Today it was one of those days where I felt bad from the first mile. This was new to me. Typically in the marathon I feel good up to mile 20. Then I have to do work. Today I had to do work for 26.2+ miles. That can make one not like the marathon:)
Lets back up for a bit though.
My plan for going into the race was to run even splits. I wanted to run the first few miles slower than pace, and settle into pace (7:20) by mile 5 or so. This is a good time to mention that I do not believe in running negative splits in the marathon. I think this is a good strategy for beginner, but I think for more competitive runners (I am no elite, but I consider myself fast:) if you can run a negative split, you could have gone faster. If you look at the splits of the first few people in any marathon, you will see that they slowed down toward the end. I did not plan on slowing down, but I also knew that I did not want to have anything left in my tank at the finish. I was prepared to suffer and to fight. Two dear friends, two solid, strong, no nonsense women that I was lucky enough to have met through this blog sent me some pretty inspiring notes which I used a lot during the race. Which brings me to another issue that has been on my mind lately (this is getting long, just scroll down to see my results if that is what you are here for). Running IS NOT 90% mental and 10% physical. I am not sure what the percentage truly is, but if running was 90% mental, then anyone could run a sub 3 marathon, ha! Sure, the mental part of the game is important, but you need to do the work and you need to gain the fitness in order to run well. ANd it gets harder and harder the faster you get. Going into the race, I knew I had that. I always toe the line having done the hard work. That is who I am.
Now back to the race...
There is something about starting a marathon race and feeling pain in your legs. Maybe some of you can relate, but until today, I could have not. I did not panic, as I knew that often in training I need a few miles to get my legs, so I plugged along.
Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:22
Mile 3: 7:22
The pain did not go away, even after eating a Gu at mile 2.
So my mantra for the day became: "You do not have to feel good to run well".
And off I went
Mile 4: 7:15
Mile 5: 7:20
Mile 6: 7:22
Mile 7: 7:17
The splits are uneven because this marathon has rollers and more rollers.
Something else this marathon had this year? Wind. Strong headwind. I did not feel it much at the beginning, but it became an issue toward the end.
So I was plugging along, unsuccessful at making friends on the course (I typically try to listen to conversations, or find a couple of buddies to help pass the time). By mile 7 I passed the 3:15 pacer, a very sweet and young lad, who later on I heard that dropped out around mile 10 or so.
Also around this time I started to run shoulder to shoulder with this young woman. I worked hard at running tangents and several times I apologized for moving from one end of the street toward the center, but she did not say anything. I think she really wanted to be in front of me.
Mile 8: 7:20
Mile 9: 7:18
Mile 10: 7:20
So that girl and I kept running in front of each other for a while. I did not like this a bit, because I would have preferred to feel a kinship here (I was not racing for a place here and neither was she!) but she did not give me the friendly vibe. OK then. She eventually went in front of me.
Mile 11: 7:18
Mile 12: 7:13
Mile 13: 7:20
Half time: 1: 36:XX
Chris met me at the half point and gave me some GU and some water bottles for my fuel belt. It was great to see him and I made sure to have a smile on my face for him.
The wind really picked up after the half, as we turned to do the miles 3-13 again. I started slowing down a bit, my legs really heavy now, and I knew I needed to focus on the pace, or I'd lose it.
Mile 14: 7:23
Mile 15: 7:14
At this point, I started thinking about mile 20. Get to mile 20 @ 7:20 average, and then you can slow down and you will still PR.
Mile 16: 7:22
Mile 17: 7:17
Mile 18: 7:22
Mile 19: 7:18
Mile 20: 7:20
Once I got to mile 20 I had a 7:18, and I felt happy. The wind was really picking up, and I literally started to feel like it was pushing me back. But whatever, everyone races in the same conditions, so suck it up (I am usually nicer to myself, but sometimes I need a little tough love). Then I started thinking about this great friend who ran a recent race and ran well up to mile 19, but then she got sick and had to slow down. I was not puking and did not feel sick. So I decided to run the last miles for both of us. Which meant I could not slow down.
Mile 21: 7:26
Except that I did.
So I set a range of paces goal with 7:30 as the high margin.
Mile 22: 7:34
Oops, I guess that did not work.
Lets try again
Mile 23: 7:33
A little better, but man, my legs are like jello. I don't have a "push". Every god damn part of my body hurts. But I am a container, and I can contain all the pain. The more pain, the bigger the container.
Mile 24: 7:24
Better. This container metaphor works well. Will use that again. Nice when work and marathoning can merge successfully. Ha!
Mile 25: 7:24
Here I passed the young chick. I asked her to come with me, because really I though we could push each other, but she did not.
With the new course, after mile 25 you go uphill and around all these little streets. At this point I noticed that my upper lip was completely numb. OK, just don't think about it and just run. (I never like to say you are almost there, because really, you are not; here is the point where I break the mile into quarters or shorter, just can't think of running a mile - too long).
Mile 26: 7:34 BOO
As I rounded toward the end I switched my watch to time and saw that I could come in below 3:14. Hell yes, I ran hard with a grimace on my face (early on in a race I fake-smile, bc it really makes me feel better, but when I actually push at the end, I look like I am about to either kills someone or...something)
.39 7:21 pace - this is the brain letting go in action, but also clearly shows that I had no legs..usually this is a 6:XX end of marathon for me:)
Garmin stats: 26.39, 7:20 pace, 3:13:59
Official results: 26.2, 7:25 pace, 3:14:29
(Me thinks I pressed start too late, or my Garmin was acting up, or something.Whatever, I always go with official results).
Stats: 7th woman out of...I have no idea. There were 1000 people in the marathon, so who knows.
Interestingly, the times for this year were slower than last year (female winner last year went 2:46, this year winner was 2:55), which makes me think that the wind made everyone slower.
2nd AG (30-39).
I am super happy with this race. It is in fact the race I am most happy and proud about. It is nice to know that I can push and work hard even when I feel like crap from the beginning of a LONG race. I have no doubt that I can get a 3:10 next time (probably today in better conditions, but no regrets and I was not even trying for that. I did not train for a 3:10, I trained for a 3:15, and I am the nerd who believes in doing the work). This will be hard to accomplish at Boston, but I know what I need to work on. It is clear to me that aerobically I am very strong (I was never out of breath in this race, OK, maybe toward the end). But, my neuromuscular system needs more work, and this will be my focus moving forward. Also, I think I need a longer taper. Or not running the biggest mileage week 2 weeks before the marathon. I don't like to over think things as I always believe that the decisions we make are the best decisions we can make given the information we have available at the time, but I have lots to think about moving forward. What is important is that I feel confident that I can design a plan that will make me feel stronger before Boston. And I can taste the sub 3:00 marathon sometime in 2013:)
As far as liking marathons? I will probably always like saying I have done them more than actually doing them, but I hope that my next marathon will give me at least 13.1 miles of feeling good. If not, well, I know I don't need to feel good to run well:)
Thank you thank you thank you thank you infinite + 1 as Petru says to Jenn and Raina (you've made this training cycle really special and exciting), Chris (for shedding a tear when I crossed the finish line AND confessing that you did that!...and other stuff, too), Katie (for running those long runs with me and pulling me along every single time), and to my little imp of a Petru (for making me feel that I can do anything when I think about you)! And thank YOU for reading:)