2:55.52 -- Not a great day, but I'll take the new PR :)

I'm neither happy nor unhappy with my race. On the one hand, it's a 2:55.52, which is a 2 minute 16 second PR for me. Not too shabby. On the other hand, I know I'm capable of much more... yesterday just wasn't my day :(.

The combination of not being able to split well, stomach cramps, and a stride that never really felt effortless.... I guess I should be pretty lucky to have muscled my way to the time I did. The gun went off, and my first mile was pretty controlled. 6:40 (6:36s was the pace for a 2:53 marathon, and I wanted to start out just a little slower than that, work into that pace). I'm glad I had my watch -- the 3:00 marathon pace group was ahead of me by about 10-12 seconds at that point! I felt bad for the people relying on their pacer... going out in a sub 6:30 when your average should be 6:52 can only mean trouble later on :(.

That was the extent of good pacing for me. How frustrating to look down at your watch and see that you're running all over the place! 6:50 for mile 2. 6:21 for mile 3. What?? I am usually a REALLY strong pacer. Get me in a rhythm and I usually only deviate from pace (without really looking at a watch) by about 2 seconds a mile. I never swing 10-20 seconds. Part of it was that it was a pretty hilly/rolling course. Don't let the fact that it's Des Moines fool you! I know you can't rely on your watch as much when it's hilly. Problem was, I couldn't even "feel" the pace I was supposed to be at. Hmm..

At about mile 4, I get a pretty bad sideache. Nooo! I almost never get these anymore. I still don't know why -- did I eat too much that morning (1.5 bagels with jam, 1 packet of oatmeal... 500-550 calories?)?. They are so thought-consuming and distracting! At 12 it finally went away, the course flattened out, and I found a little bit of a rhythm. Thank goodness. Here I had a lot of miles at or close to the 6:36 mile mark. Then came the lake at mile 18ish -- and the wind! We had been warned that the wind would come on stronger mid-day, and it definitely did. I slowed from 6:30s to mid 6:40s going into the wind. Where's someone to draft off of when you need it?? :) Mile 20 came and my stomach began to hurt again. Ugg. It didn't get better, either. Even today I've had a hard time eating. I'll either get a really nauseous feeling or the same mid-section/side cramp will come back. I spent 10 minutes sitting at my desk praying to keep down my lunch today while at work. Yuck.

It was a really lonely race for me. I didn't run with anyone for more than 20 seconds. Was that because there weren't many people around my finishing time? Or because I was pacing poorly? I really missed racing with Jenny and Nate at Fargo. That was a blast. I'll have to find a training partner for my next marathon -- both to train with, and to race with!

With 3 to go, I let myself ease up to 6:50s pace. I felt terrible, and all I could concentrate on was my stomach. Need to work on my mental toughness here. I was actually looking around to see if Nate was nearby -- I was going to ask him if I could walk. Good thing I didn't see him! Then the turn to the finish happened. I was still pulling out sub-7s, but after the turn I could tell that my legs all of a sudden weren't able to keep up with my upper body's momentum. Uh-oh, I've had this happen before, and it doesn't ever end well (ask my dad :). I was weaving a little bit, eyes up and just willing that finish line to come. I eased up instead of trying to get my legs to turn faster. Probably one of the best decisions I made. Otherwise I honestly think I would have fallen.

So, what can I improve upon? First, I can't plan to race well in a marathon when I'm working 12-15 hours a day, in the middle of a move, amongst other things. All of that was obviously not conducive to running at my best. My legs never felt like they were moving effortlessly, probably because they didn't really taper correctly. I also don't think I want to raise my goal time so late in the game. Pacing is so important in a marathon; I think you need to "know" that pace inside and out. I did all of my marathon pace work at 6:40-6:42, which is probably part of the reason I couldn't hit or "feel" out a 6:36. I also probably didn't monitor my eating during my carbo load. I actually lost weight (which almost NEVER happens with me). I'm supposed to gain weight because I'm storing much more glycogen and water. That's probably a sign that I didn't carbo load correctly.

So, all in all, I'm decently satisfied with my time. It's nice to know that I was strong enough to still eek out a 2:55 (even if it's a high 2:55!), and I guess it's also encouraging to know that I KNOW I can take off another 2-3 minutes if I had one of those springy-effortless-everything-running-smoothly type of days. It's cool to see my name with the likes of the top 7 women, though. All except me have run at the trials. I used to think Erin Ward, who finished 4th in 2:52, was untouchable. Now I'm at least within sight.

So, I'll take this week to really think about what I think I could do next time (yes, already looking ahead to a next time :). I want to make sure my body and mind are completely recovered before I draw up another training plan. Nothing like a little time off to help you realize how bad you want to achieve something or how much you love what you're doing.

Nichole Porath

Nichole is a blogger, elite level runner, and coach. She ran professionally for Brooks for two years after qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. During that time she founded TNC endurance, where she coaches and motivationally speaks to organizations large and small. This blog details her rise to national-level racing, and continues to follow her as she gets back into racing after starting a family. Read on, friends!

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