Breaking Four Hours, Smashing a Goal: One City Marathon
[Editors Note: This is Part two of a two Part Series. Yes, I know, even in a series, these things roll out like a snail in molasses in December in Antartica – if there even are snails in Antartica, but I digress. If you haven’t checked out Part one, click here, and then, without further ado, here goes the rest of the story . . . ]
After my struggles with the marathon, and wondering if another one was ever going to be in my future, I finally took the leap in 2016, got a coach (Rocksport Training, woo hoo!), and registered for the One City Marathon in Newport News, Virginia. To be honest, I was hesitant to register for this marathon. It’s a small race. There were only 403 marathon finishers in 2015 — the inaugural year. My previous marathons (Marine Corp, Shamrock, and Chicago) all had long histories and lots of runners. How would this small race compete with the larger more established races? After reading reviews and newspaper articles from the inaugural year, I decided to take a chance. Maybe this was just the change I needed.
But I just didn’t want to finish this marathon. My main goal was to qualify for Boston. (Go big or go home, right?) The program my coach gave me was challenging, but was one that had me prepared for the challenge.
But as with all things marathon, nothing is simple.
First hurdle. Weather.
A week before the race, I began obsessing about the weather. Mother nature decided to throw unseasonably warm temperatures at me. The average low and perfect running weather of 40 degrees was not going to happen. The forecast high on race day was going to be in the 70’s. After a short pity party, I decided to stop obsessing about something that I could not control. It was time to start packing — scratch the capris and long sleeve shirt for a skort and tank top!
The Friday before the race, I put on a pair of my favorite PRO compression socks and started the approximately 600 mile drive to Newport News.
Second hurdle. Food.
After checking in at the hotel, my driver (my wonderful husband) and I decided that pizza delivery was the best option for dinner. I called the closest pizza place (according to an app on my phone) and was told my hotel was not in their delivery zone. After calling 3 other locations, I was told that the first pizza place was the one I should call. O.K. time to take a deep breath, scrap the delivery idea, and drive less than 2 miles to pick up the pizza. After eating pizza it was time to watch a little March Madness basketball (we are from Kentucky after all . . . ) and then off to bed.
Third hurdle. Well – none!
Packet pickup on Saturday was a breeze. For a small race, the expo was anything but small. There were free smoothies. Several vendors were selling running gear. A local chiropractor and physical therapist were offering advice to runners, free sport’s injury analyses, and gait analysis.
The rest of the day consisted of lunch (leftover pizza), dinner (black bean burger and sweet potato fries), and getting everything ready for the race. You know, my lucky PRO Compression shamrock marathon socks (it was kind of a St. Patrick’s Day Race), an awesome custom shamrock Ponya Band, my FlipBelt, my Garmin, GU energy gels, and some Sport Beans. Oh, and shoes of course. And I suppose my tank and skort . . .
Fourth hurdle. Sleep.
Cleared! I tried to go to sleep very early on Saturday night. We were switching to daylight savings time and would lose an hour of sleep. I covered up the clock, turned on a fan to drown out noise, and did my best to relax.
I have no idea how long I slept, but I woke up feeling refreshed before my alarm went off. My pre race meal consisted of a Larabar, banana, gatorade, and water.
Since this is a point to point race, shuttle service was offered from the finish line and from several hotels to the start. But I got special treatment. Since my husband wasn’t running the race, he chauffeured me to the start. I’m special!
Fifth hurdle. Nutrition.
One of my goals this year was to run a marathon without getting sick before, during, or after a race.
I was at the starting line, so the before was taken care of.
I have gotten sick to my stomach at mile 22 of every marathon. My plan for this race was to take a gel every 30 minutes, skip only the first water stop, and avoid sports drinks. I practiced this strategy during my training runs and at several half marathons. Now it was time to see if that strategy would take care of the during.
We’d just have to see about the after.
Sixth hurdle. Execution.
Before the race, I gave my husband a schedule for predicted race times and locations to cheer me on.
Then off to the start line, the National Anthem played, and we were off. I glanced at my watch occasionally to make sure that I wasn’t running too fast and to make sure I was following my fueling schedule. (Note to self — next time set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes.)
The race went through several parks, neighborhoods, and city streets. The parks were beautiful and traffic was not an issue. I was worried about the temperature, but the overcast skies definitely helped.
Knowing that I would see a familiar face during the race was a great motivator that kept me going. I was able to stick to the every 30 minute schedule until the 3 hour mark when I decided to have a sport’s drink instead of using a gel. I remember putting the sport’s drink in my mouth and deciding that I really didn’t want it and spitting it out. I remember everything expect where I spit it out. If it was on a volunteer, I am sorry. Please forgive me.
I was ahead of schedule at miles 12 and 19. My husband told me I was looking great at mile 19.
If the time stamp is correct, this photo was taken at 10:06 am (3 hours and 6 minutes after the race started). At 10:06, I would have been close to mile 22, and I was feeling great. At mile 23 I began to slow down, but wasn’t sick at my stomach (Hurdle cleared!).
I finished with an official time of 3:55:41, close to but over my goal time. I dropped 10 minutes from my previous best time, was 1st in my age group, was 5th masters, and was 15 minutes under my Boston Marathon qualifying time (yes, your read that right, FIFTEEN MINUTES). Time to celebrate. I had achieved my goal!
I am so happy with the outcome of this race. This race was perfect from registration to the finish line celebration. The communication emails kept me informed, packet pickup was a breeze, and everything during the race (route, volunteers, water stops, you name it) was perfect. If you are looking for a small race with the potential for a PR or BQ qualifying time, this is the perfect race.
Sandy beat her marathon funk into submission.
Has a Coach helped you?
What new challenge do you plan to take on?