Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Recap 2014

After finally comprehending some of the 'Sentiments from Memphis', I think it's finally time to purge the race thoughts and start wrapping my head around the race itself. There's also like 50 million photos of me running, I'm sorry.

The usual marathon recap disclosure: crack a beer and get comfy, it's gonna be long.

The night before the race, laid everything out as I normally do. Puttered around in compression, going through checklists in my head, not once but more like three times. We were all stalking the weather debating if the rain would hold off, was it going to be too warm or too cold? You know, all the things we want to know but obviously won't until it's actually time. Of course, this is about the time I realized my 'luck' of being a girl. Cue the "are you kidding me?" followed by plenty of raging F-Bomb texts. But, the show must go on...or something like that.

Race morning went smooth getting ready, I managed to get down a half of a bagel with my cold coffee. Packed up race gear, crossed my fingers I wasn't forgetting something and started drinking my bottle of Generation UCAN before hitting the road. It wasn't a bad morning, tad muggy with some wind but the cooler temps (High 40's) were where I needed them to be. I also knew enough that the amount of turns in the course would make it so the wind couldn't possibly change directions as much as we did.

 We made it to the race pretty easily, maybe a 15 minute drive as we were staying out by the airport. Once we got close we simply followed the cars with the run-brag stickers(not knocking 'em, I have it too).  Once we got there and parked, we made our way over towards the start, a few obligatory Beale Street photo ops and then said our goodbyes.
Me and great friend/fellow kick ass runner Luke

No doubts about me being cut from this cloth.  Love you Dad!
I then made my way up to the suites in the park to put my things with the other elites. I know that most of my times, while fast are not typical elite standards but I was very grateful for this chance. They took wonderful care of us, warm place to stay before the race, with food and water and a place to leave our things.

The suite only had a few athletes left in there, as most had made their way down to the start already. I put my bags down and introduced myself to some of the others, who were all incredibly nice. I spent some time talking to two of the other female marathoners, and we decided it was time to walk down together.

We were concerned about waiting in bathroom lines, but knew we needed to go one more time. When we got to the start, we told the elite coordinator and she showed us to a bathroom set aside for us. We said good luck and chatted a little more, bouncing around in the corral. I did a few strides to loosen up while taking inventory of how I was feeling. I took off my jacket and grabbed a last bit of water from the EC again and then it was time. Luke was in the first corral behind me, we said good luck one more time and smirked like the goofy people we are as we fist bumped leaving seconds until go-time.

The first mile was mentally rough, I mean ROUGH.  All of us in the elite corral took off 2 minutes before the rest of the field, I almost instantly found myself in the back all alone. Out of the marathoners I was the slowest, and obviously all of the elite half-ers took off like bats out of hell. I felt like I was losing the race already. Then we got to the first few crowds of the day and I pushed the negative thoughts away. Going down Beale street around mile 3 was great, the crowds and the energy were such a boost. I knew that I couldn't get too wrapped up in it though, I focused on breathing easy and keeping my form in check.

After the first few miles I started getting caught by the second corral. I knew this was going to happen but man oh man, having half marathoners fly past you was mentally challenging. I got passed by some marathoners too (basically guys who were going to go sub 3). I kept telling myself to run my own race, it helped....a little.
Being hunted down by the half marathoners
I saw my dad for the first time right outside the St. Jude campus, I smiled and waved and held up 2 fingers- that was my goal, hold second place. After talking to the girls before the race, I knew the one girl was planning on going out at 2:50-55 pace which told me I would be fighting for second.  Maybe it sounds pessimistic that I didn't even THINK about winning, but going out at 6:30 pace and trying to hang with her would have been grade A stupid move on my part. Maybe someday.

Going through the St. Jude campus was by far one of the best parts of the day. So many people, children, signs, cheering, music- I couldn't help but get choked up. I high fived as many kiddos as I could, and soaked it all in. I was surrounded by children who are stronger than I will EVER be, and caught myself thinking about little ones I know and love in my own life.

After that, I realized my garmin was already reading long(shitty tangents by me) and I needed to not use the pace setting.  A female marathoner from second corral had caught me and I heard her telling guys near her that her goal was 7's. I started instantly questioning if I was way off pace and had a million negative things going through my head. Then I realized I wasn't that far off pace, and that group was going far faster than they thought. For my own hot headed sanity I picked up the pace to stay in front of them anyways. I never saw her again.

Shortly after that I heard my name yelled, cranked my head to the left to see Katie! I knew she would be out there but didn't expect her till 21,  I was sooooo happy! I smiled and waved and I have to say it was a GREAT time for a boost. I think I was excited to see her, judging by my reaction :)

Going into the race, I had made my goal to go out at the first half around 1:32-1:32:30. Because I couldn't trust my garmin I was relying more on the race clocks and mile markers. I knew that I couldn't wait that long to start figuring out where I was at, so I told myself get to mile 10 and do the math to see where I was at. I then made my plan to keep adding 7 to that to know what I needed to reach each clock at. I hit 10 a little over 70, and then told myself to get to mile 11 before 1:17. I ONLY allowed myself to think about the number I needed for the next mile so I wouldn't get ahead of myself. I locked into that pace and was truly running by feel and not a slave staring at my watch. One mile at a freaking time, that works REALLY well- no wonder people preach staying in the mile you're in.

Around mile 11, I was cruising faster than I should have been but felt good and had a strong mental kick that I was missing before.  I think I also was singing a little bit here as a song popped into my head and wouldn't leave --"If you could see me now would you recognize me? Would you pat me on the back or would you criticize me?" Leave it to The Script to invade my brain mid-race.

I saw dad at mile 12, I told him I was right on pace and he told me to keep going and to kick ass. For once I was going to try and do what he told me to, first for everything right?

We broke off from the half marathoners at this point, and I was happy to be out there with just marathoners even though it meant less people around. I needed to focus on my race and not the others. Based on my mid-race formed plan of focusing on multiples of 7's, I needed to hit mile 13 at 1:31 and I was a little ahead. I smiled big when I hit the half at 1:31:42, which was a little faster than my pre-race goal but not so much faster that I feared a big blow up later.

I wasn't expecting to, but around mile 14 I saw my dad again. He was easy to spot far away and I could tell he was on the phone, when I got closer he held out the phone and told me to say hi to mom. I yelled "Hi mom I love you" at the top of my lungs, everyone around us laughed. Even from 1000 miles away I knew I had amazing support back home.

I stuck to my plan and was reaching each clock before the 7:00 pace time and had built a small buffer. Silly enough I was proud of myself for sticking to that plan and the fact that it was working for me. Miles 14-19 FLEW, I tackled the rolling hills as best I could and tucked in tight when the wind picked up.  Around 19 I was starting to feel my left IT band aching. The roads were pretty banked so I moved more towards the middle trying to find flatter section, which helped a bit. I cruised through 20 right around 2:20 which was exactly where I wanted to be at that point.  I was hurting, but fought the mental battle as much as I could. "You've come this far, you can't lose it now." and LOTS of "Just hold on like hell". 

Knowing I would see Katie again at mile 21 helped give me a small goal to focus on rather than the fact that I was still 5+ miles away from being done. People were confirming what I knew along the way "You go girl, 2nd Female!!", I had no idea what sort of lead I had which kept me pushing. I passed 21 and then saw Katie and her husband cheering- I yelled "It hurts", and she quickly responded "I know, just keep going- you're awesome and on pace for 3 hours!!!!" I was so grateful to have her out there- true runner out supporting others! Clearly I was less chipper than the first time I saw her, as per photo proof. Oh  what a difference a few miles makes.

I felt myself fading. I was holding on for dear life and talking myself into getting to the next mile. Just one more mile. Suck it up. Okay, one more mile. I literally willed myself those last few miles with everything I had. My left leg was hurting, I was wheezing a bit and I just wanted to get to the finish. On the other side of this 4 lane road, marathoners were still heading out and I could hear them screaming for me, I have never heard "you go girl" so many times. I had some flashbacks to Empire Half from October, and I reminded myself how AMAZING it felt to hold on and win. I knew I wasn't going to win this race, but I also knew if I held on I was going to have a top 2 finish and a big PR. I didn't deserve this, I was earning every second of it though.

Somewhere in the last few miles I started cutting it close with the 7's, I knew it was happening but didn't care. Just keep going. I was so excited to get to St. Jude again at mile 24- while there was far less  people than the first time, it was still inspiring and helpful. I came around one corner to a HUGE crowd that did the wave as I ran by. I was half in tears from EVERYTHING going through my head, the good and the bad. Pain train 101, crying doesn't help. I sucked it in and just kept moving trying not to pay attention to time.
Second Pass through St. Jude.........Hot Mess Express.
The last 2 miles were the longest 2 miles of the day(literally, slowest of the day). I didn't have many people  around me and I was just struggling to keeping going. It was a weird feeling, I didn't want to stop but I didn't feel like moving either, we'll call this the wall.  I hit 25 knowing there were a few turns ahead and then the finish.

When I got close to the ballpark, there were bigger crowds as expected. The course narrowed as the gates got closer together and I felt the energy of the people surrounding me. My calf seized up just like it did before final turn for Rochester and a group of people saw me wince and encouraged me the best they could. I needed that, I was so grateful for the liars telling me how good I looked.  I made the sharp left and went down the ramp and squinted to see 3:04 on the clock, this was happening.

3 Hours. 4 Minutes. 40 Seconds. 
2nd female, 7 minute PR.

Within 30 seconds of the finish Jessica, the elite coordinator was hugging me asking me what I needed. Lots of photos taken, getting my medal and then also got to see Alyssa who was the first place female. She ran a 2:52 which was a new PR for her as well, her second marathon and second win- incredibly awesome. 

Then I looked up and saw Luke standing there, I know I had a very confused look on my face. He just said it wasn't his day and proceeded to give me the biggest hug he could. An incredibly strong person who set aside his own rough day for that moment in order to congratulate me and be a kick ass friend.

The finish area was, a CLUSTER. I'd actually say this was the only thing about the race that was lacking. They only had a quarter of the stands open for spectators, most was blocked off with gates, which created big bottlenecks everywhere. Most spectators(including my dad) couldn't even see the finish line.  I knew it was going to be hard to find him in the mess.

 I somehow squeezed through and got up to the suites to get my things so I could call him on my phone to find him. There were a few of the elite men waiting in there, they congratulated me and chatted about where we were from briefly (Including the typical NY does not necessarily mean NYC conversation).  I turned on my phone (which promptly blew up, thank you I love you all) and called dad. I took us another 20 minutes or so to find him after that because of the crowds and security. But when I did see him, biggest best dad hug EVER. He was telling anyone around us, "my daughter got second!"- he's allowed to do that, he's a dad.

Most people knew I wanted a PR and sub 3:10 going into this race, but I'll be very honest in that I didn't go in with JUST that goal. Coach and I had talked about 3:03-4, based on my training and strengths in racing/pacing. While I came in the first half ahead of pace, I didn't the second half (1:31:42 and 1:32:58). I'd say I was right where I wanted to be until about 22/3. I lost it in those last few miles- but I hesitate with that word LOST. I faded, I rode the pain train, but I held on like there was no tomorrow. Someone needs to tie me down and have a serious talk with me about tangents though, 26.5 miles- an extra THIRD of a mile due to my inability to run straight.

Marathon #10 is in the books, a shiny new PR and a second place finish. While those things in itself are huge personal successes- I find my biggest pride from this race was the progress I made in the 11 weeks since Rochester. A shorter gritty cycle, that had me tired and begging for taper but turned me into a stronger more confident runner. I went into the race being as prepared as I could be. I had my fuel and my gear. I had the training and the miles. I had the workouts and the confidence. I studied the course, read many posts and knew what to expect for hills (and yes, that over/underpass combo late in the race does suck going down more than it does going up). I knew what I needed to, prepared for what I could, and worked through everything else. This race wasn't a fluke, it wasn't a stroke of luck- it was simply preparedness with a push. 

Cheers to successes big and small & to chances well taken. 

Up Next: Bottoms up....the Memphis Weekend Shenanigans.


  1. This whole thing made me smile so hard it HURT :D I loved it.. I loved every second of it.... I'm so glad I got to be a part of this experience. I'll never forget it !

    No luck....... no flukes... no 'fair or not fair'... no 'I deserved this'... you freaking CRUSHED from start to finish. You earned every step. <3

  2. You look strong for your photos. I'm so proud of you Laura and I am ecstatic for how much your hard work paid off.

  3. Amaazing read Laura! I love this! You EARNED this, and it is amazing you kept so mentally tough being in the front there, but at the back. That was one of the things I let get to me in Chicago, and the reason i have declined the elite field for London. You handled it so well, and pushed through those miles where you could have let it slip away! You do have a shiny, new PR, and all those setbacks were worth it! SO happy for you!

  4. I loved this Laura! You kicked ass and looked great in the photos! So proud of you and loved follow you all morning on Twitter!!

  5. Congratulations again Laura :). I loved reading your recap and I like the new blog look too.

    I love following the running stickers on the way to races. Half the time that's how I know where to go, lol. I figure if that many people in front of me have a 13.1 or 26.2 on the car we are all going to the same place right?

    It's so cool you got to be in the elite corral for the race (even if your times aren't elite, they are really, really fast) and I bet racing through the hospital area was very humbling and emotional as well. It's neat that you got to share such a special race with your dad, PRed and was 2nd female overall. Pretty awesome way to end 2014, and I hope you have a good recovery from the race.

  6. Well, if that's a wall, I wouldn't mind it! ; )

    So very happy for you--you ran an amazing race. What a fantastic day for you! Look out 2015!

  7. Loooooooove everything about this post!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! That must have been so cool to have everyone cheering and doing the wave as you smoked by :) So proud of you lady!

  8. I can't even tell you how much I wish I could've gone down with you and I am just so so so glad that you had your dad and Luke there - I'm also glad the lucky charm worked ;) !!

    I was a nervous wreck stalking you race morning but I am glad there were semi-frequent splits (unlike ROC!). You worked so hard for this and you deserved every damn second.

  9. What an awesome race, you are freaking amazing!

  10. Woohoo! Congrats on the PR and meeting your goal. You are amazing.

  11. HUGE congratulations - you deserve every bit of pride you have for this amazing race! I loved reading your recap and I can't wait to see what you tackle next! (Though for now you just get to well-deservedly CELEBRATE and not think about that....)

  12. Fierce! You are! I pray that 2015 is filled with blessings disguised in your dreams and visions.

  13. I just found your blog! AWESOME!! Loved reading the recap of the race. I was holding my breath all the way through. You ROCKED it.
    So inspiring. Happy running to you and glad I found your blog :)

  14. Just now getting around to reading this...and WOW!!! I am sooo proud of you girl!!!! I so wish I could have been there to cheer you on but it wasn't in the cards for me. But you better believe I bragged on you to everyone I knew that day when I was tracking you! You are amazing!!!


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