02 Nov Steamtown Marathon 10/9/16: I got my PR…Where can you get yours?!
Finally! I broke 3 hours in a marathon! It has been one of my “original” goals in running for a really long time. I crossed the mat, seeing 2:58 tick over to 2:59 and was overcome with emotion. I sat in a chair just past the finish line and broke into tears. The only time I can recall crying emotionally (as opposed to being in pain) at a race was at the Dome (48-Hours). This was so meaningful to me. It was the culmination of hard work, guts, pushing, believing, and lots of support from my family.
I didn’t know going into Steamtown if I could do it or not. My training cycle wasn’t perfect by any means. I had raced Burning River 100 miler in early August. In the subsequent two month training cycle, I was recovering for 2-3 weeks from a nasty contusion of my right tibia. A week after my contusion was resolved, my left knee hurt so bad I couldn’t run on it until my PT taped it. I had an MRI and found out that I had a Baker’s Cyst burst (rare that it bursts). I had a stomach bug for 1-2 days somewhere in there too. Needless to say, I didn’t feel like I was set up for success.
In addition, I had a runny nose the week prior to the race. I slept as much as I could to be rested and recover from my head cold. Plus, 10 days prior to race day, I was on vacation in South Dakota and Iowa, and eating out every day. My marathon race weight was 3# higher than I wanted it to be. So, I did my best to track my calories while we were on vacation in hopes of still losing a tiny bit or at least not gaining. I have attempted to break 3 on two other occasions and weighed closer to 130 than the 133.6 that I weighed on race day.
What was I to do? My training was done. There was nothing I could do about it. It is what it is…
I made up my mind. I was going to go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? I would blow up and walk it in. I talked to my coach the week before with a proposal of how to run the race. Now, I know that the best way to run a marathon is even pacing and would give that advice to anyone I know. But, I have never done anything the “way” one is supposed to do it. So, I proposed to my coach that I take advantage of the downhill in the beginning to bank time and be able to conquer the 3 sucky hills at the end. He agreed, so long as I didn’t go too fast. I had hoped to do the first 13 in 6:38 pace, which would mean I only had to average 7’s for the last 13. Mentally, I knew that would help me if I was getting tired and had time to bleed. Plus, I am mental with speed work, so 7’s sounds A LOT EASIER than 6:anythings.
We drove the course the day before, which was difficult because for miles 13-20 it hops on and off paved trails where you can’t drive a car. What I did see was; the downhill for the first half was really mile 1,and 3-8 being a mild down (not steep, like I had hoped), 2-3 was rolling, and it flattened out after that. The hills at 23 (.25 miles), 24.5 (.45 miles), and 25.5 (.25 miles) were legitimate hills that were going to suck, especially due to their placement towards the end of the race.
Race morning came and the weather was perfect. Low 50’s and cloudy. After running in 80’s and 90’s throughout the summer and a hot fall, I was going to have the best chance possible. I saw my friend Keith Straw at the start who was pacing the full. I got a boost from seeing him and a hug which is alway good to calm my nerves. I met Paul Kentor, a FB friend who was also trying to break 3. We visited and talked about our race strategies. I told him I was happy to run with him, but please don’t be offended if I didn’t talk much. I knew it would be a push and I wanted to focus and conserve energy It was nice to finally meet him in person!
We headed to the starting line and “BOOM”, the cannon went off and away we went. Paul and I ran together for the first 3-4 miles. He was chipper and talking to people who were spectating. He was so upbeat, it helped me relax and smile. I looked at my watch for the first 3 miles and saw: 6:32, 6:34, and 6:48. Good, I thought…that’s where I want to be. I wasn’t going to look at my watch anymore (it totally psychs me out). Speed work has always stressed me, and I have finally learned to just run by feel and I do better without looking at it and am more consistent. I figured that I just needed to run hard all day and hope for the best.
By mile 5, I didn’t see Paul anymore, figuring I had gained on the downs. I came upon a group of 4 people; 2 solo guys and a girl and guy who looked like they were planning on running together. The girl was discussing how she wanted to break 19 in a 5k (she had broken 3 in a marathon) and how her friends had all broken 19, but not 3. I had to laugh, because I could semi-relate. She said she felt like she could run 6:50’s all day, but didn’t really have a faster gear. Within a mile, she looked down and said, “let the fast people go” and she and the guy she was with let up. So, away I went with the other two guys. After a couple of miles, one of the guys slowed, and the other guy and I ran together through mile 13-ish. We didn’t talk. We just ran together, sort of silently supporting each other. I would later find out, his name was Steve Szaki and he PR’d as well.
I got into the rails to trails section and it was beautiful with the fall leaves and ever changing scenery. I think the turns and the different views helped me take my mind off things. Things started to become hard around mile 15, so I implemented my counting regimen (counting 1 to 100 and repeat). It calms me somehow and takes my mind off of being uncomfortable. Between my ipod and counting I was doing ok. At mile 18 there was a clock (there had been a clock at mile 10 too, but I purposely hadn’t looked at it). I had no idea what my time was (since mile 3), so I couldn’t resist looking now. It said 2:01 on the clock. I did the math (7×8=56 +1.5 minutes more for the .2 = 2:58:30). I just had to run 7’s and I’d be fine. At mile 18, there was .6 of dirt trail and a tiny incline. My watch went beep at 19, I looked at my pace: 7:01. Crap. I started to stress. No more looking at my watch. I walked for 10 seconds through the aid station to drink and get my psycho heart rate back down and got back to it.
I had to laugh around mile 20 because, I saw a sign that said “candy stop ahead .25”. The sign had “gummy bears, M&M’s, cookies”, etc written on it. I thought…who is carries a quarter in a marathon to buy candy?…about a minute and a half later, it occurred to me that .25 may have been the distance to the candy stop…LOL! Getting tired, and not thinking clearly.
Around 22.5, I started getting tired and knew I was close to the hills. My friend Paul Kentor, came blazing by me as I had stopped to walk for a few seconds again. He told me to come with and I said, “I am dying, go get your sub 3!”. He passed me and told all the people at the next aid station to cheer my name. They did. It helped. Another section, and people cheered my name…I knew Paul had said something. It helped! I had still doubted myself and walked a bit at the first 2 hills, but then I told myself not to let it go after working this hard for so long. I put my head down and sucked it up. As I was running into Scranton proper, some guy on the street said “less than a mile to go” (I never really believe people on the street because they are rarely correct), but I looked at my watch and saw 2:52. I thought 7 more minutes and you’ve got it. I found another gear that I didn’t know I had…
My race take-aways:
1. Run without looking at your watch in training and racing. You may be surprised at what you can do. Plus running by feel is good. I was always had my head stuck in my…watch.
2. 104 marathons, 3rd attempt at sub 3…NEVER GIVE UP! I gave up a little from mile 22.5-24.5, but got my head back in the game. I am proud even though it wasn’t perfect execution.
3. My training, weight, and head cold could have made me back off from the start, giving me a valid excuse that no one would have thought poorly of me for…GO FOR IT…What do you have to lose! Believe.
4. Family support is HUGE. My son and husband were there to watch and cheer me on. It helped to see them along the course! I was glad I got to share my elation with them at the end!
Want to find a fast course for your PR? Check out Findmymarathon.com. It’s a great website where you can compare courses, search for the fastest by course or course in consideration of weather. You can search by state, month, and more! This is a great place to check out races!
Someone asked me which courses that I have done were the “fastest”…The times I ran there and comments about it:
1. St. George Marathon: If you love downhill and can your legs can take a beating…but so much downhill it can’t count as an Olympic Qualifier.
2. Phoenix Marathon: Great course, as well as post-race food & swag.
3. Steamtown Marathon: Beautiful course. Be ready for the hills at the end. Great post-race food & swag. Hilarious informative emails with all the info you could want!
4. Lost Dutchman Marathon 3:07:22 Beautiful course starts on downhill dirt road. The suckiest up is at 8.5 miles. There are 2 more hills but are more gradual and are balanced out with downhills.
5. Erie Marathon at Presque Isle: Flat 2 loop course. Great value and swag.
6. Rock and Roll New Orleans: Flat course with lots of entertainment.
7. Wineglass Marathon: Great slightly downhill/flat course, love the blown glass medal!
8. Walt Disney World Marathon: Flat course, but I always take a camera and stop for photo opportunities with the characters or ride Rockin’ Rollar coaster mid-race 🙂
9. Fargo Marathon Uber flat, but can be windy. Great swag!
10. Shamrock Marathon: Flat except for the bridges, can be windy, great swag and post-race food.
11. Newport (OR) Marathon: Flat out and back course. Beautiful blown glass medals.
12. Texas Marathon: Flat 4 loop course. Fantastic RD’s. BIGGEST MEDAL IN THE USA
13. Monumental Marathon: Flat course. Weather is usually perfect. Nice swag and post-race.
14. Charleston Marathon: Flat course, but kind of boring if it still goes through the industrial area in the end.
15. Marshall University Marathon: Flat course which ends in the stadium where you get to carry a football over the finish line. Cool double-sided medal too.
Thanks soooo much to all of my Sponsors:
Altra Running: I finally have shoes that I can run in that are comfortable, light, and keep my toenails intact! Anyone not IN LOVE with their shoes should give them a try! I wore the One2.5’s 🙂
Hammer Nutrition: I love their products! I took 4 gels during the race, Ant-fatigue and Race Caps before the race, Race Day Boost in the days leading up to the race, and Recoverite after the race.
Running Skirts: A comfortable skirt with pockets for wipes and gels that doesn’t chafe! PLUS super cute styles…who could ask for more? I wore the black ultra skirt. I used my compression socks after the race.
Drymax Socks: Also an enormous help with my blisters, Drymax socks are comfy and keep my feet dry. I wore the Maximum Protection Trail Socks
Nathan Sports: Thanks for your awesome products. I have used my hand held and packs in training. I love the fact that it feels like I don’t even have to hold onto them when I run, they just fit in my hand.
Sundog Eyewear: I love the sunglasses. They have been the first ones to keep up with the humid summers in Indiana where I can see and they not fog up.