Friday, February 17, 2012

Race Report: 26.2 with Donna

It's always hard to write a race report when I have such a good race because it's often a blur of excitement, but I'll give it my best shot. I must warn you now that this is a bit long and possibly rambles. I tried to write things in some kind of logical order, but sometimes is hard to remember what happened when. Before we get into the thick of it, let's look at the data:
  • clock: 4:54:07 
  • chip: 4:52:17 
  • pace: 11:09 
  • overall: 1188/1793 
  • gender: 941/1100 
  • ag: 85/155 
  • official splits: 
    • mile 5 - 0:56:20 @ 11:16 
    • mile 10 - 1:52:53 @ 11:17 
    • 1st Half - 2:27:14 @ 11:14 
    • mile 15 - 2:46:39 @ 11:06 
    • mile 20 - 3:42:03 @ 11:06 
    • 2nd Half - 2:25:03 @ 11:04 (2:11 faster than 1st) 
  • Runmeter: 26.31 miles in 4:52:20 @ 11:07, Splits:
I have to admit, I was a little concerned when our pace was below the expected 11:25 so early in the race. I even asked myself if I should fall back so I wouldn't destroy myself, but I was feeling ok and trusted that my pacers knew what they were doing. The weather was in our favor and I was ready to leave it all out there, so I was going to give it my best shot. If it didn't work, I would at least know it wasn't for lack of trying. As you can see, even though I thought we started fast, we still negative split the race. The paces listed are my cumulative average pace at each of those mile markers, and it just kept dropping but I hung in there. This was a PR of 29:12 from Ocala, and 30:16 from my first marathon 2 years ago. I'll write a separate post exploring what contributed to this huge improvement.

Ok, let's get on with the recap … 

Pre-Race: Cold Weather & Race Outfit

Outfit in support of Breast CancerSaturday was a very busy day, so by the time I laid my head on the pillow at 8:30 pm I was asleep in seconds. I slept soundly until midnight, then tossed and turned for the next 3 hours. I made myself stay in bed until at least 3 am, then I got up and started getting ready. I was oddly calm as I got my things together. Is as if I already knew I would meet my goal and there was no sense worrying anymore about it. Or maybe I was too distracted by the cold weather :) 

Huddled around space heater for warmth in Galloway tent before race startIt was in the low 20s with the windchill factor at the start, but I knew I would warm up over the course of the 5 hours I planned to be out there, so I didn't want to overdress. I settled on my Skirt Sports super hero print tank top and skirt. I wore leggings under the skirt, with compression knee high socks under those; honestly, I probably could have done without the leggings but they weren't really hot either. I paired the top with arm warmers and a light windbreaker jacket, which I really didn't want to wear but I'm glad I did as it gave me a place to carry my camera because when I had it in the pocket of my skirt it kept dragging my skirt down and having to pull up my skirt every few minutes for 5 hours would have sucked. I also wore gloves, buff (neck gator), skull cap, and 2 headbands. 

This wasn't enough to keep me warm while standing around, so I wore a mylar blanket as a poncho and wrapped another one around my waist as a skirt. We were still freezing when we got the race site, but I could tell the mylar blanket was helping because whenever the wind would flap it open I could feel just how much worse it could be. We found the Galloway tent, which was tiny and tried to find warmth between the bodies jammed into the tiny space. All over the runner's village there were people huddled around space heaters. We eventually found a few other runners from our program, took a few pictures, and headed to the start 15 minutes before the race.

Start to Mile 7

5 hr pace group before start, you can see it's before sunrise
I actually started the race still wearing both mylar blankets while I warmed up, which made it difficult to get to anything in my pockets. I originally had my brand new hydra pouch in my pocket but clipped it to my belt where it promptly got knocked off and I lost it within the first 3 miles so I never got to try it :( I kept tucking my arms under it to keep from freezing. My feet were numb for the first 4-5 miles. That was such a weird sensation, like running with an inserts that's too thick inside my shoe, and I'm sure my gait was suffering because of it. Then they hurt/tingled as they thawed. I shed the mylar skirt after mile 1 and took off the poncho around mile 3, but I folded it and tucked it in the back of my race belt in case I needed it later. I promptly forgot about it. I had been sweating under my jacket because of the mylar blanket, so I was glad I wore the tank top underneath it because it did a great job wicking away the sweat. The cleavage alley pocket was perfect to carry my emergency pack (packets of body glide and biofreeze, tissue, cash, and chapstick). I took off the sleeves of my jacket pretty early on too, but kept the gloves on for most of the run since I could regulate my temperature by pulling back the mitten part to air out my fingers. The arm warmers kept going up and down too. That's why I love them. 

The course was pretty crowded through mile 7 when the half marathoners turned around. We were keeping pace with the 2:30 pace group but our intervals seemed to be a few seconds off so we kept leap frogging each other. The crowd support was amazing even from the start. Before we knew it, we were running on the beach (mile 5-7), which was both a curse and a blessing. It was absolutely gorgeous and the hard-packed sand was a nice relief from the pounding on the asphalt, but running at the edge of the ocean we had to deal with the cold wind directly. It seemed to go on forever and we were all super relieved when we turned off.

Miles 7 - 17

I had run miles 10-15 as part of a relay two years prior, so I kept looking forward to that part because I think it's the best part of the race through gorgeous neighborhoods and great crew stops. It was nice to be in familiar territory. As I mentioned in my highlights, I was also participating in the Virtual 12athon and one of the bonus challenges I was trying to complete was to run all 12 miles with at least 11 other runners. Since I was running with a pace group I thought this would be easy, but I needed to document it. This actually served as a nice little distraction as I plodded how I would do it and Chris even reminded me in one of his comments. That made me smile and I knew I had to find a way to do it. My initial thought was to run ahead of the group and take a photo as they ran past mile 12 because there was no way I'd get a whole pace group to stop for a photo. That would require me to run even faster than I already was to get ahead, stop to take a photo for which I'd probably only have seconds to do, then sprint ahead to catch up with the group -- yeah that wasn't happening. I settled on taking video. As we approached mile 12, I positioned myself near the pacers so I could get them and the sign in the video, then panned to the group to show at least 12 people were still there. I did a bit of commentary that you can barely hear and took the opportunity to document my outfit and galloway challenge too. This was actually a lot of fun and I wish I had taken more video throughout the race. It's way easier than trying to take photos because you just press the button, pan and can always use a screen capture of it later. I thought about recreating the scene from "Marathon Thoughts" were his eyeglasses are askew, but I just didn't have the energy. I really wish I had. Anyway, here's the video:

Mid-Race Challenges

I can't recall when all this happened, so I'm sticking it in here. I had to pee for most of the run, or at least it felt that way, but I couldn't afford to stop and lose my pace group. They were the only reason I was maintaining this pace because I sure couldn't gauge for myself how fast to run. Left to my own devices, I know I would have given into my brain and slowed down. I eventually ignored the need to pee, and I think it turned into a cramp in my abs, which happens when I push myself really hard. People along the course were giving out all sorts of awesome stuff -- chocolate chip cookies, oreos, pretzels, fruit, candy, and even bloody marys. I wish I could have indulged, but I really had no time to stop let alone chew lol. The pace was relentless, only slowing slightly at water stops, and I needed every single minute of that walk break to recover before the next assault began. I did take some of that time to read through the comments people left on Facebook, but I never had enough time to post anything. Those comments helped more than you will ever know. When you are in that much pain/fatigue/mental battle, you hang your hat on anything you can and words take on new meaning.

KT Tape, just in case Even though the pace was relentless, I felt really strong through the whole race and never even came remotely close to hitting the wall. The 31 mile training long run I did at the end of October worked, and essentially the two marathons I ran were 2 other long training runs so I had endurance to spare. The struggle was mostly mental because I was tired and not used to pushing this hard for this long, but whenever I was running, I was cruising. My ankles were a bit achy at times, but nothing more than soreness from the pounding. My IT band never protested, but I am sure the industrial strength KT Tape had something to do with that. (side note: KT Tape Pro works a little too well. It stayed on without budging since Friday until I had to pry it off before my massage on Monday. I had to use olive oil to avoid ripping off my skin. If you are a triathlete that needs this stuff to stay on for days, through multiple showers and swim workouts, this is for you. I usually only wear it for a day during long runs or races, so I think I'll stick with the regular stuff.)

The main pain I had to deal with was a knot on my back, between my shoulder blades, that was persistent pretty much all 5 hours. I think it started because I was tensing my shoulders to stay warm and it just kept getting worse so I had to keep good posture and try to relax my shoulders/arms. The only other thing that hurt were my feet. Oh dear god, how they hurt. I wore compression socks, and I really don't think I'll do that for marathons anymore. They do wonders for my calves, but I find they compress my toes too much when they are already in pain and swollen. It felt like my toes were on a vice. The other problem I had was that my lungs and throat were burning from sucking in the cold air for 5 hours. I never got a side stitch, but I had to really focus on breathing in through my mouth to avoid making it worse. When I finished the race, my voice was horse and I really thought I had caught bronchitis or pneumonia. On the ride home, I wore my buff over my nose to warm the air I was breathing and that helped a ton. 

Miles 17-20

It never fails that things start to get tough between miles 17-20. My brain turns to mush and basic math and logic goes out the window. I kept losing track of what mile we were on, but at least they were still flying by. I kept telling myself that once we made it past mile 20, it was a done deal because it was only a 10K. I was shocked that those miles kept ticking away and we were in the middle of that last bridge approaching mile 25 before I knew it. This last 10K is when our pacers really started to shine. I had not interacted with them much before because I wasn't at the front of the pack; I was simply trying not to lose them. But by this time the group had dwindled and I was making it a point to stay close so I wouldn't have to surge ahead to catch them. They kept asking if we were ok, offering us gels and words of encouragement. As we climbed that bridge, one of them told us that if we had not already figured it out we would be breaking 5 hours. I nearly cried. I had indeed figured it out already, but I appreciated the confirmation because I kept questioning if my math was correct. It was all the motivation I needed to keep pushing, that and the fact that a guy running behind me sounded like he was trying to hold back throwing up so I wanted to get as far away from him as possible.

Finishing It

I stuck with the pace group, using 2:1 intervals all the way through the top of that last bridge just past mile 25. They encouraged us to leave them if we had it in us, and I pulled ahead running downhill on the other side of the bridge for the next 5 minutes. I took a 1 min walk break, then began running again. I wasn't sure I could run for another 5 minutes straight and still look strong crossing the finish line, so I took one last walk break when my gym boss beeped after 2 minutes before running the last 10th in as fast as I could … which wash't very fast. I started to tear up as I approached the finish and saw that the clock was under 4:55, and I began sobbing as soon as I crossed. It was an incredible feeling. I didn't think I had it in me and it was so rewarding to have all my hard work this season finally pay off.

Post Race

Jason had seen me cross, but in my delirious state I had not spotted him. He texted me that he'd meet me at the Galloway tent, so I made my way there slowly where I saw Laura sitting outside the tent. Her big smile greeted me and asked me how it went, and I collapsed in her arms with tears of joy. She is an amazing leader and I am so glad she was there to share this with me. Jason eventually found me and I hugged him and shared in his success; he had finished over an hour earlier in 3:48! Even though he had changed, he was shivering and was finally ready to eat but his legs were cramping. Laura sprung to action and took care of us. She couldn't find salt packets to help with his cramping, so she brought him doritos and a burger and fries. Have I mentioned that she is AMAZING?

Laura, our loyal cheerleader

I was starting to get cold myself, so I retrieved my gear bag and finally found a port-a-potty. They were of course out of toilet paper, so I was grateful I had packed a tissue in my emergency baggie. I changed into clean and dry clothes, then went in search of food. I later realized in my haste to get into dry warm clothes I didn't even take a photo with my finisher's medal before I changed, but whatever.

As I sat in the Galloway tent basking in the warmth of the space heater, I spotted Brenda from my running group. She too had a great race and a huge PR. We hugged, took a photo, and exchanged stories about our experience, praising the virtues of the pacers. Then it dawn on me … hey, we're Marathon Maniacs! I was so focused on staying with the pace group and meeting my sub-5 hour goal that I forgot I was also trying to qualify for Marathon Maniacs until I saw her. It made the moment even sweeter to have her there to share it with and celebrate all over again.

Happy we both PRed by 25+ minutesSole Mates representing at BCM


Writing this section is dangerous because I know I will forget someone, but here it goes. 
  • Thanks to my running group for indulging me when I insisted we run our long runs super slow at 1/1 intervals so we could recover properly and be able to run 29 miles. Also thanks for your encouragement when I doubted myself, and showing me through your own successes that it could be done because we had all done the same training. 
  • A special thanks to Kirsty, my co-leader and partner in crime for the 29-mile long run experiment; 
  • the usual suspects (you know who you are) who showed up no matter what to run in the cold, rain, heat, 4:45 am on weekdays, you name it. 
  • A HUGE thanks to Laura, our Program Director for always going the extra mile to make sure our groups are taken care of. She often returned to the school after her own run to greet us when we finished a grueling run with a smile and treats. 
  • To all my friends who followed my progress on Dailymile and Facebook throughout my training and who woke up early on race day to follow along and leave me words of encouragements throughout. It meant SO MUCH! 
  • And finally, the BIGGEST thanks of all to Jason for always supporting me and putting up with my craziness :) 
Final Thoughts

This was a huge success, not only because of the huge PR and the sub-5 hour marathon, but because I recaptured the joy. I had an absolute blast while still running strong. I am not sure I want to do it again anytime soon, but I will be back. I want to run this race again as a pacer, at a much slower pace, so I can take in even more of the course and enjoy some of the perks from the neighbors. This year I plan to focus on improving my half marathon, 10K, and 5K times, and just enjoying the marathon. I'll run New York (if I get in) and Goofy, but at whatever pace feels comfortable and just enjoy the experience. Then maybe in 2013 I'll start think about a new marathon PR … maybe … :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails