Monday, May 19, 2008

A Perfect Day

So I guess I'd better post something here before I forget any details. Because yesterday was perfect. It was, in 6 years of road and tri racing, the best I've ever, EVER felt during a race. So if I don't write this down I'm afraid I might forget it.

Hands down, the BEST part of the race was having TriShannon there. My partner in crime, my training buddy from my first sprint triathlon...thanks for coming all the way out here for this race, Winks! You rock.

Okay, let's see here. I guess I'll just rundown the weekend.

Friday after school I went with JayZ to pick up TriShannon (aka Winks) from the airport. Then Matt, JayZ, Winks and I had dinner at the Winking Lizard...mmmm. I had a tasty Hoegarden (however you spell it) and a nice big grilled chicken spinach salad (my favorite) and we all split spinach artichoke dip. Delish.

We then headed home and watched the season finale of the Office. Yeah. Crazy Friday night, huh?

Coach Emily gave me some great visualization exercises which I did before I drifted off to sleep. I pictured all the different parts of the course and feeling strong.

Got up and headed downtown to meet Daisy and E for a quick run with some pickups to race pace and hit the expo. I felt really good and like I was just chomping at the bit to race. I guess that's what a year and a half off of racing long stuff will do to you. We had a yummy lunch with the best cornbread I think I've ever had at the Chophouse. Then we headed to the expo.

I went to the pacer booth to see Kara (my running coach since 2002--not to be confused with equally awesome Coach Emily) and pick up the VIP passes for the brunch downtown for Matt. Kara handed me the passes...and also said, "I have a few things for you" with a smirk on her face. She then handed me three pace bands. One for 1:50, one for 1:45, and one for a 4 hour marathon. With a smile, she said, "Just in case." I kind of laughed but then she explained to another friend why she was handing me those bands.

I kind of feel like she's one of the few people who I really take seriously and listen to when she says things about my abilities. Because, she knows me very well. She was there the day I walked into Second Sole and met Canada Jenn and said, "I think I'd like to try running and stuff." Even though I had already finished my first marathon at that point, I was clueless. She guided me to my first half marathon in Athens, and then a PR at the River Run, followed by a 56 minute PR at my next attempt at a marathon in Cincinnati in 2005. Kara knows the numbers. She knows pretty much the results of every race I've ever ran. She knows my VO2 max. And she has consistently told me that I haven't seen anything close to what she knows I can do as far as times go, especially in the long stuff. She said that again, and I really listened this time.

So when she handed me the 1:45 pace band and I saw how much she really believed I could do that, it meant something to me. Because she really knows.

And I think that's when, in my heart, I just knew I would do it the next day. I would have a huge PR and a great day...I just sort of knew at that moment.

Later that night we had a fantastic pasta dinner at Arrabbiata's near my place. We came back, chilled out a bit, and went to bed.

The alarm went off at 4:57 for me (which was really like 2:57 for poor Winks) and I heard JayZ fussing. I went in and gave him his pacifier and he drifted back off to sleep. I kissed him goodbye and kissed Matt goodbye, too.

I had a tasty breakfast of 2 cinnamon Eggo waffles with peanut butter (yeah, that's weird. I hate syrup and don't like bread either, so I put PB on my waffles. It works for me.) and had a half a cup of coffee. I then called JenC and we made plans to meet at her office downtown near the start line, which was AWESOME. See, it was about 48 degrees and pouring at this point. Winks was pretty angry about it since it just doesn't rain in Denver. I was okay with it, since I'm used to running and racing in the rain. But we both agreed it affected our mood a bit. I started to wonder how the cold windy weather would affect me. I hoped it would be OK, since I always prefer cold over hot. Thanks to JenC for providing us a nice warm place to change and use the potty! It was great to see her at the start and finish!

We lined up and stood in the windy rain. It was probably about 50 degrees or so at this point. I found my pacer for the 3:40 marathon group and the plan was to stick with him as long as I could. If I felt it, great. If I wasn't feeling it, I'd just take the day as it came.

The first few miles were pretty quick. I peeled off my long sleeves at mile 1 and tossed them to Kara and her hubby Tim, but I'm pretty sure he didn't even see it. Oh well! That's what a throwaway shirt's for, right? The mile markers seemed a bit off in the first few miles. I tried to go by their splits instead of what my Garmin said. I figured their results are what counts so I should go by that. I'll put them both here though just to see how much it added up at the end.

Here's how it looked:

Mile 1 8:21

Mile 2 7:49 Whoa, we're goin' pretty fast. Um...should I worry?

Mile 3 8:55 (Garmin said this was 1.04)

Mile 4 8:07 (Garmin said this was 1.02)

(a lot of miles 3-4 were gradual uphills along the Shoreway)

Mile 5 7:47

At this point, when my Garmin said 5 miles (and not the race course), I was 34 seconds off my 5 mile PR.

Whoa. I started to get a little nervous. First off, my pacer was all over the freakin' place, God bless him. Would I be able to keep this up?

Mile 6 8:33 (Garmin said this was 1.02)

According to my watch, I hit the 10K mark at just over 50 minutes. A HUGE 10k PR for me. According to the race course, I hit it in just over 51. Still a PR by 4 minutes. Sweet! I took a gel here, and planned to take another one at 11 miles.

Mile 7 8:17

Mile 8 8:33 (Garmin said this was 1.01) Ooh. That mint-chocolate gu which is so tasty when I'm going slow wasn't sitting well with me. Ugh.

Mile 9 8:39 (see what I mean? ALL OVER THE FREAKIN' PLACE)

Mile 10 8:47 (Garmin said this was 1.03)

At this point, the rain had subsided and I was still just feeling great. Allenjel was running with me and looking strong in her BQ quest. I saw on my Garmin that my average pace was well under 8:24, and I started to play the numbers game. I knew if I didn't blow up, I was going to PR big time. I tried to think to myself, "just three more miles. You can do anything for three little miles."

Mile 11 8:22 (Garmin said 1.02) Do I take a gu? I feel great...and the last gu didn't sit well with me. Agh! Decisions, decisions. I have 2 more miles to go. Can I gut it out? I decided yes. I didn't want to take a gu and have my stomach rebel on me at the last second.

Mile 12 8:19 (Garmin said 1.03) At this point, I could almost taste it. I was running with a huge smile. I was going to do this. I was going to come in well under 1:50! My average pace was 8:17 according to my watch. I figured even though I wasn't lining up to the course numbers I was still safe. I told Allenjel to go get her BQ, and then turned off to the half course to head back to East 9th street.

Now, on a side note, I thought we weren't allowed to wear headphones. I swear I read that somewhere. I knew I would really benefit with some kickin' tunes in that last mile but I didn't want to violate any rules, so I didn't bring it.

I SAW TONS OF PEOPLE RUNNING WITH HEADPHONES IN THE ENTIRE RACE. Grrr. If you're gonna have a rule, then enforce it, you know? Kanye could have really helped me out in that last .75 miles. I was tired and I was alone, so I tried to just go as hard as I could. I was smiling the WHOLE time. The crowd support was WAY better than I remembered it the two times I've participated in this race, and I was happy for my little hometown marathon!

There's the balloons! And the music!

I started to laugh, and ran to the finish line. I stopped my watch and had a look!

Watch said 13.25 miles. 1:50:08. Average pace 8:18. Which, of course, the distance and pace don't mean squat since the only results that count are the race course's splits.

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww shoots. You mean to tell me I missed sub-1:50 by 9 measly seconds? Arg! Maybe I should have looked at my watch in the last quarter mile, but I didn't want to. I was just smiling like crazy and soaking up the moment and the energy of the finish line. So I won't trade that for those nine seconds, you know? I knew that the course didn't care what my Garmin said and the course time would stand. But I have to admit that it seems a little bit off. It was even stranger when TriShannon and JenC's Garmins also said EXACTLY 13.25 miles. Oh well! Regardless, my previous PR was 1:55.18. So this was over five minutes of a PR for me. The official results are 13.1 miles in 1:50.08, which is an 8:24/mile.

I was kind of dumbfounded.

I just stood there for a minute laughing.

And then I heard my parents! They came down to see me and snapped a few pictures. I called Matt to see where JayZ and he were. Turns out a police officer directed them DIRECTLY ONTO THE RACE COURSE and he was pinned by runners for 50 minutes. Arg! Poor guys. I told them just to head home and we'd go out for pancakes later. I know he felt bad because he really wanted to be there.

As he was frustrated and telling me what happened, I said, "Hey!" He stopped and said, "What?" I said, "I did it. Can you believe it?!" And he said what he always says. The same thing he said, in his soft-spoken way, when I got my James Madison Fellowship, when I finished Ironman, and when I made my team:


One of the 589,965,145 reasons why he's the best guy ever. :) Thanks, Matt, for always believing in me. Always.

I found TriShannon and JenC and then even found TriguyJT! TriShannon was dealing with some serious leg pain. She soldiered through and still did fantastic. And JenC had an unofficial PR or, according to the race course, darn near close to a PR despite riding 3 hours yesterday! I am so proud of my friends!

Now here's the really strange part.

My average heart rate?



Do I have the heart of a jackrabbit or something?!?!?! Gah! And I didn't bonk. Or feel bad at all, really. Just a bit tired and my stomach was a little queasy, but that's it.

Mega props to anyone in my age group who can BQ. I can't imagine holding that pace for another 13.1 miles. It would take me a lot of miles, a lot of time, and probably no triathlons. Just running. LOTS. So right now I'm not really seeing that on my radar.

But I do feel pretty good about breaking 4 hours in the fall! :)

I looked up the official results just to see what they said. I ended up finishing 25/278 in my age group, which I usually don't even pay attention to. But I saw that I was 25th and realized that, for the first time EVER, I broke the top 10% in something long with a big field. That absolutely shocked me. I never thought I could do this well in something long.

But really, nothing much has changed.

I remembered this later that day, when my buddies asked how the race went and I told them. They asked "What does that mean?" when I told them my time, so I tried to explain as short as I could. "Oh. Cool." They said. And then we all turned our attention to the Cavs and to drinking some beers.

It's funny, how sometimes in our heads (or at least just in mine) we get so caught up in times and stuff. But in the grand scheme of things, unless our paycheck depends upon our race times which, for most of us, it doesn't, it really doesn't matter that much. I could have ran a 2:37 today and my friends would have still said "Cool." one cares that much but me, you know?

For me, the most exciting part of the whole thing was for me to see that time. For me to see the results and really understand what they mean. For me to see how far I've come in 7 months. And, for me to smile when I think about what I'm going to do this summer and how happy I am to race again.

Doing this for me, and only me, is how I roll. When I block out the hype, it yields my best results every time. I'm going to try and remember this throughout this season, as undoubtedly not every race will be flawless.

The sun came out literally as soon as I crossed the finish line yesterday. My mom snapped this picture of my two buddies right after we all gave each other a big sweaty hug.

I can't wait to see what the rest of this season holds!


Kevin said...

Congrats on a great race and an amazing PR. You really have done well in the last 7 months

allanjel said...

YAY!! I knew you had it all the way. Don't think a semi-truck could've have stopped you yesterday. I am so happy for you. Let me know when you go for the new marathon PR. I definately want to see you bring that one home too!!

tracie said...

great job!!!!

i can't wait to see all the season has in store for you (or you for it!) :)

Kim said...

sara, holy crap batman!! you are amazing! congratulations on a fantastic race. im so proud of you! what a great way to start the season.

Lloyd said...


Congrats on the PR on a less than ideal weather day, worth at least another minute off the PR. Bodes well for the season (and marathon) ahead.


Mnowac said...

Congratulations. What an awesome time and it is so great that you FELT great the entire time. Rock on.

JenC said...

Your post makes me so happy! I am so proud of you!

triguyjt said...

sara...your final few paragraphs kinda say it all. its great for You to experience and for You to see the accomplishment and for You to realize all that went into it. No one else can feel that but You...
and You rocked..
Funny about the Garmin thingy on the course distance....
whata great weekend.
You will have a banner 08.
Keep posting the great stuff. I mentioned in a post awhile ago, how you had that kinda blog that caught my eye month ago when I began "lurking" before I started blogging myself. its real genuine and entertaining..
the visualization stuff was very helpful to me as well. I remember biking the shoreway and also running it for the cleveland tri and I processed that and so any of the so called hills or inclines were not biggies to me...
Thanks again for a great post and it was so nice meeting you

ShesAlwaysWrite said...

You. So. ROCK!!

This makes me despair slightly less for my half in August. : )

Erin said...

Im-pressive! Absolutely fantastic race!

Ange said...

Excellent job!! Congrats. You'll make your little boy very proud over the years with this stuff.

TriShannon said...

Nice way to start off the season and awesome comeback! You left me in your dust. :-) Congrats again!

Please leave your rain cloud home the next time we race together. Hey, I just thought of something. The last race we did together was our sprint tri... and... it rained!

RunBubbaRun said...

Great job on the PR.. Woohoo..

Dang I think I would not be able to hold hr of 181 for a half mary... You were running hard and did great.

TRISARA is back..

H said...

Awesome PR! Congrats!!!

Do you know your maximum heart rate? It might be that 181 is just not as high for you as it would be for some.

E-Speed said...

Great job girl! I new you had a PR in ya just from our brief run on Saturday. You are in great shape! Congrats!

JAK said...

Wow, nice job. My garmin agrees: it was about 1% longer than the course markers, all the way through marathon (26.47 according the garmin). I wonder if we all zig-zag that much when we run?

SM said...

Congrats on the PR!!! You rocked that Race!!!!!

Kurt said...

Awesome race report.

I would calibrate the heart rate. That would mean you were running around 90% or so of effort. What is your Max HR? 181 would be very high for that kind of race distance.