That Time I Failed Miserably

Sadly, I did not BQ on Saturday.

I didn’t even PR.

I ran nearly 2 minutes slower than my PR.

What happened? Well, I’m not 100% sure. I’ve thought about it a lot and I think there were a few factors that led to my missed goal.

We’ll get to those in a minute. First, let’s rewind and recap the race.

I took the day off on Friday, the day before the race. I slept in till 8 and then had to wake Max up at 8:30. WHO IS THIS KID? I think he knew I needed the rest.

At the apple orchard
At the apple orchard

We spent the day as a family, picking apples, drinking cider slushies and relaxing. I felt very anxious all day—a total departure from my zen-like attitude toward the race of late. To be honest, I was doubting my ability to finish, second-guessing my training and just worried. It was weird, because I don’t normally feel this way before a race. I’m usually a little nervous, but mainly excited. It wasn’t fun.

Race morning I got up at 6, dressed and ate a bagel. It was chilly out – about 32 – with a predicted high of 55. I wore a lightweight long-sleeve tech shirt and shorts, with a throwaway hoodie and pants.

I got to the race early, stayed warm in my car and then met up with my sister. I felt like I might puke for some reason. I got in my corral and the gun went off. Go time!

*NOTE: I am using the split times I have from Strava. These times are innacurate from about mile 19 on because Strava auto-pauses when I stop—and I stopped a lot those last few miles. For 19 on, I’ll give an estimated time based on my finish time. If I can get garmin connect to load up, I’ll update the splits at a later time, as these are more accurate.

The race started and I struggled to get in a good position. I was jumping and dodging people and I could tell that I was going pretty fast. My Garmin was jumping all over the place as I slowed down when I was stuck behind people and sped up to pass. Mile 1- 7:59

The next few miles were a blur. I knew I was going too fast. But I thought that I might be able to hang on. I did plenty of fast finish long runs. I can do this. Miles 2-7 – 8:04, 8:17, 8:12, 8:18, 8:24, 8:26

race-1

Around mile 8, this hills started. Damn, I should have done more hill training. Just hang on around 8:30 pace and you’ll make it up after the hill section. Around mile 10, a guy running barefoot fell into step with me. I was fascinated by his feet, which were so dirty and calloused, they made mine look pretty. He was a badass. Miles 8-11 –8:33, 8:13, 8:26, 8:41

The hills were finally over. Instead of picking up the pace, I found myself slipping. I was hurting. Already? We got to the point where the half-marathoners turn to finish. I want to go finish with them. I convinced myself to keep going. I knew, right there, that it was going to be a rough 13 more miles. Miles 12-13-8:33, 8:31

run-2

At this point, I figured I could salvage the race as long as I held onto an 8:30-8:40 pace. I could still PR. But hanging on proved harder than I thought. At some point during these miles, I told myself that a 9:00 pace was fine. So I stuck to that. This is when I mentally gave up. I even asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” And I could not come up with one reason why. I was hurting. I was tired. My brain was done. I couldn’t believe how early in the race this had happened. WTF is happening? Miles 14-19 –8:40, 8:42, 8:45, 8:55, 9:00, 8:57

Hating life at this moment...probably one of my worst race photos ever.
Hating life at this moment…probably one of my worst race photos ever.

At mile 21, I saw my sister. This is an out and back course, and you run adjacent to other runners ahead of you for a few miles. She was at 17 and looked so strong. She yelled and waved and told me how awesome I was doing. She gave me some life I desperately needed. I can do this. Just hang on to a 9 min pace. Nope, the pace continued to slip. And then I started stopping at every water stop, which was about every mile. I stopped for up to 30 seconds each time. I was OVER IT. Miles 20-26 –roughly 9:30 average (don’t have correct splits from my Strava due to auto-pause feature)

We crested the only real hill in the second half and then took a curvy road to the finish. I knew I was almost done and tried to dig deep, but I had nothing. My legs felt like lead and my left hamstring was screaming at me. And then, I saw my husband holding Max, my mother- and father-in-law, and my husband’s aunt and uncle. I nearly lost it as Max cheered for me. Seeing all these people that care about me out there helped me finish.

Waving to my family!
Waving to my family!
Here comes the ugly cry
Here comes the ugly cry

I was done. Thank God it’s OVER!

DONE. OVER IT.
DONE. OVER IT.

Max ran to me and then got really upset about the foil blanket. I threw it out and hugged my sweet boy and my husband. His parents and aunt and uncle told me how great I did and were just so nice. I tried to hold back the tears because I was so disappointed. I just couldn’t figure out what happened.

Overall Stats: Final Time: 3:53:54. (8:56 pace)

9th out of 55 in my division

38Th female out of 286

129th place overall

I am disappointed, sad and a little embarrassed. I told so many people, including anyone who reads this blog, that I was going for a BQ. It sucks to have people ask how it went and have to tell them that not only did I not BQ, but I didn’t even PR and I missed my goal by almost 20 minutes.

I’m frustrated with myself and with the marathon distance. Pretty sure I told my father-in-law as we walked back to the car after the race that I was done with marathons.

After processing this race for a few days, I’ve come to few conclusions as to why this race went so poorly for me and some solutions to these issues to put into practice ASAP:

I went out too fast. RUN SLOW AT THE BEGINNING OF RACES EVEN IF YOU FEEL GOOD. Duh.

I gave up mentally. Stay positive and believe in yourself. YOU CAN DO THIS.

I should’ve done more hill training. Run hills once a week. Boom. Easy.

I’m not as physically strong as I need to be. Do more strength training. Cut back on mileage if necessary to squeeze it in. No excuses.

I’m sure there’s other things that I did wrong at the race and during training, but these seem like the most likely culprits and the most fixable.

It’s disheartening to me that I trained pretty hard for 4 months, getting up at the crack of dawn most days and running 6-7 days a week only to fail. I’m still kind of bitter about that.

I’m also really humbled to realize that after 8 full marathons and 7 half marathons, I’m only just now learning how to race. I find it easier to do the training and the workouts than it is to mentally figure out racing and follow-through with a race plan. It’s just plain hard.

But, I’m trying to put this all into perspective. This is not a big deal. There are people with real problems out there. It’s just running. I just need to get over it. 2 years ago I would have been over the moon about a sub-4. I have to remember how far I’ve come.

So, here’s what’s next: I am signed up for the Monumental Marathon on November 7th. I originally signed up on a whim a few weeks ago when they posted on Facebook that they were 95% full. I blame taper crazies and the race director’s clever ploy to add urgency to the purchase. I figured Fort Harrison would be my “A” race and then I would take it really easy at the Monumental or step down to the half if I didn’t feel rested enough. I did run these two races back to back in 2010 and 2011, so I believe I can do it. But, I’m feeling so over the marathon distance that I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

My husband planted the seed that the Monumental could be my redemption race, but I’m almost positive I won’t be recovered enough to full out race. I’ll decide the week of whether I will run the full or half, and whether I feel recovered enough to try to PR (3:52:11 is my PR).

I still feel like I have a ton to say about this race, about how frustrated and mad at myself I am and how jaded I am with marathons, but I think this post is getting a little long. If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you for listening to my whining this long.

To sum it up: It wasn’t my day.

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Stick To The Plan… A Cautionary Tale

Well, I ran my first race of 2015 on Saturday.

Ready to race! Though, I ditched the headband for a hat when it started raining right before the start
Ready to race! Though, I ditched the headband for a hat when it started raining right before the start

 

1:46:39.

results

A 2-minute PR. I’m happy with that, but I really had my sights set on 1:44 or better. I think I was prepared for it and I was trained for it.

Yes, it was humid. Yes, I had an unwelcome visitor with me (Aunt Flo). Yes, the roads were very slick.

You can kind of see the start line - my photography skills are on point!
You can kind of see the start line – my photography skills are on point!

Did any of those factors keep me from hitting the time I wanted? NO. I’ve raced under all those conditions before. The outside factors had nothing to do it. It was ME. I can’t blame the weather or anything else.

So what happened? In a nutshell: I went out too fast.

Way too fast. Like WTF was I thinking fast?

You would think someone who has run 7 half marathons and 7 full marathons would have this stuff figured out. And in my head, I did have it figured out. I had a solid plan.

I just didn’t follow it 🙂 Oops…

The plan to hit 1:44 (7:47 pace) was to run the first half or so in the upper 7’s and then let ‘er rip in the last half.

If you’re ready for a good laugh, here’s what I actually did:

splits

Not sure what this missing data business is, but here are the missing splits from my Garmin. *Note: I started my watch late, which is why the time is behind my official time*

garmin

Miles 10, 11 and 12 were ROUGH!

 

If anyone is looking for lessons on how to positive split like a boss, hit me up. I have plenty of valuable tips, such as:

  • Go out at your 5K pace in the first mile
  • Know you can’t hang on, but get so caught up in the crowds and the fasties around you that you keep trying
  • Realize you’re CRAZY and you need to get back on track around mile 3ish and think maybe it’s not too late to get it together
  • Start to lose your wheels around mile 7
  • Keep it together until mile 10ish, when you essentially give-up
  • Walk some – Hey, why not?
  • Finish strong, when it’s too little too late

Now, seriously, I am happy with my PR. For real. But, I am also just a little disappointed about not hitting 1:44 like I wanted.

geist5

And, crazily enough, I’m also a little bit glad. I needed to have a shitty race. I haven’t had a bad race since before I had Max. Racing since my comeback after Max in 2013 has been going well. I’ve PR’d both the half and the full, and I’ve ran some fun races. I’ve been smart, but conservative.

I didn’t run conservative today. I ran the exact OPPOSITE. And it sucked, and I slogged through it those last few miles.

But, I finished. I toughed it out. I seriously wanted to peel off the course and call my husband to come pick me up.

And I learned a valuable lesson: DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST.

Plus, this gem: STICK TO THE PLAN.

I could give you a blow-by-blow of the miles, but I think the splits above speak for themselves 🙂

So, now I’m in this position where I know I could have done so much better if I had followed my initial plan—I think. So, do I run another half in the next few weeks to redeem myself? There are a number of them in my area in the next few weeks. Namely, one in a nearby city on a Sunday—husband doesn’t work until 4 Sundays—so it’s kind of perfect. Or do I just enjoy the PR and chill until marathon training starts mid-June and run a half during training (probably in September)?

I’m not really sure what I want to do. Racing too soon could result in injury, just for the sake of redeeming myself to myself. That’s kind of silly.

I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I’ll be recovering from the race with plenty of sweets and wine. And hopefully I’ll have some hilariously awful official race photos soon to share that we can all laugh at.

Any advice on whether I should squeeze in a redemption race soon? Anyone else ever done it? 

Tell me about your weekend! Did you race? I hope it went better than mine 🙂

Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco Re-Cap Part 2

We left off right after the shakeout run and brunch at Dirty Habit. See Part 1 for the full beginning of the weekend recap.

The rest of the day was full of eating, sight-seeing and eating again.

alcatraz
That’s Alcratraz, also known as “The Rock” – a Rotten Tomato-worthy action movie starring Nicholas Cage
And and I at Fisherman's Wharf
Love him.
Just call me squinty...I really could've used some sunglasses
Just call me squinty…I really could’ve used some sunglasses

Then it was off to bed before our 5:15 AM wake-up. The race started at 6:30 AM, which is the earliest I’ve ever started a race before. It felt like about 5 minutes after my head hit the pillow, my alarm was going off.

I debated what to wear forever for this race. I ended up selecting the Nike Women’s Half tank, black Nike shorts and Nike women’s half compression socks. I had just bought the shorts the day before, but I figured they would be fine. Rule number one of racing: Don’t do anything new or wear anything new on race day. Breaking this runner’s commandment was NOT a good idea. More on that later.

Andy and I headed down to the race area around 6:00. It was PACKED! In the still dark early morning hours, the Union Square area was an explosion of color, light and women. So many women. It was awesome and overwhelming all at the same time.

The Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco 2014. Photo courtesy of Nike
The Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco 2014. Photo courtesy of Nike

We met up with some of my Finish Line ladies near our corrals. There were so many people in the corral that we had to stand off to the side. Once the race began, we squeezed onto the course and we were off.

Crazy eyes pre-race
Crazy eyes pre-race

The first few miles were, like most races, bursting with people. It was hard for our little group to stay together. My plan for this race was to take it easy, because I had the Monumental Marathon coming up in just two weeks, but this plan was hard to stick to. I was so energized by all of the racers around me that I just wanted to RACE. I tried to focus on holding back and sticking to the plan; plus, I knew that killer hills loomed on the horizon.

Around mile 2, the first of the real hills began. Our group quickly fell apart and I didn’t see anyone else until after the race. As the rolling hills continued, I focused on pumping my arms. A local runner had told me the day before that the key to the hills was to pump your arms. She also said that walking the hills can be harder on your body and take more energy that running. With that in mind, I had a plan to not walk at all.

I kept on chugging. For the next six miles, the rollers kept, um rolling. I tried to focus, but all I could really think about were my damn shorts. It became very clear that they were way too big. They were slipping down and probably showing my butt crack. I would hike ‘em up, only for the to slip down a few minutes later. Note to self: NEVER WEAR ANYTHING YOU HAVEN’T TRAINED IN ON RACE DAY. Duh.

Waving in between hiking my shorts up
Waving in between hiking my shorts up

Around mile 10, I completely forgot about my shorts. And everything else for that matter, because I was staring down a hill so steep, I thought I might fall over. It just kept going and going and going. I felt like I was barely moving. I’m not sure I was. Just when I thought that beast was over, the road curved and more hill loomed before us. My legs were in agony. My heart was thudding. I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to the top.

After an eternity or so, I made it to the top. There were tons of fans there, screaming and cheering us on. Telling us it was all downhill from here. I had never heard more beautiful words than those. THANK GOD.

Ecstatic to no longer be running uphill!
Woohoo! I’m NOT running uphill anymore!

At this point, I was so ecstatic to be done with the MFing hill that I just started running as fast as I could. Up until that point I had been running somewhere around 8:45 – 9 minute miles. Now I was clocking in the 7:00s. I didn’t care about holding back anymore. I only cared about being free from the hills.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! And yes, that is a Ren and Stimpy reference #90skid
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! And yes, that is a Ren and Stimpy reference #90skid

We ran through a gorgeous park area. I was told afterwards that we could see the Golden Gate Bridge, but I never saw it. I was too focused on finishing.

The last few miles ticked by until finally, I crossed the finish line. I got my Tiffany necklace (!) and made my way out of the finishers chute.

So. Worth. It.
So. Worth. It.

I called Andy to find out where he was and he was PISSED. He had ridden the spectators’ bus to see me at the finish line, but they were stuck a few miles back, so he had not seen me finish. He wasn’t sure if he should stay on the bus or not and before we could make some kind of plan, his phone died. Fabulous.

Sometime later, Marissa and I found each other! Then we miraculously found Shelby and Heather. And then, Andy found us! He had gotten off the bus and walked the 2 or so miles to where we were.

Finishers!
Finishers! A little sweatier, a lot more tired, but no more crazy eyes.

It turns out that the bus drivers were not given special routes to get around road closures, so they kept getting stuck as they transported the spectators. Andy was tracking me on his phone, so he knew where I was and had ridden one bus to see me at mile 7. He missed me and got on another bus to take him to the finish. This bus drove him around for awhile and then took him back to mile 10. He boarded another bus, which took him in circles and back to mile 10. That’s right around the time I finished. He gave up on the bus and ended up getting to us long before anyone else from the spectator’s bus made it.

The bus debacle was really the only not so good part about this race. Hopefully, they will work this out next year. I’m guessing a lot of people complained.

Other than that, this race kicked ass. The course was beautiful. It wound us through Downtown San Francisco and took us through Golden Gate Park. There were lots of cool photo ops on the course if you wanted to stop and take pics (things like giant WE RUN SF signs) and there was great entertainment. There was one point on the course where we ran by a big sign with our names on it. Just as you ran by, your name came up on the screen and an announcer called it out. Very cool.

The tracking was also amazing. My father-in-law said he got to watch my dot move through the course, which was sweet. Most races just give you a time update at certain checkpoints on the course, but he actually got to feel like he was watching me race the course.

Even the results page looks cool. Well done Nike, well done
Even the results page looks cool. Well done Nike, well done

And probably one of the best things about the race was that we got all of our pictures for free afterwards. That’s right, FREE. Most of the time, you have to pay your arm and your leg for one measly race pic. I got to keep all my limbs and got all of my pictures for free 🙂

Anyway, we took the shuttle back to our hotel—even though Andy was not happy to get on another bus!—and spent the rest of the day eating and relaxing. We headed out at the crack of dawn the next day and after a long day of traveling, made it home to Max around 5 PM.

Reunited and it feels so good!
Reunited and it feels so good!

I have such great memories of this race and I highly recommend it. Grab a group of friends and make it a girls’ weekend next year!

Are there any other fun races you would recommend?

Have you ever worn anything new on race day? Did you regret it?

Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco Re-Cap Part 1

Photo courtesy of Nike Women's Half Marathon.
Photo courtesy of Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

Since this post is sooo long –even after breaking it up into two parts—here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in running this race next year:

DO THIS RACE. It is beautiful, fun and full of girl-power.

BE PREPARED FOR CROWDS. Something like 25,000 people ran this race. It’s kind of a cluster from start to finish.

THIS ISN’T A PR COURSE. Though I did meet a girl on the plane who PR’d, I think it’s pretty rare at this race. Tons of people + Crazy hills = Just have fun.

POST-RACE SWAG IS AWESOME. Not only do you get a Tiffany necklace, you also get free massages, crazy expensive juices (I can’t remember the brand, but someone told me they were like $7 a bottle) and tons of food and drink.

STAY IN UNION SQUARE/DOWNTOWN. If the race is still in Union Square next year, this is the perfect place to stay. The start line was like a 4 minute walk from my hotel. Everywhere we wanted to go outside of the immediate area was a quick Uber ride away.

If you’re still with me, let’s get this recap started!

Nike and the company I work for were hosting some amazing fitness and health bloggers/social media mavens, so I got to go to SF to help out. Perk of the job—I also got to run the race.

Such a fabulous, inspiring group of ladies!
Such a fabulous, inspiring group of ladies!

We arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon, but to us Midwesterners, it felt like evening. We landed, said Bon Voyage to the nice dude who sat next to us on the plane, and headed to catch the BART—Bay Area Rapid Transit—to downtown SF. We high-fived about a million times when we got off the train at THE RIGHT STOP. As newbies to public transit, we were sure we had gotten on the wrong train and would end up in LA.

After checking into our hotel, The King George—kinda kitschy-cool with a British royalty theme (obviously)—we headed to the expo. We were tired, hungry, and starting to get cranky, but I really wanted to check it out. The expo was held in Union Square park in the heart of Union Square, which was described to me as “shopper’s paradise,” also known as “Molly’s paradise.” 🙂

We skipped the packet pick-up, as I would be getting mine the next morning at a brunch with Nike and the girls. It looked like a crazy long line though. We dove right in to the expo. The music was LOUD. It was literally thumping in there.

There were tons of things to do inside. Quite a few photo-op areas, as well as a treadmill station where you could get a free running shoe assessment, and a video of the course. I tried to ignore that one, as I did NOT want to know what I was in for.

Posing outside of Nike Union Square
Posing outside of Nike Union Square

Other cool things included a Paul Mitchell hair station and a manicure booth. You could also swing by the usual swag booths and buy Gu chomps and other fuel.

Next, we hit up the Nike store across the street. The music was so deafening, I could barely hear Andy when he was standing right next to me. We checked out the wall with every runner’s name on it—which was really cool—snapped a pic and hightailed it outta there.

BOOM. There it is.
BOOM. There it is.

After we enjoyed dinner at the AARP special hour of 4:30, we headed to the hotel and crashed.

The next morning, I headed to Nike Union Square for the shakeout run with the girls. We ran about 2 miles through the streets of downtown at an easy pace. We talked, dodged street signs and random poles, and got our taste of what the hills would be like the next day—brutal.

Post-run, we headed with some fabulous ladies from Nike and the kick-ass bloggers group to brunch at Dirty Habit Restaurant at the Hotel Palmoar.

Nike+FL ladies+Bloggers
Nike Track Club Ladies

We were lead out onto the terrace for brunch al fresco and it was absolutely stunning.

Beautiful table and swag bags at Dirty Habit. Thanks Nike!
Beautiful table and swag bags at Dirty Habit. Thanks Nike!

The elaborately decorated table featured a bag of goodies for everyone there and our race packets. As we squealed over all the great stuff, a waiter came by with Mimosas. Champagne and free stuff? My race weekend was complete and I hadn’t even set foot on the course.

My seat at the table...and the first of many mimosas!
My seat at the table…and the first of many mimosas!

We took LOTS of pics, enjoyed our fabulous food and drank a bit too much bubbly for the day before a race! I got to meet so many inspiring ladies, and that truly was the best part of the weekend.

With some of my favorite co-workers
With some of my favorite co-workers
Nike and FL Ladies rockin' our new Tech Fleece Hoodies.
Nike and FL Ladies rockin’ our new Tech Fleece Hoodies.

Part 2 coming soon. Stay Tuned!

Have you ever run a Nike Women’s Race Series event? Would you do it again?

Do you drink the day before a race? Does it affect your performance?

Monumental Marathon Race Report

Spoiler Alert: I did it. I ran a sub 4 marathon. 3:52:11 to be exact.

I realize this does not qualify me for the Olympics or Boston and certainly does not deserve much in the way of accolades, but for me this is a big deal.

A HUGE deal.

I ran my first marathon in 2007. My time was 4:29 ish. I went on to run 5 more marathons, all within the same time frame. My PR up until Saturday, November 1, 2014 was a 4:15:59 set in the fall of 2011.

In between that PR, I landed a much more demanding job than I had held up until that point. I had been a freelance writer and part-time waitress, and while these jobs are not easy to say the least, I did not work close to 40 hours and I never struggled to find time to run.

Then, I had a baby. He is the most amazing, special little guy in the world (I know, every mom says this. Sorry for the annoying bragging). And while I love every moment that I spend with him, he took what little running time I had left up with his feedings, dirty diapers, not sleeping and play time.

Since my last full in 2011, I have run 6 half marathons—2 while I was pregnant—and while I enjoy running halves, I was hungry for a full. And a PR. With very little free time—AKA NO free time—it was a huge challenge for me. I had to beg, borrow and steal to find the time to train for this marathon.

Fast forward to the day before the race. My less miles approach had me more nervous than I ever had been before any race. It was Halloween, so I tried to push the marathon out of my thoughts and enjoy the day with Andy and Max. We suited Max up in his Frankenstein outfit and took him to the Children’s Museum to play.

Once Max was thoroughly worn out, we headed over to the expo. Since little man was ready for a nap, we made it quick. No time to listen to the speakers or peruse the booths, but it looked like there was a lot of great stuff there. I did hear a lot of side conversations about the next morning’s weather, and the fact that the forecast was calling for snow(!) that night. This was a little troubling, but I filed this away in the can’t-do-anything-about-it folder and carried on. Packet in hand, we high-tailed it out of there and drove home to put cranky pants down for his nap.

Cutest. Frankenstein. Ever.
Cutest. Frankenstein. Ever.

That evening, after Andy left for work and I was debating on whether to attempt trick-or-treating with an 18-month-old in sub-freezing temps, it began to snow. With the sight of that first snowflake, I began to relax about the race. I’m not sure why this calmed me so much. I think because I had been stressing so much about something going wrong—falling off my pace, forgetting to put my bib on, my Garmin dying (how can I LIVE without my Garmin?!)—that something like the weather hadn’t crossed my mind. I can’t control it, and if the weather was going to be shitty, what could I do? Wear some gloves, grin and bear it.

Needless to say, I didn’t take the munchkin trick-or-treating in the snow. We visited my in-laws and then we went home to relax. Of course, Max had other plans. He was in full wild man mode. Seriously, he ran in circles from the living room to the kitchen to my room and back for about an hour. It took me forever to get the little dude to wind down and go to sleep. I think I finally tucked him in around 9:45. Eeek.

I still had dinner, bathroom and kitchen cleaning, and outfit selections to make. I know I sound crazy for cleaning the night before a race, but our bathrooms and kitchen were hurting, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it post-race or even on Sunday. There was no way I could deal with a gross house until Monday.

So I cleaned. Then I ate my go-to pre-race meal of chicken noodle soup and a shitload of crackers, chose my outfit and crawled into bed around 1:30.

The incessant beeping of my alarm started all too soon a mere 4 hours after my head had hit the pillow, but I dragged myself out and got ready. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the temperature was in the low 30s. I was expecting a lot colder. Plus, the light dusting of snow from the night before was all but gone. It was shaping up to be perfect fall race weather.

I got downtown and parked with plenty of time to spare. I stopped at the Westin to use the restroom and hang out in the heat before heading to the start line, and it appeared that about 10,000 other racers had this idea as well. The place was PACKED. The entire lobby was full, the Starbucks had a line out the door, and the bathroom lines were rapidly growing. I used the restroom and hung out for awhile. Then, I headed to the start.

Unfortunately, this race does not have corrals for average racers like myself. They have multiple corrals for those who run faster times. I believe you have to run faster than a 3-hour marathon to be in a corral. Everyone else starts behind these speedy groups. I don’t remember this being the case the last time I ran this race, so maybe this was new? While I love this race, I really think this is a flaw. This puts everyone from 8-minute milers to walkers all together, in a race with thousands and thousands of people. I think that definitely needs to change.

Cruising on my way to PR city!
Cruising on my way to PR city!

Once the gun went off, I spent the first couple of miles jostling for position. The beginning miles go through the streets of downtown Indy, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The sky was growing lighter and lighter and my legs felt good. I focused on not getting too excited. My plan was to hang around 9-minute miles for the first half or so, and then see how I felt. If I had anything in me to speed up, I would. If not, I was pretty confident based on my training times that I could hold on to a 9-minute pace for the entire race.

After a week of barely any running, however, I wanted to speed up! Holding back was frustrating, so I focused on listening to a book on my phone. NERD ALERT! Yes, I listen to books while running. Not during speedwork, but most regular runs and definitely long runs. I love to read, but I usually give up reading time to run. So what better way to enjoy a book than by combining it with running? I never claimed to be cool 😉

The miles downtown ticked by quickly. Around 2.5, we went under a bridge and my Garmin lost its satellite connection for a minute or so. When it returned, the paces it was showing were totally off. I panicked a little. How was I going to stick to the plan if I didn’t know what pace I was running? I tried to chill out and run on feel, but I’ll admit this threw me a little. When the next mile began (and my Garmin was about 2-tenths off of the clock), I was able to see my pace again. I was still right where I wanted to be, so that was positive. garmin_first5 miles After winding around downtown, the course heads down Fall Creek Road. Around mile 7, the half marathoners peel off. They were all super supportive, shouting “good luck!” to the all of the full-marathoners. After that, I had a lot of elbow room and felt a little more relaxed. We turned onto 38th street and headed down to some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Indy. The colorful, tree-lined streets were a welcome change from the city atmosphere we were just in. People were outside their homes, cheering and handing out Halloween candy. Some houses were blasting music and I even saw spectators wearing Halloween costumes. It was definitely a good time. Gramin 6-13 It was in the neighborhoods, around mile 11, when I began to feel a twinge in my left hamstring. I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on, so I tried to ignore it. My plan was to take a gel every 6-miles, but I went ahead and took one right then. I really had no idea what to do, so I went with eat. That’s pretty much what I do in my everyday life too 😉 The twinge subsided and I continued to focus on the pace.

We headed through Broadripple and past the halfway mark. According to the race clock, I came in around 1:57. So far, I was hanging on to the plan. I didn’t feel like it was smart at this point to go any faster. Most of the times I was seeing on my watch were in the 8:50s and that felt doable. I knew how brutal the final miles could be, and I wanted to have gas in the tank.

At mile 15 the one and only “hill” of the race began. After the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco two weeks ago (Recap coming soon—I swear!), this hill was nothing. It was like a tiny bump. I felt strong and barely fazed. In fact, I even sped up a bit here. 14-19 After the itty-bitty incline, we headed towards the Butler area. I absolutely love this area of Indy. We went right past Hinkle Fieldhouse and lots of cute little houses. Then, we headed towards the Art Museum of Indianapolis, which is stunning. As my watch bleeped out I was at mile 19—one-tenth of a mile behind the clock, grr—I realized that I had more. So I pushed the pace a little. As each mile ticked on, I felt stronger. I was only dropping about 10 seconds per mile, but I’ve had marathons where after 20, I’ve lost up to a minute per mile off my pace. To be gaining speed felt soooo good. Untitled_by_mollysharp_at_Garmin_Connect_-_Splits As we headed towards downtown, I kept trying to turn it up. There was no need to conserve now. 22, 23, and 24 ticked by quickly. At mile 25, I let go and ran as fast as I felt I could hang on to for the next 1.2 miles. I glanced down and saw my pace was hovering around an 8-minute mile. Damn, that felt good.

At the 26-mile marker, I sprinted. The fan support at this point was amazing. I felt like I was flying! I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I have never experienced that in a marathon before. I crossed the finish line in 3:52:11 and was overcome with emotion. This training cycle had been such a challenge, mainly because I had to give up time with Max to get in the miles. To hit my goals was such a triumph and I think Max would have been proud of his Mommy if he understood what she was doing! I’ve never finished a marathon that strong before and it was amazing. Results I’m still riding that runner’s high days after the race. Meeting the goals of running sub-4 and running negative splits gives me confidence that if I put in the work, I can achieve even more. BQ, I’m looking at you! I have so much more to say about this race, my training and my goals for the future. If anyone even made it through this marathon length blog post, I’m impressed! More to come soon!