Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 Rails To Trails Marathon Race Report

November 7 was my second marathon.  Couldn't have asked for a more perfect day for running!  Temps were 40 degrees at the start, 50's throughout the rest of the race, 60 at the end.  Sunny, breezy, such a beautiful fall day! 

This course was beautiful, too.  It's an old railroad bed that was turned into a bike trail.  The course started in Norwalk, up to Sparta and back.  It features the much-vaunted 3/4 mile railroad tunnel (which we run through twice).  The tunnel ws dark, cold and wet.  It was like a cave.  There was water running down the sides and dripping from the ceiling.  It was actually pretty cool.  They had lanters throughout the tunnel, but visibility was still not that great.  They handed out little penlight flashlights at the entrance to help see, but they didn't help.  If I ever do the race again, I would bring my headlamp or a flashlight.  The first time through the tunnel, I couldn't tell what kind of pace I was running, and I ended up going way too fast.  I was afraid I was going to slow down through the tunnel because the footing was rutted and I couldn't see very well.  I ended up running a 7:58 for that mile!  I didn't even think I could run a sub-8:00 mile, let alone 7 miles into a marathon. 

So the start of the marathon was a little chilly, so I wore a light jacket and my gloves over my singlet and shorts.  Within two miles I was ready to take the jacket off.  Luckily, the course looped back through the starting area (Village Park), so I through it to my mom and was done with it.  The rest of the race was very comfortable. 

I started out with a slow pace, although I still ended up a little faster than my planned 10:00 min pace.  Not by much, though.  I was actually feeling a little sluggish at the beginning.  By the time I hit six miles, which was slightly uphill (very slightly) from the Park, I was getting ready for a gel.  I usually start to feel better in my long runs after six or seven miles- whether it's from a gel or from getting into a rhythm, I don't know.  So I had a gel right after the tunnel, approximately 7 miles in.  And I started to feel really good.  Running through the tunnel was surreal, like I mentioned earlier.  I was afraid my pace would drop off, so I kept it up.  It was hard to judge in the tunnel, as I really had no way to see how fast I was going.  When my watch beeped as I got out of the tunnel, I was shocked to see 7:58.  I though for sure it was wrong, that the tunnel had screwed up the GPS somehow, but at the next mile marker, my watch matched the mileage, so then I knew that I had in fact run a 7:58 mile.  I started to worry at that point.  I wondered if maybe that mile wouldn't matter?  Maybe I didn't use up a lot of glycogen, and maybe that one little mile wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things... 

Well, after that, my watch didn't seem to be giving me accurate paces.  I'm not sure why.  It kept telling me I was running 11:30-13:00 min miles.  I thought, "That's impossible, I'm not going that slow am I?"  So I tried to up the pace a little bit, and and after two or three more miles of the watch beeping and telling me I'd just run a 9:00 min mile, I thought, "I have to slow down, something is not right with the watch and I can't trust the pacing it's telling me."  So from then on out I looked at the mileage and the total time to figure about where I was pace-wise, and then also relied on the splits each mile.  Not how I'm used to racing.  I like looking down and seeing my pace, but this time I had to run by feel, and I didn't do so well! 

And, unfortunately, the damage had been done by the time I figured it out.  After running five minutes faster than my pace the first half, I was done for.  My splits were outrageous.  I ran 2:05 the first half and 2:21 the second half.  Those fast miles while I was feeling so good were my downfall.  It meant that later in the race, I couldn't keep up the pace.  I fell off to about 11:30 pace the last few miles.  I'm sure it was because of those fast middle miles.  I hit the wall early, like at mile 14.  It was a painful second half.

So my mom and my kids came to watch this marathon, and it was great to have them there.  I gave them a cowbell to ring and they made it to several of the aid stations.  Being that the trail crossed several roads, and it was an out and back course, it was very spectator friendly.  And it was great motivation to look forward to the next spot I'd see them.  The kids kept running up to me.  They were actually a little bit of a hinderance at times, but it was fun to have them there anyway. 

So I wasn't sure about how to fuel this run.  I'd made the decision not to drink the sports drink, since I had gels, and just drink water at every aid station, and I had my fuel belt with water in it.  I had four gels during the race, at miles 7, 13.5, 18, 23.  I think I should have only had 3.  I got real sick after the race, throwing up sick, and couldn't eat anything and just felt crummy the whole rest of the afternoon.  Thank God Mom was there to drive us home.  I don't think I could have driven.  I was once feeling that sick after a half marathon a year and a half ago, and I'd taken three gels during that race.  I'm thinking that too many gels don't agree with me.  I don't take that many during training runs, so I think it was probably too much.  Next time, I'll just take three gels. 

So at the turnaround at mile 14.5, I was starting to feel the fatigue in my legs.  I kept up my pace until about 18 miles, when I started to slow incrementally until I was at 11:30 pace.  The last mile was about 10 minutes, though, so I was able to pick it up a little at the end.  I'm convinced that my slow pace was caused by the fast miles in the middle.  I'm sure if I had managed to make those 10 minute miles, I would have been stronger longer.  Not that I still wouldn't have slowed down some, but I don't think it would have been to the degree that I did. 

I plodded along, trying to enjoy the scenery and the beautiful weather and just pretending it was a long training run and wasn't I having a good time?  I thought of Cole, my 50-year old friend, and founder of RACC, who'd just the previous day (on his 50th birthday) completed his fifth full Ironman, running a marathon after he'd swam for 2.4 miles and biked for 112 miles!  If he could do that, surely I could just do the marathon part. 

Then I thought about why I was there.  Why was I there?  Who in their right mind would put themselves through this kind of torture?  What was I thinking?  So I had to tell myself, "You enjoy the pain, you wanted to feel this burn, that's why you're here.  You wanted this."  Okay, that got me through another mile.  Then it was, "You're a sexy b***h, you know that?  You are so hot!  Damn, girl!"  So that got me through another mile.  It just went on and on, the mental games I played to try to keep myself motivated to continue running.

It definitely hurt those last few miles.  I wanted to stop and walk, but I didn't let myself.  I just kept telling myself that it was okay to slow down, just as long as I kept running.  I was on pace to hit 4:20 all the way up until about mile 21, I think, with the time I'd banked earlier.  I told myself that I'd stayed on pace for a long way to give up now.  So it was hard.  And then my mind started wandering.  I wondered when I'd be motivated to run another marathon, because I was definitely NOT motivated to run another one at that point.  I wondered if it would be as soon as I finished, or if it would take a few hours, or days or weeks to get motivated again.  (As it happens, I was already thinking about the next one later that night, all the things I would do differently.)

So the last five or six miles seemed to take FOREVER!  Back through the tunnel at about 23 miles, and I think I was the only one running it.  I only came upon two or three others while inside the tunnel, but they were walking.  That kind of gave me a boost. 

So on and on I went, and the last two aid stations I really had to make myself run.  I had stopped for maybe 5 seconds at all the other aid stations, just long enough to down the cup of water.  The last two, I actually walked 10 or 15 seconds after the water.  It was hard to make myself get going again.  My legs were just screaming at me to stop.  The last few miles, the timing chip around my ankle started to really bother me, too.  I felt like it was chafing or something.  It was quite uncomfortable.  And the bottoms of my feel hurt.  And my core was sore, too.  I should probably work on my core strength this winter. 

So the end of the race was finally in sight and I couldn't have been happier.  I managed to pick up my pace for a final kick of approximately 9:30 min/mile pace and finished my second marathon in 4:26:18.

I felt sick afterwards.  I had a banana and a half an orange and a cup of Heed.  Then we got in line for the chicken dinner.  After half an hour of standing in line, I was ready to keel over.  We got our food, and I went to the bathroom to sit and hope something would come out.  Nothing did.  I must have been in there for 15 or 20 minutes, because mom came looking for me.  I came out and went back to the table and sat down.  I looked at my food, stood up and ran out of the pavilion over to a post and threw up.  I felt so much better after that!  I still couldn't eat.  All I wanted was to go home.  I was cold and I still felt queasy and I was ready to get out of there.  Plus we had a three hour drive to get home, and we were all tired from a long day.

So second marathon down.  Now I feel like I have a real result to base my future goals on.  After Milwaukee, with that 5 miles of walking and a 4:58 finish, I didn't feel like I could really base a new goal on that.  This marathon I can.  I haven't decided yet what the goal will be.  I could go very conservative and say sub 4:15.  Or I could be aggressive and say sub 4:00.  I don't know yet, but I'm leaning towards a more conservative goal.  I guess I'll have to wait and see how the training goes.  I'm wondering if doing this marathon so soon after the first one may have impacted the result at all?  Could I have gone faster if I trained for 18 weeks, including a three week taper?  Perhaps.  I don't know.  I wonder, though.  But all in all, I finally feel like I put forth an effort worth of all that training.  I've had a successful fall racing season and now I'm looking forward to some shorter, faster 10Ks this winter.   

Lessons learned: 
1.  Nausea could have been caused by dehydration.  While I feel like I drank well during the race, sometimes one's impression of things is not the reality.  So I will try to drink more, in between aid stations.  I did have success drinking only water, and no sports drink, so I will probably duplicate that next time. 

2.  Only 3 gels next time, not four.  I'm not convinced that the nausea wasn't caused by all that sugar sitting in my stomach.

3.  PACING, PACING, PACING.  While I'm still not sure why my watch wasn't giving me accurate pacing, I at least know that it can happen, now and if I feel like I'm going fast, I probably am.  Next time I need to make sure that I don't blow the second half of the race by running the first half too fast.  It should make it more enjoyable, too.  Less painful and excruciating, you know?

4.  Look around.  I tried to make myself look around at the scenery and enjoy the area I was running in.  I think it helped make things more pleasant.  As much as things could be pleasant at that point. 

In the end, success.  While disappointed not to make my time goal, I feel satisfied nonetheless.  There will be many more marathons to come. 

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