North Carolina Marathon #2 (no new state)
Tobacco Road Marathon #1
When life and the weather throw you curve balls, it helps to not have an ambitious goal going into a marathon.
When I first picked this marathon, many months ago, I envisioned being able to build back up to marathon training quickly after the injury and trying again for that BQ. Although this is a great course for a BQ, that would not have been a good idea. Instead I focused on rebuilding and focusing on form. I would love to avoid all injury from here on out if at all possible.
As race day approached, I knew that I needed to go into the race with a semblance of a plan. I think it’s barely possible to go into a half marathon and make up a plan as you go. A marathon? Not a chance.
After the GHS Half, I plugged the numbers into the McMillan calculator to see what that performance would get me for a marathon. Even with some wiggle room, that translated to approximately 3:45:xx. I could do that. I looked up the different pace groups on the marathon’s website and saw that there would be a 3:45 pace group which just happened to be led by the same pacer who helped Michael so much two years ago at Hilton Head. I decided to follow the same plan that I used at GHS-latch on to the pacer and ignore my Garmin. (I would still wear it of course. I’m addicted to data.)
Then life happened last Thursday. (That’s a story for another time.) I wondered if my running would be affected. Stress has negatively affected my running before. Not this time. I had some of the best feeling runs of the entire training cycle last week. God was so good to give me that.
I still didn’t know how all that would translate to the race. Then I got one of the pre-race emails that mentioned the potential bad weather: hot, humid, and rainy. Oh goody. My favorite. (Sarcasm alert)
That’s when I had to get flexible with the plan. I know my body. My body does not perform at optimal levels (putting it mildly) when it’s hot and humid. I knew that I needed to be proactive with my hydration so I made sure that I stayed fully hydrated the few days before the race and made a plan for during the race.
It’s been a while since I have carried hydration with me during a marathon. For one reason or another, I will bring the bottle (in various forms) with me but only as far as my hotel room. I’ve always left it behind. Not today. Before the race I considered using my Orange Mud vest but since I didn’t run with it through the entire training cycle, I figured it would be better to stick with what I had been using and supplement. The plan was to take one cup from every aid station through the first half and then start double cupping after the halfway point. I would drink from my handheld on the miles in between.
Getting to the expo before it closed was a bit of a challenge as well. Mom had Redemption Group launch and thought that she wouldn’t be able to go with me. Then we realized that if we left by noon we could make it to the expo on time. Just in case, I messaged the marathon’s Facebook page and asked if there was any alternative for picking up the bib in case we hit traffic. It would have been a total bummer to get all the way there and then not be able to run the race. My admiration for everyone who makes the Tobacco Marathon such a success started then and has continued to grow. One of the race officials said that she would pull my bib and other items and have it set aside for me to pick up during the time that she was breaking down the expo. She even gave me her number so I would be able to contact her when I got there if I couldn’t find her.
We managed to arrive with three minutes to spare.
She had everything I needed already bagged up and ready to go. As she handed the bag to me she stage-whispered, “There’s a parking pass in there too.” Wow. So awesome. These parking passes were to be purchased during registration since parking at the actual race site was extremely limited. I didn’t think that we had to have one and so to save some money, did not purchase the pass. I am so grateful for the pass. It was amazing to be able to park right at the race start and be able to wait in the car, off my feet for the hour and a half before the race start. (They advised arriving early so that traffic wouldn’t keep you from missing the start.)
After the wait, it was time to start!
With only a few minutes to spare I made my way to the road and started looking for the 3:45 pacer. I could not see the sign anywhere. I saw 4:00 and 3:55 and then way down towards the front some other green signs. They were too far away for me to make out which time was written on them. I overheard during the race that the rest of the marathon pacers were bunched up towards the start. Oh well. Time to make a new plan. This new plan consisted of the same hydration plan and the plan to avoid looking at my watch. If I happened to catch up to the 3:45 pacer i would stick with him as long as I could. If I didn’t? No big deal.
I should have started closer to the front. With the half starting at the same time as the full, there was plenty of congestion that lasted for the next mile and a half or so. I felt pretty good through this section.
Mile 1: 8:53
Mile 2: 8:34
Before the half and the full split, I ended up stuck in the 2 hour pace group. It was definitely a relief when the half and the full split somewhere in the 3rd mile.
The next few miles were the most difficult mentally. I had yet to settle in so there were plenty of thoughts rattling around. I happened to glance at my Garmin a couple times in this next section but that was about it for the rest of the race. I wanted to reach a point where I would almost zone out but not quite. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to use the next port-o-potty even though I made sure to use it at the hotel and cycled through the line at the race start twice. I finally used one between miles 6 and 7. So worth it.
Mile 3: 8:50
Mile 4: 8:33
Mile 4: 8:33
Mile 6: 9:05
Mile 7: 9:35
The next five miles or so were where I felt physically the lowest and started to wonder if I would be able to make it through the entire race. Ironically, this was also the point where I figured out that I’m insane. Reason? I think I want to try for my next BQ in San Francisco in 2017. Yeah, not exactly the flattest race around. I am definitely a glutton for punishment.
Since I made the conscious effort to almost zone out, I don’t remember a lot about the individual miles. I do remember thinking that I was going to have a hard time recapping the those miles since I wasn’t trying to remember something about each mile.
Then when we were almost back to the point where the half and the full split (also the point where we had entered the trail (the American Tobacco Trail), I was completely surprised by Mom and Ellis. It was so nice to have support, especially when I expected to see them at the finish line. That was definitely a boost to my morale. How could I not think a little more positively after that?
Mile 8: 8:43
Mile 9: 8:44
Mile 10: 8:49
Mile 11: 8:49
Mile 12: 8:53
Somewhere in the next few miles the 3:55 pacer caught up to me. I had hoped to stay ahead of him a little longer but I knew that I was doing the best that I could. I had some good miles in the next section, miles where I felt really strong. Those usual came after eating a couple chews which I was doing every four miles. I knew that the heat was getting to me. (I almost typed started to get to me but it started to get to me at the start of the race.) Besides that, I don’t remember much about the individual miles through here. At the two (or three) water stops in this section he pulled away just a tad each time. The reason? He ran through each water stop but I walked. I wanted to get as much of that Gatorade as I possibly could. It was just before mile 20 that I knew that I had hit the proverbial wall. I walked when I ate the chews at mile 20 instead of running like I had before.
Mile 13: 9:00
Mile 14: 9:05
Mile 15: 9:10
Mile 16: 8:30
Mile 17: 9:00
Mile 18: 8:57
Mile 19: 8:47
Mile 20: 9:12
The 3:55 pacer had definitively pulled away at this point. My next goal, and one I’m pleased to say that I managed, was to stay in front of the 4:00 pacer. It’s been over three years since I finished a marathon with a 4 in the front. I was okay with it on a day like today but if I could keep that from happening, I wanted to try.
I could definitely feel the fatigue through these miles. I also could tell that it was simply the exhaustion that came from the heat and humidity. I felt like my fitness was there and had the weather cooperated, I would have been much closer to 3:45.
This was when I started reminding myself frequently that every step brought me one step closer to finishing the race.
At mile 22, I thought that sub 4 hours might be just outside my grasp. I needed another sugar boost so I got some fuel again instead of in 2 more miles. I also walked through this portion. I think there was also a water stop in this mile so the two walk portions combined to give me my slowest mile of the race, slower even than the pit stop in the earlier portion. When walking at this point, it felt really easy to just keep walking but I forced myself to start up again, promising my protesting legs that they could walk again at the next water stops and when I got fuel at mile 24.
I ended up not getting more chews at mile 24. At that point it felt like too much work. Instead, I continued to grab two cups of Gatorade at the next water stops and walked just long enough to drink all of both cups..
Near mile 24, after we exited the trail and got back on the road, I passed the 3:45 pacer. It must not have been his day. He was walking but still encouraging people as they passed.
I knew that if I held on for two more miles, I could probably get that sub 4 hour. The road portion of the race was not a runner’s friend though. After the complete flatness of the trail, the slight changes in elevation on the road felt like mountains. I kept plugging away though and even passed up the last water stop. I had just enough left in my hand held for one more sip. Besides, I was only a mile away form the finish and could rehydrate when I got there.
Finally we entered the park and I could feel a sense of relief. I was about to finish this thing. I kept pressing and even put on a little bit of a “sprint” at the end.
Mile 21: 9:16
Mile 22: 9:14
Mile 23: 9:47
Mile 24: 9:15
Mile 25: 9:17
Mile 26: 9:01
Last .23: 8:23
Final time: 3:56:34!
I’ll take it! There is nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a marathon. This may be my 8th but it still feels amazing each time and so worth the effort.
I am so pleased with my effort today. I ran a smart race taking into consideration my training, life events and the weather. I nailed hydration on a very difficult day to do so and can’t imagine what my performance would have looked like had I been less than successful with hydration.
And with that, marathon #8 is in the books!
Tobacco Road, you outdid yourself. I am beyond impressed with the entire event from expo to social media to volunteers and beyond. I hope you guys continue to grow and put on an amazing race. Although Twin Cities is still my favorite so far, you guys come pretty close to knocking it off the top.