Sunday, November 2, 2014

In Unity We Run Marathon - When it all comes together Part 2

In Unity We Run Marathon 2014. Why this race? Read here: link

Bib, Medal and custom made shirt (front and back) and coffee mug.
With all the excitement about everyone coming into town, logistics, our own vacation to Albuquerque, I came into this race very relaxed. I knew I could cover the distance as I had done just that five weeks before.

My training was solid. I knew that. I'd trained well and had no problems. I'd chosen to run a full marathon as a training run five weeks ago. That was challenging and mentally difficult as I really struggled the last 8 miles or so of the race even though i was taking it really easy. There were a lot of reasons why that race was going to be challenging (gravel course, heat etc) and I knew about those challenges but I still couldn't decide how to approach this goal marathon after those struggles. 

My friend, running partner, full time coach with her own business and sometimes my coach and always a cheerleader and I discussed that previous marathon. I'd had a really hard time laying out goals for that practice marathon because I just didn't feel like I had any faith that my body would behave. And my body rebelled as I'd dreaded even with all the positive self talk. Sure I'd wanted to maintain an easy long run pace throughout the 26 miles but after around 18 or 19 miles, my hips/back did something and I just felt like i had no power. I was running but barely able to maintain a 13 minute pace. That is a just above a walk to me and way off my normal 10:00 easy run pace let alone what marathon pace should be. I tried all sorts of things to restore function but nothing worked.  How could I set any goals for a goal race besides "just finish" when this was the likely outcome?

this has been an issue with almost all marathons for me. It was particularly telling the last three or four where all my notes say "hips shut down and i was just slogging along." I'd sometimes wondered if it was related to lung issues. Generally I'd feel lungs starting to tighten somewhere 13 - 16 miles. I'd do a rescue inhaler which would help some. I'd always felt it was somehow connected.

Coach/Friend wondered about electrolytes. I've done electrolyte supplements but generally focused more on calorie intake. AS the brain got marathon stupid and I didn't have a firm plan, I'd get haphazard about taking electrolytes on a regular schedule. I still remember my very first marathon where i dropped the packet of them the very first time I was getting them out. And yes, that very first marathon in 2006 featured an 8 mile slog from about mile 17 on as well.

So I went into this race with no goals except to finish. I still didn't know what would happen. Everything was aligning however for a good race. It was really fun having so many friends doing this race. Even just knowing everyone was waiting and that the two guys who were completing their 50 states quest kept me focused on just enjoying being there for this.

The weather? This is my other marathon nemesis.  We'd had a very warm early fall and then in the last couple weeks, it has been pouring. Magically, race day dawned cloudy, cooler and dry and with no winds. the temps were between 48 and 55 the whole time. I think I would still be better about five degrees cooler but this was better race conditions than I've ever had for a marathon.

Cycle? This has been a problem. I don't run well just before my period. Things are changing with that making life easier overall (mostly) and the timing ended up being just about perfect.  

Course? Flat! Really I can't think of a race course in this area that is as flat. There were very slight dips under the streets that let me change my gait up just enough which helped. There was also a very low bridge that we had to climb up to and around twice on the last half of the course. I know my Texan friends who were running said that those would be considered a hill but as a seattle runner, i'd just call it a slight incline! 

So I decided to do usual gels every 4 miles. I was carrying water and would have K switch out the 10 ounce container every 6.5 miles (at the turnarounds). I decided to take an electrolyte capsule every 5 miles adn I'd stick to this plan even when brain got fuzzy.  This was a goal race so I did decide to go out at goal marathon pace and just hope everything would align and i could actually keep running.

We all met up at the start. I ran into a couple other local friends who were running the half. It was a fun easy going start. And before we knew it, everyone started running. The race director had been saying things over a loudspeaker but I couldn't hear a word of it!

I kept the first two miles easier at 9 or slower pace deliberately to use this as a warm up. Then once warmed up I naturally sped up just a bit. I was hoping to run somewhere between 8:40-8:50 for goal marathon pace but I wasn't sure how it would feel. It felt like a good pace and I stuck to it very consistently.  I had a gel every 4 miles (about 35 minutes at goal marathon pace) and an electrolyte capsule every 5 miles. Since i was carrying water, I tried taking the gel in two "doses" which I think helped. I did half of it with a swig of water and carried teh gel opened until i had the rest of it almost a mile later.

All this figuring (plus messing with my phone which i was listening to music with) took a lot of work! I had to stay focused and patient. I didn't know if I was going to be able to race this marathon until 22 or 23 miles into it. Every mile after around 18, I kept thinking that things would fall apart and frankly, that was going to be fine because I'd been there before. However, I was going to stay focused on continuing to move and sticking to my plan.

Since this was a double out and back course, I saw friends running back towards me and of course that was really fun. The marathon felt very remote and for most of the run, I didn't really see anyone else ahead of me or behind me.  I saw a couple get off course just ahead of me and watched them come back just as I was approaching they area where the arrows were obscured. I was lucky to stay on course the entire time. It was vaguely familiar which helped. 

I did start getting marathon brain. I'd planned to carry 5 gels and have K give me a couple more on course. I miscounted when loading my pockets and only had 4. So at mile 18, I still had another mile and half to get a gel at the 19.6 mile turnaround. I didn't let it bother me but as always, plan to have more fuel on board than you think you'll need!

The electrolytes? I started to get the usual tight lung feeling around mile 13 or 14. Then I took a capsule at 15 and realized that tight lung feeling started to lessen. Ok, that was really interesting and made a note to keep up with the capsules. I think i did the next one early at 19.

Could the hip and lung issue be related but more a result of electrolytes? Honestly that is what my gut is telling me today.  There are a lot of things that go into proper muscle function. Electrolytes are one part of that. i've never had problems with cramping (typically associated with electrolyte issues) so have never been that strict with taking supplements during a race unless it was very warm where heat would cause it's own problems. 

It worked! I still had a fade but this is the very first marathon where I've managed to keep all miles under 10:00 pace. This is a huge deal! I still can't believe I did it. I knew at mile 23 that I was very close to coming in under 3:55.

This was the beyond dreams goal for me.  3:55 is my boston qualifying time for the marathon and while I knew technically that I should be trained for that pace (based on short distance races, general training etc), I had put it out of my mind. Remember, my goal was to finish (under 5 hours is typical) and if things went well i hoped to be under 4:15. If i was under 4, I was having a great day and would've met my goal to race a marathon.

I battled. I was all by myself these last miles. There was no runner visible ahead of me except far distant at times. The course had had a detour off the Green River Trail onto roads and I could not remember how many miles that detour was. I thought it was maybe 3 miles on roads and that would be bad because it was harder running as the course technically went on sidewalks and crossed mostly deserted streets. I started dropping things. AT two different times, I dropped electrolytes and my inhaler and stopped to pick them up.  Stopping and picking something up at mile 22 or 24 of a marathon is a not a quick or graceful process.  But i felt like i had to.  Remember the brain doesn't work well. 

The last two miles I told myself that if my two 50 states marathon friends could run a marathon in every state, i could fucking run for 2 more miles. It was all i could do to maintain but I was running. I didn't dare look at my watch because really, that would not help. I was moving as fast as i could and I had no idea what pace that was. 

Since the course had some reroutes too, I thought it was likely to be a bit long. At 25.8 miles I told myself that i still had at least a half mile.  GO!  i made a final turn and could see a couple of friends waiting for me. From a long way away, I could hear LML (running the half and lives in Norfolk VA) cheering for me. The race finish was actually a bit closer and in a parking lot which confused me. And then i was done!

The race director (remember small race) gave me my time of 3:55:22 and I stunningly realized I had just missed qualifying for Boston by 23 seconds yet I'd still come way under my dream goal of under 4:00. i could not believe it and just felt very emotional that I'd FINALLY had a successful marathon and done it in front of all the friends and family who've shared so many triumphs and struggles over the years. 

I wouldn't have changed anything. I ran my race and I did it. I learned some valuable lessons and as always have marveled at what a community sport the lonely long distance runner is a part of. Of course, I could not have done it without K's unfailing support.  I know he was just as thrilled as i was! 

This is my first marathon where all mile splits are under 10 minutes. It is not a marathon PR but is only off that PR by 2 minutes and that PR was set in 2006, my first marathon. 


1 - 9:01
2 - 8:58
3 - 8:43
4 - 8:50
5 - 8:42
6 - 8:40
7 - 8:49
8 - 8:40
9 - 8:39
10 - 8:40
11 - 8:44
12 - 8:47
13 - 8:45(half time 1:55:XX)
14 - 8:40
15 - 8:50
16 - 8:45
17 - 8:48
18 - 8:48
19 - 8:57
20 - 9:09
21 - 9:01
22 - 9:57
23 - 9:17
24 - 9:55
25 - 9:43
26 - 9:57 

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