Monday, October 27, 2014

Columbus Marathon Race Recap (part 2)

Where did I leave off? Oh yes... the race was starting!  I didn't mean for the pre-race stuff to take an entire blog entry, but it's a big part of the race itself, and probably more interesting to you non-runners out there anyway.

So... amidst the fireworks and the (horrible) band playing, the gun went off.  It took us a good three minutes from the time the gun went off for my friends and I to actually go over the start line.  With thousands of people racing, though, that's to be expected.  Amy, Jess and I had planned to start out together, and even with all of other runners, we were able to stick together for the first two miles.  My only goal during those first few miles was to take it easy, keep at around an 8:30 pace, and get loose.  Most marathoners treat the first few miles as a warm-up.  At around 2.5 miles into the race, Jess looked back at me (she was about 5 feet in front of me at that point) and I urged her to go on. I was glad when she and Amy took off... I didn't want them to hold back, as they were doing the half and I knew they both had awesome races in them!  (And they did, both finishing in 1:48, and both going sub-1:50 for the first time ever!  Yay, awesome mamas!!!)

Pace-wise, the first several miles went about as perfect as I could have hoped for me.   Goal pace was 8:30 for three miles, 8:25 for three miles, and then dip to 8:20 and hold on for eight miles.  Here were my splits for miles 1-6:

Honestly, I couldn't believe how perfectly things were going. I felt amazing.  Alone, but amazing.  It was weird racing totally by myself. I mean, I was surrounded by people--runners, spectators, race crew members. But I wasn't "with" anyone.  At around mile 4 as we ran through Bexley, shortly before I took my first GU gel, I felt a light tap on my shoulder.  It was my MIT friend Carolyn's hubby, Steve.  We've been neck-and-neck on my last couple of races.  I knew his goal was the same as mine, and I was happy to see a familiar face. He urged me to slow down a bit, but I was on track with my pace and felt like I knew what I was doing, so I pushed on.  I was super-excited at around mile 5 or 6 when my good friend Tamara K. found me!   Tamara and I trained together for the past few months, but she is now 12 weeks pregnant with her third baby, and wasn't planning on a super-fast half marathon today.  She'd been looking for me, and it was so great to run for a bit with her.  After a few minutes, though, she told me that it was time for me to start hitting my 8:20 pace (she knew my goal!), so I left her behind and began to work towards some speedier miles.

I think this shot was taken somewhere in the first half of the race, based on how happy I look!
The first half of the race seriously flew by.   I had my music, and the crowd was great. I loved high-fiving the patient champions every mile.  There were some small inclines and declines, but mostly just flat Columbus roads.  I loved running through the city of Bexley, and then after that, right by where I work on Broad Street.  Running by Children's Hospital at around mile 9 was also really neat!  I was actually so distracted at that point that I forgot to take my second GU before the water stop.  I took it anyway, but ended up having yucky GU-mouth for almost two miles, until I got water about 1.5 miles later.   Other than this mishap, though, things were going swimmingly runningly, and before I knew it, the half-marathoners were turning off for their finish at around mile 12.6.  I looked at my watch at mile 13.1 and was ecstatic to see a 1:49:34.  Just a few seconds from my half PR!  I felt strong, but I knew things would be getting harder soon.  My official half split was 1:50:31.  Here were my splits for miles 7-13:

After mile 14, I had planned to start getting a bit faster, dipping into the 8:15's.   As I began to push my pace a bit, I started to get a few twinges in my calves.  This terrified me.  Calf cramps are no joke.  I never get them while training, but I almost had one at mile 25 in my first full in April. Thankfully it went away.  I also felt the same twinges during mile 12 of the Emerald City half marathon in August... again, thankfully, they didn't turn into an actual, full-on charley-horse.  This time, unfortunately, I wasn't nearly so lucky.

Definitely working harder here...
And this is where the story turns sour for me.  We ran through Ohio Stadium at mile 16.6.  Down the ramp, into the stadium, and back up the ramp.  It was exciting... but I think the steep decline/incline is what might have did me in.  According to the graph created by my Garmin (GPS watch), I first had to slow down due to calf cramps right after that, at mile marker 17.  It was only about 15-20 seconds of walking, but I was so upset. I couldn't believe that I'd had to walk.  But I was grateful that I hadn't needed to actually stop, and continued to attack the pace. And the 17th mile ended up being my fastest mile of the race, with an 8:09.  But just a mile later, the cramps came back.  I had to walk again.  And again.  And then, at mile 19.2 (again, all according to my trusty Garmin watch, as I really don't remember anything other than the fatigue and pain), I had to stop. Yes, I stopped.  I needed to stretch out my calves, as I knew the only way I could continue would be to get my tense legs to relax.  I'm sad to report that this was the first of 3 times during the final nine miles that I literally stopped in my tracks so that I could stretch out my calves.. Add that to the 7 total times that I didn't actually stop, but slowed to an easy walk for 20-30 seconds to work out the cramps that moved from my left calf to the arch of my foot, and you can see why this part of the race leaves me less than satisfied.  I tried drinking some Gatorade from water stops.  I even started walking each water stop, making sure that I was getting enough hydration.  Nothing helped.  I'd get rid of the cramps, and then within a half-mile or so they were back.   There wasn't anything I could do. Splits for miles 14-20:

I got a little pick-me-up when I had a strong split at mile 21, mostly due to a gradual decline in the course and no cramping.  At mile 20, I was still only a couple of minutes off of my goal pace, and I thought, wow, if I can just finish the last 6 strong, I could still go sub-3:40!  My hopes were dashed when again I had to stop at mile 21.6, and mile 24, with two walk breaks in that span as well.   By that point, I could feel myself running more gingerly.  I was worried with every step that my calf or foot would seize up again.  I wasn't able to push my pace like I normally do towards the end of a race, as I knew that would likely cause more cramping. I could only hope at that point that I'd be able to finish the race.  I will be honest, I was not in a good place. The tenths of a mile passed by every so slowly.  I would check my Garmin, praying the numbers had moved more.  I heard my little nephew Charlie yell "Go Aunt Marcie" at around mile 20 as we ran through Grandview, but I wasn't able to even look for him in the crowd... I just wanted to walk off of the course and quit. I've never felt like that before.  Those final few miles felt like they took hours. I'd walk a bit, stop if needed, then try to run some more... repeating this over and over again when the cramps would return. If this sounds miserable, well, it was.  Towards the end, any downhill part of the course would send my leg into spasms. I prayed for flat roads, cursing to myself each time that I'd have to walk a bit.  Of course, the final 10K of the race is basically downhill.  Not so wonderful for me... splits for miles 21-26.5:

My Garmin, of course, wasn't exactly on target with the mile markers.  Typically in a marathon, a Garmin will register between 26.3-26.5 miles, even if a runner is really good at running the tangents.  Mine ended up staying 26.50 as I crossed over the finish line.  

Only word to describe my face: relief.  I was SO done.
I did glance at it when it said 26.2 miles, and it said 3:41:51.  My final, official time in the race was a 3:44:29.  Just like always, I started to cry almost immediately after finishing.  These tears were tears of relief, though.  I thought that the race would never end.  Clink on this link to watch my race finish video (can't figure out how to embed it in the blog)... even a non-runner will be able to recognize the pain I was in at the finish, and also you can see me start to cry at the very end.  I was able to do some great fake smiles for the post-race photographers, though.  All of these proofs are from the marathon website, but I don't feel bad sharing them since I'll be buying them anyway :)

Jen taught me well... faking it :)
After I made my way through the finishers' chute, I didn't really know what to do.  I wasn't sure where any of my friends were.  I had heard a few friends cheering me on at the finish (ones who had ran in the half marathon), but I had no clue how to find anyone.  I didn't know how far behind me my other friends (Erin, Steph, Nicole, Becky) who had ran the full were.  Side note: they had great marathons!  Erin ran her first full in a 4:08, and the other three weren't far behind her!  I got my bag from gear check, as it had my phone in it.  I decided to go ahead and line up to hit the "PR Gong", and it was then that Andrea messaged me.  I'd completely forgotten that she would be at the race.  She and her partner Mary found me within a few minutes, and I don't think I've ever been happier to see people! 

Andrea and me... my joy upon seeing her is apparent in this picture.
After so many long, lonely miles without anyone around to talk to, and finishing such a difficult race, I only wanted to see a friendly face.  Andrea and Mary were like my angels, complete with fierce hugs and lots of congratulations.  Andrea, who is as competitive as I am, knew exactly how I was feeling, and of course knew exactly what to say to me to make it all feel better.  

Yay for a big PR!!!
After we got my picture hitting the gong, Andrea tracked our friend Jen and figured out where we could see her at mile 26, just before she finished.  It was so much fun cheering on the runners and waiting to see Jen.  Once she passed us and we took a few photos, we headed back to the post-race area and waited to meet up with Jen there. It was great to meet up and finally get that selfie with someone who's been there for me for almost a year of training for marathons.  I was excited to celebrate her 4-minute PR as well!

Two awesome PR's!  Love her!

Jen, Andrea and Mary left after that, but I was able to find Christine and Ashley in the finish area right around that time.  So proud of them for finishing their first marathons!!!

Christine wore my "Virgin Marathoner" BondiBand!
Then, I got a text from my favorite MITer, Stephanie. I had completely forgotten that she was there to cheer!  I quickly found her by the Fleet Feet tent and rehashed the race with her and a couple of my other awesome runner friends (Kim and Chris) who I've been doing core work with for the past couple of months.

Some of the most supportive runner pals ever!!!

Well, I was in no hurry to get home, but I knew my kids and hubby would be waiting for me, and Christine was in the same boat.  We actually made two (slow) trips back to the parking garage, as we were in her van pulling out when I remembered I'd prepaid to have my medal engraved with my name and time and had forgotten to have it done after the race!  So, we had to head back for that... but eventually, we were on the road back to Westerville.  

My take-aways from this race...

  • I CAN go out strong in a race and not (totally) die.
  • I CAN run a race and not negative-split, and still be successful.
  • I can race 26 miles alone! Shocker!
  • I have gotten faster in the past 6 months... a lot faster! 12 minutes is a PR to celebrate.
  • I need to be more consistent with my tempo runs and speed work if I want to get even faster.
  • I'm stronger--physically and mentally--than I realized.

As always... what is next?  Well, I'll tell you what's NOT next, at least not anytime in the near future: another race!  I am not planning on racing again till February.  November, December and January will be blissfully-race-free.  I'll be working back up to my normal four-days-a-week runs, and also doing BodyPump and swimming each once a week, plus core work on Sundays at Fleet Feet.  I'm super excited about fall/winter running.  I have amazing running friends at all paces, and I'm so excited to run just to run for a month or two!   

Of course, I do have races on my radar.   Definitely the Granville 15 miler in Feb, and perhaps a half marathon in March.  I feel like I need a fast half marathon to mentally get me ready for my next full.   When will that be, you ask?  Well, April 26, 2015, at no place other than the Glass City Marathon in Toledo!  I love this race and the course is about as perfect as one can ask for.   I've convinced my cousin Katie and a few other running friends to join me for at least the half marathon there this year--it's gonna be a party!  And that's exactly how I like it.

1 comment:

  1. Love.
    I don't love the cramps and the part where you didn't make your A goal...but the rest? I love.