I was nervous and anxious for about a week before the race. I tried to keep myself busy so I didn't think about it. When I showed up at Inspiration Lunch on Saturday, my coach told me I was breathing awfully shallowly. So that was fun. Day of, I was ready to get it over with:
My pre-season goal had been to finish in 3:55, based on a race equivalency chart from my half marathon PR in October on a similarly hilly course. However, I lost about 3.5 weeks of running due to a mysterious foot ailment everyone thought was a stress fracture, but did not show up in x-rays and eventually went away. Then I got a cold for a few weeks. When I made the mistake of looking at my training logs a couple days before the race, I realized I had averaged only about 2 workouts a week during my training season. Gulp. Only part of this is attributable to my injury and illness; I also just didn't have much commitment. It might be time to take a season off. In addition, because of the injury, I only had 3 "long" runs: 14, 17, and 20 miles.
Anyway, I basically didn't know how fast I could expect to run on race day, and therefore how to pace myself. I knew I wanted somewhere between a 9:09 pace (which would put me just under 4 hours) and a 10:00 pace (which would put me around 4:25 or so). I am super good at pacing myself in half marathons just by how I feel that day, so I figured I would do the same thing. And therefore ignored my coach, who told me to have a 20 mile warm-up run followed by a 10k race. He said the most important thing was to set a goal for the last 10k.
Well, I felt pretty good going out, and was running between the 4:00 and 4:15 pacers. I saw Matt at mile 5, right by our house. The 900 feet of elevation gain is between miles 6-11. I enjoy hills. Turns out I didn't have an over-10:00 mile the first half of the race, despite these hills. Oops. After 11 it is all downhill and then flat.
By mile 12 I was starting to get a little bored. I was having trouble with my nutrition. I was not sure if I was hungry, full, needed more water, needed more salt, or needed nothing. I hit the half-way point in 2:03. I was reassured that I could easily run the second half in 2:27, and thus still feel good about finishing under 4:30. I didn't plan to run that slow of course.
I'd also been feeling a blister since about mile 6. I kept having an inner conversation about whether I should stop at a medical tent to get taped up but never did. Miles 14-16 have no turns and run straight down a boring street in which you go from 34th to 4th and therefore can see with each street sign how far you have left to go. I knew at mile 17 I would be merging with the halfers, see Matt, and see my housemate playing Taiko, and that did give me a little pick me up.
Merging with the half had its downside; I was merging with runners who were slower than I was, so not only did I have to dodge them, I had to avoid being sucked in running at their pace, which was a little challenging at that point in the race. I was thinking I'd like to be done. There were more spectators there and entertainment, which was nice. I finally hit mile 20. I decided that instead of the outrageous 9:00 mile goal I was thinking for the 10k earlier, I would go ahead and shoot for 10:00. I hit 20 miles at 3:09, so this would give me a finish of 4:09, or a 9:30 pace, which I felt good about.
Turns out that didn't go well. Miles 20-23 were rough. I walked a few times, with the excuse of getting food out of my race belt and eating it. Or walking through a water station. It was hard to get started again. Hitting mile 23 was awesome. It's at the beginning of the Lake, near the Finish, so tons of spectators are there and it was full of energy. Matt was there also. I had a momentary feeling of joy, which was soon diminished, as I headed onto the lake path and realized there would be very few spectators the rest of the way. Around mile 24, I stopped to walk again, getting out my last gel packet. I couldn't force it down, although I needed it. Forcing myself to start running was hard again. That mile was also tough as the lane got narrow, and I had to dodge a lot of slower half-ers. I did run into some teammates, which was nice. I knew at mile 25 I would finally have the mental fortitude to pick it up, and I did. I was given an extra surge part way through when the 4:15 sign holder caught up with me - I knew I wanted to beat them. My coach picked me up with .2 to go, which was awesome. And I finally finished at 4:14:11.
I can't say I had fun at this race, even in the first half. And then I ran a positive split, finishing the first half in 2:03 and the second in 2:11. I couldn't even meet my 10k goal. I ran four of those miles at a pace significantly higher than 10:00. I had trouble keeping it together. Starting at mile 18, all my paces were 9:50 or higher. Perhaps if I had run the first half more prudently, I would have had more fun and more left in the tank in the second half. I guess I'll chalk it up to a learning experience. Even though I am disappointed I couldn't mentally get it together for a 10:00 pace in the last 10k, based on my complete exhaustion and mental confusion at the end of the race, I'm pretty sure I left most, if not all, of it out there.
My friend had told me that she had a time goal for her first marathon, and that while running it she was totally okay with not making it. I didn't believe her, but now I understand. Even by mile 1, I was thinking, I'm running a marathon! Who cares how fast I am. But I do think my desire to meet my goal did push me too fast in the first half.
Here's me with my awesomest spectator at the end, probably 30 minutes later. I still look awfully shell-shocked.
And here's the bib, medal, and the 26.2 and ROCK STAR additions to my TNT collection. Thanks to all of you, I became a rock star by raising $2000 more than my minimum. Thank you so much!!!
When I saw my coach after the race and thanked him for a great season, he proceeded to talk about how 4:14 was great for this course, and after we get my foot all taken care of, I should think about CIM or Chicago, because those are great qualifying courses. Really? Oh Coach...
The problem is, I did get injured this season, but I took time off to let it heal. And I'm sure my super minimum mileage contributed to my relative injury-freeness and my ability to finally successfully run a marathon. To get better I need more mileage, and for me this is often counter-productive.
Also, I have to say, I think half-marathons are more fun. Even if you are trying to PR, the first 10 miles are still quite pleasant, and only the last 2-3 are kind of awful. That's a much better ratio than I experienced in the marathon. I do run some halfs just for fun, without trying to run super-fast, so I guess maybe that is a marathon option as well.
There were definitely a lot of miles during the race where I wished I weren't there, but I'm not as dead set against ever running another one as I thought I might be. The cross country ski marathon (40k) is still the hardest event in which I've participated. I'm still unclear how much of that was due to sickness, but I was on the verge of tears for a long time after that one. It did take me a good 1:30 longer than the marathon though. I still think I should be able to ski faster than I can run.
Here's my stats.