Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rockathon 2011 Race Report

(Otherwise known as blah, blah, blah, Tracey keeps talking about her darn marathon.)

*This has been posted at Dailymile for a couple of weeks now but just for posterity's sake I like to have all my race reports on my actual blog as well. Sometimes I wonder what would happen to my virtual existence if there were ever such a thing as an internet apocalypse? So much of me happens in spaces like these. Maybe I should back all this garbage up.

Race report: Engage.

What a day. I've said it on here a number of times these past couple of weeks but this marathon really snuck up on me. I trained all winter for the Chicago Lakefront 50K in March and most of that training was long, slow, distance runs. So even though I ran a sub-4 marathon last October I really didn't expect to be able to do it again in Rockford. In fact, just three weeks ago when I was running my 22 mile trail run with Krista, we talked about how we both had no idea what to expect coming into our spring marathons. Not only did we just run the 50K only seven weeks ago, but since then we'd been hitting the trails for our long runs, which forced us to run much slower than on the road.

I decided that the WIsconsin Half Marathon was going to be my "test". I told myself that if I was able to run a 1:55 "easily" (translation: not feeling like I wanted to die) then I would not only go for another sub-4 in Rockford, but I would try for a PR. (My previous PR was a 3:58:41)

Well, I ran the half in a 1:54:40 and I didn't feel like dying. Guess I had to try! Shoot.

I worried all week about the weather since it called for rain on Sunday but on race morning, it didn't seem all that bad. It was sprinkling a bit but the temperature was in the upper 40s. My dad took me to the race start and he proceeded to talk very loudly about how YOU COULDN'T PAY HIM TO RUN A TWENTY SIX POINT TWO MILES IN THIS. I told him nobody was offering anyway, and he wouldn't be able to run twenty six point two miles in the sunshine so it really didn't matter. (P.S I love my Dad!)

So the race started with the announcer saying to the runners, "Oh, sorry about all the wind for the first six miles." Yeah, thanks for the warning. When I read all the race reports from Green Bay though, I realize now that those first few miles into the wind were nothing in comparison. And really, if you're going to have wind, it might as well be at the beginning when you have all that overflowing adrenaline.

My plan was to keep the 3:50 pace group in my sights for the first hour or so and then start to let them pull away. However, they took off quite a bit over their pace to I decided to hang back. I told myself that as long as the 4:00 pace never caught up with me I would be ok. I felt really, really, strong for the first third of the race and by mile 7 I realized that I had caught up to the 3:50 group. Ooops! I even ran a couple miles in the 8:30 range which was not the smartest thing but I felt soooo good. Coming up on mile 12 the 3:50 group picked up the pace again and this time I held back for real. Around this time the half marathoners split from those running the full. Basically EVERYONE went off to the right, leaving me to follow ONE GUY up the steepest hill we would have all day. I actually turned around to look behind me and saw no one. Ok, so this is how it's going to be, I thought.

I crossed 13.1 at just under 1:56 and settled in for the second (slightly different) loop. Oh hey, did I mention that they changed the course this year so that the first few miles are more hilly? And not the kind of hills that you notice right off the bat, but the kind that just slowly creep up until you wonder why you're so dang tired. Needless to say miles 14-17 were much harder than miles 1-3. I kept worrying that I was losing speed but my Garmin kept checking off sub-9 minute miles so things were still good. It was just taking more out of me this time around.

Then at Mile 17 I got a side stitch on my right side. UGH. This was the worst because it made it very painful to take deep breaths and I always feel like the reason why I'm good at long distance running is because I'm able to keep my breathing so slow and relaxed. I could feel right away that taking shorter, quicker breaths was starting to really affect me. I started chugging the rest of my water bottle and actually trying to massage the cramp out of my rib cage while I was running. It must have looked silly but there was no way I was going to be able to run 9 miles like this. It turns out I only had to endure about 3 because by mile 20 it had finally subsided.

I was still running pretty much by myself but during the side stitch drama a couple of people passed me as my splits hovered at just below 9 minutes. Then, as I made my way up another stinking hill towards mile 20, a woman coming toward me in her car actually slowed down almost to a stop and hung out the window shouting, "YOU GET IT GUUURL! DON"T YOU STOP RUNNING! YOU GO!" and I about died. It was so awesome and irritating at the same that I started cracking up. As I Trudged. Up. The. Stupidest. Hill. Ever.

This race report is taking a long time. Bear with me, it's almost over.

Then I got to my favorite part of the course where we wind through a wooded park and the pain in my side was starting to subside. This was around the time last year that my besties found me for like the sixth time and Krista high fived me on the course. I remember the exact spot where it happened and it put a huge smile on my face remembering it. Although I wasn't feeling as strong after dealing with the last few miles I was doing the math in my head and I was pretty sure I was going to PR at this point as long as I could keep my splits between a 9:30 and 10 minute mile. In order to make SURE I would get it I decided to try and keep them under 9:30.

Miles 22-26 splits: 9:05 9:19: 9:25 9:25 9:40…. I started passing a bunch of people at this point who were walking and even though I was getting slower and slower and I felt good about the fact that I was still running. I kept thinking about how easy a time goal can slip out of your hands. If I walked and couldn't get going again it would be all over. When I hit 26 on my Garmin I started to speed up (even though I hadn't quite hit 26 on the actual course. Darn!)

My favorite part about the Rockford Marathon is even though those last couple of miles are particularly lonely (and pretty much spectator-free) nobody really sees your lowest point. I was pretty much a zombie through mile 24 and 25 as I just kept staring at my feet in front of me. And then there's this glorious turn at 26 miles where you round the corner, see the finish and get to run DOWNHILL all the way there. Even if your legs are dead you get so much momentum coming down that stretch and it feels amazing. (Side note, I always cry at mile 26. It just happens.) As I came around the bend the first thing I noticed were my friends Jeff and Kimi with their two little boys cheering me on while Jeff shouted "SUB-4 BABY!" I waved at them like a goofball and scanned the crowd further until I came up on my husband Jason taking photos next to my aunt and uncle. He flashed me a rock n roll sign and howled as I went by. Looking at my splits now, I see that the last half mile of the race was my fastest. That is so crazy to think about.

And then I finished with a 3:56:02. A PR by over 2 1/2 minutes.

Splits: 8:46 8:50 8:49 8:49 8:40 8:41 8:38 8:42 8:41 8:45 8:36 8:49 8:58 8:48 9:00 8:55 8:49 8:58 8:56 9:09 8:52 9:05 9:19 9:26 9:26 9:41 (3:38 for .47- 8:26 pace!)

My Garmin logged 26.47 miles, which I know isn't strange or anything but I can't help thinking that if I had hugged the corners more I would have shaved off a couple of tenths and gone under 3:55. Oh well, something new to shoot for I guess.
I found out the next day that I actually got third in my age group so that was a BIG surprise- and that's even with the female winner of the whole race being in my division! Not too shabby.

So that's all I got. If you made it this far, thanks for hanging in there. These race reports are really just a way for me to get all my emotions out while they are fresh and I start to forget everything about the day. To say that I am anything less than thrilled over this race would be an understatement. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great race report Tracey. Congratulations on your PR and placing third in your age group. You're awesome! :)