Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Illinois Marathon Recap

Guess I better get working on this.  I know you all (ok, maybe only 1 or 2....haha) are anxious to hear all the details about my running the Illinois Marathon.  If you are not a details, let's hash it all out type of person then here is a very brief synopsis.

I started out feeling great.  At the 1/2 way point I was on track for a 3:20 and figured that would happen.  At mile 15 I started to slow, just a little, like 10-15 seconds.  At mile 20 I completely hit the wall & it took everything in me to not walk or reduce myself to a complete shuffle.  I finished a minute slower than last year, but felt 100 times worse.  Finish time: 3:30:50

Now if you want the details & specifics and are willing to read my complete breakdown of the race then read on.

Even though I was by myself and had no one to blame I was running a little late on getting to the race.  That left me with little down time before the race.  Once I was parked I headed straight to gear check & dropped off my bag.   I was in such a hurry and had complete tunnel vision I didn't even realize until after the fact that there was a long line and yet, I just walked up to the guy handed him my bag & then left.  Haha, ooops!  Anyway, I enjoyed a brief meetup with Amanda from Too Tall Fritz.  She was running her 4th marathon in 14 days.  Wowza!  And people think I'm crazy!!  She is always a delight to meet up with!!

After that I only had time for a last quick (ok, but there is nothing quick when thousands of people are waiting in line) trip to the porta potties and I slipped into my start corral.  Within 2-3 minutes the gun went off and I started off feeling great.  Temperature wise it was leaning toward the warm side.  It was 52 degrees, but the sun was coming up strong & clear over head of us.  I knew the forecast called for lower 70's by mid day and I could tell it would be on the toasty side.  Overall I do feel like the weather played a role in part of what happened.

I thought I took my first mile very easy & conservative, but according to my splits I ran a 7:03   I felt completely comfortable with this pace, but I did kick it down a notch.  My plan was to hold back a little for the first half, maybe 20 miles, if need be, to make sure I had something left at the end.  And, well, we know plans don't always go how we want.  But....the beginning miles went by pretty quick.  I remember seeing the first few mile markers, but before I knew it boom there was mile 7 and then another flash and there was 10.  I was running strong and feeling really good.....maybe too good to be true.  I mean, come on, let's be honest...I did not train for this marathon.  Oh, I've been running, but I did not train.  Can't take credit for that in any way shape or form!  Anyway, my first 15 miles looked like this:  7:03, 7:35, 7:34, 7:28, 7:29, 7:28, 7:39, 7:27, 7:46, 7:43, 7:24, 7:41, 7:26, 6:57, 7:48.  For the most part I was in the 7:30 range.  Not bad for a girl who is horrible at keeping pace & does not rely on anything to tell me what pace I am going.  (I turn on my device & stick it in my belt.  I leave it running and do not look at it until after I've finished.)

I knew early on in the race I was out in front of the 3:25 pace group.  I passed them very easily and put some distance between us.  I don't know how much distance because I never tuned around to look.  If you've ever run a big race you can just tell when you are near a pace group because there is a cluster of them who stick together.  I had none of that my first half of the race.  My goal was to keep in front of this pace and according to my 1/2 time I was on track to run a 3:20 finish.  Perfect, but ya, I did mention it was too good to be true.  Right around the 13 mile mark that 3:25 group came up behind me and they helped spur me on for a few miles.  I wanted to keep IN FRONT of them!  I was ok with slipping down to that finish time, but I could not let them get ahead of me.  I think that is where my 6:56 came from at mile 14. I pushed ahead to try and get some distance on them.  At mile 15 though I decided to not fight it anymore & let them pass me, but I was right behind them.  Slowly though they pulled away, but not by much, probably 15-20 seconds and I hung on for a few more miles.  I felt ok, but could feel myself slowing down.  My next few miles were 7:45, 7:48 & 7:43.

Remember I mentioned the temperatures.  I know 50's, 60's even low 70's doesn't sound that warm, but the sun was bright and strong.  Most importantly I haven't run in these temperatures very much.  We had a very cold, harsh winter with A LOT of below freezing and sub zero temperatures.  Our spring has been very limited as well.  I figured I haven't run in these temperatures since late October, maybe early Nov.  And then bam, here I am out running in it again.  I could certainly feel it affecting my body temperature.  I was slightly overheated.  I took in water & Gatorade at every single station.  It actually seemed like they added more stops than in the past (and maybe they did last minute with the increased temps).  I even began pouring glasses of water on top of my head for just a little relief.  I definitely began to feel fried or baked, which is not a good feeling when you're not used to it.  So I do believe that the temperatures played a large part in what happened next.

I've never had this happen in a marathon before (I did once in an ultra), but at mile 19 I slammed in to THE WALL!  I was miserable and all I wanted to do was walk or reduce myself to a complete shuffle.  Every single step was incredibly hard and I just wanted it to be over.  I could definitely feel the affects of the weather and the very obvious fact that I was not trained for this.  My base training & natural ability still kept me going at an ok pace, but it was tough.  At mile 20 the clock showed 2:35 so I figured I wasn't in too bad of trouble with a finish time if I could just keep going.  But, of course, I have that horrible perception of what pace I really am going.  I didn't think I had slowed down that much, but for all I knew I was clocking a 12 minute pace.  And I still refused to look at my timing device.  At this point my goal was only to finish.  I knew this could happen and here I was faced with it so I just kept putting one foot in front of another and didn't dare complain.  In hindsight I know that my gps and the race timing went wonky so I don't have definite paces for the last 6 miles.  I can only average that I ran a 9 minute pace.

I did perk up a little during mile 25 and right before I hit mile 26, as I turned a corner I saw the 3:30 pace group coming up behind me.  That lit a little fire underneath me for I was determined to finish ahead of them.  It was a little encouraging to know that I wasn't too far off my PR finish from last year.  I pushed to the end and was never so happy to be done.  My finish time was 3:30:50.  Exactly 1 minute slower than last year!  Except last year I felt awesome & great and was ready to do it all over again.  This year....the complete opposite, but I'm not complaining.  Considering how little to no training  I had for this race I did ok.  A finish is a finish.  And a BQ is a BQ.

I was staggering a little when I finished and must've had a look on my face because someone came rushing up to me and yelled (ok, it felt like they were yelling, maybe they weren't) "ARE YOU OK?!?!"  It took me a few seconds to mumble "yeah, I think so" and I kept on walking.  Someone put a medal around my neck and I posed for a picture.
This is NOT my usual big smile, oh look I just *easily* ran a marathon.

As quickly as I could I staggered over to the medical area & grabbed some ice bags.  
I found a tiny sliver of shade and painfully lowered myself on to the ground where I set about updating my family, friends & social media with how I finished.  After about 15 minutes, I even more painfully stood up and went up to gear check to get my bag.  Once I was up there I realized that I did not get my I-Challenge medal.  I tried to tell myself that I didn't care about the medal and it was not worth going through the agony of down and up those stadium stairs again.  But who was I kidding, I earned that medal & I wanted it.

Since I was there alone I had no reason to stick around so I left.  I stopped for one more picture and by then was actually feeling much better.  I really think the shade & ice did a ton of help.

There's my big smile!  And with BOTH medals!

How I placed:
Overall: 173rd out of 1,685
Female: 28th out of 693
Age Group (35-39):  3rd out of 122
Woo Hoo, first time I've ever placed in my age group in a marathon.  Super excited to see what my award is.  They mail those a few weeks after the race.

A few more specifics re:  my splits
10k:  46:37
1/2 way point:  1:40:17
20 mile mark:  2:35:36

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