After writing my Kona Race Recap, I had a lot of time to reflect on areas I could improve upon and how to go about doing so. Ryan and I met with Coach Bill and came up with many ideas. One feeling that I had leading up to Kona and even during (and then after) the race was that I wish I had a full marathon in me prior to doing the Ironman.
Lucky for me, the opportunity to run a full marathon presented itself exactly 10 weeks out from Ironman Cabo. I specifically began looking for a marathon during a 3-day weekend as we’ve had issues in the past with flights being delayed and me going either into school late or as a zombie. With as big of a race as I am hoping Cabo will be, I did not want lack of sleep to be an issue. I realize one night of little sleep probably would not completely due me in, but I also realize I am a teacher and around sick kids all day so need to do everything I can to stay healthy on my end.
Bill had planned for us to do our 22-mile run workout on Sunday, January 19th, so substituting this awesome workout we did over the summer with a marathon in some warm state seemed kind of perfect. There were a few options during this 3-day (Martin Luther King) weekend, but the Carlsbad Marathon in sunny California seemed like the best route to go.
Nothing like running a marathon in January in shorts!
Honestly, we didn’t really taper more than 4 days, which was the plan. Again, our focus is on Cabo, but I personally wanted a marathon under my belt prior to Cabo, so little taper was okay with me. After our long, hard ride with Bill and our teammates on Sunday, I saw Dave Davis (massage guy). I had been debating on whether I should see him Sunday or Thursday as I knew the long, hard ride would destroy my IT bands. While I was happy I saw him on Sunday (I felt like a million bucks on Monday!), my ITs were just killing me come Thursday. Compression tights and the foam roller became my best friends on Thursday and Friday.
Did I mention that the reason the soreness was an issue was because we were trying to go for the World Record for the Fastest Married Couple to run in the same marathon?
My friend Dave had messaged me around Thanksgiving after having just met Ryan and put the connection (that we were married) together. He told me that the male ran a 2:36 and the female ran a 3:04 at the Tokyo Marathon, which is something he thought we were capable of beating while training for our Ironman. Well, Ryan wasn't totally on board with this as he absolutely HATES running marathons. That was until he got sick over Christmas. He attributes signing up for the marathon to being delirious while sick...I say it was his competitive side kicking in. Either way, we purchased our airline tickets shortly after and surprised our families with this BIG, secret announcement over the holidays (though, I secretly think they were hoping it was a different announcement....that won't come for awhile!;)).
On Friday, Ryan and I sped over to his parent’s house after work, hopped into his mom’s car and jetted off to O’Hare. Despite the snow, we arrived in plenty of time to grab some dinner prior to jumping on the plane. The flight went by quickly between grading (I know, super exciting) and actually talking to Ryan. This week was incredibly busy with a dinner on Monday in St. Charles to celebrate our EGO presented by Sammy’s racing team, Run Club at Life Time on Tuesday, a Run Coordinator dinner with all the Illinois coordinators in Naperville on Wednesday (and not home until 11pm!) and packing on Thursday….so it was pretty nice to be able to actually talk to Ryan for more than the 5 minute before bed conversation.
Tiny bit excited for California!
I want to mention here that Ryan and I applied for the Seeded Athlete entry into the marathon. The reason I am mentioning this is because I want to call out how incredible the athlete coordinators were. They coordinated our transportation to and from the airport (via Super Shuttle), booked our hotel room, had a “hospitality suite” with tons of food and drinks for us to enjoy, had massages available for us, drove us to the expo, grocery store and lunch (and dinner, but Ryan and I declined), and drove us straight to the start line on race morning. Truly, I felt as though I was a top contender in the US ½ Marathon Championships (also held this weekend, but in Houston). Carmen and Nicole, the coordinators, were incredible the whole weekend and I left for Chicago wanting to send them thank-you flowers for making me and Ryan feel so special.
We arrived to San Diego at 8:30pm on Friday evening and hopped onto the Super Shuttle. Being a shuttle service, we had some stops before arriving at our hotel, so did not arrive until about 10:30pm….California time, 12:30am Illinois time. Needless to say, Ryan and I went straight to bed. It was fun sharing the shuttle though as we met a guy, Alex, running the ½ who lives and trains in Boulder and knows a lot of the same Chicago-Boulder runners that we do!
After setting our alarms for a sleep-in wake-up time of 8:30am, Ryan and I went to bed. Apparently, our bodies never really adjusted to the time change as we both woke up at 5:30am, fell back asleep, but woke up for good at 7:30am. We took this as a good sign for race morning as the race was scheduled to start at 6:15am California time, 8:15 Illinois time.
Literally feet from our hotel. Can we do this thing every year?
Our hotel was directly on the course, so we ran 2.5 miles out, just before the giant hill, and turned around to get a little idea of the course. One thing we knew: the hills we were able to see would be tough. Despite the elevation map showing one giant hill, we figured our times would be pretty good as the giant hill seemed to be the only hard part. In less than 24 hours, we would see how wrong we were.
After our run, we took some pictures by the ocean, which was literally across the street from our hotel. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the expo to pick up our packets. The expo was outside, which was cool to see since we are so used to Chicago style (indoor) expos. I found this awesome Lululemon-esque pullover, which I decided to buy since I always seem to wear the same running shirts. In addition to the long-sleeve shirt given to us, we also received a pair of flip-flops, which were perfect for wearing the day after a marathon!
After the expo, Carmen the coordinator drove us to lunch at Subway and dropped us off at the grocery store. It was so nice to have someone who knew the area drive the out-of-towners around.
Because Ryan and I were fortunate enough to be accepted into the Seeded Athlete pool, I knew there’d be a massage option for us on Saturday before the race. After some texting back and forth with Dave Davis, I decided to get the massage. I never have had a massage the day before the race, but I truly believe it helped save the beginning part of my marathon. After our massages, we had an “Elite Athlete Meeting” in which we were able to check out (most of) the competition.
Personalized bib, finisher's shirt and flip flops. Sweet!
Caved and bought it.
The rest of our night consisted of going to dinner and watching Adventureland (yes, I know, very exciting that Ryan and I actually watched a movie!!). For dinner, we had looked up any bison-serving place in the area and found a restaurant just over a mile away from our hotel. Our hotel happened to offer free shuttles within a five-mile radius, so we hopped on board and headed to Bistro West. The bison burger, and bread that came prior to it, did not disappoint. (Side note for those wondering about this weird tradition of having a bison burger and beer the night before a race: my dad told me when I was younger that Michael Jordan would always eat steak before his games. I thought that just sounded delicious, so became a “steak before big races” kind of girl….until I found out how amazing, and lean, bison was. Anytime we can find bison, I order it, but that was definitely not an option in Hawaii!).
Pre-race meal of champions!
BISON on the menu?! Ahhh, dream come true!
9:00pm came, and Ryan and I were pretty much passed out in bed. When our alarms went off at 4:30am, we didn’t even groan as it only felt like 6:30am to us. We got into Carmen’s van….and immediately saw that the 10 Kenyans in the van apparently did not get the memo regarding the Athlete meting yesterday. Yikes. Luckily for me, there was only one female Kenyan, but Ryan did not look too excited on our walk over to the Elite tent. The Press Release, which we found out from our Super Shuttle friend Alex, had noted 4 females with sub-2:50 times that would be competing, so I was hoping to be able to run with them to achieve a sub-2:50 myself.
Time seemed to fly by, and before we knew it, Ryan and I were toeing the start line. After a quick kiss for luck, the gun went off and so did we. Did I mention this race started at 6:15am California time? Or that the sun rises at 6:45am? Yep, we ran the first two miles in the dark. I had no idea what my pace was, but I was not excited to be finding out at mile three as we had just climbed a hill the size of “10-mile hill” on the March Madness (Cary ½ marathon) course. At that moment, I knew I was going to be in for quite the challenging race. Let me just point out that this elevation map does not elude to these giant hills, as Ryan and I did also pick this for being a seemingly flat course.
Miles 1, 2, 3: 6:29, 6:10, 6:35
Luckily, right as the sun came out, I found myself running with a guy (who would later introduce himself to me as Jeremy). This made time just fly by. He is an ultra-runner from Oregon who wanted to escape their bad weather (he adjusted his “bad weather” statement when he found out I was from Chicago). He told me he was using this race as a training run, planning to run 6:20-6:30 pace, which would line up perfectly with my race plan. Thanks to him, we caught two other ladies and I found myself in 3rd place five miles into the race.
Jeremy, being an ultra-runner, had a lot of energy and did most of the talking thankfully. I found out he qualified for the Olympic Trials in the steeple chase, signed a shoe sponsor deal, and eventually left it all for his now family of four with his wife. After college and the Trials, he took a lot of time off as many runners do, until falling in love with trail running. Hearing about his accomplishments and life in general was very entertaining and I was appreciative of him even slowing his pace at times to stay with me (though he never specifically said he did, I know we hit some slower miles in which he could easily have left me).
Yep, it was this dark when we started. Couldn't even read my Garmin.
Me and my bff for the first 12 miles.
Jeremy seriously was amazing. Here he is joking with me, making the time fly!
Miles 4-13: 6:30, 6:41, 6:34, 6:29, 6:36, 6:52 (that BIG uphill), 6:33, 6:15, 6:22, 7:16
Unfortunately, mile 12 would be the last time I ran with Jeremy. Having to go to the bathroom since mile 2 (nerves??), when Jeremy told me he was going to make a pit stop, I told him I would too. Honestly, it cost me a PR. While that is super disappointing, I don’t want to think about what could have happened if I had not stopped as I’ve heard (and seen!) horror stories from others who chose not to stop. THIS was the point of running this marathon. Not just to have the confidence of running an open marathon prior to IM Cabo, but also to see how my body would react.
No longer having Jeremy with me, and seeing a 7:16 mile split (from my bathroom stop), I pushed myself for the next 5 miles. The cool part for the miles below is that I knew the areas we were running in from being chauffeured around by Carmen and our hotel shuttle the day prior, so I could tell when the turn-arounds were coming up.
yeah, check out that incline.
look at those waves!
6:08, 6:24, 6:25, 6:30, 6:28
Right before we hit mile 18, we went most of the way up a hill. I remembered seeing volleyball courts and thinking how excited I’d be at this point of the race. I didn’t realize we’d be going partially up a hill and then turning around. Because of all of the inclines and declines, my IT bands were getting pretty tight, so mile 18 was incredibly challenging for me with the up/down. I was able to catch a glimpse at the girl behind me, noting she was over ½ a mile away thankfully. I didn’t know how much further my legs would make it. So, I downed a chocolate PowerGel. At miles 4-5, and 10-11, I had the same strategy and it worked miracles, if not on my legs, definitely on my mind.
Miles 19-21: 6:42, 6:47, 6:45
Looking at the above splits, it’d be obvious to say that my strategy did not work. True in some ways, but these splits were also during more inclines. I knew from being on the course throughout the day Saturday that these inclines were coming, but I was not prepared for them to be as tough as those mile splits reflect. I had never been so happy to see our hotel, as I knew the end was near. I told myself to hold out for my last chocolate PowerGel at mile 22 (my stomach was full, plus it gave me something to “look forward to”) and held onto that thing from mile 22 through 24. The magic of the Gel clearly worked better this time around.
Miles 22-26.2: 6:35, 6:36, 6:46, 6:37, 6:36, 3:24 (6:21 pace) for last 0.54
I probably should have mentioned earlier that ever since mile 2, my Garmin was reading the miles as (mile#).2 every time. I was hoping that at some point the course would catch back up to the standard distance, and made sure to listen for the beeps of the other runners’ GPS watches around me to make sure it wasn’t just mine that was reporting the distance as long. Unfortunately, the course never caught back up so my PR that I had thought I’d be earning quickly faded away. While I realize the bathroom stop also could be the culprit of my nonexistent PR, I truly was pushing as hard as I possibly could during those last 4 miles. I figured out in my head that if I could muster up 6:10 pace for the last 4 miles, I’d break 2:50, which had been a goal at one point in time. With the IT band damage being done pretty early on, I kept my mind in check and focused on finishing the race strong, without doing any more damage to my body.
YAY almost done!
Biggest smile of the day. DONE!!
2:54:18, 6:34 pace, 3rd overall female.
As soon as I saw the finish line, I also saw my wonderful husband with a big smile on his face. While I did not grab that PR, the smile on Ryan’s face was more than enough for me. For placing third overall, I also received a gorgeous flower lei, which almost made me cry as it brought kind of the whole idea of doing this race full circle. Ryan then told me that the girl who was 2nd place in a 2:50:30 had just run a 2:45 on a flat course, meaning I was easily in sub-2:50 shape. This made me pretty happy since I had planned on being at that time going into this race.
Apparently my thumb didn't quite get the "thumbs up" memo...
Ryan and I went back to the elite tent and were able to get massages right away. The lady doing the massages was almost as good as Dave Davis and I could feel the tightness in my IT bands subsiding. After grabbing some food (egg white burritos, chocolate milk and a ton of fresh fruit!), we headed back to the hotel to wait for our shuttle…but not before hopping in the hot tub for a little relaxation.
YESSSS we are done!
Overall, everything about this race was a success. While I am naturally bummed that I did not earn that PR I had planned on obtaining, I learned a lot about myself and my racing and feel incredibly confident starting up this next cycle before Cabo. I have to commend everyone who put this race together, especially the Elite Athlete Coordinators Carmen and Nicole. Everything was perfect and they treated us as if we were the fastest runners in the world. I am extremely grateful to them for their hospitality and support throughout this entire weekend.
Ryan ran a 2:38...combined with my 2:54...8 minutes under the World Record!
As we head into recovery week, I can’t help but feel even hungrier for a killer performance in Cabo. A few different people noticed my awesome multi-colored Kona backpack (I use it for school, so naturally I brought it on this trip to carry my school work). When they asked about Kona, I felt like my excitement just lit up the entire room. This weekend helped me to see that I am turning into a triathlete. I had been turned off by the idea partly because of my dislike for swimming (only because I’m not good at it) and partly because of the huge time commitment that goes into training for triathlons. I created a training schedule so that I can make the most out of my time during the day and really focus hard core on triathlon training. Sleep is the one aspect of training that always gets overlooked, so I am going to focus on being more efficient with my time so that I can get more sleep to help my mind and body recover and stay focused.
As always, thank you to everyone for the incredible support you’ve given me. Ryan and I kind of kept this race a secret as we primarily were using it for training for Cabo. We didn’t want any pressure or expectations, and never really felt any going into or during the race. The “likes” and kind words on Facebook and through texts continue to show us how lucky we are to be surrounded by such great people. I had mentioned to Ryan while in California that we should move here (this, after seeing people swimming, packs of cyclists whiz by us, runners all over the place), but after the outpouring of support this weekend, I don't think we could ever leave!
Article on Competitor.com: http://running.competitor.com/2014/01/photos/photos-tri-city-medical-center-carlsbad-marathon-12-marathon_93692
Article on the World Record: http://egopbsammysbikes.com/world-record-crushed-first-race-year/