In case you missed it with all of the madness going on, I ran a marathon yesterday…
And I won!
And… I set a course record. It’s been awhile since I’ve set a course record, and I did a little happy dance afterwards (for a second), because these things don’t happen every day. And then I became a pile of jelly. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Any good race has to start with important details.
Travel was a cinch as Charlottesville is only 3.5 hours away. We found a great place to eat called Tavola, where I downed some delicious spaghetti with a spicy marinara and two glasses of delicious red wine… and then fell asleep before 8 pm.
The next morning I woke up feeling great (although 4:30 am felt reeeeally early). Pete ran out to get us coffee while I downed a Picky Bar. I have to admit, I really need to work on eating more before races, but I am a picky eater and have zero appetite before races.
We arrived at the race start around 6:20 am, with plenty of time to get warmed up and use the restroom (ahem, tree… there were long lines) before the 7:00 am start. I would say, “before the gun went off” but there was no gun- just a guy who yelled, “Ready, go!” I swear I am not making this up, and it was pretty cool. I was not nervous at all before the race, and once the race started I felt like I was going on a long run with my college cross country team… back roads, freezing temperatures, guys being guys, a few of us girls pushing the pace. The first two miles were rolling hills on a gravel road.
Mile 1: 7:26
Mile 2: 6:55
After that we turned right and ran two miles on a gradual incline. After about two minutes on the asphalt I had to stop and pull a giant rock out of the bottom of my shoe because it was driving me crazy. I must have picked it up on the gravel road. After that brief interlude, I had the good fortune to link up with a guy named James who wanted to run with me and we worked together for most of the race. On this stretch of road we crossed two bridges and then did a U-turn at the dam.
Mile 3: 7:18
Mile 4: 7:08
As soon as we turned around I began to notice the downhill. It felt good, almost like I was flying. I knew enough about marathons to not get carried away though. We had been running with another marathoner and his pacer for the first four miles but when we started to run the downhill portion, I decided to let them go. James stuck with me, which I was very thankful for or I would have had to run most of the race alone. We crossed the same two bridges on our way back.
Mile 5: 6:50
Between miles 5 and 6 was the best water stop/ cheer section I could have hoped for. One of my former teammates from JMU and his wife were handing out water which was a nice surprise (to have people cheering for me by my name) and there were people ringing cowbells. Since we were running loops, I passed them eight times during the race.
Mile 6: 6:49
The leader of the women’s half caught up to us at some point during the seventh mile. She was running only her second half marathon and was on pace to break her time from a month ago. We crossed the third bridge (although I think they should have called it 24 Bridges Marathon since we crossed each bridge six times) and made another U-turn.
Mile 7: 7:01
The next three miles were back uphill. Still feeling pretty good, and doing my best to not think about how many laps I had left.
Mile 8: 7:12
Mile 9: 7:20
Mile 10: 7:17
After the U-turn, I was pretty relieved to have a three downhill miles ahead of us. James and I were still working well together. We dropped the girl who was leading the half but only by a little, and we continued to cheer for her and encourage her. Actually, everyone in the race was awesome. There was a huge sense of camaraderie amongst the racers, something I was very grateful for. If you’ve ever run an out-and-back type of race, you might know what I mean. It was a constant stream of out-and-back racing for several hours and you were never alone out there. I especially enjoyed seeing Krissy after meeting her for the first time on the starting line. Her bright outfit was like a ray of sunshine!
Mile 11: 6:53
Mile 12: 6:52
Mile 13: 6:55
I was really feeling good at halfway. We didn’t have a split for 13.1 but it was probably somewhere around 1:33 based upon my split at 13. James reminded me that halfway isn’t really halfway in a marathon, and I snapped back to reality. Plus we were in the middle of a tough uphill section, and I was starting to feel the first signs of fatigue. It was tough to tell what kind of pace I was on due to the nature of the course, but from the feedback Pete gave me as I ran by I knew I could probably run between 3:05 and 3:10 if I held it together. I thought back to how miserable I had been feeling for the past three weeks after getting sick, dropping out of my half, not being able to run, getting more sick, finding out I had pneumonia, and thinking that I might not even be able to race. Gratitude got me through miles 14-16.
Mile 14: 7:17
Mile 15: 7:30
Mile 16: 7:30
Back downhill. James decided to back off the pace after we turned around, and although I was bummed to lose my new friend I knew it was a smart decision for him. I was fine on my own, except I was struggling to get down any fluids or gels. I had only been able to get down half of one at mile 8, and felt too queasy to take my second one at mile 14 so I carried it with me down the road. I finally decided to take it after mile 17 even though my stomach was not happy with me. I got about half of it down, and that was only because I knew I needed the calories if I was going to make it to the end.
Mile 17: 7:04
Mile 18: 7:01
Mile 19: 7:20
Last time uphill. I told myself I would not look at my splits after mile 20 and that I would just focus on racing. Unfortunately I looked down and saw the mile 22 split by mistake. It didn’t mess with my head, though, because I knew how to refocus. I took a look at my left shoulder where I had my Believe I Am courage tattoo just for this reason… and I got a surge of energy.
Mile 20: 7:38
Mile 21: 7:58
Mile 22: 8:04
Just before the U-turn I passed the guy who James and I were running with at the beginning of the race (the one who had a pacer and who dropped us on the first downhill section). I felt bad for him, but I couldn’t say much at that point in the race. I was starting to become delirious. I remembered deciding to do this race 8 weeks ago and wondering if it was possible. I thought of those early ass 4 am treadmill runs, running 12 miles before the sun came up. I also thought of my Oiselle teammates, many of whom were lining up on the west coast for CIM. Those were the things that got me through miles 23-25.
Mile 23: 7:38
Mile 24: 7:30
I didn’t have much luck trying to force down another gel at mile 20, so I tried again when I saw Pete at mile 24. He ran with me for the last two miles and talked me through it. I was hurting pretty bad at mile 25. By the way, my dear husband was running in jeans. That’s how much he loves me.
Mile 25: 7:52
I got a huge boost at the final turnaround, before running that last mile uphill. There were at least ten people at the U-turn cheering for me, and one woman told me to just go for it. That was pretty cool. I gave it all I had, but I was hurting. When I crossed the last bridge, I knew I was almost there so I attempted to pick it up. When I finally crossed the finish line, I knew I had given everything I had that day.
Mile 26: 8:36
Last .2: 1:38
Total Time: 3:12:42
Not a PR, but I qualified for Boston 2014, which was the main goal (besides finishing). I’m never going to be happy with my performance, but considering the circumstances I’m pretty stoked with my results. After 8 weeks averaging 38 miles per week, a 3:12 marathon is a fine accomplishment. And if you think that’s somewhat impressive, you should meet my friend Jen who just ran 2:54 at CIM on 7 weeks of training. And Meggie just ran a marathon PR in Richmond with a very short buildup after a year marred by injuries.
I probably won’t do such a short buildup for my next marathon, but it was a good experiment. I’ve learned a lot from the last 8 weeks, and I’m excited about the next few years. I think I have a future in marathons, and with some quality training and higher mileage, I know I can reach my goals. I’ll continue to experiment with my training in 2013, but the Olympic Trials marathon qualifying period is looming. I know I would like to be on that starting line in 2016, I just have to figure out my path to get there.
Did you seriously make it all the way to the end of this? Geeez.. you probably need a snack! Thank you for reading this and for all of your encouragement over the last few weeks. Happy running!