Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Grand Rapids Marathon 2011 Race Report

Short version: My training was amazing this season, my race(s) kind of sucked. In the end, I am satisfied with the hard work and changes I implemented (although, of course, I would have really preferred a PR).

Long version: [Grab a cup of coffee or a nice fermented beverage and join me for a moment, I am sure I will have lots of details]

Unlike this spring when I was slammed at work and in the midst of a big trial/trial prep, this summer and fall, I had more flexibility at work and I took full advantage of it. Even though I took almost 2 months off and gained a few pounds, I hit training and by August, I was running 50, 60, 70 mile training weeks. For good measure, I kicked things up a notch and logged just a hair over 8o miles the first week in September (thank you Labor Day for an extra long run opportunity). My HR plummeted and I was nailing my workouts.

BUT, one day in late August, early September I stepped on the scale and was frankly horrified. I normally gain 5 lbs when I stop training, but once I snap back into training, all goes back to normal. Well, since I went back to work in 2008, this has been increasingly trending upward. When I ran Eugene in May, I was up 5 lbs. And now (in August) I was up even more. This was despite running said 50, 60, 70 mile weeks.

So I started tracking my intake and really got my nutritional house in order. I cut out (some of my favorite foods like cheese) and really tried to eat better. I also cut way back on beer/wine. And it made a huge difference. I lost 10 pounds in 4-6 weeks and was more than ready to rip up the streets for a fall marathon.

As you know, I lined up for the Chicago Marathon on 10.9.11. But it was hot and I bagged it at the halfway point hoping for a better day in Grand Rapids the next week. I had been planning to go to see friends anyway - why not set myself up for a better race?

So I duplicated my last week of taper. I got great sleep and I actually lost yet another pound. I felt strong and ready to dominate!


We arrived in Grand Rapids around 5:00 pm local time. I got out of the car and had a wicked bad stomachache. I felt super bloated - seriously - it was painful. Okay, okay, I have been in the car all day, it will go away. We checked into our hotel rooms and then headed over to KP and Tonya's for a meet-up and dinner. We had a fabulous time. Great food, great company. We left and went back to the hotel and I was in a bit of a pain locker. I freaking could not stand up straight my stomach felt so distended. So the boys headed down to the pool and - no lie - I took like 6 Gas-X pills. It helped a lot, so I went downstairs, watched the boys a while and then hit the hay.

I woke up at 5 local time (felt like 4) and felt better, but not 100%. I took several more gas pills and undertook my normal pre-marathon routine. It looked like it was going to be windy, but I was ready. John came in around 6 and then we woke up the boys and headed to the start. I was pretty exhilarated and nervous - both good signs. James said to me, "Mom, this time, do not stop at the half. Finish it. And don't slow down." I assured him that I would not stop and I would do my very best to hold my pace.

We then hit the pre-race flurry and I lost the boys in the crowd before I lined up for the start. Once again I missed the National Anthem trying to get to the start (darn!). I lined up right between the 3:14 pacers and 3:29 pacers. My goal was to go out at a 7:44 pace (3:23) and expect a slight positive split to hit my 3:25 goal. I knew this goal was aggressive, but I really felt I had a 3:23-3:25 in me this season with the training I had done. The winds were light, the rain was dissipating and it was an amazing morning for a race. We were soon off and I felt spectacular. In trademark Mindi style, about a mile in, I started to feel choked up. Very thankful to be here. Now. GO!

I did not see mile markers the first few miles but I was knocking off 7:45s easily. I felt easy and comfortable and excited. Although some guy started chatting me up. And would not stop. Dude - I am racing - I am not going to chat with you. Of course I did not say that, but comfortably distanced myself during the couple miles he was trying to start various conversations. (As an aside - damn you if you are chatting it up and running a 3:23 pace. Hush and pick it up!!!).... :)

At mile 4 we passed our hotel and I saw John and the boys with their signs. It was so awesome and I was so happy to see them. I turned the corner feeling optimistic. This is mine.

Shortly thereafter, we hit the trail and a wide open space. I had thought it might be super windy there, but it wasn't - it was perfect. We were just past 5 miles, so I decided to grab my first gel. I sucked it back and within minutes - I completely fell apart. I suddenly felt super gross and feverish. I felt like my HR was shooting through the roof. I literally felt like I might have a heart attack or something. What the fuck? It was mile 6 - maybe?!? I passed a very enthusiastic Team-in-Training spectator group and felt like I was dying. What am I going to do? I kept going and crossed the 7 mile marker, then stopped and walked for a second. I didn't feel good and I needed my HR to go down. I walked for a bit and told myself that this was just a rough patch - it would pass. I then started running again. The next mile marker clicked off around 8:10. Not bad. My goal is not out of sight - go.

But it was a fight and I seemed to have one rough patch after another. It was hard. I took water and gatorade because I knew I needed it, but EVERY time I felt like I was going to throw up or I would get an insane side stitch. Around mile 14 or 15, the 3:29 pace group passed me and I kind of threw in the towel. But then I thought about James and his telling me to fight. I need to fight. I slowed down, but I am not quitting. The rest of the race was just survival. I'd run, but any time I took in any fluid/nutrition, I either had a crazy side stitch or felt like I was going to vomit. So I'd walk for 30-60 seconds to get past it and then carry on.

I usually take a gel around mile 22 or 23. This time, I figured I'd cut my losses and just go. My finish time was 3:44:09. Way off my sub-3:25 goal, but respectable nonetheless.

My boys all gave me roses at the finish and I ran into all of my running buddies. I told James that I was so glad he encouraged me prior to the race and that I thought of him lots of times out there. He told me he was proud of me and that I had a great race. Aw, what a great kid.

We went to HopCat with KP, Tonya, Ailarie and Kath, had a couple awesome beers and then headed home. It was a whirlwind trip and my race sucked, but we really did have a nice short visit.

Regrets: None - other than getting sick. Could have things shaken out differently if I just went for it in Chicago? Maybe, but we'll never know and I do not regret setting myself up for a better race in Grand Rapids. It was actually perfect, and had I been feeling okay, I think I could have had a great race.

I also went out at a very aggressive pace and with a very aggressive race strategy. Would I have done better if I started at 8s, and tried to negative split? Who knows, but I think my stomach issues would have sidelined me no matter what pace I went out at. Shoot, I am 5 days out and I STILL don't feel very good. Oh yeah, and go big or go home. :) I am glad I went for it. One of these days, I will get it.

Garmin Splits:

Photos: Coming soon

I had a solid season and it is now time to look forward. What's Next (tentative):

  • Half marathon the weekend of November 5-6 (maybe try to qualify for NYCM before the standards change)

  • Wisconsin Marathon - May 2012

  • Seattle half or full June 2012

  • Capitol Mile - July 2012

  • Women's Half Marathon - August 2012

  • CIM - December 2012

    Whaddaya think? Any advice/consolation/kicks in the ass appreciated.


Jen Jones said...


Rolling first half, very gentle flat to slight down 2nd half. AWESOME weather!

I will do this race again. It's the only race besides Boston I know I will repeat (I'm all about cool weather!)


The Salty One said...

I didn't have stomach issues, but otherwise I can totally relate.

Sometimes our bodies just give us the finger for no explicable reason. My two training buddies each had a blow up in 2010. One blew up in Boston and then came back in Columbus in 2010 and ran a 2:49. The other blew up in Columbus 2010 and then ran an OTQ in Cleveland 2011.

I blew up in Columbus on Sunday and still passed 2 women going for the OTQ. One woman ran over 2 hours for her second half of the race. Stuff happens even to hard-working, great athletes, awesome all-around people who deserve that amazing race result.

Hopefully you will enjoy some down time and then enjoy the fitness bounce while logging some short race pr's the rest of the year! Great job hanging in there!!!!! So proud of you!!!!!

Theia said...

Crap. I had no idea what had happened (I'm so hopelessly out of the loop).

I know it wasn't what you wanted or trained for, but 3:44 despite stomach issues is really kickass. I hope you know that.

Maria said...

Despite not hitting your goal, I'm very impressed with your determination and ability to move on not to mention the amazing training cycle you had. Keep your head up high!!!

solarpowered said...

Man, do I know about solid training and then sucky race day. HOWEVER, you still finished with a solid time despite feeling so awful. Badass, for sure.

Greg said...

First, you done good. I've never had to deal with stomach issues in a marathon, so I count myself as lucky.

Training-wise, I think you had ended up 4 weeks from last long run to race because of the Chicago-weather abort. I also wonder if you wore yourself down a little with the big mileage.

You have to be careful not to lose that spring in your step, especially as you approach my age :-) Some drills, stride, hill sprints and avoiding back-to-back-to-back runs over an hour might help. I think doubles are the way to go to get volume, but getting in doubles is obviously tough to manage.

Anyway, great job and enjoy your recovery.