Dallas Marathon Race Recap…Drink the Beer at Mile 20!!!

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!

My RE team members are the BEST! +
My RE team members are the BEST!

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!IMG_6487

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!IMG_6461

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!IMG_6462

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,

Jen

Frogs hop into Orlando

I haven’t blogged much lately…..things have been crazy busy!  I was finally emancipated from work last Wednesday (Wednesday the 10th, that is) and I haven’t had time to stop since!

Thursday and Friday (11th & 12th – I feel I must clarify for myself more than anything because it seems so long ago!) were spent shuttling to the last volleyball practice before AAUs and last-minute preparations for the visit of my Uncle Richard and cousins Phil and Mark.  Uncle Richard came in for his high school reunion.  We had a lovely gathering at my house on Friday evening, complete with my sister’s famous chocolate cake and my mom’s homemade strawberry ice cream!

Uncle Richard and my brother Dean listening to my sister, Carol.
Uncle Richard and my brother Dean listening to my sister, Carol.
And the famous strawberry ice cream!
And the famous strawberry ice cream!
No, this is NOT Phil's hat, but he HAD to wear one....because, Texas...
No, this is NOT Phil’s hat, but he HAD to wear one….because, Texas…   He is performing his electrical trick on Avery.  All the kids LOVE it!

family

We enjoyed the visit so very much, but it was too short!

Monday morning, I was able to squeeze a run in before we headed for the airport.  We were the last family to arrive for the tournament (had I known what I know now at the time of ticket booking……).  Alli and I rushed off the plane to the car rental counter to pick up one of our cars so that we could get to the opening ceremonies on time.  As luck would have it, there was a weather delay due to lightning, which gave us all the time we needed.

Our little Frogs at the Opening Ceremonies
Our little Frogs at the Opening Ceremonies

The girls were able to walk around the stadium to cheers from fans.  In addition to the slew of Puerto Rican teams, in attendance, I noticed a familiar Maple leaf flag…

The girls exchange tokens before each game.  I wonder if the Canadians brought Maple syrup?
The girls exchange tokens before each game. I wonder if the Canadians brought Maple syrup?

Tuesday morning, we were at the courts bright at early at 7AM, which seemed like 6AM for all the Texas folks.  AAU

The day started with a loss against a strong Puerto Rican team.  (Get used to this….)  Like any good parent, I feel we could have beat them.  *sigh*

The first day, we only had to win one match in order to keep hopes alive for the Championship.  But who wants to stay in the hunt by the skin of their teeth?  We were able to easily win our second match.  The third match of the day should have been the most difficult to win, which had me worried.  I didn’t have a lot of faith in the seeding process regarding the teams that came out of Puerto Rico.  (I’m so tempted to use PR, but PRs are a good thing in running and these Puerto Rican teams were NOT good for MadFrogs.)  The last match of the day went to 3 sets and we squeaked out a win, 15-13.  At least we went into day 2 with 2-1 record….

We were off to a better start on day 2, after winning our first 2 matches.  We knew the last match would be tough (as usual), but the team ended up being more than we could handle and, again, the Puerto Ricans won rather easily.  (By the way, the ONLY American team we faced was on day 1.)  Luckily, top 2 teams in each pool advanced and our hopes for the championship bracket were still alive.  Afterward, the team went out to Downtown Disney for some fun and food.  The girls enjoyed the outing and their meal at Rainforest Cafe. rainforest

We knew that Thursday would be tough.  Not only from the level of play, but from literally playing all day long.  We had 2 morning games at 8 & 9, a game at 1 then another match at 6.  Oddly enough, the match at 6 was the only one that mattered regarding advancement to the championship bracket.  In any case, we were down to 9 teams vying for 4 spots in the championship.  (Only 2 American (and Texan) teams, I might add)alli

In the crossover match, we were ahead and at set point, but could not side out.  We ended up losing 24-26.  HEARTBREAKING.  The second set we came out, guns blazing and won 25-21, forcing a tiebreaker.  But once again, we had trouble breaking serve and ended with a 7-15 loss.  This was the most devastating loss of the tournament, because we all knew (girls included) that we COULD have beat this team.  The loss put us in the consolation bracket which meant the highest we could place would be 5th.  timeout

Friday morning, we played another team that we should have been able to beat.  Once again, we found ourselves in the situation where all we needed was a side out to win and couldn’t force an error.  First set score was 24-26.  We came back to win set two 25-11, and I was hopeful that we would carry that momentum in to the 3rd set for the win.  However, we were unable to return the first serve of the game and the girls imploded.  We lost that set 5-15, which is probably the worst showing for them this entire season.

Our girls were the highest finishing American team in the tournament with our 7th place finish.  I say that like it makes getting 7th easier, only it doesn’t.  I don’t want to seem as if I am not proud of their work.  I’ve never seen them fight as hard as they did this weekend.  They played with heart and determination.  And even though we didn’t get the results for which we were seeking, I am so glad that we played in this tournament.  Our girls had not traveled for a tournament before and they certainly hadn’t played in a National Championship.  This experience will help them prepare for the USAV Girls Junior National Championships next year!

I later learned that the Puerto Rican girls likely attend a volleyball academy in which they attend classes each morning and practice volleyball all afternoon, every afternoon.  If this is the case, our girls did VERY well against them, as they weren’t really much better than us.  They were more consistent with passing and that was the game changer (but isn’t passing ALWAYS the game changer?)

I’ll be blogging about our non-volleyball activities soon after we arrive home.  Until then…

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

Jen