Country Music Marathon
April 27, 2013
After 17 weeks of official training, April 27, 2013, finally arrived. This was the day we had been preparing for the entire winter with the hopes that all the hard work we had put in would pay off. The day we had trained for through some of the worst weather I think I have ever regularly ran in….windy, cold, icy, you name it, we ran in it. This was not my first marathon, but in a way, I count it as my first because, compared to the last one I took part in, I faithfully trained for this race. If people were to ask what races I thought I would run in 2013, it would not have included a full marathon. I would probably have said I’d do 2 or 3 half marathons. I’ve grown to enjoy half marathons over the past several years and usually run them with a time in the high 1:40:00 to low 1:50:00 range. The half marathon has become a favorite of mine because it is a distance I can train for in a short period of time, with little or no recovery time afterward. I also feel like its a distance I’ve been able to become competitive with myself in, hoping to improve my time with every race. My biggest accomplishment, up until this past marathon, was being able to complete a half marathon in the low 1:50:00 time range just 3 ½ months after giving birth to my son and training through some pretty painful hip and Achilles injuries, as a result of child birth and probably jumping back into running too quickly. So, when my husband approached me with the idea of running a full marathon back in December, I had to think about it, just a little 🙂 The half marathon distance had become such a part of my routine that I decided it was time to challenge myself with something new.
On New Year’s Eve we signed up for the Country Music Marathon in our favorite city, Nashville, TN.
That night we put together our training plan. When we signed up, we had to enter a projected finish time so we put 4:30:00 as our time. We weren’t sure what we would complete it in. We usually run our long runs anywhere between 8:30-8:45 pace (at that time a long run was anything from 9-13 miles), but we figured over that far of a distance we would be lucky just to finish it still moving. I wanted to create our own training plan because as I looked at some of the Novice plans out there, I just didn’t think they had us putting in enough miles over each week. Most of the popular training plans only have one 20 miler and only have one week maxing out at 40 miles…I don’t think that’s enough, and I still believe that. As we put together our training plan, we decided to do it a little differently than traditional training plans. We did it all based on time. We came up with the miles we thought we’d like to run and guessed we’d usually do our long runs around a 9:00 per mile pace and just multiplied all the distances by 9 and decided we’d run that many minutes. We wanted to do three 20+ mile runs. We always ran farther than predicted because we never ran a 9:00 pace. We were always much faster. For our long runs we ended up getting in a 20.06 mile run, a 20.7 mile run, and a 22.57 mile run. I will be posting our training plan on my website as soon as possible. I believe it was a strong training plan and one I would follow again.
As race day approached, I was both excited and nervous. Training had been very easy for me, almost too easy. I only had one long run that was a little tough and that was our second 20+ miler. The last long run of 22.57 miles just two weeks before the marathon was almost too simple. I sailed through that and completed it in 3:20:00 and could have easily went another 3.6 miles or more. I wasn’t even sore the next day. I was already picturing myself finishing the marathon easily under 4:00:00 and thinking it would be more like the low 3:50:00’s that I would finish in. I also pictured myself sprinting through the finish line and ready to go have some fun right away.
Then race day came and things were a little different than I pictured. In all my day dreams about the race, I pictured sunny skies and temps in the 50s or 60s. I didn’t picture pouring rain.
I had also forgotten to picture all the endless hills I would be facing running through Tennessee…that’s right, isn’t this the state known for it’s hills? To our credit, we did have a hill workout scheduled into our training plan every week, but I had to drop that about halfway through because I had some bad quad and hammy issues in my left leg anytime I did hills. This would have made a world of difference.
As we made our way to the start line, the rain started falling and it wasn’t a sprinkle, it was falling hard. It was amazing to see nearly 20,000 people standing out in the rain getting ready to take part in a half and full marathon. The most touching moment was when all 20,00 people paused for a moment of silence, hands raised in the air with the peace sign showing their Run Now for Boston bracelets on each arm. It brought me to tears and made me even more excited to race.
When we finally were able to start running I was pumped. We did great, staying on pace and doing as planned. Despite the rain, there were still bands out playing, cheer squads out cheering, and countless spectators encouraging us on. It was amazing! We hit all our goal spots just where we wanted. We wanted to hit the half at 1:55:00…hit it at 1:54:00 and some change. We wanted to hit 20 miles at 3:00:00 or better, and would be thrilled if it were 2:55:00…we hit it at 2:55:00! To be honest, I started struggling around mile 16. The hills were unbelievable. They were long and steep. When I think of the town we trained in…if you take our biggest hill…it wasn’t nearly as long or as steep as their smallest hill. The downhills were the toughest on my legs. Finally, after crossing the 20 mile line, I had to tell Mike to go on. He was doing great…despite the down pouring of rain, despite the partially flooded streets we were running through, and despite the outrageous hills…he had it that day and I was holding him back.
The last 5-6 miles were a struggle for me and at some points I thought there was no way I’d even be close to 4:00:00. I ended up crossing the line at 4:00:53…just 54 seconds over my goal. You don’t know how many times I’ve went back over those last 6 miles in my head over the last few days…where could I have picked up the extra time, how could I have powered through the pain I was feeling, why wasn’t I mentally tougher? I know the running terrain was different than all my easy training runs and I gave it all I had because three days later I’m still having a hard time walking which never happened over the last 4 months of training and when I tried to jog this morning just for a stride, it wasn’t happening. My quads are in such pain. The hills were all the difference for me. Mike ended up finishing strong and feeling great at 3:51:22. Our hope was to finish together, so despite being happy with my time, I’m still a little disappointed. I’ve compared it to finishing fourth in something. Its bittersweet. You still know you did great, but despite all your hard work you just missed out on the prize.
That’s the great thing about any sport, any goal, for that matter. You can do everything right, work your butt off, and sometimes it just doesn’t go as planned. That’s what makes it so special when it does and why I am so thrilled for my husband. I figure this is God’s way of telling me I’m meant to do another one, that I’m meant to be a marathoner for life 🙂 If I would have gotten my best time the first time, maybe I would have said that’s good enough. Now, I think it’s time to find a flat course and take it on again…to get that 3:51:00 I’m capable of….but I may take awhile off before that 🙂
Overall, this experience was well worth every ounce of sweat and hard work put into it. It has made me stronger mentally and physically. And it has only increased my love for this great sport we call Running!
Here are a few of the highlights:
Let the fun begin!
Thank you Country Music Marathon and Nashville, TN, for a great experience. Also, thank you to all of you who supported me along the way. I hope my training posts have inspired some of you to take on a challenge that you never thought you were capable of and to go out and get it. Never be scared of failure…only be scared of never trying and missing out on the thrill of the ride!