I had started a post when I was tapering for this event, but was worried it would jinx the race actually happening so I never posted it. It was hard to stay tight lipped about this race, but I figured I’d be more sad if I had to tell people the race was cancelled (like so many others this year) so I kept it quiet!
The month or so leading up to the race I had my highest running volume I think I have ever had (I even went back to my training plan for my first marathon in 2006). Although one key piece to the high volume is that the miles were much slower than what my pace usually is with my typical lower run volume, so even with higher miles my coach had me playing it safe running slower and on softer surfaces like trails. By race week I was feeling pretty prepared but also had some random aches that I was fretting about, like random left foot pain I’ve never had before. So I had some anxiety about the foot along with the whole running 5 miles farther than I’ve ever run before. It’s ‘only’ five miles, but from past experiences a lot can happen even during a couple of miles. I was just going to have to see how the day went.
On to race day! I got up at 3:30a, ate my pre-race GF toast with almond butter and a banana, and then tried to sleep a little more until I left at 4:45 to head to the race. I arrived around 5:45, went to pick up my packet and then waited in the porta potty line. I did a little stretching (my usual hip stretch exercises) and then waited in my car to stay warm. At 6:15 I headed over to drop off my drop bag (had my keys and phone in it) and walked to the nearby the ‘start line’. Everyone seemed to have such a laid back, relaxed vibe, just standing around chatting (with masks on), then the race director gave us a few instructions then sounded the horn and we were off! Just like that!
My coach had given me firm instructions to STICK with my planned pace, and even write it on both arms so I didn’t forget (which I forgot to do…). So I started out even a little slower than the planned 9:30 pace, but figured I would just ease into it, and watched everyone run past me. That was a little tough to watch, but I also figured since I was a rookie at this distance I needed to stick with my plan, I did not want to blow up and suffer too early in the race. So on I went, ticking off the miles around a 9:20-9:30 pace, hitting the first turn around at mile 4, and then headed back to the start where we would go out 11 miles and then turn around. I had brought headphones but decided I wouldn’t pull them out until I needed the distraction, however by mile 7 after realizing I was probably going to be running solo for the rest of the race (everyone was pretty spaced out), I decided to just start up the ipod.
I came up to the mile 9 aid station (at the start/finish, before doing the second out and back) and to my surprise I saw JMR! I had given him a map of the course, aid station locations and my planned splits for each aid station so he had an idea of when I’d be there. The night before he had said he would meet me around halfway in the race at the mile 16 aid station, but he must’ve gotten up super early and met me much earlier on the course than planned. I waved, flew by the aid station and kept on moving. Side note about the aid stations, since my stomach seems to get upset easily, my plan was to carry the same liquid nutrition and gels I trained with and just use water from the aid stations to mix my pouches of liquid nutrition. So this was a time saver, but I was also a little sad to miss out on the all of the food they had there, it was quite the spread!
An additional side note about carrying nutrition- when I read that aid stations were only going to be about 4 miles apart I realized I didn’t need to be running with a hydration vest and could just use a handheld – which was great because it’s less to run with, but that meant I lost all of the fabulous pockets and storage my vest had. HOWEVER, my new Saucony compression shorts I had recently bought did have some side stash pockets that turned out to be a game changer! I fit 2 gels in one side, another gel, my ipod and a baggie of toilet paper, tums and immodium in the other side. THEN, I was able to fit three pouches of my Nuun hydration powder in the back zip pocket. I guess I could have worn the vest if I had really needed to and only used it for nutrition, but it was really nice to know the shorts can carry so darn much AND feel comfortable AND not even notice everything crammed in them while running. I told JMR I was going to post a review on their site I was so darn pleased!
Ok, back to the race, there was a older gentleman that I had been bouncing back and forth with since the start and around mile 9 we ended up next to each other running about the same pace. We chatted a little and I learned he has run up to 100 mile races and he was running his virtual Boston Marathon that day as part of this distance. So he knew his stuff and he was fast. Since he had some serious ultra experience I asked some ultra running type questions (still so much to learn!) and then we talked about some races we had done, until he had to step off the trail for a nature break, but I figured he would probably be passing me later!
I hit the 12.75 mile aid station, saw JMR and waived, and refilled my bottle with more Nuun, and it felt like it took ten years as I couldn’t get the lid back on. I really thought I was at the aid station for five minutes, but it was less than a minute after looking at my watch. Then I was off, focused on the next aid station at mile 16.25. Around mile 16 my left outer knee started to feel like it was getting tight and had sharp pain. I was worried it was going to just completely cramp up… darn IT Band… I’ve been doing my exercises but sometimes it still gets crabby. It was starting to hurt so much I was worried I might have to call it at the next aid station, but then a half of a mile later, poof, it was gone. I was grateful it went away and prayed it wouldn’t come back! I saw JMR at the next aid station, mentioned nothing about my weird knee, waived and kept going towards the final turn around.
As I got closer to the turn around I started to pass a few people and could see the leading women in the 50k coming back. I counted 1st, 2nd and 3rd and when I hit the mile 20 aid station turn around I didn’t seen any others, so I was excited to be in fourth! I refilled my bottle, told Jimmy I was still feeling great and kept on trucking. I hit the 23.75 mile aid station feeling a little less fresh, refilled water and waved to JMR telling him I was started to get a little tired. However I was determined to get a marathon PR, so I was very focused on holding my pace at least until 26.2 miles.
Those 3ish miles took forever, I did pass a few more people which was motivating to keep up the pace, but I was starting to get a little tired. Finally I hit mile 26.2 and saw 4:04:44, hooray! A PR! Now five more miles! Five…more…miles. I was instantly not excited, but kept on pushing. I got to the mile 27.25 aid station and refilled my water and also decided to have a little cup of coke for some extra energy. On I went but I could feel my legs getting heavier and it was a struggle to keep up the pace. Around mile 27.5 I looked at my watch and saw my HR was over 200…woah…ok, at that point I decided it was time for a short walk break to bring it back down. When it settled back in the 170’s I started attempting to run again, but it was at a slower effort. I took my last gel at mile 28 and hoped it would give me magic energy, but, sadly it did not. I hit mile 29, and just told myself ONLY 2 more miles… but had a few more walk breaks because my HR was going back up again and my legs were struggling, however I couldn’t decide what was worse, walking or running, both felt bad.
I started back up to a slow run prepared to just suffer the rest of the 1.5 miles left. A half of a mile later to my surprise I could hear people cheering and suddenly saw the red aid station tent at the start/finish. I was confused. Did we do loops in the parking lot once we got there to make it 31 miles? I was very worried about the mileage for some reason, lol. Soon I was turning to the finish line and crossed at 30.4 miles. I was thrilled to be finished but super sad to not hit at least 31 miles. My sadness went away when the lady said ‘You finished second female!’ I was like what? I knew I had passed another lady in the last five miles, but thought I was in third, so I said ‘Really? Are you sure?’ and she said ‘Yep!’. She handed me my medal, plaque, took a photo of me under the finish line and then I hobbled over to JMR. I told him how I died the last three miles, but was pretty happy with the even pacing the rest of the race.
After drinking some water and coke, I picked up my drop bag, headed to the car and followed JMR home. Wow. I couldn’t believe that just happened! It actually went by so darn fast! When I knew I’d be running for almost five hours I wondered what I was going to do (well other than run) that whole time, which is why I had my headphones, but I probably would have been fine without them too. Also I was so happy that my left foot felt fine during the race, it’s so weird what random aches and pains appear during race week.
So what’s next? Well, this week has been a recovery week with swimming and easy rides (I haven’t run one step yet), but provided my foot doesn’t get cranky again and I can keep my left knee happy, I do have another possible race in October if it happens, so fingers crossed and I will just keep training away! Happy Friday!!