Monday, December 2, 2013

Race Report: NCR Trail Marathon

Short story: I did not BQ. 3:37:07, 8:16 pace.

Long story...
Thursday, Nick and I ran a Turkey Trot. I will write more about that later, but we finished right on in 40:58, which happens to be an 8:12 pace, a.k.a. my marathon goal pace. I felt good about it, but also a little worried because the pace felt a little hard.

Friday was a day of much relaxing. I ate gluten-free pasta, and a salad for an early dinner, then some chocolate chips and potato chips (not together!) before bed.

Race day nutrition: Nick and I got up around 5 on Saturday. Normal breakfast, banana, 2 eggs when I woke up. I drank a bunch of water. We stopped for coffee and I ate some rice chex around 7 or so (race start was 8:30am). I also had a Gu about 15 minutes before the start, plus more water. My stomach was feeling pretty crappy and unsettled, but I figured that was just nerves. Turns out, it was just nerves and luckily I never needed the bathroom because there were very few along the course. Noted. I had a (VERY COLD) Gu again at mile 5, 10, 15, and 20. They were chewy because it was so cold and they sat terribly in my stomach. Ugh. I carried a bottle of Gatorade, drank Gatorade at a couple of stops, and water a couple times. Fluid amounts felt pretty good overall.

The race was small, with around 500 runners plus maybe 100 more marathon relay people? It felt like a local 5k, really. We hung out in an elementary school cafeteria with plenty of bathrooms. It was warm and great. I saw a coworker who was planning on winning the marathon. He did! He gave me some course info, pointing out that the hill at the end would feel crappy, even though it was short. He said to relax and we chatted about clothing choices. I debated my attire a lot (it was around 20 degrees at the start!), and ended up going with some Saucony tights, a short sleeve tech tee, a long sleeve New Balance pullover, gloves, and a light weight ear warmer. I was never really too warm. Nick and my dad were there, and they offered to take any of my extra clothes, but I stayed pretty comfortable. My fingers were painfully cold at the start but warmed up after a few miles. My core sweated considerably but I wasn't uncomfortable.

Mile 1-5: 7:55, 8:06, 8:03, 8:11, 8:04
I set my watch to give me half mile splits. The splits were a nice check-in. I started off a little fast, but the first 1.5 miles or so were downhill, and it was freezing. I settled in with a few other people who seemed to be cruising around 8 min/mile and I tried to stick with them. I saw Nick and my dad around mile 5 and it was great! The trail up until that point was nice and even and I was cruising. I had a few moments of checking in with my body and being just a little bit worried about my pace, because it felt just a tiny bit hard. The first part of a marathon shouldn't feel hard... right? Or maybe it should? I've never pushed for a pace goal in a marathon, so I figured maybe I was doing what I needed to do.

Mile 6-10: 7:58, 8:01, 8:00, 8:11, 8:11
I kept chugging. It is a very lonesome race, which was actually nice. The NCR trail is beautiful and was well-maintained. The only slight gripe I have was that there were distinct tire ruts, and then gravel in the middle. The tire ruts were packed dirt, with occasional icy spots. It irritated me (spoiler alert, there was MUCH more irritation to come). I stayed on pace, but slightly fast, and was still feeling... ok? I guess. I was just so obsessed with my pace and that made it so I never felt relaxed.

Mile 10-15: 8:18, 8:05, 8:03, 8:07, 8:00
Still cruising. I saw my friend coming back toward me, in the lead, and he was looking great. This also meant we started having more runners coming back towards us. I knew that meant the turn around was coming up. I was hoping to hit the halfway point around 1:46 or 1:47, and I did. I passed the timing mats right at 1:46, which is a half marathon PR for me! Woohoo! The tricky part at this point, that I did not know, was that we crossed the halfway point and then had about another mile before the turnaround. That screwed with my head. I kept wanting to turn around and just get heading back, but we were still going forward. WHY!?!? I did not take into account that although it's an out and back course, the very beginning and very end take slightly different routes, so we didn't turn around at exactly halfway. I would have probably still been irritated if I had known this, because that was just my mental state at this point. There are no real "hills" during the middle 20 miles of this course, but there is a very slight uphill from mile 10-12, so a very slight downhill from 13-15 or so. That was nice, and although I didn't feel the uphill, I felt the downhill.

Mile 16-20: 8:00, 7:58, 8:02, 8:10, 8:20
I started to feel it for real. I was sucking wind a little, but I refused to back off. If I had backed off at this point, would I have been able to finish stronger? Who knows. My paces didn't drop but I was feeling a lot of mental fatigue. It became an effort to maintain. It also started getting really lonely. I lost the people I was pacing with and was totally by myself for a period of time. There were also a lot of walkers on the course, but not affiliated with the race, so I kept passing groups of families out for a morning stroll, and I was mad I was expending energy passing them. I know I wasn't really using any extra energy, but it sure felt like I was. I started doing mental math at this point... If I run 10 min/mile for the rest of the course, I'll finish at 3:44... now I'll finish around 3:41.. now 3:40... I knew I was still on pace, and felt good about that but I really started to doubt myself. I wasn't able to do the math to figure out what sort of cushion I had for my finish time.

Mile 20-end: 8:19, 8:32, 8:26, 8:49, 9:10, 9:30, 2:27 for last 0.25 (9:54 pace)
Annnnnd this is where it started to fall apart. I knew I only had a LITTLE bit of distance left. I knew it, mentally, but physically I just could not do it. I really believe I was using every ounce of energy to keep moving forward, and tried to keep my foot turnover quick and keep my form from falling apart, but I was scrunching my shoulders badly and getting really mad that I was carrying a water bottle. I am pretty sure if anyone saw me at this point, they thought I was dying. The last 2 miles have 2 legitimately sizeable hills, although they are very short. You come off the trail and need to get back to the start point. My watch shows about 100 feet over a quarter mile, a slight downhill, then another 130 feet over the last mile. I know that doesn't sound like much but it was all I could do to keep moving forward. I actually told myself, out loud, not to walk. I had a moment where I was not sure I would finish! I was so mad at myself as I saw my goal slip away. My dad was right there towards the end and I grouched at him, gave him my water bottle, and tried to keep from crying.

I finished, got a medal, tried to be cordial to the volunteers who gave me a space blanket and took my timing chip. I immediately felt HORRIBLE. Everything hurt, my stomach was upset, and I was upset. Nick helped me inside, I hugged my dad and cried a little. I drank a couple bottles of water and ate some chips and tried to calm down. The post-race food was delicious (pumpkin soup, chips, cookies, bagels!) plus hot water for hot chocolate, although I just sucked down hot water plain because I was freezing. I changed into dry clothes and tried to keep my legs moving.

So that's that. I will be back with some reflections later. Basically, I'm disappointed, but I am not sure how I could have done any better. I ran my ass off for 20 miles, but couldn't hang on the last 6. 

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