Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mayor's Marathon

Last weekend I ran the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, AK. It was a good race, and I got the added bonus of having my family (who live in Anchorage) there to cheer me on. I really wanted to break 4:30, but finished in 4:32. That’s still a PR by 25 minutes, so I’m pretty happy with it.

Leading up to the race, the forecast called for temps in the 50s with a possibility of rain. As it turned out, it was in the high 40s at the start and about 55 when I finished. It drizzled a little bit in the first half but never really rained, for which I was grateful. I wore one of my running skirts with capris, a tank top, and at the start a wool shirt, which I handed off to my support crew around mile 9. I carried two fuel belt bottles (one in each skirt pocket) of Nuun and a SPI belt of mini Luna bars. It seemed to be about the right amount of stuff to carry, especially since I got to exchange an empty bottle for a full one about half way through.

This was the easiest start (in terms of positioning, jostling, etc.) that I’ve ever seen. It was a nice wide start area, and with only about 1300 runners, apparently easy to be lined up in the right place. By the time we got to the multi-use trail (it was paved) about a half mile in, everyone seemed to have found their groove and was comfortably cruising. The people I was near at that point stayed near me for most of the race. One of my goals was to not go out to fast and instead really work on having an easy, relaxed first mile. I think I did quite well there, with my first mile split being just over 10 minutes.

The first 4 miles were on pavement and felt flat, although they may have been gradually up hill. The multi-use trail runs along a highway; there wasn’t much traffic, but occasionally a driver would honk and wave. It was nice to think of them cheering on the crazy runners. There was a water stop at mile 2 that I walked through but didn’t take anything at (I walked through all of them and drank water at every subsequent station). There was another one at mile 4, as well as a Team in Training cheering point; one of the coaches was dressed as a moose, which cracked me up.

From mile 4 to about mile 15 (I think, my memory’s a little fuzzy) we were running on gravel road or on dirt trails. The gravel road was actually the more challenging surface, since the gravel had a lot of big (fist-sized) rounded rocks. From mile 4 to mile 6, I chatted with a woman who was running the first leg of the relay, which I think helped me stay relaxed and keep a comfortable pace. After she finished her relay leg, I found someone else to chat with: a man who was wearing a 50 marathons in 50 states shirt (there were a lot of people with those shirts, actually). He was about half-way though the 50 states. The first mentally challenging bit of the race was from about mile 7.5 to mile 9. Starting at around mile 7.5, I could see the turn just before mile 9, but it never seemed to get closer. It was a long, straight stretch of gravel road with forest on either side, so the scenery wasn’t providing much sense of movement, either.

At mile 9, my family was there waiting and cheering. I tossed my wool shirt at them (I’d taken it off around mile 4) and kept going. There was a water station just after mile 9, followed by more gravel road, and eventually dirt trail. Starting around mile 5 or 6, there were a lot of rolling hills, with more uphill than down. The rolling hills/gentle climbing continued on the dirt trail, which was actually a welcome relief from the gravel road. I saw my family again around mile 13, but I have no recollection now of whether the course at that point was on gravel or paved road. At any rate, I’d had a strong first half, with a split of 2:06.

The highest point of the course was around mile 15, after which it was mostly long, gradual downhill. From mile 15 or little earlier to the end was also all on pavement. Around mile 15, I was starting to feel a little tired, as evidenced by my inability to subtract 15 from 26 and get 11 (I got 9 and was really excited for the 30 seconds it took me to realize my error). At mile 17, I exchanged an empty bottle for a full one (I’d been drinking Nuun every 30ish minutes, in addition to the water from the aid stations), smiled at my family and kept going. The next two miles were tough - we were running on the sidewalk along a major road that we were to cross by a footbridge at around mile 19, but as soon as we made the turn onto the sidewalk, I could see the footbridge, and it just refused to get any closer. At that point, my legs were starting to feel like they’d taken a beating, and I was kind of ready to be done.

But a couple of slow miles later I got across the bridge. The course then sort wandered through the University of Alaska, Anchorage campus, where I got to see my family somewhere between mile 19 and 20. I smiled for them (my dad was wielding the camera all day), but once I was safely past camera range, I made an ”I’m tired” face (tongue out, slightly cross eyed) at my mom, who laughed. The laughter was a nice mental boost.

From about mile 20 to 25.5, the course was on multi-use trails along a creek. Very little from those miles is distinct in my memory. Around mile 20, someone was telling us we had only 4 more miles to go, and I hated him a little bit for lying to us. The trails were pretty, and a few times, I discovered I was running alone, with no one in sight. It made me really glad I’d done so much of my training alone. From miles 20 to 23, I really struggled mentally; my pace slowed to 11:something miles and I just wanted to not be running. I saw my family one last time on the course around mile 23, though, and either seeing them or knowing how close to the finish I was made a big difference, since the next few miles were 9:something miles.

With about 2 miles left, I caught up to the 50 states guy I’d been chatting with earlier and who I’d figured was at that point way ahead of me, since I hadn’t seen him for at least 10 miles. We ran together for a few minutes and discussed our favorite post race foods before he said he couldn’t hang with me any more and dropped back. At that point, passing someone I’d written off as impossibly far ahead was a nice mental boost. At about the same time, I started to have some lower abdominal discomfort, but moving my SPI belt (nearly empty at that point) from high hips to high bust made a huge difference. I’m sure I looked like a dork, but it was so much better than feeling awful.

My last mile was really slow (12:something) because there was a giant hill in it. We had to get out of the creek valley up to the finish line. If this hill wasn’t the worst I’ve encountered running, it had to be close. It was a quarter to half a mile long (much longer than the steep hills I regularly run) and steeper than Capitol Hill (the only long hill I regularly run). I walked up it. But from there to the end, it was nice flat terrain. The course wandered a little bit through a high school parking lot before dumping us on the track for the finish. It was a little hard because I could see the finish several minutes before I got there and I couldn’t tell how far I had to run to get there.

After I finished, I got my medal and found the family. We all got bread from one of the local bakeries (hardy, dense bread that was awesome with butter on it), and they very graciously waited so I could get a massage. The massage was rather uncomfortable, but I think it did some good because I was hardly sore at all the next day. That evening I had trouble going down stairs, but by the next morning, I was feeling pretty good. For the rest of the week, I just enjoyed not having responsibilities. I did a fair bit of walking with my mom, but didn’t do any more running. It was really nice to not have to do anything. But now it’s back to work and responsibilities and schedules… I had a great race and great vacation, though!

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