Last weekend, I ran my 3rd Twin Cities marathon. As I shared earlier, my training went pretty well up until September. I think I hit almost every run on my plan, and my first 20 miler felt really good. Then in September, my IT band started flaring up and I came down with a cold. I got my second 20 miler in, but it was ROUGH. I also started missing more workouts than I completed, just trying to get my body to recover.
I spent the day before the marathon in bed with body aches and a fever. If you’ve been following along, this is the exact same thing that happened last year. Knowing how miserable last year’s race was, I was dreading having to go through that again. I woke up on race morning and didn’t feel as bad as the day before but was really nauseous. Last year I made the mistake of not eating before the race, so I ate a starch bar and a spoonful of peanut butter. I kept sipping mint tea to try to help, but it didn’t seem to help. I just tried to get ready and calm myself before the race.
I felt okay by the race start and just told myself to take it one mile at a time. At this point, I had thrown pacing goals out the window and just wanted to get to the finish line. It was crushing to give up a goal that I had worked so hard for, but it was what it was, and I knew I would have a better chance of getting to the finish if I took it easy on my body.
The first 2 miles, I tried not to look at my watch at all. I hit a very comfortable pace and kept asking myself if I could sustain it. After the first mile, I ran into a friend running with some of his friends. I wished them luck and backed away. After looking at my watch, I realized that I was running faster than I thought, so tried to back off even more at mile 3. By mile 4, I felt like I was running at a comfortable pace and wound up behind my friend again. I used their group as pacers and just tried to stick with them. I was trying to just enjoy the day, listen to my music, and zone out. I knew if I focused my energy into thinking about how I didn’t feel well, it would cause me to stop or slow down.
My friend Angie was at the half-way point to cheer for me. Knowing she was there carried me up to that point. At half-way, I assessed how I was feeling, and the truth was, I was feeling fine! I kept pacing based off how my body felt and I kept picking up speed. My original plan was to go fast between 13-19 because after that, the course gets hilly. I was a little nervous I was draining too much energy, but I stuck to my gel schedule and was taking one every 50 minutes, before I started to feel fatigued, and I think it really helped.
The hilly section starts at mile 20, but for some reason it didn’t feel so bad this year. Every time I looked at my watch, I honestly couldn’t believe the pace I was hitting. I knew even if the last few miles were tough, I could still hit a PR. This made me really excited to see how long I could hold my pace. I usually start to walk at the water stations after half way, because I find it hard to drink while running, but this year, I knew if stopped it would be so hard to keep going. I didn’t walk until a bigger hill on mile 22 when all of a sudden everyone around me was walking. I was mad at myself for doing it, so I vowed that I would keep running, even if I was running slow.
It got really tough after mile 24. I kept telling myself only 2 miles, but my feet were hurting and the miles suddenly felt like they were endless. I tried to keep thinking about how amazing the race had gone, and how I would be disappointed if I gave it all up in the last few minutes. I also knew all of my friends were tracking me and probably freaking out at my time, and I knew my parents would be at the finish and how proud they would be!
The course is downhill for the last half mile, but the last .2 starts at the bottom of the hill and feels like the longest .2 miles ever. I was passing people left and right the second half of the race, and continued up until the finish. I ended up finishing in 3:47:06, 9 minutes faster than my personal best from the year before. I also ran the second half 3 minutes faster than the first half, which is difficult to begin with, but even harder on a course that is uphill miles 20-23.
I’m not really sure what happened during this race. I knew I worked hard in training, but I missed a lot of workouts the last month. I never hit anywhere near my race paces during my long runs, and I thought even my conservative plan would be a challenge. Perhaps the extended time I took off while sick was actually really good for my body. There was also a nice wind at our backs for the last 6 miles, which probably helped a little! I’m still trying to reflect about what exactly went so well in this race, because I’ve never been happy with a marathon result until now!
I also raised $1,315 for the Girls on the Run Twin Cities program through the marathon. I think part of the reason got out of bed and made it to the start line was knowing I didn’t want to let the donors down.
I also want to try to assess why I keep getting sick before my big races. Am I changing my habits so much during the taper that my body freaks out? I didn’t feel like I was stressed out before this race, but I do tend to have high expectations for myself, and maybe put too much pressure on the race result. It seems like the more I didn’t look at my watch, the better it went!
I also think I paced the race perfectly. I started super comfortable and picked up as I felt able to. I usually go out way too fast and then suck at controlling my pace, so I’m happy it came naturally during this race. My training plan also challenged me in different ways this time. I did a 13+ mile run almost every week, so I think I was much more comfortable at the distance than I have been previously.
Despite the result, I am so excited to take time off from running. My body is exhausted! This year had a lot of ups and downs when it came to running, so I am happy to end it on a really good note!