Finally up north with some actual in-home internet! Weee!
So I mentioned back after my Bayshore Marathon fail in May and my announcement/decision to run the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10 that I have run 8 marathons. Anddd, since 10 is my lucky number, I wanted Chicago on 10/10/10 to be my 10th marathon. Do you see where I'm going with this?!? Yep, that's right this morning I completed my 9th marathon in Saginaw, MI at the smallest marathon I have run. And it was glorious.
Allow me to explain. I've been contemplating this marathon for awhile because I knew that I had to get in #9. There were lots of problems with finding a 9th marathon because I had so many restrictions. I have limited $$ so it needed to be drivable from one of my houses and require no hotel stay. I work on Saturdays. I wanted it to be atleast 2 months before Chicago for lots and lots of recovery/training time after. And I wanted it NOT on trails (trail marathons are popular in Michigan.) So this was pretty much the only marathon that fit those criterion. However, I also didn't want to treat it like a marathon. Hense why with the marathon I had about a 100 mile week this week. I wanted to just go out and have fun and treat it like my long run for the week. Today I had a 20 miler scheduled, so I just figured, what is a few more miles between friends? ;)
So, my day began bright and early when I woke up before my alarm at 2:45am. I actually slept really well, but awoke with the race adrenaline pumping! I arrived at the race sight (a high school in the middle of nowhere) a bit before 5am after multiple detours in the dark. Paid my $70 (gulp) for an oversized COTTON t-shirt that doesn't even say 'Marathon' on it because it was a 'festival of races' (ie 5K, 10K, 20K, and 'mini marathon' 8.66 miles) Did my normal pre-race prep stuff in the car, including changing the settings on my Garmin so that I could only see the milage and the elevation. That is how much I didn't even want to be tempted to look at my pace or time. I recently got a pair of Nike Lunarglides (I run in Nike Pegasus and Nike Triax but the running store guy convinced me I would like these). When I put them on before heading to the start they felt AMAZING. Extra cushiony and springy, even though I've wore them for a few runs. That is how I knew it would be a good day. :)
We headed to the start in the near-darkness of 6am. I lined up close to the front because there were no chips or chip start even! The course was 3 loops of 8.7 or so miles. I had stashed some crack (AKA blue powerade zero) and my magic training muffins that I have been eating on long runs, in the bushes next to the road so that I could get them on the loops. And then, we were off.
I saw one woman sprint out ahead, but otherwise it was just men ahead of me. I planned to try things during this race, foremost the idea of NOT going out hard and then dying. But no worries, I felt relaxed from the start. It started to get light, but was still overcast. The loop was very flat and paved, but was windy along the Saginaw River for the first few miles. About mile 3, the woman passed me which was odd because I never passed her. I found out later that she had stopped to use the bathroom. She was pacing with a guy which bothered me because I was basically running in no man's land with no one for the first 14 miles or so. There was also pretty much NO crowd support other than water stations every 2 or so miles. But that was somehow OK. It added to the feeling of relaxing on the run. The first loop felt great. I had no idea how fast I was running but I just felt FREE. I kept waiting to start feeling bad/tired (at Bayshore I felt terrible by 4 miles in) but it never happened. The last mile of the first loop I kept repeating "muff-in, muff-in, muff-in" in my head because I was excited to get to eat one! Not because I was in need of fuel as much as the fact that they are simply delicious!
I got to my muffin bag (thankfully no one had found/disturbed it), chugged a few sips of powerade, and took my muffin 'to-go.' At this point I had caught up to a couple of guys (who am I, actually passing people!?!? I'm the one getting passed always!) I must have looked odd biting the head off of the muffin while making 'mmm' noises. But I couldn't help it! It was so good and I just felt good enjoying the whole experience! Plus, trying to eat a muffin while running made the next mile go by fast! The second loop was great. I was dreading it originally, but I was so excited to get to the last loop that I felt energized. And suddenly, I was at the high school again and ready to start the final lap.
I wasn't feeling the muffin, so I just sucked down ALOT more powerade. I can't believe that I used to do all marathons/training runs with zero fluid. I still believe it is possible, but I think drinking provides a phychological advantage more than anything. I caught up to a group of 3 men about a mile into the last lap. We chatted it up for awhile- they too were training for Chicago and doing this as a training run. I told them my story and asked them not to devolge our pace as I still had no idea how long or fast I was running. It was actually really nice to chat with the one guy. I am a total social runner, hense why I love running with anyone. I am all for the zen "me" time of running to some extent, but I love the comraderie the most. Running the first 2 hours or so in silence with no one made me appreciate talking it up with strangers- even if about stupid things like my 10th on 10-10-10 goal. We were actually from the same town and the guys run at the running shop less than a mile from my apartment. Small world, huh? The one guy said they had planted a cooler in the middle of the loop ~ 4.5 miles to go. He offered me Gatorade when we got there. He also told me at this point that he was pacing the other guy (his friend) for a BQ. Judging by their age, I knew about what pace we were on at that point...
When we arrived at the cooler, I accepted the Gatorade. It had gotten very sunny and hot the last loop and I wanted the mental advantage. He also handed me a panty hose filled with ice (yeah, no joke) and told me to put it on my neck. This was pretty much the most random thing ever, however, I did it and it felt amazing. Him and his friend got alittle ahead of me at this point as I fumbled with the Gatorade and panty hose. Infact, this may have been my slowest mile. But, when I was done with it all I realized I felt GREAT and the last 4 miles would be lovely. I caught them with about 3 to go, yelled thanks, and pressed on. My legs didn't even feel tired.
The finish was anticlimactic. I actually went the wrong way, ie added time/distance as I started on a '4th' loop instead of turning into the high school. The woman from earlier beat me, so I was second place overall. But I didn't care/try to catch her. And the moment you have all been waiting for...
26.27 miles in 3:28:27
So. Happy. Not because this is a PR (10 minutes off of that). But because I did this with little thought/prep and I just ran so FREE. It was so liberating- it felt just like the day I PR-ed and I had *almost* lost hope that I would ever have a run like that again. And my splits (upon looking afterward) were spot-on. 7:56 pace and my miles were 7:40-8:08 which has never happened. This was my second fastest marathon ever and I have not run that fast in the last 2 years and 5 marathons. I guess today just showed me that I CAN do it, as cheezy as it sounds. 11 weeks until Chicago and I am more focused and excited than ever to train. Bring it.
3 hour drive later with my pink compression socks on, lots and lots of food, and I feel great. I was contemplating a few shake out miles, but the lake looks so inviting I may head in for a swim instead. Then, fro yo for dinner tonite. I may go crazy and get a medium! lol. And days ahead of me full of up-north-ness and not working. Yessir, I'm happy.
*disclaimer: I hope that this doesn't sound like I'm tooting my own horn, I'm just really happy with how today went and needed to let it out! I'm a very modest person in real life- honest! I still have a long way to go and a lot of work/learning ahead of me running-wise, but for today all was well.