Alright. I am kinda really starting to like this running thing. Don't get me wrong. Over the past five years, I have enjoyed running. But something happened this summer and it totally changed my outlook on running and life in general.
At the beginning of the summer, I was asked to teach a Run Club group. This class was fee based (everyone payed to join on top of their monthly YMCA membership costs) and at the end of the three month training program there would be a 5K or 10K race. It was fun to lead beginning runners as well as runners who had been at it for a while. It was also enjoyable to see the shift along the way of who really was motivated to stick to the program and who was just in it for the t-shirt. I was lucky enough to find a group of people (who still call me 'coach' today and it brings a small tear to my eye) who were dedicated. They just weren't dedicated to showing up every morning. They were dedicated to a goal. And for me, it was fun to challenge those goals.
So, about a month into the schedule, sometime in June I think, this group was just killing the runs. I mean killing them. Our long runs started out around 5 miles and grew to 10. They never gave up. The hill workouts got longer. The midweek runs got harder. And for some reason, these people still kept showing up! So, during one of our long runs (we have so many stories and know so much about each other's lives now....on a three hour training run you get to talking about some funny stuff) the "M" word was brought up. A marathon? They freaked. No way! We can't do it! I laughed, thinking to myself, "Can I do it?" I've only run one. And it was DREAD FULL! Do I even want to do this again?
So to make a long story short, they all committed throughout the summer at different times. We completed our training runs in the early morning hours, finishing most days by 7:00am. Those who were still in Run Club and didn't want to do the marathon, ended up running longer races at the end of the year. Many just completed a half-marathon this weekend, a spectacular distance for many who had never run further than a mile or two! Running is mental. If you tell yourself you can do it, you will.
After all the hours and hours of training, we all finished the Mankato Marathon. 3:49 for me, a new PR by more than an hour. Julie and Mike, the 1st marathon for Julie, finished in 4:02 and Einar, another first-timer, finished in 4:21. Setting goals+working hard=Achieving goals. That is what I learned this summer. It is applicable in all of life's' scenarios. And I am glad I had the chance to learn it.
Now, for the dirty details for those runners out there.
1. Miles 1-18 were a breeze. The tapering we did the two weeks before the marathon were perfect. Just perfect. The weather was the best it could have been. 39-40 degrees at the start. Zero wind. Had there been any wind at all, this race would have been totally different out there among the flat land and harvested corn. :) I was keeping an 8:10-8:15 pace. My legs felt great. There were two substantial hills around mile 5 and mile 8. Thank goodness we incorporated hill work into our training. It was sad to see so many people hit those hills early in the race and never recover. I cruised through each water station and drank on the way, trying to save myself some time.
2. Miles 18-20. My family and friends arrive! Yay! I told them not to get there until mile 15, but I was running faster and they were running late so mile 18 was our first meeting point. It was great to see everyone and motivating to say the least, so these two miles were getting harder but I knocked them out. My pace was slowing down a bit, more around 8:20.
3. Miles 20-23. Good grief! I was getting hungry and Gu wasn't helping. Too much Gu+not enough water=bad belly. And that's exactly what happened. There was a huge hill around mile 22 that the hubby ran with me. Not sure that is legal, but they haven't DQ'ed me yet. At the end of the hill, I never really recovered. I was ready to quit but felt pretty queasy. Every time I looked down at my Garmin, it would tell me I was keeping 9:30 miles. How could that be? In my exhausted mind, I felt like I was running faster than ever. But my legs were doing all they could to keep that slower pace.
4. Miles 23-26.2. I used every aid station from mile 21-26 to stop, stretch, drink some water and regroup. I was feeling completely finished by this point. Pete met back up with me around mile 25 to run the last mile with me. That helped a ton because I kept stopping and taking pretty long breaks. Then, out of nowhere, I felt a surge of energy. At mile 25, I kicked it into gear and never looked back. My stomach calmed down and I finished strong.
I look back and am totally bummed that my energy burst didn't happen around mile 21. Time adds up quickly and I burned a ton up from mile 21-25. Like an extra 12-13 minutes worth. Blah. Oh well. Next time around, I think I will tweak the long training runs. This time around we did two 20 mile runs. I may switch to one 18-19 and one 21-22. Just to push you through that tough stage once and practice what it feels like. I really started to fall apart mentally from miles 21-25 ish. I was sad because I was so on track for Boston but I knew I couldn't finish in time. It took me a few miles to regain composure and that allowed me to finish strong. No BQ, which was my 1st goal. My 2nd was to come in under 4 hours. Accomplished!
A few changes in my training/eating this time around:
1. I started taking whey protein. This helped my muscles recoup after long runs. This made a world of difference for me! I wasn't getting nearly enough protein for the work I was doing.
2. I drank a ton of water.
3. I ate around 200 calories 2+hours before each long run in order to make sure it was digested before we started. This helped by stomach a lot, a problem I have to combat constantly.
4. I ate a lot until I felt satisfied (a different feeling than stuffed) and didn't calorie count during any meals at all. That was fun!
5. I cross-trained. I only ran three days a week. Mondays: hills Thursdays: long runs Saturdays: medium distance tempo work
6. Post-race: I took a week off from running. That was hard to do, but I look back and really loved it.
The girls also ran in their first ever road race the day before the marathon. It is a joy to see our kids being active. It is something we want them to enjoy. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and yes, I will be running another marathon. Probably with some of my good ole' Run Clubbers!