It has been a long road to find my way back to the marathon distance. After spending most of 2014 and 2015 plagued by injuries and setbacks, unable to get any real traction beneath me, I was finally able to stay healthy and build some training momentum this year (simultaneously losing the 25 lbs I had gradually gained.. again). Many momentous runs left me feeling on top of the world, others chewed me up and spit me out. Along the way, slowly but surely, I found myself again. If there’s something positive to be said for starting over, it’s that you get to re-live the glory of all those milestone runs all over again.
In January, a marathon wasn’t on the table for me. By February, it was a possibility. In March, after Chilly Half, I knew I was going for it. Then in April, Around the Bay gave me the confidence boost I needed to settle on a time goal rather than “to finish.” My first sub-4:00 marathon is one of my fondest running memories and it was time to chase that particular milestone once again.
Biggest Week: 89 KM
30+KM long runs: 7 (3 x 30, 2 x 32, 34, 35)
Taper: 10 days – I’ve learned that minimal taper works best for me. I did one of my biggest long runs (34K) two weeks before the race and a 20K mid-week run with long race-pace intervals 11 days out.
Throughout race week I was buzzing with that pre-marathon nervous/excited energy, while constant weather-checking and wardrobe decisions became a part-time job. I was happy that it was going to be cool and I didn’t mind the rain, but we were going to be dealing with some wind. Truth be told, though, I wasn’t all that worried about it and did a pretty good job of staying positive and focusing on what I could control – like buying my first pair of arm warmers.
Finding the massive group of my fellow Rogue Runners before the start, many of whom weren’t even racing, set the tone for a great day. I was extremely happy to be one of the runners this year after being on the sidelines supporting and cheering for the last few.
With the nerves coming to a head, it was such a relief to get the show on the road and start running. I tried not to look at my garmin too much (especially since it was going a bit wonky in the city sections) but thankfully I seemed to be hitting my target 5:40/km pace comfortably – phew, it was time to settle in.
1-10K: 5:35, 5:40, 5:32, 5:35, 5:51, 5:58, 5:39, 5:36, 5:27, 5:31
The first half of this course made it difficult for steady pacing with plenty of downhill and a few inclines. As planned, I took my time up the only significant climb of the course at Hoggs Hollow (5K) and cruised the downhills the best that I could without hitting the brakes too hard.
The headwind would come and go, in particular from the east, but it was never a bother and I enjoyed the gentle push from a tailwind when we had it. I was glad I had settled on the shorts/tank/arm warmers/glove combo and felt completely comfortable in terms of temperature. (Plus my ever-present KT tape a la McConnell method which is a precaution/security blanket at this point.)
Truth be told, the first half was fairly uneventful which was just fine by me.
11K-half: 5:27, 5:42, 5:41, 5:27, 5:39, 5:30, 5:32, 5:36, 5:24, 5:37, 5:35
Half split: 1:58:45 (5:37/KM)
I hit a bit of a rough patch mentally shortly after the half, starting to over-analyze how I was feeling vs. how I thought I should be feeling and realizing that OMG I still had a long way to go. I was able to push those thoughts aside and focused instead on getting to 27-28K where I would run past the finish area and our awesome support crew would be waiting. Sure enough there was a long stretch where they were all spread out, standing out in the rain just to cheering us on. I was hit with a wave of emotion and got teary eyed at the level of support as well as a moment of “I am doing this!” I got such a great boost from seeing everyone (note 5:25 and 5:23 splits below).
Half-30K: 5:25, 5:40, 5:29, 5:27, 5:29, 5:25, 5:23, 5:37, 5:33
There were just two “chunks” of race left – out to the turn-around at 35K and then back to the finish. I’m all about breaking it down into sections. Easy peasy, right?? Ha! Pace was holding mostly steady and it was feeling hard but doable. I knew the goal was in reach, but it was going to take some fight. It was fun to look out for speedy friends on their way back and I was so happy to see several including Kenny on his way to a strong finish. Unfortunately I soon recognized some familiar outfits up ahead and realized I was gaining on Nicole and Sam. I was sad that their race wasn’t going according to plan but totally brain farted and couldn’t think of anything to say as I passed – sorry, girls. Nicole shouted, “You’re doing it!” which made me smile big. Thank you!
31-35K: 5:47, 5:33, 5:45, 5:32, 5:33
35K split: 3:16:58 (5:37/KM)
A short loop around the marina and I finally hit the timing mats at 35K, changing direction to head back to the finish. And there it was: the wind. It was easily the strongest wind I have felt in a marathon and I knew it was going to take some real work from here on in. Nothing to do now but buckle down and get it done. I had those awesome cheer sections to look forward to and also knew that Kelly would be running back for me at some point. That was enough to keep me moving.
I stuck to walking strictly 20-30 seconds through every 1-2 water stations through the entire race, which had been working perfectly for me. During this section it was becoming tempting to extend the walks or sneak in extras, but I knew it would only be harder to get started again. I slowed slightly but still on track for my sub-4. My garmin was too far off from course markers to rely on so I was doing quick math (or at least attempting it) at each KM marker to ensure that it wasn’t slipping away. The distraction was good.
Sure enough, Kelly came bounding along just when I needed her most and in that moment, I knew I had it in the bag. I think the first word out of my mouth was an F-bomb, but she filled my ears with words of encouragement and told me about some of the awesome PBs and BQs that my fellow Rogues had achieved. She even tried to run in front of me to block the wind – it was laughable given her size, but much appreciated. 🙂
I remember hitting the 41K mark and Kelly telling me that everyone was just up ahead. I was so tired but I had been looking forward to this for so many weeks and lapped it up. The whole team made that moment so special for me and I won’t soon forget it.
36K-finish: 5:44, 5:59, 5:42, 5:41, 6:04, 5:32, 5:37