The classic marathon story…
I started strong, felt great, I fueled right, it was a beautiful day, the course was scenic and friendly with a couple of hills and then I hit a wall at mile 20. Humbled and happy to finish.
The whiny marathon story…
The course was changed the day before the race due to flooding which gave full marathoners over 1,200 feet of elevation climbing. For reference, I have sworn off the Madison Marathon because the course is too much of a dream-crusher with all 940 feet of elevation gain. Race day at Starved Rock wasn’t my day or the course to accomplish my goals on. Also, they ran out of 26.2 Brew beer by the time I finished in a respectable 4:07.
The sugarcoated marathon story…
…Actually, I can’t think of how to even sugarcoat this one? When I say that I had a fun road trip with my gal pals and that I’m lucky to have started and finished my 21stmarathon with an 8 minute PR it’s the truth. If I can PR here, I will slay the next more forgiving course.
The authentic marathon story…
My confidence levels were all over the place leading up to race day with a big stupid goal of breaking 4 hours. I could do it, just kidding, I can’t. Maybe I could. Maybe. It was possible. And like I mentioned in the whiny version; the race officials sent notice to racers on Friday that the course would be changed. I considered dropping to the half and saving my legs for Green Bay Marathon next weekend but didn’t want to bail on Michelle who was also running the full marathon. She said that anyone could run well at Green Bay but running well at Starved Rock would be something to feel extra proud of. I went with that.
Race morning everything went smoothly. I took a Gu every 45 minutes, a cup of water at every aid station. It was ideal weather of 45 degrees, overcast, light wind. I started conservatively, conversation pace at an 8:45. It felt comfortable.
Mile 8 is where dreams go to die on this course. The steep, winding climb burned a lot of my matches. I should have power-walked up it, but I was running with a girl I met on course and she encouraged me up. Remember that “run your own race” stuff? Yeah. That would have been a good rule to follow here.
Through this section of rolling hills towards Starved Rock State Park I still maintained 9:15 splits, running with someone I met on the course. There was a fantastic decent in the park that I took at full speed, and then a grueling 2 mile climb back out of the park. Once I was out of the park my head was still in a good place and I put forth my best effort to get back on pace. My best effort after the first round of climbing was noticeably slower.
Between increased effort, slowing paces and round two of rolling hills in the second half I lost my mental and physical strength. There was a sliver of hope and mental will at mile 20 when my Garmin read 3:01, I tried so hard to power through. First a 9:12, then 9:49. The 9:49 is when I knew the course won. This was the longest last 6.2 miles of a marathon I’ve ever experienced. The longest last 3 too.
It was the post-race feels where I was most upset and discouraged. This race was part of the bigger picture for future goals, and if I couldn’t perform well here, well, what business do I have dreaming bigger?
The next time I put this much focus in marathon training I have ideas on how to better prepare myself, not that I don’t think I was prepared for this one. I’m also going to be more careful about which course I put big goals on.
For now, onward to triathlon season!