Well, since I'm writing this, that means that I survived the Brookings Marathon last weekend. This was marathon #2 (insert poop joke here) for me. I still don't know what my time was from marathon numero uno, and I'm OK with that.
Going into this race, I didn't necessarily know what I could run. I was 99.9% sure that I had the fitness to run sub-3:30, but I wasn't sure if that meant 3:20, 3:25, or something else entirely. This training cycle was really strong for me. I really only missed 1 run (due to a hangover), and I was able to hit my distances, splits and goal paces.
I was fortunate to be hosted in Sioux Falls (about an hour away from the race site in Brookings) by our friends, the Buchanans. Aaron was going to run the race, too, so I crashed at their house after meeting them for pizza. I generally have an iron stomach, so pre-race pizza was no biggie. And, of course, I brought giant cinnamon rolls from Wheatfield's for us. Carb loading. Duh.
Brookings starts at 7 a.m., which is pretty ideal for this time of year. But, being an hour away from the starting line means that if the race is at 7 a.m., you get up early. I don't care if you're running a race, going to work or going on a vacation to Fiji, waking up at 4:30 a.m. just plain sucks.
I thought I'd break down some of my basics from this race: nutrition, clothing and other gear.
I'm weird. Before long runs or longer races (half marathon or longer), I eat 2 Boca chicken patties with mayo and lettuce on a hamburger bun. It sits well in my gut and the calories last for quite a while. So, I brought my weird pre-race meal with me in a cooler, along with a cinnamon roll from Wheatfield's for the night before (and one for Aaron). For on-course nutrition, I use Honey Stinger strawberry-kiwi caffeinated gels. I brought 3 with me for this little excursion. I also was pounding Powerade Zero like it's my job, so I had two 32 oz. bottles (blue and red, obviously) in tow. Side note: no one actually knows the name of "blue" or "red" Powerade. Food/drink-wise, nothing new on race day. That's race day suicide.
Again, nothing new on race day.
Shoes: Nike Pegasus 33, black on white. These had about 150 miles on them going into the race, so they were pretty much perfect.
Singlet: Black Nike Miler singlet, of course, emblazoned with a white run nebraska logo on it.
Hat: Nike Distance baseball cap, worn backwards for 90% of the race except for when there was rain.
Shorts: Black 5" Nike running shorts with 2 side pockets. I usually hate running shorts with pockets, but they're great for holding fuel on long runs.
Sunglasses: Yes, it was cloudy. But, my future's so bright, I had to wear shades. Goodr "A Ginger's Soul" (all black), to be exact.
Arm sleeves: Since it was going to be 45-50 degrees for the entirety of the race, I wore my black Brooks arm sleeves. If I get hot, I roll them down/take them off. If I don't, then I'm golden.
Socks: Black ProCompression Marathon knee-high compression socks.
Body Glide: No one needs chafed nipples or groins.
Run Gum: Cinnamon for the win. 2 pieces at the start, 6 more during the race.
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch. I keep this baby on the "Current Lap" screen during races to help monitor the pace for the current mile so that I don't do something dumb. The display shows current lap distance, lap elapsed time and lap pace.
The weather was damn near perfect: 45 degrees and cloudy with 10-15 mph winds. I could've done with less wind, but the course turns and winds quite a bit, so there were only small parts where I'd be directly exposed to it.
Runners start and finish in Pioneer Park on the Western side of Brookings. Parking was a piece of
cake and getting to the packet pick-up location was a breeze. There were tons of volunteers, so getting my stuff was quick and easy. I gave them my name and viola!, got my string bag with all of my stuff only to notice that I got assigned bib #69. Am I childish? You bet your ass. I was downright giddy and had a good feeling about this day based on the bib number alone.
After getting my race bib, it was time to hit the bathrooms like usual. Uh oh. Diarrhea. Shit. Pun sort of intended. The delight of getting bib #69 was quickly erased imagining having to stop every 2 miles to empty my bowels. I said a quick prayer to the poop gods and went back to the car to get my bib pinned onto my kickass run nebraska singlet and load up on everything I needed. Aaron and I went back to the starting area, hit the can again and then we heard the call to the starting line. I told myself to run smart and not go out too hard. Before I went to my pace section, Aaron told me to "be patient". It was like he knew that I'm a giant idiot and would be highly likely to go out at sub-7 minute pace or something.
The gun goes off and I tell myself 7:55-8:05 miles for at least the first 2 miles. Everyone around me went out like a bat out of hell and I thought "either I'm about to get dusted by everyone, or the race is going to come back to me." Be patient. Marathoners, half marathoners and marathon relay runners all started at the same time, so I figured some of these homies were not doing the whole shebang.
The first few miles go through some pretty nice and historic parts of Brookings. The race course winds back and forth through a town of, roughly, 25,000 people, so there weren't a lot of long straightaways, which was fine with me. The scenery varied quite a bit and there were no out-and-backs. Miles 1-3 go smoothly. 7:55 like clockwork. I probably could/should have slowed the pace a bit, but I felt really relaxed, so I decided to roll with it. Plus, the first few miles were pancake flat, so it was do-able.
Around mile 5, I start to pass a few people heading up one of the big climbs on the course. I didn't crush the pace up the hill so as not to blow up on a hill right before mile 5. After the hill, I got to cruise down a long decline, picking up some pace. I was going back-and-forth with another runner who kept matching ever move I made. I wasn't sure if he was a marathoner, or not, but I elected to ignore him and concentrate on what I was doing.
Miles 6-8 were uneventful. Cruising along at this point, I was clocking around 7:40 miles. I still felt nice and relaxed and wasn't pressing much. I knew there was a short, but steep incline around mile 9-10, but this part was pretty flat. I continued to pick off a few runners here and there through this stretch, which is always a good feeling.
Near mile 11, the half marathoners split off and the marathoners and relay participants continue on. The race gets really lonely around this point. I rarely run with others, so I knew this wouldn't be a problem. I had considered running with music during the race, but opted not to, since I never race with music. I was wondering if I'd have a problem with this once the others broke off, but it never was an issue. I was alone with my thoughts and whatever songs were going through my head.
At mile 12, my legs felt really heavy for some reason. There was a low, but steady incline around this section, but not enough to kill my legs. I had my first gel at mile 8 and was scheduled to pop my first pack of Run Gum at mile 13. I kept true to my strategy and pushed through. Even though my legs were sluggish, I elected to throw in a 10 second surge to see if that would freshen things up a bit. It worked, thankfully. Hallelujah.
The most annoying section of the race was a 1/2 mile stretch of gravel between miles 12 and 13. Ordinarily, I don't mind gravel. But it had been raining a lot lately, so this was soggy. The footing wasn't terrible, but there were a lot of puddles and a lot of small, loose rocks that I knew would get in my shoes. If you know me, you know that I despise stuff in my shoes. Fortunately, I zig-zagged through this section without much problem.
I hadn't seen another runner since I passed one around mile 12. I finally saw someone ahead around mile 14, so I threw in another 10 second surge (increased pace to around 7:15 pace) for another 10 seconds before going back to 7:40 pace. As I passed the other runner, we looked at one another and exchanged a "Nice job. Keep it up.", or something similar. It was a nice sentiment, though, because neither of us are dicks.
I started to feel a little run down around this point, so I was hoping the Run Gum I just popped would give me a boost. 100mg of caffeine can have that affect. Miles 15-16 was on a bike trail through some tree-covered sections. It was scenic, but quiet and I couldn't see anyone ahead due to the winding trail. Coming out of the trail sucked. It was like getting hit with an industrial fan as we turned. Ugh. This continued for about a mile. Less than ideal. The positive was that I saw several people that were no more than 1/2 mile ahead, so it gave me something to focus on.
Mile 17-18 had a few rolling hills, and seemed to be a net gain. Either that, or it was the fact that I was 17+ miles into a marathon and I was tired. I passed one runner and felt a good kick in the pants. I don't care what the distance is, whenever you pass another runner during a race, it's like you just mainlined a Red Bull right into your artery (side note: I think Red Bull tastes super gross). Even with the confidence boost, I was tired. My body was feeling the race. I was still around my target pace, but the wind was sucking it out of me a bit, and I dropped about 5-10 seconds per mile from 17-19.
I started to feel a bit better around mile 20 and we had a nice little downhill section, or so it seemed. I'd passed 3 other runners in the past 2 miles, so I felt like all of those people that were kicking my ass at the beginning were paying for it and finally coming back to me. That's a good feeling right there - knowing that you have been patient and didn't get too cocky out of the gate. Mile 20 went just fine.
Mile 21 wasn't terrible, but there was still a lot of wind and no protection from it, so my pace slowed to just under 8 minutes. I took my final gel at mile 20 and kept grinding through the wind. If I hit a wall during the race, I think this was the start of it. My legs were feeling it and I was tired.
Mile 22 was a giant kick in the beans. My stomach did not like that. Burp. Gross. Strawberry-kiwi gel taste. Burp again. Stop. Puke. Feel better instantly. Unfortunately, this killed my pace for this mile and I dropped a 9:00 mile. No bueno, but my guts were not rotting.
Miles 23-25 were tough, but I was still averaging just a hair above 8-minutes despite the prior purge. During this stretch, I passed several more runners. We were all lobbing encouragement to one another because we were just ready to be done. This part of the course wasn't too well protected from the elements until around mile 25.5. Wind, rain and some rolling hills weren't terribly fun at this point, but I kept telling myself how little I had left. Plus, there were people ahead of me to keep my attention. One of which was a half marathoner that I'm pretty sure I scared some poo out of when I passed and said "Great job." She must not have heard me approaching and I caught her off guard. Whoops.
Finally I see the Mile 26 sign. "Less than 2 minutes left", I tell myself. I leave the 8 minute pace behind and push towards the park for my finish. My legs were dead, but I was almost done. I had plenty of time to sit after the race. I was unable to catch the few people I'd been trying to run down for the last mile, but I made up some good ground. As I approach the finish line, I'm hurting, but I'm focusing on the finish. I see a photographer at the line catching everyone as they cross. Various thoughts run through my head: Don't look too pained. No weird faces. Run through the finish.
I cross the line in 3:26:16. I was pooped, but my legs were still working. I get my medal and my heat sheet and make my way out of the finishing chute. I have no idea where I'm meandering, but I wander around for a while. I finally grab my drop bag and get 2 hamburgers from the food truck they provided. Nothing sounded good. I wasn't hungry. But, dammit, I was really happy.
I know I could've run a little faster that day. I probably didn't need that 3rd gel. If I'd not choked it down only to barf it up, maybe the ol' abdominal organs wouldn't have retaliated and I could've saved a minute or two.
At the end of the day, I was really happy with how I did. It was the first marathon I've ever raced and I learned from it. I ran a smart race and didn't do anything too stupid. Some things worked, some things didn't. With my ultimate goal of getting my BQ in either late 2019 or 2020, I still have to shave off 12-16 minutes, which is a lot. But I've also seen a ton of improvement in the past year, so it's encouraging.
In the week since, my IT band is super pissed at me, and I've only run about 7 miles. I've also eaten a lot of food: pizza, McDonald's (don't tell Ashley), my weight in ice cream and many, many other things that I shouldn't normally eat. However, I'm recovering from a marathon and I think I need this. Because fall marathon training starts tomorrow.