I ran my fastest marathon this weekend. So first are some quick stats, then a recap, and then where I’m going from here.
- Race: Carmel Marathon, Carmel, Indiana
- Temp: 60s-70s, beautiful, (locals say it was the best day of the year thus far)
- Course: nice, big loop, mostly residential, some bike paths
- My pace: 6:47
- My goal pace: under 6:40
- Time: 2:57:27, previous PR 2:59:41
- Splits (seconds not noted): 8k 32:00, 10 mi – 1:05:00, 13.1 mi – 1:26:00, 20 mi – 2:14:00
- Shoes: Altra Intuition 1.5
- Pre-race fuel: several Marathon Dreambakes at 3:30am, then within a couple hours of the race: coconut water, water and a couple swigs of coffee
- Race fuel: 3 Ginsting Honey Stinger gels (miles 8, 16 & 22 approx) and water at every aid station
- Place: 2nd female
- Place at which I felt like dying: miles 11 to 23 (miles 24-on, I was pretty much numb)
- Time spent in medical tent: 15 minutes
Okay, seriously. I did finish feeling a bit worse than any other marathon. I probably didn’t really need the medical tent, but they escorted me there anyway.
This cot felt as heavenly as it appears in the picture.
Back to the beginning.
The start was rushed.
We did have a well-planned and executed morning, but time just flies when you’re needing to get to the start of a race. Plus, things are different when you need to account for getting a little person ready too. Thankfully, I had a great entourage of support to help with him. But we still needed time for food, so I nursed him in the car as we were parking. Just before that, and upon rolling into town, we stopped at a Quick Stop gas station for the bathroom. Very good idea, I must say. If you’re ever near a race and have a chance to use a gas station bathroom instead of a port-o-let, do it. But then if you’re like me you need to use the potty again. We made our way from the parking area toward the start. I should have put in at least part of a very easy mile warm up but I needed to make one last pit-stop. So I waited in the long, slow porta-potty line within 10 minutes of the start and had nothing for a warm up other than a few strides just before the start.
Enough about porta-potties.
We were off.
Half marathoners like my father, who won his age group!
I like this type of start. There’s lots of energy.
At about mile 3.5, the half runners broke off at a turn-around spot. I also like this point because it is nice to see who you’re actually racing with. One more thing about the start and who I was racing with, lining up I noticed Camille Herron, an accomplished marathoner, and knew that she should have this race in the bag. I have read her blog and was thankful for the chance to tell her I’ve read her stuff and wish her a good run.
Here I am at halfway.
I love her sign. Can you read it? Click the picture to see it enlarged. It’s a good one.
Well my goal was to run sub 2 hours and 55 minutes. My bigger, more ambitious goal was sub 2:50 which I know I will do some day. I planned to start out at 6:30 pace for at least the first 10 miles, aiming at that 2:50 time. The first 10 miles were right on, exactly 1:05. Then miles 11-23 were really tough. Yes, I know, that’s a long time to struggle.
A couple of things added to the struggle. One, I had forgotten my GPS watch that tells my pace. I had packed it along but had put it on to charge the night before to make sure it would have enough juice. I thought of it in the morning, but then forgot about it and left it in the room. In retrospect, it would have been plenty well charged, and I should have just packed it in my race bag the night before. Instead of being able to see my pace I only had my retro Casio which I could keep track of overall time. Sometimes I do race purposefully without GPS. I know that is a good for me for several reasons, but this time it would have been extremely helpful due to the nature of the race. Because even though we broke off from the half marathon runners early on, the two courses reconvened at about mile 11. Miles 11-17 were tough because of that. For those miles, faster marathoners are running with the end of the half marathon pack. I did a lot of dodging and swerving. Plus, the course was twisty and turned often anyway. We wound through quiet residential neighborhoods, on and off of bike paths and on the wide shoulder of a busy main thoroughfare. During those tough middle miles, I lost a lot of ground and struggled mentally. Speaking with the winner, Camille Herron, after the race she summarized that section very well to say that, “You really had to focus in on your own effort,” which I did not do.
The half marathoners turned for home and we went on around mile 18 for a last big loop and that is where the “race” began for me. The previous miles I had been so lost in the time-warp of running around the 12-minute-per-mile half marathoners that I had no idea where I stood amongst the competition. Once we broke off, I could instantly see second place up ahead. By now, too, I was a bit unsure of my overall time because I had screwed up my watch timer at a mile marker and started timing individual miles instead of the overall. Ahhh! So I’d fallen off my pace, wasn’t sure of the time and knew I was probably not going to get in under 2:55 and maybe not even under 3hrs. I could see second place but she seemed like an eternity away. We just felt like opposing magnets not getting any closer.
At mile 20 there was a course clock and I saw that my time was 2:14-something. This meant 2:54 was possible, but a long stretch because I was struggling. On the next mile marker I restarted my watch timer so that I would know the split exactly and aimed for 6:40 for the next mile. But the next two miles were each closer to 6:50. My goal time was slipping away. All the while, I could see second place, but I was not gaining.
The last four miles were where the crowd, spectators and my family-fans really helped me. I don’t know what people were saying to no. 2 as she passed because she was a minute ahead of me, but everyone seemed like they were on my side. They cheered, “Go get her! She’s in your sights! You got this…” I guess everyone likes a good footrace! At mile 23 one lone spectating young female who, out of the corner of my eye, looked like a good runner herself just said, “You can get her.” And screamed “Relentless!” as I ran on. I tried to repeat that word in my head. But I was dying. I think I saw and heard vultures circling over me, waiting for me to collapse and become fresh meat. No joke. But just around the next turn, (man, there were so many turns!), I saw my baby and husband smiling and there to cheer. That helped bunches. Around mile 24 I passed a small crowd championed and coached on just what to say by my family. My mom, aunt and two friends were there and they all screamed more life into me. There was a small downhill ahead and then I could tell then I was gaining. The bike course guide who had been with no. 2 the whole time then glanced back and noticed I was coming. He kept glancing as I slowly gained. As I took her I mustered my coolest, “you’re doing good” to her and tried to start to distance myself from her. But the bike guide said, “okay I’m gonna take you guys in.” And I’m thinking, “you guys? Is she hanging on?”
We rounded a corner at about 24.5 where my dad, who’d long-since finished his Half, cheered me on. I felt like I could hang on for the under two miles left. I knew could hang on. I still wasn’t even sure of the time. Thinking I might not even break three hours, I at least really wanted this second place. The bike guy was good. He commanded the half marathoners finishing with me with a booming voice and made it as smooth sailing as possible. The last half mile we turned (I fought the urge to look back) and headed south into the wind which was picking up and it was slightly uphill. That was so painFUL. There was the gradual uphill into the wind and then one last turn and downhill the final point two.
Even though I missed my 2:55, I was ecstatic to see the numbers 2:57:.. up there on the clock. At least I had a new PR and I was pleased that a few miles back I hadn’t just settled for 3rd.
After my respite in the medical tent I was feeling pretty good.
Fun to share in the day with family and friends.
And fun to hear about Camille’s crazy training and compare home brewing notes after the race.
Now we’re looking ahead to Grandma’s marathon. I have 10 weeks to fix some major leaks I see in my training.
Some things I will incorporate are:
- consistent weight training 2-3x/week
- increasing my mileage bit by bit
- more core work
- do extra rehab with foam roller or medium/small plastic ball targeting c-section scar (That was the area that felt the worst after I finished. Weird?)
- drink more water because I’ve noticed I probably am frequently dehydrated (Post-baby I just haven’t enjoyed drinking water. Also weird?)
- better track my my protein intake to ensure it is sufficient
- mentally prepare for that “tough middle” section of the marathon
Here’s to a healthy next 10 weeks of training. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted.
Happy spring running and, as always, thanks for reading!