Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tobacco Road Marathon March 17, 2013

At the start
The night before the race, I was in my office making a playlist of songs.  I was getting it ready so I would have some songs to listen to after mile 10.  Andy and the kids came into the room and presented me with a bag full of goodies.  At the top, there was a card wishing me all the best.  I kept looking in the bag and found a Boston Crème Pie, a Boston Magnet, Red Socks (again, Boston), Tea (Boston tea party), a lobster magnet and some crab cakes.  Indeed they were excited for me!!!  Yes, the theme was Boston – lol!  Loved it!!  They knew what my goal was, they had seen all my training, and supported me throughout it.  It was really cool!

4:00 am Sunday came early with my alarm singing “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley.  I was sound asleep and it startled me.  I had woken up earlier to see 2:30 on the clock, dozed off and now was the time to get up n get movin!  I got my things together, and grabbed some breakfast.  I woke up the kids at 4:30 and somehow we all made it to the Jeep around 5:00.  The drive was not bad.  Hit the toll road and drove right to the start.  I paid extra to have the VIP parking pass so we could be right at the start area, as to not have to deal with the busses.  Also, the family was planning on driving around meeting me at different stops along the way.  

We arrived a bit after 5:30.  My nerves were pretty frazzled.  This was a big day and I was doing my best to stay chill.  I hit the “real restrooms” that were at the parking lot, then we went to the NCRC tent to wait on Joey and many other NCRC folks who I knew would be there.  We sat around talked, laughed and waited on the start.  

Before long I was shedding my hoodie and heading to the line with Joey.  If you have been following my training or my blog posts, you already know that this race was the BQ race that we have been training for.  Our goal?  3:40.  We had put in hours of training - hill repeats,  sprint workouts, intervals and getting the mileage up has all lead to this one race.  We were ready and excited for the possibilities of this day.  I snapped a picture of us at the start, and within minutes we were off!

We settled in to a nice easy pace for the first mile.  I did not need to be reminded to hold back, I knew it was going to be a long race, so I wanted to follow the plan.  Mile 1 8:50.  

Joey was using a watch and hit the lap with each split like he did at MB.  I was using a Garmin, and as per usual, I would beep just before the mile marker.  My splits were consistent, but not as accurate.  (by the time I finished it would record 26.56 miles, instead of 26.2).

We settled into a good pace early on.  It didn’t feel like we were pushing it, but by mile 2 I was sweating.  I ended up shedding my tank and tucking it in my belt.  

We ran without talking much.  I think we knew that this was more business than it was time to chat so we both were in our own thoughts with the passing miles.  I think it was about mile 4 or 5 that Joey was starting to pull away from me just a little.  I was able to keep him in my sights, but I figured he was feeling good and was well on his way to a 3:40.  I was doing well and hitting the splits, but didn’t want to burn out too fast. I could still make it with a 3:45 so I was not worried…

About mile 4 I realized I needed to ‘go’ already….  I started looking for a spot.  Let’s just say that along the American Tobacco Trail, there is not much cover, and not many places to ‘go’.  I searched for 2 miles before finding a hedge of sorts a few yards off the trail.  I ran off the trail, watered the grass, then got back at it.  Lost about 30 seconds, but still, not too bad.  

After that I did not see Joey except at the turnarounds.  I was on my own.  I put my music on early at mile 8.5 instead of mile 10, but I was feeling like I needed some motivation.  

I saw my family at one of the crossovers.  Passed them my sweaty tank top and waved.  Love the sound of the cowbells!!  They gave me some encouragement and I kept going.  

Now here is where things get tough.  Somewhere around mile 16 I realize that things are not going well.  My legs felt tired.  I am getting a side stitch – really???  I NEVER get those when I run!  What is the matter today?  I did some deep breathing trying to correct the issue, and it did fade some, but only after I slowed my pace…  I start to have a breakdown of sorts and the tears started.  I was mad.  I did what I could to hold it together, but knew that these next miles would be tough. 

It was not long after that Theoden – the pace group leader for the 3:45 group, caught up with me.  We chatted for a little while and I told him that I was going to do my best to stay with him.  I did for a little while, but then they slowly started drifting ahead.  I was watching that 3:45 flag and kept thinking that if I got a second wind, that I would be able to catch back up… that second wind never came.  It was heart wrenching to watch that flag get further and further away, and with it, my dream of BQ’ing.  The tears started again… I was so frustrated.  I couldn’t figure out why it was not coming together.  Why could I not keep the pace?  I trained for this, right?  What was I doing wrong?  Did I not taper enough?  

My stomach was a mess.  The gu’s I took were not sitting well.  I felt nauseous.  At a couple points I thought I was going to lose it, but it passed.  Part of me thought that if I did puke, that I would feel a lot better!  It didn’t happen though.  I had to tough through it….  

At one of the aid stations there was a sign that read “drop out area”.  There was a small part of me that was so tempted to drop.   Kinda like a war inside me similar to Gollum/Smeagol in Lord of the Rings:
Gollum - “we wants to stop” 
Smeagol – “NO we don’t wants to stop, keep going!” 
Gollum - “Just stop, it would be easier and we wouldn’t hurt anymore!”
Smeagol  - “NOOO  we are going to keep going and finish this thing no matter how much it hurts!  We can do it!! We are not a quitter!!”  

The war in my head continued til I passed the aid station and the sign was out of sight.  Couldn’t see the sign anymore so I couldn’t quit, right?  Besides, it was never an option….  Not sure that quitting is in my DNA… 

Saw my family again in the last 5 miles.  They could see I was hurting and was upset.  I switched out water bottles with Kayla, and took another gu.  Told them I was going to finish sub 4:00.

Ok, new goal.  Stay in front of the 4:00 group.  I kept checking over my shoulder.  Nope, no 4:00 flag yet…  I kept checking my Garmin, trying to do some simple math and realizing that it would not be long at all before they would catch up to where I was.  There was one point around mile 23 that I knew they had to be close.  Sure enough, I turned and looked and they were RIGHT THERE…  OH NO!!!!  PANIC MODE!  There was NO WAY I could let them pass.  I would tough this out as much as I could.  I picked up my pace for those last 2 miles.  I was in pain, I was digging deep to keep up the “new” pace that they were setting.  Eric, the pace team leader, was awesome.  He encouraged me when he knew I was struggling.  He called out our time and distance.  He said “anyone who is in front of me has a sub 4:00 in the bag”.  As stubborn as I was, I stayed right in front of him.  ;)

Almost to the finish!
I was never so happy to see the finish line.  I saw 3:59 something and gave it all I had before that timer turned over to 4:00.  I received my medal then saw Joey standing there waiting.  I burst into tears and we hugged and cried for a long while.  The first thing I asked him was if he made it, and he said no.  We both had a rough go of it.  We limped over to a grassy area, sat down, and tried to take it all in.  We knew that going into this that anything could happen.  I was not quite prepared for feeling like this.  I was thankful for the PR of a sub 4:00.  It was a secondary goal set more than half way into the race.  Still felt like a very ugly PR…  A PR after blowing up?  A PR that included four mile splits of 10:00+? Not quite what I had in mind…

I didn’t even feel like pizza or beer afterwards…  My stomach was too messed up.  I managed to keep down some chocolate milk and headed to the Jeep.  I went home, showered, and rested the afternoon away with my laptop, looking at my times, posting pictures, and seeing how other friends did at this and other races.  

I have had a couple days to think things over.  Could I have done anything different?  I think the training was spot on.  Granted it was only 4 months worth of training.  Longer training time perhaps? Should I have taken my taper more seriously?  Should I have just run only a couple times the week before and nothing too hard?  More longer training runs of 20+ miles??  Maybe…  I think the biggest mistake I may have made, was not drinking enough.  I think by the time I got to the second half of the race, I was dehydrated.  I was so well hydrated before the race, but I did not keep hydrating well enough along the way.  I was not cramping, but the legs felt horrible.  I was sweating early on from the effort, even though it was not super warm out.  It seemed humid though.  

Its tough going from such an epic event where everything went perfect at Myrtle Beach, to this where it did not seem to go right... Going into it it seemed like it would work, and work well, but something about carrying out that full 26.2 distance and pushing that pace for so long, anything can happen.  

Looking over my data, my heart rate was fine.  It never went over 171 with an average of only 156.  There was a disconnect between the strength of my cardio system and the lack of response of my muscles.  It was just a tough day.  I kept moving and did not walk. I had no real injuries other than I will lose one toenail and some chafing where my heart rate monitor was. 

If you are interested in my splits they can be seen here.  Please note that I forgot to stop my Garmin at the finish....  so it goes....

Smilin once again after we finished
At this time, Joey and I are researching other BQ marathon races within driving distance.  We are going to give this another go, and certainly not give up!  Sunday’s race was tougher than I imagined it would be with a far slower time than I had hoped.  I am walking away with more experience and a better grasp on what it will take to get there.  Not sure if we will attempt it again this spring, or wait til fall or next spring, but we will give it another go!

I am very encouraged by so many of you who took the time to e-mail me or call me with your words of encouragement.  It means a lot to have your support.  Many of you have been right where I am at now, and have an idea of what I am going through.  It meant a lot to hear from you that you understand the disappointment.   You all have said that I am a tough runner and it gave me the motivation over the past few days to pick up the pieces and move forward.
Well I need to get going… I still have 50 more miles to cover to make the 401K challenge by the end of this month…  


Monday, March 11, 2013

Pre Tobacco Road Marathon - BQ thoughts.....

I am a dreamer...  Many of you know that already.  I set lofty goals and strive hard to achieve them, most times with success.

In 6 days, I set out on a 26.2 journey.  Yes, I have run a marathon before, but this one is just a little bit different... Read on....

In November 2012, I ran the OBX marathon just to get a grasp on where I was at with my training.  My goal for it was sub 4.  Clearly that was not in the cards.  I took a lot of time off during the summer, went on a 3 week detox eating plan in August, and then started training in September. Mid race I changed the goal, and pushed those last miles to get a PR of 4:05.  Not much of a PR, but nearly 2 minutes better.  
Since then I have worked hard and put a lot of time into training for this one event.  Many, many miles, hours sweating it out in yoga, and even more hours of circuit training at Arrichion.  Lots of sweat produced and many calories burned (and lots of cookies eaten).  Many of those high mileage weeks were with my friend and coach, Joey by my side.  

Fast forward 4 months with good training.  Joey and I run a FAST half marathon at Myrtle Beach.  Took nearly 17 minutes off my previous race PR.  Who does that??  Is that even possible?  I am so used to running 'slow' these past few years, that seeing "7:53" average pace for a 13.1 still boggles my mind.  

I will tell you this, what I have learned over the past 4 months is that increasing my weekly mileage, having intense speed work or hill workouts, and cross training changed my speed significantly.  It is tough.  I have been pushed nearly to my "puking point", nearly passed out in circuit class early on, and other days struggled to breathe.  I have run in the cold, rain, sun, wind, I think we saw snow one day, and yes, even nice days too.

Clearly we have "studied" for this "test".  Sunday morning is the "finals" of sorts.  It doesn't matter what the weather brings, we have trained in it all.  I recall my first marathon being in a cold downpour of a rain....  Still, like the other runners who have signed up for it, we are all hoping for good weather :) 

This is my goal - take nearly 25 minutes off my best marathon time that I set 4 months ago.  Go from 4:05 to 3:35-3:40.  My BQ time is 3:45, but in order for Joey to qualify he needs 3:40 so we are in this together - sub 3:40 for the both of us.  Start out at an easy pace (ha - good luck holding me back Joey!) then stick with 8:15 if I remember right. 

I have been blessed to be able to have a job where I can get away and run often, family and friends who support me and my (crazy) running habit, and even more blessed to have a running partner, coach and friend who has pushed me along to the point where I am now.  He and I have encouraged each other along these past few months, through some really tough workouts and both of us have come out much stronger in the end.  Granted, some days I would not have as much strength as I hoped because of the increased mileage to really nail the workout, but other days, we KILLED it and went over and above what "the plan" for the day was.  

I am unsure what Sunday holds, but I can assure you that I have put in the time and effort to do well.  

Hoping for good weather, good health, and a BQ time for both of us.  Whatever happens, if it rains, or I get a cold, or who knows... this has been a great learning experience.  

I will give it my all and push for Boston.