Ten Reasons Why I Ran an Early Season Marathon

Here are the reasons. Read to the bottom to find out what happened…

Ten. My friend Spencer was doing the half, so we encouraged each other along the way and did a few workouts together. It really helps to have someone to talk with, to share your ups and downs.

Nine. I googled “Can I run a marathon in 4 weeks?” and a lovely “4-week Marathon Training Plan” popped up. It seemed to make sense, so I took that as a sign that I should go for it, even though my triathlon guru friend advised against it.

Eight. This was the first winter where I continued to run, bike and swim a little each week. Previously I have taken a few months totally off to rest my body (and catch up on emails). Keeping the fires burning during the off-season gave me confidence that I could run a decent race. Would my aerobic base from the end of last season carryover at all??

Seven. I live right next to the course. I literally run on this course every time I go running. I know every mile intimately, every hill and undulation.

Six. This time of year (February and March) is a wonderful time to run. It is not so cold that you need to wear your ski gear, but it is still cold enough to use all of your fun/cool winter gear. I love using my imagination, letting my mind wander when I run. If I have layers and fancy technical clothing, I pretend that I’m on a mission, like special ops or something.

Five. Curiosity. I have never run a standalone marathon. Also, I am curious to see how I can perform with such short time of specific preparation. This can give me an idea of how I could do with the proper amount of time and a training plan etc.

Four. I decided to do more run volume this season, compared to last. So this was a great way to get some miles in the legs early on. We’ll see if I can stay injury-free…

Three. Positive results from Nov.-Jan. physical therapy for a knee problem has given me even more confidence that I can push myself and still be in-tune with how my body is responding. The knowledge of specific issues gives peace of mind that I can stay aware of them and manage any flare-ups etc.

Two. This race is a qualifier for the iconic Boston Marathon. I have two friends who recently moved to Boston and assured me I could sleep on their couch next April, should I finish within the qualifying time.

One. My wife was pregnant with our 2nd child (who has since been born. 4/28/18 Christian George Stam! 9lbs!), and she strongly encouraged me to sign up for the race because it is much easier to spectate/cheer with one child than with two. And did I mention the race course goes literally right by our house?

So what happened??? I felt great! I ran faster than predicted for the first half! Then I decided to put the pedal to the metal, which was not smart because I began to fall apart in the last 8K, losing quite a bit of time, BUT I QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON (yay!). I was incredibly sore for a long time afterwards. 

I fell short of my rather modest time goal by only 1 second, which was disappointing, but it was a valuable lesson learned; Stick to your race plan and don’t go guns-blazing in the middle of a marathon.

The Tobacco Road Marathon was a wonderful experience and a very well-run event. The race organizers, communication, expo and volunteers were all top-notch! I highly recommend it, but register early because next year is the 10th anniversary and promises to be the biggest and best yet.

 

Penalty

A week ago, I raced in my last Collegiate Nationals as an undergrad. It proved to be a most unusual race weekend.

Like last year, the race was held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Unlike last year, due to some torrential downpours, the flood gates upstream of our race site were opened and USAT was forced to cancel the swim three days before our race. Suddenly, my teammates and I were unintentionally signed up for our first duathlon and in the case of Kelsey and I, our first two duathlons back-to-back Friday and Saturday. Ever heard of a draft legal duathlon? It was new to us!

Fortunately, Coach Dave was able to give us insightful race strategy advice the day before Draft Legal. In a nutshell,

1. run for your life

2. get in a good bike pack

3. then catch people on the second run

 

Sure. In reality, the first two steps were easy enough to achieve after a nice, fat taper week (minus the fact that the “good bike pack” became a massive peloton of swerving, unstable and competitive triathletes). However, the second run hit me harder than expected and I watched in misery as almost all the racers of our bike pack (who had been feeding off my back wheel!!!) came careening past me out of transition.

Thankfully, I had a second chance at duathlon right the next day and I was already signed up! This time, I saved some of my legs on the first run and biked blissfully free catching some 50 of the 60 odd people who had beat me on the first run. Running just short of top 10, I got to witness for the first time the calm energy and polite vigor of other coaches who cheered on their athletes with ill-concealed warmth: “COME ON [NAME]. PUSH YOURSELF. I SAID PUSH. YOURSELF. 40 SECONDS TO [UNIVERSITY]. HARDER. I EXPECT YOU TO GET THOSE POINTS [NAME]! PUSH [NAME]!!!!”

When I approached the finish, my own coach did not issue his usual “Go get her!” but instead a discomforting “Hold her off!” and I knew I’d have to take that burn in my legs one step farther, knew I’d need one more gear that I had not yet created.

Though I held her off to the finish line, she overtook me on the leaderboard some time later in the day when I was graced with my first bike penalty: a 2:00 position penalty. With close to the fastest bike split on a crowded course, that was indeed bitter. Whether it’s a mistake I can learn from or a misinterpretation, I’ll never know. However, the UNC women’s team came in 9th place, making the weekend an overall victory!

I am an Ironman

I was reminded of something the other day. Every success starts somewhere, and things don’t always come easy. I was sitting around with a group of friends, and we decided to scour the internet and see if we’d done a race together back in the day. Thereby we found the result of my first triathlon, circa 2008:

Kure Beach Double Sprint

Granted I changed a tire for the very first time in that race but, regardless, I got 100th out of 150 women. One hundredth. Every success starts somewhere.

Ten years later…Saturday, I completed my first Ironman. WTH? That’s impossible! Ironman is for superhumans. Not for people like me–middle aged moms, working full time, and trying to navigate at least somewhat sanely through life. But I did it! And not only did I finish, I smashed it.

tx

But it didn’t come easy. I worked hard for that. I put in the hours–hours which I took from my kids, my job, my husband. Man, I was surrounded by heroes who picked up my slack. I’m humbled.

The weather in NC was not particularly cooperative. Much of my training months looked like this: snow

and this:trainer

and if I did make it outside, I was usually dressed like this (it was 25 degrees for this ride):coldride

I can count the number of runs I did in temps over 50 degrees on one hand. The one open water swim I did two weeks ago was in 62 degree water, after which I looked like this: swim

It all sounds like rocking preparation for a race in Houston, TX, right? I wasn’t sure. I did all the things, but could I really finish respectfully? Would I even know how to fuel in 80 degree temps?

The swim:

IM Texas has a rolling, self-seeded start. I expected this to be a cluster. 2500 nutty triathletes self-seeding? I expected mayhem. Turns out, I was wrong. I got in the front, rolled right into the water with Bri Gaal (superhuman training partner and dearest friend), swam to the outside and found clear water. We swam stroke for stroke the entire swim, and really didn’t hit much mess until the backside (some sloppy swimmers running over us from the side) and in the canal, which I’d liken to a dishwasher with all the water sloshing around in such a small space. My favorite part, though? The volunteers who pull you out of the lake and up the steps to the T run! No trying to find my land legs on my own for this swim! Wonderful. Oh, and total bonus was this text afterwards from a swimmer teammate from college (I dove at the University of Kentucky and, um JSYK, divers can’t swim):

swimtime

T1:

I felt like royalty. I had two volunteers doing everything for me. “Please put on my shoes. Can I have that chamois cream? Oh, water? Sure, don’t mind if I do.” I realized I was getting a little too comfy in there when I saw Bri run out of the tent. Thanks to her, I got in gear and ran out too. I missed the sunscreen tent, though. Um, oops. What can I say? I was busy gesticulating frantic happiness to a friend working in transition. I was. Doing. An. Ironman! Holy crap!

Bike:

The bike was my second area of apprehension. For all the usual reasons: too many people, slower swimmers hammering by me on the bike trying to make up time, silly mistakes and potential crashes, penalties, etc. But I was rested and the course is FAST, so it was going to be totally fun, too! At first, things were pretty spaced out. The road wasn’t too crowded, and I could do my own ride. As more people entered the course, though, that changed. Packs formed. Pelotons formed. You can get the idea here: pic.twitter.com/TWUgRKbQJ6 (they aren’t even in aero!). At one point, I saw a pack of people with 4 women tucked in, all in either my age group or the one above. I let them go. I came to do an Ironman; I didn’t want to draft my way through the bike. For the first loop on Hardy Toll Road, things were manageable. Packs would roll by fast and move on. But by the second loop, smaller groups formed too, and they would work like crazy, go around me and then pull up out of aero, drink, and talk. So, I’d drop back out of the draft zone behind them and slow down. A few times I passed back so I could ride my own pace but every time I did, they surged, passed me and again, slowed down. It was so frustrating, and I was disheartened that there were no marshals doing anything about it. I’m proud of myself for staying out of it. But because of all the mess and constantly dropping back from groups, I didn’t bike as hard as I’d have liked. My final FTP was only 62%. But my bike was respectable, and I was still happy (that is, to get off and run 😉 ).

T2:

There was a super long run around into T2 (I took my shoes and socks off and did it barefoot; no coordination here for a flying dismount), but again I had two dedicated volunteers to get me together and out on the run. It was awesome. In the madness, I missed the sunscreen station again, but shortly into the run found a woman putting sunscreen on her baby who kindly squirted some in my hands; she saved the day.

Run:

I can’t say enough about this course. It was hot, but it was pancake flat. That was fantastic. I’m not used to running on concrete, and that took a toll on my legs, but the lack of hills made up for it. Second, the fans are insane. And I mean, possibly in some cases clinically insane. Right out of transition, I ran through the Moxie Multisport cheer group. That’s these certifiables: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ngl_D4YmGoo. It was incredible, frightening, and hilarious all in one! After that, there’s some shaded running, some sunny running, some running through a lakeside neighborhood of the biggest homes I’ve ever seen–where the kids line the aid stations, and then back to the canal where the fans are out of control. In Hippy Hollow, I was chased by hippies banging on metal trashcans. In the Hoka zone, I think I high-fived about 30 people each lap. Kids cheered for me by name, adults cheered for me by name. It was a real high, and a hell of a way to round out an Ironman. Three loops. Each a little slower than the last, but at the end of the day a great marathon.

The finish:

I saw 10:15 on the finish clock and was ecstatic that I’d done so well. I did a 10:15! But I forgot that the clock was for the pro start. After I came down the chute, I saw my husband who announced, “Oh my god, you went 9:59!” I lost it. What an incredible day. What an accomplishment. I freaking did it!

 carpet