I have a lot to be grateful for today! An 8.5 minute chunk out of my PR, $8K in prize money, and an Olympic Trials “A standard” qualifier in the BAG. Here’s how it all went down….
Woke up at 6 a.m., ate some oatmeal, a banana, a bottle of Gatorade, and forced down another half of a bagel. Got ready and went to the runner suite around 7 a.m. to meet up with Carolyn and Steve. Walked over to the race start and tried to use the restroom in the Hampton Inn right by the start but was kindly turned away and then enthusiastically invited (by the pub owner walking by) to use the restroom in Pickles Pub next door (Hampton Inn could take a lesson in PR from their pub owner neighbor). Did a short, slow warm up, some stretching, and three additional potty stops. Lined up right behind the two ladies I met yesterady, Iulia and Olena. The race began and it was all smiles as a nice pack of 8-9 ladies went out together.
The first three miles were the steepest incline of the race, so Coach D told me to go out no faster than 6:00 pace.
Mile 1 – 6:05 Felt easy and comfortable. The slight breeze was negligible with the pack of women and a few men surrounding me.
Mile 2 – 5:59 Little less steep, still very easy and comfortable. Legs started to warm up.
Mile 3 – 6:12 Little more steep. Shared the lead with Olena Shurkno from Ukraine.
About half-way through mile 4, the course flattened out and transitioned into a pretty good decline which lasted for a good 5 or 6 miles.
Mile 4 – 5:47 Cruised on the flat, worked with the group. Grabbed a cup of gatorade at the aid station and took a few sips.
Mile 5 – 5:36 Really tried to hold back down the hill as the pace felt super smooth and effortless with Olena on my heels and Everlyne Lagat from Kenya on my shoulder.
Mile 6 – 5:50 Flatter with a little uphill. Everlyne took the lead and put on a few second gap. I opted to stay within myself and follow Coaches orders not to go out too fast.
Mile 7 – 5:43 More downhill. I tried to resist going faster while a “chase pack” of 6 women took off down a steeper section to go reel in Everlyne and left me in the dust to run my own pace.
Mile 8 – 5:43 Alone. I started to notice the wind more now. Funny, I didn’t notice it much when I was running with the group. Picked up my first bottle around 8.2 and took two good swigs of EFS liquid shot (which was duct taped to the side of my bottle) and a few swigs of water.
Mile 9 – 5:39 Tempted to just throw in a surge and go draft behind those 6 women and couple of men since they are just 10 seconds ahead and it would save energy to draft…but is it worth the energy it would require to surge? I decided no.
Mile 10 – 5:51 A few men emerged and I attempted to draft behind them. This is where I started really noticing the headwind. Surely there had to have been some tailwind before this point that I was not fully appreciating because there was definitely headwind now.
Mile 11 – 5:44 Stuck with the few men while I watched that nice cozy looking chase pack of women a solid 20-25 seconds ahead of me. I was unwilling to break my pacing plan to catch them and I was also unaware that Iulia was creeping up on me in the shadows. Somewhere in here I took a sip of water from the volunteers handing out cups.
Mile 12 – 5:54 The synergy (and wind breaking) of the three men had dissolved. As soon as I hit the lap button I realized they were running too slow for my liking so I left them.
Mile 13 – 5:45 Thats better. One of the guys came with me and we ran literally stride for stride for a mile or so.
I picked up my second bottle and took a few more gulps of liquid shot and some water then I offered my bottle to the guy running next to me. He took some gulps and tossed it aside. We came through the half marathon point together and the clock said 1:16 (I assume it was high 1:16). Right after the half, Iulia Arkapove from Krygzstan (the course record-holder) came up on us and blew on by. Where’d she come from? She must have run a much more conservative first 10 miles and then started pouring it on because she had to have been doing 5:30 pace when she blew by us.
Mile 14 & 15 – 11:38 (5:42 pace) Where’d the 14 mile marker go? No split there. The guy I had been running with fell off pace and I was back to my lonely self again watching Iulia pour on the heat and continue to pull away from me.
Mile 16 – 5:52 Wind and lonliness. This is where my race began. Coach told me if I could stay in control and run within myself (no faster than 5:45 pace on on the downhills and flats and no faster than 6:00 pace on the uphills) until mile 16, I’d have enough in the tank to pick off a few girls in the final 10 miles. He was right! At this point I think I was in 7th place and already starting to see the 6th place girl coming back to me.
Mile 17 & 18 – 12:09 (6:04 pace) I missed the mile marker again. The uphill began again as I passed Alice Ndirangu from Kenya and Yuhunlish Delelecha (do not ask me how to pronounce those names because I do not know) from Ethiopia. 5th place now.
Mile 19 – 5:57 Hoping and praying for that podium finish I started to see two more lil’ Africans up ahead and worked towards reeling them in. The wind was not in my favor though. Darn wind.
Mile 20 – 6:12 I put my head down and pushed with all my might up the most brutal, steepest section of the entire course which just so happened to also bring a massive head wind with it. I finally crested the steepest part of the hill and overtook Everlyne, whose 85 lb., 5 ft. frame was nearly blowing away in the stiff headwind.
Mile 21 – 6:02 The uphill relented a bit but not the wind. I threw an invisible lasso around Salome Kosgei from Kenya who also appeared to be blowing backwards an inch with each stride as I started tugging myself in.
Mile 22 – 6:15 Now I was nearly blowing away as well and Salome was trying with all her might to stay on my heels. Not a fun mile. Grueling. I nearly came to a complete stop at the aid station with my last water bottle and liquid shot. I took as much as I could and kept pushing forward.
Mile 23-26 (final 4.2 miles) – No splits. Garmin said 6:01 average pace. At this point in my race I was beyond caring about mile splits anymore. I felt pretty disheartened by that last 6:15 mile split so I decided to just keep my head up and maintain that 3rd place position. I realized that the other two girls in front of me had at least 90 seconds on me at this point and my wheels were falling of (or being blown off by the wind, rather). My right calf was becoming unbearably tight and my hip flexors and quads were nearing their maximum level of punishment for the day as well. Salome hung on to me until about 22.5 miles at which point I used the downhill to open up a gap.
The final few miles were downhill but into the wind as my respiratory rate shot through the roof and I ran the fine line between maintaining my position in the race and passing out. Actually I don’t think I was actually THAT close to passing out but at times I wondered if I was hyperventilating. Spectators were probably wondering why I sounded like a suffering wildabeast panting down the street. Once I got onto Eutaw Street it was just a few minutes to the finish line. All the cheering and energy near the finish gave me energy and I became pretty emotional and asthmatic in the final stretch. Within view of the finish line I looked up and saw 2:35:29 on the clock. In one last effort to keep it under 2:36, I threw a grueling surge and the next thing I knew I was finished, walking with wobbly knees and then being hugged by Carolyn Mather who said I ran 2:35:49! WAHOOO!!!
I went right off to pee in a cup (drug testing) and then back to the tent where they had our bags. Got dressed, talked to a couple of newspaper guys, and found Aaron. We ate some BBQ brisket sandwiches and shrimp salad and drank LOTS of fluid. I texted Coach and a few other people, got some ART done on my poor legs, and went to the awards ceremony. As we were waiting for the announcer to announce us I talked to the ladies from Ukraine and Krygyztan (their friend, Lyubov Denisova from Russia knew some English and could translate to them). The funniest part was when Lyubov asked me if I have kids and I told her three. She translated that to Iulia and Olena and Iulia was like “OUGHMPH!!!” with the funniest jaw drop and shocked eyes. Hahaha. I told her she should have some too since they’ve actually made me run faster! She resolved to have twins next year.
All things considered I feel really grateful for such an awesome race and huge PR. The wind was not in our favor but I was blessed with the strength to push through and hang on for a respectable time. On a flatter course with perfect weather I am certain I could run faster, so its encouraging to look ahead and feel optimistic about the future. I also see lots of room for improvement in my training and am looking forward to making the necessary changes for the next marathon training cycle. Aaron was a huge support to me this weekend (and this entire season) as he built up my positive self talk and confidence and today as he was out there on the course at many points cheering me on, checking to make sure my bottles were placed in clear view on the tables, and shooting pictures. Coach De Reuck (and Colleen) have been a HUGE asset and support over the past several months as they coached and encouraged me all along the way. I also really appreciate the support and encouragement from my teammates on the Running Republic team, all you FRB-ers, as well as my family and friends who send me positive vibes of energy with your thoughts and words. Also thanks to my Mom, Alyson for flying to Denver from SLC to watch our kids for the weekend, running them around to their various activities, being misguided by the Garmin and chasing after the kids through the mass of soccer fields while trying to get to Abe’s game in time, and even juggling all three kids at Church! Impressive that she still has the energy and patience to do all that even at age 61!!! Go MOM! I promise we wont ask you again. Thanks, everyone!!!