Glenn and I headed out to D.C. to visit my sister on Friday and then Saturday went to VA Beach for Sunday’s marathon. I was sad to leave Marshall, but it was so good to get out and not be responsible for another human being for 72 hours. Thank you times a million to both of our parents for taking care of him while we were gone.
I was a nervous mess all weekend but trying hard to be calm and have a good time.
I re-read my pre race posts a couple of times to remind myself to be mentally strong during the race. I laid out the positive words I would say and what I would think about during the race so I made sure to hold myself to it.
Race morning was great- I had gone to bed by 9:30, slept pretty well for night before a race and didn’t get up until 6:15. I liked the whole 8:30 start time, it was nice to not have to be up at 4:00 for a race.
My 3:13 marathon:
I jumped in the corral about 10 minutes before the start. Earlier than I normally like, but had too much nervous energy and just wanted to get going. Didn’t help that the race was on a 5 minute start delay! I found my twitter & daily mile friend Mark (The Cranberry Kid!) right away and chatted a bit. I was anxious so wasn’t quite as bubbly as my normal self.
As soon as I crossed the start line and hit start on my watch, it told me it was full. All of my files were full and I couldn’t even start a new one. This has never happened before and I had no clue how to delete any of the files. I wasn’t about to waste energy or concern on it. Fortunately it was still reading my pace so when I looked down I could see what I was running 20 seconds back, but I had no clue as each mile rolled over what the pace for the mile was.
I usually mostly just pay attention to the mile splits as they click over because I know I’m not running the exact speed always, depending on wind, hills or whatever. But, that wasn’t going to happen because my watch was full and wasn’t tracking my distance. Super! What a great day for that to happen haha.
Honestly I didn’t dwell on it.There was nothing I could do about it. I knew I’d see Glenn around mile 9 and he would fix it for me. I wasn’t going to let it screw me up. For a minute, literally one minute I worried that I might start running too fast without knowing my splits, but I’m smarter than that. I knew what I was doing.
In the beginning: Miles 1-10
Mile 1- After the watch fail, I knew I was running faster than my planned 7:30ish warm up mile. One of my biggest worries going into the race was that my warm up pace would feel too fast. BUT, I ended up feeling very controlled and not overly excited. Although I’m not positive I think my first mile was somewhere around 7:05-7:10.
My body felt good, my breathing was great, so I went with it. I did peak down at my watch at one point and see 6:50 pace and immediately said woah sister, settle down. I put myself in check right away.
Mile 2- I came up on a pack of guys. I told them my watch was being weird and asked what pace we were at. They replied 7:05. I asked if they were trying for 3:10 and they all replied yes. There was not an official 3:10 pace group and I don’t really like running with official pace groups anyway, I find it distracting.
Since my good day goal was to break 3:15 and my great day goal was to break 3:10, I was being a little ambitious going out so hard and am much too smart of a runner these days to do that, BUT I felt confident and we had a tail wind for the first 10K so I wanted to take advantage.
I knew that no matter how fast or slow I went out, I might not be able to hold pace through some of the anticipated headwinds. And while I know in marathoning, getting some time in the bank in the first 10K isn’t the smartest decision; for this race, I thought it was. Every race is different.
Miles 3-8– I had decided at this point, this was my group, I was hanging with these guys. There wasn’t much talking. I’ve never ran a marathon and said so few words in my life. It was my plan going into it, I didn’t want to waste energy talking.
The guys were mostly quiet too, a few talkers here and there, but I wasn’t entertaining conversation. There was a wide variety of ages in the group. I think everyone was happy to be packed up. One of them jokingly asked who was going to be the one to step up and take on the wind in the front later and head the pack, everyone kind of laughed and said they’d take turns. Turned out only a few were actually willing to jump in front and do it. Selfish runners!
Between mile 5-6, there was a little out and back, where we were able to see the leaders on our way out and also the people behind us on our way back.
Of course I was mostly interested in looking at the top females. The second place female (who ended up winning) was already working hard a mile 6. I tried to wrap my head around how hard she was working this early in the game. I felt like it looked like what my 10K effort would look like. That’s how you get fast though, you work hard the whole time. It made me think I could work so much harder, but knew my body wasn’t trained to work that hard the entire race- her’s clearly was.
Mile 9– I saw Glenn for the first time, he ran next to us for 2 minutes and fixed my watch. The pack all agreed he was a keeper. I knew I’d see him again at mile 17. At this point I felt great, but my legs were starting to say, OK I see what’s going on here, you are working hard today. I did everything in my power to stay in the mile and not think about the fact that I still had 17 miles to go.
Middle: Miles 10-19
Miles 10-12: They had us on the boardwalk during these miles, right on the water. The wind was absolutely brutal. I’m not just saying that. This was my 13th marathon and I’ve never run a race in winds like that. 7:15 effort felt like 6:50 effort. We were working. I knew that 6:50 effort this early in the race was not ideal, but I also figured we would run into wind later as well and I couldn’t drop my pace that early, so I held on.
Only 1-2 of the guys were taking their turn out front, I was leading the group for the most part. One of the guys, kept purposely getting in front and to the right of me to block the wind every so often. I knew he was doing me a favor. It was obvious he was trying to help me out and I appreciated it. Although I’m not sure how much anyone could block the wind from another- it was crazy.
While I knew I was working harder being out front, I was doing it on purpose. I very well could have dropped back and forced some of the guys to get in front of me, but I was afraid if I dropped in the middle or back of the pack that my mind wouldn’t stay strong and that was the most important thing I could do. So I stayed out front.
It hurt and our pace fell a little bit but we picked it back up once we hopped off the boardwalk. Although it was less windy on the road, it still wasn’t calm and there were some nasty blasts of wind going by the large hotels. At one point I remember saying “are you kidding me” and apparently Glenn was secretly hanging out watching when we dumped off the board walk- (I had no idea he was there and he didn’t say anything because the plan was to not see him again until mile 17) I’m glad he didn’t speak up because it might have made me get weak. It might have made me want to run over to him and be a wuss. Anyway, he tells me I didn’t look happy.
Mile 13: Halfway there: The halfway point in a marathon is a different kind of halfway. Your body and mind have to be prepared for the second 13.1 in a completely different way than the first 13.1. It’s a separate race.
I crossed the half at 1:34:40, 7:14 pace. As we crossed the timing mat, I told myself, this is where the racing begins. I was realistic and knew that I had gone out a bit fast, but was hopeful I could stay steady.
Mile 14: This felt like the longest mile in the entire race. I was wanting to get to single digits so badly and the mile just seemed to go on. I had some major mind battles here. My body started slowing down and I thought about my 14 mile progression run two weeks earlier and felt negative…. my mind was saying, remember how hard that was? You were totally done at mile 14, what makes you think you can run 11 more miles at this pace? You wouldn’t have been able to do it that day, why today? I took a deep breath, gathered myself. And pushed it away.
I reminded myself that I was tapered, my body was ready for this. And most importantly, this wasn’t the day to give up and run slow. I didn’t give up and run slow in any of my training runs, why would I do it here.
Miles 15-16: Thankfully, I was able to get my head back in the game. We were finally getting out of the wind for a few miles and that certainly helped. I was feeling comfortable again and the pace was picking back up a bit.
Mile 17: We were running on a road and everything was really wooded. It was quiet and I was grateful for my pack- it would have been really lonely out there by myself. I was also looking for Glenn to show up at this point- and there he was… apparently he got lost trying to get out there and time trialed his way out on the bike as fast as he could to make sure he didn’t miss me where he said he would be. Side note- the easiest and best way to be a marathon spectator who wants to be everywhere on the course… bring your bike!
Below is the video he took at mile 17. Running like a girl with the boys. It was empowering to be the only female in my pack. I liked it. It made me feel tough.
Miles 19-22: This is when it got really hard. The pack had broken up. I’m not even exactly sure when it happened. The wind was terrible. I wanted to be done so badly, but at the same time I was trying to not wish the experience away. I felt myself slowing down in the wind and I wasn’t happy about it. I told myself to stay strong, slowing down a little bit wouldn’t ruin my time, I just needed to gather myself and I could come back out of it. I felt a little defeated, but not completely. This is the time of a race when you remind yourself you’ve hurt worse than this before, you do are stronger now than you’ve ever been and you can keep pushing.
At mile 20 two girls who were running together came running past me, we exchanged words and although I knew they were hurting too, I could tell they felt stronger than I. It didn’t upset me, I reminded myself that I was running my race.
I think I had dropped down to a 7:40 mile. That was not at all where I wanted to be, but it’s what I was able to put out in the wind and I was determined to keep it there, I was not willing to let myself creep to an 8 minute mile. I ended up passing one girl and then was passed by one more during that hellacious section.
Those were the only four girls that ran by me or I ran by the entire race. There were a few guys from my pack in front of me, but most had fallen behind. I was shocked. For some reason, I had expected them to be the strong ones. I expected us to stay together unless I fell off. I had slowed down, but most of them had slowed down more. I told myself that just because they were falling off it didn’t mean I had to. Maybe I was being tougher than them or maybe I had trained better, either way I wasn’t letting it slow me down any more than I already had.
I was alone now. I had to get this done on my own. Although this was always the truth, I had to get it done on my own from the very beginning, it felt harder and lonely without my pack.
Mile 22: I had only taken 2 gels by the time I got to mile 22 and I was in desperate need of one- I was hungry. I knew Glenn was going to show up then and had a supply for me. I was hoping the gel would give my some zing and I suppose it did a little, but not as much as I wanted.
Mile 22 was hard, really hard mentally. I was so close to the finish and it took some major mental strength to not slow down too much. I was mad that I was letting myself fall off pace as it was, but made myself be content with what I was doing. If you let slowing down make you get too defeated, you’ll slow down more than necessary. I know, I’ve been there before.
Glenn was encouraging, he knew I was starting to struggle. He told me this was what it was all about and I would be done so soon. After he gave me my gel though I was ready for him to be gone, I needed to focus on the run and needed to be in my own head to stay strong. I told him to find me at mile 25.
Miles 23-26: The end was here. Three miles is a distance I can grasp, the end is near- less than 24 minutes of my life. During these miles, I was kind of all over the place, I would slow down and then surge a little, over and over again.
I saw Glenn again at mile 24 and took half a gel. During this time, we were running by marathoners who were on miles 11-15. I wanted to cheer them on and be friendly, but I had to stay focused and get my butt to the finish. I was imagining feeling like I did and still being back there at mile 15. I hopped those runners were enjoying their race but I was very glad I didn’t still have 11 miles to go.
I was holding out around 7:30 miles at this point, although I wanted to be at more like 7:10…. every time I pictured myself finishing leading up to the race and during the race I pictured myself picking it up the last two miles and flying in. But it wasn’t happening and I told myself to be confident in what I was able to put out and stay there to the finish.
At mile 25 the clock said 3:04 or something like that, I was already sure I had 3:15 in the bag, but that solidified it. I wasn’t sure what the real time was because they started corral one 30 seconds after the official start with the wheelchair athletes and obviously my watch didn’t have the time.
We turned the corner and finished out on the boardwalk, there was a girl up ahead that I hadn’t seen yet and if I would have had another 400 meters I would have been able to catch her, but there was too much distance and too short of time in between us.
A couple of the guys from the pack finished right behind me and we chatted a bit. They made me feel better about my efforts because they were completely trained for a 3:10 and they agreed that the wind was insane.
The Mental Game:
- When the mind battles came, I reminded myself, it won’t last. The entire race won’t feel like this, get out of your funk and you will feel good, at least decent in a bit. You are not having an off day, you are having an off moment.
- There were a few times when I wanted to back off the pack I was running with, I kept making myself promise to stay with these guys until mile 20. This was my group. It wasn’t going to be a short lived group. I was almost giving myself an out though- I was saying- get to 20 with them and reevaluate. The weak part of my brain was saying, then maybe you can slow a bit, the strong part of my brain was saying, then maybe you will be able to take off.
- There was a girl holding a sign at mile 12 that said “trust your training“-this was right after we had the terrible board walk section of headwind and my body was still adjusting back. I kept that on repeat in my mind from then on. I remembered the 10 mile tempo runs and the 20 miles I ran on not much sleep. I remembered all of the stroller runs that ended in a headwind. I thought about how hard I worked on mile repeat days. I kept those workouts in my back pocket and pushed.
- There weren’t a lot of spectators out on this course, but when there was good music and cheering, it really helped. You forget how helpful that is when it’s absent.
I let Marshall creep in to my head a few times but honestly thought it made me feel weak. Thinking about him made me think he is the most important thing in my life and this race doesn’t even matter in the long run. That is true and so if I focused on that I would slow down and I didn’t want to do that. I know that probably sounds weird, but it’s how I felt.
So I jumped back to race mode and just thought about keeping my body at the same pace and staying in the moment. I did make sure to thank volunteers at each water stop and the course marshals. The only time I didn’t give a smile and verbal thank you might have been the last water stop. I think they just got a head nod.
|Last 400 meters on the board walk|
|Finished. Exhausted. Happy.|
I know that running a near even or negative split is the way to get it done in a marathon, but I really believe that yesterday I ran the race I was supposed to in order to get to the finish line when I wanted to. Although I knew I was loosing speed the last 10K, which is the opposite of what I desired to do, I still think I ran smart.
Had the conditions not been so windy, I really believe I would have had a shot at 3:10. I know a 3:10 and beyond is in me and I kind of want to go for it sooner than later, but right now, I need to remember how much I was looking forward to not getting up everyday and running so far and fast. I need to enjoy the break that I worked for.
|Was happy to have warm clothes to put on.|
|Best supporter. We spent the last year in reverse roles, it was nice to be the competitor this time.|
I am thankful for the man I married- I am thankful that he ran logistics for the weekend. I’m thankful that he helped me create a great training plan, believed in me and most of all, made me believe in myself.
Thank you to everyone who cheered me on this weekend. I took it all in and remembered each of you while I ran. Something I’ve learned to love about social media and running, twitter, blog friends- you hold me accountable. I know what I can do and I know you know what I can do and that makes me want to work harder. I really am thankful for this community.