Oh Race Day! I knew my biggest challenge on race day would be my brain. I had to keep my head in the game. I had to stay optimistic. I had to stay positive. No matter how tough the race became, I had to stay engaged. While I did not have a time goal going into this race, there was a range I knew I would fall into depending on the circumstances of the race. I did not post these numbers or talk about the much because I did not want the race clock to be my driving force on race day. I wanted my heart to guide me, and the emotion of a marathon knows nothing about numbers.
- If race day was perfect, if everything fell into place, I knew I had a shot at break 4 hours. A sub 4 hour marathon is a 9:07 pace.
- Marathon reality was anywhere from 4:00 – 4:20 in my head. If I could be brave and fight, I knew I’d end up in the low 4s even if things got tricky. If I was timid, I expected my range to be in the 4:1X.
- Plan Z is always to finish without jeopardizing my own health and any future running plans.
My race strategy was to duplicate the effort I put into my 20 mile training run. I would then fight for the last 6.2 miles.
I woke up race day morning shocked to hear the sound of pouring rain outside. The forecast was not predicting rain. In that moment, I was thankful for the last minute decision to grab my ran coat and a hat. Fortunately the temperature outside weren’t freezing. A light rain and 50 degrees were just fine by me.
I got to the start just as the half marathon race was starting. I used the bathroom, I ate my gel, I drank some water, and the race was off.
The first few miles flew by. I was running without much thought. The course is beautiful, and there is so much to look at along the way. At mile 3, I got warm and quickly got rid of my jacket. The course was pretty congested with runners in my pace zone. Because the streets were filled with rain and puddles, we were splashing all over each other. My feet were quickly soaking wet. At mile 4, Bart Yasso cheered me on. This part of the race was just fun. As I settled into my groove, I was just so proud to have made it to the start line.
Mile 1: 9:17
Mile 2: 9:07
Mile 3: 8:52
Mile 4: 9:04
Miles 5 – 7 led to the first bridge to cross the River. The neighborhood was stunning. I was oblivious to my pace and the elevation change at this point in the race. I think I glanced at my garmin no more than a few times the entire race. The first 5 miles were a slow incline. Miles 5 – 7 were a nice decline down the river, and based on my garmin I took advantage of the downhill.
Mile 5: 9:02
mile 6: 9:12
10K Race Clock: 56:49 (9:07 pace)
mile 7: 8:30
What goes down has to come back up. After we crossed the river, the course followed the river downstream through another gorgeous neighborhood Miles 8 – 15 were on the south side of the river and were gently rolling hills. I had heard from several people that the hills weren’t too bad. They lied (but I’m glad they did)! The first half of this race is a lot hillier than I expected. If I lived in the mountains, they would be easy. I live at the beach, and my only elevation change is bridge crossings. I incorporated these bridges into my training runs, but it wasn’t enough. I need more hill work.
Mile 8: 9:25
Mile 9: 9:23
Christian had found me right before the first bridge crossing. At mile 9, my stomach started to turn. It was in knots. I remember telling him I felt like I needed to throw up. My body felt great at this point. I was still having fun. My run felt easy and light. My stomach had different plans. I took a drink of water from Christian, and I instantly felt it coming back up. Throw up #1 just happened.
Mile 10: 10:27
I got myself back together. Christian made sure I was okay. I looked at him, laughed, and said, “Plan B. Here we go!” I sent him ahead a few miles, and tried to find a running grove that felt good on both my legs and my stomach. While my legs were behaving (even my hips!), I could not get my stomach to settle. I started taking walk breaks every time I felt the need to throw up. I did not and was not willing to throw up for 16 miles. I’d run a mile, settle my stomach, and run some more. Run/Walking at mile 11 was not my plan, but I adapted. I stayed happy.
Mile 11: 10:26
Mile 12: 11:01
Mile 13: 10:11
Just after mile 11, I saw one of my favorite people. Bob, from J&A racing, was out on the course support Team in Training. There is something about him that makes you feel like anything is possible. I ran a few blocks with him, welcomed his encouragement, and set my sights on the half marathon marker. Somewhere before the half mark, I started craving real food. I felt like if I could stuff my stomach maybe it would settle (good logic, maybe not?). Christian dropped back to peel an orange for me and said he would catch up. After I threw up the first time, I told myself I had to make to the half way mark. I let it pull me. Friends and family at home were waiting for the text update of my half marathon time. I wanted them to know I was doing this.
13.1 Race Clock – 2:04:53 (9:32 pace) (an official race PR)
As soon as I crossed that mat, it happened again. I found myself throwing up. One of the nicest strangers I’ve ever meet came over and started rubbing my back. He made sure I was okay, and I was back on the course running. Just as I stood back up, I saw Christian bike by. He had missed me. I was so worried that he would be worried about me when he couldn’t find. When I stepped back on to the road to run, another runner passed me. We had been going back and forth all morning. He looked like he was in pain too, so I said hi. We swapped stores, and ran with each other until the next bridge crossing where Christian was waiting for me again. We both just wanted to get to the bridge.
Mile 14: 10:57
Mile 15: 9:32
I made it to the bridge. The bridge crossing didn’t feel nearly as long as I had expected. My stomach was still a mess. I was still taking walk breaks every mile to calm it down. I just didn’t want to throw up. I knew that once I gave into the process, I would be done. Miles 16 -21 were really all a blur. I kept my head low. I found my friend Sara on the sidelines and happily accepted her hug. I made sure I high-fived every kid I saw with an extended hand. I needed their energy. I felt like I needed to curl up in a ball, but I wasn’t wiling to give in. My stomach kept cramping, my gag reflex was engaged, but I had to keep running. There was another timing mat waiting for me at mile 20. I needed to send the text to everyone at home that I was still moving. My most vivid memory from these miles is constantly telling Christian that I was okay. I didn’t want him worried about me.
Mile 16: 10:32
Mile 17: 10:50
Mile 18: 10:45
Mile 19: 10:44
Mile 20: 10:36
20 Mile Race Clock – 3:17:38 (9:53 pace)
Mile 21: 10:32
After mile 21, my need to finish took over. My legs were no longer feeling good. My left ankle was on fire. My feet were throbbing (running in wet socks for 16 miles is not fun!). My stomach still wouldn’t settle. I knew I had to keep moving. I couldn’t throw up. I pushed forwards and when the urge to throw up hit me, I’d walk.
Mile 22: 10:55
Mile 23: 10:41
When there was only 3.1 miles left in the race, I ran under a banner that was the start sign for a Richmond 5k Fun Run. I knew I could run a 5k even if I threw up the whole way. Somewhere near this point in the race, someone was handing out Coke. It was the best thing I could have found. It calmed my stomach (Coke is my hang over cure, duh! Christian will now carry Coke in his bag at all future races!). I had conquered my stomach (almost), now I just had to conquer the pain in my legs and feet.
Mile 24: 9:54
Mile 25: 10:04
Mile 26: 9:56
Last stretch: 8:04 pace
The last 1/2 mile of the course is a sharp down hill. There was no stopping. I didn’t have the energy to fight my legs at this point. I just held on, resisted the urge to throw up, prayed I wouldn’t fall on my face and found myself at finish line.
Finish Time: 4:22:30 (9:59 pace)
Gender Place: 914/2342
Age Place: 144/369
It was a crazy race. I still can’t believe it happened. I have so many thoughts in my head about the magic of running a marathon. I have even more thoughts about how much I love this race and the people who support me. I’ll save that for another post (or a conversation over coffee with friends who want to hear it). This post is long enough.
If you had asked me on Saturday morning if I’d be happy with a 4:22 finish, I would have told you there was no way that would be my finish time. I’d run faster. Today, I’m thrilled. It wasn’t in my range of finish times, but either was being sick for 16 miles. I stuck to my goals. I didn’t let doubt dictate my run. I stayed mentally engaged, and I fought for my finish line. I am so very happy!
Why did I get sick? I really don’t know. The only thing new I did on race day was add some diluted Gatorade to my routine, but I have done this in so many races. It’s never upset my stomach. I think I may have had a bit of a bug. I was achy the entire week leading up to race day but blamed my taper. Saturday morning when I woke, I couldn’t get myself out of bed. This is not normal for me on race day. I am normally up all night and awake before my alarm clock. I pulled myself out of bed 30 minutes before it was time to leave. I was chilled to the bone and lacked energy. During the race, I had hot flashes and chills. Who knows? I’ve also had no appetite since the race. Who isn’t starving for days after a marathon?
Another marathon in the books. Somehow I came home with an official PR in both the half and the marathon distance. While I’m still having a hard time standing up straight, I hate the stairs, and I could nap for days, I can not wait to do it again. I have so much more in me. This race is just a stepping stone for what I can accomplish in the future!