Monday, March 19, 2018

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Madness 2018

 You've heard of March Madness right???? Well unfortunately I am not super into college basketball (Don't hate me! Stay with me!) so I found Marathon Madness instead. I have been training since the first week in December to get ready for the madness because I set out with some pretty exciting goals.

After the Outer Banks Marathon, and only cutting 2 minutes off my previous time at the Marshall University Marathon, I was ready for some big changes in my marathon time. I worked with my unofficially official running coach (aka my darling husband) on creating a 16-week plan to help me meet my new goals. Goal A was to finish, Goal B was to set a personal record (get it under 4:54), Goal C was to get my time in the 4 hour 40 minute range, and Goal D (for Dream BIG) was to get my time in the 4 hour 30 minute range. It was a pretty cool process to develop my own personalized training plan. The plan that I had for Outer Banks and the MUM had a great progression of long runs, so I kept the long runs pretty much the same, but per coach's orders, I had one 22 mile long run instead of only going up to 20 miles like in my previous plan. We also totally revamped my weekday workouts to include 1 goal HALF marathon paced run (~9:50 min/mile) ranging from 3-10 miles, 1 speedwork session (4-6 miles of 400 m all the way through mile repeats), 2 easy runs of 3-6 miles, and a strength session. And lemme tell you-- SPOILER ALERT-- IT WORKED.

Fast forward 16 weeks and over 450 miles of training. The time has come for me to travel to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to pick up my packet for the day I've been working so hard for. I had no idea what I'd truly be capable of on race day, so I tried my hardest to not get too much in my head. Alfredo and I made our way the expo and I picked up my bib and my PAJAMA PANTS (!!!!!!!) and we looked at all the vendor booths, then we finished up and headed to the hotel to check in. We called in dinner from Olive Garden (can't mess with pre-race spaghetti ritual) and we ate and turned in at a decent time for my 4:45 wake-up.

have to get my Flat Lizzy in order
the night before!
I woke up the next morning with plenty of time to get ready and make my way to the start. We were only about 10 minutes away from the starting line in Wrightsville Beach, but we left at 6:00 AM to be sure we made it in time for the 6:40 AM start. Since Alfredo was letting me run this race, he was able to chauffeur me to the start line and drop me off. He was going to ride his bike along the course to meet me at the different mile markers! I made my way to the starting area after I was dropped off and of course had to wait in line for porta-potties (AS ALWAYS......). They were delayed by about 10 minutes starting, but that's ok since it allowed more time for using the porta-potties. I ended up making my way to my place in the corral right as they were giving final pre-race instructions! And before I knew it, we were off!!!!

My first 3-4 miles were kind of forced. I never understood why people say it takes them a few miles to warm up. Usually my first miles are the fastest and then I slow down. But on race day, I definitely got that feeling. I finally got my groove after a few miles and managed to keep my pace right on target from then on (around 10:30 min/mile). It definitely helped seeing Alfredo every few miles along the way!
Around the half mark
Crossing the bridge at mile 15ish?

I was feeling footloose and fancy-free for most of the race honestly. I was surprised at how well I was feeling, and how well I was pacing still. I passed the half marathon mark feeling great, passed some more mile markers, and before I knew it I was at mile 20! And still on pace?!?!? Around this time, we entered a little park that was surprisingly hilly for being so close to the coast. And then I saw the mile marker for 23 soon after I saw 20, and I realized that this was one of those places that the course does another loop on. I was starting to slow down, and I was getting pretty anxious about how my body would feel on the second loop. By this point, my Humas and my Gu were not doing me any favors. I didn't feel like I could physically eat or drink anything else besides regular water, but I knew I had several miles left to go. As I made my way around the park, I was sipping on my handheld water bottle and trying to fight down a Huma. I grabbed some Gatorade at the water station at around mile 22 before starting my second loop in the park. I was having a major issue trying to run through the water stops (I was desperately trying to run the whole thing) and I kept getting Gatorade up my nose but that's neither here nor there.

Entering the park at mile 20
Fast forward to mile 24. I had run the WHOLE DAGGONE THING at this point. And as I saw Alfredo, my scrunchy crying face starting to form. "I gotta walk. I can't keep running. But I'm afraid if I walk, I won't be able to start running again," I said to him, fighting back my tears. He told me, "Don't you start walking. You can keep going! You're almost done!" and I was honestly pretty disappointed because I was fully expecting him to tell me to take a quick break. So I took a gulp of my water and kept on trucking.

Actual footage of me crossing the finish line
jk of course this is Full House
Then reality hit me as I was approaching the UNCW campus where the finish line was. I passed mile 25, crunching numbers in my head. I knew I would make my A, B, and C goal at that point based on my time. I kept going, even though I felt like my legs were dragging through molasses at this point (BUT I WAS STILL RUNNING.... NO WALKING!). I rounded the corner (and realized that I missed the 26th mile marker? or it didn't exist????) and there was the finish line. My time was still in the 4:30s range. SO I KICKED IT. I told my legs, "GO, LITTLE LEGS, GO GO GO!" and I knew I was going to make it. My scrunchy crying face was trying to form again (but out of joy this time, don't worry) but I told it NO GO AWAY I NEED TO SMILE RIGHT NOW and I channeled my inner Shalane Flanagan and let a F*** YES fly and crossed the finish line (STILL RUNNING) with a time of 4:38:34!

Shalane is my HERO!

Goal A: check.
Goal B: PR'd by 16 minutes. So needless to say, check.
Goal C: blown outta the water.

After I crossed the finish line, I rang (and broke) the PR bell, got my snacks and water, and shuffled back to the car. Unfortunately there were no finisher medals due to a shipping situation, so that was a bummer, but the race director said they will be mailing them out when they get in. So there should be an exciting mail day in the near future at least.

Finish line!
As for what's next, I would really like to try to continue chipping away at my marathon time, and now that I know what works (and what doesn't) in training, I can hopefully keep improving. I'd love to get a sub 4:30 marathon next. So... instead of calling this "The End", we're going to say "To Be Continued..."!!!!!
PJ pants!
You can't go to the beach and NOT go to the beach right?

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