November 1, 2014
Time: 3:56:47 Pace: 9:03
Age Group: F30-34, 75/264
Half Splits: 1:57:45/1:59:03
Third times a charm. The stars aligned and everything fell into place for this race. As previously mentioned in my training posts, I used a slightly different training plan for this marathon from my previous 2. The biggest difference was that this program was 16 weeks long versus 18 weeks. I also incorporated more speed work and focused on a certain pace range for my long runs instead of making them too easy. Even though this plan was 16 weeks long, I missed three plus weeks of training due to vacation and a sickness. However, I got in my most important runs. I missed a 12, 13, and 17 miler, but I did complete a 14, 15, 18+, 20+, and a 20 miler. The back to back 20 milers were brutal but I think they actually helped me in the long run. I was in so much pain for my second 20 miler but experiencing this pain was necessary for racing a successful marathon.
I went to the expo Thursday evening after work to avoid the crowds of people on Friday. Get in, get out, go run. Friday was Halloween so I got to dress up at work. Being the clever person that I am, I dressed up as a runner so I could wear comfy clothes to work the day before my race. I ran my 2 mile shake out run immediately after work. It was cold and raining with 30mph winds. I had an early dinner of quinoa & brown rice pasta, sauce, and a spinach salad. After dinner, I stretched and foamed rolled. I was surprisingly calm. Bryan even commented on how relaxed I seemed. I had put in the work and even though the weather would suck, it was out of my control. All I could do now was get a good nights rest and run.
My alarm went off at 5:00am and I hit snooze until 5:45am. Rolling out of bed, I decided to try a different type of breakfast. I usually have problems taking down food so early in the morning before races, so instead of my usual oatmeal, toast, and banana, I had two Uncrustables. Probably not the healthiest option but it did have carbs, protein, and sugar. I also had a Nuun Hydrate Electrolit in my water. I put on my swiftly long sleeved shirt and walked outside and it was frigid! So I decided to switch to a different long sleeved shirt to race in that was just a tad thicker to block the wind. The entire car ride I was completely calm, which is unusual for me. Usually my heart is racing and I’m so nervous that I get an edgy attitude. I was different. I didn’t feel nervous at all. I couldn’t control the weather but I could control my run and my attitude. Bryan dropped me off at the convention center downtown. I used the restroom and soaked in some last minute heat inside. By the time I found the gear check outside and made it back to my starting corral (Seeding Level 4), I had five minutes to stretch. So I sat on the ground and stretched while everyone standing blocked the wind. I took off my throw away sweat pants but left on my two extra throw away shirts until I was warmed up. One dude in my corral said I looked like a linebacker. I also had on an ear/headband, mittens, and an ear band around my neck to keep my neck and face warm (Bryan’s ingenious idea…thanks babe!). And just like that I was off.
Knowing that everyone would be starting off fast because it’s the beginning of the race and it was cold, I had to repeatedly tell myself to stay at my pace. Race my race. My race pace was 9:00/mile, but I knew that as long as my average pace was under 9:09, I would break 4 hours. Instead of following my individual mileage, I decided to focus on my average overall pace because some miles would be slower/quicker than others. So I told myself not get caught up on a few slow miles and psych myself out. I also went over my race plan in my head: gel and water every 5 miles (at Mile 5, 10, 15, and 20, with an extra gel for Mile 23 if needed) and gatorade every 2.5 miles starting at Mile 2 to 2.5.
Mile 1 – 9:01, Mile 2 9:10. At mile 2.5 I took off my first throw away shirt. Mile 3 – 10:08, yikes! We ran under an underpass along Virginia Ave and my GPS watch lost signal, throwing off my pace. Shit! Stay calm. I didn’t know if I should restart my watch or what. I panicked for about 30 seconds and just continued to run. I was not expecting this. At mile 3.5, I took a quick port-a-potty stop, better now than later. My average pace was defintely slower than what I would have liked and so I decided to pick up the pace a little, especially, since my watch was out of whack due to the lost signal. Mile 4 – 9:00, Mile 5 – 8:37 (first gel), Mile 6 – 8:42. Every mile marker had a time clock and I realized that I was hitting each mile 0.2M sooner than what my watch measured. So when I lost signal, I ran for 0.2M without it reading my mileage. Shit! Okay think Melissa. Since my watch thinks I haven’t ran as far, my pace is going to actually be a few seconds slower on my watch than what I’m actually running. So as long as my average pace is still under 9:09, I’m good. My time chip for 10k split was: 10k: 0:54:53 (pace: 8:51 , rank: 1637 ). Miles 5-6 ran through my old ‘hood downtown by the Penn Arts building so I felt very nostalgic in this familiar area that I’ve run so many times before.
The next miles headed north on Penn to Fall Creek. We ran northeast on Fall Creek for a bit and this is where the Marathon and Half Marathon split. The half marathoners cheered us marathoners on as we continued on Fall Creek. I felt proud to be a runner at this moment. What camaraderie amongst runners. We took Fall Creek to 38th St. by the Fairgrounds and headed west on 38th St. until Washington St. when we veered North. I knew to start looking for Bryan since he was going to jump in around this time. Mile 7 – 8:53, Mile 8 – 9:05, Mile 9 – 9:18. My watch finally showed an average pace of 9:05, okay time to settle in here. Mile 9 was slower due to a nice headwind that I was running into. My lips are still wind burnt.
At mile 9.5 there was my stud husband waiting for me to pass by so he could jump in next to me. He asked me my pace, how I felt etc. I told him about my watch malfunction. He immediately told me to take off my second throw away shirt……I guess I was overdue to remove it. He ran ahead of me, just enough for him to be in my sights and give me something to focus on. Miles 10 to the halfway point meander through Broadripple. It was shaded, windy, and cold. I pulled up the ear warmer from around my neck and used it to cover my face. Mile 10 – 9:05 (second gel), Mile 11 – 9:04, Mile 12 – 9:14, Mile 13 – 9:08. I was right where I needed to be for the first half split: First half: 1:57:45 (pace: 9:00 , rank: 1788 ).
Next we ran along Riverview and then headed south on Meridian St. My right hip at been feeling tight since Mile 2, but it hadn’t worsened over the course of the first half. I decided to use a strategy from runner/crossfitter friend Meggie. She uses a stoplight method to evaluate her body, lungs, and mind while running. Green is good, yellow is okay, and red means pain/stop/etc. Stealing this method from her, I decided to give it a try. Now that I really know what it means to run through pain, I thought this would allow me to push myself during times of struggle throughout the race. So far mind and lungs were green and body was one of those gross mixes of yellow and green, chartreuse. Mile 14 – 9:12, Mile 15 – 9:09 (third gel), Mile 16 – 9:07. At Mile 16 on Meridian St. I got a second wind. There was a slight incline, but I pushed through it easily. Runners were starting to drop off and walk, but I was determined to not let myself walk.
Next we ran towards/around Butler University. And this 50 something tiny Latino dude in a wind breaker runs past me with a thumbs up and with a smile says “Good Job” with his accent. For some reason this made me happy from such a small gesture. After passing through Butler we ran South towards the IMA. It was beautiful and the sun was out and I was finally starting to feel warm, kinda. Mile 17 – 8:58, Mile 18 – 9:14, Mile 19 – 8:53, Mile 20 – 9:12 (fourth gel). 30k: 2:48:14 (pace: 9:02 , rank: 1686 ).
10K left! Wooooo! The next three miles were the worst part of the course. Not that they were even bad because the entire course was awesome, but if I had to pick the worst part it was miles 21-23. And actually the toughest miles for me throughout the entire race were miles 19 to 23. Mile 21 – 9:16, Mile 22 – 9:23, Mile 23 – 9:09. I wouldn’t say I actually ever hit a wall. I was waiting for it and waiting for it, but it never came. Yes, my legs were tired and heavy and my right hip was aching, but I never had the urge to stop or the urge to walk. However, at my mile 20, I told Bryan to stay right next to me instead of running up ahead. Just knowing that he was right next to me, put my mind at ease. It’s like his strength was radiating onto me. My average pace was 9:07 according to my watch and knowing that my watch was a little slow – I guessed I was actually around a 9:04 average pace.
I had a fifth gel to take at mile 23 for the final stretch but I knew the next water station wasn’t until almost mile 24, so I decided to wait until we turned on Meridian St. to head south for the final 5k. When we turned on Meridian St. I felt my third wind….is that a thing, third wind? Instead of fumbling with a gel and water. I decided to skip the gel because I felt great. Mind was green, lungs were green, and body was yellow. I did take a water however and plowed through the water station at full speed and almost knocked over another runner….oooops. Bryan told to push it these last 3 miles. He said this is why I did all those intervals and tempo runs, to know what it feels like to run on tired legs and to push myself at the end. And he was right. And I was ready. Mile 24 – 8:48, Mile 25 – 8:48, Mile 26 – 8:30. That last 1.2M I was sprinting my little heart out. Well as much I could sprint given I was at the end of a Marathon. I crossed at 3:56:47! I did it! I finally broke four hours! Last half:1:59:03 (pace: 9:06 , rank: 1233).
It was so surreal. I couldn’t believe that I had broken the four hour barrier and PR’ed by 13 minutes. I felt like I was walking on air. Everything about this race fell into place. I was calm and ready, my attitude was in the right mindset, my nutrition was on point. I think I was so comfortable with the course since I have ran around this city so many times during training runs having used to live downtown and now in Broadripple that nothing about it was intimidating. There were no surprises. I knew every part of the course and I could easily break it up in my head. It’s like the course was made for me. I never felt out of breath and I never hit a wall. I was amazed at how great I felt at the finish.
So how did I hit my goals for this race? This was my third marathon, so I knew what pain felt like. I knew what if felt like to run on tired, sore, heavy legs. I knew what I would feel like at 20 miles. I knew how to push through pain, and I knew how much pain that I could withstand. You never know how much pain you can go through until you’ve put yourself through it. That’s why I run all those long training runs on Sundays, to prepare myself for pain. My nutrition was great. I had a great dinner the night before and the Uncrustables were perfect for a pre-race breakfast. Now I know what my go-to will be in the future. Also, I followed my plan of having a gel every 5 miles even if I didn’t feel tired. The key was to keep up the nutrition before it ran out, not wait until I’m on fumes. I also stayed hydrated earlier on in the race. These key changes kept me from hitting a wall. Also, my attitude was completely different from before. I stayed calm and collected despite my watch mishap. I stayed calmed through the cold and wind. And I stayed calm when my hip was aching. I was positive. I was confident. I didn’t let myself give in and I didn’t let myself fail.
Looking back at my half splits from my past three marathons, there is a big difference between them. Chicago Marathon (Oct 2013) half splits: 2:00/2:09. Nine minutes slower the second half. This was my first marathon and my inexperience shows. I hit my wall around mile 19 and walked a few times through water stations. Carmel Marathon (April 2014) half splits: 1:58/2:22. Yikes! Twenty-four minutes between the first and second half. I went out too fast during the first half and lit all my matches and I suffered the second half hitting a wall at mile 14 and walked on and off. Indy Monumental Marathon (Nov 2014) half splits: 1:57:45/1:59:03. Only one minute and 18 seconds separate the two. I was glued to my pace and I was consistent, making me successful. I hit my goals by racing my race.
I’ve grown a lot the past year as a marathon runner, especially in the last 6 months. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned to trust my training. I’ve learned to be confident in myself as a runner. Now when people ask me if I’m a runner, I actually feel like a runner. I’ve broken the two hour barrier in the 13.1 distance and now have broken the four hour barrier in the marathon. I have a month off before my next training program begins December 1st for the Shamrock Marathon in March. I’m going to take the next few weeks to relax and get in as much hot yoga as I can as well as start building up my swimming base again. But I’m already excited for my next challenge…break 3:50!