Monday, April 13, 2009
The 2009 Eisenhower Marathon
I know some have seen this already, but a few hadn't so I'm posting the race report here too. :) Thanks for all the nice comments...I really appreciate it, especially since I was a neurotic basket case who was not convinced that ANYTHING would go right ahead of time. So, without further ado....
I had a War and Peace length race report for my first marathon and first BQ attempt, MCM, in the fall. The cliff's notes version was that I raced my first half a little too fast but tried to keep hanging on for the BQ. I gutted it out in the final few miles but missed it by six seconds on my chip time for 3:46:05. I had a huge swirl of mixed emotions following that race-I knew I ran well for a first timer but it just ate at me that I was so close without punching the big ticket.
Selecting the marathon:
Fast forward a bit. I was searching for a spring marathon, preferably April, preferably somewhere I could drive to on the cheap. On a marathonguide.com search I found this small marathon in Kansas put on in Dwight D. Eisenhower's hometown of Abilene, Kansas.
It was certified course that I could use to try to qualify for 2010, had a small field of runners (no megamarathon weaving!) and had pretty darn good runner feedback other than a few people who really should have selected other races if they wanted mountain or ocean vistas, bad cover bands on every corner or hordes of people. I thought it sounded perfect for me, though. I wanted to crawl into a hole and curl up in the fetal position with the sensory overload late in the race at MCM, and thought I could run a great race on a quiet country road without crowds. I found it interesting, too, that they had prize money for the top three overall men and women in the marathon and half marathon, and thought, cool-that'll be a nice prize for somebody! (more on that later ;) ).
Training-I trained again with Pete Pfitzinger's 18/55 as my base plan but made some changes. I was adding in a few miles each week, running slightly longer long runs (including a 22, two 21's, and two 20's), and really focused on taking my recovery runs easy so I could really amp up my speed work. I peaked at 60 mpw and was averaging over 50 mpw for much of the training cycle.
Even though I was pushing myself more and running more miles, it actually felt like I was getting more of a handle on the plan than my first time through it. I was able to get through training without injury, and set a few shorter race distance PR's during training, so it seemed like I was on track for a BQ this time. I was still really nervous about the race, though. Weather would be a BIG question mark in Kansas. Would the small field be a non-factor because of gusting winds and freezing temps?
Night before the race:
pick up my packet, and I've been assigned bib #13. Yes, really. A number they normally toss out. HMMMMMM.
On the morning of the race, my husband and I got up around 4:30 and I had two large, plain bagels at our bed and breakfast. After that, we gathered up my stuff and drove the half mile over to the parish hall at the Catholic church by the start, and hung out. It was absolutely packed and they seemed to have a TON of race day registration going on-the weather was just perfect and I think lots of people decided at the last second to take advantage of it.
After I warmed up, I was expecting that we'd soon be hearing that it was time to go line up. We were surprised, though, with an announcement that the race would start late due to delays in getting names of the race day entrants into the system. There were a couple of pissed off people yelling out stuff but I just said whatever...there's nothing I can do about it, and nothing to gain from getting worked up over it. At first they made it sound like we might be as much as half an hour to an hour off schedule, but just when we thought we'd be there forever, they announced that things were ready to go, and we lined up around 7:25, about 25 minutes late. Finally, off we went.
The first two miles or so go out flat on the highway. I felt really comfortable and had to keep slowing myself down to stay on my pre-planned 8:20 miles for the first half. It was cool but really not freezing cold, and the air was still.
Mile 1- 8:17
Mile 2- 8:11
I decided to take a calculated risk and quicken my pace just a bit. I knew I didn't want to blow up late in the race and that it could come back to bite me in the butt-but I just had a feeling that I could handle it. We wound into a tree-lined park for the next few miles, looped through, and returned back to the rural highway, rolling very slightly uphill toward the halfway point.
Mile 3- 8:06
Mile 4- 8:11
Mile 5- 8:19
Mile 6- 8:09
I felt very good physically thus far. I had my Geetah straws and was drinking at every aid station (they had them EVERY mile!)-Powerade at the first three, and then I began alternating with water. I think my GU made me a little sick to my stomach late in MCM so I spaced them out this time and was taking in more fluids this time. I passed a woman somewhere around the halfway point on the out portion but hadn't encountered any more women as I continued on. There was one lady who was up the road a bit from me. I wasn't making up any ground on her at this point but she also wasn't getting ahead.
Mile 7- 8:15
Mile 8- 8:07
Mile 9- 8:14
Mile 10- 8:11
By now I was starting to watch for any women coming back on the out and back, and was very surprised to not see anyone yet. I was also very surprised about the other missing factor-the wind. There was none. Maybe a slight breeze that felt good, but none of the normal Kansas wind I'd come to expect when I was a student down the road at K-State.
As I headed toward the turnaround, I could see that I was now gaining ground on that next woman up from me. I also finally counted three women coming back as I ran that last mile to the turnaround. Unless I'd missed someone, I was running fifth and excited that it looked like I had a decent shot for an age group award.
After the turnaround, I finally found myself even with the woman I'd been able to see for the entire first half. I chat with her for a minute before easing on past, and she says something to the effect of "third isn't that far up! Go get 'em!" This woman was a prior race winner, does consistently well in the Masters age brackets, but I guess was taking it easy out there due to various injuires. I continued on, now the fourth female overall.
I still feel good and just continue with the alternation of water and powerade. My stomach feels fine and I don't feel like I'm crashing or the wheels are coming off or anything. I chatted off and on with a man who was running the same pace as me for the next few miles. I keep checking my pace band, which was written for a 3:40 marathon, and the time is somewhere in the area of 3-4 minutes ahead of that pace.
Mile 16- 8:03
Mile 17- 8:09
Mile 18- 8:10
Mile 19- 8:03
Around this point, I look at my pace band and have this exciting moment where I realize that IF nothing catastrophic befalls me late in the race, I've got my BQ. I was actually smiling to myself a bit about this-I was working hard but not feeling like I was ready to just give up and surrender at any second. It felt like I could carry it through on this pace to the finish.
Mile 20- 8:10
Somewhere in this mile, I notice a woman walking very slowly on the road. Not thinking much about it, I assume it's a race volunteer. The woman is wearing shorts, though...that should have been my first tipoff that it wasn't a volunteer. It was too cold to be wearing shorts for someone not running.
As I finally get to where she is, I realize it's the woman who was leading at the turnaround. She's not limping or anything, but is walking very slowly and gingerly. I asked if she was okay or needed help, but she said she was okay. I heard later that she did walk all the way in and finish but am not sure what happened to her. My best guess is that she went out too fast, got totally glycogen depleted and crashed into the wall. As I passed her I was now in third place....one of the "money" slots where I never thought I'd find myself.
Mile 21- 8:11
Mile 22- 8:07
I'm now heading back into the park on the out and back. Nearly home, feeling good. All of a sudden-what felt like it was about to be near disaster. All of a sudden my body turned gooey and mushy feeling...it slowed down involuntarily even though my breathing felt great. OH, CRAP. So this is the wall. I thought I was done. I can't even describe the feeling but it's like the gas tank was approaching empty, and sputtering. I realized that when I had to ask if I'd possibly hit the wall at MCM, the answer was NO if I had to ask. This was a distinctively different feeling than that late in the race fatigue in my first marathon.
I let my body slow down and didn't fight it, dug out my last GU, and sucked it down. I saw that a water station was not far ahead and stayed at this slower pace as I approached and asked for Powerade, even though I think this was supposed to be a water station. I tried to keep my strides short, and not expend any more energy than necessary as I continued through the park.
Mile 23: 8:34
Mile 24: 8:40
When I came out of the park, I think the Powerade and GU had kicked in and given me just enough to hang in there. I was told that when I was back on the road to the finish, look for the church steeple and follow it in. Great tip in theory but I was spooked from the whole power surge I'd experienced in the park, and just kind of tucked my head down when I realized how far way that church steeple actually was. Instead, I focused on short landmarks as they came. I was fatigued but smiling to myself too. I was well ahead of my BQ pace, and in mile 25, it was all becoming very real that I was going to do it, even though I had slowed slightly.
Mile 25: 8:29
I was really trying to dig deep here and finish as strong as I could. Didn't want to fade away at the end, even though the rest of the race was pretty evenly split. I thought about my kids, all the times they asked "how was your run, Mommy?" and how I wanted to finish huge for them. I thought about my husband at the finish, and how I wanted to share this moment with him. He's been fully supportive of my training, and getting the kids where they need to go on Saturday mornings when I'm running long, and I didn't want to limp my way in when he'd driven us all the way out here for the race.
I also thought of Cody, how tough and strong he was, and what his family has been through, and Judy from Masters/Womens BQ thread and her daughter Katie's illness. I tried to drop the hammer as hard as I could in the last 1.2.
Mile 26- 8:10
As I came into the finish, I just wanted to enjoy the moment. I saw my husband, and saw the time clock and just tried to soak it all in as I finished. After that little dance with The Wall, we never met again, and now I was chugging in to the finish.
Last .2=3:03 (7:38 pace).
Clock time of 3:36:28, Chip time 3:36:18 (my Garmin read 3:36:26). A new marathon PR, a BQ, and a very unexpected third place overall. I won $200 for that third finisher slot, and a very nice medal. I realized after I saw the photos that DH took that I was grinning like an idiot during the awards presentation, but I just could not wipe the smile off my face. I know that's usually not a time that would place overall, even in a small marathon, but darnit, I was HAPPY and couldn't hide it.
This race really was about as perfect for me as it could have been. We had the good fortune of terrific race day weather (sandwiched between two days that had rain and wind), I felt very good physically, and just went with it.
We capped off the day by going to dinner at the Brookville Hotel, which is known for their fried chicken, with a friend of ours from college who lives in the area, and his girlfriend. I asked what they had on tap for beer...I basically had various Budweiser, Coors and Michelob choices, and then there was Sam Adams randomly thrown in the mix. It was a no-brainer to end the day with the Sam Adams to celebrate getting to head to Boston around this time next year. :)
Sorry so long, folks...but thanks for reading if you made it this far. I would definitely do this race again in a heartbeat, even with the "growing pains" issues they had right before the race. It was otherwise very well organized, the course volunteers enthusiastic and supportive, and it was SO nice to have everything so close together with no crowds to fight.