Thursday, September 17, 2015

Erie Marathon 2015 {Sub-3!}

It's really hard to know where to begin with this one. The race? The time? The amazing weekend in general? The fact that I've been an emotional basket case for the last few days? So much to say, so few comprehensible phrases coming out of my mouth. Runner brain for the win; or for second if were being literal.

I guess we should start with the weekend, for which I could write a post of its own. My shake out on Saturday was done in the pouring rain while bee bopping around. I felt good, but not great. B and I hit the road in late morning to head down to Erie, most of which was traffic and more rain. He just kept telling me it was getting the rain out of it's system a day early (I wholeheartedly hoped he was right). We got to town, ate lunch, then went to packet pickup and drove around Presque Isle. The rain wasn't letting up and there was a LOT of standing water. B did a good job of distracting me though, whether he knew it or not. Football talk, a new Bills jersey, and generally laughing our way through the day was just what I needed.

Later that evening, we had dinner in our hotel with friends. Home cooked (hotel suite) meal, good friends, good conversation, and I was incredibly relaxed. I went through my checklists a few more times, and shimmied into the ever so fancy pre-race attire. Zensah compression leggings and a ratty old Saucony shirt that I wear the night before all big races. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Race morning was the usual cold coffee/hot shower combo followed by jamming to tunes, dancing around a hotel room, and going through lists in my head over and over. We all met in the lobby and were on the road at 5:30 to get to the park. We got there early enough to snag a parking spot (MANY spots were lost due to flooding of the lots from previous days excessive rain), and made our way to the pavilion.
2 friends were pacers, 3 of us racing, and my Buffalo Bills loving supporter by my side
We had a good group of people, and being around them kept me calm while I was listening to music getting "in the zone". A few minutes later I saw a woman bounding towards me with a big smile on her face, FINALLY got to meet Lori and give her a gigantic hug and exchange good lucks! The weather was chilly but comfortable for the start, the prospect of rain was minimal and things were finally feeling like they were coming together.

Eventually it was time to head to the start, 3 pounds of body glide later and I shuffled towards the corrals.

The Race
I did a few out and backs, some drills, and loosened up my legs while mentally getting focused. I spotted the woman I knew would be attempting and OTQ, and hoped she had a great race (she ran 2:42 on this course last year..BLAZING). I stood and bounced around on my toes a bit staying loose, assuming the start would be coming. No such luck. "5 more minutes" is what we first heard. As the minutes passed it was clear we were all getting antsy. Every few minutes a group of us would take off and do a few more strides to stay loose, then we would collectively drop some sighs and f-bombs when we heard it would be a few more minutes. Finally 20 minutes after 7, we were off.

In the days prior to the race I had spoken with a friend who is a coach (but not mine) and also has ran the Erie course. We agreed it would be good to have the first 3 miles as my "warm-up" and use the sharp hairpin turnaround as my spot to change gears. This worked really well, played to my strength of starting slower but gave me a point to specifically change pace. I hit the turnaround and mentally said, okay now lets get down to pace. This was different for me as I usually allow myself longer to drop to pace, but not this day. This was about getting to pace sooner, taking a risk and stepping outside my comfort zone. I found that it wasn't uncomfortable at all, which obviously was a good feeling.

I figured I would see B around 5-6, I smiled and threw my gloves and arm warmers at him while being mocked by the guys around me for lack of aim. We cruised at a decent clip and I was happy to be at pace, somewhere in here is when I started doing math.

 {(Current mile #  x 7 minutes) - (Current mile #  x 10 seconds)}

Basically, what time did I need to be at this mile by for a 6:50 pace. This was better for me, than staring at a pace on my Garmin knowing I could be running off tangents(I was). I repeated this each mile, add 7 minutes and subtract 10 seconds. It was a good distraction and helped keep me headed in the right direction.

Somewhere in here, a spectator on a bike thought it would be funny to yell "you're almost done". Without hesitation the words "Shut up" came right out of my mouth at a loud enough volume to make the guys around me laugh. Thanks for spectating sir, have a nice day.

My little outburst got the attention of the guys around me, as did another spectator who said I was second female. Some of the guys asked if I was gunning for a win. I told them that I wasn't as I knew that there was a female going for an OTQ. One joked that I was still going to win among "mere mortals". I laughed & said I was going for Sub-3, and another guy asked me "do you really think you can hold that pace?" I shrugged it off and took note of his bib number to make sure I beat him (I did, by almost 10 minutes). I didn't think I could, I knew it.

A little while later another spectator called out third female. I knew I hadn't been passed so I assumed someone was missed earlier on. Either way, I was happy with that and kept my focus on running MY race. I didn't want to allow myself to get wrapped up in anything other than what I could control. I could control my running, my pace, my fueling, my legs, my mind- that is where my focus needed to stay.

When we got around the back side of the course I knew we were going to have a headwind. Luckily I had enough guys around me still, and I just bounced from guy to guy tucking in behind them(but not right on them, I'm not that much of a leach) when I needed to. It's a racing strategy, some might knock me for that but it is what it is. I laughed when some of them tried to tuck behind me though, particularly the 6 foot tall older man who I yo-yo'd with for a long time. Dude, you have almost a foot on me I can promise I am not helping you.

I knew I would see B again around miles 10-12 which gave me something to look forward to. What I didn't know is that I'd be seeing the OTQ attempting woman walking on the side of the course with her bib taken off. I don't remember which came first, her or B- but both sent my brain into a whirlwind. Seeing him gave me a goofy smile and was a welcome distraction from the headwind. Seeing her though, admittedly distracted me from my own race and allowed some thoughts of winning to creep in.

"Holy crap, I hope she is alright"
{From what I have heard, she will be attempting an OTQ again in a few weeks}

"Wait, I'm not in the lead now am I?"

"If I'm in far in front of me is she?"

"I'm gonna cry, and immediately end my running career if I win and break 3 at the same race. Nothing will top that."
{dramatic mid-marathon thoughts...}

Then it was back to reality, and back to adding 7 minutes and subtraction 10 seconds from each mile marker. Don't fall off 6:50.

As I approached the finish area (you literally run right next to the finish to start the second loop), a race official informed me I was second female. I knew which one was in front of me based on start line images flashing through my head. But I had no idea where she was, and wasn't about to blow my time goal trying to find out. I went into this race with a time in mind, and not a place. Stick to the plan. I do a lot of things on a crooked path and ass backwards in life, for once I wanted to stick to the damn plan I laid out.

"If I find her, I will fight for it. If I don't, then I don't"

The second loop was pretty much as expected. I zoned out, wasn't paying much attention to anything except adding 7 subtracting 10. I was consistently beating where I needed to be at each mile marker, but wanted to give myself as much wiggle room as I could.

I kept hearing "second woman", and finally caved and asked someone how far she was. A girl told me she didn't know but said probably a few minutes. I was fine with that and went back to + 7 - 10.

My  spibelt was annoying me a tad bit (it's great, but I just wanted to have less on me especially if I didn't need it), so I finished my gel in my hand and pulled the other out. I knew I would see B and could pass it off. Sure enough, came around a corner to see that blue Buffalo Bills hat which made me light up as I unbuckled the belt and threw it at him while saying "Sub-3".  He gets an award for this weekend. Drove me around, supported me in every way, and chased me around an island cheering for me while I threw things at him.

After that I knew I wouldn't see him again until the finish. I went right back into my metronome groove and reminded myself it was a 20 mile warm-up for a 10k race. I crossed the mat at 20 and knew that I was on pace, and smiled knowing I was minutes ahead of my mile 20 split from Boston a mere 5 months ago.

When we rounded the curve to head back towards the finish I knew I was about to meet a wall of wind. There are some trees for shelter and tall dunes, but it didn't make a difference. I soaked in every "you go girl" I heard, and focused on holding on and picking off guys as I reeled them in one by one. I occasionally tried to get a glimpse ahead of me to see if I could see the female or a lead bike, but no such luck.

It was around 21-22 that I really started thinking about something a friend told me in an email a few days prior to the race. He had shared a little story about his father in law and the health struggles he is battling right now. At this point in time, he will never be able to wiggle his toes again (let alone run/walk).

"Run for yourself. When it gets hard try fucking harder. Remind yourself that you have earned this; you deserve it and god forbid 40 years down the road you’re struggling to wiggle those toes you can say “Yeah. On September 13th I sure did light it up.”"

So here I was on pace for breaking 3 hours (despite the voice in my head doing bad math trying to convince me I was going to fail), and the wind was whipping into me making me grit my teeth to hold pace and salvage my form. But then I thought of those words. I was 20+ miles into the race, I was a little tired and of course I was dreaming of sweat pants and beer- but I wasn't dying and I had no reason to allow myself to back off. So I wiggled my damn toes, tucked my head down and ran harder. 

I kept telling myself to get to mile 25. You can run 1.2 miles in your sleep, that is less than 10 minutes of work. Get to mile 25. At this point it was just one foot in front of the other. Get to the finish. Go demolish that PR. Go get a big hug from B. Just freaking GO, damnit!

When I got close enough to see the clock, I squinted as hard as I could. I couldn't tell what it said. The chute was screaming and I was finishing full stride. "Second woman, GOOOOOO!". Finally I saw a 2:57:XX and knew it was gonna happen. I was half in tears before even being 100 feet from the line.
12th marathon & {5:50 PR from Boston}
 I threw my fist in the air and blew through the line, and promptly bent over with the "holy shit, hands on the knees" stance. I'm sure you know that completely exhausted stance, which promptly makes no less than 5 medical staffers ask you if you are okay/need anything.

 "I'm good, *gasp*, I'm good"

Within less than a minute I looked up and could see B standing on the other side of the gate. I hobbled over choking back the tears, and just buried my head in his chest as he threw his arms around me. A very happy finish line indeed.

We chatted a bit while I caught my breath, and tried to process what was going on. Eventually meandered out of the area and walked back on the course a bit to cheer runners in and watch for friends coming through. The adrenaline and runners high made it possible to keep standing and cheering, that as well as a healthy fear of not being able to get up if I sat down. We wrapped up the day celebrating all of our marathon finishes with beer, good food, great friends and football. 

The Stats:
First 10k: 42:22 (6:49)
10k-Half (6.9M) 46:43 (6:46)
Half-20M (6.9M) 46:42 (6:46)
Last 10k 42:26 (6:49)

Gun time: 2:58:16
Chip time: 2:58:13

2nd/695 Females (1:58 behind 1st, 8:14 ahead of 3rd)
36th/1521 Overall

Early morning: Cold coffee, half of a bagel w/nutella
On way to race (60-90 minutes to start): about 3/4 bottle of Gen UCAN
Pre-race (30 minutes to start): 1 Honey stinger Waffle, 1 pack of Honey Stinger Energy chews
Mid-Race Fluids: water at most stops, maybe 1-2 cups of GU Brew mixed in
Mid-Race Fuel: 4 caffeinated gels (I start around mile 5, a small swig of a gel at least every other mile this time closer to every mile though. Never a full gel at once, yes this means I run most of the race with a gel in hand)

I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and race like I hadn't before, I didn't want to "sit and wait". While I think depending on the goal, sitting and waiting can be a great race tactic and has suited me well time and time again. I wanted to do something I'd never done, I wanted to break 3 hours and I didn't want to wait until the second half to be "going for it". I can analyze my last few races forever and still come to the same conclusion, I've got a good grip on what works for marathon execution (for me personally).

I'll definitely wrap up some thoughts on the training cycle and the race itself in another post. For now I need to get back to recovery week food tour though, while simultaneously holding back tears and staring at that finish line photo.


  1. Yesssss, I've been excited for this race report! Completely in awe of the progress you've made the last couple years and just so damn proud of you. This is something nobody can ever take from you! Huge congrats :D

  2. Yesss! I loved reading this! You totally proved that guy wrong who asked if you could run a sub-3 pace. And you wiggled your toes and went for it -- damn, you went for it. You are a rock star. Well done!

  3. Girl this is awesome!! I loved this recap. I felt like I was there with you. And I laughed at that guy. A lot. Your attitude was perfect during the whole race. I can't wait to read your thoughts on your training. I will definitely have to go back through some of your older blog posts to read about it. Congrats!

  4. Congratulations Laura! You crushed sub-3 :). I was really anticipating your race report and couldn't wait to read it after I saw your DailyMile, but I knew you would and it had to be exciting to see a 2 on the clock. I love how you told that guy that you'd hold that pace and how much you beat him by too. I hope your recovery is going well and you're getting lots of rest but also celebrating some too.

  5. I hope that guy knows you beat him and by a lot.

    Huge congratulations again! That has got to be the best finish-line photo ever. The clock is even almost exactly at your official time!

    Onward to Chicago! Maybe our paths will cross there. :)

  6. I am so happy for you Laura and you truly deserved this. The spectators at the race were pretty bold from the can you keep that pace line to the almost there. Oh well, I loved reading your recap and you crushed it!

  7. This was such a great read, what an amazing race!! It's like you had the right amount of motivation from different sources all along the way, perfectly timed to keep you going. That's almost as important as a good fueling strategy :) Congrats on the great race!!

  8. WHOA, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I *loved* reading this, and I'm so happy for you! Your face in that photo is pure joy!

  9. Loved reading this! So thrilling! Congrats!

  10. So amazing, congratulations! I love that finish line photo and your recap - you can feel your giddiness and enthusiasm in your writing :)

  11. A wonderful account of how the "race of a lifetime" unfolded for you. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us "mere mortals".

  12. CONGRATS on breaking 3!! What an awesome recap and your finishing photo is so great - I love how the joy comes through! I was the third female and could see you for the first half of the race (you were "pink sock girl"), but it wasn't my day and I fell way back. So excited for you that your hard work paid off and you got your sub-3 - great job!

  13. Hugeeeeee congratuations! You worked your butt off for this and I am SO excited it all came together for you. Sub-3... WOW! Way to go :)


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