I neglected to blog about my two marathons in 2011, lets just briefly say that I ran a PR 4:11:13 in Green Bay in extremely windy conditions and loved the course. Finishing by running around the stadium at Lambeau Field was incredible. In the fall I ran Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, IL. I did not train well for it and went into just wanting to have a fun race with no time goal. It was kind of cold and drizzly all morning and I finished in 4:35 something. Not a race to really dwell on, lol.
So, on to this weekend's Lake Geneva Marathon. Beautiful day, upper 50's to 60 degrees, cloudy. No sun to burn me, no rain to soak me. It was a little humid, but really I can't complain at all. The conditions were nearly perfect.
I decided Friday night that I would in fact set a goal for myself. I hadn't been able to find much about this race online. I knew it was relatively small, 2011 had only 83 marathoners. I knew that it went around the lake, but I couldn't even find a course map. There was no info about aid stations and what was at them except that they were every 3 miles. I didn't know how hilly it was, except for a couple reports I read from people who said it was hilly. Well, okay, but how hilly? And what about the different terrains on the lakefront trail, which I thought we were going to be running on?
But anyway, I set a goal of 9:30 pace, which would bring me in just under 4:10. I knew my training up to this point had been really good, I'd nailed my workouts and my tempo runs, and I had successfully completed a 19, 20, 21 and 22-miler. My 22-miler was hugely confidence building, as I ran it in about 10:06 pace, kind of fast for a long run that long, but I felt so good! I decided that on a flat course, a 4:10 would be no probem, I felt confident I could do it. I decided that having run my long runs on hilly courses and doing hill repeat workouts, I could tackle a hilly course. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the terrain, running on different surfaces can really slow you down.
So I set a goal. I was going to run 9:30 pace. My first mile was 9:06 or something. Okay, I expected a fast first mile. No matter how much I try, my first mile is always faster than it should be. But not too much faster, so I was okay with it. Mile 1: 24 seconds to the negative banked. This is what I do when I run a marathon. It keeps my mind occupied. I add and subtract time away from my goal pace to know how close I am, on average, to my goal time. I like being to the negative, but I get a little nervous sometimes if I get too negative, as that usually means I'm going to pay for it later. Mile 2 came before I knew it. 8:56. Oops. Too fast, time to consciously make an effort to slow down a little. Mile 2: 56 seconds banked.
There were some minor, gradual hills the first half of the race, nothing I couldn't handle. I took them on conservatively, shortening and quickening my stride to expend as little energy as possible on them. It was going really well. I saw Mike and Mackezie around Mile 5 or 6, which meant that they were almost late to Mackenzie's karate class because they waited for me. But it was good to see them. I'd banked 1:53 at that point, and I was nervous about it. But that pace was comfortable and so I just went with it. I didn't expect to see Mike and Mackenzie until the finish now, because she had her class in Elkhorn, and I didn't think they'd make it back to Lake Geneva until around 11, which would only give them about an hour until I finished and I suspected they wouldn't be able to find me. But I did give them, and my mom and Gavin, a map of the course which I got at packet pickup, but which didn't have any mile markers on it, and a printout of what my times should be at each mile doing a 9:30 pace. I figured they could figure out what times I'd be where that way. It did seem to work, mostly. The map wasn't very good, so I think they both spent a lot of time driving around.
I don't remember what mile I first saw Gavin and Mom. Gavin was ringing the cowbell, and would you believe it was the only cowbell that whole marathon? I yelled at mom where I was at pace wise, and she posted it on facebook using her fancy new i-Pad. Sure came in handy. She could even take pictures and video with it. She found out she could take video after she accidentally got most of me during a 6 second video around Mile 18ish.
At Mile 10 I had my first Clif Shot gel with caffeine. I waited a little longer than I usually would have because I didn't know if any of the aid stations would have gels. I'd rather not use up my own supply if I can get some for free. I'm cheap that way. :) But finally I decided that it would be smart to take it. I was feeling good, but fueling is important.
The half marathoners had split off from us at some point and their course met up with our around Mile 12.5. Except everyone else without a GPS watch thought it was Mile 13. The Mile 13 marker was a half mile early. And so was every mile marker for the rest of the race. I actually started to panic because I thought that the course was going to be a half mile short and I was on pace to set a PR and I was going to be super pissed if it turned out to be short. That's what I dwelled on for the second half of the race. So they were only around mile 11 at that point, and I felt really good seeing the two women I'd been behind before they split off. I was ahead of them now. And I was at Mile 12.5 while they were only at their Mile 11. It's the little things give you that boost of confidence when you know you're two hours into a race and know you're only halfway done. :)
So I thought it was funny when the guy giving me water at that aid station told me I was halfway done and I knew I wasn't. And I thought it was funny when I passed a volunteer about a half mile away from the Half Marathon finish line who told me I was almost done, and I knew I had about 11 miles to go. Well, maybe it wasn't funny at the time. It was ironic. At first I thought I'd missed a turn, actually, because the Half Marathoners were finishing in a park in Fontana, and they were herding all the runners around the corner, and I could see their finish line, and I started to panic a bit thinking I was on the wrong course. It turns out that as soon as you turned the corner, the Half Marathoners finished to the right and the Marathoners kept going to the left. Whew! So I kept going. Up a nice big hill.
First really noticeable hill. I ran it the way I know how to run hills, and it wasn't bad. And then I got to the top and realized I had to go right back down again. And here is the part of the race where we start the steep hills. Going up wasn't so bad. It was going downhill that really trashed my legs. My thighs were burning from the pounding they were taking on the way down. Now, I know there is a technique to running downhill. I've read oodles of running books and Ultra books and articles in magazines that talk all about it. I've just never practiced it. I never bothered to remember that good information and apply it. I never really needed to. Well, let me tell you something. If I EVER do this marathon again, I will practice running downhill. I will get good at it. I will not come back to this race until I know how to run downhill. After a few miles of this up and down and up and down, I started to worry about my PR. My legs were really feeling the strain of the downhills, especially my outer quads. No acute pain, yet, just fatigue and soreness. But I decided that I'd worked too damn hard for this and I wasn't throwing it away just yet. I'm at about Mile 18 now. This was my first little wall. I started to feel the pain and had to tell myself that it was time to start playing the mental game. I consciously forced myself to maintain my pace and push through my little rough spot.
At about Mile 20 I hit a little bigger wall. My legs got real heavy all of a sudden and I decided I should probably take a gel. I probably should have taken it sooner. So this time it was Hammer Gel. I took it and a little while later, not even a half mile probably, I saw Mike and Mackenzie and told Mike was 2:53 ahead of my pace, but I was dying. I was starting to fade. A mile later, I got a second wind, the carbs kicked in and I felt much better and much stronger. I actually felt really good at Mile 23ish and had to tell myself to watch my pace because I still had 3 miles to go and the good feeling could go away just as quickly as it came.
Mile 24ish was a nice long gradual uphill climb along Hwy 50. It was probably almot a mile and it felt so good. Yup, an uphill felt good. I can't explain it. My downhill muscles hurt and my uphill muscles were still fine so it was like getting a break to go uphill. And it was so easy and such a shallow slope. It was just enjoyable.
At Mile 25ish I was directed to turn onto a dead end road in a residential neighborhood. I thought it was weird that we were turning onto a dead end road. But if my rational part of the brain had been functioning properly, which it wasn't at this point (you would have laughed if you had heard me trying to subtract 19 seconds from 2:58), I would have remembered that we had to get on the trail about a mile from the end. And here it was. I ran through some people's backyard, on grass and got onto the lakefront path. The grass was awkward, especially because there was a hard turn around some cones and my legs were tired and the grass was hard to run on. Now, to explain, the lakefront path goes through people's backyards. The path is the responsibility of each homeowner. They are allowed to do whatever they want to the path, as long as the path is there. They can make it whatever surface they want. The first surface was stepping stones. Then there was crushed gravel, then packed dirt, and cement and cobblestone and paving bricks and more crushed gravel, and you name it, I ran on it. Very awkward and very hard to run on, especially becuase it wa the last mile and I was trying to pick up the pace little bit.
I actually had to make hard corners, going around fences and gardens and sheds and the path was so narrow and I actually had to get off the path completely to let some other sightseers go past because only one person could be on it at a time. At one point the path split to the left and right and I didn't know which way to go. There were two steps going down to the right and that was closest to the lake, so that's the way I went. The other path must have gone to a garage or a back door or something. It was confusing and I actually stopped and said out loud, "I don't know which way to go." Well, naturally there wasn't anyone around me and so I picked the path to the right and just prayed I was correct. I'd hate to be lost a half mile from the finish with a PR in sight. And so I kept going and I was panicking the whole time, thinking for sure this can't be right, and a couple minutes later I came out of a yard and saw a dude in a green shirt up ahead. It was a runner! Yay, I was on the right path! So now I'm running on packed dirt, I think. I don't remember. I can't see the finish yet, but I know I'm only about a quarter of a mile away. By the way, this is the point where I stop worrying about the course being a half mile short, too. I come out onto a paved walk, into the park. I can see the finish now, but more importantly, I see my friends Michelle and Melissa cheering for me, and I see my kids and my mom and Mike. They are all there at the finish, in a prime spot, and it was just great. I have to get off the nice paved sidewalk and run up the grass for a few feet to cross the finish line. Mackenie ran across, too.
I have to say, when I got done, I couldn't hold back the tears. I remember my first marathon, and I couldn't hold back the tears then, either, but they were tears of embarassment and frustration and disappointment. These were tears of joy. They were. All the emotions of the last four hours, which didn't have an outlet, were released then. It was a hard fought battle, a well-earned PR and I was so proud of myself. I'd worked so hard this spring, and it all paid off. On the hardest course I've run yet (and honestly, it's probably one of the hardest I will ever run), I set a PR by 6 minutes. I finished in an official time of 4:05:21. It was better than I hoped for. I wonder what I could have done on an easier course.
I won my age group, was the 5th woman overall. There were 115 marathoners this year (I think probably a quarter of them were walkers). So not a big race, and not much competition, and I'll probably never place in my age group again, but it was worth it. Will I run LG again? Probably not, lol. At least, not without learning how to run downhill first. :)