Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Texas Marathon

This race report will probably come as a surprise to many of you since I haven't blogged about running in a while or about any race goals. But I've been doing lots of running the last month (December being the highest mileage month of the year) and had lots of goals going into this race, too.

To bring everyone up to speed, about 3.5 weeks ago something clicked for my legs. I had really been struggling after my last 3 marathon spread in Sept-Oct. My legs were so tired and all my paces were so much slower than they had been when I trained for Santa Rosa. I was getting really frustrated with myself but stuck to my training plan. And then a few weeks ago almost literally overnight, I started running at paces which were faster than my Santa Rosa training cycle times.

I only had a few weeks to train at this level but I incorporated marathon pace miles into my long runs (something I played with a little for Santa Rosa but did a lot more this time around). My last 22 miler was done 22 sec/mile faster than my last Santa Rosa long run. I threw in 3 marathon pace miles at miles 16-19 which felt effortless. And best of all, I finished the long run feeling very strong. I knew I had a good marathon in me.

I had a few goals for this race:
A-goal: PR 4:11:32
B-goal: Sub-4:10 ** This was the main goal for me.
C-goal: 9:29 pace, 4:08 * This was the Do a Happy Dance goal.
D-goal: 9:25 pace, 4:06 (I only put this here because when I tried to hit "marathon pace" miles in training, this was what I aimed for)

The Mario Recap, Marathon #25:

A medal and a PR that proves everything is indeed bigger in Texas.

The Full Recap, Marathon #25:

Packet pickup

The Texas Marathon is a small race. They limit the field size to 650 runners. There is a half and full marathon. Looking at the course, you'd think it would be a nightmare; 4 loops of a 6.55 mile course of an out-and-back variety. Basically all the things I hate. But you know, it wasn't bad at all. It is run on a concrete bike path/recreational trail. The only real problem is that the path is about 3-4 shoulder-to-shoulder people wide. A large portion of the course has runners going in both directions. This means there is a shared middle "passing" lane, and room for only single file runners in each direction. I'd say 99% of the people out there were very good about keeping to the right to allow faster people to go through. But I can see how this could potentially be a problem. Especially since the course is also open to the public (dog walkers, bikers, children in tiny motorized cars -- I kid you not).

When the race started there was a lot of congestion the first mile or so, but then people spread out according to pace. My plan going into the race was to stay in the mid 9:30's for the first six miles and try to ratchet down from there.

mile 1: 9:24, 9:26
mile 2: 9:24, 9:32
mile 3: 9:25, 9:10
mile 4: 9:19, 9:14
mile 5: 9:23, 9:37
mile 6: 9:18, 9:13

Yeah, so that didn't go so well. I was feeling good and it was hard to hold back. The nice thing about that plan, though, was it allowed me the room to tell myself to slow down and to not feel bad if my pace seemed to slip.

There are two 180 degree turnaround points in the course which means you get to see everyone at multiple times throughout the day. It was fun to see Ron, Boyfriend, Jennifer out there. It was also amazing to see the leaders. At one point I felt like I saw one coming towards me, I got to the turnaround, headed back out, and it felt like he was right there coming back at me again!

mile 7: 9:09, 9:23
mile 8: 9:23, 8:58
mile 9: 9:03, 9:23
mile 10: 9:13, 9:30
mile 11: 9:20, 9:26
mile 12: 9:30, 9:13
mile 13: 9:23, 9:19

I crossed the turnaround after the second loop and heard the announcer say I was at the halfway point in 2:01. Really!? That is only 1:49 slower than my half PR.

One gripe I had about the course was that it crossed streets which were open to traffic. I think I heard the race director say you crossed 8 streets per loop. Since I was going for a PR, this really concerned me. I asked the race director at bib pick-up if there would be someone controlling traffic. He said there would be someone but that we should be careful crossing the streets (fair enough). I was annoyed that only two of the streets seemed to have someone present trying to control traffic. Even though most of the roads were pretty quiet it would have been nice to have someone standing there warning traffic about the runners. Most importantly I think this is a safety hazard, but for someone trying to push the pace, to have to stop for traffic would be really irritating.

Another runner and I had been leapfrogging a bit (he was running at a slightly faster pace than me but would walk through the water stops). He pulled up beside me and said, "I just have to talk to you. You have the smoothest gait and the nicest running form I've seen." Hold the phone! I've got terrible running form! I told him so, too, but he disagreed with me. We talked off and on whenever he would pass me. Once as he passed he marveled at my steady pace. I told him I thought I was starting to slow (he knew I was racing that day). The last time he passed me he simply said, "Keep on it."

"Keep on it." That became my motto for the day.

I never saw him again as he seemed to speed up after that (or maybe I slowed down). I wish I had found him at the finish. I looked at photos and he just squeaked under 4 hours which makes me really wish I had thought to try to keep up.

Somewhere in the third loop, the pace stopped being as effortless and started feeling like work. I started getting worried that I had so far to go still. Could I hold it together? I felt better after a while when I realized that while it didn't feel so easy, it wasn't really getting harder. Keep on it.

mile 14: 9:13, 9:14
mile 15: 9:17, 9:03
mile 16: 9:21, 9:16
mile 17: 9:23, 9:28
mile 18: 9:18, 9:34
mile 19: 9:21, 9:21

While I found the small pathway to be a little worrisome, in the end I think it was great for my mental race. I liken it to trail running. When you're running on trails you always have to be vigilant to what is going on around you. You can't just zone out. Same thing with people moving in opposite directions on a narrow path -- you always have to be aware about what is happening. Do I need to pass this person? Do I have enough room to pass before that oncoming runner gets here? Do I need to move over to the right to let someone else pass? It kept my mind busy.

I don't remember when I first noticed, but the mile markers and my garmin weren't matching up quite right. This is normal in a race except the markers were coming before my garmin beeped. In other words, the course seemed to be running short. I was annoyed since I was running so well. But I decided to just ignore it and do the best that I could do.

mile 20: 9:17, 9:22
mile 21: 8:55, 9:19
mile 22: 9:20, 9:32

Boyfriend was ahead of me and slowly pulling ahead every time I'd see him at a turnaround. He's been having far worse knee trouble than me and I was happy he was doing so well. I saw him walking up ahead at about mile 23 and knew his knee must have finally given out. I passed him at about mile 23.5 and he told a guy next to him that he was getting chicked by his girlfriend.

mile 23: 9:29, 9:27
mile 24: 9:34, 9:35

The above two miles represent me getting a little tired but I knew if I just kept going I had a huge PR in the bag. I didn't think I had much of a pick-up-the-pace left in me the last two miles, but I was okay bringing it home at the pace I was managing to keep up. I wasn't bonking and I was holding steady at what my initial goal pace had been. I was content.

Then, I hit the 25 mile marker and I switched over to see the time. I realized I was going to be close to bringing it home in under 4 hours. At this point since I thought the course was short it felt sort of cheap to sub-4 on a short course. But dang if I wasn't going to speed up and see what I could do.

mile 25: 9:02, 9:05
mile 26.2?: 8:45, 8:23

I crossed the finish line, looked down and saw this:

Holy Toledo

My official time ended up being 4:01:02 (over a 10 minute PR) and I won my age group. Seriously. I won my age group. I always joked my goal was to keep running until I won my age group by default. Oh well, guess I can't use that one anymore.

I was then handed a rubber duck (every year they pick a different animal to feature) with my place written on it:

and the hugest medal:

I cropped the photo of me wearing it for some scale comparison

The medal is so huge they give it to you in a box. And the thing is heavy. I think if it fell off the ribbon the pointy bottom bit of Texas would pierce your foot.

Of course we weighed it. 3 lbs 6.3 oz!!

In regards to the length of the course, there are two tunnels you run through which take you underneath a busy road. This means we ran through a tunnel 16 times during the race. It seems to be the consensus that the tunnels throw the garmins off (my pace would get sort of wonky when I emerged from the tunnel). The course is Boston-certified so I'm going to just accept that the course was really 26.2. This is hard for me as a card carrying member of the Church of Garmin. But then I think, what did we all do before Garmins?

It does bother me, though, for two reasons: 1) If it was short what was my PR, really? I am not incredibly troubled by this because even if you add on a few minutes I still smashed any expectations I had for myself. 2) Looking at it the other way, if my Garmin had been registering my actual pace I would have realized how close I was to a sub-4 earlier and I would have adjusted accordingly. I am pretty sure if I had realized what my actual pace was I could have pulled it off.

At the end of the day, I am going to call it a 4:01:02 PR which was far faster than what I expected to be able to run. It wasn't easy but it wasn't that hard, either. I know I have something faster in me and for the first time I am positive that with some hard training and a little dash of luck I'll be able to run a sub-4 one day much sooner than I thought.

The race cost only $55 and had tons of swag:

Not the coolest bag, but we needed it to transport the two medals and swag home.

No women's specific cuts but a nice change from white cheap cotton tees.

Tech hat with the main sponsor's logo.

And my favorite...


The End.


naomi said...

i think its only fitting that you PR at the race where they give the biggest medals. given our previous conversations, i'm glad everything just clicked for you and this race went so well! well done my friend!

bunnygirl said...

Oh, I love Mario in the duck hat! And you didn't tell me you won your age group, you little sneak!

Lots of fun getting to meet you. Bring Mario next time, okay?

Kristen said...

CONGRATS on your PR!! That is huge - and how fitting to have a huge medal to celebrate it with!! Congrats on the age group win too - very very cool!

Love the swag and the price - this might be a marathon to check out.

Enjoy your success!

Average A said...

You seriously rule!!! This is SO impressive and you should quit analyzing your podium finish and accept that fact that you ran a killer race and got a ton of sweet swag!!! (A 10-minute PR, and you're already saying you should have kept on it to get in under 4. Man, oh man...;)

I think a trip to Boston has your name on it in the near, near future!


EndorphinBuzz said...

Congratulations on a great race and placing :)

If it's Boston certified, it wasn't short. End of discussion ;)

Lorna said...

*Raises paw*

My brother may be a Marathon Maniac, but I'm a marathon term newb.. What's "PR" stand for?

.. I know getting under than 4h is a major milestone (cough, sorry, some puns I can't resist.) but 4.01.xx .. WOW, that's awesome!!

When do you start the Ultras? *Adjusts halo*

..and if you do the Vancouver MArathon, let me know.. I'll sneak you into Flemish Giant heaven during your stay :)

Eat, Watch, Run said...

Congrats on the PR! Beating your time by 10 min is A-MAZ-ING. I'm glad Mario celebrated with you afterwards by wearing your swag. hee

Mica said...

Wow! That is QUITE a PR, congratulations on winning your AG too! Course-length discrepancy bugs me too, but I figure that I've claimed a PR many times when the course has run long. It evens out in the end, right?

What are your plans for 2011? Are you going to do another insane marathon program?

The Fab Furs said...

Congratulations on the PR and winning the age group! The medal and the duck hat picture of Mario are both over the top.

Glenna said...

Congrats! And Mario in the duck hat (plus the Tx medal) is the icing on the cake!

Lisa said...

Congratulations!!! That's awesome. Love Mario in the ducky hat. And I love how he poses so perfectly with all your medals!

Becka said...

Best race report ever. I love that you PRd, and the medal is hilarious. HUGEST EVER! I used to live in TX, and I remember everything being gigantic :D

Congrats Congrats Congrats!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats girl! That's a huge PR and an amazing way to kick off the year! Love all the swag!

I think I might need this medal! :)

Marlene said...

I nearly spit when I saw your time on FB. CONGRATULATIONS! What a massive improvement after a huge year of marathoning!! Sounds like a great race - love the swag and MASSIVE medal.

And hell yes it counts! It's a marathon!

Viva Run Vegas said...

Incredible job on your PR! I loved your race report. I had no idea this race was that small in size as far as the number of runners goes. I can't believe the price either for all that swag and a medal the size of Texas!

You are an inspiration!

Page said...

HOLY AMAZING! Congrats on an awesome race, a great PR, a fantastic finish and a sweeeeeeet medal!

Nicole said...

WOW! What an awesome race! I'm so proud of you!!!! :) That medal is SICK and it looks about as big as you! :) Great great job!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Oh my. You are something else!

Anonymous said...

WooHoo! Congratulations. And we also love that cute double bum shot :)

Crafty Green Poet said...

Congratulations, that's excellent! Mario looks great in the hat!

Sarah Woulfin said...

Congrats on the big PR to kickoff 2011!! Awesome job sticking with training. I like the race hats :>

cliff said...

great job! don't wear the medal too often, it'll mess up your posture.

how's the knee?

Marsha said...

Was searching for race reports on the TX Marathon and came across yours. Then I saw your splits and realized we were right around each other. (I got duck #74 :) Like you, I was very thrown off afterward with my time, thinking I was slower than I actually was. Had I known I was only 49 seconds off a sub-4, I would've picked it up a bit more!

I am still in awe of the medal...

Leana said...

Wow, what an awesome race! And an AG win? Amazing. All of this racing is definitely paying off. Congrats on the huge PR!!

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