Monday, October 6, 2014

MO' Cowbell Marathon Race Recap

Beware, this is going to be long, I may skip around a lot and ramble on and on. I want to get these thoughts and memories down before I forget some of them. :)

The preparation for this marathon was like nothing I had ever done before.  After the Christie Clinic Marathon and the Med City Marathon I knew I had to do something different. My brother told me I needed to be running 60-70 miles a week and told me he thought my 3:54 and 3:51 were about the best I could expect out of the training I had done.  I was slightly offended because I thought I had worked my butt off and trained hard for those races.  After I thought about it I decided maybe he was right and I needed to try upping the miles and training harder if Boston was ever going to happen.  I knew I couldn't jump right into 60 mile weeks so after Med City I took a couple weeks to regroup and heal my legs and then I slowly started building the miles. June was a decent month back with 151 miles and a peak week of 44.3. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me for the summer. During the beginning of July I decided to buy the Hanson's Marathon method to see what this plan was all about.  It called for heavy miles like my brother said I needed to run but also had key workouts with prescribed paces, which was something I felt like I needed. I needed a guide to tell me what paces to run in order to hit my goal, I thought physically and mentally this would help. So I erased my entire training plan and started over.  In July I ran 214 miles with peak weeks of 50, 53 and 56. By this time I was feeling the fatigue but knew I only had 6 more hard weeks and then I would start tapering.  So on to August I ran. August was full of tough long runs, strength and speed work and plenty of miles. I did a mile repeat workout and ran my last mile on the road in 6:20 which is a (post-baby) PR. 227.5 total miles for the month with peak weeks of 60 and 56. I got sick in August and ran a half marathon with a head cold.  My time was no where near what I had hoped for but I managed to hang on to some low 8 minute miles even when I felt like crap so I told myself I would remember how I felt when things got bad during my marathon. September was to be another high mileage month but I knew I didn't want to push it too hard and leave my best miles on the roads. 206 miles in September was all I could manage. I pulled back on the reigns during my taper and didn't run as much as my plan called for because my legs were feeling extra fatigued. I followed the advice of some seasoned and very speedy runners and decided that all the hard work had been done and running high miles at this point wouldn't help me. My last week of training included one race pace run and the rest were easy, relaxed runs.  I was nervous, excited and slightly terrified for October 5th to get here but was also relieved that the tough summer training was over and now it was my time to see if it had worked...

Race morning we (hubby and little sis were running their first half marathons) woke up early, and hit the road to our race. I was happy that this race was in town, we had a 45 minute drive but I got to sleep in my own bed the night before and I think that helped. I wasn't super nervous before the start, just excited for my race and for Jordan and April to race their first 13.1.  It was quite chilly at the start, mid 40's and I was thrilled. I had been praying for cold weather because I know how my body reacts to the heat and I know how bad that can be on me mentally.  So we met up with friends, went to the bathroom multiple times, then headed to our corrals for the start.  As the Star Spangled Banner played I closed my eyes and held my hand on my heart, feeling my heart beat fast. I slowed my breathing down and prayed to God that He would help me to remain calm and just have fun.  This was just like any other run. Enjoy it.  They sounded the air horn and we were off.  I kept telling myself to slow down, don't run comfortably, try to run slow.  I knew it wouldn't be slow enough but I didn't want to blast out of the starting line and burn up my glycogen too early.  My iPod was playing some awesome tunes and I was smiling for the first three miles as I found my place in the group of runners and maneuvered around the early part of the course.  I missed my first few mile splits but based on my overall time I knew I was running around 8:00/pace. I had considered running slower 8's at the start and then picking it up as I went but when I fell into the low 8 high 7 range I decided I'd just try to maintain.  Around mile 5 a gal in a grey sweatshirt was running next to me, as she had been off and on for the first 5 miles.  I looked and saw her bib was the same color as mine and decided to ask if she was running the full.  She said yes she was and we talked about our plans for the race.  We both were hoping for sub 3:35, more like 3:33, trying to maintain even splits.  We were happy to have someone to talk to and knew it would help the miles fly by.  We talked about past races and found out it was both of our 4th marathons, we both had a PR of 3:51 also.  We thought it was too good to be true to have found a running buddy mid race.  Then I said, "Hey, what's your name?" (good info to know) She responded, "Jessie" and I yelled, "My name's Jessy too!!!"  Haha.  The people around us were listening and had heard a lot of our conversation I guess because a few people turned around and smiled at us.  We decided it was fate and we were going to get through this together.  Around mile 8 I managed to rip my bib # half way off my hip as I maneuvered a grate in the road. I was able to twist my body around, remove a pin and repin at least the top back corner back onto my shorts, all while maintaining a 7:53 mile! Nothing was going to mess today up! We kept even splits up and down the hills around miles 9-11 and knew we were getting close to the Katy Trail. At mile 12 we split from the half marathoners and headed out on the gravel chipped Katy Trail that would take us out 6.5 miles and back to the finish line.  I was still feeling great at the 13.1 mark as we crossed in 1:47:54. I had told myself before the race that if I crossed in 1:48 or less I knew I could still BQ.  We ran and chatted some. Jessie mentioned that she didn't know if she could keep it going for the rest of the race and I kept telling her, "one mile at a time, we aren't giving up, stay positive, we can do this." We met some male runners that were shooting for 3:30 and 3:35 and talked to them about their paces and splits. I kept saying, "we've got plenty of time, we're going to do this." I was determined to keep pushing and not let up this time around.  I didn't run 200 mile months all summer to let the last 26 miles slip away from me!  The trail was beautiful as we ran through the woods along the Missouri river and the weather was absolutely perfect. It even rained on us a little and I was happy to have the heavy cloud cover.  Jessie and I kept chatting at intervals and I listened to my music between our talking. I don't remember a lot of my thoughts between miles 12-17 other than to keep pushing. My brother had told me to run smart the first 16 and race the hell out of the last 10, so in the back of my mind I wanted to try to do that. I remember seeing 2:15 on my watch and smiling, knowing that Jordan would be done with his race, I couldn't wait to see him at the finish line and hear how his race had gone.  At mile 17 I looked at my grace band and saw a name that meant so much to me and I took off. I didn't really mean to and I inadvertently left Jessie behind as I sped ahead, which I felt bad for but I knew this was my time to race and I just had to go.  I kept praying to God for myself and for the people listed on my grace band.  As I pushed through the leaf covered course, my watch was keeping decent track of the miles and was only about 0.1 miles off up to this point. I saw a few 7:50's and a few 7:30's at this point and felt like I was absolutely flying. At mile 18 I had 8.2 miles to go around 2:24ish on my watch. I was thinking about my pace and what I could do to still get the job done. I figured 8 minute miles, 64-66 minutes (with the 0.2) would get me in under 3:30. Not sure that I could do it I listened to my music, prayed and kept pushing.  I almost started to cry as I thought about the finish line but I yelled at myself and told myself to pull it together and keep pushing. Throughout the miles I ate my chomps and grabbed water at nearly every water station. As I neared the turn around I unzipped my back pocket to remove my ziplock pouch of chomps and the zipper wouldn't unzip. I yanked hard and got it to open but half of the plastic bag was stuck in the zipper. I yanked on the bag and managed to get the chomps out while the top of the ziplock stayed attached to my zipper. With a handful of chomps in one hand I reached back and pulled hard to free the plastic from the zipper. I kept moving and got a few chomps down before the next water station.  I had tried to memorize all of the water stations ahead of time so that I would get my fuel in with plenty of time to chase it with water.  I stuck my ripped up bag back in my pocket and grabbed some water. As I hit the turn around I felt relief as I knew I was headed to the finish now. I saw Jessie not far behind me and gave her a high five as I passed. I hoped she wasn't mad at me for leaving her but she was maintaining an awesome pace and I really wasn't very far ahead of her. No time for feeling sorry, I had to keep moving fast. I grabbed another water, sipped and pushed. My plan at this point was to hit the 20 mile mark and then start charging hard to the finish. My watch started acting up and was hitting the mile marks nearly 0.25 ahead by the time I hit 20 miles, but all of my miles were still coming in pretty fast and I was doing the math in my head as I passed the actual course mile markers. I was still right on pace as I hit the 20 mile mark right under 2:41. I had never run 20 miles this fast before and I was on such a huge high. I felt myself slow down a bit during mile 21 but knew I still had plenty of time to make it up. I passed another friend around this time who was heading out on the trail and I yelled her name in desperation as I passed. She clapped her hands at me and high fived me with a very serious look on her face, telling me to go get it. She helped me so much during that mile as I was praying for relief. There weren't a lot of people around and I had been counting the women in front of me prior to the turnaround, knowing I was sitting in the top 10 at this point. That brother of mine always lectures me about racing my watch and tells me I'd do better if I raced the people so from mile 20 on that's what I did. I just kept working on the next person in front of me. Mile 21 was in 8:13 and I felt happy with that. I had passed quite a few men still so I knew I hadn't slowed much. I hit 22 miles on my watch in 2:55 but the course mile marker in 2:56 and some change, which is what I had done an awesome 22 miler in during the spring. I knew at this point, with 4.2 miles to go that I was going to BQ. Now the question was by how much. I knew I wouldn't let it slip away. Only 4.2 miles stood between me and my 3:35! That thought gave me a bit of energy as I pushed on and glanced at my grace band for the next person to pray for. I kept praying hard for what each person needed and smiled as new and fun songs came on my iPod. "Don't stop believing" by Journey came on during mile 23 and it was perfect timing! My watch said that I hit the 23rd mile in 7:37 and I knew that was way off, I wasn't running nearly that fast but I couldn't focus on the watch at this point. I had to keep turning over my legs and pushing forward to that finish line.  Jessie passed me at mile 23 and I told her she was kicking ass. She told me she wasn't but I knew better. She was going to BQ too!  She and one other man were the only two people to pass me on the trail, which ended up being a huge highlight to my race experience.  I kept my eyes on her back and tried to stay close to her.  We were passing other men as we pushed on, no women were in sight at this point. Mile 24 came in around 3:13 overall time and I told myself I could run 2.2 miles in 20 minutes and still have a big cushion for my BQ attempt. I told myself a 10 minute mile would be okay, but then I thought about all my hard work, how bad these 24 miles hurt, how exhausted I was, and how much I'd regret if I didn't run the best race possible. So I didn't let myself slow down. I wanted to so bad, I felt like I might be running a 10 minute mile but surely I wasn't. My watch really geeked out at this point and said I ran a 7:09 for mile 25 which I knew was way off. At the 25 mile mark my watch said 25.47 so it had gotten messed up somewhere along the last couple of miles. Who knows what that mile split really was, maybe it was 9 minutes, it didn't matter. I only had 1.2 miles to go and I was done. I told myself I could run hard for 10 more minutes and then my day would be done, I could rest in 10 minutes. I started to catch up to Jessie and a few other people and I could see through the trees the finish line ahead. I knew that we left the Katy Trail and hit the finish line on the road but didn't know when that would be or how far on the road we would run. All I knew was I could see that finish line and I was running.  Someone that must have known Jessie was at the end of the trail yelling at her that she was almost there, and another women said, just around this corner now and you're done.  I took off at this point, made a quick right turn off the trail, and then a quick left and I could see the 26 mile marker.  I caught up to Jessie and yelled at her over my music to go, I yelled at her, "Come on, let's do this, you can do this!" and then I was passing her. My eyes focused on that finish line and I ran as hard as I could, I felt like I was going to puke and started to slow for a few steps but then I saw a friend who had done the half and she was cheering for me so I started pushing hard again. I looked at the clock and the finish line and the hugest smile spread across my face. I heard them say my name over the speaker as I crossed the finish line and I couldn't stop smiling! I stopped my watch and stepped forward to get my medal. I found my sister first, she grabbed me and hugged me tight and I let out a huge loud sigh of relief and almost started crying. Then Jordan grabbed me and hugged me tight and sounded like he might cry as he told me how proud he was of me.  It was then that I finally looked at my watch and saw my time 3:31:47 (official time was 3:31:45). An equally huge accomplishment was my decision to race the people instead of just worrying about my splits. Pushing to catch the person in front of me paid off, especially since my GPS got off and my miles were a little wonky. Pace would have done me no good if that was all I was worrying about. I placed 2nd in my age group (The winner was in my age group and they didn't pull the top three places out of the age group awards) and I got 7th overall which was so huge for me!  And I'd run a negative split! The first 13.1 in 1:47:54 and the second 13.1 miles in 1:43:51! None of the pain mattered, the cramps in my legs, the torn ziplock bag, the torn race bib, none of it compared to the relief and happiness I felt by finally hitting my goal. I cannot believe I did it. I'd hoped and prayed that I could pull it all together, terrified of failing again.  I was in such shock all morning and so happy that I had my family there to celebrate with me. Jordan and April had both done awesome as well, each hitting or beating their goal times, which made the day that much sweeter. I sat in line for a massage and talked to another man behind me who had also qualified for Boston by 1:40 and told me that I was going to love running the Boston Marathon. :)  He saw my grace band on my wrist and yelled, "Hey, that's my company!" He and his wife own and had made my bracelet the week before. He took a picture of me and my band and congratulated me again on my finish.  It was just so funny how so much came together on this day to make it a perfect race. My family and friends cheering me on at home was so awesome, the weather was perfect, I met and made an incredible running friend mid race and we both qualified, she ran a 3:32! It was a perfect day and a race I will never forget.  



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