Pesto’s Fall & Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Recap

file_000-5Salties… I am a marathoner!

After making it all the way to the taper in my spring training before being diagnosed with a severe tibial stress fracture, training for Indy was much different. This past weekend went off without a hitch, although it was wildly unconventional.

This summer (whilst still in a boot) I realized that in order to be successful, to avoid my history of overuse injuries and perhaps most importantly, to keep other aspects of life in tact I should probably look into getting a coach. James McKirdy came highly recommended to me from fellow Salty, Barley, to whom I owe a huge thanks! When we initially spoke I was already registered for Indy, plane tickets were purchased and I so desperately wanted to run hard to make up for the anguish of the Spring.

“Sure, we can have you run the marathon, but it’s not going to be a goal race by any means.”

Hmmmm, he seemed fairly set on this, but I didn’t let it bother me. It was only August and I figured that I had months to charm convince him to change his mind and to let me race.

*Spoiler alert*: none of my tricks worked, he did not change his mind.

I have been thrilled with my training over the last couple of months. I set a couple of PRs in races that I ran as workouts (note: there is a trend here!) Not only was I feeling strong, but I was LOVING every  second of it. Why was everything I ran this fall broken up as a workout? James prioritizes my health and getting me to the start line over everything else. Did I get upset with him – yes, many times. Did he know I was upset – yes, very. Did he change his mind – no, didn’t even come close to budging.

If you have been following my training logs you’ll have likely been wondering why I only ran one 20-miler this cycle. That was not an oversight. The plan was to have me ‘underdone’ and to line up at Indy and run it as a really big workout – a workout that would be the longest run that I’ve ever done in my life – oh, and a marathon!

About ten days out this arrived in my inbox.

The Plan:
4 mi easy (7min pace) …. Yes … in the ‘race’
4 x 3mi @ 6:20 with 1.5mi recovery between @ 7min.
2 x 1mi @ 6ish with 1mi between @ 7min.

First thoughts: “What the actual *&%*?! This is ridiculous.”

Second thoughts: (after writing it all out and realizing that if perfectly executed I could run a 2:54 and change): “Hmmm, this might be so crazy it could work. Worst case I should still break three. Not bad!”

The week before the race I flipped back and forth between fully intending on running the workout and flirting with the idea of going rogue knowing that I was in pretty good shape. But in the back of my mind I knew that I only had that one twenty miler – the risk of blowing up bad and getting hurt was too great. To make matters worse, I then started to ask people what they thought about the workout. This was not a good idea.

“A marathon is never a workout.”
“Your coach sucks … you should fire him.”
“Just run.”

But then a few of my close friends, and those who I know are playing the long game with me offered their advice.

“There is no point in advice before race day, run what you are comfortable with.”
“Sounds like a good plan, break it up.”
“Be conservative – it will allow for a bigger PR in April!”

Poor Mr. Pesto had the privilege of watching me get on and off the ledge multiple times before settling on the fact that I was not racing my first marathon and was (eventually) totally fine with it.

On Thursday afternoon I flew to Indianapolis with a bunch of us from our local DC running club. This trip had been on the docket for a while so we were all very excited + a Saturday race made for lots of celebrating after! I checked into the hotel a little before dinner (Mr. Pesto had to work so was getting in later in the evening) and meet with some friends for my first ever deep dish pizza experience. I could write a whole report on that, but let’s suffice to say that I will be feasting on deep dish pizza again!

Friday was fairly uneventful. After 10+ hours of sleep I got up and did a 30 minute shake out, the course actually went right by our hotel so I got to check out a couple of miles. I went to the expo briefly and worked in the hotel for the majority of the day.

Finally it was Saturday morning! I had my usual breakfast and coffee at 5am (this is important for issues ..ughh… I will describe later) and putzed around in the room until it was time to head towards the start. Through my 10 miler about a month ago I had secured elite seeding which was really nice as we got to wait indoors while it was in the 30s outside. By the time I got there I was no longer nervous at all, just ready to get going.

I stepped outside to warm up and bumped right into Chicory which was awesome because we got to warm up together. Before I knew it we were at the starting line and the gun had gone off. Now, the problem with starting with the elites is that they (nor the people in the corral behind you) are NOT going to go out at a 7-minute pace to accommodate your warm-up. Obviously, I knew this was going to happen so for the first half a mile or so I just tried to find my rhythm while being passed by hundreds of people. A little after mile two I settled into a pace with a woman running the half (we all ran together until mile 7), we chatted and eventually I had to divulge that at mile four I was going to start my workout.

Miles 1-4: 6:43, 6:45, 6:44, 6:42. A little quicker than 7-min pace but it was relaxed and even. I took a gel near the end of this warm-up portion and I could feel that it wasn’t sitting well…

Mile 4: Feeling awesome and in control
Mile 4: Feeling awesome and in control

Finally it was time to play! Knowing that I’d never run close to 26 miles before I was very cautious not to overrun the first couple of blocks.

Block 1: Miles 5-8 @ 6:17 avg.

Everything felt great, my breathing did not seem to change from the previous 6:40s. But there was one problem, I had thrown up the gel that I has taken around 3.5. I have no clue what did this, I’d been practicing taking gels like it was nobody’s business. I’d even taken one while doing  5:15 pace in my 8 x 1km workout and was totally fine. Who knows. Mr. Pesto was at mile 7 cheering, and I told him that I’d hit every split perfectly and felt good – he was on the phone with Coach.

Recovery 1: 1.5mi @ 6:45

Block 2: Miles 9.5-12.5 @ 6:24 avg.

Knowing that I needed nutrition, I tried to take another gel – albeit unsuccessfully. I ended up with a group of three guys at the beginning of the second block; it made sense to me to work with them and run a couple of seconds slower than to run alone. I told them what I was doing and they were happy to help the cause. I didn’t really want to take my recovery as it felt so easy clicking off the miles but I knew I needed to be smart. I took my easy 1.5mi and caught back up to them quickly after starting the third block.

Recovery 2: 1.5mi @ 6.41

Block 3: Miles 14-17 @ 6:23 avg.

Thankfully I was carrying some chews as well so I decided to give that a go. Slightly better than the Gu situation but I was only able to get down two chews (50 cals worth). Despite this, the running was totally in control and it felt like I was barely working. The guys were starting to work a little harder, apparently one of them hadn’t trained very much. When I finished the third portion he dropped back with me for the recovery but seemed to drop further back.

Recovery 3: 1.5mi @ 6:46

Matt was situated in here somewhere and I told him that I wasn’t able to keep anything down, although I felt fine. I was getting pretty nervous about what could happen.

Block 4: Miles 18.5-21.5 @ 6:17 avg.

I was still having issues with fuel so I took another two chews, this seemed to be as much as I could take. Since everything was so broken up I really don’t remember much (refer to Chicory’s race report for details of all the cool stuff we ran by!) However I can tell you that the course was beautiful, we went through lots of nice neighborhoods, by some schools, through a park. It really was quite lovely. I was continuing to pass people, and the weird thing was that no one had passed me during the recovery blocks. I was certainly expecting to play more cat & mouse than what really happened. As I ran through mile 20 they had an announcer who said my name, how strong I looked and that I was easily on track for sub 3:00. Suddenly mile 21 hit and EVERYTHING started to hurt. My hips tightened up, feet started to hurt, I threw up a little more, believe me, it was all very glamorous. I told myself I was almost there and that the hard work was behind me, the most I have to do now is run one mile at a time.

Recovery 4: 1.5mi @ 6:44

Please let this be over ... soon
Please let this be over … soon

The Death March: Miles 23-26.2

23-6:36, 24-6:43, 25-6:39, 26-6:27, 0.3-5:33

The plan of alternating 6:00 and 7:00 minute pace miles didn’t happen. I just hung on for dear life. Thankfully somewhere in those last few miles we rejoined with the half marathon so all the streets were lined with supporters and people finishing their half. The spectators were awesome and holding up many fairly hilarious signs. I had not seen any other ladies since the start so had no clue where I was, not that it mattered but I had a feeling by the excitement from the crowd that I was doing okay overall.

Regardless, I was almost done. As I approached the finish line I saw the clock in the 2:51s. I had not even considered running closer to 2:50 than 2:55.

Chip time: 2:51:51

Tears welled up in my eyes, for so many reasons. I cannot believe that less than a year ago I said to my husband one morning, “Hey, I think I’m ready. I want to run again. Also, I’d like to break four hours in the marathon.” He has been nothing but supportive and I’ll never forget the elation on his face as he saw me at the finish. We are beyond excited for what is to come. But for now, we rest.

I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience while sipping on wine & coffee in Northern Virginia. Together with my husband and Rhodesian Ridgeback, Gracie we battle to keep the Tupperware cupboard organized for more than two days at time. I recently ran my first marathon (2:51) and am excited for what is to come. I like to ramble about running post injury, finding a work-life balance and running quickly.

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  1. I love you and I hate you at the same time. This is a hell of a workout by any stretch of the imagination and possibly harder than actually running even splits. I am SO EXCITED to see what you do in the spring.

    1. Ha! Chicory your comment made me laugh, because it’s so true! Pesto, you are awesome and so so so proud of you! 2:51 debut as a workout, girl you’ve got a lot more of where that came from!

  2. WOOOOO!!!! SO excited for you & amazed at your debut, your coming back from a crazy ass stress fracture, how many times you hurled and kept on going- cannot wait to see where you are headed! <3

  3. You speak the truth of Coach James. He has a method to his madness that is never wavering and always in the best interest of his athletes, myself included

  4. Wow, congratulations! I got sidetracked midway though training for my first marathon this past fall with a stress fracture in my fibula. Reading yor story is so encouraging! Not to mentioned you rocked the shit out of your race!

  5. Wow! This is so inspiring. Congratulations on your first marathon and going sub-3:00. You’ve really captured the essence of the experience and given that it was a “workout” I’m going to bet that you have an extremely bright marathoning future ahead.