Marathon #3 - My First Columbus Marathon 3:27:16

Marathon #22 My 4th Columbus Marathon 3:11:42 (Bib #22!)

I have so much to say about this race, I don't think I could fit it into 10 posts succinctly let alone one. So first things first let's try to just get out a race weekend report and then we will go from there! (Grab your coffee, your lunch, and probably your dinner!)

For those blissfully unaware I turned 30 on Saturday. I LOVE Birthdays and I Love October and I Love Marathons so you know I was ready to milk this one for all it was worth! I don't need gifts etc for my Birthdays, I just like to be surrounded by lots of loved ones doing things I enjoy! My husband, family, and friends always come through and indulge me my fun! This year was no different and will go down as one of my favorite Birthdays and marathon weekends!

I had two missions for this race. Try to help my buddy Salty run her best marathon on the day and have fun. I was taking a super relaxed approach to this race, I knew I wasn't in shape to run anything better than around 2:58 even if I had one of those perfect days and thought I'd be lucky to be under 3:05 given I was going out harder than I would have preferred if running my own race. I just wanted to put the fun back in the marathon so that going into my next one I had a positive experience to reflect on. Not going to lie, Boston and Indy had me doubting my love of racing longer races, and I needed to get my long race mojo back!

All this to say I had my fair share of fun, drinks, and desserts last week, but kept it to a reasonable level as I knew I would have to work hard on Sunday. (Had I not planned on running with Salty I am 90% positive I would have been out dancing and drinking all night Friday and done a fun but slower 26.2 mile run on Sunday)

I drove down to C'Bus with my dear friend BB. She is 61 years young and just so amazing, cranking out 3:19s and 3:20s the past few years and dominating her age group at major marathons. We got settled into our hotel and headed out for a jog around Columbus. It was WINDY but otherwise a beautiful fall day. Having run a bunch of races in Columbus the past few years it is fun to jog around the city and remember all my races there!

Excited about the weekend may be an understatement...

My friend GP has been holding onto her 30th Tiara for me as I had told her when we celebrated her 30th that I definitely was going to have to rock that tiara for my 30th. So starting Friday night I was out on the town decked out in my sweet tiara partying with friends and family. Friday night was carb loading at Buca Di Beppo. I was thrilled to have a fun dinner out which was capped off with a great Birthday sing along from the staff (I have never had this done for me, and I LOVED it!)

Required Cheesy Photo? Check!

Following dinner we headed over to Big Bang and sang along a bit and had one more drink to celebrate my last night as a 20 something. This was capped off on the walk back meeting a rodeo clown who told me he also had a tiara (as well as a tutu!). We decided I should have a tiara for every day of the week with different gems for each day. Someone help me patent this ;)

Best Parents Ever!

Cheesy Establishment Shirts Abounded at all the locales in C'Bus

Right after midnight the gals and I finally went to bed to get ready for Saturday's festivities.

Saturday we were up at a reasonable hour and headed out for our shake out jog. Being my official Birthday you know I brought the camera along in case any cheesy opportunities for photos came up! This also was serving as a test run to see if the tiara would be good to go for the marathon.

Turns out my head makes a perfect O turning Goodale into Godale!

This sign was the perfect spot to get a Nationwide photo before heading to starbucks for oatmeal and a mocha!

While BB and MK got showered up for lunch JP and I decided we could use a few minutes in the hot tub! Wow do I like this relaxed approach to marathoning or what?

30 is looking pretty good to me!

Then it was off to lunch at Mongolian! I am a FIRM believer in a big carb loading lunch the day before your marathon. I prefer brown rice and some meat and veggies. This worked out great for me last year and this year was no different! Super stoked to have a bunch of friends come with me for my Birthday carb loading extravaganza!

Best husband ever!

Dessert? Okay just a little!

After lunch it was off to the Expo! Let me just say here (and I will probably say it many times over). I LOVE that Columbus marathon has a staff that is always thinking of new ways to go above and beyond. This is a FIRST CLASS marathon and I will keep going back year after year. On top of getting the royal elite treatment (despite not being in shape to cash in on it) the staff made this awesome banner for everyone having a Birthday that weekend! Expo was great, we got in and out and I grabbed a few friends bibs that couldn't join us.

Hi can I pick up the bib for Big Sexy?

Happy Birthday to Me!

This shirt is the bomb!

We expo'ed it up getting a few extra gels then heading to the elite hospitality suite to load up on some bagels, bananas, and gatorade!

Then it was off to prep our bottles for miles 6, 12, and 18. Using our magic tape and stickers we hooked up our water bottles with our gels so that we wouldn't have to carry too much during the race!

Speedy Salty's room signs! NC and BH were doing it up right!

After hooking up our bottles it was off to our last carb loading dinner. We were all off to Spaghetti warehouse to get our pasta on. I can't lie I am not a huge SW fan so I was super glad I stuffed my face at Mongolian and had been drinking gatorade etc throughout the day! I settled for some pasta with chicken, a beer, and just a few bites of chocolate cake (Hey it was my BIRTHDAY!). Again was serenaded for my Birthday and made to feel super special :) Yep I am super spoiled! I have the best friends and family ever!

I swear I just had a few bites and didn't touch the ice cream coach ;)

Back to the hotel and time to figure out my race outfit. I thought it would be warm, but chilly at the start so I opted for my buns and a singlet but assumed I would be stripping the singlet so had to fuss with the bib a bit to figure out how to get it to lie flat on the buns and not make any noise or chafe. Also needed to hook up my race shoes with my sweet new shoe bling from NC!

Shoe Bling!

Race morning arrived before I knew it and I was ready to rock and roll. Coffee, breakfast, outfit on and I was out the door to head over to pick up Salty. Near miss when EH picked me up as the elevator started shutting down as we boarded it (Yikes!) so we scurried out before the door closed and made it to the room safe and sound! Phew.

NC in her sleepy state was kind enough to help bling out my nails in hot pink as Salty finished getting ready then we were out ready to rock and roll! We headed to the elite warm up area, changed out of our warm stuff and hit the restroom before heading out to warm up. Crowds were already insane so I made Salty stay put as I hopped a fence and kind of bullied my way through the crowd putting their gear bags on the truck. It pays to be loud and have on a crown sometimes ;)

Back over to Salty and I could tell the atmosphere was not conducive to being relaxed so we got the Hell out of there to warm up on some quieter streets! Then up to the elite area to do our dynamic stretches and take our pre race gels!

Bathroom a few more times then out to throw my bag in a van full of elite gear and get in our strides. We got over to the start and I realized I had forgot our friends bib in my bag! One more stride for me! Back to the van just as they were shutting it and got the bib which thankfully I had the sense to put pins on the night before!

Good Lucks and high fives to a bunch of my Cleveland buddies in our corral and before you knew it the fireworks were going and we were off!

My plan for the day was really to just stay by Salty's side for as long as I could, hopefully at least through 18 so I could get our bottles and gels to each of us, but if I couldn't keep up I told her to just take the bottles and I would take race gels instead! If she went 2:57 on the day I really didn't think I would be able to keep up with my limited training and still not being 100%. Had it been my race I would have preferred to start out around 7 minute pace for the first 10k, see how I felt and try to negative split for under 3:02ish. But I was ready to try and nail 6:47s with her as that was the goal and risk a bit of a blow up on the back half. I basically planned to party my way to the finish fully independent of my race effort.

I wasn't actually planning to put on my "pacer" hat Sunday. I viewed my role more as one of moral support. Basically a fun "escort" for the day. But somehow early in the race I found myself paying more attention to the watch than I had expected to. I wanted to make sure we didn't go out too fast but kept it honest. We started with some local boys I knew were planning to run a bit faster and I was a bit shocked the effort felt so easy so I couldn't help but check the watch. And sure enough we were taking it out conservatively, just under 7 minute pace. So I ended up looking at the watch the rest of the way and trying to make sure we kept it around 6:48 garmin pace to make sure were were at a minimum under 6:52 each mile.

I could tell Salty was not feeling 100% but I assumed once we got in a groove she would feel better and that it was my job to keep us on pace while her legs warmed up to the task. I feel like I know this course so well now running it three years in a row. It was nice to reflect back on the miles from each of my previous races here that went so well. I was having fun remembering everything and soaking up the fun spectators and music. The pace didn't feel great, I'm not going to lie, but I knew I could keep it up for at least 16-20 miles. My foot didn't feel too bad, I had taken an Aleve with breakfast, more to prevent inflammation than to do any pain killing, so I am not sure if that helped or not but the foot never felt any worse than a little tender. My left hamstring however had me a little worried. It was tight despite getting it worked out on Friday and I was a bit nervous about it holding up to 6:50s.

A bit before the 10km a first time marathoner joined us. She was running great, super relaxed, and she clearly was looking for some good company to get through the miles. It is sooo hard for me to sit back and watch others races and not give advice based on my experiences, but I kept my mouth shut and didn't tell her what I was really thinking, which was that she should probably not talk and that she might want to back off the effort a little bit. Instead I chatted her up a bit and told her about my race experiences here and tried to nonchalantly input some advice in the mix without it sounding like an order. The nice thing about your first one is everything is a big unknown, and I have seen that sometimes being a bit naive about the tolls a marathon can take does get someone to their goal even if they weren't quite as prepared as they should be. Hell I ran my first marathon in 3:39:42 on less than 26 miles a week, all because I really thought I could break 3:40, because my friends told me I could. Did I pay for that effort with super sore muscles and crazy emotional crap after the race? You betcha! But I did it. So who am I to tell someone they can't achieve a goal? Especially mid race. But based on her description of training I was pretty confident a sub 3 was a tall order for her that day, and I tried to instill that an over 3 effort was still something to be very proud of, especially for her first!

On pace and moving along

I pretty much demand that anyone running with me smiles for the cameras

We got our second water bottle at mile 12 and saw my super rad parents and husband for the third time! High street had some fun bands and DJs and I let the girls know we wouldn't worry about pace these next few miles as they are uphill and into the wind. (That said I was still keeping my eye on the watch and trying to keep us honest, I had been bluffing a bit each mile to make everyone feel positive and just saying things like: "We nailed this mile" "Perfect 6:45" etc. when in reality I knew we were probably going to be closer to 1:30 than the desired 1:29 at the half)

Around the half Salty announced that she could use some "Sunshine." We always joke about how we should get some super speedy boys to run with us and tell us how awesome we are all the time. So I did my best to blow some sunshine, while trying to figure out if she was just feeling stressed or if her body was not up to the pace. We sent our new friend ahead as we weren't quite nailing 6:52 at that point. I told Salty we just needed to refocus and keep our "Eyes on the prize" or something along those lines. I told her I fully expected her to beat our new friend to the finish line. I backed off my effort and did my best to run beside Salty instead of ahead of her and help her to feel in control.

I thanked volunteers and spectators and waved and danced with the DJs and bands. I would try to amp us up if I heard a good tune! The race support out there was just amazing, I loved every minute of it!

It was becoming clear that 6:52s were probably a thing of the past so I tried to focus us in on running 7:00 pace as that would keep us in the goal range under a 3:03. We did good the next 3 miles and I thought Salty was rallying and then her body met that infamous marathon wall and just said "no" on one of the rolling hills just after mile 17.

And this is where I went from "Pacer Princess" to "Fun March our butts to the finish line" as fast as our bodies can handle it. While I was super bummed for my buddy and that her body was giving her the finger I was hoping we could still enjoy this beautiful day and soak up the marathon experience together and maybe rally to a PR for her.

I did my best to encourage Salty and keep her mind off her cramping muscles. I tried telling jokes, but unfortunately she hadn't seen most of the movies I referred to. So I settled for just being upbeat and hamming it up for the crowds.

18 we got our last bottle and our last gel. Between 18 and 20 there was a van playing music and they announced "This aid station sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon." I've drank beer during one race in my life, Crim 10 miler. But I have never done a marathon beer so I marched my butt over to the table and slammed a beer as we kept moving our way to the finish. They wanted me to have another but I didn't want to push my luck!

Just before 20 I looked ahead and was sad to see that one of our local racing friends who was attempting 2:45 for her first marathon was also bonking on the course. I hoped that this would show Salty she was not alone out there, that this was all a normal part of a marathon. Even the best in the world have had to do the long slog to the finish, or worse drop out, on days that just weren't theirs. I think it did rally her a bit. We tried to give some advice and encouragement to her as we passed. We went through 20 and the 3:05 group caught us, I encouraged them all to try and stick to the group and let them pull us, but it was clear everyone's bodies were in shut down mode. I basically put on my "stubborn" hat and did whatever it took to keep Salty moving forward while her brain and body clearly wanted her to stop.

A bit before 20 we saw my parents and I gave them big high fives. Then we found our friend JM at 20 and she jogged with us for a mile until her boyfriend JS joined our party. Our friend NC was out cheering in her cute new hot shorts and I gave her a good slap as we went by. She did an AWESOME job cheering that weekend. It is so nice to see someone of her caliber give back and really enjoy it.

Once we backed off the pace my hamstring and foot actually felt pretty good and other than a few toe blisters and tight hips I actually was glad to be getting through this marathon unscathed. That said I had been hydrating like a machine and I REALLY had to make a stop at the POP. I really hope this doesn't become the norm, but now that Salty had JS I did pop in the bathroom to finally get comfortable and hopped out and raced back up to jump back in with Salty and JS.

JS, Salty, and I hamming it up for the camera.

All day we had seen so many friends cheering for us on the course. I love that even though we are more than 2 hours away from Cleveland there are always a good number of friends out to support their runners! I saw a bunch of college, trail, and SERC buddies through the day and it was so fun to wave at them and cheer along and give them high fives!

The thing about blowing up in a marathon is that you may see a bunch of friends you weren't expecting to see on the course as well as along the course. And the last 3 or so miles we did see a bunch of friends as they passed us on their way to the finish. For every marathon success story there is at least one story of running a gutsy race that didn't play out as intended, and while I was bummed for Salty I couldn't help but recognize the beauty of what the marathon can do good and bad during those final miles. I think it was here that I fell back in love with the marathon and realized that no matter what the next one throws at me I will always keep coming back for more.

And despite getting passed by many friends, we really were holding our own despite this bonk/wall. We did actually pass a few runners in that last 10km. A few gals that had been trying for 2:45, and at mile 25 near Goodale park we caught our first timer friend from earlier. Like so many that day she felt phenomenal through 20 and then the body just said no. Welcome to the marathon. I have been humbled by it so many times, but I think that what I love is that you still come back wanting more and you still come back ready to fight like crazy despite knowing just what it can dish out. You have to have a healthy dose of respect for the marathon, but sometimes you just throw that out the window and go for broke and see what you've got, and occasionally the bravado works out. And those occasions are why you keep coming back!

The last 10k I really just soaked it all up. I got excited for everyone that passed us looking great and I felt comraderie with every person that was struggling as I have struggled many times before. I was so grateful to be able to run 26.2 miles in whatever capacity it was and I was so grateful to have back my spunky happy marathoner self. I was sooo happy I made the decision to stick to the full here even though I knew I was not in shape to get my current time goals and I was excited to help my friend finish a tough marathon even if all I did was hold her hand and tell her how amazing she was.

Like I have seen many times before the home stretch brings out the racer in even the most bedraggled of marathoners and Salty hammered that home stretch like a pro. We have finished two races this year holding hands, but I was not sure if she was in a happy enough place to do that this time so I ran one step behind her letting her take the lead, but with 20 or so meters to go she reached back for me and we finished hands raised together and I promptly gave her a hug before the race officials hurried us off to the elite area.

I left Salty in good hands with JS while I tried my best to find her gear bag. The poor thing was probably freezing her ass off and I had a helluva a time trying to find her bag. They were in number order if you had used the races drop bag, but if not they were just arranged by color and for the life of me I could not remember what color her bag was! And of course I had left my cell with them! Eventually I found BB and used her cell to finally get the bag and get back to the elite area for some pampering!

Post race massage!

The good news for me was that we had switched out of race mode before my body decided to give me the finger so I still had tons of energy (i'm sure all the caffeinated gels didn't hurt) and my muscles felt great. Add a light post race massage and some food and I was on cloud 9. Finally found my family and some friends as I danced my way back to the hotel.

Love the shirts and slogan this year!

While I would have loved to party all night we settled for post race food and one tall beer with friends at Max and Ermas before driving back to Cleveland.

Chow time!

I cannot overstate how freaking ecstatic I am with where I am right now emotionally and physically. To be able to run a 3:11:42 while hooting, hollering, dancing, drinking beer, and helping a friend makes me really excited to see what I can do at my next marathon with the right relaxed attitude and some more solid training, especially if I behave a bit better and conserve my energy to race the whole way rather than 16-20 of it. I've come a long way since my first marathon in Columbus! I can't wait to do this all over again soon!


The Salty One said...

I'm bawlin' my eyes out reading this! Yes! The ecstasy and the agony of the marathon!!!!

Keen Bean Company said...

I am beyond thrilled that you, one incredible gal, had one super amazing 30 year bday weekend!!! I can totally picture (and hear!) you on that marathon course, eating it up and being the best run buddy ever. hugs to you!

solarsquirrel said...

Awesome recap. You said it - anyone who can do a 3:11 while expending all that extra energy AND drinking a beer is OUT OF CONTROL AMAZING!!!! But, I knew that already :)

Jodi H said...

What a fantastic race report! Isn't it awesome to help a friend? I ran the Columbus marathon last week as well and it really is an awesome event. I'm quite certain I will be back!

MP said...

You're hilarious!!! I loved reading this race report! The support you gave Salty and so many throughout the course is so awesome! Congrats on a great #22!!! and Happy Belated Bday!

Robin said...

Great post, Elizabeth! I loved reading the race report and it was so wonderful of you to pace your friend - and to such an incredible finishing time! Way to go! And happy birthday again!