Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Inaugural Naperville Marathon

I finished #10.
And it wasn't easy.

But then again, I didn't really think it would be.

Marathons have never been my race distance of choice, and likely never will be. I've always struggled with this distance, mostly because I'm impatient and find that the uncomfortably-comfortable pace for 26.2 miles leaves me itchy and often over-zealous too early on. I'm maybe a once-a-year kinda marathoner where the wounds of the most recent have long healed and been forgotten before even dreaming up another. Yet, I wanted to toe the line of the Inaugural Naperville Marathon anyhow. Even with all the bullshit that went on before the race where numerous runners lashed out via every single social media site possible against the planning committee regarding the race fee (where things actually got fairly nasty and I felt extremely embarrassed for several ridiculously childish adults), I wanted to be there. 

Naperville is now the town that I call home.

The trails and neighborhoods that this course was slotted to tour through are the ones that I trek through everyday. I know nearly every limestone trail, every hill, and every tree. I felt like this was my marathon, my chance to go after that behemoth of a marathon goal I've had hovering over me for some time. 

So I bit the bullet, setting those boats on fire, and dove in head first.

Mr. Chicago Runner Girl & myself at the start
When the training for this marathon started, I wasn't really sure that my 3:05 goal was reasonably within my reach but was willing to give it a go anyhow. Coming off of 2012 with a few bumps and bruises, I knew that I had to be a heck of a lot more sensible about this thing. There wasn't really a doubt in my mind that my legs had a PR in them, it was just a matter of what that PR would be come race day.

My approach for this race was entirely different than practically every marathon I had prepared for in the past.

Less mileage, more quality work, and a heck of a lot more life balance.
Running wasn't trumping my life commitments, instead life was at the sacrifice of running.

I gave myself flexibility in the ending point for a variety of reasons, reasons which I don't regret and glad I honored.

Xaarlin, Ken, Erin, and Mr. CRG keeping warm indoors before the race
Erin's pic
In the months leading up to the race, I was a workhorse with that GMP. Slowly burning that race day pace into the legs with hopes that they would work steadily like a metronome from miles 1-26.2 without any question. Knowing myself and the way I work, I knew this would be the most difficult task for me come race day. For me, there seems to be a severe disconnect between my mind and the rest of my body during marathons. Knowing that those early miles are supposed to feel pathetically slow is extremely challenging for me and my impatient spirit. My legs say "move" while the head has to repeat  "steady control" on an exhausting nonstop reel.

Some of my most favorite runners
Xaar & Kim
K's pic
The plan going out of the gate was to hold steady behind the 3:15 pacer until mile 5 and to not move any quicker than 7:30ish pace, once into the Springbrook Prairie after the mile 5 incline to begin settling into that 7:10 pace holding steady through the ups and downs, then take advantage of the downhill coming out of Greene Valley from 21-23 all the while taking fuels and fluids as needed.
Like always, no concrete race day fueling plan.

The reality played out quite differently.
And here is where mistakes #1 & 2 for the day occurred. 

As soon as the gun went off, the 3:15 pacer had quite a group with him. I snuck in behind the group running by feel and didn't peak in on my Garmin until the mile 3 marker, which was a 6:57 clip. Yikes. Way too fast for me in a marathon, so I let them go a bit where the pacer continued to let his pace vary a bit too much for my liking. But like the plan, I cruised up the limestone incline at 5 and slowly moved past the group. My plan of going out easy didn't exactly happen, but I was feeling very comfortable with my pace in the low 7's so I kept with it. Took a salt tablet around 5 for the first time in my life, which went down easy and was fine on the tummy.

Leaving the start line with a giant pocket full of fuels that I barely used
Pic via K's hubby

As we passed through mile 8, I felt like I was really on my game for the day. Relaxed, focused, and maintaining that steady control I needed for a solid finish. There was a steady flow of family and friends throughout this mile where plenty of smiles and side 5's were dished out. 

The race split just before 10, and all seemed calm and quiet on the course. This is when I knew the work was going to have to start as the course cruised up a steady and slow several mile incline and was headed into another limestone trail that would be host to a doozy of a hill. While this race was small, I never seemed to find myself entirely alone. Felt like it was just the right mix of peace and madness for my mind. Crossed the half way mark just under 1:35, right where I wanted to be and took some chews shortly before.

It was until just before heading into Greene Valley that I had my first thoughts about the swirling winds for the day and started to think about that hill at the 20ish mile. 

Photo via Kim's hubby

While this course was host to quite a few ups and downs, I hadn't really noticed them much until the miles were in the teens. 

As I was making my way through those Greene Valley miles, my head begun to feel a bit fuzzy and I became even more impatient. The fact that I wasn't sweating and my breath was entirely under control was starting to irritate me, so my impatient self begun to push the pace a bit. Still lingering in the low 7's, I just felt like I should have been working harder as this was a race. That feeling held through about mile 20 when I hit that last incline, just after catching a glimpse of these lovely ladies a few miles behind.

Then it happened.

My body just after cresting that last incline said "thanks for coming to the party, but we're done here and are going to close up shop." In the blink of an eye my comfortable pace and steady focus were replaced with tunnel vision and thoughts of calling it a day right there at 21, my body just had enough. 

I hit that damn wall.
And I hit it hard.

Thoughts became difficult to process at that point where the only thing keeping me moving was knowing a great friend of mine was waiting just after 21 for me.

Originally we talked about how she was going to push me during those last few, not letting me ease up, helping me seal the deal on a solid marathon performance for the day. But the only thought crossing my mind in the moments leading up to our meeting was this is where I pull the plug for the day. 20 good solid miles was enough for me, and I lost the desire to push through that last 10k.

But, she wasn't letting me quit.
And became the only reason I finished.

Those last 6+ miles were almost like a death march for me. My vision became more and more limited with each step and my head just couldn't process the situation. At this point my legs weren't in pain, I just have no idea how they were still moving. It felt like I was floating outside of my body where the limited vision begun to make me severely nauseous.

Honestly, if it weren't for my gal-pal I wouldn't have finished. I would have pulled out along the road and probably laid myself out on a random strangers grass until my head decided to rejoin the party. A finish became unimportant to me as my body was asking me to stop. So we slowed the pace as she cracked the whip on me telling me to keep my eyes up and screw the watch. And screw the watch I did. The pace in those last few miles slipped from low 7's to a nearly 9 minute truffle-shuffle.

Brother-in-law snapped this pic just after the 23 mile marker

We passed my husbands family around mile 23 where they hooted and hollered and I dished out a few more side 5's. At that point it was taking everything inside of me to hold it together as the 3:15 group passed and all hope of finishing sub 3:10 had been abandoned miles ago. Those last few miles seemed to go on forever where I my vision almost entirely disappeared while climbing that last bastard of a hill at 26.

Things got extremely odd there for the last few minutes of the race where I could barely make out the road and tripped in the finishers chute. Apparently there was an orange painted speed bump right there in the last 100 feet or so that I didn't see (the same speed bump K's husband took a snapshot of me cruising over on the way out). As I tried my best to not eat the pavement in those last few seconds of the race, the crowd gasped and luckily only my hands touched as I crawled there for a quick minute. But, that slip was enough to completely disorient me at that point where the second I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I entirely blacked out.

When I came to a few minutes later, I was sprawled out on a cot in the med tent with an IV in my arm. I have no idea how I got there, no idea how I got my finisher medal, how I was somehow partially disrobed, and what the clock said when I finished. Those few minutes after crossing the line feel like they didn't happen, and that's a rather scary thought for me.

24 hours later, I finally mustered up the strength to pull my results

65th out of 1,079 finishers
7th out of 445 females

Certainly not the race I trained for, or the race I thought I toed the line to run, but this was still a step in the right direction for me with a 7 minute and 24 second PR. All that lost time was in the last 10k where the race plan was abandoned and all hell broke loose for me. Kind of a dagger to my heart to look at those last 10k splits. Garmin even had me with a whopping 26.67 miles for the day. Awesome. New marathon PDR.

Apparently I'm terrible at running tangents.

The race was what it was, and I still managed to squeak in just under 3:20 when things got messy. Light years away from where I wanted to be for the day, but hey that happens and there will always be another race to give it another go. Likely not anytime soon for me though, currently in a "I hate marathons and will never run one again" state of mind. 

For a first year race, I'd say Naperville was a HUGE success. So well organized and supported by the community. This course was very challenging with all the turns, varying terrain, and the incline/declines, certainly one to work for. The competition was pretty solid as well for a local first year race, where it's pretty neat that Naperville residents won both the men's and women's races.

I'd likely do this again, but for my health and sanity's sake...
I'd probably stick with the half.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In the taper

It's here.
Taper is here.

It's been a whirlwind of a month. Seems when I was planning for this marathon back in May that I neglected to consider all the other things I would have going on during my peak weeks. To say that I overbooked myself for the month of October, which was host to some truly great moments and a few rather hairy ones as well, would most likely be the understatement of the year.

Trying to maintain balance between training and other life's stuff has always been a struggle for me, where committing to things with the intention of putting forth my best effort has become my trademark. I like a good challenge where I get a bit uncomfortable but somehow make it out in the end with a result and an experience that is all my own. Yet, as I age it seems the lower on the list of priorities running tends to fall as the value of my life exponentially increases in unexpected ways.

All those miles are still very much present in my life, but they simply are what they are.
No more. No less.

Mr. Chicago Runner Girl & myself on a recent trip to LA during a peak marathon training week

Running still makes me feel as strong and confident as ever where the sound of my feet grazing across the pavement will always bring peace to my soul. There are few things in life that a woman can have only to herself, and running is that for me. It's my time to disconnect from the world and my daily agenda where the hush of my breath still has that same calming effect as it did 16+ years ago when I started running.

But marathon training has always put this soothing to the test.

It makes me feel like I'm repeatedly short on time, 
running 10 minutes behind the rest of the world,
constantly shuffling from one place to the next,
and just a big ragged around the edges.

I've always felt that marathons, in theory, sound wonderful. It's not until I dive in head first and find myself nose deep in training that I remember why this isn't my favorite distance to race and train for. It's a deeply intense labor of love where the results don't always reflect the efforts, a experience I've become very familiar with over the years. If there is anything that I've learned from my 9 previous marathons over the past 10+ years it's that it's just one day, one race. It isn't the end-all-be-all, just a snapshot on what the body was capable of on that one lived day. And sometimes, that dreamed up PR race just isn't going to be in the cards even after a nearly flawless training cycle.

That being said, I've still put in the work needed for a great race.

I've tackled countless hills, and sometimes even mountains, to prepare.
Way outside of my comfort zone on that.

That one was a doozy.
I've practiced, practiced, practiced that GMP like it's my job.
So much to the point that goal marathon pace feels second nature to the legs now.

Last GMP workout of the cycle, 12 miles @ 7ish pace

Hit a PDR week for 2013 with 62 miles.
Clocking the most quality miles my life has ever seen.

At this point I'm feeling more prepared and less stressed than I've ever been for a marathon in my entire life. I've done the work, I'm doing the rest, and I trust myself. Just itching to get out there. 

There is no over thinking,
no doubt,
no question at all whether I'm ready or not.
I'm ready.

What happens happens and I know that I'm going to walk away from this experience knowing that I gave it my best. Clock times, splits, placings, etc. hold no weight for me. Instead, all I'm concerned about is putting forth a solid effort while maintaining that same steady focus I've had for months.

Naperville Marathon...here I come.