I knew I needed to mix things up a bit this year. I was right. This marathon was Exactly what I needed, in so many ways. . My 2010 racing season was successful but not full of the spark and passion I usually feel. I can't pinpoint the reason but I have several theories. I'll just leave it at that.
Despite the lackluster feeling I had during a few of my races, I signed the dotted line to race Ironman Lake Placid again in 2011. I want it back. I want to go the distance again.
However, before I began that training, I had a deep urge to revisit the marathon. I had done 6 'flat' marathons ( 2 more as part of an Ironman ) but I was left with the feeling of unfinished business. I knew I could go faster. And I felt this was the year to do just that.
I searched for the perfect race and found it in South Carolina. The Charleston Marathon was to be held on January 15th. It gave me enough time to train and enough time to heal and rebuild on the bike and swim for Lake Placid. Perfect.
I worked so hard all fall. The weather was fairly cooperative. It wasn't until the last month and a half that I had snow and ice to deal with. The temps dropped and the roads became harder and harder to run fast on. I faced icy winds, frozen fuel belt bottles, and boring roads. I live in a mountainous area and this race down south was dubbed as quite flat. So I struggled to find routes that would simmulate my race course. As a result, I ran back and forth on a few short stretches of semi-flat roads all season. It got old.
Yet I had no choice. I had to put my head down and just do it.
I ran and ran. I ran two runs a day at times. Some days I ran fast. Some days I ran long. I did more strength work than I have before and I focused hard on my form.
Finally. It was time. Time to 'laugh in the face of my birthday' to quote my friend once again.
As you know from my previous blog, I flew south in the hands of my husband. He was so comforting. He is an excellent pilot and got us there quickly and without any issues at all. I have had a huge fear of flying in his plane. I've travelled with him a lot over the years but I've been very afraid of it since becoming a Mom. I have to say though, after this trip I feel much more comfortable. It all went really well.
Let's get on to the race!!!
Mark and I arrived on Thursday. We found our hotel, got settled, found a quick dinner and watched TV before bed. Our hotel was very nice. Clean and best of all, a super comfy bed. I was in bed by 10:15 Thurs night and didn't get up until after 8!! It was perfect.
Friday was a beautiful day in this pretty southern town. We layed around in the morning, watched the news, drank coffee and then headed to get my packet. We found the race start and then made our way to the finish line where the expo was held. I ran a quick and easy 25 min warm up and felt Amaaaaaazing. It was SO effortless and easy to hold a very quick pace. Ready!!!
The expo was small. I didn't need anything for my race. I was all set to go. However, I had mentioned to Mark that I had no clue how I was going to carry my 4-5 gels. He found this contraption.
Maybe I can carry the gels in this thing?
I didn't buy it...
nothing new on race day. It was uncomfortable and strange anyway.
So I moved on and found these little friends! So cute.
Isn't this what everyone shops for at the expo?
The rest of Friday was spent in bed. I was determined to keep my feet up. We got back to the hotel and I hopped up and turned on the TV. My pink recovery socks were on, water bottle next to me, and well that was that! Mark left for a run.
and sat and sat.
My lower back felt sore. Tight. My neck was stiff. I feared getting sick all week. Why was my neck stiff? Were my glands swollen. I drank Emergen-C all week long and had 3 packs on Friday alone. Nevermind what I said a week ago, I don't like taper!
I must say, laying on your butt makes you totally lazy. It really makes you want to just lay there More! I got so dopey and lethargic spending a nice sunny day inside on a bed! I thought I was going to go crazy by the time we were leaving for dinner!Crazy because while I wanted to escape my hotel room, I also wanted to just crawl under the covers and ignore that 'thing' looming over my head.
I broke loose for an early dinner in quaint downtown Charleston. We had such a nice cozy meal.
This weekend was turning out to be so incredibly peaceful and relaxing for the two of us! The 'stress' of a marathon is nothing like the 'stress' of a Half Ironman for example. There is just nothing to do when prepping to run for 3 hours. No bike check in to get to, no bottles to fill, only one sport and a few items to wear! I was enjoying it. We were just hanging out, talking when we wanted to, and generally enjoying each other's company. It was really nice.
Ok...I did actually go there to bust my butt and tear up a race course!
After 8 hours of sleep on race night, the alarm buzzed at 5 and I was ready to rock.
I took a hot shower, ate, got dressed and then yapped at my hubby for taking This picture.
I mean, Why? Why when I was bent over grabbing stuff from my bag?
That's all I have for pre-race at the hotel. Here I am getting my stuff together...
At the hotel getting ready...
It was a chilly start to race day. I think it was around 35 when we toed the line. I was excited. I knew I could function quite well in those temps. Perfect for a Maine girl who trained in temps well below that for the past few months.
I felt good all morning. It was finally time to start the race. I was bundled at the start line but just before the gun, I shed the extra stuff and was down to shorts, a short sleeve shirt, 2 layers of warmers and gloves.
At the Start with my pacer
The announcer got us ready and the next thing I knew, I was pushing Start on the garmin and off we went.
Legs were on. I felt smooth, steady and happy. It was going to be a great day.
Mile 1 7:19 Too fast. The guy leading our 3:15 pace group declared we went out too fast. I agreed. Yet it was so terribly easy. It was supposed to be. Don't let it fool you Ange!
mile 2 7:23 Ok, that's good. Hold 7:25 all day long for my goal, Jen had said. Start slow and build.
We ran along the water with big pretty houses. It was very nice. A sign held by a kid said, "GO MOMMY!" I decided it was for me. I was smiling and having fun. I wondered where Mark would end up. He didn't even have a course map. How did we let that happen?
Mile 3 7:18 Still easy.
I was hungry. I had to go to the bathroom. These things Ticked me off. I stopped drinking water 60 min before the race! I used the bathroom abotu 12 times in the last hour. Seriously, WHY does this happen to us women? Ignore it Ange.
Still so easy. My shins were tight...I felt my legs but not enough to worry.
Mile 4 7:16 Am I going to fast? And wait....where's the mile marker. .15 later the course mile marker appeared. Hmmm....what's up with that? I was running without crowds and along the edge of the road. I was not weaving at all.
passed a water table.... saw my watch a few min later and decided that since I was hungry I would take a gel. I slowly sucked it in for the next little bit.
Mile 5 7:09 woah girl...hang on! And where is the next water? I timed my gel all wrong. SLow down Ange.
Mile 6 Hey ! there's Mark!!! Hi! I smiled and waved and told him my ave pace. And, I got water. Phew. All set now. 7:12
Mile 7 7:16 I knew I was way ahead of my planned ave pace to hold. But I felt too good. My HR was totally in control. My perceived HR that is..I didn't wear my monitor. I felt steady and comfortable. I was going to hold right here.
mile 8 7:17 Hey there's Mark again!! I threw him layer # 1 of my arm warmers. He told me my brother said Hi. :) The course was certainly a LOT flatter than anything I have ever run on. But there were a few gradual climbs....long long gentle grades. Miles 7-9 were just that. Just enough to notice but not hurt you really.
Mile 9 7:09 I did decide that if a portopotty was easy to get to, I would spare the 20 sec and stop. I wanted to get this out of my mind. Hey! A HILL! A true hill! up and over without a problem.
Mile 10 7:37 I made that stop. A Very polite man allowed me to go first. thank you!! I hurried, grabbed a water and went back to business.
Mile 11 7:07 Ok, back on track. By now I was noticing that all the mile markers were off. I got to mile 11 on my Garmin. .2 later, their sign appeared. Grr...surely they would fix it by the end.
Mile 12 I took another gel. We headed off the main road and through an area of windy paths around a small pond with huge geese roaming. The volunteers were amazing and everywhere. I haven't mentioned that there was musical entertainment ALL OVER the course! It was fantastic and motivating. I cruised along to drums and dancers and kids playing the sax. Good stuff when you're bored out on a race course.
Did I say bored?
Well...I got a little bored at times. I was focusing big time on my time. I knew where I had to be at mile 15, mile 20 etc etc. I knew how many minutes I had to go the next 3 miles... for example.
However, around this point in the race, I was running alone. I was sandwiched between a group of men running out in front of me and who knows who was behind me. Portions of the run felt like a training run. While on secluded curvy paths through a park, it was just me out there. It took serious disclipline to maintain my race-day focus.
I didn't fly 1000 miles for nothing.
Game face stayed on. But as I said, I loved the music.
My legs were still spot on. I felt nothing. I was steady. That's it. It was completely easy for me to hold this pace. 7:25 never hit my watch unless I was at a mile that I was fueling.
I made a point to stop, Drink the water, SIp some sports drink and then more water. Otherwise, it would spill on my shoes, cause a blister, and I wouldn't be hydrated. So I lost a bit of time. I didn't care. I was ahead of pace and wanted to be smart.
this was one of those miles. I had a gel, got some water, and then began again.
mile 13 7:08
mile 14 7:06
mile 15 7:05
mile 16 7:05 How am I doing this? I still feel FINE!
mile 17 7:12
mile 18 7:15 I have very little memory from these miles. I know that I was hot and desperate to see Mark again. I wanted to throw him my gloves and just have a friendly face. We'd been off by ourselves on those paths for so long. I needed some spectators again.
Mile 19 7:12 I made a plan to really really push those final 6.2 miles because this thing Had to start hurting!! I was ready to suffer. It was too 'easy' so far. I was cruising and feeling good.
mile 20 Magic mile 20. Where things are supposed to get tough. In my head, I wanted to be sub 2:30 at this point. I was 2:24. (I am pretty sure that's what it was...) I was pumped. I had this thing. IF I held my pace, I'd be sub 3:10!!! WHAT!? NO way. Hold on Ange, hold on. I caught and passed those men that had been cruising in front of me. The mile marker was way off again. I caught some people who were finishing up the half marathon course. We ran by the water on the Riverfront. I picked up my step to more drummers. I smiled because were were running on the pretty roads I warmed up on the day before. I stepped on the same pile of glass I had Friday and chuckled becuase I didnt' have to worry about my bike tire getting cut.
I still felt good.
mile 21 I see Mark!! Yay!! I stripped off my gloves and arm warmers and chucked them to him. Happy Birthday!! I tried to yell it every time I saw him. (since I forgot it first thing that day. ooops.)
I yelled, "CAll Jen! tell her I'm at 2:33 at 21.2 and I have 1/2 a gear left!" he laughed
7:17 Not bad. Holding on.
mile 22 7:18
feeling pretty good. We're running away from Town. Away from the finish line. Kind of brutal. No more specators. Just runners and the road.
Mile 23 7:13 Alright...somehow it's all ok. I'm still here. I'm still in the game. Keep that cadence up.
I ran by this band again. I was on serious focus mode now but this is what I heard, "Number 22, number 22, number 22 is the girl in blue. The girl in blue with the purple head band, the girl in blue is number 22."
I had to laugh.
It was either that or cry.
Because finally, the hammer was dropping. I took a gel. I had some water. Almost there. Hang on Ange. You can suffer for 3 miles!! PIECE Of cake!
mile 24 It hurt. I was drawing inward. I saw the two women ahead of me run back towards town. I had many people saying, "good job" and other words of encouragement and yet, I could barely reply with the same back to them. I was pulling in and reaching deep. And, what was up with my toe? It suddenly hurt and felt warm and strange. I put it out of my mind.
7:25 Still on pace. Barely. And it was really really starting to hurt.
It was like somebody flipped a switch. I went from feeling FINE and in total control to Total shutdown.
SUddenly my legs threatened totally rebellion. I felt serious cramping coming on. I had three spots that were very very unstable. I knew I had to slow down or risk walking to the end. I was that close to falling. My legs were truly about to seize. I focused on my cadence. Turn it over. Stay loose. Just move just move just move. You got it hang on hang on hang on ..... things like that repeated through my brain.
Mile 25 7:24
One more mile. I can Do this. ONE mile! Seriously. How Hard can that be?
Um, excrutiating! One Mile can SOmehow be excrutiating!!
mile 26 7:46 that was the only mile that got me. I let that pace fall below my 7:25 cut off. It's ok. I was rounding the corner.
26.2 OFF goes the watch 3:10:34
I was done and it was a HUGE PR. Massive. 17 minutes off my old PR.
My goal was 3:15 or faster and I did just that.
oh yeah, I was the 3rd woman!! when they announced that I just chuckled. ME? Third at a marathon! Wild.Just wild.
Best of all, I had a blast. I loved the race. I loved the feeling of working super hard, building my fitness, and then having it pay off. In so many ways, I accomplished what I set after. Success.
The passion and sparks are back.
A few more pictures from the weekend......
OUCH! I took off my shoe at the finish and my sock and shoe were covered in blood. My toe was all messed up.
The 4 FA-18s that took off right before us
2 hrs post-race and too tired to be nervous to fly again
Mark talking to the kids before we took off on our final leg home
looking down on pretty estates as we departed Williamsburg, VA
strange 'crop markings...' in New Jersey
Over looking NYC and Central Park
home sweet home
( and yes, the race course was measured almost a 1/4 mile too long. It was long on the 10K and the Half marathon. Absurd really. That aside, I would recommend this race to anyone. The volunteers did a great job on the course and the music was great.)