Columbus Marathon 2016
I signed up a while ago... like almost a full year ago and was accepted into the elite field of runners. I earned my marathon PR (and smashed my personal goal) at this race last year. How could I back out!? Well honestly backing out was never a serious thought, but I had reasons to! I was untrained, yeah yeah, I'm fit... but cycling consumed more of my time than it had last year, weekly running volume was low, and paces were sluggish and only starting to progress a couple weeks before race day. I was also heavier. 4 pounds might not seem life crushing to you, but to a runner... 4 pounds was like lugging a sack of potatoes around for 26 miles. Sigh, but still, something deep inside me figured I could still manage. I could run -ahem, RACE- this marathon! But I also wasn't completely kidding myself; my goals were to give it my all... with no expectations, no goal other than not to DNS or DNF.
I did the normal 10 day taper, even though I wasn't sure it was still alright to taper when I felt like I hadn't even trained. Really I just looked data from before the 2015 race and aimed to do the same for this one. I swear guys, its good to keep logs of workouts! Mimicking the previous taper gave me a little hope and focus; if it worked then so it must work now... right?!... sure... This time I did one new thing and gave up drinking for the entire taper. That was tough. I like my nightly glass(es) of wine. But performing well is worth sipping water for. As for nutrition, I kept to salads mostly the first week and then transitioned to less veggies, then no veggies the day before while increasing my carbohydrates. The day before consisted of lots of raw coconut water, coffee, carrot/coconut bread, banana chips, and a gluten free Hawaiian + jalapéno pizza. For some odd reason, I can easily take down 4 slices of pizza on a normal night, but the night before a marathon it's a struggle. I have to pace myself and force another slice on the plate, then another... But it's better to eat! I also like to eat early, dinner finished by 7pm to allow time to digest. I put out my clothes, pinned my bib #, and laced up my new (only ran in 3 times) Newton Distance sneakers. Along with my attire, I filled water bottles and threw a pile of Honey Stinger gels. One thing missing from my pre-race prep was a playlist. Accepting your position as an elite marathoner means agreeing to run based on your own talent and ability without aid. USATF rules apply and headphones are forbidden. This was very concerning as I'd never before raced without headphones. What would I do without a constant stream of upbeat music in my ear for 26.2 miles?! I crawled into bed by 9pm and although I was feeling exhausted, my restless mind kept me up for hours.
Race morning didn't feel too hectic. Up at 5:30am for a chunk of carrot/coconut bread with butter and honey followed by a quick shower. I sipped my normal pre-race sugar free red bull as I got ready and headed out the door, riding my commuter bike the 2.5 miles to the start line. Once at the VIP tent, I learned the boxes of special aid (you're allowed to set water bottles at 4 elite aid stations) had already left. I had never used these special aid stations before but figured why not... so I did have 4 sport top water bottles half full with liquid ready to go. The first 2 I put water and Gatorade zero in just for electrolytes early in the race, the third bottle was super concentrated Gatorade for the halfway point and the last was filled with some homemade concocted salty maple water. All I really wanted was the 3rd bottle so I was able to have Luke ride over to that table (mile 13.5) and set it there. I should have gotten to the race earlier... but meh. The good thing about doing a local race that starts 2.5 miles from home is not worrying about things like that! Plus, who wants to be hanging out forever at the start line!? Not me. I was fine being there 15 minutes in advance. Just enough time to use the VIP toilets, take off my jacket, suck down a gel and have a sip of water. Luke locked up my bike and I jumped into the corral. Thats when the 'wtf am I doing here' thoughts set in. Looking around, I was the least elite looking of these runners! They were lean and tiny and jumping around in their singlets and tiny running briefs and there I was, in my bright yellow getup just standing still, waiting to get this over with.
The race started fast. No shock there, Columbus is a FAST race. There was a headwind for the first 3 miles running up Broad so I tried my best to stay behind runners. This was difficult as everyone is working hard to figure out their individual pacing. People would pass, get passed, come flying from behind, etc... It was very difficult for me to find a rhythm, but I tried to focus on my breathing and run at my cardio limits. Looking at my watch, I knew the miles were fast, but I still had this overwhelming sensation that I was far behind. The heat was definitely a factor. I could feel myself burning up early in the race and that wasn't a good sign. At mile 8 I forced down a gel. I was trying hard to get a song in my head, but it just wasn't working. Silence. I just tried to focus and repeat positive phrases in my head: 'you're doing it', 'keep going' 'you're fine' 'you're FINE'. One very inspiring point is that the Columbus Marathon is put on by Nationwide Children's Hospital and there are children patients who line the race with big foam hands waiting to be hi-fived. It was a huge reminder of how lucky I am to be able to run and enjoy my health. ItCloser to the half, I slowed a bit and let all the half marathoners rush past me. Just before the half turn off 5 women passed me; all marathoners. Oh shit. It was good motivation, but also hit me a bit hard as I saw the clock showing a very fast first half (under 1:27) and wasn't sure I could keep that kind of pace up. I grabbed my special bottle and took 3 large gulps of the concentrated energy, tossed it away, and set my sights on catching back up to those women. I was hot and my legs were sore, but I tried to keep with it. Not having music was very tough!! I craved some songs to get me moving. Without lyrics to focus on, I struggled to mentally stay tuned in. It was constant self talk. I tried so hard to think of a song, but I couldn't get anything to stick in my head. ugh. At mile 18 I was struggling. I only look at mile split times on my watch, so I didn't know what my average overall pace was. My mental state wasn't super strong and doing math in my head to add up times wasn't going so well. There would be a point where I thought 'shit I'm really ahead here! I could PR!' and then look at a course clock and think 'wow, I might not even make it under 3hrs'. Keep going, keep going, keep going... Basically that's what the remainder of the race was. Mile 18-19 were slow and hard. Mile 20 I got back on it and aimed just to keep things under 7min/miles. I had passed 2 women at this point but I still had no idea where I was in the race although I had a gut feeling that I wasn't doing well. There was another woman in sight for miles, but she picked up the pace with 5k to go and I just couldn't match that. Bummer I thought. The bibs had names on them which was fun to hear personal cheers throughout the race. Towards the end I was running with the same guy for miles. Mike I learned, as spectators would shout out 'Go Lori! Go Mike!'. I was hoping he would GO and it would give me motivation to go with him, but he was drained too. We took turns leading and trying to push it to the finish. At mile 24 my feet were hurting pretty bad from the new shoes. I have to say I was really pleased with them for holding up that long! I was at the point of fatigue that I just wanted to be done. I rounded a corner and there was a female marathoner... she was fading fast, barely jogging... I felt for her... the day was heating up and the weather was taking its toll. I was also happy to pass someone and paranoid about having someone else pass me in the next 14 minutes. Luckily, I held out and crossed the line with a 2:56:58, just 47 seconds off my PR.
How to feel about this? Well considering my poor training, it went better than I thought it would. But it's also difficult to know how to feel... I wasn't top 3, I didn't earn money, I didn't get a PR, but nothing went WRONG at the same time... So what does it mean? That my fitness is good? That I should try harder? idk... What I do know is that I immediately wanted to run another marathon.
So for the next week I will recover, bc today, two days post race, I can barely walk down stairs. But then, for 4 weeks, I will get serious. I will run workouts. I will focus my nutrition. I will loose weight. I will be at the start line of the SPACE COAST MARATHON with every intention of smashing their course record.
So cheer me on as I attempt to run myself to victory. For those wondering 'but what about the bike'... yes yes, After Nov 27th I will be solely focused on cycling with Womens Project Pedal for my CAT1 road season.