marathon

Houston Marathon & Boston Qualifier!

(I’ve been working on this post for several days but it took me a while to get it finished. We’re in the process of moving and not having internet is seriously cramping my style.)

On Sunday, January 17, I ran the Houston Marathon!

Official time was 3:29.33 (7:59/mile) and I qualified for the Boston Marathon! It was easily one of the best and most memorable days of my life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t run a full marathon in two years and the last one I ran was a 4:16. Two years is a long time in the world of running. I’d had a couple of half marathon performances since then that indicated I might be close to qualifying but I had nothing concrete to give me confidence and running is all about confidence.

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The morning of the race I was a nervous wreck. I knew I had a shot at qualifying and I’d spent six months getting ready for this race. I was terrified I’d waste six months of training and not qualify.

The weather was PERFECT – 39 degrees F at 7 am and 50 by the time I finished, a slight north wind and sun with cloudless skies. Perfect. I lined up in the corral slightly in front of the 3:30 pacers, not because I was confident but because I was afraid to get stuck behind 100 people trying to keep up with the pace guy.

The race began and the pace of the group was FAST. 7:30/mile. I tried to slow myself down to my planned 8:10/mile pace but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself go slower than a 7:55. So instead of fighting it, I went with it. New race pace was a 7:55. That wasn’t in the plan. Yikes.

The large field of runners made maneuvering the course difficult. Until the half marathon/marathon split I was constantly dodging stuff (curbs, potholes and people). The first 6 miles flew by. I don’t remember much about them. My body felt strong and the pace was easy. Surprisingly easy.

Mile 1- 8:06
Mile 2- 8:03
Mile 3- 7:55

5k- 25:13

Mile 4- 8:01
Mile 5- 7:57
Mile 6- 7:48

10k- 49:58

I had done a lot of research on fueling during the race and determined that in the past I hadn’t been taking in enough calories and I’d been waiting too late into the race to take them so I highly modified my fueling strategy. I took a Gu every other water stop and the stops were about 1.5 miles apart. 7 total. My first Gu was only 3 miles into the race.

Racing a marathon is all about being strategic with your glycogen stores and I figured that by fueling early and often I’d give myself a bit of an advantage. By the time mile 6 came around I was breaking into my second Gu and absolutely flying.

Mile 7- 7:58
Mile 8- 7:53
Mile 9- 7:49

15k- 1:14

At the water stop just past mile 9, I reached down for my third Gu. My belt only has space for 6 fuel packets and I brought 8. The first two I carried in my hands so the fuel I took at mile 9 was the first I had to retrieve from my belt.

My hands were numb from the cold and I couldn’t really feel my fingers. When I pulled the Gu out of the belt it flew out of my hand and onto the ground. I immediately stopped to pick it up. Going from almost 8 mph to 0 in a matter of 5 feet caused the muscles in my left hip to seize up and almost immediately upon returning to a run I felt a pain shoot up from my knee into my hip. It hurt so much that if this had been a training run I would have stopped and gone home. It was now or never though so I ran through the pain. It hurt, almost unbearably for the next four miles.

Mile 10- 7:55
Mile 11- 7:54
Mile 12- 7:52
Mile 13- 7:52

13.1- 1:44

The pain in my leg slowly subsided over the next several miles and I was able to run with no problem but I knew it could resurface at any time so I was trying to be careful with every foot fall.

Mile 14- 7:37
Mile 15- 7:52

25k- 2:04

Mile 16- 7:56

My calves started to tighten up. Not badly but enough to care about but as the miles ticked by the tightness started to get worse. It wasn’t anything to worry about but it was pain that I needed to manage throughout the remainder of the race.

Mile 17- 7:43
Mile 18- 7:49

30k- 2:28

Mile 19- 7:50

At mile 20 the route crossed under the inner loop and I stepped on a reflector in the road trying to dodge someone who had started to walk. The pain in my leg came back immediately and didn’t go away for the rest of the race. Between the leg pain and the increasing calf tightness the rest of the race hurt.

Mile 20- 8:00
Mile 21- 8:01

35k- 2:53

Mile 22- 8:06
Mile 23- 7:56

Though I certainly slowed down in the last 6 miles, I didn’t slow down nearly as much as in previous races. I kept waiting to hit the wall – that moment when you feel like you’ve come to a standstill. It should have happened around mile 20 but it never did.

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Mile 24- 8:06

40k- 3:19

Mile 25- 8:02
Mile 26- 8:10
Last .2- 7:05

26.2 – 3:29.33

Overall: 920/7808
Overall Female: 191/3026
Age Group (35-39): 50/632

I had enough energy left to run the last bit of the race (the last half mile, according to my Garmin) at 7:00/mile. Somehow, I raced a marathon and never hit the wall.

I crossed the finish line and immediately began crying. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. I finished in 3:29.33, I qualified by a full 10 minutes – all but guaranteeing myself entry. I have never been so proud of myself as I was in that moment.

Almost immediately my phone began dinging. People, who I had no idea were following my race, began sending congratulations. It dinged, pinged and made other sounds as various forms of messages came through. Facebook messages, text messages, gchat messages, posts to my Facebook wall, posts to my MOMS club page. So much love from so many people!

One of the trainers at the YMCA was spectating at the finish line and saw me come through the chute. I’m generally pretty reserved when I’m at the gym. I’ve only made a couple of friends there but when I showed up on Monday he cornered me. Let’s just say I’m a lot more popular at the Y now than I was the week before the race.

RECOVERY

The day after the race my muscles in my calves were so tight I couldn’t bend my ankles and the damage from running through the knee pain was evident. Though I could bend my knees it hurt wildly. I walked around all day sort of like a zombie. I went to the gym that day and spent 30 minutes on the bike with no resistance just so I could try to re-establish some range of motion, then spent 30 minutes stretching out my legs and on my way home went to the chiropractor. I by the time I left I felt somewhat normal.

I went for a six mile run on Thursday, which was extremely painful to my tight calves. Sunday, I ran eight miles and my calves felt much better. I have some lingering shin pain that showed up in the second week of taper (it didn’t cause a problem during the race) and I want to let it heal before I hit the mileage hard again so I’m cross training for the next several days until it goes away.

 

 

The Woodlands Marathon, Race Recap

20140301_065725Saturday, I completed my second marathon. What a race it was! The weather was less than ideal, between 70-80 degrees and 100% humidity. Not exactly perfect racing conditions.

The day didn’t start out quite like I expected. I was supposed to pick up my training partner, Meycy at her house at 5 AM, at 4:55 my eyes shot open and I looked at my watch. I bolted out of bed and didn’t even have time to wonder why the alarm I set didn’t wake me up.

I brewed a pot of coffee, threw on my running clothes (which I had thankfully laid out the night before) and by 5:07, I was sitting in her driveway.

We were parked by 6 AM. Even though we got there an hour early by the time I’d pumped and we’d waited in line for the restroom we barely made it to our corral before the horn went off. It made for a very frantic morning.

The Result

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Official Time – 4:16.33/9:42
A PR BY 20 MINUTES!

Age Group Results: 19/96

Gender Results: 110/513

Total Rank: 393/1230

 

The Race Summary

Miles 1-4, were a planned warm up. Meycy and I stayed together as we bobbed and weaved our way through the crowd. Sometime around mile 4, she stopped to do something to her phone and I lost her. I didn’t see her again until the finish.

Mile 1 – 9:45
Mile 2 – 9:24
Mile 3 – 9:54
Mile 4 – 9:29

After I lost Meycy, I plugged in my headphones and started to focus on the task at hand.

Mile 5 – 9:18
Mile 6 – 9:18

10k Split – 59:40.08

Mile 7 – 9:02
Mile 8 – 9:03
Mile 9 – 9:13
Mile 10 – 9:20
Mile 11 – 8:57
Mile 12 – 9:05
Mile 13 – 9:04

13.1 Split – 2:02.55

The first half of the race was uneventful. By the halfway mark I felt great. My legs were loose and my energy was high. I didn’t realize how hilly The Woodlands is; I swear we climbed a mountain (by Houston standards) at mile 10! I called my husband halfway and told him I was running a relatively easy 9 minute/mile pace and I’d call him back at mile 20.

Mile 14 – 9:04
Mile 15 – 8:58
Mile 16 – 9:30
Mile 17 – 9:16
Mile 18 – 9:05
Mile 19 – 9:33
Mile 20 – 9:47

Around mile 20 I started to feel fatigued. My legs became heavy and my hips were on fire. I called my husband to inform him my pace had slowed and that my legs were starting to give out.

Mile 21 – 9:52

35k Split – 3:24.98

The sun, which had been nicely hidden behind an overcast sky, suddenly came out and we found ourselves without any shade. The temperature went up from a bearable 70 degrees to a scorching 80 degrees in just a matter of minutes.

Mile 22 – 10:39
Mile 23 – 11:01

I felt like I was barely moving. The only sensation coming from my lower body was pain. I had to actually look down at my feet to make sure I was still running. Whatever little energy I had left was being sucked out by the sun.

The other runners were clearly suffering the same fate. The pace of the entire field slowed; almost as many people were walking as running. Over my headphones I could hear heart rate monitor alarms going off as heart rates maxed out. On the side of the road I saw a woman vomit.

I tried to focus on the music in my ears and just stare ahead. I could hear myself audibly groaning as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other.

Mile 24 – 11:43
Mile 25 – 12:10

photo (6)I saw a spectator sign that said, “You’re an inspiration,” and I fought back tears. I tried to remind myself that wasting energy by crying wasn’t going to get me to the finish line any faster. Instead I tried to use those emotions to push myself through. Just use it, I kept telling myself. Just use it.

Mile 26 – 10:26

Going around the last corner a volunteer said, “Just 1/4 mile. You can do it!” At that point I couldn’t hold it back any longer. Tears started flowing like a waterfall. I started hyperventilating trying to hold them back but it was no use.

Another volunteer stood in the middle of the finish chute saying, “Smile! You just finished a marathon!”

I did my best to conjure a smile for the camera as I crossed the finish line and just like that, it was over.

The Aftermath

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I hobbled out of the finish chute and over to the food tent. With a breakfast taco in hand I went over to where I promised Meycy we’d meet up and sat down on the ground and waited.

45 minutes later I saw her limping over toward me. She looked like you’d expect for a woman who’d just finished her first marathon to look, exhausted but elated.

“I hate you,” she said.
I replied, “I know.”

This wasn’t just a marathon. It was an 18 week journey, an adventure.  We spent dozens of hours away from our kids and husbands as we pounded the pavement during a brutally cold winter. We were chased by dogs, almost hit by cars and scared out of our skin by a pair of donkeys on a country road in the total darkness of early morning.

It was awesome.

Two days later, I am still sore and exhausted. I’m not exactly sure where to go from here. I plan on taking a full week off to allow my body to heal and then after that I don’t know. I’d love to qualify for the Houston Marathon and I think now I’m in good enough shape to do that in either the 10k (51 mins) or half distance (1:53). But I haven’t made any concrete plans to try.

What I DO know is that some time around Halloween, you’ll find me in the darkness of early morning, running the streets of my neighborhood preparing, yet again, to do something extraordinary…complete marathon #3.

Ten Marathon Truths

  1. 20140301_183627 (1)You don’t truly appreciate how far 26 miles is until you get to mile 16…and then realize you still have to run TEN. MORE. MILES.
  2. Papercuts have nothing on achey toenails as one of the worst kinds of pain.
  3. Miles 20-26 will always be, in that moment, the most painful experience of your life.
  4. Those last 385 yards are evil – but not as evil as that set of stairs in your house.
  5. You know exactly what people are doing when they duck into the woods at mile 5 and you don’t care. At mile 6 you consider doing the same thing.
  6. Compression socks are worth their weight in gold.
  7. There’s never been a better excuse to eat a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two honey buns.
  8. You read about a man who completed a marathon dressed as a bottle of beer and you immediately question his sanity. You then vow to do more speed training when you realize he still finished faster than you.
  9. The post-marathon shower in a trailer is better than any you could take in a 5-star spa.
  10. Marathons are hard. That’s good because if they were easy you wouldn’t get to listen to everyone tell you how crazy you are.

THE END.