Thursday, October 23, 2008

Race Report: Columbus Marathon, 2008

When the big races come, I've come to realize (and I also realize this is not conventional) that I do best when I step back from the hype a bit. Earlier this season I was questioned a bit in my rationale of pre-race strategies, but you know what? It just works for me. So we go with it--giddyup!

For example, at Ironman, I did not attend the pre-race pasta dinner--I ate dinner with good friends instead. I stayed in a hotel a ways away from downtown. And I tried my best not to hang out in the expo.

This weekend, I didn't even GO to the expo. I had no desire whatsoever. You've seen one, you've seen them all, right? In fact, as mentioned below, I hadn't even really thought about the race until Thursday evening, but not for the best of reasons or circumstances. But it's in these moments, of quiet and calmness, when I do my best thinking. And that's when I go over things in my head, and picture how the race will go. And every time I pictured the finish line I saw a 3. Every time. I can't explain it, except that there was no doubt in my mind I was going to do it.

So, my awesome buddy Cerveza picked up my packet and stuff for me. We were staying with her and her hubby since they were doing the half, which worked out really well. Matt, Bug and I loaded into the car and headed down to arrive mid-afternoon. Cerveza is kind of Betty Crocker and made enough pasta to feed a third world country, as usual. Which was good, because I knew we'd eat well that night for sure! My teammate Sweet and his wife Cara--my mommy/teacher/triathlete/runner partner-in-crime-- got to come over and share dinner with us, too. I am pretty sure Cerveza put rocket fuel in her pasta sauce with the way that all 4 of us ran the next day.

So we went to bed and I'm pretty sure I slept no more than 3 hours. Bug was so confused and didn't know where the heck he was, and FREAKED OUT pretty much all night. Around 3:40am, we gave up and just let him snuggle in bed with us. Then, after I closed my eyes for what felt like 30 seconds, the alarm was going off.

Your token "It's 5:27am and we're sleepy" shot

I got up, had some coffee and peanut butter toast on wheat, and got ready to go. The weather was PERFECT for me at least. A good solid layer of frost was on the car--bonus! Me likey cold. We drove downtown and I hit the port-o-potties (twice!) and before I knew it there was 2 minutes to the start.

Except I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy in the back. Uh oh.

How do I find Pacer Catherine? aggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhpoop.

I started HAULING with 2 other dudes on the sidewalk, trying to get to the front. "Excuse us! Excuse us!" I kept saying as I blew by people and accidentally knocked into them. Then I hopped the fence. Whew! I made it.

Um, except for one thing. Now I was in the 6:00/mile pace group.

Yeah. Not in this lifetime.

I looked around and wiggled my way back a bit and finally found Catherine and her balloons with 30 seconds to spare. WHEW!

Okay. Focus time.

The gun went off, and we made our way to the front. My game plan was to stay with Catherine at least until 20, and then see what happened from there.

Can I just say this is a fantastic course, by the way? I think I underestimated the nice-ness of Columbus. It really was very scenic and had awesome crowd support. Definitely a great place to go for a mid-sized marathon. There are a few "hills" though, or really more false flats. It's not completely flat like a lot of people say, but I liked the slight change in grade and I think it was good to use different muscles for a bit.

Anyway, back to the story.

So the first 7 miles felt so slow I wanted to pull out a magazine. Which is good, I guess. I did have to make a port-o-potty stop around mile 4 for what I'll just say is a leftover pregnancy related issue that I ain't gonna go into here. It was all good, though. I caught back up to Catherine in no time. We chatted about Ironman and stuff, and she was such an awesome pacer--telling us stories, jokes, and giving us encouragement the whole way.

I saw Sweet at mile 7 and again at around mile 14! It was so awesome to have him out there and I hoped that Cara's race was going well, too. I knew she was trying to Boston Qualify and I knew we definitely lucked out with the weather. But anything can happen out there, you know? So I just hoped for her.

We hit the halfway point at 1:59:45. Right. On. Target. I still felt so slow I wanted to get a crossword puzzle or something, which was a good sign. I took a gel at mile 7 and again around 13, and had some water or Gatorade Endurance at most aid stations.

Around mile 15 I started to get into that area where you're getting tired but still have double-digits to go. I tried to just focus on Catherine's balloons, the crowd, and my steps. It was not quite as easy anymore, but each mile ticked by and I felt really, really good. I took another gel around mile 18 and drank some more.

Mile 20 came. I was both relieved and nervous, too. This, I thought, is when people blow up. This is when stuff goes wrong.

But so far, nothing.

So far, feelin' freaking fantastic, actually...which in and of itself was a little nerve-wracking. When, I thought, is the other running shoe going to drop?

It just never did.

Big ups to that guy around mile 21 with a big vat of vaseline--he even ran with me a little bit so I could get my grubby hands in there and smear it on my back and arm where my jersey was rubbing a bit. Thanks, random Vaseline Man! And, um, that's kind of nasty that I stuck my hand in some guy's vaseline jar. But hey, anything goes at mile 21.

At mile 22, Catherine told me if I was feeling good, I should leave her. I was feeling really, really good. So I did. Not very far, and I could still hear her a little bit behind me, cheering everyone on. But it gave me even more of a boost to think, "Holy crap. I just passed the pacer. And I feel awesome."

I took one more gel, and around that time I knew I was going to do it. It was just a matter of by how much, which is what happened in Cincinnati. But this time really meant a lot to me. There are things I don't talk about here, because I don't think the world-at-large needs to know, but it's safe to say I really didn't have any business doing this race. I wasn't sure I'd get through the training, and I questioned myself while doing my long runs. I thought about demoting to the half. And of course, now, I'm glad I didn't, but I knew going into this that this one would mean a lot. This one really would show me what I'm made of. This one took more than any other one just to get to the starting line.

I started to feel myself getting a little emotional. Gotta keep the emotions in check, I thought. Just like in Ironman. It's not over yet.

After mile 23, I rounded a corner to see a guy with a guitar providing entertainment (which the course had a TON of, too--another plus). He was acoustic and singing,

Whoa, sweet child of mine...
Whoaaaa sweet love of mine...

Whooooaaa sweet child of mine, mmmmm yeah....

And then, suddenly, all I could think about was Jackson.

I got a FEVAH. And the only prescription is MORE COWBELL, MOMMY.

I teared up.

I missed him so much, that morning and all those mornings I had to do my long runs. And he doesn't know the difference, but I do...and I just really felt like I wanted to make him proud and do this. I needed to do this for him, to show him someday how you can do what you think is impossible, that whatever your heart is set on is reachable no matter how many obstacles are in your way. No matter how many question you or your methods. That just over a year ago I got in "trouble" for walking 2 miles and was 50 plus pounds heavier wondering if I'd ever really compete again, and because my drive is so internal and focused this year I've blown every personal record out of the ballpark.

I've been rewired.

And someday I want to tell him that Mommy did it, but that I did it with him--that most of my runs were at 5am on a treadmill so I didn't miss a second with him, and that on my long runs Daddy and him would meet me and run the last 4 with me.

At first glance, it looks like I did this alone. But that's not true, because we did this together--all three of us. And I want him to know that someday.

So I held that in, until we got to mile 26. Because that's when I saw them. I saw them, and I knew Catherine was still behind me.

And I was going to do it, alright.

The last 300 yards or so are down a slight hill, and I don't remember anything except that I started crying with about 100 yards to go. I sped up as fast as I could and crossed the line to see 3:58.58 on my watch. A 20 minute PR; a new personal best.

A nice volunteer took my chip, and I told her "I'm sorry--I'm just happy" as I laughed with big stupid tears. The overwhelming amazement of this whole past year just caught up with me, I think. That doesn't just happen to me at finish lines. I'm usually the one who's laughing and high-fiving.

And then I found Bug and Matt, and Cerveza and her hubby Dave, and Cara. All four of us had near-perfect days. Dave PRd by 10 minutes in the half; Cerveza by 4. Cara is going to Boston.

And I saw a 3.

Me and Cara, the Boston Girl!
And then as I kissed Bug with big tears on my cheeks saying, "We did it, Buddy! We did it," he grabbed my banana. Cuz that's how he rolls.

Oh, sure, he looks cute but you'd better WATCH YOUR BANANAS.

So as I look back now, I'm even more happy with the results and dreaming bigger. I negative split a marathon.

Negative split. A MARATHON.

Who does that? Somehow I did, and I still can't believe it. Seriously--disbelief. Mile 24 was 8:53, for cryin' out loud. It means I had a combination of excellent training from awesome Coach Emily, a perfect day, I ran a smart race, and some good mental boosts from Coach Kara who has really become more like Friend Kara, and support from my team , friends, and family.

My awesome teammate, Sweet, fresh off a 9:58 in Kona last weekend!

So that's the end, really. I'll outline my training in another post, as well as my nutrition, more just so I can have a record of what I did because it freakin' worked for me BIG TIME.

And I've got quite big plans for the future, too. But for now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for a little off season. Because I haven't stopped moving since my 6 week checkup with my doctor last November, and I've got a lot to do over the next few weeks. I'll be going on lots of walks, leisurely rides, heading to the pumpkin patch, watching some football, and drinking some cider. WITH a little bit of Captain, of course. ;)

But be forewarned...I'm going full speed ahead when the season starts again. And I've got BIG plans. Because I've really redefined what my upper limits are, and I'm still not near them yet.

Not even close.


Tracy said...

AHH I LOVE this race report! You totally killed it sis! And you know I must have that pic of you and sweet for the next newsletter :)

triguyjt said...

awesome job sara...

"random Vaseline guy"??? I think thats a post for another day!!!! (jt, get mind out of gutter)

its cool how you guys did it together... you, bug and the hubster..

congrats to boston girl!!!

Maggs said...

Great race and great report. Reading it really made me want to run a marathon again.

Mike said...

Awesome race report! Congrats on your new PR and sub 4 finish! I don't even think the sky is the limit anymore you are well beyond that!!! I can hardly wait for the race reports to start rolling in next season!

Janet Edwards said...

YEAH, love the ending...can't wait to see where you go next! HUGE props on attaining you goal! You really earned this one so reward yourself!

Ms. R said...

Congratulations on all your hard work this season and PR after PR after PR... Well deserved!

Tiggs said...

you saw a "3'!!! Yay Sara!!

Carolina John said...

that's an amazing report, sara. I know exactly what you mean about training with/for your kids. i gotta admit, reading that part made me cry. I do the same thing.

you be strong going into next year, and I will too. I'm going for my first half ironman next year. i can't wait!

Michele said...

What a great report.
Congrats on your sub-four. You had an awesome season.
Enjoy some rest. Can't wait to hear what's next!

Aaron said...

Well done. It always feels good to hit the targets you set. And of course, the offseason is also excellent.


Pharmie said...

So proud of you! You worked your butt off to see that 3. Yeesh, who knows what you can do in 2009!

Anonymous said...

Great pics.... awesome race.... fantastic inspiration....

Steve Stenzel said...

YOU ARE CRAZY!!! Way to go! A negative split?!? Wild!! Great time! Great pace!!

And I'll watch that little fella should I ever be eating a naner near him!

Rae said...

Way to go lady!!!! Awesome job!

JenC said...

You made me cry at the end of your report. Great job buddy - you rock!

Sweet said...

Beautiful race. Well done!

Was great getting to meet the entire fam! Good times.

greyhound said...

I'm sitting here getting all Verklempt at your run to the finish line, and then Bug is all, like, "Whatevah! Give the nanner, mom."


Sarah said...

Congrats Sara! That's such a tremendous accomplishment. Huge. I loved reading the whole thing!

Michelle said...

I'm so proud of you!! What a great race. I loved reading your report. You are so much more than running the miles, pounding out the workouts, and looking for PR's. Thanks for an uplifting recount! Now enjoy a little time off. Notice I said "little" because I think you need to jump on the bandwagon of the 'beat Stu' journey for New Orleans!

Cara said...

AWESOME race report!!! A day like that makes all the sacrifice worth it, doesn't it? And hey, with time drops like that, Boston might be just one marathon away!! I'm so glad I got to see you guys there! Thanks again to you and your pals for the rocket fuel! :)

Lloyd said...

Congrats on the PR and negative split! Enjoy the triumph and recover well.

Mnowac said...

Nice job Sara! Sounds like you really rocked that race. And what a beautifully written recap. I like your race reports best!

ShesAlwaysWrite said...

Soooo sorry I'm a month behind, life around here is so nuts I haven't even had a chance to peek at my Reader in weeks! I think about you tons and yours is the first blog I'm sneaking a peak at between work and sick Bears and sick husbands and funerals and various pets and spousal units having surgery!

SO HAPPY for you and your amazing race! I've been in a pretty dark place lately, and this report really cheered me up and made me remember how much I love all this.