Mile 14: 9:19 (the hill mile)
Okay, I was feeling pretty upbeat now. I was feeling a normal amount of tiredness for this stage of the race but was thankfully NOT feeling like the wheels coming off was imminent. More Chuck Norris signs. I laughed out loud at "Chuck Norris Once Visited The Virgin Islands. They Are Now Called The Islands."
Mile 15: 8:33
Mile 16: 8:15
Mile 17: 8:33
Mle 18: 8:32
Mile 19: 8:42
We were moving toward more populated areas now, and the sprinklers along the road along with folks hanging out in yards to cheer for, feed, and entertain the runners were becoming a more common sight now. It was warming up but there were opportunities here and there to run in the shade. Twenty miles came and went with another feeling of triumph.
Mile 20: 8:41
Physically I was getting to that point where I knew it would be hard work for the last 10K, but I was feeling like I was building mojo and getting that mental game at just the perfect time. I passed the sign that indicated we were now within the city limits of Missoula, and I thought okay...less than an hour until I finish and get to see my family! I hugged the side of the road where I could run in partial shade, and hit up as many sprinklers as possible.
Mile 21: 8:39
I was still feeling pretty even stephen, and quite surprised. I'd obviously slowed a little bit but I just thought I'd be really hurting, crashing and burning by now when I was really just in base building mode for my fall marathon. I believe there is definitely something to be said for experience, and putting together all the little things that have worked for me in the first four marathons. A good fueling and hydration strategy was helping me out a lot today, along with knowing I wasn't trained today for a PR attempt.
Mile 22: 8:45
Mile 23: 8:51
Ah, so there it is...not the wall but just really getting to the point of being pretty physically spent, and really needing to crank up the mental game. We were now criss-crossing through the neighborhoods near downtown Missoula. Random fiddle players, a banjo player, residents on their lawns and sprinklers dotted the route. It brought me back to the feeling of making all those turns through the neighborhoods in Boulder for our tiny little 10K that takes place there every Memorial Day. Another Chuck Norris sign..."Superman wears Chuck Norris Pajamas."
I just focused on that whole incessant forward motion thing, and kept running ahead to the next sprinkler in the road so I could do the little leap-through.
Mile 24: 8:45
The route was getting really thick with the last of the half marathon walkers now, and sometimes they'd be two and three astride so I did a bit of weaving here and there. It wasn't really bad, but in mile 25 of a marathon every bit of extra work really hurt. I knew the end was near, though, and just pushed the tired legs to keep turning over at the same rate they'd been going.
Mile 25: 8:49
Oh, man. Ready to be done. More threading my way through walkers. I saw a bunch of high schoolers near the bottom of the road where I'd make one of the last turns. They had big foam hands and were trying to high five people going by. Yes. Time to slap some foam hands and feed off their energy. I got to them and made the turn and knew I was coming up to the home stretch.
Mile 26: 8:47
For those who are unfamiliar with the Boston Marathon, the last two famous turns on the course are the "Right On Hereford, Left On Boylston." Well, I was amused that we had kind of the reverse here in Missoula. It's left on Fourth, then right to turn and run down Higgins Avenue and across the Higgins Avenue Bridge to the finish. After running a course that is gently net uphill for most of the 26 miles, it was a nice payoff to hit a flat to very slightly downhill piece of road to sprint in to the finish. Coming across the bridge, I saw my husband and all the kids, who smiled and waved. I could see the time clock, and that I was going to make it in under my BQ time for my age group, something I wasn't sure would be entirely possible between all the factors involved with me, and this race. I hauled buns as fast as I could into the finish.
Last bit of road was at an 8:00 pace, measured as .3 miles by Garmin in a time of 2:23. My Garmin, which I'd started at the cannon blast to begin the race, read 3:44:11. Final official chip time, 3:43:52, 9th out of 82 in my age group. Not a bad way to ring in my "fifth marathonversary."
I got my free finisher photo after the race, headed through the covered tent where runners could pick up lots of free food (watermelon, pasta, bananas, fresh fruit popsicles and lots of water and powerade), and caught up with my family a few minutes later. I'd been so worried about this race being an epic disaster, and though it was the 4th slowest of my five marathons, I think the day couldn't have been better. This was my kind of course, and it provided a perfect setting to try my pacing experiment. Other than the Rim Rock Marathon, where a negative split is almost a given because of the uphill then downhill course, I think this was my smallest positive split to date, though I haven't looked at the numbers yet. What this seems to tell me is that when I am fully trained up (and hopefully free of injury) for Boston next year, I should really think about holding back a little more in the first half. I have crazy thoughts of a true even split or (gasp) negative split second half, and find myself believing that it could be possible after this Missoula Experiment.
I really enjoyed the rest of the weekend in Missoula, including the leg soak in the river I'd been dying to do. There were a number of like-minded runners who had also made their way down to the river, some just soaking their legs, and others going for a full swim in the delightfully icy waters. The guy in the upper left corner of the first photo below was so blissed out that he said he didn't know if he'd be able to get himself out of the water. It really felt like all the pain was being frozen and numbed in my legs, and it was just fun to be down there with the other weary but happy runners.
We spent part of our last afternoon in Missoula playing more in the water park at the hotel, which I believe is another reason why my legs feel so springy and alive less than two weeks after the race. I did a ton of three story stair climbs to slide and splash around in the cool water, alternating with soaks in the hot tub, and I think my legs just never had the chance to tighten up completely. It was a good way to unwind with the kids and just keep moving the body without forcing anything painful.
After an early dinner, we ended our day at The Big Dipper for ice cream cones. I'd highly recommend them if you're ever in Missoula for this race, or any other reason. They have a ton of interesting homemade flavors, and picnic tables where you can sit, chat, and enjoy your surroundings.
Now I'm back home and hitting the roads and trails again, and gearing up for my next challenge-the running and beer study. I hope I'm up for the task. The things I'm willing to do in the name of science. Oh, and one last detail. I was curious, so I did a little research on the Chuck Norris signs. Here is your lady responsible for the on-course giggles. Don't know if it's a fact that I am tougher than Chuck Norris, but I'll accept this as truth for the time being.