Although I had probably the best training season I could have had (especially considering the crazy winter weather we had), I was still pretty nervous going into yesterday's race.
I think a big part stemmed from the fact that I've done the mini so many times now, and I know the hardest part of the half for me is the stretch from Churchill Downs back into downtown (roughly miles 9 - 13). Those four miles really seem to drag on for whatever reason, and by that point you're ready to be done, but it's painfully obvious just how far you still have left to go (because you know how far from the river you still are).
So I knew I was going to have one of my toughest mental battles ahead of me, since the full marathon course turns right, AWAY from downtown and heads all the way down and loops Iroquois Park before making the trek back toward the river.
Leading up to the race, I tried various tactics to keep myself in a positive mindset about it all. I knew I had done the distance before, so that was something (although that time didn't go as well as I had hoped), and my long runs this year had gone pretty well (my training in general was MUCH better than last time). I figured I would break the distance up into smaller, more digestible sections, like four 5-mile sections followed by a 10K.
That helped a little.
So Friday night we got everything ready and went to bed as early as possible. I don't feel like I had trouble sleeping, but I remember waking up a few times throughout the night looking at the clock. Before I knew it, it was 5:30am and we were up and about.
This was probably the calmest we've been before a race. I woke up not nervous at all, and I was actually hungry, which was a very good thing. Normally I can't really eat before a race, and that throws everything off, but I was able to eat my normal breakfast plus a smoothie and I was feeling really good.
We left on time, and actually made it down there about 30 minutes before the race start, which is pretty rare for us!
It was a little chilly at the start -- upper 40s and windy -- but you couldn't have asked for better weather.
We made our way to the corrals, said our good-lucks and goodbyes, and got lined up to start.
Since I was a little nervous/intimidated by this race, I didn't really have any specific goals. I just didn't want that pressure. Ultimately, I just wanted to finish the race without hurting like I was during my last one. I was really hoping to finish under 4:30, but not if it caused me too much pain or took the joy out of it. Under 4:00 would have made my year, but I kinda knew that would only happen if everything in the universe conspired to help me.
I was really just looking forward to having a good race and having fun with it. I had been training since November -- it was crazy to think that I was just a few hours away from it all being over. I wanted to soak it in.
And so, I started off as easy as I could, hoping to hold between a 9:30 - 10:00/mile pace for at least the first half. There were a few times when I'd look down at my watch and realize I was probably going too fast, so I'd slow down, but for the most part I held that pace really well.
|The first 9 miles of the marathon course (in orange)|
|My first 9 splits -- pretty much right on target!|
|I LOVED running into the front of Churchill Downs this year!|
After the split where the half-marathoners turned left and the full-marathoners turned right coming out of Churchill, things got pretty lonely. Somewhat surprisingly, I was still keeping about the same pace, as were the people around me. I'm not sure what mile we were at, but somewhere along the stretch between Churchill and Iroquois we were passed by the leaders. They were FLYING! And of course they didn't even look like they were working hard at all.
As we entered Iroquois we immediately climbed a pretty big hill. I wanted to keep with my current pace since I was feeling really good, but I made one slight exception: if my heart rate (which had been holding in the 160s and sometimes the 170s) climbed into the 180s, I would slow down or walk. I was really trying to "keep it easy" and conserve as much energy as I could so that I would be able to finish strong.
That plan really seemed to work well, and that's definitely something I'm going to incorporate on all future long-distance runs.
We hit the halfway mark halfway through the park and I was still feeling great. This was around the point where I fell apart during my first marathon, so I think I was a little superstitious that something would happen again.
Leaving the park at mile 15 I was really feeling great, and still hitting my pace goal (even with taking some walk breaks)!
But I knew this would be one of the toughest parts of the course for me mentally -- that long trek back toward the river:
I tried to just settle in and keep doing what I had been doing. I kept the pace easy, and made sure I was fueling and hydrating. Since it was pretty hot and sunny out, I made sure to keep an eye on how much water/PowerAid I was taking in. There were a few times that I noticed I had stopped sweating, so I made sure to drink more so I didn't dehydrate.
And before I knew it I was almost at the final turn-off that the marathoners had to take before finally meeting back up with the half folks for the finish. And my pace was still exactly where I was hoping it would be!
Everyone always talks about hitting "the wall" around mile 20, and I guess that's what happened to me. There's just no other word for it.
Jennifer was hoping to finish the half, meet up with her mom and the baby, and make her way to the 21 mile mark to see me pass by, so I had been texting her where I was. As I passed by the 20 mile mark, she realized she just wasn't going to make it, even though they were all running. I was really hoping to see them -- I definitely needed it -- but I knew it was out of their control.
While seeing them would have been amazing, it wouldn't have helped me. I was physically crashing; it wasn't a mental battle at that point.
I had been running the perfect race, but somewhere between miles 20 and 21 my quads started cramping up (almost like charlie-horses). I tried eating and stretching, and that definitely helped, but the cramping never fully went away. I pushed through it as much as I could, but there were times I could barely walk, let alone run.
I was pretty upset about it, but since I wasn't gunning for a certain time I tried not to get so hung up on it. I just pressed on, knowing that the sooner I finished, the sooner I'd be able to see Jennifer and Grayson, and sit down!
|Give me that medal, mom!|
The miles continued to pass by, albeit a little slower than before. Eventually I rounded the 2nd to last turn back onto Main street, where I saw my mother-in-law. She had been out running all over the city with the baby all morning, trying to catch us at a few different spots along the course. At that point I was walking and stretching, trying to loosen my legs up so I could run through the finish. She walked along with me, asking how I was doing, telling me where Jen was with the baby, and giving me lots of encouragement. It really was great to see her.
When I felt like I could, I started running again (if you can call it that!). I made the final turn toward the finish, scanning the crowd looking for Jen and the baby. Jennifer got a few pics of me as I went by:
Since I was really pushing the 4:30 mark, I didn't stop like I wanted to. Instead I just used my momentum to carry me across the finish line.
|My final splits|
So I missed my time goal by 32 seconds, but I met my most important goal: although my quads were tight, I felt really good and was able to walk around after the race. I didn't feel like I was completely dead like I did after my first marathon.
|The best reward. Also, he's looking at that bagel like I'm looking at him. #truelove|
I want to give a HUGE thanks to Jennifer's mom for bringing Grayson out and taking care of him (while running all over the city, no less)!
I think I learned way more from this marathon experience than I did my first one. I trained better and I raced better, and I came away from it all with things I'll do differently next time.
Because let's just be honest, I'm sure there will be a next time.
Until then, thanks for reading!
Did you race yesterday? What did you think??
My job as an ambassador isn't quite over. I'm still going to give my feedback on the race, and I'd like to include your story/comments as well! Just leave me a comment or send me an email and I'll pass it along!
I think my favorite part were the shirts and medals this year. Definitely the best out of the past 5 years in my opinion!