Sunday, November 8, 2015

Race Report: Soldier Marathon 2015

This was such an amazing weekend and I'm not sure how I will ever describe it in words! I'm going to give it my best shot, though!

I had been very nervous and anxious about this 2nd attempt at Marathon Maniacs since last Saturday's 6 mile run. Around mile 4 I started feeling knee/ITB pain, and it continued off and on for the rest of the day and into Sunday. My next run was scheduled for Tuesday (4 miles) and I did that one and there was some pain from the beginning. I tried wearing my IT Band strap and it didn't change anything so I took it off in the last mile. I was supposed to run 2 miles the next day but I skipped it. I figured 3 days of rest before the race was better for me physically and emotionally. But the anxiety was something that I struggled with over the next few days. I think if I hadn't been riding and staying with Jill, I may have skipped it altogether - that's how nervous I was!

Friday morning arrived at last and I took my daughter to chemistry class, came back to pick up my bags, and ran a couple of errands before heading down to Jill's house. I was feeling much, much better. Still nervous but the anxiety part of it was gone. Jill and I started off our adventure with donuts from a great little shop that she loves! It was fantastic! I think every adventure is better when you start it with donuts! :)

We arrived at the hotel in the middle of the afternoon. It's the Hampton Inn and Suites and it shares a parking lot with the National Infantry Museum, the location of the expo and the Start/Finish line. The hotel was very nice and the staff were friendly and helpful! We checked in, put our bags up, and headed to the expo. As I do at every race now, I laid out all of my stuff before I went to the expo to make sure I had everything I needed. And I did! Please remember this statement as it will become important later on! :D

We picked up our packets - race bibs, very nice clear plastic sling bags, and a tech shirt. The shirt was very small but I was able to exchange it for a bigger size! The museum was open and I have heard it was nice. I took a couple of pictures and decided that it was a destination for my husband, son, and hopefully myself one day - they will LOVE it!

The Avenue of the Flags - my finish line will be there tomorrow! (and start line)

National Infantry Museum - beautiful!

The entrance!

One look and I knew my hubby needed to see this place!

Got my bib! 
The expo was small but a local running store had a nice sized shop set up and I was able to find a pair of the shoes Riley likes and a pair of shoes I like for almost 50% off! We stopped off at the hotel room again and that's when I realized that I had brought the holders for my hydration belt - but no water bottles. Much to my surprise, I did not panic. I just set about trying to figure out what to do. Jill had a small water bottle with her that I could use and it fit into my holder just fine, so that was my initial plan.

We took a drive around to check out as much of the race route as we could. The first part of the course is on Fort Benning (which we obviously couldn't access) and most of the rest of the course runs on the Riverwalk  - a paved trail that follows the riverfront. But we drove into the downtown area and saw as much of that we could! It was nice to get a feel for where we would be running and I really appreciated that the next day!

Pre-race dinner always means pizza and Jill suggested Mellow Mushroom! It had been so long since I've been there and it was yummy!
Yep, we ate it all - plus Cinnamon/Honey pretzels for dessert! They don't call it carb-loading for nothing! 
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Publix so I could pick up some more of the little water bottles. I really needed to have two - one for UCAN and one for Nuun. Back at the hotel, I saw posts from two of the ladies from my MRTT group offering up the very bottles that I needed for my belt. They had brought them with them but weren't going to use them! But I didn't get a response back from either of them either that night or the next morning before we left the room. So I went ahead and prepared the small water bottles that I had purchased at the store and refilled with my fuel. Remember that, it will be important later! :)

Jill and I were both ready for the race and in bed by around 8:15! We are real party animals, huh? I just hadn't gotten ANY sleep all week and I was so nervous. I fell right to sleep and woke up at 12:15 thinking I was up for the day, but I actually went back to sleep until 4:15. My alarm was set for 5, so I consider that a great night of sleep for a race night!

We got ready by 6 to go down to the hotel-provided breakfast which was fantastic! They had my oatmeal but I had already brought/eaten half a bagel since I hadn't realized they would have such an extensive breakfast open in time for the race! Went back up to eat and make use of the real bathroom we had access to! Nothing better than a real toilet before the race! As we left to go to the start, we ran into some friends, including one of the MRTT friends who had volunteered her bottles! She got my attention and asked if I wanted them! YES!! She went back into the room to get them and I filled them up and dumped the other bottles. I was SO happy - the other bottles were really not stable when you put the in and out of holders. It would have been a pain. My day was already getting better!

And then I stepped outside. And into weather that felt more like a Georgia August than November. I was so glad I had thrown my one remaining Sparkle Skirt into my bag at the last minute. I hadn't worn it for a long run since the Hotlanta Half Marathon and I had no idea if I was going to chafe miserably in the longer weather, but I was afraid that wearing the capris I had planned on wearing would be dangerous. My friend Tracy had some issues a few years ago with heat and racing and she told me that the legs being covered is actually more important than the arms, torso, etc. I decided that the risk of chafing was better than the risk of passing out. That was a smart move because the weather proved to be unbelievable!

Speaking of the race, I should get on to the actual race in this Race Report! LOL There was a 15 minute delay in the start due to parking issues. That made me really mad. We were trying to beat storms that were forecast to start around noon. 15 minutes could make the difference in finishing and in the race being cancelled. Why punish the rest of us when we got there early as you should always plan to do for a race?! It was chip timed so they could just start when they got there and the directors could leave the finish line open an additional 15 minutes to accommodate them! Anyway, I was aggravated - but probably that was a result of my building nerves!

The view of the start from my friend, Susan! We came towards the camera for the start and finished going the opposite direction! It was fantastic!
A cannon sounded the start of the race and we took off. I had decided to do 3/1 intervals rather than 4/1 that we had done for most of MCM. But my only goal was to finish - and my secondary goal was to finish feeling positive and having an enjoyable experience - so I knew that the 3/1 interval was merely a starting point!

This course is mostly flat, with the exception of one massive hill in the 2nd-3rd mile, and it was infinitely less crowded than MCM. So our pace was excellent! We had decided to run that massive hill because there would be drill instructors on the hill "encouraging" us up it as if we were soldiers! They were fantastic! I loved it! We had a great pace going and my legs were feeling pretty good! I had twinges come up in either knee, but it wasn't ever anything that made me feel really badly. The only problem was the humidity and heat. I was fading fast. I simply hadn't trained or raced in those conditions this year. I mean, I did some training runs that were in the low to mid 70s for temps but that was back in July and August. My two "hot" races ended up being cool wash-outs. My body was just not ready for these conditions!

The biggest indicator that things weren't "right" was my heart rate. Thanks to my heart rate training in the summer, I had gotten used to judging my heart rate zone. I wasn't wearing the monitor for the race, but I could tell that my HR was not coming down during the 1 minute walk break. That was concerning, especially because we were not even half way done and the temps were still going up! We decided to switch the intervals for a bit around mile 10. We did a few sets of running 1 minute and walking 3 and that worked great! My HR came back down nicely! We decided to do this switch-up again at mile 15 and mile 20. We started running again and my knees protested more than they had before. But it wasn't ever a 'giving out' feeling so I didn't worry about it too much. What I did worry about was my HR. After a few more of the 3/1 intervals, it started not coming back down again, so we decided to do some more flip-flopped intervals after the halfway point. I texted my mom just to let her know that we would be slowing down - at the halfway mat, we were right around 2:26 (a few seconds faster than our MCM pace, which was with more running! Incredible!). But I knew I could not keep this pace up safely. I didn't want her to be worried.

After trying a few 2/3 intervals, we decided to settle in with the 1/3 and no worry about it. Our walk pace was nice and brisk and our run pace was very strong, even until the end (our last 3 runs were 8:30, 8:31, and 8:27!) but the weather just made it harder and harder to run. I was soaking wet as if it had actually been raining! I even developed 2 blisters on my left foot, but not on the bottom of my foot so they didn't bother me when I was running or walking. At one point I stopped to put some glide on them to avoid a bigger problem and I took a couple of pictures of the beautiful downtown Columbus Riverwalk!

Such a lovely area! 

The view across the river into Alabama! We crossed the river and ran into AL briefly!
Once we crossed the bridge back into Alabama, we started heading back towards the finish line! I joked that I would like to jump into the river and just float/swim my way back! LOL There are triathlons in Columbus, so now that I'm familiar with the area, I'll have to see where they get into the water!

It was nice to know that we were heading back! There weren't very many full marathoners so there were times where it appeared that we were the only ones out on the course! I was so glad to have Jill there with me! It would have been very, very lonely without her!

One thing I need to note here is the friendliness of all of the volunteers! The soldiers and civilians both - and really every single person who was out on the course - cheered us on personally! They were encouraging and helpful and made the conditions much better (if that's possible LOL).

Once we hit mile 24, I was confident that we were going to make it. And I felt myself starting to get choked up. I didn't want to be crying as I crossed the finish line so I kept pushing it back! I am not pretty when I cry! We had decided that coming in under 5:30 was probably doable, which is amazing to me considering how much walking we had been doing! So that pushed us to keep up with the run interval even when we didn't want to, and to keep our walk pace brisk when we really didn't want to! But let me tell you, that one minute of running started turning into the LONGEST. MINUTE. EVER. Literally. Ever. In the history of time.

We made the turn onto the Avenue of the Flags and started to run! My friend, Anna, who had rocked the Half Marathon was waiting at the finish and took this fantastic picture of me and Jill heading to that finish line!

I'm sort of in love with my form! 
BTW, Jill and I did not plan to be wearing coordinating skirts/shorts! It just sort of happened!

We crossed that fantastic finish line with a time of 5:27:07! Less than 30 minutes slower than MCM - and my 2nd fastest marathon ever!

Soldier Marathon Finisher! Love the medal!
Once I realized that I had done it, I burst into tears! I hugged Jill and sobbed on her shoulder - I was so grateful to her for all of her encouragement not just the last few weeks but in these last 4 years. When I was saying that I couldn't do another marathon, or I couldn't achieve Marathon Maniac status, she would encourage me that I could! And she stayed with me for all 52.4 miles of this journey! She also had a sign for me and my first piece of Maniac Gear!

I finally did it!!! 
It's been a long 4 years since my first attempt, but I can finally say that I am Marathon Maniac #11915, and Double Agent #1880!

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