I am an E L I T E marathoner.

Race Report: Fall Running.

Conclusion:

Okay I’m starting with the punch line: I DID IT!  I ran a sub 3 marathon!!!! FINALLY! Can you tell I’m excited? Still riding that runners high?! Hehe… well I am. So there is the result, please keep reading to hear my take on how it all went down.

So here it is… My fall season.

Background:

I haven’t been focused on running in a long time. It has been 2 years since I ran a full marathon (Marine Corps) and 4 years since my PR marathon (3:01:03).  Why get back into it?

Well I ended the cycling road race season on a high. Super awesome results: first female finisher at Blood Sweat n Gears, winner of the Ohio state road race championship race in women 1/2/3, winner of CAT3 women’s Midwestern road race. Not bad eh?  That’s what I was thinking. I was also thinking, I am so over riding my bike right now. I needed a break.

In comes running. It was actually perfect timing. I ended up starting a new job which has me working 40 hrs/week (added to my other jobs) with weekends. Not fun. But running is something I can do alone and before/after work a lot easier than riding. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the big weekend rides because I was done riding for a few months and I wanted to RUN!

What was I running for?  Since I had booked a flight to visit my parents in Florida for Thanksgiving, I decided to go for the Space Coast Marathon the Sunday after the holiday. This gave me enough time to really focus. 

The Training:

Before parking my bike, I was running between 20-30 miles a week as cross training. I ramped it up to 50, then 60 immediately. Way over the 10% increase that is advised, but I felt like that was okay since I was coming into this as a trained athlete, just not a runner… 

I felt like my major issue with not hitting my marathon goal (sub 3) at the Marine Corp marathon years prior was the lack of long runs. At that race, I was on point for miles and miles until I totally fell apart and shuffled the last few miles to a 3:07 finish. So this time I was determined to run more long runs.

Training was going well. 20 miler at 7:30 pace, then a 22 miler at 7:27 pace. It felt good, I felt stronger at the ends of those runs then at the beginning. But I still didn’t feel like 22 miles was good enough training. Also did not feel like 7:27 would translate to a sub 3. I needed to go harder, longer.  Good thing was I felt strong at my mileage. No injury, no lack of energy. I was good. Knock on wood. So when one feels good…. One gets antsy. I looked at the weather forecast for Florida and it was HOT. Like 80 degrees there and 50 here in Ohio. Eek. No shocker that heat can negatively effect running. So I got scared which led to signing up for a cheap local half marathon: Broke Man’s Half. I did not taper for it. It was a low budget race with a $25 entry fee. For what it was, it was great. I went out and took it as a training run as I was alone for most of it and carrying my own hydration pack for the race’s entirety. Towards the end I caught up with someone and chased my way to the finish in 1:27:06 ( a PR!!!) and first female finisher.  That’s right, a Personal Record in the half at a training run. Not bad! I was stoked!  Happiness leads to anxiety. I logged onto the Columbus Marathon and saw that there were still entries available for the full. Of course, I signed up.  Initially I thought I’d just go for it as a training race and see what happened. See how I did pacing myself with a crowd and how I felt at the end, no expectations.   I did not plan on tapering for it, I did not plan on RACING it. Ha. Right? You know… it was a nice thought… but things didn’t work out that way. After the half I was tired. Really tired. I tried to keep up my training but I could only manage 42 miles the week after and it wasn’t quality. Eek. The half was Oct 4th and the Columbus marathon was Oct 18th. So I just tapered. Hard. I ran 36 miles the week leading up to the marathon. No biking, no weights, no stairs, nothing else. Friends were pushing me. That happens… someone gets word that you’re entered into a race and they say GOOD LUCK! GO GET IT! I’ll PACE YOU… and so on…  It was turning from a training run to a RACE and quickly.

The Diet and Lifestyle:

Training for a marathon isn’t just about the running. It’s a big switch between cycling hard and running hard.  During this time, I admit, I did more than just run. I adopted a healthier lifestyle. Don’t laugh. I know I have always been healthy and a healthy eater… but I had so much room for improvement!!!  So I improved.  My meals became smaller and cleaner. I focused on portraying this healthier more natural movement as well. I became addicted to Instagram and showcasing my efforts. It worked. Taking beautiful shots of my food and life forced me to really live it. I can’t hashtag lies! This was legit!  I lost 8 pounds. I felt (feel) great. My diet was really on point. I was running on a GU or two, really making myself take the goop so that I would run stronger and get used to taking in fuel.  My meals outside runs were mostly plant based and very simple and typically pretty well portioned. No ice cream, no chips and salsa, no large portions of animal things…. But I wasn’t deprived!!! Every night I had (still have) wine and chocolate. I enjoy my food more. I make it pretty and I eat it slowly and I love the results this has brought me.

Want to watch my dietary habits? Follow my Instagram! 

I do not carb load. I do carb up. Leading up to the marathon, I kept my normal eating habits. I was very strict as I was running 20 miles a week less.  The day before however, I ate more. Not loads more, but more. I added calories in the form of carbohydrates. Besides onions on my pizza and squash pureed into soup, I did not eat any vegetables. One does not need fiber or excess bulk going into a race. I sipped coconut water and a smoothie. I ate a large slice of homemade pumpkin bread throughout the day. I ordered gluten free pizza (okay 2, but I ate almost 1) for dinner and had 1 glass of wine. It was important to eat early as I did not want to be going to bed on a full stomach.

I also put all my clothes out. Made sure my watch was charged. All those things… all that preparation, laid out, waiting for the next morning.  I also made a new playlist. I like to run with music and wanted to pick all my peppiest, energetic running songs. I randomly selected songs and then looked at the playlist to refine it… but as it happened, I had selected exactly 2 hours and 55 minutes of music. I smiled and took that as a good omen. I left it alone and went to bed.

The RACE:

So all the training and eating well comes down to race day… how very terrifying.

I did not sleep well. I moved out of bed and onto the floor in the middle of the night. I was having nightmares of missing the race. Tossing, turning, not being restful at all. I suppose that is to be expected.  The race started at 7:30am. I had alarms set starting at 5am. The goal was to get up, make a cappuccino and grab a slice of pumpkin bread and crawl back into bed. So that’s what happened. Also, important note, it was 28 degrees. My eyes were blurry. I sipped my steamy mug and searched intsagram until my caffeine was depleted. The bread went untouched. I got out of my warm covers, bundled up and braided my hair. Changed into my race clothes that I had laid out the night before and managed to choke down half a banana. Then put sweats on over my outfit and used the restroom as many times as possible. The start was only 3 miles from home… which was a problem. Too short to drive and find decent parking but too long to want to run as a warm up.  So Luke agreed to bike over with me. Again, it was soooo cold out. We were out the door at 6:50 for a slow 3 mile ride in the frigid dark. I was stressed as ever. I did not know what to expect. Sub 3 was my goal… but could I do it? And I mean, shit It wasn’t my intention to do it now! I was supposed to peak in November. LATE November.  Sigh. But here I was, at corral A, ready to make a valid effort.  I locked my bike, peeled off most of my extra clothes… except my jacket. I only had about 5 minutes to get in my corral and start, but I just couldn’t let go of the jacket. 28 degrees!  Luke agreed to be on the left side within the first mile so I could throw my jacket off to him. I worked my way up to the front of corral A and did what every runner does at that point: looks around and things WHAT AM I DOING HERE!?!???  I saw the elite corral women, I saw the women around me… all looking confident and ready to crush it…. And there I was, nervous, still debating if I was actually racing or just running. 

I ate a Honey Stinger Ginsting and tucked away two more for later. 

Note: I am part of the Honey Stinger Hive and happy to be an ambassador of this product.

The start gun. Fireworks go off. Which was dumb, really dumb because of course I looked up and of course ash singed my eyelashes. So I rubbed my burning eyes and hopped that I hadn’t missed Luke to throw my jacket to.  I hadn’t. He was ahead, on the left and I threw my jacket at him. This might seem like a silly point but it was like my favorite and a rather pricey jacket. I did not want to miss him. As I ran by, I could tell maybe he didn’t see me… and I THREW my jacket at him, smacking him in the face rather forcefully. I instantly felt bad and told myself I would apologize after the race (which I did!).

How Things Played Out:

Every marathoner knows: Don’t start out too fast. Every marathoner starts out too fast.

This was of course the case here. I went out nervous and excited and feeling shockingly good. At mile 5 I was just settled in behind this girl. I was letting her do the work and I was just there.

Note: the first half of the whole marathon is entirely the half marathon course. It is difficult to tell who is who.

That fifth mile clicked off at a 6:27 pace. My goal pace was 6:50. Eek. While I felt good, I also wanted to be smart. I let her go. Miles 7-12 I slowed things down towards a 7 minute mile. It started to feel a little slow, but I told myself it was smart, that I was still on track.  I ate a Honey Stinger, I also dropped a Honey Stinger as I was wearing gloves and they weren't great at gripping; down to 0 food left

Another note, I do not run with average overall pace on my garmin watch. I only see time, distance and lap pace (each miles average pace). So I only thought I was on pace. I did not really know.

It was tough to stay smart miles 10-13 as the half marathoners started to pick up their paces, it was their final 5k! They were racing to the finish. I was not. I had another half to go. I kept telling myself that.

At the half I was running in a pack of around 5 guys. One guy had a pacer jump in. I’m fine with that, as long as a pacer doesn’t interfere with me, go for it. I mean, we weren’t the crowd winning the money. I was happy running with this group. The pace was consistent and I felt good. Mile 13 was a 6:37, 14 a 6:35 then a 6:38, 6:37, 6:36… a small part of me thought ‘is this my real pace? Is this happening?’, but another part of me said ‘I could still fall apart, lots of time left’… 

My group started to fall apart after a water station around mile 18. I was taking water as I could and took half of a gel - whatever the race was handing out since I had dropped my other Honey Stinger -  at some point as well. A friend who had jumped in at mile 15 to help keep me on track took over. It was him, me and one other guy running together. They started getting competitive. I’m not sure why as only 1 of them was truly competing, but things definitely sped up. Mile 21 was 6:31, then 6:26. Why was I running a 6:26 at mile 22?!?!?!  My body was starting to hurt. I was getting worn down. I was not thinking about the finish time. Like all marathons, this one was running long. Some courses even out at the finish, but some don’t. I’ve paced these things before, I know how ‘off’ the distance can be. 26.2 can easily be 26.5 and that needs to be accounted for with time goals! So I was still nervous. I didn’t know if I would make it, but I knew that pace wise, I was running well. But also, I was getting tired. All I was thinking was, hold on, keep going, keep going… I swear I remember hearing that mile 23 was a downhill, so I was just thinking, get to 23! You’ll be fine after that!

Note: Columbus is flat. Possibly as flat as Florida. Downhill is a very relative term.

I passed mile 23 and it was not downhill or it could have been but I just hurt too badly to notice. Luke and his mother were riding bikes throughout the course as spectators and I just remember seeing them at mile 24 and knowing, at that point, that I would do it. I was doing it. I was going to get sub 3. I yelled to him ‘I AM DOING IT!!! BABE I AM GOING TO DO IT!’.  Still 2 miles left. I slowed. 24 and 25 were closer to 6:45 pace. But I was still moving. I was still going to do it. I passed a female, the only one I saw in the entire 2nd half. Mile 26 was a 6:36 average. It honestly wasn’t until mile 25, when I saw the clock tick off that I knew what time I would likely finish at; how ahead of my goal I was.

I was practically crying as I entered the finishing chute. But I was too exhausted to cry. I crossed the line in 2:26:10.

2:56:10

!!!!!!!!!!

I mean WHAT ?!

The next half hour was a mix of shuffling, half crying, shivering, and searching for my friends. Once I found them, I bundled up. And just was in shock. I could barely be thrilled, I was so cold and in so much pain. I took of my shoes to reveal a left food covered in blood. Toenails. Always a problem. I’d deal with that later. Shoes back on.

It was time for a real recovery meal! Which included popping a bottle of champagne, ordering a burger with fries and a shake.

Not only did I run a sub 3 marathon, but I CRUSHED the marathon.

I am now considered an * E L I T E * female marathoner.

Aftermath:

It’s a week later. I haven’t recovered yet. My toenail is mostly gone and its crazy painful to put shoes on so I’ve only managed a few 4 mile runs. I’m giving myself the week off. 

But then what? Do I call it? Do I accept this as my finale in the marathon world and get back on the bike?  Do I still try for the Florida race? 

I’m really not sure. Right now, I’m going to focus on recovering and staying at my current weight and healthy lifestyle…. And then… we’ll see. 

Watch it all play out on my Strava.