Short version: I had an achilles injury coming into it, hurt every step, fairly tough course but still managed a 7 minute PR in 3:17. Super pleased but ready to take the next step- sub-3:00 marathon.
Long version: I was coming out to the Seattle area for a coaches camp Brooks was putting on for free. Signed up for a tough trail 50K much like Mt. Mitchell and was looking forward to it but at the last minute, they canceled the race due to flood damage. The Seattle Rock'n'Roll Marathon happened to be the same day and though it was closed, the people from Brooks pulled some strings, got me in the marathon and paid for it. Nice!
I ran the original San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon in 2005. I think this year, the series has expanded to races in 24 cities. These races aren't really my thing. Huge production. Big expo. Lots of frills. Inflatables. Bands. Just huge. Brooks people told me 42% of the R'n'R runners are first time marathoners and 68% are women- not that either is bad by any means! Just different than most events I'm at. There were just over 3,500 marathoners and over 17,000 half marathoners. I'm amazed with how many half marathoners there are out there now. Exploding, it seems. It been awhile since I've been in the world of road racing but have made a few visits this year. It's different. The sort of "We're going to have a blast! Start off slow and ease up." attitude in a road marathon doesn't really fit with my personality. Yes, I'm the same person who gets offended when people don't talk enough in ultras. :)
I was really excited about the 50K and felt mentally and physically... I don't wanna really say "tough," but yeah, I guess I do. I pictured myself really pushing through a difficult trail run. I was really ready to run. I did NOT feel all that prepared for a road marathon though. Haven't done any hard workouts except a few tempo runs in 6 weeks. I was sick for a month, ran a 102 miler, and recovered from that, so training just wasn't great. Not terrible though. I told Jennifer the night before though, "Brooks' slogan is 'Run Happy,' but I really feel like running angry. I'm ready to kick the crap out of this race."
I had pushed though an achilles problem all week and had a slightly noticeable limp going to the STARTING line. Bad sign usually. I was fully committed to having a great race though. There was no way I was not going to PR in this race. Period. No room for failure. Never been as focused and confident. The achilles hurt every step but I don't think it effected my performance. It was just pain. As Patrick Swayze says in Road House, "Pain don't hurt." No excuses in this race. I put the ipod on which I usually don't do, got in my bubble and got ready to kill it.
I went out in 7:05/mile and felt really comfortable. Hillier than expected. At 6 miles, something happened to the ipod. I stopped for 30 seconds to fix it and the 3:10 pace group passed me. I thought it might be nice to run with them and caught up. It was really easy to just tune out and go with the flow. If you tell yourself you ARE running with these people, it's a lot easier than doing it alone. Came through the half marathon within a couple of seconds of my half marathon PR set earlier this year! Either I was going to have a great race or blow up, but I didn't really consider blowing up. It's funny how running ultras gives you a different perspective. At different milestones I thought, "8.5 miles and I'm already 1/3 of the way there?" or "only 90 minutes to go?" Don't get me wrong- a marathon is hard but not long to me anymore. Don't think about walking or anything now. Not about finishing at all anymore.
I ran with the group until 15 miles when I had to go to the bathroom. We were averaging 7:08 miles and it felt perfect. I was almost positive I would be able to hold it and run 3:09. Very determined. My legs have hurt all over since Black Mountain Monster. When I stopped for the bathroom, my hamstrings cramped up. BeforeIstopped, I knew I could make up the minute I lost and get back with the 3:10 pace group. With the cramps, I had to make up 1:30. I pushed it and 100m later, more leg cramps. Hard to get it rolling after stopping.
I could see the pace group a long way up the road (most of the course was on big 6 lane concrete (not asphalt) highways & bridges- weird.) and was willing to chase them down over the next 4-5 miles, but I was worried about the cramping. Knew a better plan was to scale it back and run 7:45ish miles, be a little more conservative and still get a big PR. I thought 3:15 was still in the bag. The last 10 miles were really hilly. Mile long hills. I could never seem to really make up time on the downhills. Felt like I was pushing it but Garmin said 6:55 or whatever. Uphills were 8:10ish. Kept telling myself at 5K to go I was going to fly. There was a big mile long hill at about that point and whew--- I swear I gave it what I had. 3:17:17 was the best I could manage. 138th place out of 3,520- or top 3.9% for what it's worth.
3:24 was my previous PR & was run way back in 2003 in Louisville. That was the only time I've ever run under 3:30.
I was extremely happy with my effort and time. It's been an emotional time lately. I shed a couple of tears when I finished, I'm a little embarrassed to say. I felt like there were tons of reasons I could've had a bad race. Had doubts about even starting. BUT while I was pleased, it only took 2 days before I started setting goals. Started thinking about what I was capable of and what I could change. There's a lot to change. I haven't developed a training schedule in years- just run what I felt like running. Little consistency. 30 miles this week, 80 the next, 50 the next, 100 the next, 25 the next. Have a lot of other factors to change- nutrition, strength, flexibility, recovery, etc., etc., etc.
THE NEW GOAL is an extremely bold one. I never thought I'd be shooting for such a lofty goal but I've decided to give everything I can to run under 3:00. It'll take a lot to run 6:50/miles. I'm ready to get to work!