Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lincoln Marathon Race Report

Training for any marathon is stressful, at least for me anyway. There are lots of people these days that do several marathons per year but this is not my running philosophy. I'm obviously not anti-marathon but there is no doubt that it is tough on your body, so to me, it doesn't make sense to do more than 1 or 2 per year. Also, it takes a long time to prepare for a marathon. When you consider all the time spent and the fact that I've only got a couple of chances per year to do this, that's a lot of eggs in one basket so to speak. For Lincoln, this feeling was intensified by the fact that I had a child and hadn't done a marathon for over two and a half years. I also had a lot of mommy guilt because of the time I spent training. When my mileage was the highest, there were some days that I left home before Darwin woke up and got home after he was already asleep. Of course, I felt guilty because of time lost with my son but I also felt bad that Brian had to take up the parenting slack while I was running. He never complained and was more than happy to make sure I got my training in, but still. Throughout this training, I really felt a lot of anxiety. Given all the aforementioned worries, you can imagine the stress that ensued when I considered the fact that the race might not go well. Not that I thought the race would go badly. My training suggested that I was ready but marathons are tricky. The weather is a huge factor and you can't control that. Also, nutrition is always difficult and can be disastrous if you make a mistake. There is also the fact that sometimes, for no known reason, you just don't have it on race day. For the first time in my running existence, I started to wonder it it was worth it. Not if running wasn't worth it, but if putting 65 mile weeks in might not be worth it. The marathon is only one distance. I could still be a runner and do all the shorter distances. Maybe this was more my style now that I was a mom. Your life changes when you become a parent and maybe this was one of the changes I needed to make to be happy and keep my sanity. Anyways, I tell you all of this so you can understand all the baggage I brought to Lincoln. It really was overwhelming.

We left home on Thursday before the race, stopped in Northwest Arkansas for the night and then drove to Omaha, where Brian's parents live, on Friday. Darwin was a great traveler. I was so grateful as I didn't need any added stress. I started checking the forecast religiously (for real, like every couple of hours) and was pleased to see that it was going to be cold. The low was supposed to be in the 30s with a high in the upper 50s. For the race, we could expect temps to be in the 40s. To me, that is perfection. The only thing I saw that made me nervous was the wind. They were predicting 20mph wind from the NNW which would be the direction I was headed for the last 10k of the race. Not good. Fortunately, the number kept getting lower and lower as the day got closer but the direction of the wind never changed. We went to the expo to pick up our packets on Saturday and Brian drove me through the parts of the course that weren't on running trails. As we headed to our lodge (we stayed in a state park) for the night, the reality settled in. No matter how well you are prepared for a marathon, it will hurt. It will get difficult and you will have to push through physical pain and be mentally tough. All I could think is "why do I do this to myself?". I was so nervous.

On race day we got up at 4am. The race was at 7 and we had a little bit of a drive. I was jittery. Brian's parents came to watch Darwin and we headed for Lincoln. We parked and headed for the stadium. I couldn't believe how cold it was! Great for running, but not great for standing around beforehand. We checked our bags and got ready to warm up. Brian was running the half so he needed to run more than I did before the start. I only wanted to do a half mile. Also, he would be running a faster pace than I would so he needed to start further up in the corral than I did. He told me good luck and gave me a hug and we said our goodbyes before we warmed up. The half mile felt pretty terrible but I was determined not to let it get to me. I could only manage 9 minute pace which is weird because I haven't run 9 minute pace since I was about 8 months pregnant. I was hoping to do at least 7:39 pace for the race so you can imagine my concern. At this point, the race was only about 10 minutes away and I really needed to hit the bathroom again. No way I could do 26.2 miles without emptying my bladder one more time. The line for the bathroom was too long though. I considered heading downstairs to the locker room but my watch said 6:56 and I really needed to be lining up. About that time I saw 2 girls crouch behind a bush and I headed over to join them. Not pretty, but I had to do what I had to do. Now it was time to get serious. I took my long sleeved shirt off and lined up. Next thing I know, the gun went off and the race started. I was about a minute back in the corral and it took what seemed like forever to cross the start line.

My goal for the day was to break 3:20 which required 7:39 pace. The marathon actually provided a mile by mile break down of the race including how much time you could expect to lose or gain based upon the elevation profile. I used a base pace of 7:35 and came up with a mile by mile custom pace band. Brian thought it was a bad idea but I liked it because it allowed for more time on the uphills and took advantage of the downhills instead of just giving me one set pace to try to keep the whole race. Also, I like to use the first 2 miles as warm up so I put those in at a slower pace and had some of the middle miles at 7:30 to make up for it. If I was able to run the exact numbers I had on the band, it would get me to mile 26 in 3:17 and change. That meant that I had a little bit of cushion should I lose time somewhere along the way. Anyway, it was just a paper band so I could rip it off and throw it away if things weren't going my way.

The first few miles were uneventful. I went out at 8:02 pace which was planned for 8:00. No biggie. The next mile was planned at 7:45 and came in at 7:43 so I was right on pace as planned and ready to actually start racing. There was a little bit of a climb in the 3rd mile so I had planned for 7:40 but ended up running 7:35. For mile 4 I had planned 7:35 and did 7:33. Mile 5 was a 7:35 as planned. Here I took some Gu and hit a water stop. The water stops were great and featured cups with lids and straws. This made all the difference in the world. I could get as much water as I needed without splashing it in my face or choking on it. It was great. Mile 6 had the first real downhill. I wanted to run a 7:28 and came in at 7:27. Mile 7 came in at 7:25 and was planned for 7:35. I think the mile marker might have been a little off. Mile 8 was 7:35 as planned. Mile 9 was the first of the significant climbs. I did it in 7:40 as planned. Mile 10 was downhill and came in 2 seconds faster than the planned 7:28. I took my 2nd Gu. I felt ok I guess. Not great but certainly not bad. I hadn't done a marathon in so long that I wasn't sure how to judge it. It was now time to get into a groove and make up for my warm up miles. I planned to do 7:30 pace from mile 11 through mile 18. Mile 11 came in at a disappointing 7:38. I shook it off and clocked a 7:16 for mile 12. According to my Garmin, I ran them both at the same pace but mile 11 was long and mile 12 was short. Mile 13 came in at 7:24. At this point, the half marathoners turned into the stadium to finish. The field narrowed severely as the vast majority of runners were doing the half. I headed on feeling lonely but pretty strong. There were several volunteers that were on the trail yelling words of encouragement. Mile 14 was a 7:32. Mile 15 was 7:37. I took another Gu. Nutrition wise, I felt good. My stomach wasn't queasy and I didn't feel lightheaded or anything. I was a little worried that I wasn't keeping my 7:30s but soldiered on. Mile 16 came in at 7:28. Mile 17 was 7:32 and mile 18 was 7:34. I could have pushed for 7:30s but it just didn't seem wise. 7:30 felt like too great of an effort but I felt comfortable a few seconds slower. Mile 19 was the biggest climb of the race. I planned for a 7:40 and ran a 7:41. Mile 20 was planned for 7:40 and I did it in 7:45. The turn around came in the middle of this mile and was near a lake. The wind was very strong as soon as I changed direction and I was a little worried but I put my head down, pulled my arms in close and tried to be as slim as possible to increase my efficiency. I started passing lots of people. I hoped that turning out of the park and getting away from the lake would lessen the wind. I just needed to get back up the hill. I took my final Gu and prepared myself for the last 10k. I knew it would be a challenge with the wind but I was determined to do the best I could. Mile 21 was planned at 7:35 but came in at 7:41. Mile 22 was a 7:34 and was planned for 7:30. Mile 23 came in at 7:46. I can't remember what it was suppose to be but it was definitely slower than planned. I had about 5K to go and I was tired but not completely spent. I wasn't sure if a sub 3:20 was still possible or not. I hadn't given up but I was too tired to force myself back down to pace. I didn't feel terrible though and I was pretty sure that I would PR in the very least. I also felt good enough that I was confident I wouldn't completely fade at the end. Only once before did I run every single step of a marathon without walking and I knew that I would be able to do it now. I also thought about the weather. The wind sucked but it wasn't impossible to run in. The temperatures were as good as I could hope for so I just started saying to myself "if not today, then when?". Mile 24 was planned for 7:35 and came in at 7:45. Mile 25 was also planned for 7:35 and came in at 7:48. I now had 1.2 miles to go. I switched my Garmin from pace to total time. It showed 3:10 and change...a lot of change. It was actually closer to 3:11. That gave me 9 minutes and a few seconds to get the finish. I felt ok and knew I could do better than 8 minute pace. That left me a little over a minute to do the last 2 tenths. I wasn't sure how long it would take me. I couldn't do the math but I knew it would be close. I locked onto a runner in front of me and tried to stay with him. I drew a lot of energy from him and was able to do a 7:34 which was faster than the 7:40 I had planned. I turned into the stadium and checked my watch again. I wasn't sure how far away the finish line was and I hoped it would be close. I watched my total time click from 3:18 something to 3:19. Thankfully, as soon as I turned into the stadium, the finish was right there. I ended in 3:19:16. I did it!

I cried a little as I crossed the line. Breaking 3:20 was my lifetime goal and I had done it. The second I crossed the line I felt like I'd been beaten with a baseball bat. I wasn't tired as much as I was horribly sore and beat up. I hobbled off the field and started looking for the bag check area. It was crowded and confusing. I just wanted to get my bag and find Brian. I wanted to be in bed. I felt awful but I was very happy. Luckily, I saw Brian and Darwin waiting for me on the field. We got my bag and got out of there. It couldn't have been too soon. After a shower and then later an ice bath, I felt a lot better. I took the next day off and then ran 2 miles on Tuesday. I've run everyday since then and I'm feeling pretty good. I even did a 10 miler today so I'm more than on the road to recovery.

Here we are after the race.

I am so glad that the race went well. Not just for the fast time but to silence all the doubt and guilt I brought to the start line. This race changed everything for me. For the first time since I started running, I'm not burned out after marathon training. I'm ready to keep training. Looking forward to it actually. I even plan to do another marathon this year in either the fall or winter. I'm going to scale back my mileage for the next few months and focus on speed work and shorter distances. I haven't settled on a particular marathon yet but once I've decided, I'll plan for a similar 12 week plan since this one worked out so well.

The icing on the cake-I won my age group!

No comments: