Tuesday, September 6, 2011

BQ race recap

Sorry to be slow getting this recap done. I actually needed a few days to process this race experience. For some reason I had a very delayed reaction as far as feeling truly excited about my accomplishment. It was yesterday morning when I finally FELT, "Holy cow! I qualified for Boston! By over 12 minutes!" and felt excited and even a little proud.

So as usual, here is my race recap with a million details. For those that don't want the million details, here is a quick, two-paragraph sum up.

The weather was great. The course is really, really good.The Pocatello Marathon gives some very nice swag. My legs felt awesome (never even noticed my achilles). My stomach was a total nightmare, and still isn't 100%. Ugh was I sick. I lost over 5 minutes in portapotties. I never gave up. While I did not meet my goal of being under 3:30 on the clock, I actually "ran" the race in 3:26-3:27, I qualified for Boston by over 12 minutes, and I shaved 25 minutes off my marathon PR from April. I could not be more proud of my time of 3:32:26 (my official time originally was 3:32:36 but was adjusted by 10 seconds. I'll take it!) because it DID NOT COME EASILY.  This race was hard fought.

I WILL be racing Top of Utah (not just running it for fun), on Sept. 17 (11 days!), as long as my legs continue to feel so great. While I am crazy proud of my results in Pocatello, I know I have a faster time in me under better (not violently ill) conditions, and I am ready to run it. Plus, the TOU course is great, and I am excited to race again.

Ok, now for the detailed version. :)

I left my house about 10:15am on Friday morning and got to Pocatello, Idaho just before 12:30pm. As soon as I got into the parking lot of the Red Lion, I met up with the wonderful Cari. She is amazing! She was so sweet and genuine and fun to be with. I am excited she doesn't live that far away. :) We went into the hotel, got my bib and swag and walked around the tiny expo for a minute. The Pocatello Marathon gives some really nice stuff to the runners. I got a great black duffel bag with neon green accents, a long sleeved tech shirt (feminine cut and nice fit!), some samples, and a bag of

duffel bag and shirt
 We decided to head to lunch and found an Applebee's, and shortly after we got our food, EMZ and Dawn arrived. It was great to meet them in person and we had a fun lunch, and then headed back over to the hotel/expo. The expo was tiny but I saw some runners I know and it was nice to chat. I thought that Emily and Dawn were going to be sharing a hotel room with me but there were some changes of plans/miscommunication so I ended up in a hotel room by myself.  In some ways it was really nice, in some ways it was kind of hard.

Yeah, I fit in Emily's armpit :)
On the plus side, I was able to lay my stuff out all over the room without worrying about anyone else, I was able to get up super early like I needed to without worrying about waking anyone up, I could hog the bathroom, and it was easy to go to bed nice and early because there was no one to chat with. On the flip side, the night before a race I have so much excitement and so many thoughts running through my head that it is nice to have someone to talk to and hang out with (plus I am just not a fan of being alone). It all worked out fine though.

I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon alone resting, getting my stuff ready for the morning, etc. and then I met back up with Emily and Dawn for dinner. Note to travelers - there are not a whole lot of dining options in Pocatello, especially if you want pasta! We ended up at Chili's which had very limited options for what I would want the night before a marathon (I ended up with salmon, rice and bread). It was really fun hanging out with Emily and Dawn. They are just as awesome as they seem on their blogs. :)

 I was back in my hotel room nice and early and was actually laying down in bed by 8:45pm. It was REALLY nice to be in town the day before a race so early and not having to be up late getting things ready. I talked to Josh on the phone, read for a little while, and then had the best night's sleep I think I've ever had before a race!

I set my alarm for 3:15am, and right after getting up I drank some Accelerade and ate a small bowl of oatmeal sweetened with honey (which is what I have done for all of my marathons). I got dressed and ready. I went back and forth about whether to wear my compression tights or shorts (I have always worn tights for my marathons) but ended up in shorts and didn't regret it. I was feeling excited and "ready", and not super nervous.

self portraits with a tiny camera are hard, but I wanted something from before the race!  

I left the hotel room and went out front to get on a bus to the start line, and walked right into Dawn and Emily. We got on the bus and were up at the start a short while later. It was still DARK and cold, and there were tons of stars. I even saw a shooting star which I took as good luck. :)

We did the usual - waited in line for a portapotty, stripped off warm clothes (it was chilly!), and checked our gear bags on the UPS truck, and the race started just a few minutes late and we were running by about 6:18am (I think).

The first 13 miles of this course are all downhill (in some spots pretty steep downhill) and then the second 13 miles or so is pretty flat, with a couple of short climbs and a couple of downhills (over the second half the overall elevation change is -150ft). I knew that negative splits weren't likely on a course like this, but my goal was NOT to go out too fast on the first downhill half, no matter how tempting it was. My goal pace was 7:50, and I told myself 10-15 seconds per mile faster was ok on the steepest downhills (and then a bit slower on the uphills later was ok) but nothing faster.

For those first few miles my stomach felt great and I had no clue what was in store for me. I was chilly but knew that the temps were perfect for racing and everything felt pretty dang good! I settled in to my pace, the little bit of nerves I had disappeared as they always do once I get to running, and I concentrated on my pace, my form, my breathing and everything around me. It was a very quiet race, without any spectators until the last miles. I felt strong. As usual I did not run with an IPOD. I don't think I'll ever race with music again. I really like focusing and concentrating on my running and everything around me and soaking in the experience.

My stats for the first five miles were:
7:40, 7:41, 7:44, 7:48, 7:34

Shortly before the end of that fifth mile my stomach started to rumble and I knew I needed a pit stop. I had been hoping to make it to the aid station at 8 miles before stopping, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. I was in and out quickly, and took my first Accel gel as I got back on the course. (I carried Accelerade in my handheld bottle and took an Accel gel at miles 5, 10, 15 and 20. I also took water at some of the aid stations).

I felt good, until my stomach started acting up again around mile 9. I was frustrated to have to stop again, but sometimes on my long runs I need two quick pitstops in the first 10-12 miles and then I can run forever without any more problems, so that is what I was hoping for. I was still feeling good overall.

My splits for the next 6-10 miles were
8:45 (pit stop number 1), 7:40, 7:48, 7:50, 8:59 (pit stop number 2)

I took my second Accel gel at mile 10 and was still feeling ok. My time was still where I wanted it to be and we were getting to the second half of the race which is usually when I feel the strongest and is the part I like the best.

At the half way point we went past where the half marathoners had just started. I am not sure what my exact half split was, but I was just about 1:42, which is exactly where I planned on being (shooting for close to even mile splits and hopefully only one or two quick pit stops in the first half and none in the second half).

In mile 14-15 I started to feel sick to my stomach. I tried to ignore it and run it out, but it was not going to be ignored. The cramps made it hard to run and my whole body felt pretty icky. I was hydrated well, it wasn't hot, and I was fueling well, so I have no idea what the culprit was. In the 15th mile I ended up making my third pit stop. SHEESH.

Splits for miles 11-15 were:
7:38, 7:41, 8:00, 7:37, 8:56 (third pitstop)

From this point on, it was a grunt. It was all hard work and my body just didn't feel very good. I knew I was slowing down a little but that my goals were still possible. It would have been really easy to give up after the third pitstop but I wasn't ready to quit and WANTED that BQ, PR and 3:30 BADLY. And if I wasn't going to achieve what I wanted, then I was going to give it my all trying.

Splits for miles 16-20 were
8:04, 7:55, 7:53, 7:51 and 7:58.

Mile 20-21 had a big uphill and it was the only time of the race that I felt HOT. It was sunny the whole time but pretty cool (I think mid 40's at the start and low 60's at the finish). At this point there were half marathoners and 10k runners/walkers on the course and I felt like I was the only one running up the hill. There was an icky headwind that made the hill that much harder.

I am proud to say that I never once walked during the entire race. I ran the whole thing.

I was worried that having half-marthoners, 10k runners and 5k runners/walkers all out on the course would make it really crowded and would involve a lot of weaving, but it wasn't bad at all. The only time I had to work to get around someone was the half marathon pace groups because they were in big groups. But most of the runners and walkers were very good about noticing when a marathoner was coming and cheering us on and getting out of the way.  The spectator crowds were thin and not very loud, but every little "good job" and "you look great" meant a lot at that point!

After the mile 22 mark, my stomach started really cramping again. AGAIN. I have never (ever) had to stop four times in a marathon or even in a long run. Usually after mile 10-12 I am good indefinitely. I was SO frustrated and so tired and felt so icky. And of course, after I stopped at the portapotty at mile 22+ of a marathon, every muscle in my legs wanted to CRAMP.  At that point the voice in my head saying "GIVE IT UP" was really loud. It was telling me I was not going to be able to run the last four miles after stopping, that my time was completely out the window after four pit stops, and that there was no reason to keep killing myself at that point. But I told that voice to SHUT UP.

I took off and went for it, knowing that with just over four miles left I had nothing to lose.  The end of the course was familiar from running the half last year, and the little bit I was able to do math at that point, I knew that if I ran strong, I would still definitely PR, I could still BQ by a decent amount,  and I could be pretty dang close to my goal of being just under 3:30. I still didn't feel great, but I found some inner strength and ran those last four miles strong.

My splits for miles 21-26.2 were
8:30 (this was the big hill), 8:22, 9:33 (pit stop number FOUR)
then 7:53, 8:05, 7:47, and the .2 was a 7:14 pace.

Just before I hit the finish line I heard Cari cheer for me (which was amazing) and I was SO happy to have reached the finish line and to have finished strong and not given up even though it was a hard race for me. I couldn't tell from the clock what my time was (it just had the time of day since there were four different races with four different start times finishing) and I had missed starting my Garmin until after the start of the second mile so I wasn't sure exactly what my finish time was, but I knew I was close to 3:30 and I knew I had the PR and BQ in the bag.
Cari snapped this as I ran by. This is just before the finish line and I was so excited to see her! The official race photos will be up tomorrow and I will post those too.
 I was happy and satisfied, but not super emotional, and I am not sure why. I should have been! It was kind of weird/sad not to have anyone cheer me on along the course or there at the finish to celebrate with, although I do love the runner/race atmosphere. I got my gear bag, changed into flip flops, stretched, put on a hoodie and contemplated eating something, although I still felt really sick to my stomach. They had an amazing spread... barbeque pork sandwiches and baked potatoes from Ruby Tuesday's, bagels, bread, fruit, water, chocolate milk, ice cream, etc., although I really did not want any of it.  After a while I had some chocolate milk and a piece of a bagel which helped some.

I went over to the kiosk they had to check my final results and got my time of 3:32:26. I texted Josh, Jenny, Dad, Pam and Alana, and then went looking for Emily and Dawn. Dawn was hoping to BQ and I wondered if I had missed them coming in, but it was a rough race for her too and they finished just after the four hour mark. She was disappointed and I felt kind of guilty and didn't want to celebrate and make her feel any worse.

I was still really cold so I went and sat in the sun (and picked at a banana and another half of a bagel) and watched a little of the award ceremony, and then took a bus back to the hotel to shower and pack up.

Normally at this point I would be STARVING, but my stomach was still just not happy at all. I met up with Emily and Dawn to say goodbye. Emily gave me the coolest "BQ present" ever. Check it out!

  I am not crafty at all and I was so impressed and touched that she actually made something for me. How thoughtful is that? I told you she is awesome. :)

I called Josh to tell him I was on my way and started driving. I was really tired, but after a quick stop for some lunch about half way through the ride, I got home safe and sound and enjoyed hanging out with the family for the rest of the day.

Josh and the kids were all excited and proud and they had fun checking out the medal. Josh really was very wonderful and excited about the whole thing and wishes he could have been there. Me too!

On Sunday we went to church and relaxed and then walked up to the playground and spent a fun night at the park together as a family. My legs were tired and a little sore but felt better than they had after any other of my other marathons. I was happy, but still wasn't feeling the excitement that I thought I should.

Then yesterday morning I got up and ran an easy six miles with Josh. (I know recovery is different for everyone... for me, I recover better and feel better with slow, easy miles compared to days totally off). A couple of miles into the run, all of a sudden I started feeling excited and proud about my accomplishment.  I kept thinking, "I qualified for Boston!" "I qualified for Boston by A LOT!" "I didn't quit when it would have been REALLY easy to quit!" "I fought hard!" "I had a huge PR!" "I kicked butt!"

I am not sure why it took almost 48 hours for the excitement and pride to set in, but it did. :)

And I still don't really know what caused my stomach distress. But it was bad. Really bad. The rest of Saturday I could barely eat. On Sunday I was still making frequent bathroom trips. Yesterday things still weren't normal. Today things finally (finally) seem to be on the mend. I do know that I don't ever, EVER, want Accelerade or Accel gel again. I don't know if that is what upset my stomach (I have used it before without issue on long runs and really liked it a lot) but just the THOUGHT of either of them makes me gag even now. Back to my Hammer products I go.

My final stats were
19th out of all 207 women finishers (top 9%)
7th in the women's 30-34 age group (top 21%)
83rd out of all 488 male and female marathon finishers (top 17%)

Amanda was happy that I beat a lot of boys. :)

I am so hoping that I get in to Boston. With my qualifying time I get to register with the second group (that has qualified by 10 minutes or more) so I think my chances are pretty good. I will know in a week!

But for right now I am concentrating on recovering and getting ready to run Top of Utah in 11 days. My legs feel pretty dang good. They are a little tight, but I am rolling and stretching and running nice and easy. For Top of Utah I am traveling and spending the weekend with Terzah (who I cannot WAIT to meet) and my good friend Alana who is running her first marathon, so it should be a very special and fun weekend. I am already excited.

THANK YOU to all of you who have sent emails, comments, tweets, etc. of encouragement, congrats and support. Most people don't really know what it means to qualify for the Boston Marathon or what goes into a 3:32 marathon. So thanks. It really does mean a lot.

More soon!


Cory Reese said...

You are AMAZING!! I am so impressed. I'm excited for Top of Utah also. I'm planning to try and go fast too which slightly scares me.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

What an amazing race well except the potty stops. You did wonderful and should be so proud of your achievement!

Chris @ Heavy Steps said...

Yeah! Great job! I hope I can have that same mental toughness you have when the going gets ruff. Crazy you had tummy issues. You planning on a sub 3:30 for the next one?

The Green Girl said...

I loved this race report. I held my breath as I read it.

I am so sorry about your stomach - but so proud of you for pushing through!

Congratulations, girl, you did it! Whoo hoo!

Suz and Allan said...

What an amazing accomplishment! You rock! I'm doing 5 days of giveaways on my blog this week if you want to stop by!

Jen said...

congrats on your AMAZING accomplishment!!!!!!!

Elle said...

Just great, and so cool that you beat your BQ time by so much. Awesome and great pics, too.

emlizalmo said...

Whelp, I like you even more after reading this than I did earlier today...which is saying a lot. :) You are ridiculously awesome! Mental battles are SO hard for me, especially with a rumbling stomach. I cannot believe you were able to push through all of that and finish the thing so darn fast! Thanks so much for the detailed recap. I LOVE the details. You are amazing. I can't wait to see what you can do with TOU!

Samantha said...

Amazing! I loved reading your recap - I started to tear up - congratulations! Your transformation as a runner has been wonderful to watch!

I'd blame the salmon, not the Accelerade, there's a good chance it was farmed and farmed fish can carry a huge amount of parasites.

Michelle said...

Loved reading every word of this post! So sorry your stomach played tricks...but you kicked some serious butt! Here's to wishing you tons of good vibes on registering for Boston! I have to wait until September 19th! It's ok...I'm still happy to even say I qualified! Way to go!

wendy said...

I wonder if it was your dinner the night before? You did great despite it!

Owlhaven said...

Yay, Erin!!!!

So proud of you!!


LBTEPA said...


Laura said...

CONGRATS!!!!! I am so happy for you...you totally killed it!

cql said...

AWESOME job!! You rocked it!

Lacey Sue said...

You totally rocked it- with rotten gut and all!!! Your amazing lady!!! I will be there at the finish line for the top of Utah race!! Hope I see ya!

Jen @ Run for Anna said...

Way to push through and dig down for that PR and BQ!! Just amazing! Congratulations!

Zaneta said...

YAY YAY YAY!!! I loved reading this! You are so strong girl!! you totally destroyed that marathon even with your stomach acting up!! :) CONGRATULATIONS YOUR GOING TO BOSTON!!! :D

Corey said...

Wow! Great recap! First, I think it is SO, SO cool that you saw a shooting star before your race! Second, I loved reading your race report and got chills at the part about the finish. Finally, your post about believing you are able to do anything is causing me to really, really reconsider my goal time for Houston Marathon. My PR is 3:46 (missed 3:40 goal) and I was going to try to hit 3:40 again, but like you, I REAAAAALLLLLY want to BQ. After reading your encouragement to go for it, despite what anyone else thinks, makes me think that a 3:35 IS possible...

Maple's Mama said...

Congratulations! Your story is SO inspiring. I'm just starting out (as you were a few years ago) and it's amazing/crazy to think I might be able to BQ too.

I'm going through your archives now to find out more about how you trained up from 12 minute miles to a BQ!

Becky said...

So proud of you!!! That is an AMAZING race time, especially considering the stomach issues! Those drain my energy worse than anything.

I'll be at Top of Utah--my first marathon ever and I am NERVOUS.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing, Erin. I think what you need is a little time for it to sink in. Also, because you are so goal-oriented, even though you really did so totally awesome - I think you were disappointed that you didn't run under 3:30 (officially) since you had set that as your "true" goal, rather than just BQ. Try to savor what you DID do - because what you did do is amazing.

Caroline said...

Hi Erin, Congratulations! I will cheer for you at the start of Boston (I live a mile from the start line). I'm sorry about the tummy issues. Have you considered trying to train your stomach a bit by forcing yourself to eat before shorter runs? A good friend of mine who does 2 marathons a year, Boston and a fall one, and has good experiences each time, was telling me that he does this during training and by the time the marathon roles around he can intake tons of calories during the race and keep his energy up. Maybe eating your oatmeal in the morning before running? Or eating some kind of snack each morning before running? Maybe eating before the run only for a marathon is too much of a shift for your stomach? Also.... I think many sensitive systems just can't handle all of that performance drink/"food" day in and day out. So tough on the digestive system. I wonder if you could come up with some sort of suitable replacement. Obviously, since you ran a 3:32, you really are doing just fine despite your tummy woes, so I am sorry if these suggestions are annoying!


Katie said...

So awesome!! You are amazing! I love when you told the voice to SHUT UP! Great job.

Kevin said...

Wow, congrats on the BQ... something I've never done but would love to do.

Amanda@runninghood said...

Oh ERIN this is Amazing!! Congrats to you! And with so many Pit stops...poor girl!! Loved this! So happy for you. HOpe to meet you there! I am with the second round qualifying too...hope I get in. 15 min ahead of my time but still with the second round. Bummed they don't do it by 5 min increments. This is such a testimony to your strength and determination! Awesome Erin!

Terzah said...

You are so strong to do that with the tummy stuff. I know exactly what that feels like and have never managed to do what you did and push through it. Great work again! I can't wait to meet you at TOU too!!

Emma's Daddy said...

I'm most inspired by your running achievements. BQ remains a dream that I've yet to fulfill. Cheers!

Jen said...

Amazing! Enjoyed all the details of your race report :) Congratulations on your BQ and PR! So awesome!!!

Molly said...

seriously, I am in awe. Congrats again!

btw, you have beautiful skin!!!

JenniferLeah said...

wow. beyond freaking awesome.
love it.
i wonder if emz armpit gave you extra good mojo?? ya think??

congrats on an epic race :)
you are amazing

Isela said...

Awesome race! Hope to see you at TOU, it is in my backyard :).