Doing the prep work
In the weeks leading up to the race, I slowly began to realize that I might be able run the race strong and injury-free, thanks to my awesome coach, Brent. Runners always say, “Trust your training”, but I stand by my assertion that if your training is crap then you are smart to question it. Well, folks, my solo training was crap, which is why I didn’t trust it. But when I started working with my coach, I was finally completing workouts that were appropriate for me. Several things happened as a result: my body was allowed to heal and gain strength, my fitness improved and, maybe the most important, I gained confidence again. Having that confidence in my coach, my workouts and my body put me into a good place to mentally begin the work of the race. One of the most beautiful things to come from this was that…..I finally, truly trusted my training.
Generally speaking, I fret over all things racing (OK….I fret over EVERYTHING) – especially things I can’t control. SIT DOWN NOW. I decided I wasn’t going to fret over those things. I had no control over the weather, so I didn’t fret over it. I had no control over what the course would throw at me on race day, so I didn’t fret over it. I really didn’t have much control over the end result of the day – there are SO MANY factors in 26.2 miles. I resolved that I would simply have to work around any challenges that race day had to offer and accept the results.
I could have easily shot myself in the foot obsessing over my goal time. But I didn’t. Somehow, I was able to push that to the back of my mind each and every time it popped into my thoughts. I wanted more than anything to run a smart race and keep my ego out of it. I may not seem egotistical on the surface (I really don’t know if I come across as egotistical or not), but my ego gets in the way of my running A LOT (another reason having a coach is a plus). Again, I think the confidence gained during training was a big help tackling the mental game.
The actual race
I know all you runners are chomping at the bit, yelling at me to get to the recap already! Here it goes…
I woke up with a headache, which was likely due to sleeping on an unfamiliar pillow. I DID NOT PANIC. (Last year, Jen would have totally panicked.) Of course, I didn’t bring any Ibuprofen with me, because I rarely take it and I don’t believe in taking pain meds before any workout. Headaches tend to change one’s mind about these things, so I asked my teammate, Aubrun, if she had any…she did and was willing to share!! (Aubrun to the rescue!!)
Several of the Renegade Endurance team members running Dallas were able to meet in the lobby of our hotel for take a team pic before heading out to the corrals. Then we were off to the start!
Race day weather was misty with scattered light rain early on. Temps were in the 50s and cloudy for the time I was on the course….pretty much perfect!
Then….after what seemed like forever, my corral was off and I had finally started the race!
The challenge for every runner is not to start out too fast. I was to stay in zone 2 for the first 4 miles, then kick it up to zone 3 as long as things were feeling OK. I was so afraid I started out too fast, but I kept my heart rate in the prescribed zone, around 150, for those first 4 miles. I tried to maintain focus on my heart rate without regard to pace. The first miles came in at: 10:38, 10:15, 10:16, 10:04. After 4 miles, I kicked it up a notch, staying at the high-end of zone 2 and keeping my HR steady at around 160. My pace was much faster, though, and I wondered how long I would be able to maintain it. I quickly diverted my attention back to my HR. I HAD to maintain my focus, stay in my zone, not allow doubts to creep in and definitely not get caught up in the pace!
I kept my heart rate around 160 for the next several miles, and up to the half my pace per mile varied from 9:22 to 10:04. Most of the difference came from whether or not the mile was mostly uphill or downhill. I adjusted my effort on the uphills just to keep it from spiking. I balanced the downhills by speeding up and using gravity to my advantage, but holding back just enough that my heart rate could come down a few beats.
My time when I crossed the mat at the half was 2:09:51, which was a PR….by about 4 minutes! I was excited and terrified at the same time! I grouched at myself for a moment, thinking that I had just DOOMED the second half of the race. Instead of letting Negative Nelly take over, I tried something new. I decided to stay the course, run the mile I was in and manage my fuel and heart rate as best as I could. I did become a little concerned, because I started feeling some fatigue around White Rock Lake (miles 14-17) which caused me to wonder if I might be about to hit the wall. But mile 18 came and went, and I was still maintaining my pace and heart rate and although I wasn’t feeling as feisty as I had in the first miles….I was hanging in there and there was NO suffering going on. LOL
It was at mile 18 that I started doing the math in my head and realized that if I could maintain my pace through the end of the race, then I had a shot at 4:15. I quickly dismissed those thoughts, reminded myself that there was still A LOT of race to run and that the dreaded mile 20 would be coming up soon. I had to prepare myself mentally for when I hit the wall, and I couldn’t allow myself to get caught up in lofty time goals. I had to remind myself that running the marathon this well up to this point was a victory in itself. Miles 14-20 ranged in pace from 9:18-9:51 – again largely dictated by the terrain on the course.
Mile 20 came and I drank the beer. IT TASTED SO GOOD. Aaaaaand I got an instant boost from it. It was almost like a runner’s high – I felt like I could fly. But I had to keep my heart rate under control! I knew that after 22, the course was basically a downhill slope to the finish, so making it to 22 still running strong was now my new goal. At mile 22, I was still feeling incredibly strong. I toyed with the idea of kicking it up a notch at 5k to go. However, when I got to 23, my heart rate had been inching up to 165-170s and, 5k is still A LOT of race to go. I decided to hold steady and made it to mile 24. At 24.5, when I actually decided that I would kick it up, I could tell that my legs were starting to get tired. I’m pretty sure my quads might have been screaming at me but I told them to shut up. At this point, I decided that I would attempt to maintain my pace and attempt a boost after 25, however, looking back at the splits it seems that was all in my head and I had upped the intensity at mile 23. I missed the 26 mile marker sign then felt a little ticked that I wasn’t exactly sure how far I had to go. At that point, I was fairly certain that my watch was .30 off from the course, so I knew within .10. (I DID NOT run the tangents well!) As soon as I saw the finish, I put all I had into it, and thank goodness it was all downhill! My last 6 mile splits were: 9:46, 9:12, 9:05, 9:07, 9:21 & 9:16. I took advantage of that downhill and ran as hard as I could. And I am so proud to say that I had something to give that late in the race!
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch and realized that I had actually run a 4:15 marathon! Official time: 4:15:12. BEST. RACE. EVER. Epic shit. Oh, and I PR’d the half AGAIN in the second half with a 2:05:21! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?!?!
All I can say for this race is that the stars aligned for me. My coach obviously played a HUGE part in planning the right workouts for me….don’t forget that I was still hobbling around, recovering from injury less than 3 months ago. I fueled early and often. The combination and timing of my fuel apparently worked, because I did not experience any nausea or other stomach issues. I used EVERY water stop. Every. Single. One. The beer at mile 20 was better than a gel, by a long shot! Mentally, I brought my “A” game and never let myself loose focus (not for long, anyway). I wanted to stay in the moment instead of looking too far ahead. I squashed negative thoughts. And…..I NEVER HIT THE WALL!!! I still can’t believe it.
Something else happened. I finally felt like a marathoner. A REAL marathoner. Some people will be upset that I said that. And I DO NOT discount anyone else’s marathon finish….goodness knows that is the last thing I want to do. It’s just that intellectually I know that I finished the race last year and that act does, in fact make me a marathoner, but I personally never truly felt worthy of the title of marathoner. I finally earned it!
Support systems mean so much on race day
This was the first race that I was able to run with teammates from Renegade Endurance. Seeing them on the course and their family members cheering you on is such a mental boost! I also had a good friend stand and wait for me for goodness knows how long and the energy I got from that was amazing!
Nothing beats seeing your family, though. Last year, they struggled to find me. Not knowing the ins and outs of maneuvering the course, either missing me or not realizing they were ahead of me because they hadn’t gotten a tracking update in quite some time made things difficult. Bobby wore boots last year and said that he was worn out by walking by the time they found me at mile 22! LOL
This year, I had the idea to send them an e-crumb via my RoadID app. The app sends a link which allows the recipient to track your movements on a map. Taylor said that resource was invaluable to them finding me (and this year, keeping up with me). (Taylor also said that they couldn’t believe how fast I was moving on the course. 🙂 Instead of catching me at mile 22, I was able to see them at mile 8, 14, 22 and the finish this year! It was WONDERFUL! I am one lucky girl!
All the well wishes from friends and family on Facebook and Twitter absolutely blew me away after the race. I wish I could thank every person in this setting, but there are far too many!! I also have a very special online group of friends. We all ran RnR St. Louis together and we keep up with each other via a group chat. I had so much fun reading all the comments that were made during my race…about my race!
When I had just BARELY had time to get my phone out after crossing the finish line, my sole sister, Jenn, was calling me! I answered the phone and could barely understand what she was saying because she was SO EXCITED! Of course, I was on cloud 9 right there with her! I cherished that phone call and appreciate her so much! Yup, that phone in my hand? Jenn was waiting for me the family to take my pic!
Honestly, I wonder if I will ever be able to run another race as well as I ran this one. Some days the stars align, and some days things just don’t work out. But even if things never work out that well again, I have this experience to cherish for a lifetime!
For now, it’s time for rest and recovery and a trip to Omaha this weekend with my girls to experience the NCAA DI Volleyball Championships!
Keep moving forward,