Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sweet Redemption - Wisconsin Marathon Race Report

Well that was awesome.  Marathon number 13 rocked.  My time was 3:27:09.

This isn't quite what I was shooting for, so I will  start with the question that I know you want to ask me: 

Am I bummed that I did not hit my time goal of 3:25 since I was SO close?   Nope, not even a tiny bit.

Post-race YEAH!

Weird, huh?  Admittedly, I can get pretty preoccupied with the numbers.  Not this time.  For so many reasons this race was really a great one for me.  I really, really, really needed a good one too.  My last 3 marathons were a mess.  Messy marathons suck.  Actually, they more than suck.  They are painful, miserable experiences that can stick with you for a long time. When you string three of them in a row, it is very, very discouraging.  BUT, when you knock one out of the park, it more than makes up for all of those sub-par races and leaves you hungry to get back at it and go out there again.  That's where I am right now.

So grab a cup of joe and sit back with me while I give you my full race report.  I am thrilled to tell you its going to be a long one.

Prerace:  As I mentioned in my training recap, I had a really strong training season and was very excited this week.   I successfully rested and carbo-loaded.  Friday, I went to a leadership conference and it was very inspiring - just what I needed to get into a great racing mindset!  After the conference, I hurried home so my family could get on the road to Kenosha. Originally, John and I were planning to go sans kiddos to the race.  He was going to do the half; I was doing the full.  But he got hurt several weeks back, so we decided to bring the kids and make it a family affair.  We got to Kenosha and packet pick-up around 6:30 pm.

Who knew Sketchers made running shoes?

 It was a tiny expo (if you can even call it that), but the boys had fun and scored some cool schwag from the Sketchers table.  They did not get the size 36 shoe, but don't think they didn't ask.  :)

We grabbed Subway for dinner and headed back to the hotel to relax.  I didn't sleep great, but I didn't really care because I knew I had rested well all week.  I woke up a few minutes before my 4:00 am alarm.  Race day!  About 20 minutes later, I (over) enthusiastically woke John.  He wasn't so enthused at first, but it is RACE DAY BABY!  GET UP!!!.  He is such a great sport.  He quickly got up and got into race mode with me.

Weather:  Weather is always such an important and uncontrollable facet of racing.  Thursday it was 85 degrees and super humid in Wisconsin.  I had been watching the weather for 2 weeks, and I have honestly never seen the forecast change so dramatically so many times.  But the weather gods smiled upon me Saturday.  The heat broke and it was 50 degrees on race morning.  It rained in the early morning, but stopped for the most part just before the start.  It was pretty darn windy, but that was not going to beat me down.

Me and my boys at 5:30 am!

Start:  The race started at 7 and our hotel was about 15 minutes away.  Traffic was pretty congested and I didn't get to the starting area until 6:45.  I chatted with some people and was excited to go!!  The National Anthem then played.  Predictably and unapologetically I teared up and savored the moment.  It is a blessing to be able to do this and to have the support I have from my family.  My heart was full and thankful.  Moments later, the gun went off and it was a nice slow start.  Perfect.  Just past mile 1, I saw John and the boys and threw them the old t-shirt I was using to stay warm.  I was so glad they were all there.

Pacing:  My coach told me not to go out too fast.  He even e-mailed me the night before the race to remind me.  I promised I wouldn't and I was very intent on running a smart race.  For the first half, I literally repeated over and over in my mind, SLOW and STRONG.  CALM and SMART.  Or some variation of these words.  Over and over and over.  Ha, I even thought to myself at one point that if anyone else was there in my head with me, they'd definitely want to slap me.  But it was working for me.  I felt really great.  THIS IS MY RACE.  TODAY IS MY DAY.

But I really had no idea the pace I was running.  Now, normally, I know that the course will ultimately measure around 26.5 miles.  So I needed to be running slightly ahead of the "average pace" reading on my Garmin.  Typically, my Garmin is around 5 seconds per mile ahead of the average pace I will ultimately post.  So, I figured if I ended with a 7:45 pace, I'd hit the 7:50 average pace I needed for my 3:25.  I am also well aware that often times mile markers are just off.  But this race was a hard one to figure out.  From very early on, the mile markers were a fair bit off my Garmin.  Not sure if it was the weather (cloudy = bad signal?) or what, but my Garmin would tell me I was running a 7:35 pace (SLOW DOWN MINDI) and I'd click off a 7:56 mile.  What?  But I tried not to think about it.  Especially when I saw the 6 mile marker at about 5.5 miles.  I decided then and there that this race was not going to be about my exact time.  I was just going to run hard, run well.  This ultimately was a very smart strategy for me.

Classic Mindi smiles mid-race getting ready to give Jakey 5!

Early Miles:  The course is fast and flat and the early miles were very nice.  Miles 4.5ish through 8.5 were into a pretty decent headwind, however.  I just kept repeating my mantras (SLOW and SMART, CALM and STRONG).  I felt great.  I saw a woman with an awesome sign that said "Some day you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day."  Yes, today is not that day.  I loved it and continued to repeat that in my mind as well.  I also overheard a woman saying that she ran Boston 3 weeks ago and was here for redemption.  You go girl.  I so hoped she would have a great race (and later found out she did).  Around mile 8, I saw my really good friend Michelle who was running the half.  She looked strong and I was so happy for her.  Today is a great day to race.  About half a mile later, the course turned to the south and it was awesome to get out of the wind.  I enjoyed the slight push, but made sure not to go to fast.  SLOW and STRONG, SMART and CALM.  The first 10 miles flew by.  Always a good sign.  As I passed mile 11, I saw the boys and they had awesome signs!!  Where did those come from?  Then, a few moments later, I saw Michelle's family, who had brought them.  Awesome.

Best pit crewers and best race sign evah.

Right after that, we turned again and I hoped to see Michelle heading back to the finish.  A man ran by and was singing that he was going to smash this course like an Idaho potato.  Rock.  I put this in my head too.  Good stuff.  A minute or two later I saw my friend Michelle and she looked awesome.  We high fived and I told her to dig deep.  I later found out she had a great race and finished in 1:34.

Michelle rocking her race!

Middle Miles:  During the middle miles, it started raining, or more aptly drizzing.  It actually felt pretty great.  I was so thankful for the overcast and cool weather.  I hit the halfway point and saw I was at 1:43:xx.  I knew that was slower than I should be, but I didn't care.  I was close and I could hit my time if I negative split.  But it was too early to pick it up too much.  At this point, I focused on not loosing my focus.  Stay on pace.  Stay strong.  Yep, I repeated this in my head over and over.  After the half and full split off, we were running south on some country roads.  There were no spectators and the field had really spread out.  I was actually pretty thankful for the quiet.  It was calm and I felt strong.

All the hard work pays off in rock hard legs too.

Last 7 miles.  Just before mile 19, the course turned back to the north into a very strong headwind.  We were running right along Lake Michigan, which was lovely, but it made the winds pretty brutal.  I had been leapfrogging for a while with another woman, so I looked at her and asked her if she wanted to work together.  I offered to block the wind for a mile and then we would switch.  She nodded her head and ducked in behind me.  After about 3/4 of a mile, she fell off and I pushed on.  It was hard with the winds to keep pace, but of course, entering those latter miles presented its own normal challenges of fatigue.  At this time, I kept telling myself to dig deep.  I felt good, but the winds were really tough.  I knew at this point that I was not going to fall apart and that I would have a great race.  I had been keeping my Garmin display set at the average mile pace, and a few times considered switching over to see what I needed to meet my goal time.  But I talked myself out of it for two reasons.  First, I am terrible at any sort of math after 15 miles so why bother.  Even more importantly, I was running a strong race and it didn't matter.  Laying it out there was all that mattered and I was going to do it. 

I was thinking about my training and the fact that I had run 1023.8 miles this season.  Then I realized - Wow - my 26.2 today will make exactly 1050 miles.  What a sweet, even number.  Perfect.  It is funny the things that motivate us during those tough miles..... 

 At about mile 24, the woman I allowed to draft off me passed by.  Oooh, did that ever start a fire in my belly!  It was exactly what I needed at that stage of the race.  So I took it up a notch and passed her.  Nope, you are not beating this girl.  Not today.  Around mile 25, I saw my friend Michelle.  She was so awesome and started running along side me.  I was around a 7:45 pace and I knew that must have been hard for her after running a half all out.  I was so grateful.  After a while, she stopped so she could cut a tangent and get up to the finish.  As I ran up toward the finish, I saw the boys and John and Michelle's family all screaming at me.  I ran as fast as I could manage and both boys ran along side me for a while.  It was awesome.  I crossed the line with a big fat smile.  BOOYAH!  Within a few seconds, my youngest son was there, beaming.  A few moments later, everyone was around and Michelle and I smiled for a nice post race photo.  We both had great races. 

Two very happy racers!

Final time: 3:27:09.  I was 9th woman overall and 2nd in my age group (bummer that the Wisconsin Marathon does not give out age group awards).  It was officially my 3rd best time in the marathon.  I'll take it.

After the race, we walked back to the car (ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch) and James told me how happy he was that I had a good race.  He told me he knew I was going to have a great race and he was so happy he was there.  Me too, kiddo.  Me too.

Did I meet my time?  Not quite.  But I ran a very smart and very strong race.  The headwinds the last 7 miles were brutal, but I was stronger and I kept my pace.  It was in all respects, a success.  My Garmin read an average pace of 7:46 because it measured the course as 26.65.  Cool.  I ran the pace I trained for.  I also met my goal of sub-3:35 so I can get into Corral B for the Chicago Marathon.  I'll hit that 3:25 there.  :) 

Hotel hot tub post-race = awesomeness.

If you made it this far, thanks so much for sharing this with me. Run strong and be happy.

Running + good friends mix well

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Quinto Sol said...

GREAT RR... Congrats on a well executed race!!!! NICE!!! Very nice!

Greg said...

Great race, great report, great attitude. Congrats!

D. said...

Nice race, GREAT race report! Well done!

Dave (govandals)

Mindi said...

Thanks so much guys!

mainers said...

great stuff Mindi!!

Runnin-From-The-Law said...

SO excited that you had a strong, happy race! Congrats!

Mixail Svetlov said...

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