Tuesday, November 26, 2019

White River Half: Winning at recovery (part 3)

Part 1 of my White River race recap is here, and part 2 here.

A PR is a PR, and as Steph Bruce quoted, "You're not allowed to be disappointed with a PR because it's the best you've ever done".  I'm embarrassed to admit that I have been disappointed with PRs, many times - but I have recently come a long way with not letting the disappointment of not meeting a higher expectation overshadow doing something I've never done before!  It's rare (unheard of?) to have everything align perfectly for any of us at any race, so I guess I often walk away thinking, "That was awesome, but if X had gone a little better, or if Y had been different, I could have run Z".  Part of that is what keeps me chasing faster times, though, so I wouldn't change it!  I don't think I ever want to cross a finish line and think, "I'll never run faster than that."

I am thrilled that I ran a PR completely alone.  Running with a pack can help you run up to 10 seconds/mile faster, which I fully believe based on my performances alone vs. in larger races.  It is very difficult to "time trial" a PR at any distance, at least for me.  I will be aiming to average 5:5X pace for a half in a bigger race soon, but I'm pretty proud of how I paced and pushed myself running solo.  Perhaps God didn't want me to push quite as hard being 2 weeks out from CIM!  I didn't feel beat up from the race at all, which I was very thankful for.

The downside is that I really thought I had the 1:19 in the bag, so that was a letdown kind of like when I thought I was winning the Kansas City Half Marathon but actually placed 2nd.  My Strava half time was 1:19:37, so I'm using that as my "confidence" time.  Of course I'll count the official 1:20:18 as my PR, but based on the USATF certified course map, the fact that my Garmin was beeping after the mile markers on the way out then before them on the way back, that the course is famous for measuring right on, and that everyone else had the course measuring around 0.1 long too, I think the turnaround cone was placed slightly too far out (the 2016 race/13.09 distance is on Strava here).  Screwing up turnarounds on out-and-back courses is common, and happened to my friend Liz in one of her goal half marathons, at the Ugly Sweater 5K in 2017, and at the Frisco Half I paced a friend in (with specific race director permission) in 2017, to mention a few others.

In retrospect I've wondered if I could have run 19 seconds faster if I'd have known, as opposed to thinking I was going to for sure make it under 1:20.  I'm really not sure; the mind is a powerful thing, but at the same time I like to think I push myself to my maximum in any given race.  My goal is to run faster this spring and make the debate irrelevant!
A friend suggested that I Sharpie over "female" on my award
Post-race I snarfed down half of a banana, stashed my finishers medal near the finish area, and ran back out on the course to cheer for Amy in the full and to pick up my gloves that I'd dropped during the race.  I'd been comfortable racing in a crop and shorts (plus light gloves through about mile 10), but I was absolutely freezing running 8:00 pace in that attire!  I was so cold that I picked up a random shirt that someone had discarded on the side of the road around mile 12.5 and put it on (my husband thought this was absolutely disgusting, so he has obviously never been that cold!).  I then ran to cheer for Amy looking ridiculous in a random XL cotton Turkey Trot shirt.

When I spotted Amy, she tossed me the shirt and gloves she'd started the race in, since I'd told her I'd take anything she wanted to discard.  I then took off the random throw-away shirt and put on hers!  She looked strong and like she was thoroughly enjoying herself through the half.  She was using it as a training run for the Dopey Challenge so was running a training pace vs. a race pace.  After cheering for her and everyone else while running most of my cool down, I grabbed my finishers medal, ate another banana half on the run, and started the trek back to my car and the awards. 

The final mile of my cool down required running back up the hill that the first mile of the race ran down, which was quite a way to end a 20.7 mile morning with a hard half marathon.  I am not embarrassed to admit that I stopped my watch and walked for a minute about halfway up!  The race provides a shuttle back to the start, but I didn't want to wait for it and no shuttles passed me on my run up so I got back to my car faster my way.  I did remember why in 2016 I said I would take the shuttle next time, though!  Note to self:  take the shuttle next time!

I then got my bag out of my car and hurried inside to change.  I thought I was short on time because the half awards were supposed to be at 10:00 and I got inside at 9:48, so I skipped the shower and rushed back out in order to wait for at least 45 minutes.  This gave me plenty of time to eat, stretch, and foam roll though.  This race has amazing homemade soups and an assortment of other great eats post-race - I was able to nab a 6-inch Subway sandwich along with chicken tortilla soup, and later they brought in BBQ, pizza, wings, salad, baked beans, etc. along with coffee, hot chocolate, and Gatorade to drink.
Awards ceremony
Eventually the award ceremony started and I got my award and watched several other runners I knew pick up theirs.  The female masters and grandmasters Arkansas state records were set in this race, which was awesome!  A lot of Marathon Maniacs were doing the White River Marathon on Saturday plus the Route 66 Marathon on Sunday, which blows my mind.

Not too long after the awards, Amy returned from her 26.2 and was freezing; luckily I had her long sleeve shirt that she'd discarded and I'd worn for awhile with me since I'd changed out of it, so she put it back on (as pictured below), hah!  If we would have thought things through better we'd have put a change of clothes for her in my bag, but we now have a better system for next year.  She ended up going out to the car to get more clothes, and then moved my car closer to the building and onto concrete, which was also nice because I was concerned we would be stuck in the muddy field I'd parked in (many cars had to be pushed out)!
Marathoning is this fun!!!
The marathon awards also got delayed, but we enjoyed taking pictures, socializing, eating more, and using the foam roller/stick/stretching tool station the race had set up.  Amy won her age group in the marathon (running a training run!) so we had to stay for that!  Eventually we got on the road home, stopping at TCBY for frozen yogurt - we had no idea those still existed.
I am in a Jen sandwich here
Awards + all smiles
With Tia, who set an in-state female half
marathon record for masters!
A few things I learned from this:
  • Running a half 2 weeks after a full seems to work quite well for me personally.*  
    • I did it with the Bass Pro Marathon and the Tulsa Route 66 Half 2010, running PRs in both races.  
    • I did it with the Bass Pro Marathon and the White River Half 2016 (this was even more nuts because Bass Pro was 4 weeks after the Prairie Fire Marathon), kind of running PRs in all 3 of those races...Bass Pro is complicated because my pace was faster than at Prairie Fire but I took a wrong turn and ran a good 1:20 extra, so my official time was not a PR.
    • I also did the Dallas Marathon and the Run for the Ranch Half 2015 with 6 days between, running a PR at Dallas and my second best half at that time on a course that isn't fast (just to clarify, I only did that because I won a free entry to that local half, but it ended up being super fun!).
  • Not doing everything "perfect" is a lot more enjoyable, and the passion is in the pursuit, AND I think I run best when I'm the happiest.
  • I haven't been able to run a 2:45, but I think I'm winning at recovery!
*Just because I've had success with this strategy doesn't mean it's right for everyone, or for me every time.  My biggest indicator that I'm good to race again soon after a marathon is because I'm dying to - I want to do it so badly!  After I ran Houston 2018, I had NO desire to race again for a couple of months, so I didn't.  We are all an experiment of one, after all.

"Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24 

White River Half Marathon: Beating all of the boys is fun (part 2)

Part 1 of my White River race recap is here.

The first mile of this race contains a significant downhill, and then the course follows a curvy road along the river out and back 6.05ish miles.  My plan was to start at my goal pace, 6:05, which would be like 6:25 effort (per Strava's grade adjusted pace) on mile one, making it kind of a "free" mile.  Last time I ran the race, many runners went out ridiculously fast on the downhill, so I expected that again.  I eased out and while I felt like I was barely moving, there were only 5 men ahead of me, so I checked my pace to ensure I wasn't going too fast.  It was 6:24 at that time, so I let myself pick up the cadence, making it slightly more comfortable, and moving up a couple of positions.  I really felt like I had the brakes on through the whole downhill, but I came through in 5:55.  I will never run a Revel race where every mile drops that much - ouch.  Around mile 1 you pass nearby the finish line, then run the same road out and back, which is one reason I love this course (no turning except one hairpin turnaround and in the final 100 meters or so).  The other reason is that it is super flat from mile 1 to the finish.

There were 3 races that started together:  a 5K, the half marathon, and a full marathon, so I didn't know which race the 3 men ahead of me were in, but I was gaining on 2 of them pretty rapidly during mile 2.  Those 2 turned at the 5K turn around, moving me up to second runner overall.  The first male was significantly ahead of me (from Strava I saw he ran a 5:19 first mile), but I focused on him and hoped I could gradually pull him in.  Whether he was in the half or full didn't matter at that point, because the full runners would run the half course twice.
This was in mile 1, and I wasn't actually leading the race at
this point but I think the police car thought the 3 men ahead of
me were all in the 5K
The wind was only 9 mph per weather.com, but it sure felt stronger by the river!  I focused on settling into half marathon effort and kept telling myself that I would work my way up to the man ahead of me and draft off him.  I wanted to keep my average pace around 6:05 in order to finish in 1:19, and I was staying right around where I wanted to be.  I looked at each mile split because it felt more like a workout than a race, running alone.  I felt fine, but I had to focus to keep my pace where I wanted it, in contrast to my final long run workout 2 weeks before Indy when I ran 10 miles at 6:02 pace and had to keep myself from running too fast (I was supposed to run that a tad slower that day and was hoping to feel that good for this race).  The pace felt do-able, but not as easy as I hoped it would feel, and I drifted to 6:10ish if I lost focus.

When I signed up for the race, I knew that there was a possibility I'd end up running it solo, so I'd been mentally prepared for that and also confident that I could "time trial" a half PR on this course on a decent day.  I used other things to help me along:  looking towards the man ahead of me, using the energy from the early start marathoners I passed (many of whom were beyond sweet and encouraging!), pumping myself up when the aid station volunteers told me "Go get that guy, girl, you're strong!".  On the way out, my Garmin was beeping after each mile marker, which is pretty typical, and I knew the last time I ran this race it measured 13.09, so expected to be really close to or just under a 13.11 reading on my watch (it is also famously adored in our area for measuring exactly at 13.1).  Breaking 1:20 takes 6:06 average pace, so I thought I was good as long as I maintained 6:05 or under.

A bit after mile 6, I caught the man.  This excited me briefly, until I realized that I wasn't going to be able to draft off him or work with him after all; he was slowing (he would go on to finish in 1:26).  I encouraged him as I passed and then I led through the U turn that was around mile 7.

Since the course is mostly out and back, you get to see everyone else in the races no matter what pace you're running, which is really fun!  Behind the man I'd passed, I saw Chelsea with a pack of men around her, Eliud Kipchoge Breaking-2 style.  They were not very far behind me, and my initial thought was, "Well, crap, she has a whole entourage to help her and I'm fighting this stupid wind by myself", but I quickly changed that to, "I'm strong enough to do it on my own" and I pressed on towards my pace goals.  For several miles I passed the rest of the field running the opposite direction.  I knew many people running the race, and their encouragement helped me immensely.  Many runners I didn't know cheered for me extra hard, being a women in the overall lead, and the water station volunteers who'd seen me in second overall on the way out were particularly excited that I'd taken the lead!

The 6ish miles of the course going out feel like decline, but running the opposite direction on the same road also feels like decline!  Strava tells me it's just flat both ways, and apparently I just don't run anything flat because a lot of Indy also felt like decline.  After the first time I ran this race I told everyone that the course was downhill in both directions (in contrast to our local Frisco trail, which is uphill in both directions!).  However, in 2019, it also felt like it was against the wind in both directions!  I thought we'd get a reprieve after the first half, but I think with it being by the river and the road winding, it wasn't as simple as headwind going out and tailwind coming back.  Amy agreed that it was downhill both ways but against the wind both ways.  I guess that evens out, eh?

All things considering, I felt good on the way back - not amazing I'm-going-to-crush-the-world and drastically exceed my expectations, but strong and like I could maintain through the end.  My Garmin was beeping before the mile markers on the way back, but I wasn't worried about that at all since I'd gotten 13.09 on the course in 2016, rarely are any mile markers in a race like this exactly right, and sometimes it would beep just before and others significantly before (just like on the way out, it would sometimes been just after and others 30+ seconds after).  I pretended that I was running a workout and that my coach had told me to average 6:05 or faster for 13.1 miles.  I had a few splits drift slightly, with 7 at 6:07, 8 at 6:08, and 9 at 6:10.  I didn't like this trend and knew that I needed to keep my pace down to run 1:19, but I focused and felt good when I saw 6:03 for mile 10.
Solo with 0.2 to go
I told myself that I "just" needed to run under 19:00 for the final 5K and I'd have it (in hindsight this is kind of nuts because it wasn't long ago I could barely break 19 in an open 5K)!  I grabbed a cup of Tailwind at the mile 10 aid station and did a little swish and spit.  I checked my pace more often than usual, seeing 6:0X steadily.  Mile 11 and 12 were both 6:04, and my average pace was 6:05 at that time.  I was hurting, but I believed I could run another mile at that pace.  I thought, "I'm going to get that 1:19, and I did it all by myself!"  I pushed with everything I could, with mile 13 coming in at 5:59, although I did not look at that split until after the race because I was running with all I had to the end.  The finish is slightly off the main road in a little curvy cul-de-sac, making it difficult to get a great final finishing sprint.  Also, the finishing clock isn't visible until the final 10 seconds or so, and when I saw it the reading was over 1:20.  It was really fun to win the race outright, and I was smiling through the finish line - and even remembered not to stop my watch immediately!  I stopped my Garmin at 1:20:20 at 13.22 miles and my official chip time was 1:20:18.
I am happy with this finishing shot
My race recap continues with part 3 here.


White River Half Marathon: Sometimes being nuts pays off, the sequel (part 1)

The short: 

When a race really excites me, I just know it's a good idea!  Once I brought up the possibility of racing the White River Half 2 weeks after the Indy Monumental Marathon and 2 weeks before the California International Marathon, I became almost giddy with excitement about the option.  My coach and I talked it over, and since I recover well and would be doing my biggest workout of this very abbreviated training cycle on November 24 anyway, we decided to go for it!  I ended up winning the race outright (men and women), and running a small half PR of 1:20:18 (although I'm unofficially counting my Strava time of 1:19:37 - details in the longer recap).  I ran alone the entire race, so it wasn't unlike a long workout, and I was proud of my pacing and how I pushed myself without anyone to work with.  I also had the best girls' trip to the race with my dear friend Amy!

Official results are here (direct link to mine).
My Strava activity is here.
With Amy at packet pick-up
The long:

Ever since I ran the White River Half Marathon in 2016, I've been eager to return to the race.  In 2017 I was obsessed with doing everything absolutely perfect en route to CIM, so when my coach at that time told me that racing a half two weeks before a full wasn't ideal, I crossed it off my schedule.  In 2018 I was injured at the time of the event.  This year my friend Amy expressed interest in running the race, and I told her that if I got the OTQ at Indy I'd run it as well, but if I didn't I was going to switch my focus to CIM.

After missing the OTQ at Indy, I took White River off the table, but as my recovery went well I started itching to bring it back up.  Amy still wanted to go, and my coach and I brainstormed about it together and decided it was right for me!  Every marathon recovery is different, and every person is different, but we really looked at how I had no trouble training right through the Indy Women's Half (I ran 21 miles on race day, then 14 miles the day after and felt great doing all of it) and at how quickly I'd bounced back after all of my long workouts when making this decision, plus I've had success with similar turnarounds in the past.  In addition, the fact that I was jumping out of my skin to run it said a lot.

Amy decided to run the full marathon so she wanted to drive the 1:45 down to the race the evening before.  We picked up our packets and located our hotel about 10 minutes away from the small town the race started in, Cotter, Arkansas.  The trip held many memories and inside jokes, and I'm sure glad that God connected us through our shared love of running.
We travel light, bahaha! This is Amy's luggage alone.
Race morning we arrived around 6:20 a.m. for the 7:00 a.m. start, then had to wait in a line of vehicles to park.  The latest I wanted to start my warm up was 6:30 a.m., and I ended up getting started at 6:32 a.m., only because I parked in a very muddy field to avoid waiting any longer.  I was worried my car would get stuck but figured I'd deal with that later!  Note to self: arrive earlier next year.
Pink power for me, & Lulu power for Amy
I ran a 2 mile warm up with a little uptempo running followed by a few strides.  I didn't have much extra time, so hurriedly changed into my race shoes and discarded my jacket and pants at the car.  I made my way to the starting area, where a woman approached me and asked if I was Tia's friend, to which I replied, "Yes - you must be Chelsea!"  I think I was identifiable by my racing crop, as Chelsea was by her bun huggers!  Tia was also running the race and I'd asked her if she knew of anyone aiming for about 6:00 pace, since she knows most every runner in Arkansas.  She'd told me that Chelsea was aiming for about 6:15.  I talked with Chelsea for a few minutes and she told me 6:15 was her goal and she'd brought several men to pace her.

It was past 7:00 a.m. with no indication the race start was imminent when they announced that the start was delayed until 7:15 a.m.  I was not disappointed with this since my warm up had felt rushed, so I was able to do drills, jog more, and pee again before we started 15 minutes late.

My race recap continues with part 2 here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Indy was Monumental: Mental prep work

I did more mental preparation for Indy than I have before any other marathon.

Some podcasts I found particularly beneficial were:
A Pre-Race Pep Talk - this was my favorite!
Keys to Enduring Pain in Training and Racing
Mental Tips and Tricks for Race Day

I read the following books during race week:
How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald
Strong by Kara Goucher
The Happy Runner by David Roche and Megan Roche
My top recommended book for the mental side of running is Deena Kastor's Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory, though, so prioritize that one!

I wrote my goals on my mirror.  I told myself often:  "I am a sub-2:45 marathoner."

I watched the course tour video and visualized different points in the race.

I thought about my "whys":  because God gave me this passion and talent for a reason, to share my faith, because I love it, to be part of this amazing time in women's marathoning, to prove to myself that I can do it, to be an example of persistence, to show my daughter that you don't stop trying when you don't accomplish a goal quickly, to help others know they can do more than they think they can.

During the rough parts of the final miles I used every strategy I could.  My favorites were thinking about what feels good, remembering that my body can do more than my mind wants to let it, and running the moment I was in.
My mantra
I think I've always been good at pushing myself - racing hurts so good! - but I was at a really good psychological point for this race.  I learned many things that I'll carry forward from here, and hopefully some of them can help you as well!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Indy was Monumental: I've still got a lot of fight left in me

I've experienced a lot of feelings over this race.  Elation about a PR in windy conditions, thankful for the opportunity to try, disappointment because for the fourth time I wasn't fast enough, fury about the control this arbitrary time standard has over me, frustration that my body just couldn't run 2.2 more miles at 6:12 pace, heartbreak because something I tried for so hard is still outside of my reach, and beyond thankful to be healthy.  I previously wrote that it's difficult to be unhappy with a 2:47 marathon, but it's also difficult to be content with a 2:47 marathon.  Guess what - it's even more difficult to be unhappy with a low 2:46 marathon, and more difficult to be satisfied with one.

When I entered the finish chute at Indy, I saw women who'd finished just 70 seconds before me wrapped in American flags, and that picture best exemplifies how my heart hurt at times during the week following the race.  I'm absolutely thrilled for all of the women who've achieved the standard, especially those who I know personally, and I am proud to be part of such a strong time in U.S. women's marathoning. 

When I read Meb's book, something that really stood out to me is his note that God expected him to use the tools He gave him to reach his goals, but the final results are up to Him.  I am giving this goal everything I have, but I can have contentment, regardless of success, because of Christ.  I certainly understand the disappointment that comes with coming up short, though, so whatever your 2:45:00 is, I pray that you get it.
While I believe the standard is in me, I greatly debated about whether or not I would try another time within the qualifying window that closes 1/19/20.  Initially there was no question; I decided I was running the California International Marathon (CIM) to go for it before I even left the Indy finishing chute.  I texted my coach about trying again right after I explained my race to her.  I was absolutely adamant that my PR would not be 2:46:08 at the end of 2019.

Two days post-race, I started getting really emotional about this miss.  I also realized that I wasn't sure if I could handle going to CIM and not getting the standard.  I'm still not sure I'll handle that well if it happens, but I realized that always wondering "what if" would be worse.  Worst case scenario:  I go to CIM and blow up, and know that I went down fighting.  I know I have it in me, some day, somehow.  If positive thinking could get it for me, I'd have it; I told myself for months that I was doing it at Indy so that there was no need to plan anything else; that I am a sub-2:45 marathoner.  I guess I'm going to pull that all back out and tell myself that I'm doing it at CIM...

You know what they say, fifth time's a charm!

Yes, I know that no one actually says that.  :-)

But maybe on December 8 I will.

And if I don't, I got a blessed journey out of this goal and regret nothing!

I haven't erased this yet

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Indy was Monumental: Elite stories

I was fortunate to receive an elite entry into the CNO Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  From my experience, it is very clear this race knows how to host elite athletes and I was pleased with all aspects of the race (and we all know I am not easy to please, hah!).

I received very detailed information about elite perks by email during race week, including specific maps of an elite parking area, the meeting where the elite meeting would be held near the expo, and the elite warm up area.  I also received information on logistics regarding bottles and race weekend timelines.

On Friday evening I attended the elite meeting and bottle drop, where picking up my race packet was super easy (we didn't have to go to the main expo at all if we didn't want to, which I appreciated even though I still went for a few minutes).  The elite field was huge - 62 women and 60 men in the marathon alone (plus half marathoners and 5Kers)!

The elite coordinator explained how to locate our bottles during the race very specifically, and they'd even set up an example table of what the fluid stations would look like.  The elite tables were placed in the middle of the road, with women's bottles on the left side and men's on the right.  We didn't have to move to the side of the course to get our bottles (they then moved the tables off the course when 3 hour pacer came by to clear the course).  We were all assigned a specific bottle table and position.  Mine was table 7, bottle 3, which meant my bottle was always on the 7th table, which was marked with a huge "7" sign, third position.  Each table had 6 bottles with a lot of space between, and it was extremely easy to find my bottle every time.
My little bottles work perfectly for me!
At the meeting, they also gave us information about the OTQ pace groups, which were provided for both the men's and women's marathons and for the women's half marathon (the men's half field had 12 men seeded at the qualifying time and they thought having more people in there running that fast of a pace would be a hindrance...or maybe they just couldn't find anyone who could run that fast!).  Another thing I enjoyed about the meeting was meeting up with several friends, many of whom I'd connected with on social media or through mutual friends in my 2:45 pursuit but hadn't met face-to-face.

The race gave us an large indoor warm up area right by the start/finish, which was really great on the cold morning we ended up with.  We had indoor bathrooms and enough room to jog around and do drills in the halls of the large government building we were in.  We also were allowed to leave bags and anything we wanted after the race in the room set up for us.  They had some pre-race food and drinks available, although I don't think anyone touched it until after the race.

15 minutes before the start they walked us all out to the line, where we were able to continue moving and warming up out on the first few blocks of course.  They had several volunteers with garbage bags who took our warm-up clothes at the last minute, which I really appreciated!  They then took our gear back to the elite room and spread it all out so you could find it after the race; the main thing I learned from this is that everyone had black warm up pants, hah.

After the finish, we were able to go right back into the warm building and use the bathroom, change, eat, etc.  It was also a great opportunity to check in with how our friends in the field did in the race, with everyone being in the central location!

The race offered hotel accommodations for the really fast elites (I think it took 2:37 for a female marathoner), prize money for the top 5 finishers, and performance bonuses for anyone who achieved the OTQ standard.  It was very clear that the coordinators knew what they were doing, and I would certainly go back to this race and recommend it for anyone looking for a fast marathon!

Late addition:  This is a great podcast about another elite's experience at the race.

Indy was Monumental: Post-race & splits

I experienced the whole gamut of human emotions over this one, from endorphins to tears.  After the dust settled, though, I feel good knowing I gave my race goal everything I had, and nothing could compare to what I've gained through this entire twisty turny journey.  I know that God is using my repeated OTQ misses for a bigger purpose, and I have certainly developed more as a person than I would have if I'd attained the standard the first time I tried.  I trust He has me just where I'm supposed to be, and because of Him I also know that I am always enough - and so are you!

The biggest event of Nov. 9 was my dad's birthday!
How blessed am I that he spent it out in the cold
watching my marathon followed by a 7 hour car
ride home?!
I mentioned in my race recap that my Garmin was wonky for some of the race due to underpasses and tall buildings, so I didn't have my actual mile splits.  Well, as luck would have it, one of the women I was running with took manual splits at the mile markers, and I was pretty much right next to her her through mile 18, so I now have those.  I didn't have them when I wrote the initial recap, so I thought I'd add them here.
12:33 (she missed a marker, so 6:16 average for these 2)
Then my Garmin splits from there on (not quite as accurate but probably close) were:
(final "kick" 6:42)
Needed 6:17 from 30K on; ran 6:26...

The field as a whole was amazing - easy to navigate results are here.  22 women ran under 2:45:00 (one ran 2:45:03 and I really feel for her!), 38 women ran under 2:50, and 79 women went sub-3:00. A sub-3:00 would win most marathons, so this is truly astounding.  How strong is women's marathoning right now?!

Indy was Monumental: The race begins at 20

At mile 20 I was feeling optimistic, but each passing mile left me a little less so.  The wind was grinding on me and I wasn't running with anyone.  I slowly sucked down my final gel, and stayed positive in my self-talk.  There are rough patches in any marathon, and they can pass.

Around mile 22 a woman passed me looking very strong, and I told myself to go with her for the standard.  I stayed with her for awhile and it was helpful, but she pulled ahead (she would go on to finish in 2:45:15, oh so close!).  At mile 23 I was worried.  The wind was eating me up and I knew I needed a strong finish to get the standard.  Within a few miles I'd gone from wondering how far under I could be, to wondering if I could do it at all!

Although I was hurting, the miles were still passing relatively quickly, although not quickly enough time-wise.  I used every mental technique I'd rehearsed:
  • "You are a sub-2:45 marathoner"
  • Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1
  • Thinking about how I'd closed strong when tired on training runs
  • Thinking about my solid training and mileage
  • Thinking about how I was so close
  • Thinking about how I can do anything for 3 miles
  • Thinking there was really only 2 miles left because the last mile takes care of itself
  • Running only the mile I was in
  • Just running to the next block, then the next, etc.
  • Focusing ahead and working towards runners in front of me
I pushed my arm sleeves down and pulled my headband down to lower my body temp.  I did everything I could to maintain or pick up the pace, and while I wasn't looking at my splits I felt like I was slowing (spoiler: I was).  I was giving it my all, but at the mile 24 clock I was scared my all wasn't going to be enough.

Anything can happen in a race, so I kept pressing on, even when the math wasn't in my favor.  I went back and forth with another woman several times in the final 2 miles, which was helpful for both of us.  We were both hurting but at one moment she would be stronger and pull me along, then at another I'd be a little stronger and pull up in front of her.
I think I was trying for a double chin pose
here, hah
The face of someone who knows she only
fit 26 miles into the time she needed to fit
26.2 into
By far the most disheartening moment of the day was when I passed the mile 26 clock at 2:44:50.  I'd made it farther than I ever had before in 2:45:00, but I hadn't made it far enough.  I continued to give all I had to get the best PR I could, but it was bittersweet coming in.  Victorious, yet defeated.
The women finishing steps behind me  helped me a lot during this race!
I crossed the line and was overwhelmed by numerous physical and mental sensations.  Thrilled to PR in tough conditions, proud that I left it all out there, heartbroken that I came up 68 seconds short, completely spent, and pretty nauseous (I dry heaved for a few minutes after finishing, which hasn't happened to me before).  There really are no words for everything I felt in those moments, but all I was sure of was that I gave it my all.

If I'd have gotten the time I would not have been content with
this clock photo, hah
Possibly about to dry heave
Also about to dry heave
The next in the obsessively details recap series is here.

Indy was Monumental: 13.1 to 20

My 13.1 split was the fastest I'd ever run during a marathon (1:22:0X), but I felt good about it.  I'd planned to go through closer to 1:22:30, but running with the pack was worth being a little fast; I always run much better with others than alone.  Even in hindsight I wouldn't change it because I don't think going out a little slower would have gotten me to the finish any faster due to the headwind/tailwind situation.  I would never recommend trying to bank time in a marathon, but I think sans wind I'd have run a more even split.
Halfway there!
Around 13.5, the course turned south and we were met with a headwind.  I tucked in behind other runners and didn't think too much about it.  I ran a workout with similar wind about a month before the marathon, but I didn't think about that until after the race.
Power of the pack
Should have known...
Our pack thinned little by little, and I always hated when someone fell off; I wanted every one of the 62 women in the elite field to finish under 2:45:00!  The miles kept clipping by, and during 16 and the "hill" it contained, my mind was racing with endorphins:  "Only 10 miles left!  You feel great!  You can do this!  Only about an hour more!"
I think it's pretty clear that Sarah D. was the
only one who saw this photographer

For awhile, we'd run a little south and then a little east.  Going south into the wind was rough, but we had reprieve from it.  As we got to about 18, the reprieve was pretty much over, and for the first time I started to really notice the wind.  It had picked up, we were fully exposed to it, the pack has broken up completely, and I'd already run 18 miles at 6:15-6:20 pace (sometimes when I start workouts in the wind at the beginning I think "this isn't too bad" but towards the end I think "it's terribly windy!", and this was likely no different).  I was following right behind Tawny, who abruptly went from looking super strong to slowing down.  I passed her and encouraged her to come with me, as I pressed on towards the ponytails in front of me, many of whom has fallen off the main 2:45 pace group.

I picked up my third and final bottle around the 30K, drinking some of it and holding onto the gel that I'd ripped off it, which I slowly slurped down over the next 4-5 miles.  I worked towards chasing down anyone within my reach to stay focused.

I passed the mile 20 clock in 2:05:3X, which was exactly where I was at in Grandma's, but I felt much stronger this time.  I told myself, "Just 6:20 pace for the final 10K, you can do that and more!"

The details continue here.

Indy was Monumental: First half

The first mile I relaxed and aimed to go out too slow; no one ever says, "gee, I wish I'd run the first mile of that marathon faster!"  Tawny, who took manual splits, had us at 6:29 and the course clock read about 6:35 when we passed, being on gun time instead of chip time.  Stella was slightly freaked out by this and pushed ahead at that point (she went on to finish in 2:44:39!).  Sam and I were happy with this, and gradually settled into a slightly faster tempo.  During the first mile, I also heard hellos from a couple of friends running nearby - Shanda, who was in the half, and Laura, who would go on to run a 2:52 marathon PR!  I felt very relaxed and was enjoying myself completely.

Tawny, Sam, and I stayed together the best we could in the crowd, and Dustin, Tawny's husband, told us each turn in advance so we could run the tangents.  The course went under several long underpasses (almost like tunnels) in the beginning miles, which I knew about from the course video I'd watched.  If you ever run this race and want accurate splits, make sure to take manual splits (I did not do this because I didn't want to look at my splits, period).
Sam & I in mile 2 or 3, & Tawny's arm & foot
Synchronized running!
You can tell it was cold
I missed seeing a lot of the early mile markers, and mostly felt like I was enjoying a nice run with friends.  The pace felt just right, and we could see the 2:45 pacer's sign not too far ahead of us.  I felt calm, focused, and collected - also excited that this event that I'd anticipated for months was happening!

Our first bottle station was around the 10K mark, and although the stations had been described extremely well in the elite meeting (they even had an example table set up!), I was a little nervous about grabbing my bottle.  The station was extremely easy to navigate, and I had no trouble spotting table 7 and my bottle in position 3.  My first bottle had UCAN in it, and I drank it gradually over the next mile or so.  I've found some 8 oz water bottles with flip tops that work great for race bottles - they are small and light to carry for a bit.

The half marathoners split off around mile 7, thinning the field, and our group of several women and a few men working together became more distinct. The 2:45 pace sign group was large and 30-45 seconds ahead of my group.  One man told us at each mile marker what overall pace we were on, which was generally 2:44:30.  It wasn't until mile 8 or 9 that we realized he was one of the 2:45 pacers!  He'd gone out more evenly paced, while the other had gone out fast. 

There was some chatter in our group, but it was minimal.  It went without saying that all of the women in the pack shared the same big goal.  We all worked together, and when we had some short stretches into the wind, the pacer and Dustin went to the front to block the wind for us, and the rest of us got in line.  The first half mostly had a tailwind, though, and I really didn't consider the wind at all at that point.

Running in a pack of women working towards a big common goal is truly something special.  In most races, if I am running with other women, I am calculating how I can get to the finish line before them - I am very competitive by nature, although the older I get the more I realize that my only real competition is myself and the other women are there to help me get the best out of myself.  At Indy, like at Grandma's, I felt like we were all on the same team, and I never had any thoughts about beating anyone.  If any of us or all of us got to the finish before 2:45:00, it would be a victory.  I wanted so badly for everyone in our group to get it.

The miles clipped by quickly, and before I knew it we were at mile 10, then our second bottles at 20K (also my first gel), then the 13.1 mark.  At each major spot, I kept thinking, "I feel so great, I don't feel like I've run 10 miles!", "I can't believe how easy a 1:22 half just was!"  I think we were all smiling and gaining momentum at this point.

The obsessively detailed series continues here.

Indy was Monumental: It's finally here (race morning)!

I woke up about 75 minutes before my alarm on race morning, excited that the day I'd been thinking about for months had arrived!  I relaxed in bed until almost 5:00 a.m., then began making breakfast as quietly as I could while Jon and my dad slept.  I took my time eating, hydrating, checking social media, getting dressed, foam rolling, and doing some glute activation before doing last minute checks of everything and leaving the hotel room around 7:00 a.m. to walk to the elite staging area.
Elite staging area floor - I think I was changing my shoes
I bundled up to walk a few blocks from my hotel to the elite room, since it was 28 degrees with a windchill of 19!  I'd worried all season about marathon weather being too warm (since all of my other races this season were), but that was certainly not the case.  I didn't mind the temperature (although it did force me to wear a full singlet instead of the cute pink crop I wanted to wear), but the wind was brisk, which isn't what you want when nearly half the race is into it.
Like a kid at Christmas!
I left my bag in the elite room, said hi to several runners I knew, used the bathroom, and went back outside to jog a mile.  I then went back inside to stick 3 gels in my pockets and change my shoes before we were called to head to the starting line at 7:45.  We were allowed to keep our warm up clothing on, and had an area to do last minute warming up in.  The start area was very crowded, but the elite area was well-organized and I found Sam and Tawny to line up with.  We started about 5 rows back, a bit behind the 2:45 pacer.  I looked around for my dad and Jon, but couldn't see them - they also later said they never saw me, because they couldn't get to the left side of the start, which was where I lined up since our first turn was left.  Luckily I've given them both hugs when leaving the elite room!
What I actually raced in (plus shoes)
I was relaxed and just treated this like any other run on my schedule; as if my coach wrote "26.2 miles in 2:45:00 or under - first 10K at 6:20, then drop to 6:15 through 20, then see what you have left for the final 10K, but don't obsess with your watch at any point."

The next obsessively detailed recap section is here.

Indy was Monumental: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

My briefer recap of the CNO Indianapolis Monumental Marathon can be found here.  This post begins my obsessively detailed series, and covers the end of my taper and the beginning of race weekend.

My taper for Indy was like no other; I never experienced taper crazies!  I still don't know how this happened or what the implications are, but my taper passed quickly and I felt pretty normal throughout it.  Race week I was ready to fast forward to race day, knowing I had nothing more to gain but potentially something to lose (so many sick people around!), but other than that and having two days off work it was just a normal week.

I also never got nervous or anxious.  I never get significant pre-race nerves, but before attempting PRs I've typically had some anxiety or at least uncertainty.  I felt more prepared than I'd ever been, and confident.  I felt that it wasn't a matter of if I was going to break 2:45:00, it was a matter of by how much.  This seems arrogant when I write it, but the mental side of marathoning is huge, and I was 100% there - perhaps too much, considering I didn't actually do it!

I took the 7 hour car ride to Indianapolis on Thursday with my husband and father.  I laid around in the backseat reading, napping, hydrating, and snacking, and the trip went by quickly.  We checked into a hotel near the Indianapolis airport for Thursday night, and I did some yoga and hunkered down in the hotel room while the men went out for BBQ.  I packed a cooler with every meal and a large snack bag with every single morsel of food I was going to eat before the race - I was taking no chances!

Friday morning we set no alarms, and I managed to sleep until almost 7:00 a.m.  I then laid around until the windchill climbed over 15 degrees and went for my shake out run.  That run eased my concern about the marathon being too cold; I'd forgotten how much warmer any given winter temperature is when the sun is up vs. in pitch darkness!  I ran an easy 3 miler plus some strides and drills, did some stretching and foam rolling, then laid around until we had to check out of the hotel at noon.  I think I was lazier in the 48 hours pre-race than I'd been in the 4 months before the event combined!
Post-final shake out
We then drove to our Friday night hotel, which was the downtown Hilton just off of the race start.  I offered to do anything fun that my husband and dad wanted to do, but after navigating downtown traffic Jon just wanted to park the car and not deal with it, and it was awfully cold to walk anywhere, so we instead sat in our hotel lobby until check in.  I worked on my work laptop (taking a 2 day vacation is never easy!), and the guys walked across the street and got a pizza.  When they returned our room was ready so we all went up to the 12th floor and ate lunch.  Then it was more lazying around until walking to the race expo around 4:30, for a short tour of the expo prior to the elite meeting at 5:00.

Expos exhaust me, so I just did a quick loop around looking for highlights and freebies.  I nabbed some Clif bars and took a photo of Deana Kastor (the line to meet her was too long!), and we posed for some photo-ops.  I never buy any race merchandise at the expo because I know I will only want it if I have a good race!  This post details the elite meeting.
Coach Dad
My super supportive hubby
Free food!
After the meeting we walked back to our hotel, getting only slightly lost on the way (thank God for the sky-walk so we were able to stay indoors!).  Then we continued our hotel room laziness and I cooked a massive sweet potato in our crappy hotel microwave, which took about 30 minutes - on the plus side, I did a hip opening yoga routine while it was baking.  After dinner it was more laying around, reading, and sleeping!  This was pretty much the most uneventful trip of my life, but I wanted to save every ounce of energy I had for 26.2 on November 9.

I never felt anything but excited, composed, and ready.  I knew I'd done everything I could, and I'd loved every second of the preparation.  I went to sleep that night knowing my life would change the following day in one way or another.
Before bed excitement
My detailed recaps continue here.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Windy in Indy: Triumph & Heartbreak at the CNO Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

The Short:

It's no secret that I went to Indy with the goal of running 2:45:00 or better.  I truly felt like my fitness was there, whereas before my past OTQ attempts I've always felt more comfortable with 6:20ish but tried anyway since that was so close to the 6:17 average needed.  My pace plan was 6:20 for the first 10K, then 6:15 from there on, dropping lower towards the end if I was up for it - and although I never looked at my watch I averaged 6:19 for the first 10K and 6:14 from there to the half.  Mother Nature dealt a brutal south wind, which we turned into around 13.5 miles of the mostly north-south course.  I kept telling myself that I was strong enough to run 2:44 even with the wind, but it turns out I wasn't; I finished in a PR of 2:46:08, 68 seconds shy of what I need to be able to run in Atlanta on 2/29/20.  God has different plans for me, and I know they are better than mine, but that doesn't lessen my heartbreak over this.

Official results are here.
My Strava activity is here, although my GPS was wonky with the underpasses and tall buildings (manual mile splits taken by a friend in my pack are here).
My dad's finishing video is here.
You can read more about my training cycle and philosophy for this race here.
Final stretch
The Less Short (truly long is linked at the end of this post):

The elite field at Indy Monumental on 11/9/19 was by far the largest it had ever been, with the timing being great for runners to notch an Olympic Trials Qualifying time, recover, and rebuild towards the Trials on Leap Day 2020.  The course is known for being flat and the weather cold, and this year the race had 2:45 pacers and performance bonuses for any athletes hitting the standards.  For me another major draw was that it was a drive-able distance away (about 7 hours), and it fit better with my work and family schedules than other race options.  While I think the California International Marathon course is faster, I figured less travel stress would even things out.

During the week before the race, I talked to a few women about pacing together.  I hypothesized that the 2:45 pace group would go out too fast, because pace groups almost always do, especially when you have people amped up about a very specific time standard.  I wanted to start at 6:20 for the first 10K, then drop to steady 6:15s for the rest of the race.  I hoped I could drop to 6:10 or under for the final 10K, but staying at 6:15 would get me under 2:45:00.  My coach trained me for 6:10-6:15 goal pace, so 6:17 wasn't nearly as intimidating as it has been in the past for me.  There were 4 other women who expressed interest in the "conservative start 2:45 group" as we called ourselves, and we figured we'd pick some more up along the way.  I think every one of the 62 women in the elite field was aiming for 2:45 or under!  Details about the wonderful elite hospitality at this race are here.

Race morning was cold:  28 degrees with a windchill of 19 at the 8 a.m. start.  I'd spent most of my season worried that it would be too warm for this race, but it was cold enough I wore a full singlet, arm warmers, an ear warmer headband, and gloves for the whole race.  There was also a significant south wind that increased throughout the morning.

I started the race calm, confident, and ready to execute, telling myself "you are a sub-2:45 marathoner".  I started with 3 of the women I planned to work with, Tawny, Sam, and Stella (we could never find our 4th, Jen, but I later learned she dropped out with a calf injury).  Tawny's husband Dustin ran with us and told us every turn in advance, helping us navigate the tangents well.  With the size of the event (19,000) and the half and full marathons starting together, the first 5 miles were more crowded than I'm used to, but for the most part I could stride out and keep a steady tempo.

Before the race, I'd decided that I would work with my group, use the 2:45 pace group as a gauge, and run by effort.  Several people told me that Garmins would be wonky for the first 6-7 miles due to the many long underpasses we ran under and the downtown buildings, so taking manual mile splits was recommended.  I decided against doing so because I didn't want to mess with my watch, which was the best decision for me, but because of that I only have "real" splits from the course mats and splits my friend Tawny took manually.  The course had clocks at every mile marker, and while I missed a lot of the markers early on, I saw all of the important check points.

The miles rolled by quickly, and I focused on staying relaxed, running the tangents, and working with those around me.  Our first elite bottle station was around 10K, and I easily grabbed my Generation UCAN.  I started the race with 3 gels in my shorts pockets for peace of mind, so that even if I missed all of my bottles I'd be fine with what I had plus water from the course aid stations.  Shortly after the 10K mark, the half marathoners split off and we had more room to run.
Power of the pack (pacer is in orange)
I can't tell you much about the course, except that it was flat.  I just focused and executed.  It felt like a pace I could do all day - which always surprises me because marathon pace is never an easy pace when I run it in training.  Our group was solid and the large 2:45 pace group was 30-45 seconds ahead of us.  A man running with us kept telling us at each mile marker some rendition of "we're on 2:44:30 pace", and it wasn't until mile 8-10ish that we learned he was one of the 2:45 pacers!  He'd gone out more conservatively while the main group with the sign had gone out fast.  We all laughed when we collectively figured it out, and I told him, "I thought you were just a very helpful guy...well, you are a very helpful guy, but you're official too!"

Our second bottle station was around 20K, and I picked up my nuun energy plus a gel there.  I ended up giving half of that bottle to a man running with us, because I really wasn't sweating and didn't need much fluid.  Before I knew it we were at the half, in 1:22:05ish.  I thought something like, "that was the easiest 1:22 half I've ever run, I feel so fresh, I bet I can run 1:21:50 for the second half and come in at 2:43!"  Endorphins were flowing and the power of the pack was real.  At some points my hands got numb and cold, but overall my body temperature was ideal.
Halfway there
The course is a large loop, starting out going north, going a bit west, then coming back south.  Around mile 13.5 we turned south and into the wind.  The 18+ mph headwind was tough, but I tried to draft off others and not stress about it since I couldn't do anything to change it.  I was planning to take my second gel with my 30K bottle, but around mile 17 I decided I was ready for some calories and used one from my shorts pocket.  Our group had slowly been both losing and picking up people, and between 17-18 it really dismantled and I never saw the 2:45 pacer who'd been with us again (the pacers were planned to run to mile 20 so I assume he stopped there). 

I'd been following just behind Tawny for several miles, and she looked so strong.  I kept telling myself to just stay with her and we were going to do it together.  At mile 18, she abruptly slowed.  I went past her, encouraging her to come with me (I later learned she suffered with a lot of cramping in the final 8 miles).  I felt like a million bucks at 18, and was comparing how I felt to that point in the Phoenix Marathon in my head ("only 8 miles to go - I'm doing this!").  At mile 20, I thought about how much better I felt at that point than at 20 in Grandma's Marathon, with almost exactly the same 20 mile split (2:05:3X).  I hoped that on my fourth try, I could actually do this thing.

The wind was relentless, but I just kept telling myself that I was strong enough to do it anyway.  Doubt creeped in at times, but I pushed it away - positive thinking is so powerful and is something I think I have down.  I didn't run with anyone from 18 on; I was blowing past people who were struggling, and people who were finishing at 6:00 pace were blowing past me.  I slowly sucked down the gel I'd pulled off my 30K bottle between 18-22ish, mainly for the caffeine boost and distraction.  At mile 22 I told myself that there were only 3 miles left, since the last mile takes care of itself.  I was feeling fatigued and started pulling out every mental trick in my play book:  running the mile I was in, looking ahead and pretending a rope was pulling me towards the next person ahead of me, thinking about my dad and Jon at the finish line, thinking about how I wanted to give my dad a plane ticket to Atlanta for his birthday, remembering my whys, and thinking about what felt good instead of what hurt (my hamstrings were screaming but my calves and quads felt strong).  I had Hebrews 12:1 written on my arm, and for a good portion of the final miles I just repeated "Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1" over and over to myself.
My arm sleeves covered this, but I knew it was there
I got to 23 knowing I had to keep moving.  I threw every ounce of energy I had in me into fighting the wind.  The long straight stretch running south to the finish was something I'd looked forward to from the course map (no turns! lock in and go!), but in reality it was the worst part of the race.  I did everything I could think of to make it feel better; I pushed down my arm sleeves and pulled my ear warmer off my head.  I told myself that the man passing me was 2:44:50 and I had to go with him.  I tried to latch on to anyone who passed me.  I used the energy of the crowd.  I told myself that I was a sub-2:45 marathoner.

At the mile 24 clock, I got worried.  By my shaky (but distracting!) math I needed to run 6:10-6:15 for the final 2.2 to make it, and I was struggling.  Before the race, I'd had grand plans to finish the final 10K at 6:05-6:10, but I didn't have it in me.  The wind just ate me up, and I was too worn down to pick up my pace; instead I was slowing.  People all around were yelling at the women coming by, "You can get the 2:45, but you've gotta move!  You've gotta move now!"  I kept trading off positions with another woman I'd run much of the race with (and who is pictured below finishing steps behind me), and a man was running on the sidewalk encouraging her, "Amy, no one closes like you, you can do this!"  I pretended he was talking to me and I fought to stay with her.

I fought with everything I had, but when I saw the mile 25 clock I knew it would take a miracle, or a 5:40ish final 1.2 miles.  I refused to give up, but all I had was a 6:43 final mile and only a 6:42 pace final 0.24 (this is how I truly know I physically gave it all - I could not pick it up at all at the end; generally we have a little extra gear because our minds are stopping us but our bodies have a little left in reserve).  I passed the mile 26 clock around 2:44:50, knowing that I had only fit 26 miles into the time I needed to fit 26.2 into, and it stung so hard.  I ran with all my heart for the final 0.2, although my heart was a little broken at that point.  However, I crossed the line joyfully and thankfully in a PR of 2:46:08. 68 seconds away, but 66 seconds closer than I've ever been before.
Clock shot
The obvious is that I gained a PR from this race.  I bettered my previous marathon best, which I ran in perfect weather on a net downhill course at CIM, on a flat loop course in brutal cold wind.  I gained a greater appreciation for training and the every day process during this training cycle; that was the best part.  I gained new friendships and bonds with amazing women.  I gained the guts to go for it on an imperfect day; previously I always thought everything had to be perfect to even try, but now I think I'm strong enough that things just need to be good, and that's a big step.  Many people told me that my race was a sub-2:45 performance, but the USATF doesn't wind-grade times, so...  Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying that I'm going to keep trying, but after my fourth try for it at Indy, I know even more that a 2:45:00 is in me.
Should've adjusted the arm sleeves &
headband, but was barely able to function!
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. - Hebrews 12:1

You can read obsessively detailed accounts about my experience in Indy:
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end (end of taper + start of race weekend)
It's finally here (race morning)!
First half
13.1 to 20
The race begins at 20
Post-race and splits
Elite stories
I've still got a lot of fight left in me
Mental prep work