When I started writing this recap, I included a promise to "keep it short." Well, as we all know, no blogger ever has been able to keep a marathon recap short and concise. I'm not even going to apologize for the length of my own because I DO WHAT I WANT! But don't freak out yet about how tiny your little scroll bar is - it's, like, 50% pictures, give or take 30%. Without further ado, Jeano's first (of many) posts about her dinky li'l marathon.
So, remember when I was too cool for school and said I wasn't nervous about my race? Well, I should have held off on that post until the night before the race because I was REALLY NERVOUS. Like, could hardly eat my dinner nervous. Like, nauseous nervous. Like, on-the-verge-of-panic nervous. I'm such a liar.
I managed to get a few hours of fitful sleep before waking up at 5:00 am to force pancakes down my throat and have a nervous breakdown. It wasn't until I got to the race start that I finally chilled the eff out, which goes to show that the anticipation is often much worse than the task itself. As soon as I arrived at Bartlett High School, I was cool, calm, and collected. I hung out like the cool kid I am in the bathroom line until just before 8:00 am, and then we were off!
Cool kid. So innocent, so naive, so blissfully ignorant of how hard marathons are.
Taking into account the course profile,
my race plan was as follows:
- Aim for a 9:44 pace for the first 15 miles, but recognize/be okay with the fact that you will likely be a few seconds slower than this.
- Make up for lost time on the steep descent from miles 15-17.
- Run conservatively from miles 17-22.
- Gradually increase speed from miles 22-24 and go hard the last 2.2 miles.
Let's use those conveniently-segmented steps to delve into the meat of this race.
1. Aim for a 9:44 pace for the first 15 miles, but recognize/be okay with the fact that you will likely be a few seconds slower than this.
The first few miles of the race run along the Glenn Highway, which is surprisingly scenic for a six-lane thruway. The path was slightly monotonous, but the honking cars added some excitement to what was to be a very spectator-light course. After we exited the highway, we spent the next few miles on a flat road that ran along two golf courses, which fortunately we didn't have to look at because, duh, golf courses are boring (my dad will disown me if he ever hears me say that).
During these miles I tried to settle into a quicker but natural and easy pace, which unfortunately was slower than what I had hoped "quicker but natural and easy" would be. The course profile on the race's website is a bit misleading, so although I knew these miles were gradually uphill, I thought we would gain about 250 feet over the first 15 miles. It was actually more like 700. The early miles didn't feel uphill, though, so the fact that my natural pace was tending towards 10:00 was slightly demoralizing. Unwilling to lose too much time so early in the race, I made an effort to keep it a bit faster than my body wanted.
9:53, 9:44, 9:47, 9:52, 9:41, 9:54
At this point in the race, I was getting passed by a lot of people. I never felt like I was racing against anyone but myself, though, so this didn't bother me. In fact, I suspected that many of these people didn't realize what lay ahead so I was pretty sure I'd see them again.
Around mile 7, we hit the infamous gravel, which also coincided with the start of some pretty significant hills. Even I, who read countless race reports, wasn't fully prepared for this section of the race. I knew there was gravel, but I wasn't expecting it to be as hilly as it was. During this section there was a lot of complaining, more than a few snide remarks about my how my shoes were totally inappropriate for this terrain, and hordes of people starting to walk. These walkers were extremely frustrating because they were all walking on the sliver of road with the least amount of gravel, which meant I was doing a lot of weaving and expending more energy than I would have liked. I'm not saying I wouldn't have done the same in their position, but it was pretty tiresome after a while.
9:54, 9:36, 9:43, 9:45, 9:58, 9:35, 9:57
Around mile 13, we crossed a very rickety bridge and entered the "trail" section of the course. I had to suppress more than one chuckle between miles 13-14, which was sort of steep and definitely not paved. I was able to run on this a few weeks ago, so I knew exactly what to expect. Other people most certainly did not. I only saw one other person run up the last hill to the high point of the course, and more than one runner was screaming bloody murder at the "nerve" of the race organizers for forcing this upon unsuspecting marathoners.
High point of the course! Great view, obviously.
Although I wasn't running as fast as I would have liked, I felt very strong and in control during these miles. I had done my research, I had run some hills, and I knew going in that it was likely to be a harder course than I suspected. Although the reality of running on that gravel was more difficult than I had realized, I feel like mentally I was much more prepared than most of the people around me. And honestly, as mean as it sounds to... take pleasure? from someone else's pain, seeing them struggle while I was still feeling good undoubtedly made this section easier for me.
10:01 (up to the top!), 9:32
2. Make up for lost time on the steep descent from miles 15-17.
At mile 15, I finally allowed myself to turn on my music. I was back in familiar territory, didn't really have to worry about moose/bears, and I was pretty sure things were about to get tough.
Well, things totally got tough. Downhill running is no joke, y'all. For me, this descent was much harder than any of the climbing that preceded it. The fact that people were still walking tells me I wasn't alone in thinking this. Sure, I was running faster, but I wasn't feeling particularly good. At mile 16 I had that inevitable thought of, "We have 10 more miles of this" which, combined with the fact that I hadn't run more than 16 miles in over a year, was a pretty serious downer.
3. Run conservatively from miles 17-22.
I was still Mopey McGee when I reentered civilization at mile 17, but there were small groups of spectators along this section, which helped a bit. Most helpful was seeing this incredibly sweet woman for the third time of the race. She somehow managed to pop up in places I believe far too distant from each other/largely inaccessible via normal means, which is my way of saying she was my magic witch guardian. When I saw her, I turned my music down, said "I feel like this is the third time I've seen you!", and her response of "Yes it is! You look faster every time I see you!", although a lie, propelled me through the next mile or so...
... until I hit mile 20.
At mile 20, I came to an area entirely too familiar to me. I had been wondering whether I would welcome or curse this familiarity, and unfortunately the reality was the latter. Suddenly, my beloved power jams seemed more like elevator muzak, my handheld water bottle weighed a million pounds, my sports beans tasted like, I don't know, let's say poo, I was hot, sweaty, and bothered, and, screw it, I was going to walk. Although walking certainly wasn't what I meant by "run conservatively."
At mile 21, I told myself, I was going to give myself AN ENTIRE SONG to walk and do whatever I damn well pleased. I'd earned it! I was totally going to use those 3-4 minutes to regroup and then bust out a mind-blowing last 5 miles, by which I actually mean I was going to be doing a lot of walking. Once I start walking in a race, it's over.
As if on cue, I suddenly saw
a horde of angels my boss and his cheer squad. My boss is the best person ever, and since I hadn't mentioned the race to any coworkers out of fear that I'd end up unable to run, it was doubly exciting. I was doused by someone with a hose, which was literally the best thing ever, refused a delicious-looking watermelon treat (I wasn't really in the mood to consume anything), and then surprised my boss with a "Hey, name-removed-for-privacy-reasons!" After yelling my name a few times in surprise, he blasted a tune on his tuba as I ran off.
I didn't ask any of my friends to watch me race because I know that to non-runners, race spectating (especially that early in the morning) is incredibly boring. I didn't realize what a huge boost seeing people you know can provide, though. I am not even remotely kidding when I say that seeing them saved my race. I blazed past the mile 21 sign without realizing it and was shocked when I was suddenly done with mile 22. I was back, baby!
10:11, 10:12, 9:57
4. Gradually increase speed from miles 22-24 and go hard the last 2.2 miles.
It turns out that boost didn't last forever. I had done a reasonably good job of following my race plan up to this point, but at mile 22 there was no turbo speed switch, as I had hoped there would be. To my mind, four miles was nothing, but to my legs it was everything. I tried, but I felt I had very little left to give.
Everywhere I looked, people were walking. Whereas earlier in the race this had motivated me, now it was seriously bringing me down. There was a lot of, "They're walking, so why can't I?!" I hadn't looked at my watch in a while but I was fairly certain a 4:15 was off the table. I started thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to end up with a 10:00 average, which would likely allow me to walk for a bit and take it easy.
But then shit got real and I gave myself a serious talking to. I was tired, yes, and I didn't think I had any turbo speed left in me. But I could most certainly keep running; I wasn't too tired for that. I just didn't feel like it. I knew that stopping to walk would be a huge disservice to myself and, really, to the Hanson Method, which had prepared me so excellently for this very moment. Lecture over, I kept chugging along.
9:40, 9:56, 10:26, 10:24
Around mile 25.8, I knew I was close. I only had one more song, and then it would be over. I skipped whatever song was playing, and Kanye's Power came on. Perfect. I was going to sprint my little heart out up that last hill, which was a walker wasteland, and not stop sprinting until I crossed that finish line.
This plan worked perfectly, minus the very last tenth of a mile when I was seriously struggling not to puke everywhere.
Jamming to Kanye or suppressing vomit - take your pick!
And now for picture overload.
"You ran HOW many miles?"
"My chauffeur needs to hurry it up already."
My medal is larger than your medal because it's the LARGEST MEDAL EVER.
Official (gun) time: 4:20:15
Official Jeano (net) time: 4:19:40
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't expecting to finish faster. Rationally, I knew that first-time marathoners often underestimate how long it will take them to finish, and I knew that it was entirely possible I'd finish a good 10-15 minutes slower than planned. But despite acknowledging that I might need to reevaluate my goals, I really did think I had 4:15 in the bag.
That's not to say I'm disappointed with my time. Far from it. Given the somewhat unexpected difficulty of the course, I'm really happy with how it turned out. But after zeroing in on 9:44 pace for the past four months, finishing with a 9:50 (by my watch) was a slight blow to my ego. Fortunately, it could have been so much worse. Given my tendency to walk during races, finishing my very first marathon without doing so is definitely something to be proud of.
Plus, I was kind of blown away by my stats:
I mean, I didn't break any world records or anything, but I did all right. I consider myself a middle-to-back-of-the-pack runner, so finishing in the top fifth for women and the top fourth for my age group is kind of remarkable. Sorry, that sounds incredibly arrogant but it's true! Don't think less of me for being happy with myself.
Thank you ALL for your encouragement throughout my training. I've mentioned before that I don't really talk about running in my normal life because I know so few runners, so blogging about this has really done me a lot of good. I was definitely thinking about you guys during the race.
More on all-things-marathon later in the week!