Where do I start? The race I have anticipated the most this year has come and gone, and what a day it was!
Lisa and I headed to St. George as soon as we were able to drop my kids off at school on Friday morning. It is about a 5 hour drive down there, and I was wanting to get there as soon as I could. I love the expo for this race, and I knew I wanted to see as much of it as I could. The drive down was fun and went fast. Tons of laughing and joking as Lisa and I tend to do when we get together. Ken and the kids couldn't join me as Ken couldn't get off of work and we didn't want the kids to miss a day of school either.
At the expo, I picked up my packet and shirt. This year's shirt was way better than last year and it actually fit! Last year I was so disappointed that the shirt didn't fit. This year not only was it cuter, but it fit well. I was excited to see that the swag bag was not just a ton of race advertisements, but actual samples I will probably use, like Clif Bar, protein shake mixes, chap sticks, etc. Yeah! Of course the system for picking up packets was smoother and uneventful..I am telling you, the organizers have everything down to a science, it was all smooth sailing, and so easy! Not the lines or frustration I have had with other races.
We then took the chance to browse the expo. I loved the vendors! They had a ton, and of course, my Happy Place was there...the Salt Lake Running Co. They had all of their gear marked down and then it was buy one get one free, so SCORE! I got a couple of running skirts for next to nothing. I also bought a running jacket with the marathon logo on it, and a few other things. It was so much fun! We then went over and enjoyed the pasta dinner. It was great as always!
We then went to the grocery store to get some bagels for the morning, then it was early to bed for my 3:30 wake up call!
I got on the bus at 4:00 am. That is when the first buses leave, and they put your name in a drawing for cool things if you are on the first buses to leave. I probably didn't get anything, but I didn't care. I got on the bus and had some older gentleman named Bill sit next to me. He was super nice and we had great conversation on the way up. He has done several marathons, but this was his first year doing StG. I told him about the course, how it was my favorite race, and we had a good time. Once up to the start line, I went and got a survival blanket and parked myself down next to a campfire. I visited with other runners for awhile and made a couple of bathroom breaks. I made sure to take my water, and banana and bagel even though I wasn't particularly hungry or thirsty. Before I knew it, it was almost start time! I wasn't sure what my strategy for this race would be. They didn't have a 4:45 pacer, as I was hoping. They had a 4:30 and a 5:00 hour guy. I just decided to run by feel, and try to hold back the first half for a negative split.
Then the gun went off! I was excited to get going! It was still dark and pretty cold. It was somewhat windy, but it was a tail wind, so no problems with that! I then noticed that there was a pacer near me. I hadn't paid much attention to them at the start since I knew they didn't have the time I was wanting, and it was the 3:45 guy. Yeah right! No issues with them passing me! Then I saw the 4:15 guy pass me a few miles in. No issues with that either. I decided to hold back and the first few miles were nice, the sun was coming up, and it is a great part of the course. As we approached Mile 6, I could see Veyo in the distance. It is a beast, but I was up for the challenge and told myself that no matter what, I was NOT walking any part of that hill. I would do it smart by not going too fast to kill fuel for later, but I would not be walking it. We ran through the small town of Veyo right before the hill and the crowds were out in full force. They had to be barricaded off to the sides and it was so much fun! They had a brass band there, and plenty of people bundled up to cheer us on with cowbells, blow horns, you name it. You kind of feel like a rock star at places in a race like that. I still get teary eyed going through crowds like that, it is so nice to be on THIS side of the barricade, where they are cheering FOR you! I still feel that I spent so much of my life as a spectator, it is fun to be on the other side :)
As we got closer to Veyo Hill, many people were walking it. I settled into a good, consistent, but maintainable pace as I started up the hill. I felt good the whole time, focused on my breathing, and leaning forward while looking up. Before I knew it, it was done! Really? It didn't seem that bad! Better than I remember it! I passed tons of people on that hill, and it was good to hit the top where it is still a gradual up hill, but the worse was behind me.
The next few miles were uneventful. At about Mile 10, the 4:30 pacer group passed me. This bothered me, even though I thought it was completely out of the realm of possibility to keep up with them. I decided that I would keep them in sight, not letting them get too far ahead of me. For the next 5 miles, I did just that, I was able to keep the 4:30 pacing group within sight, even if by a hundred yards or more. However, when we got to the 15 mile mark and aid station, I had caught up with them! I figured at this point it wouldn't hurt to try to stay with them. I knew it might be too fast, but so what if I had to let them go ahead again? I talked to the pace leader and she said that they were about 8 minutes past the gun time, and I knew my watch was about 4 minutes past gun time. I told her I would join the group for as long as I could.
This proved to be so good on so many levels. The pace leader acted as a coach, and she would tell us to loosen our arms, take deep breaths, focus on form,etc. The other people in the group were fun too. We were running about 2-3 minutes ahead of schedule, so she was even telling us to slow down at a few points! I was doing self inventories a long the way, and I was feeling great! I couldn't believe that I wasn't feeling fatigued, or too fried. I was almost anticipating hitting the wall, as my longest run had been a 18 miler, and it was four weeks ago. But, it never came. I kept up just fine with this 4:30 pace group and was feeling great. I was enjoying the company of the other runners, and the crowds were starting to pick up again as we made it into town. At about Mile 22, the PL (pace leader) told us if we were still feeling good to go ahead and run AHEAD of her. Well, I was feeling okay. No, not just okay, I was feeling REALLY good. I was excited that I knew this was a PR race for me, and other than the back of my one hamstring that was starting to ache, I was doing great! So another girl and I that had been in the group together took off ahead of the PL. We passed through the final aid stations and talked the whole time. We both were going to PR this if we kept going like we were and it was fun to run together, since we had both left the pace group. I just kept pushing and the crowds were thicker, and the cowbells and yells got louder. It was just plain fun! I finally rounded the final corner and could see the finish line in the distance about a quarter of a mile away. I figured I still had some gas left in the tank, and I just went for it! It felt good, and next thing you knew I crossed the line. I immediately hit the stop button on my watch, and could NOT believe what it said. 4:32:01. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? I knew that this was a PR, but I had no idea how good it would be! This was 25 minutes faster than last year at this same race, and 21 minutes faster than my previous marathon record, which was 4:52 in Ogden. I was so excited! I immediately lost it, so excited and proud of what I had accomplished. I knew how my latest runs had been, and they hadn't been great. I had been lucky to pull an 11:30 mile on my long training runs, and with that pace, I should have been WAY slower than 4:32:01! I figured out the pace for that and it is an average of 10:20 a mile. For 26.2 miles. WOOT WOOT! I can't tell you how good this felt! Words can't describe how good this race felt all the way around!
This marathon, I felt great the whole time, I felt strong, and I never hit a wall. I honestly think I could have gone farther. Maybe it was pure adrenaline, but I could have kept going. I loved every part of this race, and I love how it felt to finish and realize that I had done so well, beyond what I would have EVER thought possible! I seriously didn't want to leave that "Athlete's Only" area of the finish line, because I wanted that feeling to last forever, it was THAT good.
I did catch up with Lisa, I went and had the back of my medal engraved with my name and finishing time. I ate some food, but honestly, my stomach was a little queasy, so I didn't want to eat much. Then it was as simple as head back to the hotel, grab a quick shower, a quick lunch, and then head home.
- I would say that the success of this race can be attributed to one thing possibly. Even though I have not had great runs lately, I have done TONS of cross training with my tri training, and those benefits apparently do cross over to the other sports. I mean, if this result was based on my run performance alone, I would have been lucky to finish before they closed the course. I really think that the strong swimming and biking I had over the summer contributed to this time. They HAD to have, otherwise, the running alone wouldn't have done it.
-Another possibility that may explain this result is that I did a 4 week taper. I hadn't wanted to, but I really wanted to do that Ogden Valley Tri that was 3 weeks prior to the race, so I called it good with my last long run of 18 miles being the week before that. My body had a good amount of time to rest up and repair prior to this race.
I don't really know, but these are some things that are different from previous marathons I have done, and apparently, they worked!
I loved this race. Everything about it. They have this whole thing down to an art form as well as they organize and pull everything off. The volunteers are amazing. The expo is amazing, the organization is phenomenal. The course is hard, but gorgeous. They really know how to do an amazing race.
I really thought this would be my last marathon for awhile. Yeah, not so much. I loved this one so much that I am going to make it an annual thing if I get in through the lottery. If I don't, that is fine too, but I am at least going to try for this one every year. It was amazing, and I loved it. And if I can do this kind of improvement every year, I figure in about 4-5 years, I will be at a Boston Qualifying time!
Sadly enough, this was the end of my 2012 racing season, so for me, it is time to recover from this marathon, reflect on the season, and set goals for next, as well as a tentative race schedule. I have tons of ideas, I just have to prioritize what I want to do most and go from there.
Happy Training all!