Monday, September 19, 2011

3:28 marathon recap

Recap time! (as usual - long and detailed)

The race weekend started just after noon on Friday when Alana came and picked me up and we hit the road!  We were both happy and excited but pretty calm overall. I had packed a lunch and ate it in the car and we had fun chatting about running, the race, and life in general.

We got into Logan and went to the hotel right away, where Terzah was waiting for us. She had driven in from Denver and it was so much fun to meet her in person.  We checked in to the hotel, did a little chatting and unpacking, and then I went with Alana to do some errands while Terzah rested a little.

At just after 5pm we met up at the Marriot, where the expo and pasta dinner was held.  The expo was on the small side but very nice and we got a few great samples. We got our bibs and packets, and we were all happy with the bright blue and green, long sleeved, women’s cut race shirts.  The pasta dinner was PERFECT. After my sick-fest in Pocatello I was determined to be super careful about what I ate and pasta, red sauce, and rolls were just what I wanted. They had two different types of pasta and three different sauces, along with rolls, salad, and cookies. It was all super yummy. This was the first time I ate at a pasta dinner before a race, and if they are all this good and fun, I am a fan. 

They had a prize wheel in the pasta dinner, and everyone with a bib number got to spin the wheel and get a prize. I got neon pink Zensah calf sleeves, Alana got a stadium seat, and Terzah won a Camelback!

We were back in our hotel room by 8pm or so, and after some last minute preparations (and of course more chit chat!) we were laying down and ready for sleep by about 9pm, with a plan of me getting up and into the bathroom first at about 3:30am, and us being down in the lobby to grab breakfast and catch the shuttle bus by 4:30am.

I slept pretty well, but poor Alana said she was tossing and turning all night with nerves. I woke up shortly before my alarm went off, and got ready. I had a little bit of pre-race jitters, but wasn’t terribly nervous. I was smiling, and enjoying the atmosphere, the company, and the experience. 

I had decided right after Pocatello that I was going to try not eating breakfast before this marathon. I never eat before my long runs (not even my 20 milers). I never eat before my half marathons or other races. I didn’t eat before my first leg of Ragnar this year. I had tried eating breakfast before marathons and after being as sick as I was in Pocatello I figured there was no better time to try something new. For some reason my body just doesn't like food before a run.  I also ate VERY carefully for the last couple of days before the race (avoided dairy and high fiber foods) and decided to switch back to Hammer Nutrition products. I went with the plan to take a Hammer gel every five miles during the race, drink my 22 ounce bottle of Hammer Perpetuem, and grab water a few times as needed from aid stations along the way.  (This worked PERFECTLY).

So Alana and Terzah had some breakfast (and the Comfort Inn, which wasn’t even the host hotel put out a really nice runner’s breakfast) and then we waited in the lobby for the shuttle bus. As the school bus pulled up it was hard not to notice that it was raining. A lot. But I am an eternal optimist, so I believed that it would soon blow over and we’d be fine by the time we ran (we had two and a half hours!)

After a short bus ride we got off at the park where the finish line would be hours and hours later, and we got on one in a long line of more buses for the ride up to the start. The rain had lightened up to just a drizzle and I was still hopeful. The ride up to the start was long but I didn’t mind it. I chatted with Alana, listened to pieces of conversations of runners around us, and rested. My jitters were there but in check. I knew I had a big challenge in front of me and I had that feeling that you get before you tackle something BIG that you know isn’t going to be easy. But I was feeling good.   

We got up to the top of the mountain and it was still pretty dark. We got off the bus around 6am and got right onto the portapotty lines. As we were waiting (and waiting) on line, it started to drizzle again. It picked up a little, and I pulled out an aluminum blanket that I got from the finish line at the Rock n Roll Vegas marathon and saved, and we stayed dry under that.  After getting our turns in the portapotties, we walked down to the starting area. We shed our warm clothes, loaded our gear bags and Terzah went and threw them into the open bus window that was collecting the bags. 

And then someone turned on the water. 

Rain started pouring down in SHEETS. You couldn’t hear or see there was so much rain. I ran for cover into the heated tent that they had set up… still somewhat hoping that this would blow over quickly. (At this point there was only 7 minutes until race start). I decided to stay in the tent, which was only 100 feet or so away from the starting line, for as long as possible. The rain kept coming down.  The gun went off two minutes later for the wheelchairs and handcycles and I had to wonder how on earth they would be able to go in that kind of rain. But they did!

I knew we only had five minutes until our start. I took off my throwaway hoodie, left on my throwaway gloves, and stood there shivering from the cold and the realization that I was about to be running in the cold rain. 

I had lost Alana and Terzah.  I normally like to get out there and line up sort of near the start of a race so I don’t get stuck in the back, but I just couldn’t make myself stand out in the rain. When the gun shot went off I took off right out of the tent, crossed the start line (just 24 seconds or so after the official start), and was on my way.

It was raining (although not the crazy hard pouring it had been) and it was cold. I was wearing a tank, shorts, and arm sleeves and my teeth were literally chattering even though I was running at a good pace. 

I seemed to get off at just the right time because I only had to pass people for the first couple of minutes and then I seemed to settle in with only minimal passing and getting passed. 

With the Top of Utah Marathon course being what it is (18 miles of downhill followed by 8.2 miles of flat and rolling hills), all of the pacers recommended positive splits. The key to running a race like this successfully though is finding the right balance between taking advantage of the downhill  to run your best race, and going out too fast and setting yourself up to hit the wall and have a super tough finish. My tentative plan was to run about 10-15 seconds faster than my goal pace of 7:49 during the 18 miles of downhill, and then run as fast as I could for the last 8.2 miles, giving myself a little bit of slow down time on the uphills. This also worked perfectly!

The rain dried up after a little bit and I was chilly but got into a good groove. I thought that if the skies stayed overcast and the rain stayed away, it could be PERFECT conditions. Yeah, that didn't happen. 
A few miles later the skies opened up again and it was just torrential downpours. Up until then I had been avoiding the big puddles and streams in the road to try and keep my feet from being totally soaked, but from then on there was no use. My feet were literally just sloshing and splashing IN my shoes. I was really worried that I would end up with horrible blisters since the race wasn't even half over yet. 

And then the hail started (for the first time). And then some crazy thunder and lightning. 

For a moment I told myself that I had just, two weeks earlier, ran a 3:32 marathon and qualified for Boston. I was already IN and registered for the Boston Marathon. The NYC marathon was just 7 weeks away. There was no reason to kill myself in crazy weather. BUT, the truth was, I felt too good not to give it my best effort. My stomach was on its very best behavior, my legs felt great, nothing hurt, I was keeping pace well, and I had no excuses not to give it all I had. So I did. :)

I do need to say that the 3:30 pace group stressed me out for a little bit, especially over the first few miles. I was wearing a pace band to run a 3:25 marathon (giving myself a couple of potty minutes to still get under 3:30), and I was ahead of my pace band by a little bit, and I was still BEHIND the 3:30 pace group. I knew they were going to go faster on the downhills and then slow down at the end of the course but I think they went out WAY too fast and since they finished with just about nobody with them from what I could tell (maybe I am wrong), I don't think their pacing plan was a good one. I ran behind them by just a little bit for a while, ran with one of the pacers (who I know) for miles 18-19, and then ran ahead of them from then until the end. 

Most people I talked to (of all different speeds) felt that the pace groups went out way too fast. I was really glad I decided to run my own race and not care what that pace group was doing.

Here are my splits
Miles 1-5
7:36, 7:34, 7:32, 7:39, 7:39 (took a gel)

Miles 6-10
7:48, 7:41, 7:28, 8:43 (this was pit stop number one), 7:40 (took a gel)

Miles 11-15
7:50, 7:46, 7:36, 7:27, 8:37 (this was pit stop number two) (took a gel)

Miles 16-20
7:48, 7:49, 7:50, 7:56 (uphill), 8:11(uphill) (took my last gel!)

Miles 21-26.2
7:52, 8:13 (uphill), 8:21 (uphill), 8:27 (uphill), 7:55, 7:55, and 7:25 (with a final kick of 6:30)

I have to say that the uphills really weren't very big hills. I think that on a flat course I wouldn't even have noticed them much. But, after 18 miles of downhill and at mile 19 of a marathon, you feel just about any amount of hill. Again though, these were not bad at all and I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the hills were behind me.

I felt good the whole time. I was cold for a lot of it, and really, really REALLY wet, but felt good. There were several rounds of crazy downpours, thunder and lightning, and hail. I have never been so wet fully clothes EVER. I could not have been any more wet if you had pushed me in a pool and held me under. At round two or three of pouring rain and hail I was running with two guys, and I said, "The medals better be REALLY freaking big this year", and they both laughed. The sun came out for about a mile (somewhere around 22ish) and then it was overcast and rained again. At mile 21 there was some SUPER loud and close thunder and lightning which was really scary, but my main thought at that point was, "They better not even TRY to stop me now!" I was really worried they would stop the race!

But honestly, as bad as the weather was (and it was BAD), I would take rain, hail, freezing cold and sloshing shoes over heat any day. This was pretty miserable at times, but not miserable like I would have been if the weather had been super hot.

Even though I had to make two pit stops they were both super fast, and I never felt SICK. I wasn't running with cramps or feeling terrible. I wasn't nauseous and miserable while I was running. I wasn't sick and feeling awful after either. SO MUCH BETTER THAN TWO WEEKS AGO. Avoiding dairy and high fiber for a few days + No breakfast + Hammer Nutrition=happy Erin race-day stomach. I will not be messing with that formula.

And, I never hit the wall. I was able to stick to my race plan and execute it pretty dang near perfectly. I got tired around mile 22 (who doesn't?) but I was able to keep going and then felt myself getting stronger from mile 24 until the finish. I passed A LOT of people, guys and girls, in those last 4-5 miles, and I did not get passed by anyone. Not a single person. 

Something I want to remember - Just around mile 22-23 I passed a photographer and flashed him a smile, and he said, "I get almost no smiles at all at this point in the race!" :)

With about half of a mile to go there was a short but steep downhill, and two guys in front of me (one who had the 3:10 pacer bib on his back and was obviously not having a good day) both groaned and grabbed their quads (and one guy stopped and sat down even!) but my quads were happy. I passed two more girls who had been ahead of me the whole day, and then we turned the corner and the finish line was just ahead. There was a big crowd cheering and not many other runners coming in right with me. I sprinted as best as I could with the tiny bit of gas I had left and finished with BIG SMILES.

I finished in 3:28:15

6th in my age group of 154 (top 3%)
27th out of all 896 female runners (top 3% of all women!)
187th out of all 1884 runners (top 9% of all runners!)

Since I didn't place in Pocatello and it was a much smaller race I didn't have any hope of placing in this race, but I ended up just one spot out of the trophies! Dang! Fifth place would have gotten me a SWEET moose trophy. I guess I just need to run faster next time. :)

After a little stretching and some refueling (and some AWESOME texts from Josh and my Mom that made me teary-eyed and smile all at the same time) I got my gear bag and changed into some blissfully warm and dry clothes and shoes. I was amazed to find that my feet looked perfect... not a single blister. I will forever be a user and lover of 2Toms Sports Shield! Then I went back to the finish line and cheered in Terzah (who had a BIG PR) and Alana (who finished her first marathon in just under four hours!!!) After some walking around we got in line and enjoyed free massages and watching the finish line. I even got to see a guy get down on one knee and propose on the finish line! It was super awesome. :)

After a couple of sunny hours at the finish line the rain came back, and so we went back to the hotel, showered, and had a celebratory lunch at Cafe Rio's before the drive home.

Overall, I loved the Top of Utah Marathon. Ok, so I would have loved it a little more in better weather, but this course is really great. Everything ran smoothly, the medals are very cool (pics coming soon), the shirts are great, the expo and pasta dinner were really nice, and it was a wonderful weekend. My only real complaint is that their post-race food wasn't that impressive, although I don't know that anything would really impress me after Pocatello's awesome spread. :)

 Yay for achieving my goals in Utah! I got my sub- 3:30. I had a great race plan and executed it well. I found a nutrition plan that worked great. I ran super hard and didn't quit in tough conditions. I had a wonderful weekend with friends. I finished without any injuries and have been able to run (nice and easy) the last few days just fine.

Thanks to all of you who wished me good luck before and congratulated me after! It really means a great deal to me! :)

Less than 7 weeks now until the NYC Marathon!


Jessica Karazsia said...

You are awesome! Congratulations!

Big Daddy said...

Hey, my birthday is in less than 7 weeks. Did you plan it this way? I can't believe you're taking me to NYC for my birthday! That is so awesome. It's a good thing that the marathon is the same weekend.

Hey, wait a minute...

Christine said...

Well that was an AWESOME recap! I can't wait till I'm where you are in my running journey. :)

Suz and Allan said...

That's really amazing! I love reading your race recaps. I feel like it prepares me for what to expect as I run longer distances and hopefully one day do a marathon myself.

Excited to see some pictures!

Dina said...

You did great and sorry about the ran! Oh man it's just been dumping on us. I mean it's the desert and it's raining so much! I hope to at least break four hours when I finish my first marathon. But let's aim for the half after this baby gets here...

Good job!!

Chris @ Heavy Steps said...

Great job! I tell people about you all the time. When someone tells me they could never run, I tell them your story and how you are going to BOSTON!!

Great job and thanks for being a friend!

Teamarcia said...

You did so freaking awesome! What ridiculous weather, but I agree better than heat. Congrats Running Goddess!

Jen said...

Enjoyed your recap - thanks for sharing!

emlizalmo said...

You are the bomb...plain and simple! I think of you all the time when I am feeling discouraged. Thanks for being so awesome. :)

The Unexpected Runner said...

Those were some CRAZY weather conditions! Very impressive run...I hope I can still smile when I'm at mile 22! Congratulations!

Katie @ Will Race for Carbs said...

Your speed amazes me! I am with you on the weather. I would take rain over heat any day! Great job!

bobbi said...

I don't think you could possibly know how much you inspire me.


Lacey Sue said...

AMAZING! But I knew you would be!! Well done, so glad things came together and you had a wonderful race!!! Glad the tummy behaved and so did the muscles! So happy for you! Well done!!!

Kerrie T. said...

Woot! Congratulations! Fabulous recap as usual, too. What was it with the rain this weekend?! Love Hammer products and 2Toms, too!

Jessica (Pace of Me) said...

so incredible, erin! i loved reading your recap - what an amazing race! i feel like i learn so much from you with every post. congrats on another incredible PR!!!

Terzah said...

Textbook (both in recounting all the details and in executing your plan). It was a great weekend indeed and I'm glad I got to hang with you. Hopefully some of your blessedness/goldenness rubbed off! Come to Colorado for another epic downhill marathon on May 6, 2012!! Let's do it all again (except that part where I bonked and did NOT execute my plan; I want to be more like you :^) ).

giraffy said...

Love love love love!!!

I'm so happy for you!

LBTEPA said...

Well done! What a day!


Congrats again! You are so hot right now!

Kevin said...

That is friggin' awesome.. loved how you stayed consistent on the splits... I agree with TMB --- you are on a real good roll now. Congrats.

Cari Mugz said...

So Awesome... So Proud of you!

Penny said...

Love reading your recap. You are such a good writer and runner. Congrats again GIRL.

Jill said...

Congrats again! Glad everything went so smoothly this time, other than the weather.

Samantha said...

You are amazing! I'm running the Cape Cod Marathon in October - your posts are totally inspiring!

Molly said...

whoohooo! that weather sounded horrendus, so glad they didn't stop the race! Congrats girlie!

Christy said...

Congratulations on your PR!! You are amazing!

Jen @ Run for Anna said...

Love your recaps! Congratulations...simply amazing!!

Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

Wow Erin! You executed a well "planned" plan to a T! So your Hammer eats really made a diff, huh? I can't believe the weather you had to battle! Those are some fast paces. You have this marathon thing down girl wow!

COngrats on a fabulous race despite the rain and hail!

Cory Reese said...

Your race report is so awesome! I am so impressed with your time. I don't know how you could not eat before a marathon.

I think you are exactly right about the pace groups - every experience I've had they went out too fast and fried me.

Congrats on such a great time especially considering the insane weather. I think the medal was worth it.

lindsay said...

You are so inspiring! 12,000 kids!! Utah elevation! 3:28 marathon!! Bottle up some of that power and ship it to me, please :)

Kathy said...

wow! Amazing race report - so impressed! I've run a marathon in downpouring rain, but never with thunder, lightning or hail! That is crazy! GREAT Job!

Run with Jess said...

OMG, you are such a trooper!! What horrible weather - forecast is rain on Sunday, so I'll think of you and push my way through if that happens. Amazing, amazing speeds girl!