Thursday, October 13, 2016

Akron Marathon 2016

 After the Boston Marathon, I started shopping for a fall marathon. I wanted to either run Hartford (good course where I PRed like a decade ago, a 2-hour drive away) or Akron (hometown warm fuzzies, lots of family running, hilly course). I applied to be an elite in the Akron Marathon and when I was accepted, that made the decision for me. I got a free entry and access to lots of nice perks (course previews, indoor bathrooms before the start, locker room afterward, pre-race dinner, personalized fluid stations!), so started training in earnest. I really really really wanted to break three hours. It has been a few years since I've done it, and it's time to do it again. I worked really hard and my workouts indicated that a three-hour marathon was possible, so I went for it. I knew the hills would slow me down a bit, but I still thought I was in the hunt for the sub-3 marathon.

The start was fun. I was next to my big brother, Dave, who was also an elite. We didn't stick together long - off he went. There were lots of women to run with, but I couldn't tell who was running what: there was a marathon, a half-marathon, and a relay all happening at the same time.

The first few miles are flat or downhill, so I clicked off a few quick miles that were faster than the average I was shooting for but it was downhill. Then came uphill after uphill. The hills seemed long - the kind you can look up and see for awhile. When there were downhills on the other side, they seemed steep - not like a nice recovery from the last hill but more like stabbing and braking in the quads. Maybe running the race in reverse would have been better.

I came through the half according to plan in 1:28. However, I planned on still feeling fresh and that just didn't happen. My legs felt heavy and I knew the back half of the course was hillier and harder and running a negative split on it wasn't likely even on a good day. Right around mile 13-14 is a huge mile-plus-long hill that really sapped me. I ran a few crappy miles trying to recover from that, all the while still going over more rolling hills. Around mile 22, a pacer with a sign saying "3:05" ran past. I knew I was way off-pace. I tried hanging with him, but couldn't even manage that. My left calf was screaming and my right quad was tight; I felt off-kilter and the weather was getting a touch warm.

Still, I had told myself before the race I was going to be positive. I even wrote, "I can" and "I will" on my hands to get me through the rough patches (and I sure needed them!). And so I did. I plugged away at the last few miles and made the last few turns into the finishing stadium. I finished in 3:08:45.
I may have made this face a lot over the last few miles. This is what I call "ugly face running."
When I finished, a race official put a lanyard around my neck and told me I was fifth place. I was stoked because I still had no idea where I was place-wise, and the top five finishers got prize money. A few minutes later, however, the official came back and said he had made a mistake and I was actually sixth place! So much for the money.

I finished in my usual state: hypothermic and zombie-like. I sat down for a few minutes to catch my breath, drank lots and lots of water, and then hobbled to the locker room where there were showers and food. After a hot shower, I felt much better.

I also got to meet Meb Keflezighi, one of my heroes (pictured at the top of this post along with Dave). He's an Olympian in the marathon, still nailing amazing times at age 41, has a couple of kids that he admits to loving more than running, and seems to be a well-rounded human being. I'd briefly met him the night before at the elite pasta party, but only to get an autograph and picture with him. He was in the locker room and few people were in there, so I got to tell him that he is my hero. I also babbled about how awesome he is because he finishes races that most elites wouldn't finish and I totally admire that about him. It probably didn't sound too great that I was pointing out his epic failures, so I added, "That's a compliment" at the end of my ramble.

Dave and I wandered out of the stadium and met up with our family fan posse for more cheering and snacking. My brother, Dan, and sister, Janis, ran the full marathon as well. My sister, Marissa, and her husband, Tevita, ran the half marathon. We celebrated with ice cream, then headed home for a more legit dinner and hangout with family and friends.

All in all, I'm glad I went and I do want to run Akron again - but next time I'll add long uphills and steep downhills to my training and I'll take it easier at the start. I'm not sure when the next time will be: I turn 35 in two months and am feeling like I only have a few more shots at PRing in the marathon before I need to accept the fact that I'm aging and be happy with that. Translation: my next few marathons will be on flat and fast courses!

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Blogger ellen said...

You are my hero!

9:54 AM  

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