Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon {Race Recap}

You are strong, you are ready, you are going to do this. Trust your training.

Over the 26.2 miles of the marathon, I repeated this to myself over and over again. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget it. I needed my head to be in the game. I needed to focus on the race and not be distracted by negativity or doubt.

I’m going to pause here and preemptively apologize for the length of this post and hello unflattering pictures. Obviously I have not learned how to be photogenic during races. Maybe the professional pictures will be awesome. Anyway, I honestly still feel like I may have dreamed it all and the race is still to come.

Pre-Race

I woke up before dawn after a restless night of sleep. I quickly grabbed my pre-race food and went to the breakfast area of the hotel. I sat listening to the wind outside and watching the sunrise as I ate three pieces of almond butter and jam toast. I returned to the room, did my usual routine and after checking the hourly weather forecast, decided capris, a tank top, long sleeved hooded shirt and my wind breaker with an ear warmer and gloves would be a good idea. Once dressed I met Amy and her husband for a ride to the buses.

LWTM bus

I was strangely calm as we boarded the bus and even as we made our way into the high school where we stayed warm before the race started. It was great, bathrooms, music, water and coffee. We were able to easily find our friend Megan for a quick picture before we were all lead outside for the start.

Pre-Race LWTM

My game plan was to stick with the 3:30 pacer until the half way point. I had Josh’s voice in my head telling me that I could easily run an 8 min/mile pace. After the half point, I would assess how I was feeling and decide how to proceed. I easily found my pacer Don and told him I was going to do my best to stick with him. I didn’t realize that it was a gun start, not a chip start until he told me. We were outside maybe two minutes before the bell sounded and we were off. I made sure I got across that starting line quick.

The Race

We had a few little curves before we actually made it onto the trail. It was a cold first mile with a nasty headwind and temperatures in the 30s. I was glad I opted for my capris rather than shorts and compression socks. Once we were on the trail, the wind became a more of a side wind and we had a little bit of insulation from the trees after a long open patch. The first 5k flew by and I was just so thankful that I wasn’t having to do any weaving or worry about working tangents.

I chatted a little bit with the Don (pacer) and a few of the people around me. I was surprised and a little leary about my ability to maintain the pep in my step. I tried to just enjoy the moment. I looked around at the scenery and read every single motivational sign put along the trail by the race volunteers. It was a really nice touch.

I took my first gel a little early, just after the 10k mark. I had finished breakfast at about 4:45 am, so I was starting to get hungry. Though I was extremely careful about I ate all week, I was fearful of GDF (gel digestive failure), but the gel went down just fine. Our pace group started getting smaller. Some people sped up and other dropped back.  I was feeling amazing. The weather, though windy at times, was actually pretty ideal. It was a beautiful sunny morning and cold but not so much so that I was shivering.

The next several miles are a little bit of a blur. I knew the only real ‘hill’ was coming up and that some time after the turn I should see my family. As we curved around with the trail, I looked forward to that turn and didn’t even notice the hill. Around mile 11, I decided it was time to lose my jacket. I had thought ahead and put my arm band with my phone under it so I only fumbled slightly as I tried to pull it off and tie it around my waist without dropping it or tripping myself.

After the turn I knew it was pretty much a straight shot to the finish line. I took my second gel around mile 12.5. We cruised past the half way point at 1:45 on the dot. I had just set a new half marathon personal record by a minute and a half. Woohoo! More exciting to me at that point was that I was still with the 3:30 pacer and continuing to feel good except for some grumbling in my stomach. Up until that point, I had seen one porta-potty. With the stomach threatening to act up, I started looking around for a place to peel off the trail into the trees. I starting thinking, oh shit, I may have to actually relieve myself just off the trail where lots of runners will likely catch a glimpse. I drank some more water and kept moving trying to think of anything else.

Josh called just as we closed in on the 15th mile. Knowing that it was going to be very cold for spectators, I told Josh not to worry about trying to see me prior to the half way point. I figured he must be close. He just missed me at mile 16 but I saw some friends which was exciting! It always so much fun being able to see people you know on the sides.

At this point, it was myself, Don and one other runner. Don said that if we were feeling good around mile 23-24, to speed up and leave him behind. If not, that was ok, but he wanted us to finish with him. He did not want to cross that finish line alone. I assured him I was going to do my best. He was very positive and kept telling me how strong I was looking as we chatted a bit. Right around then, a runner I had met during my last 22 mile training run, cruised up to say hi. Only at a small race like this would we have bumped into each other.

I took my third gel at mile 18. I was starting to get tired mentally but physically I was feeling strong, really strong. I knew the wall could be coming but was hoping it would be just a tiny fairy-sized (as Ella would say) wall that I would easily overcome. After all, I was strong, I was ready and I could do it. I was doing it. I saw friends again who snapped this picture. That’s my friend Megan’s brother to my left.

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Our group was down to just Don and me by mile 19. I guess it was up to me to not let him finish alone. I saw Josh and the kids at mile 20. I screamed out to them in excitement and tossed them my ear band. Don yelled to the kids, “Mommy is going to Boston!”

Jess Mile 20 LWTM

It was then that it hit me. Unless something went drastically wrong, I was going to qualify for Boston. I started calculating in my head what my time would be if I slowed to a 10 min/mile. I knew that wouldn’t happen but it’s a lot easier to do that when running that to calculate an 8:30 or 9 min/mile over 6.2 more miles.

The next two miles started to feel a little more difficult. I decided to take a fourth gel between 22 and 23. I fell back behind Don a bit but no more than a few seconds. He kept looking back for me and I’d yell I was still there. Mile 24 was my fastest mile as I tried to get back on track with Don at 7:43. With us side by side again, he told me that he wanted me to finish before him. Jokingly he said then I’d be able to say that I beat the 2011 winner.

We ran past mile 25 and slowly, a red dot appeared before us. He asked me if I saw it and said, that is Boston. Right there. I warned him that I was going to hug him at the finish line. We inched closer and closer to the finish line. He said I had lied, the first half marathon wasn’t my new PR, this half was because we were going to negative split the race. Right as I got to the last trail crossing I heard Josh cheering, Don said go, go and I did my best to sprint through the finish line.

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As I passed under the big red arch, I saw 3:29:2X on the clock. What?!

Official time: 3:29:28      Average Pace: 7:59 min/mile

Post Race

I turned around and hugged Don, thanking him for keeping me going. Keeping me steady and helping me get my first Boston qualifying time and huge new personal record. I picked up my medal and t-shirt then went towards Josh and the kids.

Ella ran up and hugged me saying she was proud of me, which of course made me start to cry. As soon as Josh hugged me I started blubbering a bit. I was in shock. I had just run, like actually ran every single step of 26.2 miles. I negative split the marathon by 32 seconds (not huge, but a negative split) and qualified for Boston with a 5+ minute cushion.

Family at the finish line LWTM

I knew Amy would be coming through the shoot soon so I hurried, well as fast as I could, back to the sidelines to cheer her in. A few minutes later I saw our friend Dawn cross and qualify for Boston. I cheered her in and then waited anxiously for Amy. When we saw her we all yelled and cheered. She came through, hands in the air, celebrating her first BQ.

 

BRF Finish Line LWTM

We celebrated a little bit before we parted ways for showers and cleaning up. A little while later I heard that my friend Megan PR’d by 25 minutes too! It was a banner day for all of us. Josh, the kids and I grabbed some lunch before heading home because I needed something other than gluten-free bread, almond butter, jam and bananas which was basically all I ate last week.

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Of course I was pretty excited to check out my Garmin stats. Thanks to my awesome pacer, I ran pretty evenly throughout the race. Only six of the 26.2 miles were at an 8:00+ min/mile pace. The slowest of which was 8:03. My fastest miles were miles 24 and 26. I guess those fast finish long runs really helped.  The first half was done in 1:45:00 and our second half was done in 1:44:28. I was 70th out of 326 finishers, 5th of 25 women in the 30-34 age group and 13th of 114 female finishers.

This was a wonderful race. I wasn’t sure if I would like such a small race, but I loved it. It made me want to find other small races to do. The volunteers were amazing, even bringing candy, pretzels and homemade treats to the water stops. The trail was beautiful and flat. This course is meant for personal bests. Everything came together for me, the weather, the course, my training and fueling. I did it and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to duplicate it again.

When we got home, I booked a hotel room stat for April 17, 2017. OMG, I’m going to Boston!

 

Lake Wobegon Marathon Training {Week 12}

Spring is in full bloom here. This weekend I had the pleasure of running in sunny, 60+ degree weather. While I immediately regretted opting for capris rather than shorts, it was such a beautiful morning that I could deal with being a bit on the hot side. It was the complete opposite of the freezing cold weather we had the prior weekend.

Once again, I was able to finish faster than I started and negative split the second half of my run. Being able to achieve that makes me feel good about how training has gone. With only one more long run to go before taper, I’m hopeful the momentum I’ve built carries me right through to the end and into race day.

Being that it’s Marathon Monday, I can’t help but dream that I will be crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon next year. A girl can dream…and work really hard to become a faster, stronger runner.

Monday – 3.75 mile indoor cycle + 2 mile walk + strength
Tuesday – 6 mile tempo @7:53 min/mile avg.
Wednesday – Orangetheory
Thursday – Rest
Friday – 6×800 @ 6:58 min/mile (6.25 miles @ 7:44 min/mile avg.)
Saturday – 18.03 miles
Sunday – Rest

Bank of America Chicago Marathon {Race Recap}

This is quite possibly my most delayed race recap ever. I’ve been working on it off and on for two weeks now, but just haven’t had it together enough to complete it. Here we go.

When I woke up I felt okay, not good, but well enough that I was going to run the race. Not that I was ever really considering not running, but if I’d felt slightly worse, I may have reconsidered my pace a bit more. Julie and I ate some almond butter and jam bread and chatted as we got ready. Worrying that my antibiotics would give me the runs, I opted to wait to take them until after the race. I did take some Advil to help my throbbing head and achy joints. My corral was set to close at 7:20 am. Not knowing what was involved in getting to the start line, I left the hotel a little after six and walked with hoards of people towards the park.

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As it turns out, I had plenty of time. I went through the security line, walked right over to my corral and didn’t even have to wait for a porta-potty. About 10 minutes before the corral was set to close, I took off my warm-up clothes (which I didn’t really even need since it was nearly 60 degrees), and settled in a spot by the 3:40 pacers. I talked to a few people next to me before the national anthem was sung and we were slowly being led to our start.

First 5k (25:38 – 8:15 min/mile)

Amazingly, the race start moved quickly. Must have been because all the super fast runners ahead of me and the efficiency of corral organization. Almost immediately after crossing the line, we went through a tunnel before making a few quick turns. Josh called me at about mile 2.5 and told me to look for him at mile four. I made my way to the outside of the crowd so that he would actually be able to see me as I ran by. There were so many runners and so many spectators. I couldn’t believe how many people were out so early. The runners were taking up at least four lanes of road from one side to the other. I ran the first 5k a little faster than expected.

10k (51:45 – 8:25 min/mile) – 15k (1:17:42 – 8:22 min/mile)

I was super excited to actually be able to spot Josh and our friend Jason just past the fourth mile. I settled into a nice even pace with our pacer and tried my best not to do any weaving. As we ran by the Lincoln Park Zoo we past the 10k mark. This is one of the few landmarks I actually remember running by. In the sea of people I found myself doing more people watching than scenery viewing. This was when I saw one of my favorite spectators – a woman wearing a flesh colored body suit, purple wig and holding a sign that said “Rub my belly for luck.” It took me a minute to realize that she was supposed to be a troll. I took my first gel a bit early, but wanted to take it before I got too tired.

At this point in the race I was feeling pretty good. I was easily keeping pace with the group, but not feeling good enough to push any harder. It was definitely smart for me to scale back my expectations. This was also when I started feeling warm. I bought some cooling sleeves to wear during the race since I knew it was going to be warm. They weren’t doing much for me. I was grabbing water at each water stop trying to keep myself hydrated. This was easier said than done thanks to being sick, the antibiotics and me sweating pretty profusely. Josh called me again right around the 15k mark to tell me they were now at mile 11.

20k (1:43:47 – 8:21 min/mile) – 25k (02:09:32 – 8:20 min/mile)

Unfortunately I was on the opposite side of the road then they were, so I made my way over to the far left side so that I could see them. This started to add a bit of additional mileage. It was worth it to see my family. Plus, with so many people, it was pretty damn hard to try to follow the nice blue line (showed the tangents) to the finish line. I excitedly waved at the boys as I ran by.

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Maybe it was because I wasn’t feeling great or it was warm, but the race was feeling long by the time I passed the 20k timing mat. Though I was taking water at every stop and drinking my own when I took my second gel, my lips and throat felt dry. I tried not to focus on that and look forward to hitting the half way point (1:49:20 – 8:22 min/mile). Being with the pace group was really helping me maintain a fairly even pace. My goal was to try not to run huge positive splits in the last half. I could tell that how my body was aching and my chest was starting to hurt that I was going to slow down at some point.

I was looking forward to the 25k mark because I knew that my entire family would be somewhere between there and mile 17. I was definitely getting hot .I took of my cooling sleeves because they weren’t doing anything for me. While we ran through patches of shade, being in concrete city, even with the gusty wind, I was starting to overheat. Luckily they were handing out soaking wet sponges. They were amazing! I ran past the 25k time mat for my last negative 5k split during the race. Josh called then to say the family was just past the 17th mile. I was so excited but my chest was starting to burn a little bit.

I ran by my whole family which was so exciting. I was trying to stay strong as I ran by. I knew I needed let go of the pace group. I decided to hang on until mile 18.

30k (02:35:38 – 8:24 min/mile) – 35k (03:02:30 – 8:39 min/mile)

Right after I saw my family I took my third gel. I was happy that my stomach wasn’t giving me any problems whatsoever. When we crossed the 30k mark, I decided to let go of the pace group. For a few miles I could see them just ahead of me. I calculated that even if I slowed to a 10 min/mile pace, I should still come in under 3:50. I was really starting to feel crappy. My legs felt great, but my throat was killing me, my head starting to throb and the burning in my chest getting a little worse. I didn’t feel like I was hitting the wall, just sick.

The crowd support was getting pretty sparse and shade was hard to come by. I was getting so hot. At mile 20 Josh called me to give me some support. I think he knew that I was starting to feel bad. He said they were making their way to mile 25 and would be waiting to cheer me on through the last of it. It did help pep me up a bit but I started walking through the water stops to help the burning in my chest subside. It was getting pretty bad and even walking for a few minutes and drinking water helped temporarily. I took a fourth gel around mile 22. I was glad that I had packed the ‘just-in-case’ gel because I definitely needed it.

40k (03:30:39 – 9:04 min/mile) – Finish 

I was tired, I was ready to be done. I scanned the crowds trying to see my family but it was packed. I ran right past them just after the mile 25 sign. This is when they started having signs saying 800m, 400m, etc. It kind of annoyed me because I was just thinking, ugh another half mile. I knew that of course but the signs in meters makes it seem so much closer. I had been told about the hill just before the 26th mile. I laughed it off because it was tiny. Um, it felt huge. I actually stopped, drank the last of my water, then continued. Right at the top of the tiny hill you turn and there is the finish line. I tried to sprint a bit towards it but felt like I was moving like molasses. I gave it all I had, put my arms in the air and ran through the finish line.

I was done and so happy about that. I looked at my watch and realized I had set a new personal record. It wasn’t the BQ I’ve been lusting after, but almost a full five minutes faster than Fargo.

Official time: 3:42:43 (8:30 min/mile average)

I was so excited! I called Josh to tell him I was done and very slowly making my way to the family meet up area. Almost as soon as I crossed the finish line, texts and Facebook messages started flooding my phone. I got choked up at the amount of love and support I was receiving. I’m incredibly lucky.

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It was at least a half mile to get to the family meetup. I picked up my medal, some snack bags, took a finishers picture and waddled along with thousands of other people. When I finally found then I got tons of hugs.

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And my lobster, who is my biggest cheerleader, had only the sweetest words for me as he greeted me and we wished each other a happy seventh anniversary.

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Afterwards, we walked to Shake Shack for a burger and milkshake. I hadn’t had dairy, onions or regular bread with wheat in it for weeks. Both were amazing. My family dropped me off at Julie’s hotel where I spent the afternoon lounging and talking with Julie about the race before we went to dinner. How awesome is it that she decided to run the marathon in part to celebrate her 50th birthday?! We’ve been texting back and forth about another race we can meet at.

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We had a lovely dinner with my family plus our Colorado friends Jason and Jennell. By the way, Jennell was even more under the weather than me after having the stomach flu. She still did awesome and is way tougher than me. I would have called it.

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I’m proud of my performance considering I was sick and it was way warmer than I would have liked. I’ve had a couple of what-if moments. What if I hadn’t been sick? What if it was cooler? etc, etc. Every race I’m getting one step closer to getting my first BQ. I still can’t believe I’ve cut my time from 5+ hours to a substantial sub-4 hour marathon.