Sorry it has taken SO LONG to report back - you all probably thought I died or something.
No! On the contrary! :) But I will get to all the details in due time.
First - major stress. There was some question if the race might get cancelled because there were some trashtalkers on the web saying bad things about the race organizers, etc., and I was starting to be super worried and looking at back up options for races.
I then received confirmation from the race organizers that they were definitely moving forward and they had the race permits approved, and I started to finally get excited. YAY! :) *Phwew*
THEN - Hurricane Sandy. It didn't hit Vermont, thank goodness - and it cleared out before our travel was due to start.
However - I didn't realize how strong the impact was on travel services. Although a plane could have easily flown from any airport due to the weather, the airport in Newark was out of commission still and lots of flights had been pushed back/rescheduled, etc - long story short our flight out was cancelled and I had to fix our hotel reservation and flight - lots of calls and waiting on hold to expedia and a trip to the airport later - we had a flight early enough on Friday to not stress too much about enough time before the race. PHWEW.
So we get out to Vegas, my first time - we stayed at the New York New Hork Hotel & Casino - we arrived very early for checkin (10:30 am - check-in 3PM, early checkin 1pm??) . But we asked the front desk clerk and got early check-in RIGHT AWAY and even got the fee waived due to the fact that our plans were disrupted by the hurricane. (Orginially our flight was arriving Thursday at near to 2PM so PERFECT for checkin...)
We looked around a bit, hooked up with my sister - played in the ARCADE!!! YAY! :) DH won a ton of tickets at a game (I won a few and my sister won a few but DH was the real genius!) - and I got a SQUID HAT! :D
Then when we went to lunch, magic happened:
BEST PRE-MARATHON FORTUNE EVER!!! :) YESSS!!!!
Then we went to dinner with a wholllle lotta sparkers.
That is - My sister, ME, WAVEDANCER7, her friend, HOPERY, MARLIE13, and SWEATONCEADAY!!!
I had met WAVEDANCER7 and HOPERY before, but it was new for MARLIE13 and SWEATONCEADAY! :D YAY!!!! The food was amazing but apparently the little Italian owner guy was not thrilled with the fact that my party was 10 min late and they were sitting waiting for us. :P LAME. I had a great time, though. :)
Then it was time to get up to bed for a good night sleep before the race.
Here is me in our elevator lobby - we stayed in the Chrysler Tower WAYYY up high:
I laid out my race gear:
I gave myself a case of the giggles putting my squid hat in the lineup, but no - I did NOT race with it. hahahaha.
EARLY EARLY I get up and eat two multigrain croissants w/ some JIF Natural to Go. Then lay in bed some more before getting ready to go.
We go pick up Hope and head over to the race start, which was around 45min away. There were no clear signs or volunteers directing to the start, we just turned and parked somewhere where there were people. Turns out we had to walk over to the race start. There might have been some panicking on my part here....
We found my friend Xanthe from Runner's World when we parked, so she walked with us over to the start area. Luckily I had my headlamp because it was pitch black. We rush over to find out they're delaying the start due to parking issues and whatnot. So we're not late! YAY! We go through the portapotty line (very fast - great number of portapotties), and DH found us and took some pictures - yay!
Now before we start the race, about my training and how I'm feeling.
My training was SOOOO much better this time around than before my other two marathons. For my first, I really didn't know what I was doing and just did the most beginnerest plan. I got to the start uninjured, but with very little racing experience at any longer distance, I went out WAY too fast... finished 5:55.
My last marathon, I knew better - but I didn't pick an actual plan, and freestyled it other than increasing long runs. I did multiple 18-2o mile LR, but my weekly mileage was WEAK. I wasn't running enough to really support the LR, I suffered the first hints of Plantar Fasciitis before the race and I did something to my achilles during. It was a tough and horrible experience, and I finished 5:57 - and 3 months of aquajogging afterward to rehab.
This race I had 3 20 milers, a 19+, and a 17+. I had 2 weeks of 50 miles! A new weekly mileage PR! I hit new monthly mileage PR's as well. All of this followed work to improve my mileage last year. I felt really ready. I felt I could target a sub 5:30 marathon time.
Now on to this actual race:
By the time we got started, due to the delay, I didn't need my headlamp afterall and I passed it off to DH. YAY!
We get going, and my target pace is 12:30 - well... First HOPERY's nutrition starts falling out of her pack! ACK! So we stop while she gathers and I'm fine because who cares, you don't want to start too fast anyway. We get underway and the first part is a climb. Boo. But then it's some nice gentle downhill and rolling to flat and we're on our way!!!
Now for some splits:
Mile 1: 12:58
Mile 2: 12:45
Mile 3: 12:37
Mile 4: 12:28
Mile 5: 13:19
Mile 6: 13:17
Around this time I'm noticing that it will be ridiculous to try to worry too much about keeping a 12:30 pace - it's hilly. If I can get a 5:30 at this point, I'm thinking - maybe still doable, with some good downhills later... but I know that my strategy has to be more related to the course and less about a specific mile split. I wasn't worried about the first couple miles being slower, but mile 5+6 are pretty much all uphill.
Somewhere around mile 5 we see DH!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! :D He's working an aid station, so it was fantastic to see him there. Then later at mile 6.5+ we pass the half marathon turnaround point. Awesome!
Hope went behind at DH's aid station to take a portapotty stop, then caught up with me, then another time fell back just a bit and then caught up. Then....
The real smack in the face begins.
Mile 7: 12:18 (WOOHOO!)
Mile 8: 12:29 (nailing it)
Mile 9: 12:57 (starting to climb...)
Mile 10: 13:20
Mile 11: 13:55
Mile 12: 15:20
Well then. This climb at this part of the course goes on FOREVER. I run as much as I can, slow my pace to compensate, and then finally walk a little. We hit the marathoners turnaround sometime after mile 11, before mile 12 on my Garmin at least. I'm about .3 ahead of the course already and consistently for the rest of the race - and I know I didn't run wide tangents because the path is narrow. But oh well, that's fine.
During this climb I realize that keeping my time goal of 5:30 is completely out of the question and I'd be lucky to still get a PR. I just have to tackle the terrain as best as I can and hope to be able to finish in good shape.
WEATHER SIDE NOTE: Temperatures feel great, low humidity awesome - however... my shorts won't stay in place. Usually all they need is the barest amount of moisture, not soaking, just anything. Any sweat I have is evaporating super fast from my legs and so I got a really great chafing on the inside of my right thigh. Yayyyy.....
At the turnaround they were out of cups, but lucky me, I was carrying my handheld so I filled my bottle and look up the hill (the turnaround was just barely downhill so you have to start back on a climb) and there's HOPE! So I wait for her and we start back up walking. Once we turn the first switchback, the grade is easier and the walk break helped so I start running again and we crest the original huge climb before the turnaround, so it's a downhill section. During the downhill I'm feeling really great (As I should be, hello) so I move and take advantage. Sometime during this part I know Hope is falling behind me for the last time during the race, I loved having her company but I know that I have to run my own race. So here on out I'm on my own.
Looking down from one of the high points of the climb:
Mile 13: 12:50
Mile 14: 11:57
Mile 15: 13:15
Mile 16: 13:22
Mile 17: 13:25
Mile 18: 12:30
On the way down I took this photo - what you do NOT want to see while running a marathon:
You can easily see my pace reacting to the elevation changes. Rolling/uphill more like 13 or 13+, downhill much faster obviously, Mile 14 was solid downhill - and then mile 18 was right on my original target pace. So obviously I still have some juice. Also in mile 17, I think - is where DH's aid station was, I took a portapotty break and paused my garmin. :P I lost about 1:45 here between that, talking to him for a second, getting my water bottle refilled.
I leapfrogged these guys a few times early on, then passed them... then got behind them when I took the portapotty break, took this before I passed them for the last time: TURKEY AND PILGRIM!
Mile 19: 12:23
Mile 20: 13:29
Mile 21: 14:06 (Up the first downhill of the course, and past the turnoff to the finish...)
Mile 22: 13:49
Mile 23: 14:43
Mile 24: 19:57
I think this picture is around mile 21:
WELL. First on this course you have to pass the turnoff to the finish - so that's depressing because amazingly I am passing/around some half marathoners at this point. I pass some people walking that are like - you're almost there!!! And I'm like - don't say that, it's too early!!! And a girl was like - she's running the full marathon, they have to keep going... yep.
The thing is, after you pass the 21 mile marker it's all uphill! And we're into the sun, and now it's finally starting to feel warm outside... I said - just keep your LR pace and you can still get a PR (13:30), just keep running slow and it'll be fine. But at this point my HR was getting really high. It was weird- my legs felt fine, but I couldn't run slowly enough to keep my HR in check. I had miles left to go, I wasn't in the final meters of a 5K so it was too much. I chose to walk. UGH. It was really sad to have to do that. I walked strategically at moments earlier in the race, but just up short sections of steeper incline - never lasting too long - just to manage my effort. But now, my effort level was far higher than it should be. I didn't even really feel like I was going uphill.
Anyway - so sometime in the middle of mile 23 was some walking and solid walking for most of mile 24 split. At the end of this climb was the turnaround point. They said it was 23.5, my Garmin read 23.86 so I turned around very close to mile 24 on my splits here. Anyway - I stopped for a moment here, refilled my water bottle, dumped some water over my head, drank some from the cups, and got on my way. I slowly returned to a sloowww run, and as I realized - hey, I really AM going downhill, and my HR was staying in check, I continued to up the speed until I was really cooking down the true downhill finishing stretch.
Mile 25: 13:25
Mile 26: 13:06
Final .49: 10:49 (sub 10mm at the finishing sprint)
FINAL CHIP TIME: 5:56:53 (Garmin w/ pause break, 5:55:12 :P)
DH, sister, and brother were all waiting and cheering me in to the finish!
My sister and brother both did the half - it was my brother's first half marathon. My poor sister was struggling with something in her knee - similar symptoms to ITBS, but the pain is deeper in the knee than on the outside really? In any case, she's working through some PT but she had to walk nearly the entire race. She still stuck it out!! TOUGH COOKIE!
And speaking of tough cookies... I'm sure you were wondering about HOPERY. WELL! SHE MADE IT!!!! She hung in there on this crazy difficult course, and finished her first marathon pushing herself to the finish.
AND - I was so shocked to see a familiar face when I was coming down to the finish of the race and got a picture with this favorite little sparker:
LILHLFPINT!! AKA THE GREEN GIRL!!!!!
I think we are tallest and smallest sparkers....
And here are the turkey and pilgrim with their pal the Indian Princess, who smoked all of us. I think she came in around 4hrs if I remember correctly...???
So.... wanna see the elevation chart of this beast???
Talking with some racers and another Runner's World Online friend after the race just emphasized the race's difficulty. Big Sur is known for being a hilly and scenic marathon at which PR goals go out the window. It was definitely tougher than that course. My RWOL friend said one could easily run 30minutes faster on a flat course. I think this course rivals the Mad Marathon (of which I did the half this summer).
My takeaway from this race is that, although I didn't get a PR - I ran a really smart race. My splits are all over the place, but that is due to elevation and managing my resources. I hated to walk that mile near the end, but the way my body was reacting I know I needed to - AND by doing so, it allowed me to finish the race really strong. So I know it was the right decision for that day.
I ran a crazy tough course VERY close to my current PR, and importantly - under 6 hours. This means I can pretty much sign up for almost any marathon since 6hrs is a very common cutoff time, and be pretty confident in my abilities to finish.
I also have recovered AMAZINGLY well. All of the additional mileage REALLY helped me bounce back. I am now thinking it's realistic to consider becoming a marathon maniac! HUZZAH! :D Also doing the Chowdah Challenge for the Cape Cod Marathon (a la Goofy - half and then full the next day). I know I need to get my mileage back up to 35-45 consistently for maintenance to be in a good position going forward.
I am only slightly disappointed I couldn't get a huge PR and reach my time goal, but that was a reasonable goal for an easier course. With what happened I am sooooo thrilled. I feel very proud of myself and optimistic about my future marathoning.