which caused me to miss a couple of key workouts and then I came down with a sickness that caused me to miss a couple of key weeks of training. No bueno.
I debated whether or not to even run the race and was |thisclose| to running the half instead of the full. In fact, I didn’t actually register until the week of the race (one of the many benefits of running a small, local race). Even when I did register, I knew that the chances of me running my “A” goal (< 3:00) were slim. I was oddly at peace with this. Somewhere along the way I realized that my time truly didn’t matter. Of course it feels great to set a goal and crush it, but it also feels great to run happy and without pressure. I went into the race with expectations of having a great day and enjoying myself. That is not to say I wasn’t prepared to work. I was prepared to fight. I knew the marathon would be tough regardless, but it was a challenge that I was ready to tackle.
The temperature was a little under 30* at the start. I wore two pairs of socks, shorts, a long-sleeve shirt, a singlet, gloves and a toboggan (not a sled :)), oh and my Goodr sunglasses (I love those things!). I feel like I was dressed very appropriately. Part of me really wanted to run in tights, but I’m glad that I didn’t. My legs were definitely numb for the majority of the race, but I’m fairly certain that this was, in fact, a good thing.
My plan was to ease into the pace over the first couple of miles, maintain a smooth, steady pace through mile 11, run based on effort from miles 11 to 20 (the hilly section of the race … theoretically, the effort level should’ve stayed the same during this time, but the pace would naturally slow up the hills and speed up slightly down the hills) and run it home one mile at a time.
Here is what that looked like based on my mile splits:
Easing into it: 7:24, 7:05
Smooth and steady: 6:56, 6:58, 6:58, 6:54, 6:52, 7:07, 7:08, 6:50, 6:59
Effort based: 7:28, 7:24, 7:12, 7:21, 6:56, 7:28, 7:28, 7:57, 7:33
One mile at a time: 7:32, 7:40, 7:46, 8:04, 8:14, 8:21
I started the race with Alex and Young Daniel. We all trained for the < 3:00 goal and we planned to start out together and see where the day took us. We ran the first 3 or 4 miles together, which was great! For < 3:00, you need to maintain 6:50 pace for the entire race. I knew fairly early on that 6:50 wasn’t going to happen. I just couldn’t settle into a smooth rhythm where 6:50 felt comfortable. The way I see it, if your goal pace doesn’t feel comfortable for the first 10 miles of a 26.2 mile race, it’s either going to be a really long day if you try to force it or you can reassess and settle on a more manageable goal.
I ran the first five miles of the race as part of the Grinder Gals relay team. This was my fifth year running as part of a relay team and so far we are five for five on winning our division. YAS! Having my team out there along the way was so nice! I got to see them every five miles (at 5, 10, 15 and 20) and they cheered for me and encouraged me every time. I handed the relay bracelet off to Lizzie at mile 5 and continued on my merry little way.
At this point, Alex and Young Daniel had pulled away, which was great. I knew that meant that they felt good. I saw Daniel briefly around mile 7 and I told him that I was going to reassess my goal. I didn’t really know what the reassessment was exactly, but I knew that < 3:00 wasn’t going to happen. I took a gel around mile 8. I grabbed a cup of water at the aid station and the water cup was probably 50% liquid and 50% ice. Brr!
Mile 9 was my best mile of the day. All of a sudden, I felt good! I really think it took me 9 miles to warm up. The funny thing is that the hills on the course start at mile 10 and so even though I felt good momentarily, I knew it was going to be brief. I started running based on effort (as planned) and I actually didn’t look at my watch for the remainder of the race. I knew I was doing what I could and the pace didn’t matter.
I saw Daniel again around the half way point of the race. I told him that I was good and that he should go on up and check on the other guys. He could ride up and check on Kenny and Cody, then make his way back to Alex, Young Daniel, me and Sasser. He was all over the place and took some great pictures in the process. He also deserves a special award because if we thought it was cold running, it was twice as cold on the bike. I’m pretty sure his hands were solid blocks of ice at the end of the race.
As I came through the relay exchange at mile 15, I gained an unexpected running buddy. Bowie paced Kenny for a few miles, but Kenny was crushing it and Bowie decided to drop back and run a few miles with me. I’m pretty sure my 7:20 (ish) miles felt much nicer than Kenny’s 6:20 (ish) miles at that point. Also at mile 15, my relay team caught up to me and Rebecca ran with us for a mile or so as well. You know how sometimes you are running a marathon and you are counting down every. single. mile. the entire way? I’ve been there many times, but yesterday … the miles just flew by (and it wasn’t because I was running fast by any means). I was just happy to be out there and to have friends supporting (and distracting) me.
Since Rebecca was running her leg of the relay, she went on ahead to make the handoff to Jessica. I took another gel around mile 17. At mile 18, things got real. We came to the toughest hill of the course (half a mile at 7.5% incline). If Bowie hadn’t been there, I’m fairly certain that I would’ve been walking. Somehow I made it up that dang thing and kept on trucking.
Before I knew it, we were already at the next relay exchange at mile 20. Rebecca had just run 5 hard miles and when we came through the exchange, Bowie peeled off and she jumped in to run with me. She yelled back to our team, “Come pick me up in a few miles!” and I jokingly chimed in with, “ME TOO!” I was so ready to be done with the race. If someone had offered me a ride to the finish, I would’ve gladly accepted. The only thing motivating me at this point was that I thought I was winning the race for the females. It gets kind of confusing out there with all of the relay teams, etc. and I never had a bike escort or anyone really confirming for sure that I was in first place, but I thought I was.
Rebecca ended up staying with me for five miles. I can’t thank her enough for that. I can’t say that I was great company at that point, but we’ve run together enough that words aren’t really necessary. Just having her there meant so much. At that point in the race, my focus really was to get through one mile at a time. Every mile got me closer to the finish line and that’s all I cared about. Time meant nothing. Finishing meant everything.
Around mile 24, a girl zoomed by me. She didn’t have a bib on her back (all relay runners are supposed to wear two bibs … one on the front and one on the back so that delirious marathoners can distinguish who is who in the final miles of the race). I looked over at Rebecca and was like, “Is she relay?” We thought she was, but we weren’t sure. There was a brief pause and then Rebecca just went ahead and shouted out to the girl, “Are you relay?!” She hollered back, “Yes!” Whew. Not that I could’ve done anything about it at that point, but it was really nice to know that I didn’t need to do anything about it. Ha.
At mile 25, Rebecca peeled off and I was left with just ONE MILE. Hallelujah! One mile seemed doable. As I came down the finishing stretch, I had to do a double take because there was someone who looked a whole lot like my mom standing on the side of the road. Of course with my delirium, it could’ve really been anyone, but no … it wasn’t just anyone … it was my mom! She drove 3 hours that morning (a marathon of her own) just to see me finish the race. Apparently, she had a “feeling” that I was going to win and a mother’s intuition is ALWAYS right.
After a brief hug, I crossed the finish line in 3:14:XX (official results aren’t posted yet) as first female! I was so happy! While this isn’t a marathon PR, it is a course PR by 9 minutes and it is the first time I have won the full marathon here. I made my way through the finishing chute and got my medal, a mylar blanket and lots of hugs from friends and family.
Shortly thereafter, I did a brief interview and I’m fairly certain this is the face I made when he asked me, “So, what’s next?” I’m pretty sure I answered with something very eloquent, along the lines of, “Oh geez. I have absolutely no idea.” Too soon man, too soon.
I stumbled over to the car to put on all. the. clothes. and then we made our way back over to catch the awards.
I have to brag on my training buddies for a minute … Kenny finished second overall with a 2:48, Cody finished third overall with a 2:49 (a PR!), Alex finished under 3:00 (a PR!), Young Daniel finished in 3:03 (a PR!) and Sasser finished in 3:20 (his first marathon and a BQ!). Our relay team finished first overall in the female open division with a time of 3:08! I’m so proud of every single one of us. Training and racing together was truly a wonderful experience!
A friend pointed out that my time of 3:14 was appropriate because of this verse. I love it so much. Thank you Stacy for pointing this out.
Perhaps it wasn’t just this race that was the ultimate dichotomy, perhaps it is the marathon itself. It simultaneously humbles you makes you feel like you can conquer the world.