Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Race Report: 26.2 with Donna

Here I am! I bet you thought I was never going to blog again. Or maybe you just hoped so? Well, either way... I'm BAAACK! Why now? Two reasons: the first is that this year I have been chosen to be ambassador for two of my favorite brands: Nuun and Skirt Sports (more on that another day!) And the second reason is why I'm writing today - to write a Race Report about Marathon Number 5!! 

This past weekend I drove down to Jacksonville, Florida to 2 of my dear friends to meet up with 20+ of my friends from Running of the Ears to participate in one of the best marathon weekends around - the 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer! I have been hearing about this race weekend for the last few years. My running friends simply RAVE about it. Since this year was the 10th anniversary, and since it would be my 5th full marathon, I decided to go for it! 

Friday Night Pizza Party with the ROTE gang!


I registered way back last summer and was planning for this to be the marathon where I would finally GO for it. I would push hard and I was hoping to finish between 30 seconds to a minute per mile faster than my MCM 2015 time. I wanted so badly to set a PR since this would be the first time I was going to be training for only one marathon. The last two times I did marathon training, I was trying to become a Marathon Maniac and I would have to complete two marathons in short succession. But this time was going to be different and I was so excited. 

But as we all know, the best-laid plans...

Last August while I was training for Ragnar Trail Carolinas, I took several hard falls and many small tweaks in my left ankle. I didn't think much of it, and right after the relay, I jumped head-long into marathon training - incorporating hills and speed right off the bat. I would notice that my ankle flexibility was diminishing and I would have some pain for awhile after my workouts. But it wasn't too much to handle. And since I wasn't feeling anything during my runs, I didn't worry about it too much. In early December rolled around and we experienced our first cold snap. I noticed that I would feel something in my ankle at the beginning of my runs, too, but it would go away a couple of miles in. Again, I didn't worry too much. But then there was a run in sub freezing weather and I felt my ankle the entire time - so I cut it early and made an appointment with the doctor. 

Luckily for me, the doctor was able to see me right away and he had good news fore me: I had not torn or strained a ligament or tendon! The problem was with my tight hamstrings and calves - they had tightened up during the big falls to protect the ankle joint and since I didn't rest them so they could release, they just continued to tighten. As the muscle warmed up, it would loosen up which is why it didn't hurt while I was running - but then post-run they would tighten again and it would hurt again. He gave me foam rolling, balancing, and exercises designed to rehab the weak ankle and relax the muscles. And I didn't have to stop running but just needed to cut back on my intensity and shorten my intervals. I was only able to get up to 14 miles twice in training but my recovery was doing very well leading up to the marathon. I felt about 97% recovered by the time I left for race weekend and figured I'd be able to complete the race. :)

I was in for a big surprise! 

My marathon buddy, Jill, and I were the only ones in our group who were doing the full so we planned to stick together. I had set up my watch for 1/2 intervals and planned to start with 1 run/2 walk until the halfway point and then if I felt good, I'd flip it around and do a 2 run/1 walk which is what I did during most of my training after I'd seen the doctor. It was a good plan!

Jen and Jill looking Pretty in Pink!
The weather forecast called for highs in the mid to upper 70s and bright sunshine, but on race morning we were greeted with overcast skies. This was something to be taken advantage of, no doubt! We started off with the 1/2 and about 2 miles in, my ankle hadn't given me ANY grief at all. Not even a little twinge - and the clouds were hanging in there - so we decided to push it a bit and run through two intervals (3 minutes) and then walk the next interval (which would alternate between 1 or 2 minutes). This felt great and we were able to keep that up for the entire first half - crossing the 13.1 mat with a time of 2:28! I was feeling strong and enjoying the most incredible crowd support of any race I have EVER participated in! 

And then - the sun came out. 

It wasn't even a gradual thing... it was like BAM! Here is the Florida sun right in your face! The temps soared, the sun was relentless and there was no more shade, and everything went south in a hurry. My ankle was twinging towards the end of the intervals and we decided to cut them back down, and then my feet started to really, really hurt. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before! We pushed through for the next few miles and then around mile 18 we had to stop running and start walking. And that's how we finished the race. It was hot and bright and miserable - still we kept a decent walking pace the entire time. But my gosh my feet HURT. I have never experienced anything like that before. I wasn't sure if it's because I've been wearing Hokas at work and my feet became used to the cushioning, or it it was just a result of being severely undertrained, or if it was just the crazy heat. But my feet were killing me. The good news, though, is that my IT Band/knees that have always bothered me in previous marathons didn't bother me one bit! My feet more than made up for it! LOL

I was so surprised at how the spectators will still everywhere even in the waning hours of the race! People in neighborhoods were cheering and thanking us for participating! Jeff Galloway and his wife passed us and said, "You're getting it done!" I said, as he passed, "Hey! That's -" and before I got the words out, he gave us a wave as he and his wife continued on! Their finish time was less than 20 minutes before ours! :) Our next brush with fame came when "THE Donna" and her husband passed us right before the bridge! They were being interviewed by the local news guy who was running alongside them - all the while, we were walking behind them! Their finish time was than 3 minutes before ours! 

There was only one situation that caused my ankle to give me grief and that was when the camber of the road was steep - like on the ramp up to the bridge and then several places on the bridge itself. And that was towards the very end of the race so it was especially hard. But as soon as the road evened out, then my ankle was fine! Yep, even at the end of 26.2 miles! And once I crossed the finish line and had a minute to relax, then my feet also stopped hurting so badly. Our finish time was 5:52:38! I was thrilled! Two months ago, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to finish at all. Even a month ago, I was considering dropping down to the half. The fact that I finished, and that my ankle wasn't severely messed up, and that I managed a smile at the finish? That was just icing on the cake! 

Marathon Finisher for the 5th time!!
I'm now 48 hours post-marathon and I'm getting around marvelously! Foam rolling still makes me want to cry, but it's getting better! I went to the grocery store this afternoon and walked across the parking lot and around the store with ease! Isn't that the most wonderful thing?!

Now, despite the fact that I'm feeling really well, I'm still planning to take a week or more off from all exercise (except the PT exercises for my ankle which I will resume just as soon as my hamstrings feel back to normal). I think my body and mind could really use a little bit of a break. I haven't taken much time off (except for a week after my doctor's appointment in December) in the last 12 months. And late 2017 is going to be a big one for me as I prepare for the Dopey Challenge in January 2018! So now is the time to rest and reset for my next big adventures!