Monday, April 18, 2011

Recap of Salt Lake City Marathon 2011

We got home late last night after a WONDERFUL but exhausting weekend.

I want to get my race recap done while it is still fresh in my memory though so here goes. WARNING... it's long (you all know I am long-winded by now, don't you?) I like to remember the details! :)

We got to Salt Lake around 11:30am on Friday. After a quick lunch we picked up my parents at the airport. Yay!!! It was so, so great to see them. New York is just really far away. First we headed over to the expo. We parked and walked a little bit and it was beautiful outside. I wasn't expecting to be impressed with the expo after just being at Vegas and Disney World, but it was really good. They had a lot of booths and good stuff, everything was well organized, and they even had a super nice lady who was making balloons for the kids. Josh won a chapstick and a bag of rice so he was happy. :)

The shirts and "goody bag" were major disappointments, even with my low expectations, but that is really the only complaint I have about the race weekend.

After walking around the expo we headed to the hotel to check in (we wanted to check in early to make sure we got adjoining rooms) and then we went to a really fun dinner at "The Old Spaghetti Factory". Very yummy!

Josh and my Dad dropped off Pam, the girls, Noah and I at the hotel and then my Dad and Josh took the boys to an arena football game. It was right by the hotel and the tickets were only $10 each so they decided to go. The girls had the option to go but wanted to hang out with Pam and I at the hotel. Noah was pretty cranky... lately he gets really nervous when we are not at home or in the van and he was letting us know that he was displeased with not being at home or in the van. He finally did settle down and play a little and did sleep great all night.

I got everything I needed arranged for the morning, enjoyed some time with Pam and the girls, got Noah and the little girls in bed, and then laid down while I waited for the boys to get back. They were back just after 10pm or so and we quickly got them all into bed and Josh and I went to bed too. (The guys LOVED the arena football game!!!)

I did not sleep super well, although I had slept well the whole week before so I wasn't too worried. I got up at 3:30am and pretty much hid in the bathroom (where I had set everything up) so I didn't wake anyone up. Luckily it was a huge, very nice bathroom (thank you Marriott).  I had the coffee maker set up to heat my water and ate my oatmeal (sweetened with honey) and drank a glass of Vitamin Water right away. My plan was to leave the room at 5:30 so I laid down for a little while and then slowly started getting dressed and ready.

Just before 5:30 I snuck over and kissed Josh goodbye and then headed down to the lobby. The race website had said that the host hotel would have shuttle service in the morning from the hotel to the start line, which was one of the reasons we had stayed there (because I knew I would be going to the start by myself and didn't want Josh to have to get up and drive me or anything) but when we checked in they told us that they didn't know anything about that, and then showed me how to walk to the TRAX stop and ride it to the start line (and TRAX was free for runners that morning).

So I was prepared to find the TRAX station and get on, but when I got to the lobby, sure enough there were nice big buses waiting to take runners to the start after all. Score! It was raining a little but it was still warmer than Vegas or Florida had been (cold, but not freezing!)

I sat on the bus and listened to people talking around me, and then it was about a 15 minute ride to the start. I felt anxious but overall pretty relaxed, although it would have been nice to have someone to talk to and hang out with. The starting line area had a gear bag check (and they gave us better bags to put our stuff in), food, PLENTY of porta-potties, etc. and didn't seem crazy crowded. I warmed up a little, checked my bag, used the bathroom one last time and then made my way to the start line. I did NOT want to get stuck in a slow bunch of runners like I did in Disney, so I made my way up near the front (but behind the runners who were clearly out to win or try). The half marathoners were starting with us as well, but despite that it still didn't feel too crowded.

Standing at the start I was feeling READY. I was not feeling very nervous, and I was just ready to get running.  I was excited and hopeful, and feeling as prepared as I could be.

I took off my throw-away sweat shirt right before the start (but kept on my throwaway gloves until about mile 4 or 5), and while I was chilly, I could tell the temps were going to be perfect. I believe it was in the upper 40's at the start, and never got above mid 50's. The skies were overcast the entire race which was great... NO SUN to heat me up, and it sprinkled a couple of times but just for a minute or two and it felt pretty good. My outfit was perfect... the tights were perfect and I loved the new tank and arm sleeves. The new headband never BUDGED and I am definitely going to pick up a few more of those. And my Brooks Ravennas did me proud! (If you missed it you can ready my "what I wore" post here).

I think I lined up in a pretty good spot at the start because once we started, the people ahead of me took off, I passed a few people and got passed by a few, but then seemed to settle in pretty quickly with people running at or about the same pace. I kept reminding myself not to go out too fast and to stick to my race plan, and I did.

I was really surprised how fast the first six miles went. The course had a lot of down hill and some decent up hills. I used my pace band and Coach Bob (Garmin!) and  kept right on the paces that I needed to get a sub-four hour time. (The pace band had my fastest mile at 8:45 and my slowest at 9:10). My head was in a good place and I was calm and confident.

Here are my splits for the first six miles
Mile 1- 8:49
Mile 2 - 8:54
Mile 3 - 8:45
Mile 4 - 8:45
Mile 5 - 8:49
Mile 6 - 8:59

I didn't talk with anyone, but I enjoyed watching the other runners, listening to the conversations around me, and looking at the people cheering. This section went through a lot of residential areas after the first two miles or so and the roads were closed, so there were lots of people out in front of their houses cheering us on.  There were rarely any BIG crowds until the end, but a very steady stream of great people cheering and watching. I took my first gel at mile 5 as planned (and every five miles after that), and took sips of my Hammer Perpetuem regularly, while supplementing with water at the aid stations (I did this throughout the race and it worked perfectly for me... NO WALL!)

Somewhere after mile six my stomach rumbled and I knew I would need a pit stop soon. I have to say of all of the races I have done, the Salt Lake City Marathon did the best job with the porta-potties. There were tons at the start and finish, and then several at every single aid station (and aid stations were every 1.7-1.9 miles).  Just before mile 7, I got to an aid station and only waited a short bit to get into a portapotty. I lost just over two minutes.

From mile 7-10 was the worst that I felt the entire race. I didn't feel terrible, I just didn't feel great. My stomach was still feeling off, I felt a little tired, and I knew I still had a very long way to go. There were some uphills in here too. I was able to keep my mental attitude positive though and I just kept telling myself that I could do it. My friend shared this scripture with me before the race, "Be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded. Chronicles 15:7" and I kept telling myself to be strong and courageous, over and over. It helped!

Just at mile 10 I had to stop again at the portapotties. There was no line at all and this time I lost a little under two minutes. I took my second Hammer gel as I took off and then I really settled into a groove. My body felt great, my stomach was calm, my energy was good, and the miles just started clicking by.

At home I run A LOT of out and back runs, so mentally to me "half-way" is where I turn around and am headed home. Telling myself that I am "headed home" is a boost, and passing 13.1 miles (we ran over a timing mat) was exciting. I was "headed home" and feeling strong.

I did have a moment of doubt when I saw that my "half way" time was 2:00:38, and I knew I would need to shave time off of my first half time to be able to finish in under four hours. I also knew that the downhills were pretty done at that point and that there was at least one significant UPHILL at the end, but I didn't let doubt creep in and I kept telling myself to be strong and courageous, and I borrowed EMZ's favorite line... "I freaking got this!"

Next group of splits -
Mile 7 - 11:00 (stupid stomach)
Mile 8 - 8:59
Mile 9 -9:06
Mile 10- 10:35 (stupid stomach again)
Mile 11- 8:54
Mile 12- 8:57
Mile 13- 9:06

From this point out, I felt better as the race went on. I was feeling strong and feeling more and more confident that unless I hit "the wall", pulled a muscle, or had more major stomach issues, I was going to make my goal of running this in under four hours.

I was surprised how much of this race was MENTAL for me. I had definitely put the physical work and training in... I had not missed a mile in my training, I had busted my butt on speed work and I had really put the work in to be able to run faster and longer. But it still was not easy. I had to concentrate, focus, and push myself pretty much the entire time. Any time I noticed my mind wandering a little I would look down at Coach Bob on my wrist and sure enough my pace would have slipped a little.

 I had to focus and concentrate consistently, and I had to run hard consistently too. I felt my body wanting to ease off and slow down some, and I kept reminding myself that I was RACING. I wasn't racing the people around me, but I was racing the clock and racing myself. It was supposed to be hard. My body was ready, but focusing and concentrating and pushing yourself for (just under!) four hours isn't easy. "Be strong and courageous." "I freaking got this".

At mile 15 I took another Hammer gel, and again miles ticked on by. As we passed mile 17 and were into the "single digits" in miles left I was excited!

I have to say that the police were amazing. There were tons of road closures and intersections, and the cops were just great. They were cheering and clapping and really added to the atmosphere. There were lots of great people out cheering us on too, and quite a few people who set up tables in front of their houses and were offering orange slices, drinks, bananas, etc. One guy was set up on both sides of the road with big signs for "Temptation Station" and was offering free beer and vodka. His sign said, "Anyone can run a marathon SOBER". LOL! I wonder if anyone took him up on the offer? I certainly did NOT. :)

I was scanning the crowds for Josh, the kids, Dad and Pam, although I was pretty sure I wouldn't see them until the end. Josh, Dad and the boys had had a late night, and I told them just to take their time getting up, getting breakfast, etc. The race went right past the front of our hotel right around mile 25 so I thought I may just see them there. I also thought I might see them at Liberty Park around mile 23, as that is a fun place for the kids to wait around. I had left them with a course map and a chart saying time ranges of when I expected to be at each mile.

I got more and more excited as the race went on, and couldn't stop smiling. At mile 20 I took another Hammer Gel and shortly thereafter I finished my Perpetuem.  I had one last gel to take at mile 25 if I wanted, but at that point I decided I probably wouldn't take it (and I didn't). With only six miles to go I felt awesome and I knew that I had a decent cushion now to make my goal and that unless I completely fell apart, I was going to get my sub-four.

Mile 14 - 8:51
Mile 15- 8:57
Mile 16- 9:03
Mile 17 - 8:59
Mile 18- 9:02
Mile 19- 9:00
Mile 20- 8:58

In my first two marathons, miles 20-26 were LONG, long, long, long, long. But in this race they just zipped on by. I hit Liberty Park just around mile 23. Lots of times Josh and I have been at Liberty Park with the kids, watching people run around the perimeter in the sunshine and it always makes me want to run (although I never have). I kept saying to myself "woo hoo! I am running in Liberty Park!" And just before I left the park I was scanning the crowd and noticed my Dad!!! I waved to get his attention and then I saw Josh and he had already spotted me. They all cheered like crazy (Solomon was the loudest if you had any doubts) and I tossed them my water bottle since it was empty. Josh and Shane ran along side me on the grass for a minute and took pictures and then I left them with a huge smile on my face. I yelled to Josh, "I got this!"

Miles 24-26 had some serious hill. At first the ascent was gradual but it was enough that you could feel it and then you could see the STEEP part looming ahead of you. At this point there were many 5k participants on the course who were walking, and a lot of marathoners who were walking too. When I got to the steepest part of the hill I couldn't even see anyone else running (the runners were really thinned out at this point) but I kept telling myself that I run hills ALL THE TIME and that I wasn't going to give up now. I never stopped running and fought hard up that hill.

Hitting the top of that hill was really, really awesome. At that point I knew it was less than a mile to the finish and that it was mostly downhill. I knew I was going to be under four hours. I was smiling again, and trying to finish strong. Things were definitely starting to cramp though. I had one hamstring that was threatening to cramp (it never did badly, but was threatening a little for the last couple of miles and threatening for real that last half mile). Calves were very tired. Both of my sides were cramping that last half mile and it was hard to breathe (I am sure because of the hill). But I was racing, and I was going to finish strong.

I made one final turn and saw a straight shot to the finish line. There were lots of people cheering. I looked up and saw the race clock and knew that sub-four was a done deal. I had no idea if my family had made it there in time, but I was so so happy.

I always try to finish my races at a sprint. I gradually picked up the pace and then went for my final kick. There were three guys ahead of me that I wanted to catch, and I think I scared at least one of them when I went by (there were only a few of us in the finish chute at this point). They picked up their pace and took off after me. It was a little race within a race! I was able to edge out two of them and one got ahead of me. Everyone was cheering and I felt like I was FLYING and I was pretty sure it was the fastest I had ever run (and the Garmin confirmed that!)

Mile 21- 8:53
Mile 22 -8:51
Mile 23- 8:55
Mile 24- 8:46
Mile 25- 9:02
Mile 26 - 8:35
Mile 26.2 - 8:07 (off because I didn't turn off the Garmin right away after crossing the finish line and I walked a little first and celebrated and caught my breath before stopping the timer. It says I hit a max speed of 15.6 miles per hour though! I am sure it wasn't for more than a few seconds, but woo hoo!)

As I crossed the finish line and finally stopped running, I felt amazing. My Garmin said 3:57 and change. (Late that night I finally got my official time of 3:57:29). I started to cry, but I was really having to suck to get some air in too (I sounded like my son Marcus when he has an asthma attack). I calmed down for a minute, and then was handed my medal and a bottle of cold water right away. I had my picture taken a few times, and then was handed a bag from a bakery (with a roll and a huge cookie in it) and walked through a lane of food items. I finally spotted the guy giving away chocolate milk, told him he was the guy I was looking for (and got a big laugh) and took one of those and downed it.

I walked over to the gear drop and got my bag, and then found a table where I put my stuff and stretched some. I had my favorite flip flops in my gear bag so I changed into those (and was thrilled to find happy feet with ZERO blisters... love my Brooks!) and then put on a sweatshirt. I ate a piece of a Power Bar and picked at the roll a little. I figured my best chance at finding everyone was to stay put so I did, and sure enough shortly thereafter I saw my Dad!

My Dad took me back to where Josh, Pam and the kids were. Because of traffic and road closures they had missed my awesome finish, but they were all very excited for me and it was great to see them and get lots of hugs and congrats. I felt like I was on the top of the world. I wanted to call Jenny but it was loud and the kids wanted my attention so I just sent her a quick text. Solomon was the cutest... since I had gotten to the finish line before them he said, "Mom! You were faster than A CAR!!!!!!" Yeah baby. :)

Obviously it was a great race and an incredible day for me. (The rest of the weekend was wonderful too... we had a lot of nice time together, the kids got to swim, we ate a lot of yummy food, we played outside in a park in the sunshine, and we loved having time with Papa and Pam).

My only complaints about the Salt Lake City marathon were that the shirts and bags were really really cheap  (they did have better quality bags on race morning, although it was very last minute). And it was a little annoying that the host hotel was so uninformed about race morning transportation, but again, that worked out great when it mattered.

The weather was perfect. The course was great, even though it wasn't one you would consider easy or fast (and I kind of like that I got my first sub-four on a course that wasn't particularly easy or fast). It was a much different experience than Vegas or Disney without the huge crowds, music and entertainment on course, hype, etc. however I enjoyed the smaller running field and the quieter course. The city was very pretty and clean. I was never bored and I just really, really liked it. The organization of the expo, the race, and the finish line were all wonderful and they had a really nice variety of food and set up at the end (and free massages, although I missed getting one since I was hurrying back to the kids). Oh, and the medal was quite big and very nice. Overall I think that the Salt Lake City Marathon did an awesome job and puts on a great race and weekend.  I would definitely recommend this marathon and will definitely do it again.

Here I am with all my stuff in the awesome Brooks bag Josh got me for my birthday. This was right as we were leaving Friday morning.

 Josh took this pic as I was going by them and leaving the park, just past mile 23.
I think this is my favorite race pic :)

This was earlier in the race...not sure where.

Love the pics with both feet off the ground. :)

This was JUST after reaching the top of the hill, just past the 26 mile marker. Yup, that is how I felt!

This was just a few seconds later, realizing it was less than a mile (downhill) to the finish!
Be strong and courageous...

Coming into the finish line

Passing and staying ahead of two of the guys :)

Obligatory cheesy finisher pic
Thanks so much to all of you who sent me good luck comments and emails and for all of the congrats. It means a lot!!! More soon. :)


BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

How awesome!! I love the cheesy finisher pic!

Eryn said...

Congrats! Erin, you are a marathon ROCK star! You are tearing it up!

Terzah said...

Great race report (I love the detail!) and pictures. Enjoy basking in it!!

Meredith said...

Wooohoooo!!!!!! Stinkin' awesome!!!! You seriously rocked it!! Way to go!!!

Renee said...

LOVE all the pics! You did so awesome! Thanks for sharing the details. I love them!

Silly question-where do you carry your gels?

Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

E you rocked it!! sub 4!!!! wow!!! These pics are fantastic and your race outfit looks FABULOUS on you!!!

I wasn't sure what your result would be during the stomach issues part of the recap but you totally turned it on!!!

Mallory said...

Great pictures!! I love the two feet off the ground pics!! I have yet to get one!


So awesome Erin! You totally rocked it. All the pictures are great. Be proud! You earned it!

Penny said...

Way to go Erin, You ROCKED that race. Loved all the pic's .

Jennifer@runfortheboys said...

Great job! Congrats on your FIRST sub-4! Loved all the pics and the race recap. Thanks for sharing!

Becky said...

Well done!! Salt Lake City is great and I bet it was beautiful to run through. Congrats on the sub-4. That's amazing!

Rae said...

Congrats! And awesome race report!! Love all the pictures!

Emily B. said...

Way to go! I love the pic of the guy in the red shirt as you passed him like "oh crap! let's go!" LOL :) (PS- love the detail!)

Carlee said...

Great race report and I Love the pics! Congrats!

The Green Girl said...

Congratulations, girl. Way to push through all the stomach issues. ::hugs::

Your official race pictures are amazing!

Betina said...

I LOVE that you are a runner now. I've read you for years, and I've been really proud of your weight loss and running. I run too. I've done one full... and now I love the Halfs. An injury has kept me to 13.1, but I will run them till the day I die. I am an adoptive Mom too, so that's how I started reading you. Thanks for your great attitude about everything!