Okay, first, I have to apologize for doing a terrible job blogging over the past month. Here’s what happened: I wrote 90% of the post for the week I was hurt, but when I got to the weekend — when I had to miss the last race of the Triple Crown — I didn’t want to finish it. And then I lost my rhythm.
Those last three weeks were pretty successful, in short — I got in some good speed work and a third 20 miler, and two weeks out had a solid 10 mile run at goal pace. We backed off over the past two weeks, but not too much — 53 two weeks out and 27 race week (not including the marathon, obviously). Plus coach still mixed in speed, so I was actually feeling pretty fresh. No taper crazy brain, no dead legs. I was like, “I guess this guy knows what he’s talking about!” Haha.
I actually ran every day of race week and the week before, but a lot of shorter runs. I also had a light massage on Tuesday.
Friday we had to make a stop at hubs’ chiropractor on our way out of town, which was very nearly a disaster. We left the appointment and were on our way to the interstate to head to Carmel when a teenage girl turned left across two lanes right in front of us. I wasn’t looking, but fortunately hubs was. He swerved to avoid her, turning us 90 degrees as we skidded and squealed across the road and onto a side street. As he tried to avoid her, we missed a stop sign by just an inch or so, coming to a stop perpendicular to where we started. The girl looked terrified. I don’t know what the heck happened, but I’m glad everyone was okay. Chris and I were both rattled, but we were back on the road after a couple of minutes.
We made it to the expo around 6 p.m. Here’s the truth: until my packet is in hand, I’m very anxious. I have a completely unfounded fear that the expo will for some reason have closed or they’ll have lost my entry or any number of irrational things. Or that we’ll get in a crash on the way, which suddenly seems less irrational. But basically, my husband should just start agreeing to leave at noon so that I will be less obnoxious. We got to the expo, but couldn’t find parking so we had to drive around for a bit and I was literally losing my mind.
Packet pick up was super easy, and they had a nice, small expo. Bonus: Coach has a table. So I got a short pep talk, discussed parking for the morning, where our tent would be near the start/finish, who was expected to run, what to do about the weather, etc.
Did I mention yet it was supposed to be warm? Terrific. My favorite. (Heavy sarcasm.)
Coach’s advice: if it seems like the pace is too hard too early in the race, back off and race for place. The only good thing about bad weather is that you’re all in it together.
Our hotel was less than 10 minutes away from the race start/finish, so we checked in and I did some foam rolling and drank some Hammer Endurolyte Fizz. I was chugging water like a champ, although that did make for a pretty uncomfortable 2 hour car ride.
We had a dinner at a nice little restaurant right in downtown Carmel, splitting a cuban sandwich, a cremini and arugula flatbread, some fries and some mac and cheese. All. The. Carbs.
I was out like a light sometime around 10 p.m., earlier than I usually go to bed. Whoever spreads that myth about not being able to sleep the night before a marathon has never met me. I basically use it as an excuse to go to bed early. And I didn’t wake up. Chris had all the lights and the television on, and apparently stayed up late enough to write out his entire triathlon training schedule. Meanwhile, I got a solid 8 hours of shut-eye.
At 6 a.m. I was up. More foam rolling (you need one of these), some easy yoga, more water. I ate half an almond butter sandwich (like every day of this training cycle) and had some decaf coffee. (Second truth: I only drink decaf. You don’t want to see me on caffeine. But I love coffee.) By the way, Hampton Inns are the best and definitely have the best breakfast.
We probably should’ve left a little earlier, and probably should’ve done a better job mapping out how to get to where we wanted to park. Fail, and it took us longer to park than I had hoped, so I was back to freaking out. And then I couldn’t find coach’s tent. I ran a mile to warm up but didn’t have time for a final bathroom stop or time to do much stretching. I did a couple of strides and such, kissed my husband and hopped in the corral.
Then I had to stand through the longest pre-race ceremony ever. They introduced every country that was represented. Sang the national anthem. Sang something else. Talked about some other stuff. I was about to lose my mind.
It was about 51 degrees and sunny at the start. It’s a primarily east-west course, so the first 7 miles are basically into the sun. And then so are 19-26.
Downside to Carmel is the way the marathon meets back up with the half marathon several times. You run the first 3 miles together, then catch them again at marathon mile 12 (half mile 5), stay together until marathon mile 18 (half 11), and then meet them AGAIN at marathon mile 24 (half 11). Literally I passed the same people twice, but we’ll get to that in due time.
My plan was to hang with the 3:05 group and evaluate somewhere around 16-20. The gun finally went off and I focused on being relaxed and finding room to run. Someone clipped my heels a bunch of times in the early miles. In the corral I talked to fellow Louisvillian (and Urban Bourbon Half Marathon race director) Michael Clemons who was hoping to run the same time, so we started off chatting and running together.
Miles 1-5: 6:59, 6:58, 7:03, 6:54, 7:04. Pretty much in the ballpark, a smidge fast. Into the sun, with the pace group, chatting. The half marathon actually has a turnaround at about 3.75, so we got to see the leaders coming back. I got to cheer for some PBT guys, including two who finished 6th and 11th. I see my husband along here somewhere, around 3-4.
Miles 6-10: 7:07, 7:01, 7:02, 7:05, 6:56. We’ve lost the pace group around mile 5 as Michael and I continue clicking off right around 3:05 pace. At mile 6, there’s some sort of military band and we do a weird tight turn into a park. I see my friend Brooke’s husband, Matt, who is spectating on his bike. I take my first Hammer Gel as we wind through a small park … which was not closed so we were weaving around some pedestrians, pets and strollers. I don’t remember much from this section, which is good. I think I missed the mile 6 split altogether. The less I’m having to focus on what I’m doing in the early part, the better. Just lock in and cruise.
Miles 11-15: 6:58, 7:01, 7:00, 7:05, 6:50. I see my husband again early on in this section, I think. It might’ve been late in the last section. Hard to say. We’ve caught back up with the half marathoners and it is a complete cluster. I’m calling out that there’s a runner back and trying to find direct, smooth ways to get around people. I even encourage quite a few but get little response, so I give up on that. A few encourage me, and for that I am grateful. The course is slightly uphill (300 feet of gain or so) from 10-15.
I lose Michael around mile 11 and from there until 20, I’m pretty much flying solo. This, my friends, is why I’ve been doing most of my long runs alone. I know there are people out there who run races side-by-side with friends. I’ve never done that. I don’t see that being in my future anytime soon, really. You might joke or chat with people along the way, but for most of that 26.2 miles, you’re inside your own head. Assessing your body, doing damage control, thinking super random thoughts, ping-ponging from topic to topic, finding yourself coming back to the same three lines of a song you haven’t heard in years over and over again. If you’re not prepared to get yourself through a marathon mentally, your physical training won’t matter.
Miles 16-20: 6:56, 6:48, 7:04, 7:07, 7:04. Honestly I had no idea I dropped that 6:48 until I was writing this. Mile 15 was the start of the Hagan-Burke Trail, which brought with it almost two miles of blissful shade. It was tough running around the half marathoners but at this point it just was what it was. I saw Chris again heading on to the trail. Best cheerleader ever. Craziest part of the day was at the 16.5 water stop (I think). I had just grabbed a water, having dodged all the half marathoners to get to it. We’re all in the left lane, and there’s a car in the right hand lane waiting to turn. Or supposed to be waiting. He changed his mind. Started turning dead into a stream of people. I missed getting my cup of water into his window by about three inches (which would have been so freaking epic). I yelled my first favorite F word (my second favorite is…) but didn’t break stride. I think the cop who was actually right there at the intersection had a chat with the driver, if what I heard behind me was correct. I have no idea what he thought he was doing. Another marathoner congratulated me on it a while later. At 18, the half marathoners turned off, and I have never been so happy to split from the half course!
At 20, we turn back into the sun and we’re completely exposed.
Miles 21-26: 7:07, 7:06, 7:12, 7:12, 7:51, 8:17. It is sunny, it is hot, it is desolate. Not much to look at, not many people cheering. Not a great last 6 miles. I’m trying to hold on to a guy as we hit the 20 marker, and there are two girls on bicycles riding near us. At first when I heard them behind me I was worried it was two women about to kick my ass. I asked them if there were any women behind me, and one actually rode backwards to investigate. Nobody for a long time, she said. There was a group of three of us but we weren’t packed up and there wasn’t much I could do to catch up. Miles 21 and 22 loop through the community center’s park, and you get to see people on there way back in as you get close to 21. I see Kelby Laughner, another PBT runner and super studette, leading the ladies’ field. She graduated college in 2014, ran her first marathon last fall at Monumental — in 2:53. She went on to win Carmel in 2:46. TWO FORTY SIX.
I catch another woman at the 22 mile water stop. Sometime earlier I thought I heard I was fourth. I’m hoping this means I’m in the third, but I don’t really know. I basically use the water stop as a screen, hoping to get by her without her trying to chase me down. A little past 22 the 3:05 pacer catches me but I can’t go with them (I think he negative split). Around 24, I take a walk break. I run, I walk, I run, I walk. I don’t know how many walk breaks I take in the last two miles … probably 4 or 5. Just past 24 we meet back up with the half marathoners, but at least there’s more space.
Finally. Mile 25. I’ve started dumping water on my head. I am hot and I am now also pissed. Mostly at myself, for having to walk. For not being tougher. For not being stronger. We make a right-hand turn around 25.25, then it’s a long slightly uphill climb to the 26 marker. My husband is at the top of the hill, and I am sucking it up as much as I can. He tells me I can get under 3:10, I’m thinking I had damn sure better because I know I’m only at like 3:06 and if it takes 4 minutes to run 2 blocks, I’m never doing another one of these damn things again. I turn the final corner knowing my watch is going to be way long. I end up with 26.4, with the last .4 at 6:26 pace.
3:07:30, for fourth female. A new PR by 2:41. Marathoners are crossing in one lane of the street, half marathoners on the other, so there’s ample room for me to come to a dead halt. A smart, courteous race official asks me if I’m okay, if I’m cramping up, if I need anything. I say no, I think I’m okay, I just want water, shade and to sit down. It was pushing 70 degrees by the time I finished. It was 71* when we left an hour later.
I’m looking around trying to figure out why my husband hasn’t made it down to me yet. I drink water, dump water over my head, then basically prop myself up on the fence. I talk briefly to an online friend who I finally meet in person. Chris pops up on the other side of the fence. I dump more water on my head. I walk to end of the chute and coach is there with a big hug. I feel bad touching anyone in my current state, but that’s what coaches are for, right? And I needed that hug. (Chris wasn’t about to touch me, haha.)
I had good talks with coach after the race, drank some chocolate Recoverite, hung out with the team for the awards ceremony — we had the first and second place men and first and fourth place women. I missed third by 1:45. After, the Hampton was lovely enough to not rush us and we had plenty of time to shower before heading out. We had spotted an Upland Brewery so stopped there for lunch — beer, black bean burger, fries!
More reflection later, but that’s a lot of words so I’m stopping.