Monday, December 14, 2009

Race Report: Rocket City Marathon

On Saturday, December 12th, I ran my sixth marathon. This is my story.

On Friday, I made myself get up early so that I would hopefully have little trouble getting to sleep that night. Even though I was busy doing laundry and packing for the overnight trip, it still hadn't really sunk in that I would be running a marathon the next day. I haven't quite made sense of that. I can't figure out if it's that I have done such a good job of not placing pressure on myself about races this year that I just feel little anxiety OR if I've run enough races now that I know there's little to be nervous about.

My parents joined me for the drive down to Huntsville Friday afternoon. I stopped by the race headquarters to pick up my shirt and number... I was pleased when I found out it was #1338 since it started with my lucky number 13 - just like in Chicago! I had also heard Bart Yasso would be at the expo, so I was a total nerd and got him to sign my copy of his book that I had bought last year. The expo was more like 3 booths of running gear, so we were quickly out of there and at Olive Garden for a yummy meal.

We were in the hotel by 7pm, so I got all my stuff ready and climbed into bed to watch Christmas movies until I crashed around 11pm.

I was up a little before 7am and got dressed. Since the temperature was going to be in the mid to upper 30s the whole time, I opted to wear long sleeves and long pants. This was actually the first marathon I have ever had to run in pants. A headband for my ears and gloves rounded out my race day outfit.

At the start, I located running pals Amy, Matt and Cheryl for some pre-race pictures.

We all kind of shared the feeling that this would not be a PR kind of day. The cold wasn't really all that bad, but there was a bit of a wind that we had to run into a few different times. Plus, Amy, Matt and I had all recently run marathons. I definitely didn't want to put pressure on myself to try to run even faster than I did in Chicago when that race was already a PR by 20 minutes. I definitely want to break 4 hours, but I knew that this race was not the time to try.

However, I did want to get a course PR. I ran this race in 4:31:23 back in 2007 and it had been my PR until I demolished it in Chicago this year. I felt good about trying to shoot for a sub-4:30 finish.

We all set out together and found that we were comfortably running 10 minute miles or a little bit faster for quite a while. This first photo isn't the best since we're kind of far away, but from left to right you can see Cheryl in blue, me in all black, Matt in yellow and Amy in pink. This is around mile 5.

I know I felt pretty good all the way to the half when Cheryl decided to stop for a bathroom break and the rest of us kept going. There are a couple of miles of the course around this point that you are running on the same road, and by the time we turned off of it past mile 14 I was ready. I don't like running down the same road for that long in a race.

Somewhere around the half we also had a woman running along with us for a while. She commented on how we were running like the perfect pace... and then she passed us. I didn't say anything out loud, but I secretly hoped I would see her again.

We also noticed a girl who had on a strapless dress over her shirt and tights. I don't know why, but this really irritated me. Or maybe it was the fact that she was doing the run/walk thing. Don't get me wrong... I have no issues with dressing crazy in a race or doing a run/walk system... but there's always a person in a race who kind of annoys me for no real reason, and I kind of make it my goal to beat that person. I think I did say this one out loud.

By the time we reached mile 17, I was starting to feel a little tired. I was kind of surprised because I had been pretty laid back in my training so I knew I had fresh legs. I think that most of my aches were in my butt and lower back, so I'm thinking that I needed to have been a bit more on top of core work. I'll definitely be working more on that in my next training cycle.

The next photo below is just before mile 17.

Shortly around mile 19, Amy stopped off to use the bathroom so it was down to Matt and me for the last 7 miles. Up until this point, we'd all been doing well at keeping around the 10 minute mile pace. When I looked down at my split at mile 20, I realized we ran an 11 minute mile. I definitely didn't like seeing that, so I tried to pick it back up a bit. I knew that I had lost steam as we neared the 20-mile mark, but I was ready to get that second wind and keep going.

I won't lie. The next 5 miles were tough. I was kind of ready to be done, and Matt and I were talking less and less. Nonetheless, having someone you know running beside you really helps you to keep going.

Another thing that helped? We passed the girl wearing the strapless dress around mile 22 and never saw her again. This made me happy.

I was thrilled to see the mile 25 sign and told Matt I wanted to pick it up in an effort to try to hit 4:25 since I knew we'd be close. (I like flat numbers divisible by 5 for some reason.) We ended up running that last mile in 9:40.

We also passed the woman who had been near us at the half that said we were running the perfect pace. We were friendly and spoke to her, but deep down I felt kind of happy about passing her. I think that part of it is that I love it when I get proof that running a steady and consistent pace can be better than trying to run faster and then getting slower and slower.

I really kicked it in during that last .2, though I seriously doubt that it looked very fast. The picture below is from maybe 100 yards from the finish line.

We crossed the line in 4:25:37. Not long after, Amy finished and then Cheryl.

This last photo is of me with Amy and Matt... all wearing our medals. Matt and I also have on the finisher's hat that we get.

I ended up not feeling hungry so I didn't really get any of the food afterwards. I changed clothes and was glad to be able to sit down and relax.

I really do like this race, and I was pleased to set a new course PR. Overall, my time also ended up being my second fastest marathon ever... so that's pretty cool, too.

The race is only $50, and not only do you get the usual course support, you also get a Nike long-sleeve shirt, medal, hat and your race line photo. I think it's a steal for a small little southern race. The course isn't super cool or anything... mostly residential. But it's pleasant, and I think it's fun to run a race this time of year. I definitely recommend it! Now that I've run it twice I'm not sure I'll run it again unless I just want to get another 26.2 under my belt kind of like I did this year.

I'm pretty much hanging up my running shoes for a few weeks now. I've still got 2 more sessions of the track clinic that I'll go to, and I may get a few 6-10 milers in here and there just to make sure I don't totally lose my endurance... but I want to give my body a break until the new year. I've got to figure out my plans for the first few races of the year, and I'll share them as soon as I do!


Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Six marathons! Wow, you're awesome. Congrats girl!

Nicole said...

I'm so proud of you! I'm so excited that your PR is with me- maybe i'm your lucky charm?!? hehe jk! :) Maybe we should run a race together again to get you to sub 4! i know you can do it! great job and way to go with 2 marathons so close together! i bet you feel just as awesome as i did running them so close- it wasnt even that bad really- could have been worse! great job hun! i'm so proud of you!!!!! love you!

rinus said...

Congrats and a good marathon time.
You run flat and thats the marathon run!!!.

Jon said...

I have been reading your blog for a few weeks. Congrats on another marathon finish! What's up next?...besides a ton of rest ;)

KP said...

I was at the cheering section at mile 4ish and 23ish in the Holy Spirit School parking lot. I saw you going both ways and wanted to yell "Go Melanie" but I figured you would think I was a crazy stalker. So I opted to just cheer my usual "you're doing great" and by the way, you were doing great!

J said...

Great job on the marathon! You really improved your time from the last time you ran the course! I really do like rerunning the same races sometimes to see if I can do better.

Love to Run said...

Congratualtions on another great marathon, Melanie! Sounds like Rocket City is a fun one to do. Maybe that will be my Alabama marathon. Have a nice rest and recovery now as you mentioned an even better 2010.

aron said...

woooo hoooo girl! you did awesome!! CONGRATS!

Candice @ I Have Run said...

Congrats on #6!! You did awesome!!!

kilax said...

Great job on the new course PR! That's great that you ran with friends most of the way. I bet it made time fly by. I can totally relate to getting quiet at the end! Sometimes my husband and I are like that when we are running.

$50? WHAT A STEAL! Can't wait to hear your 2010 plans!

LPT said...

Congrats on your marathon! If you ever get inspired for Boston (whether you BQ or you score a charity bib), I'll be here to cheer you on!