Another marathon in the books! This was my third time running the Indy Monumental Marathon, and I nabbed a four second PR, finishing in 3:04:45. The fact that I PR'd by four seconds is actually pretty comical. That's not easy to do! Without a doubt, I am very happy with this race. It's been two years since I have PR'd in a marathon, and although it was only four seconds, I am really excited about what this means for the direction my running is taking.
Three days before the race I had a chance to speak with my coach, Esther Atkins. This was a really helpful conversation for me because we tweaked a few things in regards to my fueling strategy, both pre race and during the race. Rather than carb load the day before the marathon, Esther suggested I eat carb heavy two days prior to the race, and eat somewhat normally the day before the race with the exception of a few extra carbs for my dinner the evening before the race. Of course everyone is different, but for me this worked beautifully. My glycogen tank was fully filled but I didn't go to bed the night before the race feeling bloated and heavy. Instead of my gel every five miles rule, the new plan was to start fueling at the 8 mile mark, and then take a gel every five miles after, which ended up being miles 8, 13, 18, and 23. Waiting a bit longer to start fueling will tap into you body's ability to use both fat and carbs for fuel. I was also a fan of this new strategy because I never felt like I was running out of steam the entire race.
When it came to pacing, the plan was to stay steady and controlled and cross the halfway point in 1:31:00, and my actual half split was 1:30:57! From that point we had hoped a negative split would be possible. That plan was not executed the way I had hoped, but more on that later.
We arrived in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon. One of the reasons I have signed up for Indy Monumental the last three years is due to the ease of logistics. Our hotel was mere blocks from the expo, the start line, and the finish line! I was able to get in and out of the expo quickly and get back to resting and hydrating.
I went to bed around 9:30 Friday evening and actually slept pretty well. Due to our hotel being so close to the race start, I didn't wake up until 6:00 a.m., and didn't leave the hotel until 20 minutes before the gun went off. No porta potty lines to stand in!
I got into my corral about 7:50 a.m., took off my throwaway sweatshirt, and was ready to go. I felt the same way I had the entire time leading up to the race - excited to be healthy enough to be there, but otherwise rather detached. I of course wanted to do my best and hopefully snag a PR, but I wasn't placing undue importance on the outcome like I used to.
The first five miles were a bit of a blur. The course was really congested and there were a lot of turns. My GPS wasn't always accurate so I tried to focus on how I felt. My splits were: 6:50, 6:57, 6:42, 6:55, 6:55.
After mile 5 the crowd thinned out a bit and I was able to relax. I was really happy with how I was feeling - like I was working hard but not overexerting myself. Miles 6-10 were: 6:51, 6:48, 7:01, 7:02, 6:53. I took my first gel at mile 8 and was stopping at every water station.
Before I knew it, I was passing under the arch marking the halfway point of the race. As I mentioned earlier, I was right on track: 1:30:57! Miles 11 - 15 flew by: 6:56, 6:59, 6:55, 6:54, 7:02. I took my second gel at mile 13.
Up until this point I was doing really well with my new strategy that I adopted for the Boston Marathon back in April that consisted of really making an effort to not let my mind drift to the miles that lay ahead. My only concern was to be what was happening in the current mile. At mile 16, the course travels along a very busy road that is still open to traffic, and I don't know what it was about that but I started to get a little frustrated running so close to all of the cars. The road was at a slight incline, the path was narrow, and my mind started to wander to all the miles I still had to go and how the finish line seemed so far away. Thankfully the course turned into a residential neighborhood and I was able to get my head back into a more positive place. Miles 16 - 20 were: 7:09, 6:57, 7:03, 6:57, 6:56. I took my third gel at mile 18.
Just past the mile 20 marker I looked at my watch and had trouble making out all of the data on the screen. I could see some of the numbers, but parts of the screen were not visible. I looked up at the runners in front of me and could not see all of their bodies - some had only one leg or only one arm. I died a little inside when I figured out I was getting a migraine. This has happened during several of my most recent marathons right around this point in the race. I started to hyperventilate a bit as panic set in, which caused a mildly annoying side stitch. I knew I could finish the race, because I had done it several times before, but it's really tough to do with compromised vision. At mile 21, I spotted who I thought might be Tina Muir, one of my favorite professional runners. Her podcast is a weekly staple and I have a huge amount of respect for her openness and honesty. As I ran by, she called out my bib number and told me I looked strong, and I shouted back that I loved her! Embarrassing now but seemed perfectly appropriate at the time! As I continued on, the headache set in and my vision continued to deteriorate. I felt my body tightening up in response and that was difficult to fight. At mile 23 I took my last gel. Around this point on the course the half marathon route syncs up with the marathon route, which means the street suddenly has way more runners and walkers. My only goal was to finish the race without tripping, and this did not make it any easier. There was a lot of weaving through the crowds. I kept telling myself to stay calm and keep pushing, and that a PR might still be possible. FINALLY I saw the mile 26 marker and knew I would soon be turning the corner to the finish line. I was rather upset to see the 3:05 pacer right behind me and knew I had to pick it up and give it all I had if a PR was still going to happen. As I rounded the corner I saw my husband, daughters, and parents, and that gave me a nice little jolt. My final splits for miles 21 - the finish were: 7:15, 7:05, 7:15, 7:12, 7:35 (ughhhh), 7:07, and the last .2 at 6:50 pace.
I crossed the finish line and was overjoyed to see I had eeked out a very small personal best! I had to fight really hard the last six miles to make that happen. My stomach was not ready for food or really even water at this point, so we made the short walk back to the hotel. I had the luxury of being able to lie down for 30 minutes at the hotel before I had to shower and check out.
This was not the result I knew I was capable of but I am thrilled to be back to where I was a few years ago in terms of speed. My last few years of marathons have for sure had weather challenges but also mental roadblocks, too, that kept me from performing my best. Until the headache set in this was by far the strongest I have ever felt during a marathon, both mentally and physically. The pace that once seemed out of reach now feels like an honest marathon pace. When I look back at my training, my pre-race preparations, and my race execution, there isn't anything I would do differently. I think that is way more important than the finish time on the clock. I do plan on consulting a medical professional regarding the migraine issue and can hopefully get a plan in place to prevent this from happening again.
My next marathon will be the Bayshore Marathon in May. I also plan to run a half marathon or two in early spring because lowering my half marathon PR is a goal for 2018. In a few weeks I plan on starting to build a strong base for the next training cycle. I also have some plans for my coaching business and blog to keep me busy!