Well after months of training, race day finally arrived. As most of you know my work has been crazy and it was uncertain as to whether or not I was going to be getting the day off before my marathon. Well I did. So we left bright and early Friday morning and headed for Champaigne Illinois.
I should first start by explaining that for whatever reason, when I registered I did not book my hotel. When I did finally book at the beginning of March, hotel choices were limited. The event website stated that most area hotels were booked but that some might be opening up additional blocks of rooms in a couple weeks. I was worried about waiting any longer. I did some research through the visitors bureau and found a place about 20 miles outside of the city. It got good reviews (although I didn't realize it at the time that the last review was written almost 14 months prior). It was camp site that also had a lodge, pool, etc. Well we arrived and the neighborhood was very run down. We kept driving around because we couldn't actually find the lodge. When we did, my husband looked at me and said that when he saw this building from the backside earlier, he thought it was a prison. This is funny now but it wasn't at the time, probably because it really did look like this. I had no idea what to do but I did not want to stay there. I suggested that we go to the expo first and deal with the hotel situation later.
We went to the expo which was very small but extremely organized. It was held at the ARC fitness facility on the campus of the University of Illinois. I got all my stuff and still had about an hour to kill before the pasta dinner. This was the first pasta dinner that I had attended and I was doing so primarily to hear the speakers. For this reason, I had signed up for the earliest setting so that I would still be able to eat dinner later in the evening. The speakers were Kathrine Switzer and Jean Driscoll. Although I had read Kathrine's book "Marathon Women" it was still great to hear her speak. I was not familiar with Jean's story but she was an inspirational speaker as well. Both her and Jean signed my race bib which is going to make a great souvenir
In the hour before the pasta dinner, we drove around town and scouted out hotels but all were booked. We were convinced that we were going to have to stay in our original hotel when Michelle texted me and told me that her hotel had an opening. It was about 30 miles south of town but I didn't care. We called and had them hold the room for us. Michelle told me that when she travels to races she always stays at a Holiday Inn because she knows what she is getting. I think this is some good advice that I will remember especially if I am staying in a more remote area. Once we got to the hotel, we all went out to dinner and then retired for the night.
The forecast all week had been calling for rain and possible
. It was very windy on Friday and definitely looked like severe storms were moving in. In fact, they had issued tornado warnings for several counties in the area that night before we went to bed. Most of the storm seemed to blow over and the weather forecast for the next morning changed. When I got up at 445, it was already in the low 60's with 96% humidity. The forecast now predicted a temperature range of 64-74 with humidity starting at 94% and slowly dropping to around 65% by noon. This was pretty much spot on however the overcast and mostly cloudy skies was way off. The sun came out about mile 2-3 and stayed out for almost the entire rest of the race. I have some really nice tan lines to prove it
I arrived at the starting gates and easily checked in my gear and actually saw Michelle from across the street. I was surprised with almost 14,000 people there how organized it was. It really never even felt crowded. I used the port a potty (no line) and sat down and tried to adjust my shoe as it felt like there was already a rock in the bottom of it
. Me and Michelle lined up at this point and let the race nerves take over (even if we look calm)
The race started and away we went. I could feel the humidity almost right away. Before we started we did have overcast skies with a pretty strong breeze but that changed within the first 2 miles. The wind died down and the sun came out. I couldn't even put my sunglasses on at first because they would just fog up. By around mile 5, I was already thankful that there was a resident who had brought out their garden hose and was offering to hose people off. The water was ice cold but welcomed treat! The other thing that I noticed as we were running through this residential area was that the road surface was concrete. I had somewhat expected that in the city but not in the neighborhoods. This was just the beginning of my disdain for concrete. I would estimate that more than 1/2 of the race course was concrete. I must be really spoiled because all of my long runs are done on a nice asphalt bike path. I didn't blister but my feet were so tender on the midfoot. All I can say is that thank goodness my Newton's have extra cushioning in the part of the shoe. The repeated impact on that type of running surface was brutal.
The course was pretty crowded and I was actually worried that it would "thin" out too much once the half marathoner's turned off. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't. I always felt like I had other runners around me. The spectators were supportive and I was having a pretty good time. I saw my husband just after the half way point and he commented that I was looking strong. I said I felt good but I was just "hot." This I think is what ultimately made the race so difficult for me.
We had a pretty cold and snowy winter here in Columbus. In fact even through the end of February, we were having record amounts of snow. For this reason, training was difficult. I did a lot of runs inside a nice air-conditioned gym or in 10-20 degree temperatures outside. When the weather did break, it was still cool for our long runs because we start so early in the morning. The temperatures on my long runs probably only reached the mid 50's. In the weeks leading up to the race, I did do a couple 6-8 mile runs in warmer weather but certainly not enough to prepare me for a race with sun, 70+ temps and humidity.
Although this was a tough race for me. I am extremely proud of my accomplishments. Of course I wanted a PR but more importantly, I wanted to run smart and I did. I had a plan to run the first 5 miles at approximately 11 min/mile. I did this! Then I slowly wanted to build my pace to around a 1015 by mile 8 and then just hold there for as long as I could. Hopefully the remainder of the race. I reached a 1010 mile and then decided with the heat, that was too fast. I decided to try and keep my pace closer to a 1035-1025. I did this from about mile 8-20. I actually felt pretty good but was struggling starting about mile 17. I just couldn't get myself cooled off. I just kept saying that I would just take it "one mile at a time." By mile 20, I decided to try and walk for a short time to see if that would help me cool off. I had already been sprayed by several water hoses and even the local fire department had set up misting stations. EMS seemed to be working overtime and runners were walking, stopping to stretch or just plain sitting on the ground trying to rub out their various cramps. I felt lucky. I was not experiencing any cramping but I was worried about overheating.
When I stopped to walk, it did not cool me off like I wanted. I was also starting to experience significant back pain. Sorry if this is TMI but TOM had decided to join me on my run. I thought that might happen so I had taken a pamprin before the race started. Unfortunately, I think it wore off. Okay, enough about that.
I aimlessly walked/ran for about a mile and a half. I decided to call my husband as I was thinking I might end up walking the rest of the event. This was really hard for me as I had never allowed myself to walk in either of my two previous marathons (except at the aid stations). In that mile and a half, I watched 15 seconds come off my average pace. I couldn't believe that I was letting all my hard work go to waste. *It should be noted that I was well on my way to nice new PR*
I remembered the wise words of coach Randy. He told me that when times got tough, you must make new goals for yourself. He would say "just pick a landmark and agree to run to that point and then re-evaluate." I decided I needed a plan. Starting at mile 22, I decided that I would walk for .25 miles and then run the remainder of the mile. It was tough but it gave me a sense of direction. It worked. In fact, I found that my Garmin was off by about a tenth of mile so when my running interval was over, I would make myself run a little longer until I actually saw the new mile marker. I did this for the next 3 miles. When I hit mile 25, I allowed myself to stop for water and then I told myself that I had to run the rest of the way. I was actually feeling much stronger and I had only lost about another 12 seconds off my average. Compared to the fact that I had lost more than that in a short mile and a half, I felt like I was salvaging my race.
As most of you know, I was running this race for my grandmother. I said a prayer at the beginning of the race and said that I just wanted to make us both proud. I think I did that. The finish line of this marathon was the 50 yard line of the Illini Stadium. As I approached there were lots of people and excitement was in the air. As I began to run down the tunnel, I said to my grandma "I was fighting for her. I was bringing her to the finish with me and we were going to finish strong." I sprinted down the field. I saw the official clock and it was 4:55. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was way over 5 hours. This might be hard for some of you to believe but I don't like to see my total time displayed on my Garmin when I am running. I have it set for average pace and last mile pace (along with distance and HR). I guess I could have done the math but who wants to think that hard. So I didn't. I really had no idea that I was still going to finish in less than 5 hours. That made me sprint even harder. When I crossed the finish line, I threw my arms up in the air. One of the ladies handing out medals got a huge smile on her face and said "I want to be the one to give you this medal." I gladly accepted! My husband was sitting in the stands as family was not allowed on the field. When I saw him, I was overcome with emotion. I think it was a combination of a hard race, thinking of my grandmother and being extremely proud of myself. I cried for just a minute and then began relishing in the day.
It was not the PR that I had hoped for and even felt that I deserved. However, I got medal engraved with a finishing time (4:51:09) that I am proud of