Monday, September 21, 2015

Erie Marathon Race Report...I Just Registered for My First Boston Marathon!

I just registered for my first Boston Marathon! Holy cow! Now I have to wait for my acceptance email but with a 3:35:14 qualifying time in Erie and my standard being 3:40 everyone that I have talked to has assured me I am "in".

The Erie Marathon at Presque Isle was an incredible course to qualify on. It is flat, shaded and fast albeit a little windy in some spots. I was a little nervous going into the race as it rained all day Saturday and I had visions of running 26.2 soaking wet miles. Fortunately the rain stopped around 2 or 3 am Sunday morning and held out for the whole race. The temperature was around 60 degrees at most, which made for a nice, cool day. That definitely helped my chances!

Race Morning:

Everything with the race went smooth but parking was a challenge and apparently it was from the main parking lot being closed due to flooding from the heavy rains. It took us about 45 minutes to park as we arrived at 5:45 and parked around 6:30. After a restroom break and some drills to warm up it was time to line up. There were pacing groups out there so I lined up near the 3:35 group since that was my goal. The start was jam packed with people from all over the country. I had a couple of women next to me from Texas and a guy behind me from Florida. Erie they say is one of the best qualifying races in the country with over 30% of the field qualifying. I was there like many people with that goal in mind. As I stood at the start and waited for the cue to start I was filled with a lot of emotion. This was my last chance to qualify for the 2016 Boston race. I HAD to get it done no matter what or I would be on the sidelines again next year cheering for my husband and friends.

The first half:

I would love to say that I had a  perfect race but the truth is I did not. I actually felt pretty crappy during much of the first loop, which was a surprise. I had tapered but with training for an ironman concurrently I was worried I had done too much. I tried to just brush those thoughts aside as my left knee locked up and my right hip was aching and I pressed on. I thought about making it a training run for Beach 2 Battleship and just cutting it short but I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't give it my all. So around mile 12 or so I finally started to settle in. Yes, I settled in at mile 12 as odd as that is. I then decided that this was MY race. I gave up a lot for this race. I changed my schedule around this year and made this race my A race. I could not throw all that training away. I would simply make myself BQ. At the halfway point you literally go over a timing mat with the finish on the other side. That was hard. I was at 1:47 at the 13.1 mark - right on schedule for my 3:35.

The second half:

I finally ran a big girl marathon! My splits were close to perfect - all between 8:05-8:15 with only one or two miles at an 8:15-8:20 pace - one being my first mile where it was hard to generate speed due to the crowd and the other at mile 24. I really feel like I got into a meditative state in this second loop. I enjoyed my playlist and taking in the surroundings and every mile I checked my watch to make sure I was on schedule. Miles 20, 21, 22, 23 ticked by and I never hit that dreaded wall! 24 I slowed down just a hair and picked it back up for 25 and 26. As the finish line drew close I felt the emotion welling up inside. I had worked so hard for this day. This was my 4th BQ attempt this season with 3 consecutive marathons in April, May and June a little break for tri season and then this one a few months later.

The Finish:

Finisher shot courtesy of Kirsten!
That finish line sure was sweet! Coming in at a 3:35:14 was just about on goal. In fact I beat the 3:35 pace group. I am not sure when they finished as I was ahead of them the whole race after mile 4 or 5. Steve came up and gave me a big hug and I filled up my post race bag with as much food as possible and headed over to photographer for a post race pic with Steve and to the med tent for some post race stretching.

Post Race Celebration:

Steve ran to the car to get the "gift" he had made for me, which was a shirt that said "Cheers! I BQ'd Today! So then of course he had me put the shirt on and a nice woman took our photo so we could post it and share the good news with our friends!

Post race with the shirt!
The drive from Erie to Mentor was pretty short and we decided to stop at Willoughby Brewing to have some food and a couple pints to celebrate my BQ. We celebrated the next day too because why not? Big goals mean big rewards!

Closing Thoughts:

So much of my day was mental. Sure you have to be physically trained to run a marathon but the mind is a powerful weapon that can work for you or against you. Even though I had a rough start I was able to send the pain below and focus on the task at hand. And it was So Worth It! Always remember that even if things are not going your way in a race you can take control of the situation. That is a valuable lesson  I learned that I plan to take with me on my journey to other racing goals.

A special thanks to my husband Steve who believes in me and did everything he could to help me achieve this goal including running with me for many painful miles, to all of my caring friends and family members that believed in me and cheered for me - you guys are the best especially my friend Kirsten who took tons of race pics including the finisher shot above! I could not have done it without the support of all of you. And finally to Powerbar for being an amazing sponsor and fueling countless workouts and races - thank you!

What's Next:

I will be racing the HFP Deer Creek 70.3 this weekend as a tuneup for Beach 2 Battleship 140.6, which is three weeks later! After that I am taking a hard-earned break until next season!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Erie Marathon Race Weekend - Lucky #7

It's finally race weekend for the Erie Marathon...lucky #7 for me! Or at least I hope it will be lucky! There are so many ways to shave a few minutes off a marathon. I'm hoping to do that this Sunday and finally realize my goal of a BQ time!

Marathons #4, 5 & 6 happened for me this year in April, May and June consecutively. While that was never my plan it just evolved into the year of the "Marathon Maniac".

  • Glass City Marathon in Toledo (#4) was a nice PR for me at 3:46 and change. Looking back I had lost a little too much weight and don't think I was properly fueled to BQ. I also ran too fast the first 10 miles or so. I still managed to take off 5 minutes of time from my previous PR in Cleveland in 2014. 
  • Cleveland Marathon (#5) was three weeks later. I ran with the 3:35 pace group for the first 1/2. It just got too hot for me. I pushed as hard as I could that day to the point of throwing up but with a 3:52 a BQ was not in reach that day. No problem will just try again in late June then! 
  • Charlevoix Marathon (#6) in Northwest Michigan was a fun road trip and little long weekend vacation. I loved this area! I was ready here I think to get it done but I had two things working against me: first, I ran the first 1/2 a little too fast and had some uneven splits. Plus the last hour of the race was hotter than I hoped in the mid 70s. I don't do as well in the heat as I would like. I tried my best but came up a little short with a 3:42:45. Two minutes & change away from the 3:40 qualifying time. 

I have prepared more intently for Erie by including more speedwork, faster long runs and a cleaner diet. I have also obviously been cross training with the bike and swim as I prepare to take on some long course tris in the weeks to come.

This last week and a half has been pretty easy physically for me as I taper. I know my body needs to be rested to push as hard as I can. I feel more rested than when I went into Charlevoix. I have been carb loading all week and sleeping well. The weather forecast looks to be cool (high 50s - mid 60s), which is ideal for me. It may rain but rain is not a reason to ruin my day. I have worked long and hard for this BQ this year! The plan is to shoot for a 3:35. If it ends up being a 3:37 or 3:38 I will take it! I will slow myself down the first half and try to run consistent splits. I will push harder the last miles. I will give everything I have. I am ready! No matter what happens I will know that I gave it my best.

Special thanks to Powerbar for keeping me fueled for all these races and countless workouts and to Steve for letting me drag him all over to run marathons this season. He has sacrificed as much as I have for my goal. Nothing to it now but to go chase that unicorn! Stay tuned for the race report next week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rock Hall Half Marathon Race Report

I've been delayed in writing this post about the inaugural Rock Hall Half Marathon held downtown at the Rock Hall August 23. The event itself was done very well. Packet picket the day before was ideal because it made race morning a little smoother. It was very easy to park for the expo as well. The race shirt was a high quality Nike women's fit tee, which is nice. Also, the medal was awesome! Race day logistics went smooth, Greater Cleveland XC did a nice job with the timing and there was plenty of food afterwards.

Pre race at the start line
Race morning went pretty smooth as well. Steve was racing too so we left our house around 6am to get downtown by 6:45 and give ourselves plenty of time to warm up. We found street parking not too far from the start. We jogged about a mile to warm up and found some indoor restrooms to use before lining up at the start line in front of the Rock Hall. It was nice to see some of our friends before the race and chat. The race started at 7:30am and it was a fast start. I tried to hold back the pace not going out any faster than a 7:25-7:30 mile.

To be honest I didn't really rest for this race because I just didn't have the time in my schedule with a few other key races coming up. I had biked more than 100 miles and had about 30 miles of running and a couple of swims in at the start line so I wasn't sure how it would go. I hoped I would run about my average 1:40 time given my strength this season if nothing else. I also did no real race specific training for the half. I had raced some 5Ks and 5 milers this summer as speedwork for my marathon but never did any speed over 5-6 miles outside of marathon pace.

Fighting through the pain cave
This lack of focused training was evident as I hit the halfway mark and started to labor more than I anticipated. The weather was also warming up and this probably contributed to my feelings of malaise as well.  I had a second burst around miles 7-10 running through the MLK area, which was nice and shaded and had some rolling hills. That was my favorite part of the race. I felt good and I thought I might have a chance to PR but that quickly evaporated as we hit Marginal. The last 5K of this course wiped me out. I watched my average pace drop from 7:30s to 8:15s. I also got passed by four or five women in the last 5K and that was deflating. Normally I have more of a fight in me but this day I did not. I just let them pass and prayed that it would be over soon.

I finished in 1:41:49 about two minutes under my goal of 1:39-1:40. After the race I got in a cooldown mile with Steve and then another 3 marathon pace miles solo to round out the day and my last long training run for Erie with 18 miles. Although it didn't go as well as I wanted I didn't blow up. It ended up being a great training run for Erie I think and I was 4/80 in my age group so maybe next time I will crack the top 3. I do have a competitive age group so I guess I will have to do my homework and put in some longer speed sessions and rest up a little bit more to place in this one!

Steve had a great race and placed 1st in his AG! And his legs were just as tired from many bike miles and some run miles. I am glad that he did well and we were able to celebrate a successful race for him. After the awards we headed to Winking Lizard for food and a post race hoppy beer. Then we headed home for some pool time.

Thanks to Powerbar for fueling me through countless workouts this summer. Thanks to Second Sole Mentor for putting on this great event, to Greater Cleveland XC for timing the event and to all of the volunteers who worked the event. Definitely add this one to your list of half marathons to run!

This was my last race until the Erie Marathon on September 13! I am trying once more this year for the BQ. I need to take off 3-4 minutes from my time in Charlevoix and I am there. I am feeling good and just hoping for good conditions that day. Stay tuned for the race report!

Here's a shot of the hard earned finishers medal below!