Yesterday I wrote about the days and hours leading up to the Newport Marathon but ran out of time to recap the actual race. I left off with Kate and I standing at the start line, just moments before the starting gun was fired.
As far as race strategy, my coach had recommended that I run the marathon based entirely on feel and not look at my watch. I had employed this strategy when I ran a 15k race a couple of months ago and was very happy with it, not only based on my results but also on how freeing it felt to not be a slave to my Garmin.
However, there is a big difference between maintaining a pace for a 15k and doing the same thing for a marathon. I was mostly concerned that I would go out too fast so I decided to look at my watch in the first few miles and then, at some point during the race, start running entirely on feel.
Mile 1 - 7:57
Mile 2 - 7:55
Mile 3 - 7:57
Mile 4 - 7:34 (downhill)
Mile 5 - 8:11 (uphill)
Although my goal pace was 8:00 per mile, I planned to run the first few miles closer to 8:10. It was a good thing I was wearing my watch at this point because I had to slow down quite a bit and still ended up just under 8:00 pace. Mile 4 included a steep downhill portion followed by a steep uphill portion during mile 5. These first few miles wind through the town of Newport and include some gradual hills. Mile 5 begins the out-and-back portion that makes up the remainder of the race.
Mile 6 - 7:45 (gradual downhill with a steep downhill part)
Mile 7 -7:54 (gradual downhill)
Mile 8 - 7:48 (gradual downhill)
Mile 9 - 7:56
Mile 10 - 7:53
Miles 6-8 are all gradual downhills and it was at this point that I felt myself running very comfortably and starting to position myself behind a group of runners that looked to be running an even pace. I remember looking at my watch about mile 7 and thinking that I wasn't sure I could maintain this pace for the entire race, especially considering I'd be climbing this gradual hill at the end. At mile 10, I glanced at my watch for what would be the final time of the race. It read 1:18:52. Basically, I started doing the math in my head and realized I was running an average of 7:53 for the first 10 miles. I didn't think I could possibly keep it up for another 16.2 miles and could only hope that the little bit of cushion I had built up would be enough to keep me under 3:30.
It was also at mile 10 that I made a conscious decision to go for it. I had said before that I was going to run it aggressively and leave it all out there. So at that point, I started to pick up the pace just a bit and enjoyed the immense freedom that comes with running only based on feel.
Mile 11 - 7:50
Mile 12 - 7:45
Mile 13 - 7:42
Mile 14 - 7:45
Mile 15 - 7:44
These were some of the best miles of the race. I was feeling great and was surprised to find myself passing one person after another. It was a slow progression but one by one, I would pass every person that I found in front of me. In fact, not one person passed me (and stayed ahead of me) after mile 10. I took my second GU during mile 13 and continued with my strategy to walk through every water stop for a good 15 or so seconds, while drinking a cup of gatorade and giving my legs a brief break.
Mile 16 - 7:48
Mile 17 - 7:42
Mile 18 - 7:46
Mile 19 - 7:39
Mile 20 - 7:50
Somewhere between mile 15 and16, we turned around a cone and headed back the way we came. Once I hit the mile 16 marker, I knew that the race would soon be turning into a mental battle so I did my best to keep running consistently and strong. My friend, Petra's, words were running through my head: stay strong and run happy!
When I hit mile 20 and knew I only had 6.2 miles remaining, I was so tempted to look at my watch but refrained from doing so and kept plodding along. I took my final GU and waited to see if I was going to hit the wall.
Mile 21 - 7:44
Mile 22 - 7:40
Mile 23 - 8:03
Mile 24 - 7:54 (gradual uphill)
Mile 25 - 7:58 (gradual uphill)
Mile 26 - 8:10 (gradual uphill with a steep uphill part)
Last 0.2 - 1:31
I was so focused on the race and yet so relaxed at the same time that I was missing mile markers as they passed. At around mile 22, a guy ran up along side me and glanced over at me. "3:25?" he asked. "Umm, 3:25??", I responded, "Hell, no! I'm just trying to run a sub-3:30!" He mentioned his PR was a 3:30 and he was hoping for a 3:25 that day. That was my first indication that this might turn out to be a very good day for me.
We ran together for the next half mile until we hit a water stop at mile 23, at which point I walked for a good 20 seconds to prepare myself for the next 3.2 miles and the gradual climb up the hill. When I started up again, he was about 30 yards in front of me. I watched as he stretched the lead to almost 50 yards and just hoped I didn't fall apart and lose my 3:30 goal.
Although I still hadn't looked at my watch, I knew that with just over 3 miles remaining, I had to keep running strong for just about 25 minutes. I thought about the last few months of training -- all the sacrifices and hard work it took to get me here -- and knew that my goal was within reach if I could just push through 25 minutes of pain. Although, honestly, I wasn't in any real pain. Just standard marathon pain and a strong desire to be done!
At about mile 24, a gazelle passed me. Or what looked like a gazelle. He was maybe in his mid 20's with long, lean legs and he had a running style that made him appear to be causally loping along. I wondered at that point what I looked like and was pretty sure no one would describe me as a gazelle.
Over the course of the next mile, I gradually gained on the guy with the 3:25 goal. As I neared him and was close to passing him, I began to yell encouragement at him. I was yelling at him to keep it up and to stay with me. Even after I passed, I was shouting at him to come along with me but saw he had nothing left to give. (He found me in the finisher's area and thanked me for my help. He finished with a 3:27:xx and an almost 3 minute PR.)
Somewhere close to mile 26, I realized I was about to pass the gazelle. I couldn't believe it. Who would believe that a 40 year-old, mother of three who used to be content with her 10:00 miles was going to pass a 20-something guy who looked like Ryan Hall?! As I passed him, he very nicely told me I was "looking strong" and I responded with something equally kind. At that point, I smiled inside and crested the steep hill that was at the end of mile 26.
The last 0.2 miles were a steep downhill before a sharp turn to the finish. As I crossed the finish line and saw the time on my watch, I was in shock. I honestly never in a million years thought I would run a time even close to 3:25. My official time was 3:25:25. (I knew Kate would love my time because it had the same ring of perfection as the 3:30:30...but just a bit faster!)
(that pace is only for the last 0.2 miles...my actual ave pace was 7:50)
I was barely off the finish mat when I heard someone yell, "Kristen!!!" I looked over and there was Raina on the other side of the barricade. It was the first time we had met in person and she gave me a big hug while I apologized for getting her all sweaty. She was so sweet and I look forward to meeting her again someday for a local race.
Raina -- a.k.a. Small Town Runner
my Boston 2013 medal will always hold a special place in my heart. But this finisher's medal made of sea glass is absolutely gorgeous!
I quickly picked up my race bag and called Kate to see where she was. Kate knew she wouldn't be able to run the entire distance so she ran her own unofficial half marathon and then jumped on a spectator bus to get a ride back to the finish. She then walked/ran another two miles back to our hotel and drove my car to the finish so I wouldn't have to walk anywhere after my race. I can't possibly thank her enough for all she did for me over the weekend. Her positive and supportive attitude helped me relax and just enjoy the race.
We headed back to the hotel so I could take a quick ice bath and then went to lunch where I was sporting my awesome compression gear for the long ride back to Portland.
even the ice bath couldn't wipe the smile off my face
rocking my compression socks at lunch
I called my coach from the car to thank him for all the help, support and guidance he has given me over the past six months. As much as I'd love to continue having him as my coach, with his help, I accomplished what I set out to do this training cycle and it is time for me to take a break. I said to him on the phone that it was "time for me to retire -- I'm going to go out on top like Michael Jordan did (the first time, anyway)." I was so happy and content that I felt I would be okay if I never ran another marathon for the rest of my life.
But then he said, "Now it is time for you to go get that 3:20." And I must admit, he's got me thinking...