"I'd like to see you challenge yourself from the beginning." I was further instructed to tap into my uncomfortable zone early, latch onto folks, but not run like a bat out of hell. What a loaded list to work with.
I was off to a trail marathon last Sunday to make up for missing Bandera the week before. It was a perfect setting: loop course, flat terrain, soft running, a chance for a quick visit with the folks, and an easy trip. The only piece I was missing from Bandera weekend was the fantastic weather, and the rocks...which I never miss anyway :) Last weekend called for 40s and rain ALL WEEKEND. That would have been fine if my only run of the weekend was the practice pacing run on Saturday, but I had locked myself into the marathon and asked coach if I could count the weather as my "uncomfortable running?"
Saturday morning Paul and I met up with the Rogue pace teams for a "practice" run. It seems so simple to run slower than your pace for a marathon, but it actually takes practice. You are constantl monitoring and making sure you are running slow enough. I pace the 3:50 group. I LOVE LOVE LOVE pacing. It is such a joy to share the time with folks working toward a goal like a marathon, and often a first marathon. It makes you remember what this feels like all over again. So here we are in 40s and rainy, trotting along, when our group tells us that their MGP segment ends with about 5 miles to go in the run. There was no convincing them to run an extra step at MGP. They had their instructions and they were determined to slow. It actually worked well for Danny and I because when they hit their spot, we sped up to a more comfortable easy run pace. We were chatting along, and at one point I looked down and our pace was 6:50...hmm probably not pre-race pace. So we slowed to a more comfortable 7:20 and continued on. I will admit that running so easily at this pace, in the nasty weather, gave me an extra boost to my fitness for the next day....I needed it.
Paul had already finished breakfast by time we returned, he is pacing the 2:47 group at Austin, and was ready to shuttle me to my car. I was happy to have run the 13 as my pre-race warm-up. Iknew exactly what gear I would need for the next day.
In a last minute decision Paul opted to head to Houston with me. He figured it would be more fun to hang out with me and the fam then be home in the nasty weather. I was thankful to have him join me. It always takes my pre-race edge off.
We arrived to Houston to no rain. For a brief moment I dreamed that I would be running in dry conditions. HAHA! We woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to Brazos Bend in rainy very windy conditions. The course was a figure 8 loop around 2 little lakes (4 miles) and then a long out-and-back and then repeat. The race was supposed to be 50K start, then marathon, then 1/2. Thankfully, due to a rain delay they started the 50K and marathon together. The 50K just had a bonus loop each loop. I started in my rain jacket and gloves, knowing that I would see Paul after the 4 mile loop. We took off and one guy flew off the front. I ran with the eventual 50K winner and quickly we separated ourselves from the rest of the race. He would get a couple of paces in front of me, but everytime there was a possible wrong turn he would take it and then catch back up. Nice guy, though. I gave my jacket and gloves to Paul and off we went for the out-and-back. At one point during the out and back, a guy in black passed me. I had settled into a good rhythmn so wasn't ready to hang onto him (I would be thankful for this later).
On the way back, we got to see the entire field of people. Yes, some were running 3 and 4 together and given the wet it slowed things down, but overall people were so friendly. It was raining constantly and I felt like a little kid splashing in the puddles. I got to cheer for Linda, Cheri, Jeff, and Greg which is always a highlight for me! Austin runners are the best!
As I started the 2nd loop, I felt great. I was behind black tank guy and was debating on whether he was slowing or steady. I think I actually backed off a little to let him stay in front of me...or maybe I wasn't thinking that hard about it. I came through the 4 mile loop ready to go hard for the out-and-back and see what was left in the tank. I haven't run a marathon in years, so my marathon PR of 3:20 almost feels like it's not real...is there an expiration date on a PR?
Sunday on the flat trail in the ran felt like my chance to see what I could do. As we started the out-and-back I passed the black tank guy, and then ran like hell. I looked back a few times but he was out of sight. The lead guy was about 10 minutes up on me, so I just focused on staying strong. I couldn't believe how much time I had made up on the guy on my way back. On the way out I saw Cheri and Jeff. They became my solid target for the finish...run hard enough to catch them before the finish line. I hadn't known how far they actually were down the trail, but I was going to push until I caught them. It ended up being a great goal. At this point, aside from a few folks heading out and passing folks on the way back I had the trail to myself which made weaving in and out of the puddles for the best line easy. I was filthy, but there wasn't any mud that was sticking so the course continued to be fast.
As I approached the road crossing with a little less than a mile to go, I caught Jeff and Cheri!! I also looked at my watch and realized that if I could continue to push I would break 3:15. My legs were gone, but I continued to push...3:13:39 2nd overall and 1st female!!
I have no idea what this translates to on tapered legs on the road, nor honestly do I care. I am proud that on a rotten day on a wet trail this is what my body was able to do. I am thankful that Paul was there to keep me moving and share a good result with me, and that is really all that matters.
But, at least for the next bit, when folks ask what my marathon PR is I can say under 3:13:39. Right now, it feels like where actually am and when convinced what I can push my body to do. Thank you to Paul, Ian, and all those who help me believe what I am capable of in a parts of my life!!
Next week of the Houston Marathon! Paul is pacing the 2:39 group. He is just so fit, happy, and healthy right now! It is very exciting to see him like this!!