Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rock-N-Rollin', Sub-4in' - RNR AZ Race Report

I’ve been waiting around trying to come off of Cloud 9 before writing this report, but I don’t think it’s going to happen soon enough, so please excuse my childish excitement and elation for accomplishing a silly, little, worldly goal that really doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. However childish, silly, and worldly the goal might have been, though, it still served as a big ol’ monkey on my back. A constant voice in the back of my head. A nagging “but you still haven’t…” attached to anything I have accomplished. I’d like to say I’ve been able to ignore those things, but I can’t honestly deny their unwanted presence. It has something to do with the way I am wired. For better or worse, like it or not, it’s just the way I am.

2008 - a brand new year. But it didn’t seem so brand new to me as the clock struck midnight and the ball dropped on Times Square on Jan 1st. I had intended on breaking 4 hours at the Rocket City Marathon 3 weeks earlier, but failed miserably. It was hot and humid, I puked at mile 19, and I shuffled/walked the last 7 miles dehydrated and miserable to finish with a 4:45. I was supposed be starting my 20 week Half Iron training plan for the Gulf Coast Half Ironman (a precursor to Ironman Florida in November), but the Rocket City debacle was weighing too heavily on my mind. So I kept running and signed up for the Rock-N-Roll Arizona marathon. A rematch. Not necessarily a balls-to-the-wall-gotta-get-under-4-hours-kinda-thing, but a let’s-remember-how-to-run-strong-and-have-fun without-being-buried-in-the-numbers-kinda-thing. I ran when I felt like it, about 3 times a week, and scaled the taper mileage back even further. I got a cheap plane ticket to Phoenix and set out to have some fun.

I stayed with the awesome Trimama (RNR sherpa this time) and Lora (who ran was running the half). We met up with Commodore (and his beautiful wife and cool Mighty Mo), IronJenny, IronGirlNyhus, Greg, Erin and Sarah for dinner Friday night. Saturday morning at the expo we all met up with even more bloggers, including TriDummy, TriShannon, Momo, MarathonerInTraining, Pat and Jumper. The expo was a mad house, but Trimama, Lora and I managed to stay together and do some shopping. Dinner was at the Macaroni Grill, where I also got to the pleasure of meeting none other than the beautiful Frankie (little Momo), JavaMom, and Taryn (My Life And Running) for the first time. A good carbo-loading time was had by all.

TriShannon, Momo,TriDummy, Jumper, Trimama, and me

Frankie and Momo

TriDummy and Aime

Eric(MarathonerInTraining), IronJenny, and Erin

Pat and his wife, Amy

Frankie eating a lemon! Did I mention how cute she is?

Me and Taryn

Me and Trimama

I talked to Erin (IronJenny’s friend) several times and we decided to run together. I was a little concerned because Erin had originally been going for a 3:45, but some injuries had hindered her training and now she just wanted around 3:55. I wasn’t sure I could keep up with her, but I figured I could give it a shot.

Lora, Trimama, and myself pre-race

Trimama, Lora, TriDummy, Me, Hugo, IronJenny and Sarah

I got up on Sunday morning and carried out my usual pre-race rituals – shower, shave, a touch of makeup because they have cameras out there ya know, body-glide all over, etc. I ate a Zone Bar 2.5 hours before race start and drank a Gatorade. I also took 2 Immodium to keep my stomach tame throughout the race. This was a piece of advice from Jenny, which proved to be AWESOME. The benefits of having these veterans around are wonderful! Trimama, in all her sherpa goodness, chauffeured Lora and I down to the race start. At the start, we found Jenny, Erin, Robert, Sarah, and TriDummy. We got into Coral 4 and somehow lost Tridummy.

I wore the Garmin.

I know I said I wasn’t going to, but when it came right down to it, I strapped it on. Not the HR monitor, though. The gun went off, and Erin and I took off together. I immediately noticed that my legs felt great! The temp was probably mid 40s, no wind, no humidity, and the sun was coming up nicely. I had taken a Gu about 20 minutes before start time, and had planned on re-Gu’ing every 6 miles. Erin and I chatted about everything under the sun, we ooo’d and aaahhh’d over the beautiful desert and mountains, and we sang with the bands when we knew the songs! In other words, we were having fun. I peeked at my Garmin every now and then, and noticed that except for the 1st mile, which was congested and slow (9:20, I think), we were easily hitting sub 9’s. And a lot of 8:45s and 8:50s. It didn’t worry me that it might be too fast, because it felt very easy and we were having fun. Around mile 7 I thought “I am in no hurry to get this over with. I could go on all day!” We got water at every water stop, but we took it and ran, no walking. I took my scheduled Gu at mile 6, then again at mile 12. I was happy to cross the 13.1 mile mat well under 2 hours, and I knew that my family would be happy to see that if they were tracking me at home. We ran through tons of cheering spectators at mile 14, and could hear Trimama screaming above them all! By mile 17 I started to feel a little bit of fatigue, and decided to go ahead with another Gu. It helped, but I was aware that it wasn’t going to get much easier from here on out. I thought about how strong I had run so far. I thought about the time I already had in the bank. Erin was going for 3:55, and we were right on target. I didn’t want to slow her down. We got to mile 18 and I made note that I was getting a little tired, but I had never felt this good at mile 18 of a marathon before. I started to believe that I was capable of sub-4, I just wanted to get to mile 20.

For some reason I decided at mile 18 that we had 6.2 miles left, and looking at our time I thought Erin could BQ with a 3:45…but she corrected me and reminded me that a marathon was twenty-SIX point two miles, not twenty-four. Ha! Math doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me beyond 15 miles or so.

We reached mile 20, and I ran up behind a man with a picture of his son on the back of his shirt – he was running in his memory. A cute little boy. “What I am feeling right now is not pain, that is pain” I told myself. H.J., who had called me before I left for Phoenix, talked to me about some things to think about when it started getting hard. That was one of them. Another one is just to tell myself “There is no wall.” I said that over and over. And Erin and I talked about the fact that “Pain doesn’t hurt as much as regret.” It started hurting, though, around mile 22. My pace slowed a little, and I saw that my splits were coming in around 9:10 – 9:20. I had enough time, but I had to stay focused. I couldn’t really talk anymore, other than trying to tell Erin to go on and get her 3:55, which she refused to do. I am confident that she could have done that – she was stronger than I was in those last miles. If she wasn’t going to go on, though, I felt the least I could do was give it all I had. By this time, I stopped taking in the scenery and just focused on the road in front of me. It was warming up, the Gu's weren't lasting as long, and the fatigue was setting in. I knew that this was coming. I had been here before; it's just usually several miles earlier than this. Holly had posted about this sort of thing a while back from a book she was reading, and I took her advice and welcomed the pain.

I said “There you are. I knew you would be here. You’re not my enemy, you’re my friend. I love this pain. You’re what makes the marathon special. If it weren’t for you, everyone would do this. I want to get to know you really well, because we’re going to spend a lot of time together training for Ironman. Believe it or not, I like you. C’mon and run 4 miles with me.”

I knew I could run 4 miles, and I envisioned running from my house to the stoplight and back (4 miles) like I do all the time. Mile 23 seemed to come quicker than I expected, and I took my last Gu. I’ve never been able to handle a Gu after mile 20 before, so this was another success. Mile 24 came, and I realized that there really was not going to be a wall today. I had 2 more miles. Yes, I was VERY uncomfortable, and I was moving as fast as I could go and barely hitting 9:15 a mile, but there was no way I was quitting now. I took a cup of water at the mile 25 water stop, and they were yelling “Just over the bridge and down into the city and you’re there!!” That sounded so good. About 9 minutes later the 26 mile sign came into view and the clock said 3:36:XX. We were about 2 minutes behind the start clock. I looked at Erin and we smiled and nodded at each other. I pushed the last .2 in hard as hard as I could push, knowing that I had finally done it. I threw my arms up in victory, and felt the monkey fall off my back as we crossed the finish line in 3:56:20.

I wanted to jump up and down, but that was not physically possible, so when I saw Trimama and Lora I yelled “I DID IT! I DID IT! 3:56!!!” I was ecstatic.

I did my first marathon in April ’06 in 4:17:17. In August of ’06 I started training for a sub-4 marathon and was confident that I could do it, but came up short in Vegas with a 4:08. The Rocket City Marathon, in December ’07, was horrific, and before Jan 13th I was no longer sure that I was capable of a sub-4. Getting up at 3:30 a.m. to run 16 or 20 miles in 20 degrees is not all that fun all the time. Passing on the margaritas and late nights is annoying sometimes. But there was NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING that was overrated about crossing that mat and hearing the beeeeeeep with a clock up above my head that still had a “3” on it. Not that it’s some great feat or makes me special or anything, but because it didn’t come easy. Because it took more than following a plan; it took more than just putting in the miles. It took time. It took persistence, and it took risk. It took 2 failed attempts. It took getting back up after being knocked on my ass at Rocket City. It took family, friends, luck, and it definitely took help from up above. It took a whole lot of everything inside me.

They say nothing good comes easy. They are right.

Running a sub-4 marathon doesn’t make me much more of a runner than I was when I clocked a 4:08 over a year ago. It doesn’t put me into a class of fast runners or anything. I didn’t win any money, and I didn’t come anywhere close to being at the top of my age group. But the taste of victory – personal victory – in the face of adversity, in spite of obstacles, and notwithstanding your pride is one of the sweetest tastes there is in this world.

Pick your goal, whatever it might be, and set out to get it. Don't give up. Do not EVER give up. Embrace the adversity you might face, the obstacles you will encounter, and the probable fall of your pride. They will make your victory that much sweeter.

Splits, numbers (ofcourse!), and detailed analysis coming soon…


Lisa said...

Sounded like perfect weather!

All that hard work sure paid off.
I've resisted the immodium but that might be something I need to try sometime.

Marathoner in Training said...

Lana, you are definately a winner in my book. Keep it up and keep in touch. I loved reading this blog.

DREW said...

I loved the paragraph where you describe talking to your pain. I need to remember that!


Ryan said...

Great job. Next marathon is IMFL right? SUB4GRL

tri-mama said...

I'm still smiling and screaming! (well not out loud :-) great job!

Pip said...

Congratulations on meeting your goal, especially given how hard you have worked to get there. Posts like this keep me going every time I despair of ever being able to run a marathon, or of even being able to run for a year injury free. Thanks for feeding my motivation!

Anonymous said...

You did it! I knew you had it in you!! Way to kick some @ss. You mentioned IMFL. Joe just finished IMKY and he has a great nutritional plan from Kathleen Johnston (his past coach). I wanted to email it to you and Michele but I don't have your email addresses. And...I will be in FL to cheer my HEAD off for you guys...and if I have enough guts, I'll sign up for IMFL 2009.

Please email me so I can send you that great "how to eat for IMFL" sheet.

(aka the girl that helped you find Ashley swim coach)

Joe said...

Lana, this is one of the best marathon reports I've ever read. You captured all the emotions and changes as you progressed through the 24 (no, wait, 26) miles.

I'm so very happy for you breaking 4 hours! You explained that feeling very well too...and yes I can understand so exactly.

You had a perfect day to run a PR and so you took advantage of it. It was there to be had, you saw it, you grabbed it.

Oooooh, and we now about the secret weapon, immodium!!! A great idea!!!

Congratulations...enjoy it and don't worry what others think about your elation!!!

jkrunning said...

So very, very, very happy for you.

IronTriTim said...

Way to go. Your final comment is so true. Do not ever give up.

Holly Jane said...

Congratulations seems like such a weak thing for me to say to you. You gotta know how proud and happy I am for you! Spectacular run! Amazing attitude! The list goes on.... I love ya!

Bob Gentile said...

Congrats Lana...I know you had ur setbacks and wanted it bad at Las Vegas. So very awesome you got it done! Sub 4 is very impressive!!

and yes it does make it SO much more worth it when it doesn't come so easy...what a great Role Model Super Mom you are to ur Children & a great lesson to them to never give up on ur dreams/goals!!

Way to Git R' Done!

LeahC said...

excellent race report. awesome race, nicely done!!!

Bethany said...

GREAT race report! You did it and you should be sooo proud of yourself...Sounds like you also made some great friends in this journey! Congrats Lana...you deserve every bit of it :)

Darrell said...

You captured the moment beautifully. You mixed in the right amount of pride and perspective. Thanks and congratulations!

Benson said...

Oh my god, It was so good to read your race report.
you are one awesome woman.

TriSaraTops said...

FANTASTIC report...and race! You have worked so hard for this and I am so happy for you!

Taryn said...

Ohhh Lana - I am so proud of you! And so happy for you!! I love the bit about "pain never hurts as much as regret"... you have worked so hard to reach this goal, met the pain face on - absolutely nothing to regret! (&& I'm happy you wrote this while on cloud 9 - makes us feel your joy so much more!).

Congratulations awesome marathon runner!

Anonymous said...

Running a sub-4 marathon is not a silly or little goal! If you deem it important, then by gosh, it is! Congrats to you!!! Accomplishing your goal is a GREAT feat and it certainly does make you SPECIAL. Keep on keepin' on!

jahowie said...

Congratulations!!! I am very happy for you. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who talks the pain away. Too awesome!! You serve as a huge inspiration. Thank you.

greyhound said...

Triumph! And don't sell that sub 4 goal short. It may not be "all that" for some people, but my sub 4 performance changed. my. life. My whole mental picture of who I was and what was possible changed by seeing that "3" in the time clock.

greyhound said...

Oh, and let me just say, that is SO CUTE the way that Frankie and Momo are always along together. She's like Momo's "Minnie Me"

TriBoomer said...

Fabulous marathon, Laura. If I were to ever go sub-four I wouldn't shut up for a week... maybe two!

Also, I happy that you got to meet some of my uber cool iron-bloggie peeps.

Stay tuned...

RunBubbaRun said...

Great race report. You kept at it and met your marathon goal.

YES, "Do NOT EVER GIVE UP", a great motto to believe in.

Great pics and look like a hell of a great time.

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice report!! GREAT JOB!!!!

Lauren said...

Congratulations! Great report!

IronJenny said...

Way to go! It was great seeing you and Erin has the best things to say about you and your run together. I hope you come up to visit us here in Minnie one day!
Loved the paragraph about the pain - that is great - I hope I can remember it next time pain rears its familiar head in a race. Great job!

DaisyDuc said...

Woohoo Lana, CONGRATULATIONS! You have had for a long time coming and it is no surprise to me that you did it!

Such a beautiful write up and a promising start to 2008! Go girl!!

Bill said...

What an awesome race report, Lana. It was like I was running with you through the entire race.

Congratulations on your sub-4. What a great accomplishment. I hope to get there someday.

And thanks for the pics. It's good to see the faces of some of the bloggers out there.

Rae said...

Great job!!! I'm sure this is a huge boost for you starting into IM training!

Are you coming up for the marathon movie this week???

Phil said...

Congrats Lana ... I'm so happy for you. I knew you could do it.

Grellan said...

Well done on breaking the 4 hour psychological barrier - especially when you wern't expecting it. way to go. There's nothing to stop you now.

3:36:xx on the clock at 26 miles - that was a long final 0.2 miles.

Taconite Boy said...

Great job Lana!!

You made the podcast. Well at lease trimamas screaming for you at the finish did.


E-Speed said...

awesome! Great job! Wish I would have known you were running I would have got my ass there earlier to cheer! My FIL ran just over 5 hours.

Hope you are enjoying the accomplishment!

Database Diva said...

Congratulations on meeting your goal of a sub-4 marathon, and for having the courage to do it immediately after a major setback. How wonderful that you found Erin, and that she stayed with you to the end. Your story is very encouraging, and your photos of the Phoenix sunsets are great!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lana,

It was great to meet you!! What a great day! On to IM!!! Can't wait. Let's keep in touch! God bless, Erin

Wes said...

Running a marathon in sub-4 is VERY special, Lana! Congratulations!!!

Joe said...

Fantastic! Way to go!

I love your "pick your goal" paragaph. That reminded me of something I saw the other day at a gymnastics facility. It's a quote from Winston Churchill: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts".

You had the courage to continue!

J~mom said...

Congratulations!! Awesome race and what a sweet victory!