As I exited T2 and began my 26.2 miles, Douglas and I shared a fist bump and I saw Coach Carole. I was honestly excited to be in my running shoes and the energy I got from seeing Doug and Carole was palpable!
I did my best to settle down the energy and stick to my plan. The plan was to run sub 9 for as long as I could, knowing I would slow down in the second half to around 9:30, but with a goal of coming in around 4 hours (9:10 average pace). It was a stretch goal, but I had trained for it and the conditions were right (and I have done it stand alone).
My nutrition plan was simple. I carried a hand held bottle and used NUUN for extra salt and took in calories every mile.
The first miles were effortless. I felt great and I saw a lot of my Trakkers teammates, including Megan who was FLYING, which was a great pick me up along the way. Lots of folks were finishing up the half and it was great to cheer them on as they passed by, including my teammate Kiersten who was battling knee pain but powering through.
This is the first race that I used a hand held bottle and I was really happy with it. The aid stations tend to get congested and I was happy to be able to stay to the left, only slowing twice when I needed to refill the bottle. I was also happy to have access to water whenever I wanted, even though I was not drinking nearly as much as I had in training because the temps were so much cooler (mistake #1).
The run course was a 13.1 mile loop that the 140.6 athletes completed twice. The course was mostly flat, with only one hill on the bridge near the two/eleven mile mark. My only frustration with the course were the zigs and zags through parks that were not clearly marked and some of the volunteers were not giving great directions. This has happened at IM branded races too, it really just depends on the volunteers. When you are 'in the zone' zigs and zags can be easy to miss or require abrubt changes in stride, which don't feel good.
Around 9 miles into the marathon, I started to feel the miles. It was taking more effort to maintain my pace but I kept telling myself that I could slow down at the half way mark and that I was going to see Douglas. I fought to maintain pace but my mental state was deteriorating. This should have been a clue I needed more calories.
I fought my way to the half way point and got cheers from Trakkers teammate Ryan, that helped, but I almost lost it when I saw Dougas as I turned to start the next 13.1 miles. You can see from the photos that I am fighting back tears. I told Douglas that I was slowing down and not to worry if it took me longer than expected to finish. I was mentally giving up on my sub-12 hour race, heck at this point, time was no longer important.
Looking back now, despite the fact that I had been taking in calories as I trained, I must have needed more for whatever reason. I needed to adapt better on the fly, and my mental state was a major indicator that something was wrong. I just don't think or act that way normally. I am a fighter and I don't like to throw in the towel. I should have started trying to shovel down the calories, which I ended up doing many miles later.
I managed to run 2 more miles before deciding that I would walk up the hill and then from then on I would allow myself to walk through aid stations. This is not something I ever do, but it was the deal I made with myself so that I could keep moving forward. My pace slowed down quite a bit and my walks through aid stations got longer.
If you had asked me about IMTX at that point during the race, I would have cussed you out and told you to keep my $700.
At one point, a nice racer approached me and asked if I was ok. That was a major wake up call. I must have looked totally out of it. He walked with me through that aid station and for a bit after and I started shoveling down calories. I walked through this to make myself get the calories down and started drinking more water. I told him I was ok so that he wouldn't feel obligated to stay with me. This must have been around the 18 mile mark and I gave myself a mental slap to get my shit together. I felt light headed and knew that my race would be in jepaordy if I didn't take immediate action.
I started running again and almost immediately started to feel a bit better. I kept to running between aid stations until about 3 miles to go, when the adrenaline must have kicked in. I skipped walking through an aid station and told myself I could make myself run until the hill on the bridge. When I got there, I decided I didn't need to walk. At that point my pace was increasing again. I may have blown a sub-12 hour race but I knew a sub 12:30 race was still in my grasp.
The fact that I was able to get back to a decent pace at this point in the race really showed me two things: 1) I lost the mental battle earlier in the race and 2) I can dig deep. Knowing I can dig deep will definitely help me in future races (so will staying better in tune with my mental state).
With about a mile or so to go, my left IT band started to scream at me, but I was not going to let anything slow me down. I grimaced through the pain, let out a few profanities, cheered on athletes starting their second loop and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
As I neared the finish line I saw Carole, who from my time, knew things must have fallen apart, but she cheered me on as I ran to the finisher's chute. I saw Douglas and smiled a huge smile. This time I remembered to put my hands and smile as I crossed the finish line (no deer in the headlights look like at IMFL).
My teammate Josh caught me as I crossed the line and gave me my finisher gear and Doug was able to find and hug me right away, so much better than at IMFL!
4:38:19, 10:37 Pace
5/14 Division Place
25/67 Overall Place Women
Swim - 1:24:28
T1 - 4:24
T2 - 3:56
Total Time - 12:23:57 -- 40 min PR!
Division Place: 5/14
Overall Place: 25/67
Since the top 2 women in my AG, were also in the top 3 overall amatuer women, I ended up in 3rd place for my AG!
Post Race Thoughts
My entire body hurt the minute I crossed the finish line. After the short walk to the athlete's area, I only had a short wait for ART. The ART didn't feel good, but I sure did after I got it - complete transformation! I walked back to the hotel fairly easily, showered and walked back to the finish line, where I proceeded to stub my toe, which ended up hurting more than my legs!
After cheering on a bunch of finisher's, Douglas and I walked back to the car to get some grub and cheer folks on from the car who were still on the course. There was not much open so we settled on Sonic, which hit the spot.
We woke up early the next day to pack up and hit the Rev 3 finisher store. We got to wander the park and be silly in the finisher area which was fun. We had to miss the awards to make the drive to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before heading back to Columbus for our flight home. I had no idea I was missing 3rd place AG hardware!
Finally, I think it took me so long to write this race report because while I am thrilled with my PR, I know I could have done better. It was not about my finisher time, it was about not executing the race as I had planned (doing the best I could do on that day, under those conditions based on my level of fitness). Disappointment is not fun to write about, but it is something to learn from, and learn I did. I took less than 30 minutes after crossing the finish line to think about what I would do differently at IMTX ...