Monday, May 11, 2015

Flying with Grace

Going into the Flying Pig marathon, I felt completely and utterly unprepared. I feel the same sense of dread and mini-panic nearly every time I toe the start line. My one comfort was that I had done every one of the prescribed pace runs, and gotten through them somewhat easily, but they only went up to 10 miles.

Cincinnati - Where pigs fly
A few weeks earlier Bill asked about doing the extra races to make up the "5-way" challenge.
"Won't it compromise your chance for a marathon PR?" he asked. It was a completely reasonable question.
"Probably," I replied.
"Then why do it?"
"Because."
"Why not focus on the marathon?"
"Because it's fun. I don't know anywhere else that I can make a total weekend of running, unless I drive from race to race. It's fun."
"It's your race."
"Duh," I muttered under my breath.

The short races could possibly/probably affect the marathon, but they're fun!! Besides, I had received my Chicago acceptance just days before and the flat course there is more conducive to a PR than the hills in Cincy.

The early forecast had been for thunderstorms, then it changed to HOT and sunny. I can handle hot, but being wet the whole time leads my poor little toes to blister, so I was thankful for the dry heat and sun. Sunday morning was humid and already 61 degrees when we parted at corral G, where Bill was starting his first half marathon in the town where he grew up. I went on to corral E, the pink "pig pen." I positioned myself roughly between the 4:30 and 4:45 pace groups, not running with either one. The 4:30 group would remain within sight for over 3 hours.

The first 6 miles I struggled to stay at pace. My body wanted to go so much faster, but I know good marathons don't happen in the early miles - they're won or lost in the late miles, so I kept trying to force myself to slow down.

After the trip through Kentucky, we passed a young kid holding a sign with two chocolate M&Ms on it, "You had one shot, one opportunity." For the first time in many seasons, it was true. Cincinnati was my only spring marathon, there was nothing else planned. One race, one shot.

It was hot.

The spectators were great. I told my bestie it was like a drinking tour of Cincinnati. Two older women were giving mimosa to runners - best drink ever during a race!!!! The sugar from the OJ gave me a ton more energy than any "energy" beverage or gel. Delish!!!!! Later on, some college-aged guys had Dixie cups of beer. Even later, another group had Jell-O shots lol I was having FUN with the race, and enjoying all the alcohol (and bacon...) that was offered! (I was sweating so much that the minimal amounts of alcohol were immediately flushed out)

Marathon #20. I like how bleary-eyed exhausted I am :)
Some runners prefer to run different races. I prefer to find one or two good races and keep running them year and year. I don't see the boredom, but the familiarity and comfort of knowing what's coming.

Around mile 14-15, there is a monster steep hill, but at the top is the church that always posts the lyrics to Amazing Grace:

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
'Tis Grace has kept you safe thus far
and Grace will lead you home.

Very quickly after that was the relay exchange point behind the Kroger and I started to realize how close I was to done, how close I was to an epic weekend, how close I was to finishing tons faster and stronger than should have been possible. At mile 16, I was 3-4 minutes ahead of the times written on my forearms (10:30 miles), and I knew a PR was happening. If I could hold on to 12:00s the rest of the way, I had it.

Around mile 18 though, we're up on the highway with zero shade, and it's boring!!!! Then it's through a not-very-scenic area and I was bored, which was reflected by my times creeping up. I went from a 10:36 17th mile to a 12:08, 11:51, 12:16, 13:24.... It was all falling apart and I was too exhausted to care.

Then over my shoulder I saw the pink and white balloons on a stick being carried by the 4:45 pacer. Seeing that group lit a fire in me! I started a few minutes ahead of them, so even if I stayed with them and finished with them, I would still be looking at a 4:48, 4:49 finish. Despite having already raced 10 miles that weekend, and the HEAT and HUMIDITY, I somehow knew I had MORE in the tank and I was better than a 4:48 that morning.

Mile 22, I pulled it down to a 10:50. It didn't hurt nearly as much as it probably should have. I was singing out loud to distract myself. I was encouraging other runners.

Mile 23, 10:53

Mile 24, 10:57. By this point I felt like I was flying. I wasn't falling apart in the end, but maintaining within 30 seconds of goal pace! I've never felt so good so far into a race. I tried to encourage the runners I passed. "22 minutes from done!" "Hang on for 21 minutes, you've got this!" "Almost there! Don't give up!"

Cincinnati has a timing mat for the very last mile and I felt amazing. I didn't notice that it was 80+ degrees, I didn't notice that every article of clothing was drenched in sweat, I didn't notice the dried salt streaks on my arms and face.

I noticed Pharrell singing "Happy" then Eminem's "Rap God." I noticed Bill proudly wearing his half medal, and I raised both arms and said screamed cried cheered "PR baby!!!!" There was less than a quarter mile to go, I dug deep, found my wings and flew across the "Finish Swine" with a 26th mile of 9:21, the fastest mile of my entire race.

Then I cried in the finishing chute, because what else is a woman to do when she laid out all her energy and accomplished what shouldn't be possible?

4 races within 36 hours, 3 PRs.

I felt so humbled and blessed by the weekend God had given me, by the strength He gave me to not only finish, but have my best weekend ever. "I felt nothing but gratitude for every single minute of my stupid little life."

4:43:33.

It was a 10:39 PR over Chicago, which is an easy course, extremely flat and full of spectators the entire way. Compared to the same course in 2014, it was a 27:49 improvement!!!
Love this pic! PR bell :D 

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