Well it's certainly been a while since my last post, but since I just ran the OKC Memorial Marathon and I have a lot to talk about, it seems like a good time to revive my blog. If you follow my Instagram page, you know that the race did not go the way I was expecting, but that's the beauty of the marathon. It's a long distance and a lot can happen, even when you put in all the training. So here's my recap of my fourth marathon.
I arrived in Oklahoma City on Friday afternoon and headed straight to my hotel to get changed and ready to go for a short and easy shakeout run. I decided that I would run to the Memorial, explore a little, and run back. I took it nice and easy and when I got to the Memorial, I spent a little time walking and exploring and snapping pics. Then I ran back to the hotel and got ready to meet Gaby, an Instagram friend who was flying in that afternoon. I headed off to the expo and eventually met up with Gaby.
After the expo, I lounged around my hotel before checking out a pizza place in Midtown called Hideaway. I had an amazing gluten free pizza and learned that Hideaway is the oldest pizza place in the state (my tastebuds could see why)! I made sure to get a lot of sleep on Friday, knowing I wouldn't get as much the night before the race. On Saturday, I lounged around and then walked to meet Gaby to go to the Memorial and snap some more pics. We decided to check out the Museum which was both sad and interesting. Afterward I went back to the hotel and relaxed my legs and had some lunch. I ate an early dinner (my rice and ground beef made it to OKC!) and then went to dinner with a bunch of Instagram runner friends. It was nice to relax with good company and take my mind off of the upcoming race. It was then time to do my pre-race rituals and go to bed early.
Race morning started at 4am when I woke up and had my bagel, banana, coffee, and water. I relaxed in my hotel room, pumping myself up with music and quotes. I walked over to the startline and made it in time to hear the pre-race prayer and service at the Survivor Tree at the Memorial. It was inspirational and moving. I hopped in the portapotty line and saw Annie (another Instagram friend who arranged the dinner) and we snapped a quick pic and with 15 minutes to spare. I looked around because I knew my friend Bryan, who is from Ohio and now living in Texas, would be running the race and in my corral. I couldn't find him, so I put my headphones in and stretched out. Shortly before the race they paused everything for 168 seconds of silence to remember those lost in the bombing. Next the wheelchairs took off and I heard my name and turned around and there was Bryan. He asked me what my goal was and I told him I was aiming to BQ and he offered to pace me, which I immediately accepted. Next thing I knew, the gun went off and we were running.
The first mile went by quickly. We were talking and taking in the sites and held under an 8 minute mile. At 1.5 we went up a big hill and passed my hotel (luckily I tackled that hill on Friday and knew what to expect) but the pace still felt comfortable, as we came in right around 8 for the second mile. The next few miles were also on pace, but I was noticing that my legs didn't feel quite right. They were heavy and I felt like I was working harder than usual to hold paces that were easier than my training paces. Maybe it was the fact that all the miles we faced were either up or downhill, but I more or less knew that this was not going to be a BQ day. I gave Bryan the heads up that I thought we should back off the pace and just aim for a PR for me (3:40).
The rolling hills continued as we passed the 10k mark. We were still on 3:40 pace, but I was not enjoying myself with the hills and intense headwinds. The one exception was the famous "Gorilla Hill" where a homeowner has installs a giant inflatable gorilla at the top and everyone dresses as bananas and hands them out to runners. Oddly enough, I thought it was the mildest hill on the course despite all the talk about it. At mile 8, we lost the half marathoners and with them, the crowds. We turned onto a long straight stretch of road into a 30+ mph headwind and headed uphill. By mile 12, my IT band was getting really tight due to all of the uphills and I knew I was going to have to be careful to prevent it from actually getting inflamed. We went through the half marathon mark a little over 1:50 and at that point I decided to stretch out the ITB because I saw the massive bridge ahead of us.
After we crossed the bridge, we were dumped into the park along Lake Hefner. It would have been beautiful and scenic if it weren't for the fact that the rain started and the winds along the lake were insane (I would later hear about gusts up to 40 mph!). To make matters worse, we were on a narrow bike path which was flooded at points from the storms the night before. Thanks to Bryan's stories, we pressed on and I looked ahead to the points where there were trees to shade us from the winds.The only good part about the path along the lake was that it was actually the first part of flat although the winds made it just as intense. Once we headed out of the park, it was just a matter of climbing a big bridge and then were were back in civilization with less intense winds.
Bryan helped me break the race into chunks. "Okay we just need to get to 16, then 20, and then 23 and then it's easy from there". I played that over and over in my mind. Luckily the next few miles were throughout neighborhoods so there were lots of people and Bryan hyped up the crowds the whole way, cracking me up and taking my mind off of my ITB and the fact that we had done 19 miles. I knew Gaby would be around 24 which helped me push on, knowing I would see here. Unfortunately my ITB was really getting tight on all of the uphill, which made me have to back off almost every time there was an uphill. Bryan was such a trooper, sticking with me and making me laugh and taking my mind off of how angry I was at my ITB which hadn't given me any trouble since last September. At 23 I felt revived. I knew we could get through it and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel despite the rain, wind, hills and cold. We pushed on and our pace actually started dropping. At 24 I grabbed a bottle of water from the crowd, and I heard my name and there was Gaby cheering. It was the pickup I needed to push on.
We just had to get over a few more hills and then it was flat until the last .4 of downhill to the finish. While my A, B, C, D, and E goals were out the window, my F goal of being under 4:10 was within reach and my G goal of beating my first marathon time (4:13) was easily obtainable at that point. By the time we hit the last mile, we had done an 8 minute mile and I knew we just had to round the corner and run the last .4 to the finish (the course was long by about .3). Bryan told me earlier that I probably shouldn't do a hard kick to avoid hurting the ITB. But once we started down to the finish line, and he began hyping the crowd, telling them it was my first fun run, I was cracking up and felt so good that I bolted, holding a 7:15 for the last stretch. I threw my arms up as we crossed the finish, happy to have completed #4 and battled through a tough day with tougher conditions. Official time: 4:05.18. Not my best, but almost 10 minutes better than my first.
I celebrated with Bryan and his family. It wasn't the race I was hoping for or expecting, but honestly I think it was the race I needed. It showed me how fun running a marathon can be and it was nice to breakaway from the intensity of going for a big goal. Am I disappointed? Absolutely (moreso because of how well my training went compared to how I felt on race day in the early miles). But would I trade the experience I had in Oklahoma? No. I ran a smart race, and I recognized the signs my body was sending me. For once, I actually remember almost everything I saw on the course and I got some pretty good photos out of it. Is fun running a marathon going to become the norm for me? No. Having a goal to reach can be equally fun. But will I make sure to incorporate some just for fun races in in the future? Yes, this is how you keep yourself fresh and in love with the spirit of running. And hey, I'm already not sore anymore! So that's a plus!
So what happened to me in OKC? I honestly don't know. I've trained myself not to overanalyze because you really can't always figure it out, but I do have a few guesses. To start, let me say that my training for this one went perfect. No injuries, all speed, hills and long runs went as they should (if not better) and I had my mind trained, which made the result frustrating.
My first guess is that I overdid it in the days leading up to the race. I didn't have a car in OKC so I walked everywhere and maybe I did too much. I walked around the expo for a very long time and downtown on friday in search of food all after a run. I also walked around downtown to the Memorial and then a little in the museum on saturday. So maybe that was it. Although it should have been more of an issue later in the race, not at mile 5 (my coach agrees with this). My second guess is my nutrition as I could not find any food places open on friday when I got in so I didn't eat from breakfast at 5am to 4 pm (except some snacks) plus all of that walking and the run. This seems more likely. My last guess is that it was the travel that wiped me out, although I have travelled for races before so this doesn't hold up either. Finally, maybe it just wasn't my day.
But regardless of what happened and what caused it, I completed marathon number 4 with a respectable time and had a blast while doing it. I ran 26.2 miles with a friend for the first time and I can check another state off of my list. Finally, I honored the 168 victims of the OKC bombing and the city affected by it by running a marathon for them, which was the real point of this race.