Tuesday, October 9, 2007

St George Marathon

As most of you know, I was supposed to do this race 3 years ago. Unfortunately, my IT band had different plans for me, none of which included training for and running a very hilly race. So, after Ironman Coeurd A'lene, and a disappointing NO for the New York Marathon lottery came in, I was in need of a plan B.

In typical momo fashion, she had already entered and been accepted to the St George Marathon lottery. We found out there were a few charity slots left, so I secured one of them, and actually got pretty excited. I downloaded a 3 day a week training schedule from Runners World and stuck to it pretty well. I added in longer bike rides as the cross-training, also in hopes of getting ready for the Tour de Tucson bike race.

My long runs were up and down. Some good, some bad. Thankfully, they ended with a pretty good 20miler to boost my confidence. It was a very hot summer here in AZ, so I was really counting on cooler temps in Utah to lower my HR and help me run faster.

I went into this race with no high expectations. I've learned that anything can happen during a race, and honestly, I was getting sick of disappointments. I used to not set very hard goals. My second marathon 5 years ago, the RnR Marathon in San Diego was the first of many bad races. I was on track, and trained to run a 4 hour marathon. This is the race that injured my IT band. My first half was just over 2hours. My second half 2:30. I finished just over 4:30, :30 slower than my goal.

My next race was the NY marthathon. My injury didn't allow me to finish training that year, and I postponed it to 2003. Although it was my most memorable, getting engaged, it was also one of the most painful 5 hours of my life. I was in complete agony for nearly 5 hours, and for months after. I finished one minute faster than my first marathon, like 4:54 or something like that.

Several more "OK" races, later I did set a good goal for myself this year at the AFC Half. I wanted to break 2 hours. I felt like I was ready, and again, relying on the cooler temps and lower HR to do well. Unfortunately I did not do as planned, and finished in 2:06.

SO, I went into St. George just hoping to have fun, run with Momo, and hopefully come in anytime under 4:30.

The weather was perfect. Extremely COLD in the am at the start. In the 30's I would guess. I couldn't bring myself to give up all my layers before the race, so momo had the great idea to carry one of the drop bags in my coat pocket & we would drop another layer after the first mile or so. It worked out great! I stayed cool enough to wear my "throw away" long sleeve until about mile 5.

We were doing pretty well. Staying with or in front of the 4:15 pacer. I think about a 9:40pace. It was VERY hilly. Shane & a few others that did the race several years ago when I was supposed to warned us, that unlike the elevation chart, this race was NOT all downhill. They were right. There were some brutal hills. Both our HRs were in the 170's. I could see poor M was struggling. She wasn't talking and she just seemed out of sorts.

We started pulling our pace back a bit to lower our HRs. Poor Melisa though, even with some walking her HR wasn't dropping like normal. Something wasn't right. She tried convincing me to leave for several miles, but I wasn't out there to run fast. I was out there for fun. I was out there to have a good time, feel good and enjoy the company.

But, as the time went on, we slowed more and surprisingly my HR was dropping. My legs wanted to GO! I had a lot of energy. I was so worried about leaving her. She finally looked at me at mile 13 and said, "You need to GO!" She wasn't sure she could keep it up, and she knew how good I felt. She was worried we would slow even more & I wouldn't get in under 4:30. We had slowed our pace quite a bit, and at mile 13 we were at 2:15mins.

Finally after a few mins of walking, she convinced me to go. We had already climbed most of the hills (basically 7-11 is UP) so I figured if I could even just hold the same pace for the second half, I could come in under 4:30 and PR.

After the first few miles by myself, I was very lonely. I tried to talk to other runners, but for some reason this was the most UNFRIENDLY group of athletes I have ever come across. If it weren't for the great support at the aid stations, I'm not sure I would have anything nice to say about it. I don't know what was going on. The weather was perfect. The course was very pretty, and we had plenty of room (they shut down the entire road for the runners).

Just a couple of examples:

A saw a woman with an Ironman CDA shirt on. As I finally caught up to her, I started trying to talk - "How did you like CDA? Isn't it beautiful, and such great people?" her response "Yes. It was nice."

That was it. She turned away from me and wouldn't have eye contact. I took the hint. Apparently shortly after, Melisa got the same response.

I tried talking to people about the course - asking who had done it, I heard mile 18 was tough... did anyone know.

All I got was ignored, or complaints. Oh - 17-18 is hard. But so is the rest. It's hard to go down after that. It's just hard.

It was unbelievable, no one seemed to want to be there.

Unfortunately I didn't even have my music on to help me out, so I decided to just make it my own race. Ignore the grumpy people and push forward.

That is what I did. I started realizing HOW many people I WAS PASSING. I'm usually the one that gets passed. I'm usually the one wondering how these people can find energy in the back half of a race and go so fast. It was ME this time. I honestly can't tell you how many people I passed. It was hundreds. Literally. I'm sure I was passed as well, but nothing noteworthy.

The miles started going by SO quickly. The next thing I knew I was around mile 16. I was approaching a girl about my age. We seemed to be about the same pace. I tried to talk. She didn't seem to really want to, but at least she wasn't rude. I made her my pretend-friend. I just kept gabbing until she had no choice but to talk. I told her all about CDA and how I was supposed to do this race several years ago.... I learned she just had a baby 8 months ago, and she wasn't really trained, and she told her husband that it might take her 5-5:30 hours.

That's when I looked down and realized that I had already gained back 4/5 mins we lost with the walking on the hills in the first half. But, what I also noticed, that I was half way up the hill I was so worried about at mile 18. I never had to walk. I just kept going. I even was able to push ahead of my "pretend friend."

About mile 20 I had a man come up behind me and yell - "so is everyone feeling good?" "The quads are still there right?" I said, of course they are - they are numb! Feeling good. He ran up next to me, and said - "I have been trying to catch you for miles." Then he passed me. I said, "what so now I have to chase you?" He said, "Yup, come on.. lets pick it up to the next aid station."

So I did.. And then, then I passed him and never saw him again.

Once I hit 20 I started gaining more time, or loosing it rather. I slowly started realizing I could possibly do a 4:25 as long as I kept a 10min pace, including walking at the aid stations. So I did started clocking my mile splits. I never saw a 10min mile again. I even had one that was an 8:45.

I couldn't believe I was doing it. I started to get giddy. I had the best runner's high. I started realizing that for the first time in a long time, my friends were not going to have to feel bad for me because I had, yet again, another BAD race. I wouldn't have to hear "it's going to be your day this time" anymore. I was going to make this my race.

Finally, I hit mile 24. I realized I was getting close to the 4:20 mark, not 4:25. I forgot about the extra .2, and decided I could finish at 4:22, that was my new goal. I decided not to stop at the aid station at 25. I took a small drop of gel from my fuel belt, grabbed some water, and decided that was it. I was going to to push to the end this time. I wasn't going to let my head get the best of me, or worry about cramping or getting dizzy and having to slow down.

I passed the 25mile aid station so full of energy. I was smiling. I was slapping all the spectators hands as they stuck them out. I turned a corner and saw a kid holding a sign saying 25.2miles. I was at about 4:11. I hit my lap button and just kept telling myself 9 mins. That's all you have left. I had no idea how fast I was running, but it felt like I was flying. I looked at my watch every few seconds to keep myself from slowing down. I could see the finish. It seemed so far away. I had 2 mins to get there. I picked it up. I passed about 10 people. I gave it my all... I watched my HR go from the low 170s to the high 180s.

I crossed the finish line and saw 4:19something on my watch. By the time I hit the stop it was exactly 4:20:00.

I got my medal & couldn't stop smiling. I did it. I pushed myself, I never gave up and I did well. I was sad about not finishing with Melisa, but it was a huge accomplishment for myself. I was proud. I was gleaming.

I saw our wonderful sherpa, Kirsten at the finish. She was going to wait for Melisa & I needed to walk a bit. I went through to the finish food, booths etc. Nothing sounded good. I didnt' know what I wanted. I was standing there by myself, and decided to go back and wait for Melisa. So I did. I saw her cross the finish line. I had been so worried about her. Worried that her not feeling well got the best of her and she may have stopped.

Even with as crappy as she felt she came in just under 4:37. What a champ. She is an Ironman. And even more, she is a wonderful friend. She convinced me to go, convinced me to do this race. She helped me get this accomplishment. I feel very lucky.

St. George might have been the race that finally turned the page in my streak of poor races (excluding Ironman), and it was absolutely the race that has given me my running mojo back. However, it is not my favorite. The course is very challenging. A lot of up in the begining, a lot of hard down to test the quads. And, the overall community just wasn't that great. Maybe it's because I was so spoiled by the support and athletes in CDA. I'm not sure. There was just something missing.....

I'm not saying I won't ever go back, but there are a lot of places I'd go to first....

Back to CDA, NY, and a little birdy seems to be awfully set on MAUI next year... So many possibilities!

I'm feeling pretty good today. I'm still sore, mostly IT bands,quads & hamstrings from the hills. Unfortunately I'm not able to work out the stiffness because of the epidural injections I had yesterday. I'm very stiff in my neck/back and it is somewhat painful so I'm taking it very easy. I'm just hopeful that these help my pain and get me back in the pool soon!

Thanks for all your encouragement & congrats!


momo said...

i love it. your race report made me feel like i was there. oops, i was - at least for half of it. :-)

and just in case you didn't know - you did AWESOME. i'm glad the mojo is back - maybe i can find mine and we can do some fun races. with fun people. in fun places. then vacation. and wine! deal?

SixTwoThree said...

Congrats on your race. You had my HR going reading about it. I'm 12 days away from my first marathon in 20 years. We'll see how it goes in San Francisco! Wouldn't it be funny if we had the same time?! Might be close. We'll see how it goes ...with my IT band. Earie huh? If it weren't for the pet clause in my building, I'd have dogs like yours too.

Crackhead said...

Great job! We all have bad races, and every now and then a great one pops up. Kinda like life in general--lots of bad stuff but there are always good things if we just are patient!

Taryn said...

Congratulations on coming back and having a great marathon! (& I love the attitude with making someone your "pretend friend"!!! That's awesome!)

zacklys said...

Ok - I just found your blog by searching for "St. George Marathon" and I have to say ... It totally gave my chills! I loved it! Every single word! It really touched me! I ran the St. George Marathon in 2006 (the 30 year anniversary) in 6 hours 2 minutes. Not a very serious athlete ... I just wanted to prove to myself that I could! This year, I've set a goal of 5 hours (my real secret goal is 4:48 ... 11 minute miles) but reading your blog was so very inspirational, I just had to say THANK YOU! I loved your attitude and especially the "pretend friend". I am from St. George - and I was surprised about the runners and how unfriendly they were. At the pace I was running - they were all really amazing. Keep running and thanks for the inspiration!