This past Sunday, I completed my third marathon at the Clearwater Running & Fitness Festival. Not only that, but it was my second one in just over four months. And even though I knew I had prepared and was capable of running another sub-4, I wasn't sure I'd have it in me to push through all 26.2 miles by myself. I had nobody to pace me, like I did at Steamtown. But in the end, I was able to pull off a PR by 1 minute, 49 seconds (and FYI, I had to use a time calculator to figure that out). Here are my stats:
Race: Clearwater Marathon (Clearwater, FL)
Date: January 19, 2014
Gun Time: 3:53:54
Chip Time: 3:53:34
Average Pace: 8:56
Overall Place: 79/472
Age Group Place: 6/32
My biggest conundrum prior to this race was how to dress for it. I knew it would start out in the upper 40s but would end up, for me, possibly in the low 60s with full-on sun. That's a significant difference for racing-wear. So after shopping around all day Saturday, Tim and I both decided not to wear a throw-away layer beforehand and instead to go with arm sleeves, a tank top, shorts, and gloves (these were cheap and disposable). I also wore a lightweight headband to cover my ears, but once I was warm enough, I took it off and wrapped it around my wrist.
Tim and I both had family coming to watch us finish the race, which I think is such an extraordinary thing to do. The entire process of training for and racing a marathon is a rather selfish endeavor. For months, our lives revolve around training. What we eat, drink, do (or don't do) for entertainment, how late we can stay out, where we can travel and when--all of these things are dictated by a training schedule. On the one hand, I admire such singular dedication to a goal (if I do say so myself), but if I consider it from an outsider's perspective, it does seem a bit obnoxious. So the fact that family would still come out to support us anyway is completely endearing.
On race morning, we got to the site with plenty of time to get our race chips, check out the porta-potties, and run around a bit to warm up. Because this is a small race (yay!), everyone racing each distance was in the same corral--5k, 5-mile, half marathon, and marathon. I was a little concerned about being about to break away from the crowd, but it wasn't a problem--once we actually started. My very least favorite part of a race is standing in the corral, unable to move, and waiting to start. I was very cold and my toes started to go numb. I just wanted to start already.
|Before heading to the corral, still in our warm and cozy jackets.|
Finally, once we were off, I was relieved, but still needed to get the feeling back in my toes. I was very grateful for my gloves! I wanted to keep my pace around 8:50 for as much of the race as possible, and I mostly did that, except for a couple of faster exceptions when I was running down the bridges (and then later some slower miles...). Luckily the first two bridges came within the first four or five miles. The third and final bridge was not too far after the halfway point. Up until about mile 10, I was feeling good and like I could maintain my goal pace without struggling. And then it started to feel harder. And then I was wondering what the hell I I'd been so excited about in the days leading up to the marathon--this was tough, not fun. My pace was creeping up and it got over a 9-minute mile a couple times, so I knew I'd need to start working harder.
Almost from the beginning, once the crowd thinned out, another runner fell into pace with me. Since we were the only two running in the immediate vicinity, I suppose he felt it necessary to strike up a conversation. But I don't do small talk during races. So even though he was very friendly, I replied with one-word answers, hoping to discourage further conversation. I think he might have been offended, as he put his earphones back in and ran ahead of me (which made me wonder, why wasn't he running faster in the first place?). We played leap frog a bit throughout the rest of the race, but in the end, I got him by a few minutes. Not that it matters, of course. And I did see him after the race and apologized for being curt. We bumped fists.
But back to my race. Once we got on the Pinellas Trail, I felt a bit more at ease. Perhaps because there was some shade, or perhaps because it ceased to feel like a race--which wasn't necessarily good for my pace. It almost felt like a really hard training run at that point. But occasionally I'd see another racer and think about passing him or her. A couple times I did. But a couple times I was passed. Then came the overpasses. These are bridges--let's not sugar-coat them with gentler language. I thought my bridges were over with, but nope. Three overpasses on the trail. They hurt. I pushed hard going up and rode them hard coming down. And that exhausted me. I probably should have been more even with my efforts, but I just wanted to get to the finish as soon as I could.
Then I started to doubt that I'd PR and thought, maybe this will just be a race I'll remember because my family came. It will still be a great memory. Perhaps I'll just run, one foot in front of the other, until I make it across the finish. I was hurting. My feet hurt, my butt hurt, I wanted to stop, but I knew that if I did, it would be twice as hard to start again. So I never even stopped at the water stops. I have learned--through trial and lots of error--how to take water without stopping. I grab the paper cup from a volunteer, squeeze the cup to make a corner and funnel it into my mouth, hold the water in my mouth as I keep running, and then swallow it a little at a time as I continue running, while breathing through my nose. (Although one time I tossed it up my nose on accident and hacked my way down the trail, so the method has yet to be perfected.)
Toward the end of the trail portion, I was making some gains on other racers, which boosted my confidence. I began to want to push more, and my pace came down a bit. After exiting the trail, only about four or so miles remained, and then I'd be home free. I kept visualizing my family at the end and thinking, just get to them, just get to them. I passed a couple more runners, and the course became a little unclear. There were police officers at the turn points, but one wasn't paying attention when I was by myself, and I just hoped I'd made the right turn. Luckily I did, and soon I was running my last mile, curving around the driveway of some parking garage in a downward spiral, and I knew the finishing chute was just after that. I saw a crowd (finally) and could make out the finish sign.
Then Tim, who'd already finished his race, came out from the sideline to run me in. He had more energy than I did at that point and took off ahead of me, not realizing I wasn't quite there with him. I was pushing as hard as I could, now next to him, and then some jerk in the crowd yelled to his friend in front of me, "Don't let her beat you!" So I picked it up as much as I possibly could, but then that guy gunned it (apparently he'd been holding back) and got out of reach. Then I heard my mom yell my name and saw my sister Anna and niece Evie to my right, and I tried to wave Evie in to run across the finish with me, but I was also so close to my time goal that I didn't want to slow down (at this point I was about 20 ft. from crossing), so she ran behind me. I glanced briefly at the clock and was pretty sure I came in under 3:54, and my goal was to beat 3:55. I was very, very happy. But I also really, really had to go to the bathroom. Since about mile 8.
So rather than turning back to greet my family, I asked Tim, "Where's the bathroom?" a couple of times, and the only porta-potties I could spot looked about a half mile away, but I couldn't wait. I told Tim to tell my family I'd be right back. I walked right in front of the awards ceremony in progress, as it was the quickest route.
After taking care of that, I could finally greet my family and Tim's parents! My parents came in from Orlando, and Anna got the whole gang out to spectate, including my newest niece, Eleanora. Tim's parents made the drive over from Lutz.
|Hey, that's for me!|
|Anna and Evie.|
|My #1 fan and future running partner.|
|I'll take this baby as my race price, please.|
|Recapping with Dad.|
|Official time from coolrunning.com.|
|My splits. Not as consistent as I'd have liked, but I got the job done.|
The next day, I was feeling pretty good. Not nearly as sore as I'd been after Steamtown. And I got to wear my new earrings:
|A race gift from my sis! (therunhome.com)|
Update - 1/23/2014
Race pictures are now up, and I just had to post a picture that shows Evie running behind me at the finish. It's heartbreakingly cute!
|Credit: Chessie Photo|