The One with the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

"She worked really hard and finished two seconds slower."

That's the text Steve sent to a friend who asked how I did after the race. It just about sums up my Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon experience.

I had a such a good running experience at my first marathon last year, but missed a sub-4 hour time by 24 seconds, that I've been itching to run another one. You better believe that 24 seconds has haunted me for a year. I knew this race was coming up and it was close to home (no flights, rental cars, or hotels involved), plus I had just finished an olympic distance triathlon so I was in pretty good shape. Even though Larissa couldn't run with me this time around and the thought of doing long runs alone seemed daunting, I went ahead and signed up. It seemed like a good idea 3 months ago.

I followed the FIRST marathon training plan and loved it! I didn't skip any runs, but I did have to shorten a few of the long runs to make time for some family things. I think my biggest mistake was that my Nike+ iPod wasn't calibrating accurately. Looking back, most of my long runs were not as far or as fast as I thought at the time. That gave me a false sense of security, hope, and confidence going into the race.

Fast forward to the days before the race. I did everything I was supposed to do, and nothing I wasn't supposed to do. I felt good going into it. Everything went smoothly race morning. I had my favorite pre-race breakfast (banana walnut bread from Starbucks, banana, and water) and Steve dropped me off right by the start. There wasn't even a line for the gear check or porta-potties, and the weather was looking good. It was chilly around the start (45 degrees) but with the prospect of it warming up (and, boy, did it warm up!). All signs were pointing to a perfect running day!

And then the race started. I can't pinpoint why, I wasn't tired or sick or injured, but I just wasn't feeling "it" for some reason. I had commented to Steve the day before that I would be running with a smile on my face for 26 miles because I was always happy to be running. I must have jinxed myself. Truth be told, by mile 2 I knew I was in for a long, hard race. I was already thinking, "Crap, what have I done?". Where my music usually motivates me, it was annoying me. Where I usually feel light on my feet and a spring in my step, I was sluggish and it was a chore to run. Where I have done long runs at 8:45 min/mile pace easily for the past year, I was barely able to keep a 9:10 min/mile pace. It just wasn't my day.

Hundreds of people were passing me in the first 10 miles, people that didn't look like they should be able to pass me, you know what I mean? But when the 4 hour pacer passed me I reeeally started to worry. I would end up playing cat & mouse with her for the remaining 16 miles.

I saw my cheerleaders (Larissa, Steve, and the kids) around mile 12 and I shouted out to them, "I'm sucking!". They told me to shut up, that I was doing fine, and to keep going. That gave me a much needed boost. Miles 13-20 flew by and I felt pretty good. I saw my family twice more during that time and gave them high-fives.

By this point the temperature had started to creep up (70 degrees) and the sun was beating down on me. I was smart with my hydration though so I never felt thirsty, and I must have been smart with my fuel because I never hit "the wall". I took sips of Gatorade every time it was offered, and had water when it wasn't. I took a GU at the 10K point, a power bar around mile 14, and another GU at mile 21. I could feel my body getting really tired, but I kept trudging along. My legs were so heavy, and my muscles were on fire.

Then out of nowhere, around mile 22, I felt an excruciating and debilitating pain in my IT Band. I hadn't had any trouble with it during my training so it definitely took me by surprise.. For the first time that day, I seriously contemplated stopping. I didn't think I could finish, but I kept on running, albeit rather slowly. After a mile or two, the IT Band loosened up, the pain went down, and I was able to pick up my pace again.

There were a few hills at this point and the majority of people were walking (oh, it was so tempting!!) but I just knew I couldn't live with myself if I walked. The last mile I felt surprisingly good! I knew I was close, but I thought for sure the sub-4 hour time would become a reality. I knew the 4 hour pacer was behind me a ways so I thought I was golden! I failed to realize it at the time, but now I know she crossed the start line a few minutes after me, therefore our chip times were off by a minute or so. I sprinted in to the finish line to see my time...4:00:26. D'oh!! I was 2 seconds slower than last year, and 26 seconds slower than my goal. Seconds, people, not minutes!!

Although I am terribly disappointed in my time, I can't help but feel good about some things that happened:
  • I didn't get any blisters or chafing.
  • I didn't lose a toenail this time.
  • I didn't get sunburned (thanks, hat and sunblock).
  • I was dressed perfectly for the weather (shorts and a tank top, with a long sleeve shirt and gloves that I tossed after the first few miles).
  • I ran for 26.2 miles straight, never stopping for water, porta-potties, etc.
  • People may have passed me in the beginning, but I sure passed A LOT of people the last few miles.
  • I ran smart by not going out too fast, and fueling and hydrating properly.
  • I gained a newfound respect for the distance. It's not easy.
And most importantly,
  • I had to dig deep to finish. This race was so much more about mental toughness than physical toughness.

Here's the screenshot of the race from my Nike+ account:

Notice the consistent pace until the IT Band pain around mile 22. And once again, the calibration was off, this time falling a little shorter than actual. I think I need a Garmin watch to help me out, hint, hint, Steve .

A few funny things:

Driving to the race Steve said he would never do a sport where they have to put porta-potties on the side of the court/road/field/etc. Someday I will make a runner out of him!

I was running close to the 4 hour pacer, who holds up a sign while she runs that has 4:00 on it, for the majority of the race. I heard quite a few spectators comment, "Oh, there goes the 4 min/mile pace group!" We all got a pretty good laugh about that.

Couldn't have done it without the support of my incredible family. I love these guys!


{larissa} said...

if you would have had a fuel belt, this would be a different post.

shake it off, learn from it, and get your bags packed for next year's race. I will pick up my 2013 marathon sometime in the fall.

The Giles Files said...

Wow. The fact that you ran one marathon is quite an accomplishment in my book. But wanting to go back for more? Another marathon? Yep, I think I am with Steve. Anything that requires port-a-potty(s) along the way is not something I would ever want to do. (Secretly, I am jealous. I lack the mental discipline required for such a feat).

I think you are awesome!

Unknown said...

You are awesome kim. I know exactly where you are coming from with the whole nike chip thing being calibrated wrong. I did that when I ran my first half marathon, but didn't realize it until I was 3 miles into the race. It said I was finished with my 13.1 miles at mile 10. I really wanted to die. And I thought my time was SO awesome too until that point! lol. I don't know if I am mentally tough enough for 26 miles....way to go!

Terri said...

You are amazing. I think I figured out your problem. You started with a banana and banana bread. NEVER eat bananas. They make me sick. That is all.