Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mohawk Hudson River Marathon - did I mention that I crushed it?

When I lost my job back in June, I took the opportunity to run more miles. I had already decided that Mohawk Hudson was going to be my goal marathon for the fall, so I decided to follow Pfitzinger's 12/70 plan, then added in a marathon or ultra each month as a long run for JFK to get closer to my 50 states goal because running races is a lot of fun and I couldn't go all summer and early fall without running any races, no matter what my training plan said. I lack a bit of self-control when it comes to racing.

The day after I got home from the ADT Marathon in Colorado I had a phone interview for a job. It went really well and I went in the next week to interview with the CEO. That also went really well, so I went back for a final round of interviews (they invited back the top three candidates to meet and interview with the entire staff - since it's a small office it's important that they all get along and work together well). I got the job and started two days after Mohawk Hudson, on Tuesday, October 15. Now I've gotten pretty used to life without a job and am not sure how I got anything done, especially running, back when I was working full time. I'm excited about the job and looking forward to it, but I think my days of 15 mile medium-long runs during the week may be over for at least awhile. So in my mind this marathon was my best shot at doing well.
Fine. I'll go back to work.

I ran two tune-up races the month before to see if my 3:35 goal was on target. I ran the Navy 5 miler in 35:07 (and got 2nd overall Master!) and then I ran the Cody's Crew 5K in 21:50 (1st female!). Plus I ran a 5K just 5 days after ADT and ran a 21:42. So I decided I would go for somewhere between 3:30 and 3:35.

I decided at the last minute to drive up on Friday instead of Saturday, in case I got in bad traffic. I didn't want to show up late Saturday in Albany exhausted, once I had determined that this was my best shot. I decided to go up the long way and avoid Friday afternoon NY/NJ traffic, and promptly got stuck in Pennsylvania traffic for a couple of hours. Oh well, at least it was Friday and the race wasn't until Sunday. At some point leading up to this race I think I started going a little bit crazy. On Thursday I ran in my New Jersey Marathon shirt, my PR race and last 3:35 attempt back in May (finished in a disappointing 3:42 on one hand, but still a happy 3:42 on the other hand since that was a 10 minute PR and a BQ-12). So Friday morning I pulled out my Baltimore Marathon shirt for my run (1st marathon ever), and I packed my Detroit Marathon shirt for Saturday's easy shakeout run (1st sub-4 and 1st BQ). Stupid, silly stuff that has no bearing on how I will run Sunday, but suddenly became incredibly important and profound.

Saturday morning I ran an easy 4 miles, then had lunch with my friend Julie before driving the last couple hours to Albany. I made it to the expo to pick up my packet, then wandered around downtown for a little bit and just relaxed and played on the internet for a little bit. My friend Judy, whom I was staying with, was volunteering at packet pickup until 6, and then we were going out to dinner. Kate showed up exhausted from the drive. The three of us caught up a little, took a picture, and then Kate headed off for an early dinner and bed.
I think we all look a little tired. Yay- let's go run a bunch of miles tomorrow!
We ended up getting a pizza for dinner (longish wait at the restaurant). Judy was cracking me up with her carb obsession. "Would you like some cream soda? It has 46 grams of carbs!" "We also have ice cream, just in case we need more carbs after dinner." "Can I give myself diabetes by stuffing myself this way?" and so on. We compared our myfitnesspal data while Charlie, Judy's husband, just sat there shaking his head. I headed to bed early and did my usual wake up every hour or two afraid I've overslept routine until it was finally time to get up at 6 a.m. The race starts at a very civilized 8:30. Charlie drove us to the start (the race starts in Schenectady and finishes in a park by downtown Albany) and was armed with a camera and a course map for spectating.

I lined up behind the 3:35 pacer. I didn't want to run with the pace group, but I thought if they were in front of me it would help me to not go out too fast. Not a problem as we started and the pacer took off like a bat out of hell. I was running comfortable 8:09 minute miles, and I lost sight of him by the first mile marker (3:35 is an 8:12 pace). The first couple miles are on roads before you turn on to the bike path. That was nice because it gave the crowd time to thin out and find their places while the road was nice and wide. I sort of fell in behind two girls in bright green shirts and was going back and forth with two girls in yellow/green shirts. Pretty sure those two were running their first marathon, with their names on the back of their shirts and reading inspirational quotes at every mile marker. Miles 3-5 didn't feel like they were downhill, but they were, and I tried not to freak out when I ran a couple 7:54 miles (my plan was to run the first half between 8 and 8:15 minute miles, then adjust).

The course was just beautiful - lots of trees, a river to our left (although you often couldn't see it because of all the trees), a nice smooth asphalt path to run on. Flat and straight so no worrying about hitting tangents. Not a lot of spectators if you need that kind of thing. It was just really comfortable, enjoyable running. Mile 8 was one of the first places there were spectators, and I saw Charlie, Judy's husband there. He snapped this pic of me:

I was feeling really good at this point. Other runners passed me, I passed other runners. The two bright green shirt girls kept up a 7:50ish pace and ran away from me. I still had no idea how far ahead the 3:35 pacer was, but I was okay with that. In New Jersey (my spring goal marathon) the pacer took off too fast but I didn't have confidence in my ability so I stuck with him and eventually blew up around mile 20, finishing in 3:42. This time I was running my own race and I felt good.

Around mile 10, this girl ran up alongside me and said "Your legs could be on the cover of Running Times magazine. Seriously, they look amazing." I thanked her, and I may have told her she was my favorite person on the entire course. I finally caught the pace group at about mile 11. He had slowed considerably and I heard him say they were going to still be ahead of pace at the next mile marker. I decided to go ahead and pass as I still felt really comfortable.

Around the halfway point, I fell in with a guy in a tri shirt and shorts and a girl in a green shirt and tights. At first I felt I should pass the girl because it was too hot out for tights (stupid distance running logic that really doesn't make sense, but a lot of things go through my head in 26 miles). We went back and forth a couple times and finally settled in as we were going pretty much the same pace. A girl in a black tank and shorts with a list of people she was dedicating the marathon to on her back ran into our little group, bringing us to 4. She asked what are goals are and both me and the guy said between 3:30 and 3:35. The girl in tights had headphones on and didn't answer. Dedication girl was aiming for a 3:30. We ran along the next few miles together.

It started getting hot, and the pace was getting a little harder to hold, so at the aid station shortly before mile 16 I took a water and a gatorade. I still haven't mastered the skill of drinking while I run, so I had to walk while I finished both. So instead of 2-3 steps walking like at previous aid stations, it was more like 20 steps this time. My little group had kept running. I stayed about 10 yards behind them for awhile, trying to decide if I should try to get back up to them. I finally did in a couple of <8 minute miles. Turns out that the was the smartest decision I made (although I didn't know it at the time). Shortly after I caught back up we went through about a 4 mile stretch (miles 18-22 or so) along the road in Watervliet (I think). Now, the road was fine and they had cops keeping traffic away from the runners, but after the peaceful bike path, to be suddenly thrust onto the side of a busy road with cars and traffic lights and spectators and manhole covers and storm grates and direct sun was a little jarring. A lot of people were walking. Very tough part of the race mentally and I probably would have given in to slowing down and possibly even some walk breaks if I were on my own.

My little group of 4 just kept running along, taking turns in the lead and passing one person after another. At one point the guy's wife/girlfriend who was spectating at various spots saw us and asked why he was always running with girls when she saw him. I don't know exactly what he said, but she laughed and we said we liked him in our group. We finally turned back onto the bike path and I was having a hard time keeping up. We were still passing a lot of people, as it was getting hotter out and more and more people were slowing and walking. I was arguing with myself over whether I could keep pushing or if I should let the other three go. I mentally went through what was hurting enough to make me think I needed to slow down. Miraculously, my legs, my hamstrings, my calves, my feet, my back all felt fine. But breathing was getting difficult. They started to pull away near the end of mile 23, and I just let them go. I knew I had a PR, and I was having trouble catching my breath. Nothing really hurt, but everything felt sluggish. I walked at the next water station while I drank water and then walked for an entire minute. That mile and the next (24 and 25) were pretty slow, although I didn't walk again. When I got to mile 25 I was able to pick up the pace, but it was super hard. My legs didn't hurt, but they were so heavy and felt clumsy. And breathing was still hard.

And then the finish line was there, and I saw 3:33 on my watch and I ran as hard as I could and finished in 3:33:57. I heard the announcer say "Karen Faber from Bowie, Maryland coming up to the finish. Nice job Karen!" and I swear, that was the closest I've ever come to crying at the end of a race. I couldn't believe I did it. Even though I knew I should be able to do it, I really didn't think I actually could do it. I got my drop bag, posted my results to facebook, got some gatorade and chips, and hung out at the finish line cheering others in and waiting for Kate and Judy to finish. And I checked the results again and learned I finished 3rd in my age group. I've never placed in a marathon before!

It's now several days later and I'm still over the moon about this race. It went better than I thought it could. It did get a little warm towards the end, so theoretically I could go even faster (and shorter race results all say I should be able to break 3:30). I think this is the end of my streak of giant PRs (8 minutes here, 10 minutes in New Jersey in May, 17 minutes in Detroit last October, and 15 minutes at the Poconos the previous May), but I think if I can train smart and hard, I might be able to break 3:30. But I'm not going to worry about that for awhile. The next few races are just for fun.

And my splits (mile 18 includes a big downhill):
1    8:08.6     1.00     8:09
28:08.6 1.00 8:09
37:54.3 1.00 7:54
47:59.5 1.00 8:00
57:53.5 1.00 7:54
68:01.9 1.00 8:02
78:04.8 1.00 8:05
88:07.6 1.00 8:08
98:12.1 1.00 8:12
108:10.5 1.00 8:11
118:09.0 1.00 8:09
128:06.3 1.00 8:06
138:08.3 1.00 8:08
148:11.5 1.00 8:12
158:02.5 1.00 8:03
168:06.9 1.00 8:07
177:52.9 1.00 7:53
187:38.1 1.00 7:38
198:01.6 1.00 8:02
208:04.5 1.00 8:05
218:07.2 1.00 8:07
228:16.8 1.00 8:17
238:18.2 1.00 8:18
248:56.7 1.00 8:57
258:42.6 1.00 8:43
268:19.1 1.00 8:19
272:15.3 0.29 7:48

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