Flying Pig 2015

Flying Pig 2015

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Little Rock Marathon/5k Combo Part 2: The Marathon

Those crazy medals. The big one was approx. 8-9 inches each way and 3 lbs.!

Twelve long years ago, I ran my first marathon...The Little Rock Marathon! I had no idea what I was doing. I had never even run a half. The longest distance I raced was a 5k and the longest distance I ran in training around that time was probably 6-ish miles. I had a college professor that somehow convinced me I could run one and agreed to loosely guide me through it (he was a triathlete). All I really did was run three easy runs during the week (45-60 minutes) and a long run on Saturdays (progressed from 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours...maybe close to 3 hours for one of them). No speedwork, no idea what mileage or pace I was running; I didn't know what a Garmin was or if it even existed 12 years ago. I just ran loops around campus, showed up to the start line on race day, and ran 4:35 and some change. It's quite comical thinking about it.
Pre race in 2005...when wearing a cotton tee was appropriate. LOL.

Finish line with my cheerleaders.
 
When I became obsessed with the marathon in 2015, I knew I would one day return to this course to conquer the hills and get that course PR. Knowing that 2015 was all about getting pregnant, I planned to return to my awesome state in 2017. I thought I'd get pregnant right away like I did with James, have a baby by the end of winter, and have plenty of time to train. Hmm...things happened a little differently! I got pregnant in November 2015, my foot was run over by a car in March of 2016, I couldn't run for three months to allow my fractures to heal, I birthed Ruthie in August of 2016, and started my  return to running 2 weeks after she was born. Ha!!! The short version: I had 6 months to basically start over and train for a marathon.
Not so distant memories of my accident.

Almost baby time when I could run again.

As for my goal, I didn't just want to finish. I wanted to finish with the number "3" in front of my time! Of my four marathons up to this point, only one was sub 4 hours (3:39:55 at Flying Pig in 2015...the others 4:35, 5:02, 4:07). Based on the half I did 3 months ago, I thought I had enough time to train my body for a 3:45 marathon. I decided to make that my goal (of course, qualifying for Boston is always in the back of my mind, but there was no way it was going to happen for this race). This race was going to provide me with the info I needed to figure out my training for the next race. Amanda told me to think of it as another long run.
Marathon #5, here we come!

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THE RACE.

Of course, I slept horribly. I woke up to my legs feeling a little tired from the 5k. I bought some coffee, ate some oatmeal and granola bars, and pooped about 4 or 5 times! The temps were in the mid to high 40s with a steady drizzle and light wind. Basically, not ideal! I decided on shorts, a tank, arm warmers, gloves, and my visor. I was pissed that I didn't get to wear my race top! LOL. The original temps were supposed to be in the 60s and low 70s.
I'm always so cheery in the morning.

I felt so nervous at the start line. I couldn't believe I was about to run a marathon. For the only time in my life, I was in the same corral as Amanda. I told her I was freaking out as I was holding back the tears. Marathon start lines are so emotional for me! As they started counting down from 10, I shed my last tear and told myself to suck it up. What was I so afraid of?! Could my body handle it? What was everyone going to think if I failed? How many people are really stalking me right now? Was I going to give up when I reached my first mental block? So many thoughts running through my mind.

As we set off, I was reviewing my race plan in my head. I wanted a slow first mile (goal between 8:35 & 8:45). In order to do that, I had to let everyone pass me. Mile one included a slight decline so I had to control myself on that part. [8:24]. Not in my goal range but not horrible.

The next part of my race plan takes me through the halfway point. I wanted to keep my miles in the 8:15-8:35 range. My goal was to feel relaxed. We went across a bridge into North Little Rock, made a couple of loops, and crossed another bridge back into downtown. Miles 2-7 were uneventful with only one little hill approaching mile 4. The rest of it was mostly flat until we approached the end of mile 7. [8:19, 8:24, 8:34...the hill, 8:08, 8:22, 8:25]. It looks like I got a little excited after that hill...must've been the crowd! I was still feeling good at this point, but could feel that my quads might be an issue.

Mile 8 was the beginning of a very gradual incline that went through 11 1/2-ish miles. Only parts of the incline were noticeable. We traveled away from downtown slightly and then back in. At this point, there was still a lot of crowd support because of us circling back towards the half marathon finish. It was in this section that I first thought I might struggle in the second half. Around mile 8, my legs were starting to feel like toast. I was trying my best to ignore this fact, but the thought remained in the back of my mind. I was just hoping the feeling would go away in a couple of miles. As I got closer and closer to the half, my legs kept getting more tired. It was at this point that I felt I would not get my 3:45 time goal...but I wasn't going to stop trying! I still had to at least get a sub 4. [8:39, 8:20, 8:35, 8:36, 8:31]. The rest of mile 12 through the half were on a slight decline which showed in my split [8:17]. According to my results, my half split was 1:51:10.

It was when I crossed the timing mat at 13.1 that crap got real. This was the beginning of the dreaded climb. The climb in it's entirety was almost three miles. The first section was around a mile and a half, some parts steeper than others, but it never ended! There was then about a half mile of mostly flat followed by the rest of the incline. It finally ended when we reached 16 miles. [8:50, 8:54, 8:46]. My race plan had me slowing down in these miles so I was thrilled with my splits considering how I felt. I actually enjoyed this section the most. It was definitely the most scenic of the entire race. If I had only raced the half, I probably would have been disappointed in the experience. We were surrounded by gorgeous trees. We passed all of these amazing homes and cute little shops. I would do this race again just for this section!

The next mile began our descent. We descended the same number of feet but in half the distance. Mile 17 was [8:19] because of that. Just after I passed the mile marker for 17, I felt something I've never felt before while running. My hamstring was seizing! UGH, at mile 17?! Say it ain't so! I was so pissed. At this point, my nutrition was as follows: gels at 4, 9, and 13.5 (also pre-race); I took a salt tab about 2 miles after each gel. I also drank water at every aid station. When my hamstring started seizing, the first thing I thought to do was take another salt tab. I had just taken one at 15.5 miles, but what the hell...another wasn't going to hurt. Shortly after taking it, it seemed like it might have helped. I was just trying to make it to 18.5 so that I could take my next gel. The muscle seizing mile was [9:09]. My first mile in the 9s. UGH!!!

Even though the course was mostly flat as a pancake at this point, my pace did not seem to improve. As my pace slowed down into the 9s, my cramps began to get worse. Not only was it in my left hamstring, but it was now affecting the right side as well as both calves and feet. My gait was starting to change completely to accommodate for the cramping. STOPPING WAS NOT AN OPTION.

This section was an out and back (miles 17.5 to 23.5)...three miles out, three miles back. It was pretty, but very mentally draining. Miles 19-24 were [9:03, 9:01, 9:24, 9:41, 9:54, 9:59]. I haven't talked about this too much, but it was raining the entire time. I was soaking wet within the first 5k and it never got better. The steady drizzle stopped at some point during the out and back section, but the wind picked up at that point. I continued to take gels as planned and started taking salt tabs when the cramps seemed to worsen. I also started drinking a full cup of Gatorade and water at each aid station. I was willing to try anything to stop cramping.

Per usual, I also did some math to pass the time. I took things one mile at a time. After so many miles in the 9s, I knew my initial goal was out of reach. Now I just needed to focus on that sub 4. Instead of looking at my Garmin mileage, I used the mile markers set by the race team. I had no idea what my body was going to do, but I assumed it wouldn't be slower than a 10 minute mile. I decided to multiply each remaining mile by 10 to give myself the confidence to know that I WAS going to break 4 hours. This was the only thought helping me to survive the last 10k.

As we headed out of the flat section, we were met by another hill. On a good day, not at the end of a marathon, it was likely insignificant. In the moment, it wasn't what I wanted to see. I heard a rumor that there was a hill at mile 25 that people hated, but I knew this couldn't have been the hill. It seemed so tiny compared to what I had imagined in my head. This hill, along with my cramping, did affect my pace which is why I barely cleared the 10 minute mark (this hill was in the last split mentioned above).

As I approached the top of this hill, I could see downtown. I took my focus off of my physical status, and focused on the road. It was this moment that I saw it...the mile 25 hill. Again, on a normal day, it might have been ok. It just looked so intimidating when all you can think about is finishing. Mile 25 clocked in at [9:58].

This was it, you guys...only 1.2 (or 1.36!) miles to go! It was balls to the wall so that I could get this shit over with! I was never so happy in my life. After I conquered that final hill, I was all smiles. The cramps were ever present, but I didn't care. I was going to abnormally run all the way to the finish line of my 5th marathon! I couldn't help but smile. I was so focused. I soaked it all in and just had the time of my freaking life. Mile 26 was [8:51]! With about a tenth of a mile remaining, we rounded that final turn, and I could see the finish line. My last 0.36 miles was at a [7:51] pace.

Official time:

3:52:24!!!
(47th/1178 Females, 14th/123 age group)

Crossing a finish line had never felt more glorious. For the first time in my marathon life, I was not crying. I could only smile. I did it!! I FINALLY got another 3-something marathon! Although it was not the time I initially wanted, I am so proud of it. This marathon proved that I have the mental toughness to conquer this distance. Although I will likely get nervous before every marathon that I run, I will no longer fear the distance.

Despite how my body felt during the race...tired legs, cramping...I was happy the entire time. I was running a marathon in my beautiful home state. All the good feels are rushing through me just thinking about it.
Amanda checked off another state! I'm glad she came to my home state with me!!

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In case you are considering this race, the support from volunteers is top notch. I would also suggest doing the full over the half. All the beautiful and challenging parts are in the second half. I also like that the out and back section allowed you to see the other runners. I was able to see the leading runners as they were conquering their final miles. I also got to see Amanda which was a breath of fresh air at that point in the race.

I'm not a bling person, but, if you are, this is also the race for you. The medals are known for their uniqueness and size. The race directors are very energetic and make you want to love this race. Also, Arkansans tend to keep it real. Rather than a bunch of people at the bottom of the hill telling you that you're "almost to the top," you will have someone say "you have a long way to go...two more miles of hill." LOL...yes, really. A guy said this to us!! I love it.

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I just want to thank all of you for your support through this process. The past year has been difficult for my family and me, but I refused to use it as an excuse. I couldn't be happier with what I have accomplished the past few months after my injury and the birthing of a baby! Ha!! I have all of you to thank for being there for me through the process. Love you guys.

For those of you who have doubt or lack the confidence, just know that if you put in the hard work and run smart, you can and you will accomplish your goals. It may not be in your timing or in the way you envision, but it will happen if you are willing to work for it.

I feel like I still have a long way to go to accomplish my next goal, but you will never see me stop trying and you will never see me make excuses.






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