Run strong. Run fast. Do not settle.
These were the words I wrote on my hand right before leaving the house at 4:20 this morning. I meant to leave at 4:00, but I got carried away with mental prep. Still, I was lucky and traffic was so glorious that I made the distance in 45 minutes anyway. This meant I had 55 minutes to pee and get to the starting line.
I woke up at 3:18 when the alarm rang. I woke up surprised that I had actually slept last night. The last thing I remember was thinking “well, if I can’t sleep, at least I’m resting.” In fact, it was such an unusual situation for me that I forgot to turn off my alarm, and had to run to my room when I was already in the kitchen ten minutes later so that the alarm wouldn’t wake up the rest of the house. Then I went back to the kitchen, toasted my two waffles, boiled my water for coffee, and took it to my desk to look up again how I would get to the race.
My morning was a bunch of pluses and minuses: woke up on time, but left later than intended; made it to the finish line (near where I wanted to park) in record time, but had to park somewhere unplanned, because I didn’t think I’d get a parking spot in time. I thought the rate for the garage that I found was 10$ for the day, but later I was to find out that it was 10$ per hour, and I’m really glad I had my debit card on me to pay it. That was maybe the only thing I regret about this run. The line for the shuttle from finish to start line was super long, but I made friends with the runners in front of me, and they saved my spot so that I could head into the nice resort bathroom next to where we were all standing. Porcelain bathrooms with toilet paper and soap on race morning? A luxury. It was a relief to not have to wait in line at the porta-potty at the start line (though by the time the bus made it over, I could have gone again- just didn’t have the time, which came to nip me in the bud later). I found gear check and dropped my bag with three minutes to spare, but couldn’t find the 3:30 pacer, and lost the pace-band I had made for myself. My iPod shuffle wasn’t following the playlist I had made for it, but my starting song was still “Fanfare for the Common Man.“The best way to start a race, if I may say so. It kept my pace at around the 8:19 I was planning for (though I did go out at 8:17).
That was the beginning. It was a pretty good race from there. I met all my none-time goals: I reveled in the beginnings of the sunrise on the ocean- it was so beautiful. I had a flash-back to running my marathon in Hamburg when I saw the Port-of-Everglades (reminded me of the docks on the Elbe river). I connected with the two runners while waiting at the shuttle, found another runner at mile 8 who was also aiming for 3:30 (we rooted each other on throughout the race whenever we saw each other again… she went on to make her goal, I think! Even with a potty break). I was throwing good karma all around, waving to the good souls who clapped for me, nodding at all the policemen and women who were along the course, thanked all the volunteers. I cheered on anyone coming at me in the opposite direction. I like to think I made their run a little more pleasant… I know I appreciate it! One of the lead runners that I clapped for recognized me again at the finish line and congratulated me on a fine race. So that’s all good.
But I’m sure you want to hear about the time goals, and so let me just say that I’m so glad I set myself a “B” goal within a few minutes of my “A” goal… because without that, or say I had next gone for the 3:50 PR, I would have quit trying. I knew about mile 21 that I would no longer make sub-3:30. But after that, I kept trying, and when I knew I wouldn’t get it for sure, I still kept trying for the 3:33. And I made it!
You may be interested to know that this is a BQ time for girls ages 18-34, so there’s that. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be asked to run next year, because I missed that “extra” time cushion of 2:28 by 18 seconds. I’m okay with that, though, since Boston is not my goal…yet. I’m thrilled enough with the sub-3:35, sub-3:33 even, and I can’t wait to see what I can do with my next race!
See, this is my fourth marathon, but the first one I ran like a legitimate race. Last April, I ran a PR, and ran a marathon for the first time without stopping to walk, but I was having way too much fun taking in the experience of the Hamburg Marathon. I didn’t really understand fueling, starting off slower, but not too slow so that you’re catching up for the rest of the race, etc.
I still don’t think I figured out that part quite perfectly yet. I started off slower, but my 2nd and 3rd miles were sub-8mpm when they should have been in the 8:00-8:10 range. Then, as I feared all during the taper, I didn’t know how to keep myself at the pace I should have kept, a more conservative 7:56-7:58 versus the 7:45/8:00 flips I was doing. Overall, my pace was already at 7:56 through mile 10, when it really should have been 8:00-8:02. The other mistake I made was to get too confident at mile 14. Maybe it was the Gu kicking in, maybe I was glad to be at the halfway mark, but miles 14-19 were 7:46, 7:51, 7:44, 7:44, 7:43 (fastest mile of the race) and 7:48. I totally did not have the consistent pace I think I needed to meet my “A” goal for today. It’s a weakness I knew about beforehand though, so I’m not terribly mad at myself. At mile 20, when they say the race really starts (something I was chastising myself all through those middle miles when I was feeling high on air), I started to slow down. Minimally at first, so that the 7:56 became a 7:57, then 7:58, then 7:59 overall pace… which I held for a while, but at mile 22 I was barely holding it together, counting down each quarter mile, and then, after two 8:21 splits for 23 and 24, I could barely keep myself running.
101 Dalmatians, anyone?
Here is where I pulled all the tricks for the last miles that I could remember out of my bag (I forgot that counting trick from Deena Kastor, though). It didn’t help that I had bladder issues, and I was struggling to just keep running, especially after my pace got into the 8:03 overall pace. I got lucky when “Hall of Fame” came on from The Script; it really got me going, and a few scenes from Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil came to mind (I kid you not). Maybe those words on my hand were what did it… maybe seeing the girl from mile 8 pick it up and look damn amazing at mile 24. But I kept thinking to myself, “stay strong; don’t settle.” So I listened to myself the best I could. When I could see the clock with 150 meters left to go, I picked it up for a “sprint” through the finish. Can’t wait to see what that looks like. Definitely not like this puppy, the mascot for my overall place this race.
Somehow, I also managed an age group win, and I scored all the swag post race. I’m glad I parked by the finish line, and getting myself cleaned up and ready to go with a very short, mini cool-down run so that I wouldn’t cramp up in the car was alleviated by the fact that I could dump everything in the car. I didn’t get to stay for awards, so I’m sorry I can’t show you what I would have gotten for the age group win. From experience at this race though, I think it was “just” a plaque. I don’t really need those, and maybe they gave it to the next finisher.
So, did I miss anything? A detail I left out that you really wanted to know about? Let me know! I can say that I had a few knee and feet issues, but nothing that warranted dropping out of the race and the knee things went away over the course of the run. Also, this is a really good race, touted as a “fast” race because it’s so damn flat (most of it is at or below sea level, with one incline near the start to go over the Intercostal). The wind can be a problem, since most of the course is exposed by the ocean. There’s a fair amount of spectators, but not the cheering, loud, clapping kind that will carry you like in major city races. Still, I found the support enough. There were people giving out Gu along the way, so I actually didn’t need all my Gus, but still had them when I struggled in the later miles. There was also a group giving out beer, which sounds like so much fun, but awful consequences when running at the end of one’s limits in a marathon… I actually don’t get that trend. Post-race beer? Sure… but during? The finish area is really well organized- many sponsors giving out all kinds of free-samples: drinks, Muscle Milk, coffee, burgers, enchiladas… . The Ft. Lauderdale marathon and half is also known for its sweet medal and a sand sculpture at the finish to take a photo with. I opted out, but got another photo in all my nasty post-race glory that I’ll share when the pictures are made available.
As for where I go from here (because it’s always good to have ideas for “after”), I am taking a break from training. I had a very successful season with PRs in all the distances I attempted, and I’m mighty content with where I am at this point in my fitness. I will say I could have worked better on my nutrition… something to work on for next season. But I’m ready to not take my logging so seriously, and to run when I feel like it and skip it when I don’t. My GPS is going to hide for a little while, too. I may do a race in early April if I feel like it, and a race or two during the summer in Germany. I have a soft goal of building my mileage off-season to steady 45 mile weeks, but right now, I just want to relax.
And in south Florida, even with all the work I have to do, relaxing is made so easy.
Check out my medal: see, a fish! Two fish, actually.
p.s. Thank you for all your support, both the silent and the extremely open. It means a lot to me! I did want to say though, after thinking about what I wrote yesterday, that my parents do support me in everything I do (including running)… they just don’t understand much about running. Still they are mighty proud of me, and I felt the love today. Happy Valentine’s Day, all around!