Tuesday, October 11, 2011

St. George Marathon Race Report—Marathon Redemption v2

My marathon journey has not been an easy one. My first sub-four attempt (marathon #2) was a crash and burn in San Diego. The marathon after that (marathon #3) was my “marathon redemption” in Huntington Beach. My first Boston attempt (marathon #4) was a crash and burn in Long Beach. On Saturday I had my second “marathon redemption” in St. George (marathon #6).
We drove to the race, which is about six hours away. While traveling like that right before a race isn’t ideal, it worked out well for me. I think my carbo loading was much better than it has been in the past. Normally, I am running around like a crazy woman the day before a race. That is my normal routine, which sometimes doesn’t give me time for lunch, let alone constant snacking.  Sitting in a car allowed me to snack and drink the entire time. We drank so much that we had to stop three times during the drive!

We hit the expo and then headed to our friends’ family’s home for a fun pasta dinner. DSCN3781 Since I had been eating all day, I didn’t feel tempted to eat a huge plate full of DSCN3782pasta.  I had a normal portion of pasta, piece of garlic bread and dessert. It was Heidi’s birthday and Rod’s in a few weeks, so we had several types of birthday cake.  The coolest thing was that Heidi was turning 26 and then running 26.2 the next day.  It was her first marathon.DSCN3786
We went back to Whitney’s family condo to sleep.  Did I mention how great it is running with people who seem to know everyone in Utah? No restaurant or hotel the night before a marathon?  Such a relaxing way to prepare for a race!!

I had one moment of panic while setting my stuff out for the next morning. I had my list at home that included my Garmin.  I brought my Garmin, BUT I failed to bring the wrist band that it snaps onto. I was contemplating keeping my Garmin in my hydration belt and lamenting at this unfortunate twist added to my race plan.  Whitney brought several spools of hair ribbon and had a great idea. We tied the Garmin to my wrist!Garmin ribbon It slid around my wrist a bit, but it was better than having to get it out of my belt to see my pace.  Crisis averted!  Thanks, Whitney!

We went to bed and I was super tired, convinced I would sleep like a rock. But, alas, I laid awake for a couple of hours. I wasn’t thinking about the race and I didn’t think I was that nervous, but my brain would not turn off!  I probably ended up getting a couple of hours, but when the alarm went off at 3:30 I was excited!

We caught the bus to the start line just before 5 a.m.. The only part of the course we could preview was the rise and fall of the road. It was pitch black. You could definitely tell there were a lot of hills in this race.

Runners who have run this race before had told us to bring gloves, throwaway sweatshirts, garbage sacks etc. because the start line, at 5200 feet in elevation, is very chilly. They even had many fires built at the start line to keep runners warm. They also gave everyone mylar blankets to wrap around ourselves. But we didn’t need any of that.  It was plenty warm. I think it was already in the 60’s when we started the race. Rumor has it that it was the warmest starting temperature in St. George’s 35 year history.  Yikes.IMAG0750
St. George start line
We were ready to go! (pictured are: Adam, Rod, Kelly, Kay, Kirsten, Heidi, Whitney, Me and Kim)

We used the porta potties several times.  My plan in a big race is to spend the entire time in potty lines. Once I get done, I get right back in line. This has been a key to my best races. Once I “emptied” everything, I took my Imodium. I took one and a half pills (after playing around with the dosage at various half marathons). This was a bit of a risk considering the fact that it can dehydrate you.  However, I was carrying water and planned on drinking throughout the race.  I had no dehydration issues. Phew!

Before we new it, it was time to start! 

stgeorge pace band
I had a plan. My plan involved pacing myself. We found a GREAT pacing tool online that weighted each mile based upon the elevation changes and terrain of that race. The author has recorded splits from many runners from many years. This pace band was the KEY to my successful race. I kept my splits at or under these times. It took all my anxiety over the Veyo hill away. I knew that I could slow down quite a bit up that hill without hurting my overall time. Throughout the race, I could check and see where I was and what kind of cushion I had. It was awesome.

Miles 1-7—8:38, 8:43, 8:29, 8:15, 8:32, 8:18, 8:20 My friend, Sharron, texted me a good luck wish on Friday that said, “Have a great race tomorrow! Don’t forget to enjoy the view.” That text stuck with me.  It was dark when the race started but dawn came on around mile two. The sky was a beautiful color and while the sun was hidden by the mountains for quite a while, its affects could be seen on the red rocks in the distance. It was beautiful.  I made sure that I ran with my head up rather than watching the pavement in front of me. I was enjoying myself so much. The only thing I was missing was company. I would make a comment about the scenery and not get much interaction. But that was ok. It was the prettiest race I have ever run. Had I not had a specific time goal, I would have taken a ton of gorgeous pictures.  Instead, I stole borrowed a couple from another runner who was kind enough to post them on his blog. The pictures don’t do the scenery justice.
photos courtesy of fastcory.com
I ran and clicked off the miles…one at a time.  It was amazing how fast they clicked by. Before I knew it, I was running through the little town of Veyo. The spectators were pretty sparse on the course, but when there were spectators, they were super supportive and enthusiastic. Veyo was the greatest. I high fived about twenty kids and read a bunch of great signs.  There were signs that made me laugh like “Mommy, did you pee your pants?”  and “Running a Marathon is all mental and you are all INSANE.”

I felt surprisingly relaxed. I felt good and I was really enjoying myself. At one point I looked down and saw my name. Someone had painted “Relax, Lisa, Relax! You can DO it” I knew it was for another Lisa, but I chose to believe that they were writing it for me. There was another message with the same sentiment later on in the race.  Thank you, random stranger!
st george proof courtesy of Marathonfoto
photo courtesy of MarathonFoto

Miles 7-13 —9:31, 9:13, 8:50, 9:06, 8:37, 8:33 Then we hit the infamous hill. But it was more than just the steep hill out of Veyo. Once you get to the top of the hill, you get a deceptive flat section and then it continues uphill for another three miles.  The good news was that the worst of the hills were over.

I was still clicking off the miles, one by one. I was shocked how fast things were going.  As I reached for my Gu at mile 12, I realized that one of them had fallen out of its elastic strap. Oh crap!  There goes my nutrition plan. I knew I should have stashed an extra one.  I was feeling good, so I decided not to take a Gu yet and to wait until mile 13.  I figured that I could find another gel somewhere to get me by later on, but I needed to be smart about it. At one point I was looking for full, unused gels on the ground. I saw a couple, but not until I passed them and it would have looked pretty silly to turn around to pick up a discarded gel. But I knew that I would need more nutrition. I took a chance and grabbed a banana at an aid station at mile 13. It tasted delicious and did great in my tummy!

Miles 14-18—8:55, 8:15, 8:53, 8:18, 8:48 It was starting to get pretty hot. It had been warm for most of the race, but the sun was behind the mountains or clouds for much of the first half of the race.  By mile 14 the sun was out in full force.

The heat didn’t affect me as badly as I thought it would.  One thing that helped a lot was a cute little trick that Whitney shared with me.  I took some knee socks and tied them around my neck.  At one of the early water stops (probably around mile 7) I soaked it in cold water. At every water stop I poured water on the socks. st george proof 3 courtesy of Marathonfoto They kept my neck nice and cool and I never felt overheated. It was a risk running with something I hadn’t tried before.  I figured that I could toss the $2 socks if they bugged me.

Unfortunately, it was during these long hot middle miles that my IT Band started bothering me. A LOT. I had a long way to go and I didn’t know how much worse it was going to get. I stopped at a medical tent (which were very plentiful—at nearly every water station, which were every two miles). They rubbed my knee with Icy Hot. I think I did this at mile 17.

Miles 19-22—9:46, 9:11, 8:30, 9:49  These were the toughest miles of the race. I was in serious pain. I had to stop to stretch or walk in order to get the pain on the side of my leg to ease up.

Going into mile 19, I had close to a two minute cushion on my A+ goal. I was averaging an 8:41 pace.  But mile 19 was one of my slowest miles. I hurt, it was hot. I knew my cushion was dwindling away every time I stopped. During mile 19 there was an overpass with a traffic barrier off to the side under it. It was something to lean on and it was in the shade. I didn’t check, but I may have used up a good chunk of a minute there.

My IT Band hurt as much that day as it did during the Long Beach Marathon a year earlier. Last year, it was the nail in my coffin that I couldn’t push through. This year, I was SO close to my goal. Somehow, I was able to push through. I learned, maybe for the first time, just how much of a mental challenge a marathon is. I have always wondered if I could have pushed through that pain last year, but since my goals were completely gone, I never really tried. This year, with my goal still within reach, I found the strength. This is the strongest I have ever felt in a race.

Miles 23-26.2--8:35, 8:18, 8:35, 8:37 (pace for .2 was 8:17)                           
Miraculously, somewhere around mile 23, my IT Band stopped hurting so acutely. In fact, my knee went numb. I felt nothing.  Well…I can’t say nothing. It was the last miles of a marathon in 80-degree weather. I felt all sorts of things. 

These miles had some great spectator support. The course wound through residential streets where crowds cheered me on. There were cold washcloths at mile 25 that felt fantastic. There was finally some shade and I was smiling. I knew I was going to finish within my goal. My Boston qualifying time of 3:55 was in the bag. I knew my A++ (3:48 or faster) goal was out of reach, but my A+ goal (sub 3:50) was still possible. I pushed as hard as I could.
st george finish proof courtesy of MarathonFoto
photo proof courtesy of MarathonFoto.com

I ran through the chute with a grin on my face. After crossing the finish line, I looked down and saw that I didn’t quite make that A+ goal (3:50:17).  However, I was not disappointed. I was overcome with emotion and as I covered my face as the tears came, a volunteer asked if I was ok.  I was more than ok. Then he asked if it was my first marathon.  “No, but my first time qualifying for Boston.”  I got a few congratulations from those around me.  I have never felt so proud after a race.

Official Time--


overall- 1578/5735

gender- 439/2554

women 40-44- 71/367

Thanks everyone for the positive thoughts and well wishes.

Coming soon…after the race, thoughts, and lessons learned.


Alyssa said...

Way to go, rockstar! This makes me want to run that gorgeous race even more! :) Hope you are well. Miss you!

L.B. said...

That's so awesome. I really am so happy for you. This is why you're such an inspiration to me. Seriously, when I think about just churning out mile after mile, you're one of the first who pops in my mind. The way you methodically go through miles, the way you just get past whatever obstacles are in your way, that's admirable. I long to have your strength!

Boston awaits!!

Unknown said...

That is an awesome medal!! Congrats on your race!

ash & diz said...

So awesome!! Great recap!

I wish we could have met up on that Friday!!

and the signs... so awesome. I still laugh when I think of the "Don't poop your pants" sign at Veyo. :)

Glenn Jones said...

Tremendous Lisa! Congrats on BQ!

Tricia said...

so proud of you, congrats!

Kathy said...

so awesome! I am inspired once again!

XLMIC said...

You are amazing! Way to persevere and make it happen :) And it sounds like a lovely place to run for a really long time. Might need to remember this...

Lindsay said...

You look great in the pics! Congrats on such an awesome race! A killer sub-4 and a BQ on top. And let's not forget the high altitude!

The Green Girl said...

Wow, congratulations, girl! I have chills. Way to rock a beautiful course and BQ with time to spare.

That pace bracelet is such a great idea - I'll have to check it out.

Love the ribbon on the Garmin!

Teamarcia said...

Congrats on the BQ! That is HUGE! I love the socks around the neck idea. Wish I'd done that at the very hot Chicago 2007.


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