Space Coast Marathon

Space Coast Marathon

Race Bling and Acel Comfort compression socks. 

Race Bling and Acel Comfort compression socks. 

I'm not even sure where to start here... So many thoughts and emotions are still present, 2 days post race.

I suppose I will start at the beginning and let the story unfold. 

Hopeful Beginnings:
I registered for this race back in... August?... Once I knew I would be going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving in Ormond Beach, I thought 'well why not run a marathon this fall too!?'. Signing up for this race marked my departure from cycling and transition to marathon training. All I wanted was to give my body (and mind) a break from cycling and try my luck at running the marathon one more time. My only goal of the season was to run a sub 3 hour race. This was to be my goal race and only marathon of the year, my one and only attempt. Of course, we know that did not happen. I ended up getting nervous and signed up to run the Columbus marathon in October, just 5 weeks before Space Coast. After that race went so well... I was left wondering 'should I bother running another marathon?'.  

Lack of Confidence:
I had already reached my goal...why not stop running on a high note!? The weeks after Columbus, my running was strained. I was tired. My body wasn't responding as I hoped it would. I had given myself 2 weeks of recovery. To me that meant taking the first week to do almost nothing, just a few jogs and easy spinning. The next week I threw in a 100 miles bike ride and upped my run mileage to 45 but still had no real expectations for paces. For the 3rd and 4th weeks out, I had planned to do 2 long runs and really dive back into training. This would give me two real weeks of training before the next marathon. This is where more doubt came in.  I went for a 20 mile run... I made it 19, cutting runs short is not something I typically do. I was miserable. My legs weren't snappy, my mind was wondering, my energy crashing halfway through the run. After that I was scared. I didn't think I could handle another marathon. I took 2 days off running. I gave up running another long run. My mileage hit 65 during week 4, but I wasn't hitting great paces and just felt 'bleh' about it all. Week 5 was where I had to decide. Taper? or forget running Space Coast. I woke up and went for a 10 mile run. It was a great run. I averaged a 6:50 pace and it felt wonderful. I took it as a sign that I would now start the taper and race again. When it comes to racing... I am a bit silly about omens and signs for positive energy. ;) While This marked my commitment to the race, I was still severely lacking confidence of how things would go.  Columbus running is currently cold: 30 degrees to 50 degrees. The forecast for Cocoa Village would be a low of 70. 70?!?!?! I mean thats like summer. Running in temps 70+ is tougher on the body in general, especially when you haven't been accustomed to it. Eek. 

My Plan:
I was going to race. Showing up and picking up my bib meant I would be racing, not just running. Even with low expectations of how things would turn out... I would start the marathon with the intention of going all out, crashing and burning was expected. 
The day before the marathon, I woke up pretty calm. I was at my parents and we had been doing fun holiday activities along with plenty of eating and drinking. There was no stress. I went for a 6 mile run and it felt pretty good, but by the end of the run I was sweaty and getting pretty warm. It was 9am which would (hopefully) be towards the final stretch of the marathon as it started at 6:30am. The nerves set in a little... but having no real expectations, I shrugged it off. 

Pre Race:
We traveled south to Cape Canaveral for the packet pick up. I had run this race twice in the past. It was my first ever marathon which I completed in 4:00:28 seconds. I remember my only goal for that first marathon was to beat 4 hours. At that time I also though marathons where ridiculous (why would anyone run 26miles?!) and signed up just to check it off the list as a life accomplishment. It was supposed to be my one and only marathon. Ever. Do you see a pattern? ;) Not making my goal for that first race was likely the best thing that could have happened. It made me keep trying. My second attempt at this race was in 2010 with a 3:14 finish, a PR at the time. Why did I run this race twice? Well I used to live in the area! I spend years running on those riverside and beachside roads. I haven't been back to the area in 4 years and felt anxious and nervous about returning to the area. At packet pickup I tried to duck in and out unnoticed. I didn't want to be overwhelmed by seeing old friends and familiar faces.
We returned to the hotel and spent some time at the pool (water slide!!!) and relaxing before ordering some takeout. Something I was really looking forward to was a meal from Thai Thai's. The place is just so good. I ordered a big Thai noodle dish and focused on drinking lots of water. I will admit... I did not pay as much attention to nutrition before this race. It was a holiday trip and I didn't want strict eating to get in the way. I indulged in the days leading up to the race. The day before, I ate more vegetables and protein than I normally would have. 
I laid out my race gear, plugged in my ipod and garmin watch and set my alarm for 5am. 

Blast Off:
This is a smaller race than Columbus, so there wasn't a huge rush to get there early. The half starts at 6am, the full at 6:30. At 5:30 I was ready to head out. I picked at my pancake and sipped my sugar free redbull as we drove 20 minutes to the race. Knowing I hadn't eaten much before the start, I made sure to get a Honey Stinger down before the start. 
I lined up at the front and took off. A group shot out in front of me and I worked to catch up. By the first half mile I had taken the spot as lead female and tucked in with a group of men. They were pushing it. 6:19 first mile. This was fast, but that was my plan.... go all out and die. But it felt tough. I eased off and let 3 guys slip away. 6:46 second mile. A little slow. Time to get moving again. I found myself running with a small group hovering around the 6:30 pace for the next several miles. There is a turn around at mile 6(ish) and after rounding the cones, I had the wind to my back. This is when I got a lead bike. I was running behind a cluster of 3 men and tried not to think about being in the lead. This was really tough however, because I had roughly 4 miles of runners cheering for me. I was really amazed. Out and backs are super fun for this reason; seeing other runners is so motivating and fun!  I was seeing familiar faces and hearing my name called out. Things like 'its the first female!' 'Go girl!' 'Run like a girl!' 'Get those men!' 'You're #9th overall!'.... etc etc... This was so fun and I couldn't help but smile. It was also a little scary though. This was super early on in the race. Mile 6-10 of a marathon isn't the time to get too excited. Another great part about out and backs; you get to see how close other runners are to you. There were 2 females looking strong, eager to catch me, and not far off. I was motivated to keep going, but not too confident. Miles 12-13 were a little tough. I knew I had been running fast and thought back to Columbus. I had eased off the first half in that race, playing it smart. I wasn't being too smart here. I eased off, but was feeling hot and the 'ease-off' pace (6:45-7) wasn't really feeling too easy. I knew I needed to push it or I would get stuck slowing down. At mile 13, its back through the start area where the crowd of spectators are. That gave me a rush to ramp things up. The first half was done in 1:27:03. At Columbus my first half was 1:28:35. Eek. Oops. Luke and Steve jumped to run with me a little. I had them for about 3 miles before they jumped back out, leaving me alone to finish things up. I was hurting. At Columbus the pain set in around mile 18, here it was starting by 15. I was hot and my quads were tight. I focused on keeping the pace but could only manage keeping it below 6:50 miles. The next turn around was at mile 20(ish). This is the flattest, straightest marathon there is. It is mentally tough to run in a straight line for 26.2 miles. At least the scenery is great; 90% of the race is run at the river's edge. I tried to focus on old memories of running this route and scanned the water for dolphins (none) as I ran. I was focused on just making it to mile 20 and turning around. The turn around is a quick circle through a neighborhood and then back north on Rockledge Dr. to the finish. It wasn't long after I popped back out of the neighborhood that I saw the second female, then the third, fourth... Eek. I had been holding the lead for 21 miles now. I was scared. I didn't want to disappoint others or myself. I didn't want to let the lead slip away. But really I knew that if they had a strong second half, a strong 10k, that they would pass me. This reality motivated me to keep moving. The heat was setting in and the headwind daunting. I passed a guy or two. The lead bike was way in front of me, making me feel like I was just slowing and slowing, which I was. At mile 23 I could no longer hold sub 7 miles. I felt like the other women were right behind me and I was just focused on finishing. The half marathon travels South then North whereas the full travels North, then South, then back North. So at this point I was running through the center of the road: half marathoners on my right, marathoners on my left. The bike was whistling to clear the path and people were cheering.  Seeing old friends in the crowd was probably the best. It was just so nice to see these athletes still going, racing hard, and being friendly. I really appreciated the support. It was these roads and these athletes that got me started as an athlete. I felt like I must have looked a mess. I felt like my body was crumpling. I wanted to finish so badly. I had been taking water as often as I could and had 2 more Honey Stingers throughout the race; one at mile 10, the next at 20. But the heat and fatigue and headwind had set in. 3 more miles. Just 3 more straight, flat, sunny, windy miles. Sigh. Luke jumped back towards the end and ran along side me, getting the crowd to cheer for me. It was fun, although inside I felt like I was going to let everyone down. Surely I was going to get passed. I was slowing too much.  Then I could see the turn to the finishing chute and I knew I had it. I did it. No PR, but I would take First Female Overall.  It was overwhelming to say the least. Once I crossed the line, there were two reporters in my face asking me questions. A fun thing, but I wanted to push them away and hug my family and get water and, of course, collapse.

I did what I set out to do; race hard, crash and burn. I was lucky that my crashing came late enough to hold on to the win.  

My parents were proud of me. They do not get to see me race often, so it was great to have their support. I got to perform well in front of old friends on familiar terrain. 

I finished in 2:58:35. a 6:49 pace. First female and 7th overall out of around 2500 runners. 

As an added bonus this was a RRCA Championship race so I was able to claim that title as well. 

Lessons in Recovery:
After toweling off and drinking some water, I collapsed on the grass. A diet coke and a bite of a banana was all I could immediately tolerate. I laid on the ground, watching the half marathon awards take place. It was so cool to see so many familiar faces take the stage to claim there rewards. It is an area of strong athletes! Another bit of inspiration was the amount of seniors running. I know, its Florida! But really, the amount of runners over 60, and even over 70... I mean, wow. 
Once I regained some energy the parents, Luke and I headed into a nearby coffee house. I ordered a large milkshake (my favorite post marathon treat) and an omelet. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I had Luke finish half my omelet. But it was great to get some food in me. We returned to the grass, said hello to some friends, and waited to do the awards. 
The big downfall was the recovery. When traveling to race, it is tough to get the proper recovery. The next few hours were spent in the sun, by the pool.  Then we made the hour trek to Orlando and played an Escape Room game. The day was super fun. But a 5am wake up, intense race effort, then sun, food, drink, and being on my feet until a 10:35pm flight back to Ohio... eek... On the plane I could barely sleep because my legs felt so cramped, swollen and sore. I put on my compression socks which helped to ease the pain. The next day I awoke to the stiffest legs and overall swollen body. I had only slept about 6 hours and had to go to work 2pm-10pm on my feet the whole time. Here I am day two and still in a lot of pain. Lesson learned. Ice bath, feet up, try not to fly on race day!

What's Next?
Well I planned to get back on the bike and head into base building for road race season.... but I just got an email in my inbox awarding me Elite entry into the Rock n Roll DC marathon in March. So... We will see... I may even have another Space Coast Marathon in the future, it is the race that holds the most memories for me and in all honesty, it is a wonderfully put on event!!