Monday, March 31, 2008

Going the Distance

Doug finished the ING Atlanta Marathon yesterday, with a time of 4 hrs 30 minutes. He looked good coming up Marietta Street to the finish and kept running the whole time. He's a rock star!

I was better trained for the half than last year and managed to achieve a 3 minute PR even with a potty break. While I ran a better race this year because I paced myself (amazing - have never really done this before) and held off on the sprinting to allow a strong finish, I was lonely as I ran. Next year I'll have to talk someone who doesn't mind potty breaks into running with me.

Here's the report:

I got up at 4, ate Joe's magic breakfasts (steel cut oats with soy milk followed by an immodium), and rode to the GA dome with Doug and Jerry. We arrived at 5:45 to find a ghost town. There were no people anywhere and it was freezing. Signage was absent so we blundered our way to the Team 65 Roses meeting place to have our photo made. We checked our bags and I lost everyone. Doug, Jerry and I were to meet back at the potties after bag-check and we were right there with all of my neighborhood ladies. The next minute, I was alone. I waited around for a while and searched the crowd for Doug, but couldn't recapture him. I trudged to find my corral and some nice man gave me his trash bag to wear. Bless him. It was freezing so that helped a lot. I found a line of open potties, visited there and ran into Nat on my way back to the corral. I was so happy to see a friendly face, whew!

In my corral, I met a nice guy from Dacula who is doing Ironman Arizona in two weeks. He was doing the ING half as a training race and was aiming for 7 minute miles. HOLY COW. Anyway, we finally started - after some guy yelled "go" (no fireworks, no cannons). Only my group was corral #2, so we didn't go. We shuffled up to the start line. THEN, we got to go about 6 minutes later - no explanation from the race folks on this. It was weird. The corrals were much improved from last year's chaos but ING could do better with signage and directions because many people were wandering around with no direction.

I had planned (with coach Doug) to run 9:15 the first mile, then settle in for 9:00 miles and turn it up at the end for a fast finish. Alternatively, Doug recommended using the training partner function on my Garmin and keeping up with that to see if I could beat last year's time. I didn't quite remember last year's time and I don't know why the training partner didn't work but I was adrift from the start. I knew I had seeded myself OK (a little behind the 3:50 marathon pace group, who said they were doing 8:45 per mile) but people passed me like I was standing still. It was hard to slow myself down.

Mile 1: 8:13 - Oops. Need to slow down. Mile 2: 8:24 - Not such a bad pace. Breathing OK - this is the downhill part of the race so it's OK to go faster (rationalize, excuse). Mile 3: 8:25 - Maybe I'll try to slow it down a little but stick generally with this pace.

I saw the King center up close and that was really neat. We came upon it from the back and it's really a cool design. I don't remember seeing it last year. Then, we turned into the Sweet Auburn area where the Lupus foundation was manning a giant water stop with the "Rocky" song blaring. It was awesome. Those folks were so happy. I got all choked up thinking about them.

I got hot between miles 2 and 3. I took off my thermal shirt (which I was wearing over my Team 65 Roses shirt for the start). Then I put it back on. Then I put it back on underneath my team shirt. Then I got hot and took it off again. All while I was running. Without showing my jog bra. Idiot! I carried that shirt on my waist or in my hands until mile 8 until I dropped it at a water station. Little did I know that I'd need it later.

In Mile 4, I started to hurt. It was cold but I had not worn tights. AGAIN. We all know what my IT bands do in cold weather. Miles 4-6 were OK, but not as pleasant as 1-3. I averaged about an 8:45 pace while people still streamed past me. My tummy got angry in mile 5/6 and I had to stop at the place where the marathoners and half-marathoners diverged in mile 7/8. I put it off as long as possible because there were lines at all porto-potties, but it was for naught. I had to stop, and wait, and potty. SIGH. I ate my GU while I waited. The GU and the break helped me rally a little and some good songs came on in mile 7 (Wagner - Flight of the Valkeries), which helped also but miles 7-9 were my dark zone. I hobbled along and tried to hold some energy in reserve for the last 5K.

My stated goal for this race was under 2 hours but the super-secret goal was under 1:50. My running book said I could do 1:38 (HA!) so I thought the 1:50 was a stretch, but reasonable. At the 10K mark, I was at 53 minutes. I did some math, out loud, then re-did the math and came up with the conclusion that 1:50 was a virtual impossibility. This brought me down, inexplicably, because I know it was a dream to begin with. But still, I was down. The hobbling didn't help. I tried to talk to some folks around me as they asked each other questions but no dice. I was an island.

At mile 10.25, after we exited Piedmont Park and went up some big hills (which were really hard), I gave myself permission to speed up. Amazingly, it hurt less to run faster. Maybe the faster running made my legs warmer? Mile 10 was 8:41, Mile 11 was 8:00. I started to pass people and good music came on my i-pod. Mile 12 was 7:44. Whew, this part thru GA Tech was tough. I saw the best sign there: "Your feet hurt because you are kicking so much ASS!" It made me laugh out loud and then the girls holding the sign started cheering for me because they were Team 65 Roses too. Awesome! What a boost, right where I needed it. Mile 13 was mostly on Marietta St, I think, and it seemed to take forever. It wasn't a ridiculous climb like last year, but I was getting to the bottom of my tank. Mile 13 was 7:37. The drive to the finish was slow because of the sidewalk and twisty fence maze but that was because of tornado damage to the park. Next year will be better.

Garmin said 1:52:53. Chip time was 1:51:32. That's a PR by 3 minutes. Still a win despite not breaking 1:50. I'll bet I would have broken 1:50 if I had worn tights and not had to potty.

After I finished, I declined a space blanket (again, an idiot!) because I was hot, got some water and hit the potties. Then, I stood in a freezing wind to get my bag. Thank goodness I put an extra shirt in. I changed shirts in the middle of the sidewalk into a clean fleecy shirt and put the team shirt on top. Then, I high-tailed it to the appointed intersection - which was missing! I never found Thurmond St so I stayed at Marietta and Baker Street. I passed a Starbucks on the way there and used their potty. I stood in line for hot chocolate for a while, but the line wasn't moving so I left. As I was texting my location to Jerry, Joe and Nat, Jerry came by and yelled at me. He looked awesome. Strong and happy. Yay! I had missed Jennifer and Virginia because I was slow getting to the meet-up. Then, Devon and Mickey came by together. I cheered for them and all of the 65 Roses runners and anyone else who had an identifier on (Clemson shirt, pink skirt ladies, etc). The marathoners started to come thru and they looked so fast! After I thought I had missed her completely and given up, Sarah came by. Jerry joined me with some hot chocolate and then Joe came and blocked the wind while we waited for Nat. I got to introduce Jerry and Joe to Sarah as she went to hang with the Peachtree Tri Club folks. At about 3:30, Nat came by. She wasn't smiling and didn't wave so I knew she was irritated. In addition to the sea of half-marathoners, there was a group of high school kids running at the same time so the marathoners were dodging everyone. We abandoned our post and went back to the Carvel store for hot chocolate. Mmmm. The best hot chocolate ever. And a warm chair. We used Joe's phone to track Doug online. The tracker estimated a 4 hr 24 min finish so we headed back to the meet-up at that time after lingering in the warm store. Right on time, there was Doug! Hooray! We went and got his bag of stuff and met him as he came down from the finish. Then, we hiked back to the car and met at Taco Mac for post-race beer and nachos. mmm.

Doug and I have been talking about the race a lot yesterday and today. I ran a good race but was really sore yesterday. Better training would have helped this, and tights, and not eating spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner the night before. But, I think I would have had more fun with a buddy. I was lonely out there. Maybe I need to make a better distinction between my "A" races and the other ones. This was supposed to be a "B" or "C" race and I ran it like an "A". I'm sure sore like an "A". Overall, though, it was good and I'm pleased with my time. Here are times for the peeps, minus Sarah and Maja, who I couldn't find.

Doug: 4:27:38
Nat: 3:38:18

Jennifer: 2:15:24
Virginia: 2:13:01
Jerry: 2:15:42
Devon: 2:26:19
Mickey: 2:22:42


Charlie said...

Great Job Ms Stephanie! Awesome PR!

Without your potty break, you definately would have beat that 1:50 into the dirt. Looks like you had a lot left in the last 3-4 miles.


Wes said...

I think you are like me. They are ALL A races :-) You really finished strong, Steph! Totally awesome! and congrats to Doug on a strong marathon!!

Dorothy Gould said...

Congrats to both of you!

Maddy O'Neill said...

Congrats to you all! What a great accomplishment! Keep us on the list for next year. we have been in and out of town for the last month! Way to go! Trish

Nat said...

You did awesome. Those darn potty breaks! I think I should have worn my knee length capri tights. My thighs were cold the whole time and I had hip problems so now I am wondering if maybe that was more because of the cold than anything else. It was definitely something new.
Plese give Doug my congrats! I am so impressed by him. I hope he does more. Out of the 5 marathons I have run I would say Sunday's race was the toughest course wise and then wind and cold certainly didn't help. The winner's time this year weren't as good as last years.

Dogwood Girl said...

Good job, Steph! I was thinking about y'all that day - nasty weather. Congrats to doug, too!