Two years ago I set a crazy, out there goal to run an Olympic Trials qualifying marathon.  Sub 2:43.  I ran my OTQ on Saturday.

2:41:56

6:11 average pace

2nd female

20th overall (2400 runners)

{You can read the super quick recap of just results HERE}

I never would have thought I would use Hartford Marathon to run this race.  In fact, I said I will NOT run Hartford when I am ready to attempt running a trials qualifier.  I was going to run a big huge flat, fast race.  Chicago.  Twin Cities.  CIM.  Monumental.  not Hartford.  and I’m so glad I ended up running this in Hartford.

I know Hartford Marathon.  This was my 4th time galavanting through the streets of Hartford, East Hartford and South Windsor for 26.2 miles.  This is next-door to me.  This is my neighbor and I purposely do not ever go to my neighbors house to run the course.  I am not that kind of runner.  That would destroy my race.  It’s far enough away that I can have nothing to do with these marathon roads unless I’m running the marathon.

I know there are more twists and turns in this race than a pile of spaghetti

I know that Hartford puts on a GREAT race, but it’s a lonely, solo, one person battle out there on those Hartford streets, with no one to run with because there’s just not a huge crowd of people running a 2:40′s marathon.  A 2:40′s marathon.  In what world am I, a “late bloomer” to running, so they say, going to run a 2:40′s marathon?!  Surreal.  I was 20th overall.  There were only 19 people ahead of me and 5 of them I came upon in the last few miles and passed.  So…not lotsa people to run with.  I know that it helps a great deal to have people to pace with, to push with, to run a marathon with.  A large portion of the course is also an out and back, so it can be a bit of a mental challenge if you let your head go there.  Don’t ever let your head go there.  It’s tough to come back.

I know that I am the #1 worlds worst runner of tangents.  It’s not even a competition.  When in doubt, run in the middle of the road, right?!  There is even video proof of the husband gently (in a loud voice) yelling at me to “RUN THE TANGENTS!!!!” and “GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!”  “HUG THAT CORNER!!!” love you bye

I know that weather is a beast of a thing and funny thing is that weather happens, whether you want it to or not.

I know that life goes on whilst training and tapering for a race and the stresses of it all don’t just stop because a marathon is coming!

I know these things

So…

I set up to have two guys run the relay and help pace me, especially in the second half, so that it wouldn’t be so lonely.  so that I would have some push.  Because the second half of a marathon, you know, the last 6.2 miles, can be brutal.

And I tried to figure out the tangent thing in my training runs and it generally gave me a headache trying to understand which side of the road to be on or which corner I should be hugging.  But, I know that I’ve never run under a 26.5 on this course.  FYI, marathons are supposed to be 26.2.  I would take 26.3 or even 26.4, but 26.5 would mean that unless I HUGGED the faster end of my goal range very tightly, I would not hit that 2:43.  Each .1 over the 26.2 is about 37 seconds.  Seconds count. I knew that technically a 6:10 pace as it would read on my watch should get me under 2:43 for a 26.2 marathon.  But on this course especially, I would need an additional 2 minute tangent buffer because I will run a 26.5.  That meant that unless my watch read a solid 6:08 pace or faster, while technically that pace would give me a 2:40:40 marathon at 26.2 distance, it would not be 2:40 on this course and the OTQ would not happen for this non-tangent friendly runner.  It’s mathematics.  Can’t dispute that. 6:10 pace x 26.5 (my tangent hating marathon distance) = 2:43:25 = no good for an OTQ.  BUT 6:08 pace x 26.5 = 2:42:32 = OTQ.  I like math.  Glad we got that cleared up.  Make room for tangent in-efficiencies in your pace plan.  That was actually a source of stress for me.  I actually had to hit a very specific pace to make this happen and that is new for me in the past couple years.  I have recently just run my fitness, had a general idea of what pace I should go for knowing that even if I was outside of that pace, it would likely still be a PR and a step in the OTQ direction.  Not on this day.  On this day I was actually going for the OTQ and it would actually ONLY happen if I hit a certain pace.  Not 1 second per mile slower on the outside of the range.  Yeah.  Did you just get a little stressed?!  The truth – it would have been a rough day to have run a 2:43:01.  While that would be a 2.5 minute PR, it would have been 1 second too slow.  No pressure.  And in reality, there was no pressure.  I run. I love it.  I knew that the OTQ would happen exactly when it was meant to happen.  Not one race sooner. But I really wanted to make it happen at Hartford.

And then….

My perfectly planned out pacers dropped two weeks before the race.  Hmmmm.  Big bummer.  That was going to make it happen for me.  I had it ALL figured out.  I wasn’t sure I could make it through without pacers.  I did not have time to recruit and organize new ones.  I had to move on

I got a wicked head cold the week before the race.  My runs never felt so terrible and my body never felt so awful 4 days before a marathon.  My marathon pace workout 4 days before the race felt impossible.

The forecast turned from perfectly autumn to perfectly pouring rain in a matter of days.  perfect.

My ever trusty Garmin, faithful partner in ALL important training runs and races, my lifeline to the finish…lost satellite, not to return, after mile 5.  Mile 5.  That’s 21.2 (or .5) miles too early.  I am not a runner that is in tune with my pace.  As previously mentioned, there was no one around to “pace” with.  I had to let it go.  and not flail my arms wildly.  or panic.  I would have drowned.  nothing could be done.

I had my course fluid perfectly planned out.  It was going to be spot on.  amazing.  8oz of UCAN in each of 3 bottles, of which I was going to smoothly and seamlessly drink the entire bottle and be wonderfully fueled to the finish.  My fluid bottles on the course did not work out so hot.  There was nothing seamless and smooth about it.  I got probably 1/4 of the fuel I needed at each stop before I chucked it because I was wasting too much energy trying to drink out of the water bottle.  Note to self for next time.  I need to FILL the water bottle completely and double up on the serving of UCAN, but only drink half of it.  If it was FULL it would have worked better.

My life in the 6 weeks leading up to the marathon essentially blew up…repeatedly.  To the point where I was very close to calling it on the race and the training.  I could not sustain it.  I was missing workouts and miles and life was challenging in many aspects, to say the least.  But running is where my life comes together.  It’s my time to pull it together…spiritually, emotionally, physically, it keeps it in balance.  Yet, it is VERY very challenging to train under a huge amount of stress.  It’s easier to stay in bed.  Easy doesn’t run marathons.  But the mental energy required to run is all used up on all these other very challenging things.  And these times make me realize just how much of running is mental.  I picture it like this – the fitness is there, it’s solid.  I can nail workouts and run these paces I’m supposed to run and then all that fitness gets locked away in this vault in your mind.  It’s up to my mind to unlock that vault of stored up fitness and let it ALL out on race day.  I’m still figuring out how to let it ALL out.  It hasn’t happened yet.  I know this.

And now….

Pacers, gone

Head cold, messing with the taper

Forecast, raining

Garmin, not being a team player

Fueling, a little choppy

Life, stressful

These are my excuses of why this should not have gone well

Only if I LET THEM BE my excuses

I am the only one who can give life to my excuses

I won’t let them be my excuses

I won’t give them life

There are no excuses

There is running. there is life.  there is something bigger than it all.

Life. Imperfect. Full of flaws and mistakes and challenges and difficulties and beauty and perfection and goodness and the will to do something wonderful and challenging and rewarding that has an impact far beyond what I know or imagine

It all comes together to make the day what it is.  Perfectly, in its own way, and I would have it no other way

Hartford is not an easy course, and it certainly is not the most challenging.  It’s hilly…enough.  Lots of long inclines. Lots of rollers. Lots of quiet roads and alone time.  Lots of exactly what I needed on that day.  I run for quiet.  I run for peace.  I run for the challenge

I needed the rain

I needed the cold and the hills

I needed my pacers to drop out

I needed quiet, empty roads

I needed my fueling to be less than ideal

I needed my garmin to lose GPS

I needed my life to be exactly where it’s at right now

So that I could run exactly the run I ran

A woman that I know from church gave me this verse before the race, and I ran with it…

“They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions and they were swift as gazelles in the mountains” 1Chron 12:8

swift

And I repeated calm and swift many times over the course of this race.  It carried me.  It paced me.  It calmed me and pushed me.

………………………………………………………..

I would love to give you the details and splits and fun fancy things like that from this race, but I have none

Here’s what I did to survive the post 5 mile garmin-pocolypse…

I let the time keep running on my watch and paid attention to the clocks on the course, not knowing what pace I was running in between.  Marathon mental math at its finest.  Fantastic.  The progression of it…

- Mile 7 at 42:3x.  Ok.  That means I have to be at mile 8 by 48:4x

- Where the heck is mile 8?!  Ok…I see a clock…shoot, I think it says 54:45.  This can’t be possible.  I really was running 9 minute miles!  OMG!  Nevermind, it’s mile 9!!!  I’m already at mile 9!  OK, I need to be at mile 10 by 1:00:50

- I see mile 10…1:00:55…very good

- I am so clueless as to what my pace is between miles…let’s hope this “6:08″ pace magically settles into my legs and I’m not actually running 7:30′s.  That would be a HUGE bummer

- I knew I needed to hit the 13.1 in 1:20 to have a chance at coming in under 2:43.  Positive splits are my thing. I crossed the half timing mat at 1:20 on the nose.  I started feeling confident.  Let’s do what we just did…one more time!  Whoo hoo!

- The next time I really remember doing a major calculation to see where I stood as far as do I have a shot or am I a lost cause was mile 19…it said 1:56:xx…to which I replied, ok, I have 46 minutes to run 7.2 miles.  Doable.  Let’s do it.  oh.  I still don’t really know what pace I’m running.  minor inconvenience.

- I didn’t do too much math after that.  I knew at mile 24 that I was 95% sure I was going to make it…unless my legs literally disconnected from my body, there shouldn’t be an issue. So, I started to get emotional.  emotional while running uphill at mile 24-25 of a marathon at somewhere in the 6:05 – 6:15 pace range meant that I started to hyperventilate a little and quickly pulled it together so that I could breathe and finish the race.  I passed two guys.

- Mile 25, up the exit ramp and and over the bridge, it gets windy.  I passed another guy.  Every guy I saw on the course, I tried to pass.  I’m pretty sure I did most of them in the last 8 miles

I ended up running a

6:11 average pace

I’m confident my watch would have said

6:07/08 average pace and 26.5

Last year I ran a 6:26 official pace and 6:22 garmin pace.  One year ago.  Progress.

Fueling

I had three water bottles, one each at mile 8, 14 and 20ish

If you have not given UCAN a try, you are missing out.  I found them on my own a couple years ago.  They do not sponsor me…yet.  that would be lovely.  Hi.  It works phenomenally well.  I’ve raved about them for some time.  Meb uses UCAN.  You know, Meb.  But, I have had the most success with all things fueling and stomach issues when using UCAN.  I did not use one single gu for this race.  Although I had three on me.  Best to be safe than sorry.  I had my own personal hiccups with the fueling during this race.  The actual fueling choice was spot on.  I split one of those electrolyte packets into two bottles…because I had never used them before and you know they say to try everything new on a very important race day when you are trying to run an OTQ.  I also had on new sneakers that only had about 7 miles on them.  I should have crashed and burned just for that.

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Each water bottle had the UCAN with 8oz of water in it.  I had technical difficulties getting the fluid out of the bottle and into my mouth before the spout would close on me, so I just stopped trying.  That’s a beautiful mental picture I just painted for you.  I’m surprised I didn’t fall over.  Instead of getting the three full UCAN servings as planned, my marathon was fueled on less than one full serving of UCAN during the race.  I think I would have felt better with more, but the energy it was taking to try to get it down was obnoxious, never mind I had to nearly stop running to find and grab my bottle off the table.  Next time, different bottles, or I will fill them completely so that it comes out easier and only drink half. I did have one sip of gatorade after the second UCAN bottle was a bust and then water when I felt necessary.

The morning of the race, I have my UCAN cocktail (two hours before the race). I mix one serving of UCAN with my Natural Calm magnesium and this vitamin C fizzy powder from Whole Foods.  Not sure how I came up with this one, but it stuck and it’s just what I do.  Just like my night before race dinner – brown rice pasta with olive oil and grass-fed ground bison.  Every time.  It’s necessary.  I love it.  However, I ate ALL of my gluten free bagels in the two days before the race (probably 10 bagels, not kidding) and forgot to leave one for race morning.  Minor panic.  Worked through it and ended up just eating leftover pasta and a couple bites of ground beef.  Yes.  At 5:30am.  I will eat anything at anytime of day.

I meant to drink one more serving of UCAN about 30 minutes before the race, but I think I was preoccupied with the rain and the the start and what not and forgot to drink it. I did not take any gu or gel pre-race either. I saw it sitting in my bag after the race, full, thinking I thought I drank this?!?  Whoops.  I also had half of my iced coffee.

I ran about a 7 minute warmup to be exact.  Coach tells me to pick it up and do tempo-ish pace for the last two minutes.  I can’t. I know not why.  Strides and tempo pace immediately before a marathon just do not compute in my brain.  Strange thing.  Sorry, coach.

I had a quick moment of oh my goodness this is insane at the thought of running a 6:05 – 6:10 pace for 26.2 miles.  And was done with it.  Then the gun went off and I knew that I had to resolve to do it.  Hartford last year was a solid race.  I felt good.  I worked hard for it.  Hartford this year was smoother.  I felt better.  I finished feeling pretty fresh. The miles went by and I didn’t hit a wall and I didn’t feel like death at the end.  Which kind of irks the husband, rightly so – not the feeling like death part, the fresh part…just leave it on the course, don’t cross the finish line with it, for goodness sakes!  I should not be high fiving people and jumping up and down at mile 23 of a marathon.  It aggravates me, too.  I know I finish theses races with more to give, but it’s how it goes.  First place female was less than a minute ahead of me.  I thought she was pacing for a lot faster and I made a conscious decision to stay behind her from the start.  Who races like that??  Don’t think, just run.  I could have and should  have stuck with her from the start and given each other a really good race.  It was a really good race.  Despite the “shouldas” and “couldas”, I did exactly what I should have on that day.  I am happy to finish feeling good, not so that I can drink Strawberry Basil Martinis later in the evening, but because I know that I can go into the next one with that much more to give.  I had to ease up a bit in the last couple miles because I could feel my right leg start to get cramps, through to my calf.  I was very aware of it.  I also am sore in different places which I think is from just trying to stabilize in the rain.  I was nervous about slipping…it was wet.  I got a massage right after the finish and the massage therapist who was AMAZING said it’s likely from all of those smaller stabilizer muscles working a bit harder in the rain to keep the footing.  Ok!

Once again, I was able to run as part of New Englands Finest program, which I do not take for granted.  I even got a poster at the expo this year.

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It’s wonderful.  It’s one reason I will likely run this race every year I can be a part of the program, whether the full or half marathon, because they do a phenomenal job taking care of everyone.  They essentially support the local, New England elite, which is really nice.  I walked straight from the finish line into the tent to get a massage, water, change clothes, eat food, my family and friends were there . It was awesome.

And, the husband.  Winner of best race navigation and support.  He was out on the course and it was the best thing ever to see them out there – kids in the pouring rain, being little troopers.

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or little crazies standing on their heads

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do you see her face?!?  Frightening.

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I spy…with my little eye…

The last mile…

{My husbands friend was on the bridge and took this, photo cred: Andre Galiffi}

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The fam got to be at the finish line, in the left corner.

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And they said the best part was watching the podium awards.  and then stuffing their faces with candy.  So fun for them.

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I was truly blown away by the amount of support from friends, family, strangers, leading up to this race.  Unbelievable.  Thank you.  Thank you.  It is so inspiring to ME to watch all of these first time runners, new to running runners, people who could not run ONE MILE 6 months ago that were out there running a HALF MARATHON in the rain!  Amazing to me.  Don’t sell yourself short.  I say this often, but it really does feel so new to me still.  That I can see such a progression in running in the last few years, when I hated the marathon after I ran it in 2011 and didn’t even start taking running seriously until then.  I was a walker when the kids were little.  Lots of walking and gym’ing.  I think that’s a great place to start, if you need a place to start.  Walk. Move. Set a goal. Believe. Chase it.

{Hartford Marathon 2011}

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Don’t be deceived by that smile.  I was dying inside.  Truly, pure misery after this race that I never wanted to run again.  I have taken 36 minutes off my marathon time in exactly 3 years.  I ran a 3.5 minute PR from Boston 6 months ago and almost 7 minutes from hartford one year ago and 16+ minutes since I started training with Hadley and the marathon trials project less than two years ago.  And every one gets “easier”.  Maybe I am naively optimistic that anyone can do anything, but I believe it.  And you don’t know if you don’t try.  you’ve got nothing to lose by trying…and lots to gain.  In running and life.  Life and running.  It may never actually be about the running at all…

My husband sent this to me…spot on for me, so true…although, maybe a little competition wouldn’t kill me ;-)

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I think I have a lot more thoughts about running and this race, but the truth is, my kids are downstairs trying to dress up the guinea pig and “pretend” it’s driving the dump truck, so I’m going to go save it.  and then have coffee.

Thanks for reading.  Hope you made it through this long one!

{ 84 comments }

Hartford Marathon 2014 – The Short Story

by Katie on October 12, 2014

There is a lot to talk about with this race….

Before the detailed recap of everything surrounding the day, here’s the basics of how it went down…

2nd Place Female

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20th Overall out of 2400 people

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And over a 3.5 minute PR from Boston Marathon and almost 7 minutes from 1 year ago, giving me the OTQ time

2:41:56

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A goal that I put out there two years ago became a reality yesterday and I don’t think I’ve quite wrapped my mind around it.  Nearly everything that could have gone wrong, did…and it was all perfect.

More to come, friends!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

{ 27 comments }

10 Days…and counting

October 1, 2014

It’s here.  The taper. Did I not JUST run a marathon?! And here I am.  Another taper.  The point in marathon training that feels like it will never actually come to pass.  And then it comes to pass.  And it’s pretty glorious when it gets here.  Really, there’s nothing quite like it.  It almost makes […]

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3 Weeks, 95 Miles and #RWhalf Discount Codes!

September 21, 2014

Not only did I leave you with a horrific display of bloggery the last time I visited these parts of the web, I left that monstrosity there with NO UPDATE for 6 weeks.  My sincere apologies.  I am a better runner than I am a blogger.  In a feeble attempt to win you back, I […]

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Nine Weeks and the Nineties

August 11, 2014

Technically, I can’t say nine weeks, because we are 8 weeks and 4 days out from Hartford Marathon – one of the things that I do love about this marathon is that it is on a Saturday, not a Sunday – but for the sake of this title and the “nine” theme, we’re going with […]

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HMF Run The Rent – 5k Race Recap

July 29, 2014

You’re getting a two for one here.  A race recap AND a mini weekly recap.  Lucky ducks. I don’t quite know where to begin with the weekly recap because it was a slight DEBACLE of a training week. 68 miles ahhhhh!!! slightly shameful for what was 12 weeks out from hartford marathon…now less than 11 […]

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Better Late Than Never – Weekly Recap

July 25, 2014

Best of intentions to get the week in review up last Sunday – did not happen.  Today will have to do. A number of you have even requested a “day in the life” type post.  I would be happy to oblige.  At some point I will get that written.  For now, just picture something like a […]

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Three for Three and a Voting Opportunity

July 13, 2014

If I actually get this post up in a timely manner, I will be three for three on these weekly updates that I started.  That’s good news.  I’m following through. It was a fairly mellow week, compared to the previous week – thank goodness – because I ended up having to push a workout back one […]

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Tempos Galore

July 6, 2014

There’s a lot of tempo running going on here lately.  More tempo than I think I’ve ever consistently run. All sorts of tempo Aerobic threshold tempo Lactate threshold tempo, aka, death by tempo Tempo interval Tempo Thursday Tempo in the middle of a long run It’s the lifeblood of marathon training It’s everywhere This week, I […]

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Recaps…All Sorts: Ironhorse 10k and Training

June 1, 2014

Well hello I’m back to give you what is a grossly overdue recap of a 10k race, that took place on June 1st.  yeah.  little bit delayed. I’m also here to give you what were my intentions of weekly Hartford Marathon training updates.  I’m 4 weeks behind on that one. Just like that, it’s back […]

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