I write all this knowing that there is indeed a holiday race in my area next weekend...but I'm not going.
That said, I finished off the year with a bang at the Tucson Marathon. I am so happy it's over, and I'll have a constant memento of the race for days to come in my achy quads. The short story--4:24:32. A little slower than I had hoped, but well under my bottom line of 4:30.
I think one of the amazing things about running a marathon is that you accomplish something that is so hard that it is difficult to believe it can be done. I mean, I have never done a marathon fearing that I wouldn't finish, but when you think about it, it's a big deal! Running 26+ miles (even if it's just around a 10-minute pace), with only the most nominal of stops or rest (one port a potty stop, walked through two aid stations in the last few miles).
As I look outside at the pouring rain today (we are leaving for the airport in about an hour), I feel so lucky that our weather yesterday was so perfect for the marathon. (And, in fact, the days before were great too.) The temperature had warmed from earlier in the week, so it was about 40 at the start. I guess it was around 60 or more when I finished, but not so warm that I suffered from the heat at all.
Considering that the marathon didn't start until 7:30, the shuttles to the start left crazy early beginning at 5 a.m. That meant I got up at 4:15. Obviously, I had prepped all my clothes and gear the night before.
My outfit for the race was the NuuMuu dress seen above (pink animal print!) and black Nike capris. Layered on top of that I had a light hoody in matchy pink to throw away when I got warm. For pre-race warmth, I had a great thick pink fleece and fleecy pants (all acquired at Goodwill last week). I also brought a pink knit cap, although it was warm enough on the bus that I was more than toasty. Plus pink gloves decorated with hearts and doodles. Apparently they were "girl" gloves, but they were big enough for me. After I took them off I carried them the whole rest of the way. For some reason, I can't bring myself to toss a pair of gloves!
I took a couple of terrible pre-race pics in the room before I left. Race outfit including throwaway jacket....
And with fleecy layers....
I got on the first bus outside the hotel lobby. It was a really comfy charter bus, not just a school bus. Very nice! I ended up sitting with a woman from Indianapolis who was running this after recovering from an Achilles injury that has limited her running for a while. I hope it went well for her. I don't think I would have recognized her afterwards or at the hotel because most of our conversation was in the dark! I ate my breakfast, a bagel with peanut butter, on the bus along the way.
We drove and drove through the darkness and got to the start around 5:45. Luckily we were allowed to stay on the bus...it would be really horrible to stand around for 1:45 hour waiting! I did get off the bus right away for a trip to the potties. Then I read stuff on my phone for a while to pass the time. After about an hour it seemed like a good idea to get in the potty lines again to make sure I got a chance to go before the start. Good thing I did because while the line didn't seem too long (there were a bunch of separate lines), it moved really slowly.
Finally I got on and out of the potty and headed down to the buses to drop my gear bag. I stripped off my fleecy layers, fastened on my fuel belt, and handed my bag through the window.
By the time I got back to the starting area it was less than ten minutes to the start. That was perfect, actually. It was a little bit cool but the cluster of people around me kept me warm enough. As I made my way through the crowd I saw the 4:30 pacer. Strangely, the 5:00 pacer was ahead of him, but he told me the 4:15 was up there too.
I had decided to start near the 4:15 pacer. Of course that had been my Portland time, and I didn't know if I could match that, but I thought I had some chance with the downhill elevation to help me. The average pace for a 4:15 marathon, by the way, is 9:44.
As I stood there in the crowd, one minute before the start, I thought, "Why am I doing this?" Then we were off.
The first mile or two are a pretty significant downhill. I took it very easy, but was still under 9:30 pace for quite a while. In the first couple of miles I pulled ahead of the 4:15 pacer a bit. Soon, though, we made up for the downhill with a hill up. I can't remember the specifics but I am quite sure there were a number of decent hills both up and down in the first six miles. After a couple of miles the 4:15 pacer passed me and I never ran near him again. I am pretty sure he was running faster than pace though. In the first few miles I was averaging about 9:45 pace even with the uphills. At the half my time was about 2:08, which is just off the 4:15 pace (although obtaining a negative split would just not happen).
I just read an article about why your GPS watch is not an accurate measure of distance, which is a good thing to keep in mind when complaining about "long" races. But obviously, I still rely on my Garmin. In the first few miles the mile markers were about .2 mile past where my watch registered each mile. However, mile 6 came too soon! And every mile marker thereafter was about a tenth of a mile before my watch. I figured it would all come out even in the end.
The first five miles went by pretty smoothly. The next five did too. I took off my gloves in the first couple miles (and carried them). A few miles later, I started unzipping my jacket. It was sliding down my shoulder in a rather irritating way, but I was hesitant to take it off too soon because that would be my last method of cooling myself when I got warm. I decided that the removal of the jacket would be one of the mileposts I would use to break up the mileage.
After mile 8 I took a Gu. (Plan - Gu at mile 8, 13, 18, 23. Not achieved.) I decided to take off my jacket at mile 10. I kind of hated to drop it, since it matched so well, but I decided that leaving it would be much more freeing than tying it around my waist, and that was my plan all along, anyway.
So around mile 10 I pulled off the jacket and carried it for a while until I saw a few other abandoned articles. I tossed my jacket into the pile.
Shortly after the 10-mile point the course turned off the main road onto Biosphere road. We ran almost two miles out that road, before turning at mile 12 and coming back across the halfway point (which was the half marathon start). I assume we will get split times from that point when the results go up.
I can't really remember the specific places the road went up or down. (I suspect that my splits might tell the tale!) But I would say that in the second half the declines and inclines were much more gradual that the had been in the beginning.
After mile 10 my next mental landmark was the halfway point, of course. I had thought I might stop at a port a potty after the half, but I didn't need to go desperately so I decided to wait. It even seemed possible that I might make it through the whole thing without stopping, but I wasn't sure about that.
I took a gel from an aid station after the half. I thought they were going to have Gu but it turned out to be Clif brand (I think). It tasted like a mocha flavor. I probably don't drink enough with my gels--maybe that's why I never seem to feel any miraculous energizing effect. I'll drink a little to wash it down and rinse my mouth, but that's about it. I was carrying my fuel belt with nuun, which I sipped from periodically, but every once in a while I would also take some plain water from an aid station. Since I didn't stop to drink (until closer to the end), I usually ended up getting a sip in then tossing the cup.
Next target--15 miles. After that 16 (obviously), which is significant because there is "only" ten miles to go! At about 15.5 miles I decided to stop for the bathroom. I still wasn't desperate, and maybe I could have pushed through, but since I wasn't shooting for any high-faluting goal I felt that it would be worth a minute or so to rid myself of one source of discomfort. The bathroom stop took about 1.5 minutes (typical for me and I can't seem to get in and out any faster). Afterwards I did feel a little kick to my pace!
Around mile 17 I started to feel my quads. Feel them start to ache, that is. Interesting in that my legs started to feel achy around mile 17-18 in Portland too. I think that's a clue that three hours is about the time it takes for muscle soreness to set in. Perhaps I should stick to 30K races....
I think that miles 16-20 are often a difficult part of the race for me. My legs get tired, I often feel nauseous, and I drop the ball on my fueling plan. I was only mildly nauseous this time, but I didn't feel like digging out my Gu. Instead, I drank a cup of sports drink at two water stations in the low 20s. One was red and one was blue. (I thought to myself, if I throw up will it be purple?) I walked through both of those water stations to make sure I could down the drink without spilling. I also drank a cup of water in the second one. At that point I felt pretty full of liquids and figured I'd better hold off some!
Based in my total time at the 20 mile mark, I guessed that I was averaging about a 10 minute pace. If I kept it up (or better) I would finish around 4:20. But in the last 10K my pace slowed significantly. It's not like I bonked--I felt fine, for someone who had been running for 20 miles. But my legs weren't going much better than a 10:30 pace. If I pushed myself, I could get to around 10-minute pace, but that would last a few seconds before I slowed again. I really wanted to be done, but not apparently enough to get back into the 9s.
Much earlier I had made myself a rule to help prevent looking at my Garmin too much. I decided I could only look at it after the end if a song on my iPod. Sure, that was still every 3-4 minutes, but if I didn't restrain myself, I would be looking every 3-4 seconds. And you don't cover a lot of distance in 3-4 seconds. Occasionally, if a song came on that I especially liked, I would repeat it until I finished the mile I was on. I briefly considered doing that for the whole 10k...finishing the remainder of the race in only six songs, how cool would that be?
I'll admit that the closer I got to the end, the more I kept checking my watch, despite the "rule." Oh, that 10:30 pace...4:20 had slipped from my grasp. But with about two miles left I was pretty sure I could still hit--or beat--4:25. Just after the 24 mile point we turned off Oracle Road (the main road where we had run most of the race). My turning pace was exceedingly slow (too much watch checking) but after that I made a concerted effort to push hard to the finish. My "sprint" in the last .2 mile was exactly a 10 minute pace. Ha.
Final time 4:24:32 (10:06 pace). Very, very...okay. I'm not disappointed, I am not thrilled, but I am happy that it was under 4:30. Of the seven marathons I have run, three were faster and three were slower. How can that be bad?*
After finishing I posed for a picture then headed to pick up my bag. I did stop to send some emails and call my dad. After I stood still for a few minutes I found it very difficult to move my legs again! I would have liked some fruit but the post-race food was in the opposite direction of the buses. Since I didn't see anyone with orange slices (the only thing I wanted), I didn't bother. I retrieved my bag and hobbled off in the direction of the buses.
About 20 minutes later the bus dropped us at the Hilton and my dad met me as I entered the lobby. Here is my post race pic!
I had asked my dad to bring my swimsuit from the room, and after buying a hot mocha at the bar I headed into the pool restroom to change so that I could take an ice bath in the cold springs spa. I would have gone directly in my running clothes, but I thought the hotel might frown on that. As it turns out, about half of the people there were in swimsuits and the other half in running clothes. So I guess it didn't matter. Everyone in the hot springs was in a swimsuit, though.
I braved the cold water and waded down the steps, sitting on the top step so I was immersed to the waist. My legs adjusted pretty quickly, but I shivered and shook for about five minutes (even with the mocha) and my feet stayed cold the whole time. (This is why I wear socks in an ice bath!) I probably stayed in the cold water for at least 15 minutes.) While I was there a number of other runners came and went, shrieking at the cold water. It was kind of fun, bonding with runners in an ice bath.
After I got out I sat on a bench until my legs and feet thawed thoroughly. Even though it was probably only in the 60s temperature wise, it seemed warm and sunny enough to sit around in a swimsuit.
This is the coldpool, can you tell? The hot pool was much more crowded.
Then I went into the hot springs. I probably stayed there for more than 15 minutes. There I immersed myself to my neck and there was no shivering. I chatted with a few people who had run, about past and favorite marathons. One woman had run about 65 marathons, which is actually not that crazy for a Marathon Maniac type, but still, it is a lot of marathons!
Finally I extricated myself from the hot water and headed back to the hotel room to shower and change. I still wasn't very hungry at all. I had eaten half a PR bar on the bus back to the hotel, and after I was dressed I ate the other half of the bar, a final wedge of quesadilla left over from dinner the night before, and a whole bunch of pretzels.
The cold and hot water soaks had not been a miracle cure. I was still pretty achy, so I took some Advil (and again before bed and in the middle of the night).
Around 6:00 I was finally ready to go pick up some dinner. I had one thing in mind.
I had never been to In 'n' Out Burger--I don't know if they even exist in my neck of the woods. But ever since we drove by earlier in the week, I had it in mind for a post marathon dinner. Cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake. I liked the burger and shake best...I think the fries cooled too much in the take-out process. But I still ate most of my packet.
By Monday morning the achiness was pretty much gone, and only the sore quads remained (and still do, as of Tuesday). Our flight wasn't until late afternoon, so after a trip to Starbucks for breakfast, we hung out in the hotel room for a couple of hours before heading out.
The weather on Monday was a far cry from the sun we had enjoyed since Wednesday! It was pouring rain and quite blustery. I was so relieved that the bad weather had held off until the day after the marathon!
All in all, the Tucson Marathon (and trip) was great fun for me. I think my dad had a good time traveling around as well. I finished another marathon with a smile on my face. (The official race pics, which came out today, show that! I am planning to buy the digital package and I will post a few, the ones in which I look least like a dork.)
Here's a quick look at my splits from the race.
1 - 9:21
2 - 9:43
3 - 9:38
4 - 10:01
5 - 9:55
6 - 9:36
7 - 9:38
8 - 9:41
9 - 9:42
10 - 9:51
11 - 10:19
12 - 10:41 (don't know, must have been a hard hill)
13 - 10:08
14 - 10:18
15 - 10:02
16 - 11:22 (bathroom)
17 - 9:50
18 - 10:02
19 - 10:00
20 - 10:19
21 - 10:21
22 - 10:29
23 - 10:21
24 - 10:25
25 - 10:50 (and I thought I was really trying to kick it at the end!)
26 - 10:14
.2 @ 10:00 pace.
It's pretty clear that, except for a couple blips earlier in the race, I really started to drag in the last 10K. Must. Work. On. That.
For now, I'm taking a few days off running to let my legs recover. I'll start running again at the end of this week or the beginning of next, depending on how my quads feel. I will start training for Eugene in January.
*And in fact, my fastest marathon was about 25 minutes faster, and the slowest about 25 minutes slower!
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