This was the toughest, hilliest, most satisfying marathon yet!
Huge PR by 6 minutes 12 seconds!!!!!!
We headed out for the 3 hour trip to Stroudsburg early Saturday afternoon & got to packet pickup with plenty of time before the 7pm cutoff time. The expo was small, as you'd expect from a small race. They didn't have my shirt as the smalls didn't come in, but the volunteers and race directors were so nice that it didn't even bother me. They'll mail me my shirt. It's grey unisex long sleeve. Ok. Nothing fancy but I'll probably wear it in the fall or winter.
|A whole lot of yellow going on!|
We then went to check in at our hotel and grab some food. Seafood linguini from Red Lobster might seem like a questionable choice for carbo loading but I had zero GI issues race day. In fact, this was the first time I didn't have to stop for a potty break during the race! Thank goodness for small blessings. We were going to drive the course but then decided it wouldn't make any difference the next day...except to add hill anxiety...so we headed back to the hotel and I laid out my race day stuff.
I also got my 'pace band' ready for my 'Oprah' goal:
I knew 4:29 was a stretch but hey, go big or go home, right???
Race day dawned early & my alarm went off @ 5:45. I actually slept fair. Not perfect, but I wasn't tossing and turning all night. I got up, opened the drapes...rain. You have got to be freaking kidding me??? Rain again? Not heavy, but rain. Sigh. Resolving to accept my impending cold soggy run, I dressed & ate...& sent a pathetic text message to trail buddy. A cliff bar in the room & half a pb sandwich & juice in the car during the half hour drive to the start. It was a point to point course & we chose a hotel by the finish in Stroudsburg. The host hotel had breakfast out early for runners so it was easy to get on the road. There weren't buses to the start so lots of runners were carpooling in the lobby. No problem getting to the start at Pocono Raceway. Bag check was organised & there was ample, no wait, indoor plumbing and a covered area in which to wait. At 7:45 I said goodbye to SD and walked to the start line.
Luckily they had potties there for a last minute (again, no wait) stop. Btw, my knees are fine but I chose to KT tape as a precautionary measure given the crazy hilly nature of the course. I figured it couldn't hurt and if it bothered me was easily ripped off.
At 8am, 603 brave souls set off in a light drizzle that would continue the entire race, to tackle the relentless hills of the Pocono Mountains. Although on paper this looks like a fast and easy downhill course, I can assure you it was not. The first 4 or so miles were rolling hills. Long and gentle. I did not join a pace group but I made note of the 4:30 gal and kept her in my sights while finding my happy pace. My goal for this race was to run strong & comfortable....Leaving all i had on the course. Ideally this pace would be 10:18 overall but knowing how constantly challenging the course would be, I knew the split would be all over.
Miles 1-4: 10:14/10:39/10:38/10:07
So far feeling good. Usually by now, if I'm going to have a GI issue, I know it. Feeling good and strong.
Mile 5 started with a half mile climb and then plummeted to the tune of a 12%grade. 9:33. I am glad I taped.
Mile 6 had a little climb. I think I had the best tasting orange ever at an aid station & ran 10:36.
7,8,9&10 continued downhill at sometimes terrifying quadbusting angles that were interrupted with brief steep inclines.
In the spirit of self preservation, I actually reined myself in a bit here.
At mile 10 I popped 2 Tylenol, ate a Gel and did a little inventory. Yup, quads & knees at dull roar but hopefully the tape & Tylenol would see me through.
|It's hard to see but the uphills were constant and brutal|
At this point, I actually started to be thankful for the light drizzle. I know! I have a hard time even typing it, but it's true. That rain was the perfect temperature regulator.
Mile 11 was ok with just a short climb:10:12
Then the constant hills started. Mile 12 was a long haul & my first mile over 11. It was 11:04. I feel like my mile splits don't tell the true story. When I look at them It seems like I was losing it. But honestly, I felt strong. Those hills over and over again kept coming and several times I just tackled them ultra style & power walked up them (with everyone else). I really don't think it cost me much time.
At the half I was right on target:2:14:38
For a small race with only 603 runners, there was amazing crowd support all along the route and at each aid station. Aid stations were every 2 miles, which was perfect. Each aid station was also littered with cool supportive signs before and after. I really appreciated that and looked forward to seeing what they'd have at the next station. A small touch, but one I loved.
Miles 13,14,15: 10:37/10:57/10:45
Miles 15-20 are always the toughest mentally for me. I had a really good 5 miles. I lost the pacer somewhere around 14 but I was ok with that. My paces, given the grade, were challengingly comfortable. And by that I mean that I was pushing but not dying from it. Make sense? There were some very very pretty downhill sections beside a creek and forest. I was passing people here and there & really just enjoying my run....achy quads and all. The roads twisted so you never knew what was up ahead. If the hill you were climbing or hurtling down was going to end around the next bend or not. Definitely kept me alert & in the game.
Miles 16-20: 10:30/10:23/10:19/10:33/10:27
At 20, I know I can finish this. I know I can run a strong 10k any day of the week. Except, crap, there's another hill. And it's steep. What's a girl to do except power walk when necessary & explode as much as possible on the crest. Then another. 4 steep climbs in the last 10k. I put my head down and bulled through them as best I could. Strangely, it was hard to do but I felt like I was giving my all. I was still passing people and with every step I knew I was closer to the finish line.
Miles 21-25: 10:50/12:02/10:56/11:37/11:36
Mile 26 we enter Stroudsburg and it is blessedly flat. I'm close. I can feel it & I want to finish strong. Is it wrong that I enjoy passing people...especially in the last 10k? 10:27
At mile 26 we step onto the track. Let me tell you that after pounding 26 miles of asphalt, the spongy track felt like heaven! 3/4 of a lap and I crossed at 10:08 pace!
I got my medal and water & headed to find SD.
This was a small race....smaller than usual too due to the last minute course change that had to be made, but I have to hand it to the race organisers. It was a well done event. Though the course was not closed, I never felt unsafe. I think there may have been more volunteers, road marshals & helpful spectators than runners! While walking across the school grounds on our way back to the hotel a volunteer ran up to me, asked me if I was ok, did i need a shuttle (they had shuttles back to the start for those that parked there). When I said no, I'm just walking back to the hotel he asked if I'd like another water and ran to get me one. Very nice people in this town!
I would be lying if I were to say I was confident going into this....far from it. I used a vastly different method of training....the torture plan that Thing 1 drew up for me had me doing speedwork at a pace I never would have pushed myself to normally. Paces I didn't often hit bang on but must have made me stronger. Given the technical difficulty of this course I am beyond satisfied. I got a PR on a crazy tough course & felt pretty good all through the race. Apart from my 1st...what can compare to crossing your first marathon finish line? This is the most satisfied and happy I have been in a running performance. No regrets. The tape, the Tylenol, the training, walking a few of those hills, even the vacation taper...they were all the right decisions. You've gotta love it when a plan comes together!