Well, here we go. I had such high expectations for myself in this race…I’ll save you the suspense: nope. Just…nope. I still had a blast and a GREAT experience, but I was way off my goal. I don’t really know what happened, to be honest. I have a few ideas, but I just don’t know where it went wrong. I wanted to go 3:05, I went 3:17:28. Yeah. For the record, I’m not whining about a 3:17 – that’s a great time. It just wasn’t what I’d trained for…or was it?
I posted when I got to Duluth that we made it there on Thursday evening – we road tripped from PA to Minnesota. Once we were in Duluth, we stayed at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. First of all, if you do this race, I would HIGHLY recommend these accommodations. They hook you up with a dorm room, towels and bedding for $150 total for two nights. AND there is race day transportation that leaves right from the university. It was stress free and easy.
We hit the expo when we got into town on Thursday night and went to dinner at a local pizza joint to make sure I got in a big, carb loaded meal. The expo was bigger than most of the small town races I’m used to but smaller than the big city races, like Boston or Chicago. I picked up my packet, bought a sweatshirt and called it a day. The swag bags had your standard goodies in them, but you get your T-shirt at the finish line.
After a good night’s sleep, a 20 minute shakeout run around the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and a big breakfast, we headed out for the day. We drove the course – perhaps my first and my biggest mistake. I think it make me cocky. It was just soooo flat. How could anything go wrong? Case and point:
While I was running, my husband was going to go fishing in a nearby river so we took a short hike (I’m talking 20 minutes) to scope out the scene. Minnesota is truly a gorgeous place to visit:
Then it was off to meet Charissa and Hanna for coffee, which was an incredible experience! We hung out for a few hours, and then Hanna and I headed over to the pasta dinner. I highly recommend the pasta dinner for this race – it’s only $12, all you can eat, and pretty decent as far as pasta dinners go. After dinner, it was back to the dorms to try to get some sleep. Surprisingly, once I fell asleep I slept great.Race Day
The weather was predicted to be rainy with thunderstorms, but it was dry when I woke up. I got my hopes up that it would stay that way as I went through all of my race morning preparations. We boarded the buses to the start and arrived before 7am. I met up with Katelyn, who I met when I ran Clarence Demar in the fall. We stayed in touch and had a similar goal so if we could find each other, we decided we’d start out together. Even among the thousands of runners, we found each other right off the buses. We hit the bathrooms and it began to drizzle as we set up on the grass to relax and prepare. No problem, I brought a poncho with me. And then it began to straight up downpour.
I got a little cranky, and I think this is where I really started to go wrong. All I could think was, why am I even doing this? Every race I’d run up through this point in 2015 has been accompanied with some sort of disaster. I had to walk in the last six miles of the Lost Dutchman (Arizona) in February, when my Achilles was at it’s worst. I was so excited for Boston (which ended up going well) but it was freezing cold, pouring rain, and windy. Finally, when I began to feel better and got in a good training block, I was excited to go for Grandma’s. Except here we were again, sitting in the pouring rain. I’m not a negative person (I think this post is coming across that way), but this is what was going through my mind at that point. I think it’s also where everything started to go wrong. It was like I gave up before I even began.
We lined up with Tom, the 3:05 pacer as it got closer to the start of the race. He was holding a stick that said 3:05 and it was adorned with little red and white balloons. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anything, really. I just wanted to start already, and hoped that the rain would let up because it was still absolutely POURING.
The gun went off and I begrudgingly ditched my poncho and throw away shirt. As soon as we started, Tom took OFF. Enter my second mistake: I went out too fast (real shocker, ha). I know better, especially since that’s been my problem in several races over the past year. I’ve DONE better, but I had it in my mind that I was sticking with Tom. Except Tom was running sub-3 pace. I stayed a good distance behind him, and clocked solid sub-7s for the first five miles. A 3:05 is a 7:04 pace. Even if he was banking a few seconds, I don’t think it was necessary to go under seven minute miles at any point. On a side note, one of the guys that began with him stuck with him through the half marathon point and told me after they didn’t do any seven minute miles up to that point, everything was in the 6:50s. That same guy ran a 3:10 that day – he lost the pacer shortly after that point. My husband pointed out (nicely) that he saw that the pacer came in exactly around 3:05, so he must have slowed down a LOT later in the race. I know I’ve been a pacer before, but mark my words. I will NEVER run with a pacer EVER again! I should have started in the 7:20s, as planned, and progressed down to marathon pace over the first few miles. I run better when I actively try to negative split, and I didn’t because all I could see were the stupid red and white balloons getting further and further away. I usually have a stronger mental game, but not that day. Seeing those balloons take off really pissed me off. It was mile 5, I was still well under the pace I needed, but I felt like the race was over. It just felt so HARD. But of course it did – that’s not how I start my long runs. What did I really expect?
I slowed down a little, and kept my pace in the 7-7:15 range for these miles. The rain had slowed to more of a drizzle, so that was good. It was enough to keep you cool, but not so much that it was annoying. For as beautiful as the course was, it was a little boring since the scenery just didn’t change. Over the first 8 miles of the course, I didn’t think there were too many views of Lake Superior and it was just the same tree lined road, over and over. I was also arguing with myself in my head and trying to figure out why my legs felt crappy, and why I just felt shitty in general. As we approached mile 10, I’d made a decision. I was in Minnesota running a marathon. I get to cross another state off of my list. That was going to have to be enough for me. No more negativity, because I had 16 miles to go. It would go by a LOT faster if I was smiling and enjoying myself.
Though my pace was steadily getting slower with each mile, I started to enjoy the race more after the half marathon point. We began to see more views of Lake Superior, and even though it was a cloudy day I could see the bridges in Duluth in the wayyyy far distance. I’d lost Katelyn within the first few miles, but she came up next to me as I was starting to slow down around mile 11. I watched her start to pass me, and then thought, GO. Stick with her! Don’t lose her! It was enough to light a temporary fire and I picked up the pace. I actually passed her, but I thought she was right on my heels and figured we would end up just running together as the race progressed.
I kept my pace in the 7:30 range and finally, we hit mile 18. That’s when we FINALLY get off scenic route 61 and start to see a change of scenery. It was like a breath of fresh air…or not. The sun came out, and it got a little humid to add insult to injury. But I kept moving, and figured I was on pace for something like 3:10-15ish. My legs felt like shit, but I felt happy in general at this point. As I neared mile 20, I saw a “Beer Here” sign, and a table with people handing out beer. Of course I took one. The spectators and the people handing out the beer cheered, and that lifted my spirits a little more.
Around mile 21, the freaking 3:15 pacer passed me. As he was passing, he was telling the group “68 seconds in the bank!!” I hung with them for about a mile, but as soon as he started to creep further away, that same defeated feeling I got when I watched Tom and his dumb balloons get further away came back and I shut down again. At that point, I looked for Katelyn – I thought she was right behind me. I didn’t see her so I slowed up in hopes that she would catch up. If this wasn’t going to be my day, then I was going to finish it up by having fun running with a friend to end the race on a high note. I slowed up a lot over the last 6 miles – 7:45-8:15s – in hopes that she would come running up next to me. I found out later that she finished in 3:24, and had a very similar experience. She also did a 3:14 at Boston, so I don’t know what the heck was up with us in Minnesota.
Driving the course might have led to me being a little overzealous in my pacing, but I was glad I did it for one reason: I knew the last mile was going to seem like it would drag on FOREVER. You hit Duluth and are running downtown by mile 24ish, finally seeing lots of spectators. When you hit 25, you are getting close to the arena, where the finish line is. However, you still have a mile to go and it seems to take forever. At 26, there was a clock. My Garmin was off by .2 so I looked down and in my marathon stupor, thought we were done. I actually thought, wow, what an anticlimactic finish…until I realized we weren’t done! We turned a corner and finally, the finish was in sight. I was so happy to be done.
The best part of the day was reconnecting with all of my friends and hearing their experiences. Three out of the four of us had a similar day – just not the day we wanted. But Hanna PR’d by 15 minutes and ran a 3:46! I was so happy that someone was able to come away with a PR and a completely enjoyable race experience. Oh yeah, and they gave us beer at the finish. And not just any beer – my favorite! Goose Island, 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Yesssss!
As I was writing this, I was trying to be more positive about the whole thing. But the truth is, I’m cranky. 2015 has not been what I expected, and this was certainly not the race I trained for. Or was it? As I drove home, I reflected on all of 2015. I don’t think I was trained for a 3:05. But I also don’t think I was trained for a 3:17. If I’d gone out more conservatively, I think a 3:10 was reasonable. Yes, I had some fast splits in there over the past few weeks – but really, that only in the last few weeks! I just started to get my base back from my Achilles injury, and I think I got a little ahead of myself. I also believe those past few weeks combined with the flat course made me overconfident. This experience was humbling (as usual). It also made me realize a lot of things – like what I need to be doing if I’m really serious about breaking three hours in a marathon. And I’m ready to do it…after my legs recover 🙂 I’ll be posting about my strategy soon. For now, I’ll be spending the week relaxing, running easy, recovering, and plotting my comeback. State #28 is in the books!