If you hang out with runners enough, or run enough races, or read enough race reports…you see constant reference to having a “Bad Day.” Sometimes a bad run or a bad race has nothing to do with training and EVERYTHING to do with the circumstances that day. Last year our local marathon had unusually high temperatures and even the elite runners had problems. Donnie had a DNF (Did not Finish) on his first triathlon last season because it was unusually cold and his shivering became involuntary and he couldn’t control his bike. Sometimes food doesn’t sit right – and it’s usually something you’ve eaten before but that day it didn’t work. Sometimes you’re just tired. Or sick. Or your headspace is off. The bad days are abundant and when they happen at a race? They’re devastating.
But me? Yesterday? At the Rocket City Marathon 2013 – the LAST one ever on that particular course – I had the elusive Good Day that you always want.
Reason #1: Friends
Some of this “Good Day” was simply the fact that this is a local marathon and I had people I knew in several places along the course…working aid stations, cheering with cheer teams, or just stopping by to try to see their friends. I am inherently an introvert – the kind of person who finds socializing taxing and needs alone time to recharge. But on race day I thrive on seeing familiar faces along the course. This was the picture a friend of mine took at mile 12 and this was exactly what I did every time I saw someone I knew.
I even had the energy to jump and scream a few times, I’m sure making me stand out as the lone weirdo who cheered for the spectators. It’s just that every time I saw someone I knew, I got excited and got another burst of energy. I even hugged a few friends who were close enough to the road – which I’m sure they loved with my nasty sweaty body.
So! Friends! Always a key!
Reason #2: Weather
I was terrified it was going to rain the entire race. I had Donnie and E ready to have dry gear for me at two points because I was worried I’d be miserable wet. I knew it would waste time to change, but I wanted to prepare for that. I also was trying “new” things to brace for the rain and I wanted “old” things to switch to if those “new” things didn’t work. But the new things worked! And it didn’t rain much at all. A little drizzle the first 2 miles, and some misting later in the race. But it wasn’t too cold (while running) so I ended up ditching a lot of my gear. Basically? The weather was perfect. 50 and Cloudy. And I wasn’t overdressed which I was glad about because I worried I’d be under-dressed.
Reason #3: Confidence
I’ve had two good races already this year where I finished better than I hoped. I had set my goals a little higher this time, start with the 4:55 pace group and finish with the 4:40 pace group. Because of the two good finishes I had the confidence that I could do it.
Reason #4: Training
I did these same kinda-close races last year and since my only goal was to finish them all, I basically tapered in between each one of them. This year I decided to squeeze in another 20+ long run between them instead of tapering the entire time. I think this really helped on the 50K and the marathon yesterday. I think my body is strong enough now to handle the excess miles, and I’m not sure doing this last year would have helped. But this year I’m really glad I did it because so far I think it has been what has kept me strong – physically – the duration of the races. I’ve got one more 50K in this stretch of race (12/31) and then I can rest until my 50-miler in March. I don’t think I’ll try to cram in a 20-miler in the next 17 days, but I might. I’ve had three great races, if the last one fizzles I’ll be fine.
And now for the ACTUAL race report!
I went into this race with a plan. Start with the 4:55 pace group but catch up with the 4:40 pace group by mile 13. This is exactly what I did. I just can’t start off as fast as I finish because my body doesn’t behave well that way. I have to do my first few miles slower than the middle miles. When I caught up with the 4:40 pace group I had been hanging at 10:30min/miles or faster so I thought I’d just pass them up and try to hang at that pace for longer to see if I could finish ahead of them. I held the faster pace until mile 20-or-so, and then I started slowing back to 10:45.
At this point I started having the only issues I’d really have during the race and in retrospect, they weren’t even that bad. I was getting an upset stomach which was not good because I had only ingested about 300 calories and I had been running for almost 4 hours. I really should have had more fuel at that point but I just couldn’t stomach it. I started getting side stitches around mile 22-23 and I don’t get them often and still haven’t figured out the best way to get rid of them. I started getting the teasing of quad cramps at mile 24-25. And that SUCKED because around mile 23 I saw that 4:40 pace group about 1/4-mile behind me. I was NOT going to let them catch me so I tried to pick up the pace a bit. I haven’t looked at my data but I’m betting the quad cramps happened because that 25th mile was my fastest one of the race. But either way – I held a faster pace and booked it to the finish line for an official finish of 4:37:17! If you’ll recall my last year’s time AT THE SAME RACE was 5:18:53. That’s 40-minutes off that course time. My marathon PR was 4:58:14 so I cut 20+ minutes off that too! All in all? A great race. A great day. A perfect combination of weather and training and headspace and most importantly – friends – to leave me happy and strong and just ready to take on the next race.