Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 St. George Marathon (or The Best Race of My Life!)

I'm having a hard time putting this amazing race experience into words, so I will just start with Thursday night when my leg was still feeling achy and I was icing it while getting laundry folded for the weekend, trying not to worry. I decided I would go to St. George and just see what I could do, but not get my hopes up or stress out about it. It's amazing how thinking that actually WORKED! I felt so relaxed and slept so well Thursday night! They say that's the night to get the best night's sleep so this gave a good confidence boost.

I also bought a big, 3 serving, coconut water on Thursday. I drank one glass of that before bed, then the rest of it during the day on Friday. I had been hydrating really well all week, drinking as much water and Nuun as I could. The coconut water was a new thing to me, but a friend suggested it (swore by it even) so I gave it a try. I don't love the taste, but I managed to drink it all.

My leg felt good Friday so I didn't really have to worry about that as Pete and I traveled down to St. George. We stopped in Cedar City to do some carb loading, which I took VERY seriously...

Also, more water. I actually shared that bread twist with Pete and had a delicious bowl of pasta that I saved half of for after the race.

We we got to St. George, we went strait to the race expo. The parking lot was packed! Once we got inside, it didn't seem very crowded, though, and there was no line to pick up my packet.

When I registered for the race, I paid something like $5 to add an id band so I got that along with my race number and shirt. It is really nice, I was really happy I ordered one! (It's by MyId, here's a cool video they put out) On the inside is just a number that you (or whoever finds you) enter into their website to get your medical/emergency contact information. It's really comfortable and I can totally see myself wearing this anywhere, plus it's got the St. George Marathon logo on there. Pretty cool.

We stayed with some friends in Santa Clara, who were so nice to put us up even though they were just getting back from a trip themselves! Again, I couldn't believe how NOT nervous I was and how well I slept, even though we had to get up at 3:30am! Pete dropped me off at my friend, Chris' hotel room where she gave him the key so he could go in and sleep a little more, which was really nice! We walked down to the huge line of busses together where we met up with another friend of hers before getting on and taking the looooong ride out to the start.

It was pretty cold and windy at the start line, so we spent most of our time hanging out at either the port-o-potties or the bonfires. Chris was the perfect person to hang out with because I feel like we both had the same attitude about this race. We just wanted it to be a party! We both wanted to enjoy it and be able to feel good the whole time and not worry about time. Of course, inside, I wanted a PR, but I wasn't going to hope for it or really even shoot for it - at least not for the first half.

Bonfire party time with 7800 of our best friends!!

Chris was so laid back, and declared that she was going to stay at the bonfire (well, hot coals at this point) until everyone was out of the way, and we also waited until everyone lined up at the start to make our last trip to the port-o-potties. This was such a good plan because the lines were pretty much gone by then. Once it looked like the mass of people was almost past the start, we started to make our way over, which was really nice because we didn't have a huge crowd to fight through or slow us down. Knowing the race was chip timed, we didn't feel a need to start as soon as possible.

I have to say that this was the one point in the day that I felt sad. Dissapointed even. Usually I'm really proud to be part of the running community, and I think for the most part runners are courtious and want to keep nature clean. But, as we walked to the start, the whole area was just strewn with garbage. It was ridiculous. It was like everyone just decided to leave their water bottle and foil blanket and gloves (that they were handing out which was nice!) right where they were standing. Come on guys, you're about to run a marathon, you can't walk your water bottle to the garbage can? We looked over and we saw a group of inmates getting ready to clean up this huge mess and Chris said, "That kind of makes me feel even worse." So yeah, that was sad. I hope no one reading this contributed to that...

Anyway, our plan was to run the first 3 miles (where the aid stations started) nice and easy, then we would start a rutine of running for 6 minutes then walking one. I would stick to that rutine for at least the first half, then if I felt really good, I could speed up. We both wanted to negative split the race, and especially with this race where the uphills are mostly in the first half, that means holding back as much as we could for the first half.

During those first 3 miles, we met this older man who told us that this was his 171st (or something like that) marathon and his 71st St. George Marathon! He was a fun guy to talk to. He also told us that he always picks up coins when he's out running and that he's collected somewhere in the thousands of dollors over the years! Wow! I should start watching for money more! We asked him if he had any advice for us and he said to not go out to hard and not take a popsicle 2 miles from the finish.  We were very careful to follow his advice. :)

Chris had a little app that timed our run/walk intervals and it would talk to us, which was pretty entertaining. It (she) would always say "go... faster" when we'd start running, along with periodic "faster," "slower" or "steady." Whenever it would say "faster," Chris would say, "whatever!" and one time it said that while we were passing some ladies who were like, "Tell your phone to be quiet! Doesn't she know we're on a hill!" It was pretty funny. We really did try to hold ourselves back, and it seems like every mile we'd say, "That was too fast," and kept reminding ourselves to take it easy. Especially on the downhill. Chris had to remind me that I'd have plenty of downhills to go fast on after the halfway point.

Here we are at the town of Veyo where you can see the big hill of the course, winding up to the left in the distance. We decided to walk for 3 minutes instead of 1 while we were on it. But we were ok with that. We were feeling good and wanted to keep it that way!

Here are my splits through the hill: 

1. 10:11
2. 10:01
3. 9:52
4. 9:48
5. 11:59 (bathroom break here)
6. 9:22 (getting a little too excited...)
7. 9:41
8. 12:17 (no shame in slowing waaaaay down for this big hill)

Here I am, victorious at the top of the hill! I was still with Chris and we were still plugging along with our walk/run method. Both of us were feeling good!

This walk/run method really made the miles fly by! I tried to be really good and ate either a honey stinger chew, which has caffeine, or a margarita shot blok, which has salt, every mile. But, honestly, I probably wouldn't have noticed when we finished every mile if it weren't for the mile markers with star balloons tied to them. We passed one aid station where they had cliff bars and I said, "who would want a cliff bar while running?!" Then, at maybe even the next aid station, I heard someone say, "crunchy peanut butter!" and found myself grabbing and eating half of a little cliff bar! Haha, it was really good too! I saved the other half for the next aid station. They had aid stations every 2 miles and port-o-potties every mile so that was really nice.

Here's the view from one of my next walk breaks, probably at around the half-way point, with the volcano coming into view. I said I was hoping to hit half-way at around 2:15ish and we hit it at 2:16 so we were happy with that!

Here we are right next to the volcano at about mile 14 with Snow Canyon coming into view. I was now past the half-way point so I had permission to speed up if I felt like it. Knowing that I wanted to stop at the aid station for the bathroom, feeling really good, seeing this amazing view and feeling the nice downhill, I really DID want to speed up! I pulled ahead of Chris here, but we met back up at the mile 15 aid station just in time for her next run interval. I had a volunteer slather me in sunscreen here, and I also took some Excedrin even though I was feeling really good, with only the bottoms of my feet hurting slightly, I wanted to keep feeling good! I ran with Chris for a minute, but it was another good downhill so I decided to say goodbye and let myself GO!

Here are my splits for miles 9-15:

9. 10:21
10. 10:45
11. 11:53 (this was another pretty good uphill, no big deal, slow and steady)
12. 10:34
13. 10:02
14. 10:06
15. 9:23 

After leaving Chris, I put my music in and just had a blast! I decided to keep making myself walk every mile, though I didn't time it anymore. I would either take water at the aid stations or check my phone on the even numbers, then start running again as soon as I was done. At mile 16, I sent out texts to Pete, Katie and Shannon telling them that I was feeling GOOD!

I could not believe how good I felt! It was fun waiting until the end, when I was ready to push it, to turn on my music. It really helped me speed up and keep motivated. I remember at one point Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons (my favorite band!) came on and they say, "Weep for yourself, my man, You'll never be what is in your heart," and I thought, "Yes I will!" Then they say, "Weep Little Lion Man, You're not as brave as you were at the start," And I thought, "Yes I AM!" :) 

Let's call these the "Party Miles":

16. 9:57
17. 9:10
18. 10:15
19. 10:00
20. 9:17

I really felt so good, and the miles just kept ticking off. I was kind of waiting for the pain to come and to hit the wall, but it never really happened. I felt like I had to start focusing a little more as the time went, but nothing hurt too badly and I kept feeling happy and good. It was awesome to have so many people out cheering this time! When I ran this last time, no one really came out onto the course to cheer because of the pouring rain and I couldn't even see the scenery because it was so gray. It was all so lonely and miserable. Not this time! I also really enjoyed all the signs placed along the course. I felt really supported! I just kept wanting to look at everyone around me and yell, "This is so FUN!" I also thanked the volunteers profusely at every aid station.

I usually don't like to spend money on race pictures, but I feel like this one totally captured how I felt the whole time. I'm not sure exactly when this picture was taken, I'm guessing at mile 22 by the looks of the scenery. 

Feeling good and smiling at mile 22? What the what?!

Here are my splits for the last 6 miles - the 6 miles that I had to walk last time, that I was determined to run and enjoy this time! To be fair, 21-25 are really downhill, but I was glad I wasn't hurting too much to enjoy that, and I had a blast running down them!

21. 9:06
22. 9:39
23. 9:18
24. 9:29
25. 10:06
26. 10:11

There were a couple times, I think when I hit mile 20, and again when I hit 23 (maybe because it's easy to do the math from there) when I realized that I might be able to finish 4:30, or even go under that! I would get emotional and start to have a hard time breathing when I'd think this so I'd have to make myself relax and focus on breathing for a minute, then I'd be ok.

I was so happy that I was able to keep my pace up! Even after it flattened out for the last 2 miles, I still felt really good and like nothing was going to stop me from moving forward and hitting that 4:30!! I was Pete a few blocks from the finish line cheering for me and I was so happy that I was running strong and able to smile at him and raise my hands in the air. He ran along with me and cheered for me at a couple more spots, but I had my eye on the prize and didn't even let myself slow down! I crossed the finish line then hit stop on my watch and just could NOT believe that I saw 4:24:40!! I had started my watch a little late so I knew that wasn't exact, but I was SO happy.

Pete had been getting text updates for me and it's pretty cool to see them and watch my pace and projected time speed up!

So he knew my chip time as soon as I finished (I was about 15 minutes behind the clock) and he sent me a text that said, "4:25:30!"

I was practically in shock! :) That's a 55 minute PR for me! Unbelievable!

Chris came in about 10 minutes after me so we were both really happy and feeling great!!

It seems like we both started to feel the soreness at about the same time as we were walking to the car too! Haha I was so sore for the next few days, but it was totally worth it! I am still floating on Cloud Nine. What a perfect day. :)

Thinking back on this race, I'm so proud of how well we stuck to our plan. We wanted to take it super easy at the start, negative split the first and second halves (which I've never done), and we wanted to feel good at the end. We more than accomplished those goals!

At the start, Chris was saying how she thought she could do 4:45 if it was a good day, and I thought, "Well, she'll finish before me then." I was still just hoping to finish in under 5 hours. We hit the halfway point at 2:16 which is funny because I was kind of basing the first half on The Striders Half that I did this spring where I took it really easy and finished in 2:18. Then, I based the second half on The SLC Half that I did 2 weeks later and pushed really hard, finishing in 2:08. My finish time here was just a little faster than those two halves put together! I kind of feel like those halves are what gave me the confidence to do this race, and now I realize that they gave me so much more than that. I feel like I'm a different person than the person who ran this marathon 6 years ago. I have so much more running experience, and I also feel like I'm tougher mentally - which is a big part of the marathon - and much more confident.

Another thing that I think affected how good I felt was how rested I was. I was worried about hardly running for the 2 months leading up to this marathon, but I think I must have hit the sweet spot between getting enough miles in and good recovery!

I'm sure being really hydrated going in and fueling really well during the race helped a lot too.

Basically everything really came together for me on this race and I'm just so happy. I thought that if I had the marathon I wanted this time, I would be able to say I'm done with them. But I really don't think that's true. Now I can't wait for my next one!!

Pete and I decided to drive home that night, and look at the beautiful view we got on the drive home. Southern Utah is just stunning.

It was a tough drive home. I was so tired! But it was worth it. It was so nice to be able to sleep in and relax while the kids were at my dad's then go out to Sunday Brunch to celebrate!

1 comment:

  1. wow, congrats on PRing a tough marathon and after having a stress fracture. You rock!