Summary – Illinois Marathon, April 22 2017, 3:50:25
Start: 7:03 am
10k – 51:02 (8:13 pace)
10 mile – 1:22:40 (8:17 pace)
13.1 – 1:48:16 (8:16 pace)
20 mile – 2:47:34 (8:23 pace)
Finish – 3:50:25 (8:48 pace)
The short story: something went wrong early on – still trying to nail down WHAT that was, so I can learn from it. 3:50 finish, 13 minutes off my goal. I can tell you it wasn’t my gear, exact same awesomeness as my last two races. Thank you, Mitch, Often Running, and Saucony, for the support + encouragement.
I honestly felt good going in. Ups and downs during taper time, but the Thurs night group run with the Saucony demo was a high, wind reports were better, and all signs were a go. Good/routine sleep + nutrition. Saturday morning I was more excited than nervous. Ready to do this thing! If you just look at my Garmin splits, it *appears* that I was on track till 18-20, then fell apart BAD. I wish I could say that’s what happened. I think the real story is worse 🙈.
So here goes…
Miles 1-7 felt as I expected. Gel before start, a little fast that first mile (7:54, not crazy), and that second mile I started to settle in (8:01). Third mile I was good (8:10). Mile 4 at 8:14 and a gel at 4.5miles. Mile 5 was 8:13 and mile 6 8:21. Around 6 it seemed like the time was clicking by and I even thought “wow, I just have to do this 4 more times and I’m golden”! I saw Rick V around 6 and it was just a visual reminder of all the support and well wishes from everyone. I even started to tear up for a sec and remembered what Erin F said – no crying! can’t breathe if you’re crying! Mile 7 was 8:11.
Somewhere between 8-9, I had my first “issue” of realizing I felt more labored + drained than I ever remembered feeling in the springfield Half 3 weeks before. I had a brief feeling of dizzy/faintness/body tingling (maybe 5-10 seconds) and I just took some deep breaths and squinted my eyes – opened and was ok – told myself it was nerves (can’t remember feeling this during a race/long run before). Mile 8 was 8:17, and Mile 9 was 8:15. I took my scheduled gel at mile 9. Miles 10-12 I was still having to work hard to keep my GMP (8:26, 8:20, 8:15)…harder than i thought, and again, harder than i did in the Half. I see my teammate Amber around 11 and I’m thinking “oh no, this isn’t the pace she wanted to keep for her half”. I kept moving + prayed for her to surge… at mile 12 there were some girls around me that were doing the half that were struggling – I encouraged them briefly and realized I was really working to hold my own pace, thinking “I should not be pushing this hard at only 12”, but I told myself (and at this point believed it), it’s just taking me longer to get in my groove today. just hold on to my GMP (8:16s get me my 3:37 BQ + buffer) and keep pushing. it will start to feel better and click. At this point there had been some wind – but honestly, it didn’t feel bad. ? Anyone confirm or deny? After the half group split, somewhere around 13 or 14 ( I can’t remember if this is before I saw clint or after), i hit my first hard wind tunnel that was a bear. I tried to maintain my effort and not fall too far. it didn’t last long, but when it was over I didn’t feel like i could recover and get back to my 8:15s GMP. Mile 13 was 8:22 and Mile 14 was 8:35. I had to fight to get back. I did my gel on schedule at 13.5 miles. I saw Clint and thought “man, when I saw Clint toward the end of the Half, I felt good and strong and was pushing and had energy + joy.” I saw him here and felt like I could not keep moving. we turned some more corners and i just kept trying to move. I tried to focus on other things – i did my normal mental exercises I have done in other races to push thru. miles 15 + 16 came and by now I was really exhausted. Not sluggish. Not lethargic. Full on wiped out/exhausted and giving all my gas for an 8:19 and 8:30. I didn’t have a certain cramp or injury. I didn’t have insane lamaze breathing. I just had overall heaviness and general body fatigue. I tried not to think about the next ten miles. Just told myself to just get THIS NEXT mile in. One at a time. Just breathe and run. Mile 17 + 18 felt like I was mean muggin in a 5k, and when I would look down it would say 8:50s some of the time. I would push to try to get each mile where it needed to be. Those clocked in at 8:33 and 8:32. Gel at 18. I knew that whatever cushion from my earlier miles was now eaten up. I kept thinking my body would magically have some surge and I could recover. I think Mile 19 is when I hit a complete exhaustion level + some wind. Again, no specific cramping or GI issues- just overall misery. I expected this to start much later (when the end was more in sight). I thought maybe if I had a slow mile maybe then I could surge and recover at the end. But I was afraid to let up for fear that I wouldn’t be able to go get going. Well Mile 19 came in at 8:53. I apparently let up even more and so I told myself that Mile 20 I was going to have to really push to make up for Mile 19. I felt like I was trying. I felt like I was willing my body to run faster. Tried to shorten my stride, quicken my steps, nothing. I tried to stretch it out. Worse. I stretched my arms up, rolled my shoulders back, tried to reset and go. My “going” at mile 20 landed me an even slower 8:59. Crap, now I have even more time to make up. This is going to be some sprint miracle finish to get to Boston.
Gel at 21.5. My water to this point had been steady. I didn’t feel dehydrated OR water logged. Mile 21 is where it really went downhill, 9:46. This must have been in my mind where I realized 3:37 wasn’t happening. So then I thought, well, still get the bq std of 3:40 even tho it doesn’t get me there. There was a pace group that came upon me – I told myself to just stick with them. That lasted one minute. I just couldn’t hang. It was so… pathetic? I don’t know another word. (It’s not that these times are pathetic in general… just relative to this training cycle, I’m way off course) Since I couldn’t stay with the pace group, I will just keep them in my sights and catch them the next 800m. Nope, they were gone. Three more equally defeating scenarios like this occurred (Mary, Gary, and Brian), all came upon me at different times and each one I told myself JUST HANG WITH THEM. Each was going to be my miracle angel to help me get moving faster again, and each one of them, I couldn’t stick with. And not only that, it was getting worse. Mile 22 was 10:19. I made peace with bye-bye Boston and this isn’t my day. I started to pray for Rachel’s finish and that her day was going way better than mine. Mile 23 was 10:14. Around this water station people were walking + it crossed my mind. I know I get so tight once I stop. For me, walking meant possibly never running again in this marathon. So I FOUGHT to not walk. WHAT?!?! —never dreamed this would be my day. I saw Tim and the kids one last time. Gracie came on the course and ran with me for a few minutes. I could not keep up. “Come on mom, you can do it”….she encouraged. What in the world was up with me? Even my birthday girl couldn’t get me moving?!?! As sad as I was at this point, I found some momentary mom joy to be out there RUNNING with my baby that was born 7 yrs ago. With spina bifida. WE.ARE.BOTH.RUNNING. I have so much to be thankful for. From this point forward I tried to stay positive and think about the journey and not every race is great. I can’t focus on the bad of this race now, I just need to get it over with. I drank the last of my water and tossed my bottles to Tim. The last water station I got a cup and did my last gel. Somewhere around mile 24 + 25 I see Carol and it brought a deep heart pang of defeat + realization of how poorly this day turned out for me. Her encouragement led me to to do more math and see if I had a shot of sub 3:50. I mean, seriously? I’m having to calculate if I can do that? This race is so off track. From a 3:37 goal to maybe sub 3:50? And a miserable 3:50, not even a fun 3:50. At least my chicago 3:56 last year was fun!!!! Mile 24 was 10:29, Mile 25 was 10:25. I pushed as hard as I could that last 1.2 in (9:20, 2:25). Turned the last corner into the stadium and saw the clock was already on 3:50.
Sweet Rachel was waiting for me at the line (did you draw the shortest straw😂) – I felt super faint once I actually stopped. We made our way to the group. It seems like a minute later I felt really out of it again. Light headed and like I suddenly had chest heaviness and couldn’t catch my breath. I don’t know if it was physical or if it was being overwhelmed with emotion? Maybe the mess in my mind of this sucky race met with an amazing support network that all waited for me to finish and I knew everyone was just as sad and bummed for me. Learning that Rachel had a phenomenal race was a boost for me – although I know she was trying to downplay for the sake of my emotions. Girl, CELEBRATE! And then I heard Carol had an amazing day too!!! I can’t wait to read both of your race reports!!!!!
So, If you have read this far – you deserve a prize. I share all of this because I really want to learn. I have said from day one, I’m not the fastest runner, and not the most experienced racer, but I AM COACHABLE. If someone sees something or has an idea or similar experience, I want to learn from it. What I love about my racing team + community of runners, is that I believe them to be real and not blow smoke. There’s a time for encouragement and pats on the back… and then there’s the roll up the sleeves and share hard truths. So, I’m all ears if anyone is still reading and wants to reply. Because I’m an analyzer + want to be a continuous improver, I have about 15 working theories on what went wrong out there. I won’t share them all but here are some:
1. Crowds + course. Chicago was a blast. My city, my stomping grounds, wall to wall people, energy was HIGH. Champaign: I knew the first half but not the second. I should have drove it the week before or something. Honestly, the back half felt LONELY. I was struggling and it just felt blah. It just drug out. There were still people on the course but it just felt desolate. Not sure if that’s reality or my body was already done and so then the environment also became negative in my mind. But I rarely run a race without going over the course first. Why I didn’t do this for the second half of this, I do not know. Fail.
2. The common (and successful) training theory of long runs being slower + tempo and track workouts being speedy, will lead to a faster race pace than your long runs. This didn’t hold true last fall for Chicago, which I had thought was due to two reasons….my training wasn’t on point (loosely followed higdon between hip injury, little speedwork, etc), and I really enjoyed the first marathon. While I pushed and wanted to do my best, I didn’t have the “race” mindset. Just wanted to be under 4 hours. Chicago training long runs were 9-9:15 and marathon was 9:01.
And this didn’t hold true for me this time either – I ended up at 8:45 overall marathon pace. My GMP was 8:15, my long runs were 8:50-9:00.
Maybe I’m a weird breed that has to do long runs at GMP. ? I can’t bank on the marathon day adrenaline pushing down that pace?
3. Wind. I was freaked when the wind originally said 25mph. But it dropped down and while I knew it would be tough, I still believed it to be possible. Did I go too fast the first half and wasn’t really feeling the wind? Or was it truly not bad? The second half felt worse, and the last 5 felt really windy. Much less wind block coverage. Was this in my head or legit? In my mind, my body fell apart before I could even blame the wind. ? Maybe I did go out too fast? I mean, I was a little hot, those first two, but that shouldn’t have wrecked me at 10? Amirite? Unless it was windier than I thought that first half?
4. Hydration. I’m so bad at knowing on this. The days leading up I was hydrating a ton. Pre-race morn I peed three times. I had my water in each hand and pretty consistently sipped thru the marathon, and then with the water station drink, I had 3 cups of water total. I drank 3.5 bottles of water after the marathon and didn’t pee for another 3 hours. When I did – it was super red (bloody urine = dehydration?). Buuuuut, I also had beets the night before. ? OR did I drink too much water? Because I am not experienced racing this distance, I don’t even know how this is supposed to feel. I also wonder if I should have done Gatorade during the race when I started feeling low-energy. But I didn’t want to “go off script” since I did not do this during training. Maybe this was another fail?
5. Nutrition. Man I would be surprised if it were this. Since January, I have been carrying an extra 3-5 lbs from my norm, but I just kinda went with it. And def not gonna diet during taper. I ate! I eat relatively healthy as my default. I am going to double check my macros and see the balance. I cut the majority of wine out of my diet the past couple of months, and the last two weeks none at all. I don’t eat a lot of processed sugars, but get lots of natural sugars and carbs and felt good. Wasn’t feeling lethargic or “Carb loaded” pre race and wasn’t feeling hungry either. Actually, on two of my twenty milers I had legit hunger pains. I didn’t have that on Saturday. The only thing I can come up with is the day before the race I didn’t have any bananas. Lots of other things. But no bananas. And I usually eat 1-2 a day. Now I’m grasping….I know. And maybe during the marathon I should have done more gel once I started feeling blah early on… but again, worried that would land me in the portapotty… so i stuck to my program and just thought the feeling would pass and I would get in a groove.
6. Solo vs paced. All of my long runs I had someone faster than me pacing and pushing. Even most of my tempo runs were that way. My Half in Springfield I did by myself, but that’s the only time during this training cycle. I’ve always had someone (or tim on the bike!) with me. Am I that much of a wimp that I can’t run alone? 😂😂 Maybe the Half felt so much better because I knew it was done at 13.1 😂 I didn’t think that was it, but in hindsight, anything is possible!
7. Mental. I went into this believing + optimistic. Not a slam dunk, but a definite possibility. In my mind, I thought the first 16 would come and then the last ten I would progressively have to fight for. Nope. I started fighting much before that. If you just look at my splits, you might think I hit a wall at 20 and then fell apart. I actually think I hit a mini wall at 10, the main wall at 16, and then i only could fight till 20. Was that my body? Was that mental? Did I start to feel my body go and just couldn’t shake it out of my mind? What the heck happened? I have fought thru sluggishness in a 5k, but maybe I don’t have the mental toughness yet for 26? At least not at that pace? In Chicago last fall I don’t think I ever hit a wall. I was never tempted to walk or give up. I had muscle fatigue at 22 in Chicago, but I never felt as bad there, like I did in Champaign MUCH earlier on. Or do I have marathon amnesia (like childbirth😂)? I mean, maybe Chicago was just amazing in hindsight.
8. Fighting something else? My kids seemingly had a stomach thing the weeks before. I thought maybe I had it the week before but it never amounted. If I had it, it was gone before Sat. So I thought??? Anytime tummy flutters I felt the week before, I chalked up to taper crazy. Again, never got the racing pukes or runs. ? So who knows. Or maybe the timing of this race right before my cycle started (sorry guys, but u all talk about poop so I don’t even care).
9. Did I not want it bad enough?! This goes back to the mental piece. I try to keep a healthy balance of running being a part of my life and NOT MY ENTIRE LIFE. Did I not want it bad enough or care enough? Man it seemed like I did. I followed my training, down to the “no wine”!!!! But I didn’t read that book all the way thru😂 but what if i was protecting myself from failure by not putting my all in, in some area? I can’t believe I’m saying this because I felt like I WAS all in, but with a healthy balance in the back of my mind that it just might not be and if not, that would be ok. But now I’m guessing and wondering. ? At mile 22 I knew it was over, and I got my head around it and made peace with it. Maybe that is wrong. ? Maybe I “made peace with defeat and gave up” too soon? Once I was struggling with 10+min miles – it seemed over to me!
I may just be inexperienced at this distance + the mental game of this distance…even the BEST coaching, training, team, support, gear, etc, wasn’t going to pull out a 3:37 this time. ?
Or maybe this will always be something that perplexes me and I won’t figure it out on this side of heaven. And those are sometimes hard things to let go of. The answer may always elude me.
I can say that even in my darkest miles, I never went truly negative on myself.
I never quit.
I never freaked out – lost it – melted down – etc. Despite the suckfest, I kept it together.
I never questioned the sport.
I genuinely wanted everyone around me to rock their race.
I believe in the plan Clint outlined for me, and I even believed in my efforts. Out of all 19 weeks full of workouts, there are only a couple times that I can look back and think, did I really give it my all that day? I approached each day as it’s own to tackle. I don’t have “slacker” regrets. When I ran the Half in Springfield it really gave me a boost that I felt great and was ready for it.
I didn’t overdo it during taper. I really stayed true to the training and trusted the process.
While this is a PR from Chicago, it hardly feels like anything to celebrate, all things considered. But I will even take the PR at this point. 😂
So those are all things that are positive about my day and leading up to the day. All positives that I can point to and remember and carry forward.
This second marathon couldn’t be more different than my first. My training last summer was hard with the hip drama… and those hot long runs seemed more brutal. I wasn’t as committed to the training. But then the marathon mojo from Chicago was amazing! Then, this winter’s training block for the Illinois Marathon was phenomenal. I had great coaching, good focus, great training partners. I had a blast with my workouts, even the 5 am track workouts and the tempos that were HARD. But them my marathon fell apart.😂 So….here’s to my next one – a great training cycle AND a great marathon!!!
I’m definitely bummed but it just makes me want to figure out the best time to redeem that 3:50 for something that’s more consistent with my training! Thanks again for listening, all of the calls, texts, emails of support. Makes this blow more bearable. 😍😘 thanks Mitch, Often Running, + Saucony!!