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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I beat an Olympian

I suppose you read all my griping yesterday. I was griping because the Mississippi Coast Marathon sucked. It really did. In fact I strongly dislike that race, so someone PLEASE remind me of that next year so I don't foolishly sign up again. I know it's only $35. It's $35 I could have used to buy, like 10 pairs of shoes at the Salvation Army.
So anyway, recap time. As you know, I ended up running this hot, muggy, windy race with no Garmin or watch. Soon after we started, I asked some of the other marathoners their goal pace. I was hoping to find someone to pace me...and keep me company in the boredom. Unfortunately, there was a pretty large pack hoping to run a 3:15 and two guys shooting for 3:30. This was a training run for me, but I didn't want to hit the wall, so I knew I couldn't do 3:15. I considered hanging with the 3:30 pair, but they almost immediately joined the 3:15 group. So I had no pacer - or much-needed company!
I was trying to look cute for the camera - this is at the finish - but my hair was soggy and blowing in my face. Notice the car sharing the road with me back there...totally tried to PASS ME as I headed into the finish. So dangerous. 

For me, this race felt like it was three distinct phases.
Phase one was miles 1 - 10. I felt uncomfortably warm, but I was resigned. The pack hadn't thinned too much, and there were people around me to talk to. I realized I wouldn't have any time for this race and kept reminding myself that it was just another long run.
I kept the 3:15 group in distant sight. They swelled to about 15 people and were drafting each other in the wind. I had expected the warm, muggy weather, but the wind surprised me. It was shockingly strong! I was blowing all over! I wished I could keep up with the faster crowd for some wind protection, but I knew it would be foolish and I'd pay later on. In fact, first one, and then the other of the "3:30" fellows fell back and I passed them. They did not make their goal.
 This part of the race felt like a warm summer mid-distance run: the kind you know you have to fit in, but that you wish you didn't have to run.
Phase two was definitely the toughest part. It was miles 11 - 20. Around mile 11, the heat started to feel very oppressive and the wind picked up. I was struggling to make headway and couldn't hear my ipod. The group in front of me splintered in front of my eyes, and suddenly there was just a line of single file runners trying to keep going in the warm, moist wind. I could feel myself slowing down. I was disgustingly sweaty and the wind was blowing my hair all over. I redid my bun (FYI I always wear a tight bun to run and it has never, ever come undone!). I was annoyed at the very dilute Gatorade and the lack of company (I passed a few runners who had been in the larger group ahead of me, but they were in no mood to talk!). After the half marathoners split off, I was almost totally alone.There was a turn around and water stop at mile 19 and I caught up to another runner there. He was feeling bad, and I told him I was, too. "I want to drop out at 20," I dramatized (I wasn't really going to do that, I mean how would I get back?!). He encouraged me to try to hit 8 min/mi and finish the race. I was happy to have his company, but unfortunately he was fading fast and I had to leave him. But I thanked him for his encouragement and wished him luck (he eventually finished maybe 6 minutes behind me).
This part of the race was mentally very challenging. I felt like I was futilely fighting the wind for a race that I didn't even have a clock for. It is also tough to be on a boring course with basically no company.
Phase three was the tail end and it got easier. After the little turn-around, nearing mile 20, I started to see other runners. I LOVE seeing other people at turn arounds and I talked to all of them! I was pretty sure at this point that I was the first female - I had passed most of the other women I'd seen in front of me and they were all running the half anyway. I had seen one or two faster ladies far in the front but they were doing the half, too. I made sure I cheered the other ladies I saw at the turn around, and I high-fived the second female. The distraction of other runners kept me going for the mile overlap until the course turned off and I was by myself again. However, even though this turn put me back into a headwind, it seemed like the weather had eased up a little. The impending rain had lowered the temps a tad, and the wind was less gusty. I kind of got my second wind. I passed some half-marathon walkers and one lady cheered for me - when I passed her I saw that she was like 8 months preggo! I cheered back! I had to stop once during this part to retie my shoe - how aggravating - but I didn't feel stiff when I restarted. I finally neared the finish and saw the lone clock on the course, at mile 26 (which I think is completely useless). I was shocked to see time in the 3:23 range - the wind had made me feel like I was barely moving, so I thought I was at 3:35 or 3:30 if I was lucky.
This part of the race felt easy mentally and physically, if only because I knew I'd be done soon.
Checking out the clock at the finish!

I saw David as I neared the finish line and I made sure to smile for his camera. As I neared the end someone called out, "You're fifth overall!" and I was much happier about that than the first female part - there were not too many women so I wasn't very excited about that.
After finishing, I gave David a sweaty kiss and sent him grocery shopping while I waited for my award (heck yeah I wanted my first place plaque!). I clapped for other finishers, including an older guy ROCKING a 3:37 finish. Guess what? Turns out he is 60 years old, and he's Benji Durden, a former Olympian. WHAT THE. If I'd known that at the time I would have had him sign my race number!
Turns out the "3:15" group turned into the "3:22" group thanks to the weather, so I probably could have hung on with them.
I waited for David, got my award, and stayed long enough to administer first aid to another finisher. But that story belongs in my "Gripes about the Mississippi Coast Marathon" post, which is still to come.
Oh my gosh the sweatiness. The guy behind me is the runner I talked to at the mile 19 water stop.

Overall, although this was a rough race, I feel like I could get a 3:20 marathon in better conditions or even just with a watch! I felt fine at the finish, no stomach upset, soreness, or pain, and I went running the next day and felt completely fresh. Now the question is - should I try to cram in Baton Rouge Beach marathon next weekend? Or is that pushing it?


  1. You are now a "Defending Champion" - the pressure is on!

  2. Sounds like you definitely have that 3:20 in you given how well you did under these conditions!

  3. Girl, you are a machine!!! That's all I have to say about it!

  4. Amazing Gracie! Congrats on hanging tough and WINNING! So cool.

    I wouldn't do next weekend, but that's me. If you are pretty good at fast recovery, go for it.

  5. What a great race! I think you should take a break, at least for a couple weeks.

  6. Wow, what an effort considering everything, congrats on winning a race!!! And the PR! I'm with Abbi, I think you have a 3:20 in you for sure sometime. You seem to respond remarkably well to marathons, so doing Baton Rouge sounds fine to me.

  7. CONGRATS!!! You ran through some tough conditions!!

  8. Holy cannasta. You treat marathons like I would treat a 5k! But you win them. Holy. WEll done, you!

  9. Wow! congrats to you!
    new followr coming over Nelly's blog...

  10. awesome race...first female..fifth overall - NICE!!!

  11. !!!!! Insane. And I'm completely jealous of your time :) up next, 2012 oly trials! ;)

  12. OH my gosh, just found you from Nelly's blog. You're incredible.