Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#racereport: 2014 Detroit Marathon

In case you missed yesterday's blog post - Spoiler Alert - I set a huge PR on Sunday in the Detroit Marathon!!! But, let's back the bus up a little first.  Marathons are long and this report might be too :)

Expo - I was shocked at how big the expo was.  Tons of vendors that you needed to snake through to get to packet pickup (an annoyance).  I got suckered in right away by the race merchandise.  If the expo is selling pint glasses and magnets, you must buy them.  It's the law. I actually worried that buying these things would jinx me (like wearing the shirt before the race) but I bought them anyway.

That glass worked great for my celebratory beer.
Sadly, I did not buy the 2014 Corvette Stingray, nor did I stand in line to sit in it.  Very cool that they had the car on display though since it was this year's featured USA muscle car on our medals :)

Isn't she pretty?!? 
Pre-Race:  I drove down Saturday morning, stopping for lunch at a Red Robin on the way (grilled BBQ chicken sandwich as a lettuce wrap and fries with tons of RR salt, plus a very nice pumpkin porter) and then hit the expo.  I backtracked to the Courtyard by Marriott in Dearborn, but it was only about 20-25 minutes from downtown and a nice, quiet and newly renovated (or at least some of the rooms were) place.  There was an Olive Garden right around the corner for dinner (chicken marsala with most of the sauce scraped off, roasted potatoes and salad, plus lots of water).  Early bed around 8:30 with my friend, Ambien.  The alarm went off at 4 am but I was awake around 3:30.  I had time to get ready and eat my 2 pieces of Udi bread with butter and jelly and have some coffee.  TMI alert - my coffee never really kicked in but it turned out ok.

My friend, Molly, and her husband were staying at the same hotel and she rode into Detroit with me so Mark didn't need to be there so early.  I had pre-booked parking through ParkWhiz for a lot on the race list of spots and we left at 5am, so we figured "no problem" getting there. WRONG.  Streets were already closed at 5:20 and we got very lost trying to find the place we'd paid for already. We were both pretty unhappy about being told the roads would not close until 6 to find them closed at 5:20.  Not cool, Detroit.  Not cool.  Luckily, some wrong turns and driving around barriers got us to the MGM Grand parking structure. AWESOME parking. I'd park there next time.  We walked the 1/2 mile or so straight shot to the starting line, found gear check and hit the portapotties.  There were TONS of them. We also ducked into a People Mover station for awhile to stay warm.  It was freezing out - about 35* and I was glad for my throwaway old PJ bottoms and hoodie.  I ended up keeping my arm warmers on the entire race because it never got much warmer than the mid 40s and the wind would pick up here and there.
International race! 
I was very glad to have Molly with me before the race started because she kept me calm. We walked up and down the starting line to stay warm, but first had to take a selfie :)  We split about 30 min before the start so she could get into her uber-fast pace corral.

Because this race goes into Canada and I didn't want ginormous roaming charges for broadcasting data, I decided early on that my phone would be in airplane mode for this race.  I used my phone for my intervals (Runmeter) and music.  On a training run I learned that taking photos would cause Runmeter to stop, so I started everything about 15 min before the gun and then tucked my phone into my fuel belt.  I just listened to my music and the music at the start line.  I was getting pumped with everyone around me but it felt weird to not take a starting line photo.

A woman sang the Canadian and then US National Anthems, which was very moving, and then the handcycles (the winner set a record of 1:09:48!) and elites were off. There was a countdown clock for the wave starts and  I was in corral K (but inadvertently put myself in J because I couldn't see the signs) so it was about 16 minutes before I made it to the start.

Race strategy: (this is more for me so I don't forget - remember to do what works for you.) Stopped drinking water about 1 hour before the start. Chia bar 30 minutes before the gun (turned out 45 min before I started).  5 minute runs/ 30 sec walk breaks starting around mile 1.5.  Salted caramel gu at the first walk break in miles 5, 9, 13, 17, 20, 24 (this last one I took early - around mile 23).  Nuun in my 2 bottles and sips of water at aid stations.  (There was a panic the night before when I read border patrol could stop you and ask you to dump your bottles but no one got pulled out for that. Wearing your bib on your back was a huge no-no as I saw a girl get pulled out and yelled at to move her bib to the front.) I refilled my bottles with water when the Nuun ran out just after the 1/2 way point.  I wore a pace bracelet and it was a lifesaver.  I knew exactly what pace I needed to be at each mile marker to stay on goal pace.  I wasn't sure what would happen with my Garmin in the tunnel.

Race goal:  I never really talked here (or anywhere) what my race goal was going to be, partly because I didn't want to have to explain if I failed. Lack of confidence, much? A few people knew that I set a Fellow Flowers Declare It Day goal back in February to run a sub-5 marathon at Detroit, but then I didn't talk about it again. My PR from Grand Rapids in 2011 was 5:27:15.  My training had been going quite well so I knew baring any disasters that a PR was within reach.  I wanted much more than "just" a PR, though.  I wanted to beat that by 30 minutes.  This made my super-secret HUGE goal as 4:57.  I wore my Fellow Flowers turquoise Believe flower on my hat and painted my nails turquoise to remind myself to believe it would happen. I also wrote "you are stronger than you think", "keep moving forward" and "own this race" on my hands.

Miles 1-8: The start was quite crowded and there were areas that were pretty congested because the almost 4000 marathoners and 12000 international half marathoners started at the same time.  I hit the Ambassador Bridge just as the sun was rising over Windsor, ON and it was breathtaking.  I hated that my phone/camera was tucked away.  Running over the bridge was fun but didn't like having to slow down with the number of people. I had decided to keep my hoodie at least through the bridge and I'm proud to say my old purple hoodie is now Canadian :)  I tossed it right after the Canadian flag at the top of the bridge. The crowd support in Canada was awesome and even the border patrol guys were really cool, cheering and high-5ing runners.  We hit the Windsor Tunnel around mile 7 and I realized I was FLYING through the tunnel.  Didn't know the first half of the underwater mile was downhill but duh, how else are you going to get under a river?!?  I struggled to reign it in and when I hit the incline to come back out, I lost what little time I'd gained.
Splits: 10:56, 10:48, 11:44, 10:53, 10:52, 10:51, 10:51, 12:06 (probably long with the tunnel)

Picture from Molly
Miles 9-19: I don't have much to report here.  Lots of cool neighborhoods and some straight boring sections.  The crowds really thinned out after the international half marathon runners left us at mile 13.  I picked up the pace here because the crowds were great.  I kept up with my intervals and fueling strategy and it felt really good.  There were even some neighborhoods where people were handing out beer (I didn't not take any) and the party atmosphere was really fun.
Splits: 9:46 (I think this mile was short because of the tunnel), 11:21, 10:57, 10:52, 10:53, 10:34, 10:51, 10:54, 11:06, 10:56, 11:05

Miles 20-26.2: Mile 20 took us over the MacArthur Bridge and out onto Belle Isle.  It was nice to know where I was again because unless I was on the bridge, in Canada, in the tunnel or on the island I had no clue :)  I could feel myself starting to fade, but I knew based on my pace band that I was a good 6 minutes ahead of my ultimate goal time, which was reassuring.  I still didn't want to slow down as much as I did, but my calves were starting to cramp and so was my left ankle.  I'd never had my ankle cramp before.  Maybe if I'd put more Nuun in my bottles it would've been better.  Hard to say.  On the way back over the bridge I met up with a first time marathoner (their bibs were green) who was really struggling. I tried to give her a pep talk and get her running again. I'm hoping she finished.  Knowing I only had about 4 miles to go after the island spurred me on but my legs were really feeling trashed.  I started counting down the run intervals.  It helped knowing after each 5 minutes I could walk for a few seconds and then regroup.  The last few miles are along the Riverwalk, which provided some nice scenery, but also a lot of turns and a headwind.  So many people were doing the death march at that point that I passed a lot of them on my run intervals. I saw my friend Maureen cheering at mile 25 and that was a nice boost.  I didn't know she'd be there.  The end of mile 26 is up a hill and I'm sad that my body said "walk" and I did.  I should have straight run the last 1.26 but I had nothing left to give going up the hill.  I at least tried to push it a bit on the last .2 but looking at the splits it's pretty clear I was done.
Splits: 11:22, 11:14, 11:28, 11:34, 11:10, 11:36, 12:53, 3:19 (11:50 pace for last .28 on my Garmin)

Seeing the race clock and knowing I'd completely crushed my PR and my huge goal left me finishing with tears in my eyes.  I was crying when the volunteer hung my medal around my neck and when another gave me a shiny blanket.  I snapped a selfie and then wandered aimlessly trying to keep my legs from cramping up completely. I wanted to sit down so badly but I knew I'd never get up again.  I got a banana, water and chocolate milk but didn't have any of it for quite a while.  A really nice guy took my picture at the finisher backdrop and I repaid the favor for him.

After getting my sweatshirt from gear check, I tossed my blanket (mistake) and headed to the afterparty area.  I got a nice post-race massage but passed on the $8 crappy Redd's Apple Ale.  I also didn't feel like eating so I didn't visit the food trucks but I hear the hot dogs were amazing.  Instead I made the slow trek back to my van.  At one intersection, I was literally shaking from being so cold and a very nice guy (a first time marathoner) took off his space blanket and wrapped it around me.  Never underestimate the kindness of strangers.

I'm absolutely thrilled with how this race turned out.  It was a little hard not having anyone physically with me at the finish line, but based on the texts, tweets and facebook messages that came through when I turned my phone back on, I had so many people cheering me on from all over the country and your support meant the world to me.  It was disappointing to fall off so much in the last 6 miles and especially the last mile since I'd been doing great pulling out strong finishes, but in the end it didn't matter.  I crushed my goal and that felt amazing.

2612/3993 overall, 965/1740 women, 134/258 AG
Takeaways: If you put in the work - you will get paid.  I think the training plan my friend and I came up with was a definite winner.  (I'll talk about it in a future blog post.)  Having a cold temperature and light breeze certainly helped make this my race, as did the use of that pace bracelet!  I would most definitely consider running this one again - although maybe only the international half next time.  26.2 miles is a long way but sometimes it takes training for and executing a race of that distance to believe how strong you really are.
Hate the color but love the back of the shirt - it's all the landmarks we passed.
Thank you first and foremost to God for giving me the ability to run and keeping me healthy through training and the race.
Thank you to my family for putting up with long training runs, fend-for-yourself nights, and me sleeping in on Sundays because it was my only day off.  
Thank you to my friends who helped me come up with a training plan that worked and gave me results (even when I didn't believe it was possible to run the prescribed paces).  
Thank you to all of you.  Everyone who has read, commented, encouraged me here or on Daily Mile/Facebook/Twitter.  
Each and every one of you helped make Sunday a success for me and for that, I am forever grateful.

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