Let’s cut to the important part: 2:54:06, 12th place (yeah, this was a really competitive race).
That’s a really impressive marathon from someone who two years ago was barely a 1:43 half marathon. But as much of an advance as it represents, it seems like a race that didn’t quite come together. I really thought my fitness level was better than this race.
After a fantastic and flawless training season, I went out there to race on the edge and attempt a 2:50. I came through the half a few seconds past 1:25 and then just didn’t feel ready on the second half. It could have been the cold weather. It could have been my sorry excuses for long runs didn’t leave me ready. It could just have been a bad day. I could have been way off on the estimate of my level of fitness. I don’t know. I felt like Kara Goucher in the NY marathon last year.
Somewhere around mile 14 or 15, I doubted that I could finish without a major slowdown. The real slowdown happened on the uphill section between mile 17 and 19 and never picked back up. I have a feeling I’m going to tear this race and training season apart many times between now and next season. I’ll have so many theories on what training methods went perfectly and what I need to change for next season.
Oh yes …. back to the race report! I left Michigan on Wednesday night and ended up with a few extra days to get my gear packed up. I drove with my parents down to Columbus, checked into the hotel, and walked over the bridge to the convention center. I picked up my bib, said hi to Clove and Ginger, and wandered around with my parents. I talked to the folks from Toledo Glass City marathon about attracting a local elite field to Toledo in the spring (I skipped past considering Toledo this year because the race didn’t do elite water bottles).
I ate a random assortment of yogurt, toast, cookies, potatoes, hummus, pretzels, chocolate, and stuff like that for breakfast and lunch. We went to the hotel happy hour at 5:30 where I ate more potatoes, mac & cheese and drank some alcoholic root beer. Then we went to dinner where I had pizza. Despite the unorganized eating, I probably topped my carbs up to where they should be.
Race day, I got up at 4am and started getting ready. I started hydrating, fueling, and straightened my hair. I went down to the lobby to see how cold it actually felt outside, and ate some toast at the hotel breakfast. It was a lot like last year, except it was a bit colder. As the lobby filled up with runners eating breakfast, I headed to the start with another girl in the elite field around 6:30am. In a change from last year, we met at the VIP tent next to the starting line. I turned my water bottles in and warmed up about 15 minutes before the start.
The race starts slightly downhill. I got (1)6:14 on the first mile. It was a little bit fast, but I think it was a fine and under-control start under the cold conditions, and then I quickly fell into the target pace range: (2)6:32, (3)6:21, (4)6:34, (5)6:24, (6)6:29. The first water bottle was after the sixth mile. I took in one gel and a few sips of water.
I started to hit a rough patch around mile 7. Rested and fueled, I didn’t expect to have this problem during the race. I just had to wait for it to settle down (7)6:34, (8)6:30, (9)6:29, (10)6:29, The second water bottle was around mile 10. I took both gels and held onto the bottle long enough to wash both gels down.
(11) 6:35, (12)6:40, (13) 6:30. The course goes begins a long gradual uphill (High Street) near mile 13. I expected that 6:40 split. I went through the half a few seconds past 1:25 and just didn’t feel the confidence I thought I should. My legs were sore and tired. It felt like mile 18 came five miles early. The third water bottle was after mile 13. I took in both gels and tried to get a decent amount of water down because the next bottle wasn’t for another 7 miles. I accidentally lost the top of the bottle and had to keep from soaking myself.
(14) 6:40, (15)6:34, (16)6:41, (17)6:55. Somewhere around mile 15, I doubted my ability to complete the race. I was really sore and beat up. I wondered how much I should adjust my pace to keep everything in check. I didn’t have a plan for this, so whatever happened happened. (!?!?!) I think that 17th mile was on the Ohio State campus approaching the stadium.
I remember saying to the guy next to me, “Shit, that was slow.” Yet somewhere in here around mile 14 I caught and passed the girl in front of me, Lauren, and held this lead until around mile 22. I could tell how far behind me she was by how long it took for people to cheer for her after I passed.
But by now, I was about 8 miles from the finish and just had to hang on for another 50 minutes or so. My glove warmer started to turn off and my fingers were getting cold (which might be a clue about hydration levels.) (18)6:24 (I din’t know where that came from), (19)7:01 another slow mile. (20)6:46. The last water bottle was after mile 20. I ended up getting one of the gels in me and I carried the bottle for the next three miles ditching it after mile 23. That makes for six gels total for the race. I started to loose my lead on Lauren.
(21)6:50, (22)6:37. Then Lauren pulled past as I started to really struggle and another woman passed both of us. (23)6:48. (24) 6:55. By now the two women who passed me pulled way ahead and I didn’t see them anymore. (25)7:05. I think this is where I stopped for a few seconds to use a water station so I could feel confident I was going to make it to the end. (26)6:45, (26.2) 1.27. And I couldn’t be happier to be over the finish line.
Meanwhile in the elite tent, I congratulated Cleveland Elite Development‘s Ellie Hess who qualified for the Olympic Trials and Becki Spellman (Rocket on Salty Running) who ran a heart-breaking 2:44:44. These women are my heroes. It was Ellie who last year’s advice was, “Don’t be a pussy.” Yes, even us kinda fast runners have running heroes too. I called my parents and my pal Fox, but was so out of it that I didn’t even think to go try to watch for Catnip. I was freezing and dehydrated after the race.
What can I say? To everyone else this race looks like the fastest race of my life, but I know better. It felt much harder than last year’s 2:58 and I know I’m in shape for faster. Most people think of this sport as running consecutively faster races. I see it differently. I think it is about reaching your seasonal limit and showing up to the starting line in the peak of your season (which ideally is also the best shape of your life) with all the practice to run a perfect race—then running a race at that level. This wasn’t a perfect race.
Instead of listing things that didn’t go well, here are things I wasn’t prepared for.
- I wasn’t prepared for a cold race (30’s). I don’t think there any training days this season under 45 degrees.
- I don’t think I was prepared for pre-race fueling. I don’t think I ran out of fuel during the race, but I just don’t think I went through those last few days with a good fueling plan.
- I didn’t have a plan for what to do when the race started do derail. Though I did make sure I continued to gel and grab my water bottles.
- I never ended up measuring my training loop so I couldn’t turn lap times into exact paces when formulating a race plan.
- My pace wrist band should have been more thought out. In fact, I completely forgot to print one and instead cut it out of my pace sheet and tapped it to my wrist. It was hard to find the right lines and read it. I think I’ll do some sort of pull off tabs next race.
- I said last year that the 16 mile MP Run should go a week earlier – 3.5 weeks out from the race – and I did that. But reflecting on it, I think I liked having it closer to race day, 2.5 weeks out. It left me more prepared.
There were some things I tried out for the first time this race that were awesome.
- My parents came and I drove with them so I didn’t have to drive myself home.
- My arm warmers were actually wool socks from Costco. They were awesome. I’ll be doing that again.
- I raced in wool mittens with nitrite gloves and hand warmers and ended up never changing gloves at any of the water stops. I’ll be doing that again.
- I took my pace as lap split between course mile markers. Only once or twice did I actually look at the pace field of my watch. I could have done this race with a ten dollar watch.
- This is not my first time out in buns, but I will say again, I like buns.
- Despite the cold start, I opted for the least amount of clothing I could, and that was the right move.
- My calves didn’t hurt at all after the race. It was my quads that took a beating. I think this is a hint that my PT exercises made a difference.
Year to date: 2,678 miles
Race day weight: 117.5 lbs, I think.
Although this race didn’t go as expected, I can’t say enough great things about the Columbus Marathon. I might have already booked a hotel for next year.
Have you ever been disappointed even after running what looks to everyone else as a fantastic race? Did I set my expectations too high?
Fortnight update: After sleeping on it for two weeks, these are things I forgot to say in original the race report.
One of the things I didn’t mention is that I put steroids on my crotch when I was getting ready so I didn’t have to worry about it itching during the race. (I used Fluocinolone Acetonide cream). I’ve been wearing a knee brace for the last two weeks because I was worried that I sprained my right MCL during that race. Two weeks later, it feels alright, but because treatment is no big deal, I’ll continue to use the knee brace for another few weeks (when I walk around, not when I run). And Ellie said, “thanks for the shoutout.” So hey. Here’s another shoutout. Good luck in LA.