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:
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:
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:
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: