Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ann Arbor Marathon Recap!

First, here's a review of my goals going in to this race:

"A" Goal -  4:10.  Kind of arbitrary, but really my best guess of what I could pull off based on my training paces.

"B" Goal - 4:21.  This would give me a sub 10:00 min/mile pace, which was my primary goal and main reason for choosing to run a marathon this season, since I felt that this would be in reach.

"C" Goal - PR/4:28.  Anything better than my current 4:28 PR!

Drum roll please......

So I met my "main" goal of sub-10:00 pace and honestly I kind of consider my A goal met, even though I was actually 4:11:39, my pace was still in the "9:30s" (9:36 actual vs. 9:33 for a 4:10), and considering how hilly this course was, I'm actually completely surprised I did what I did!

Female, 30-34 division results.  
And a bonus! I got 3rd place out of 11 in my age group and they gave awards to the top 5 in each, so I actually won something!  Yay for small races! (There were only 241 total finishers in the full marathon.)  That's my "age group award" glass in the picture below.  Yay!  I occasionally win things at small 5Ks but a marathon "win" is pretty exciting!  Oh, I just remembered I do have AG awards from the Groundhog Half and the Milford 30K too (also very small races and very tough courses!).

The only bad thing is that I was hoping to just get my sub-10:00 pace and be done with marathons for a while, but of course now I want to see what I can do on a flat/easy course!  I'm confident I could do 4:0x with my current level of fitness, and maybe even sub 4:00 with a little targeted training.  I actually even considered doing one in the next month or so, to "reuse" my current training at a flat race like Glass City April 27th.  But I'm going to be smart about it.  Willpower.  I'll wait until next spring.  Glass City is still looking like a good option.  Or maybe Martian.  Does anybody know of any other flat early spring marathons that I should consider?  Preferably below 60 degree temperature averages (actually below 50 would be better), so pretty much just March/April races.   I am willing to travel, but not to places where it might be hot! And yes, I know there are lots of great fall marathon options but I'm not interested in those because I absolutely HATE training for a marathon through the summer.  Ugh.  Long runs in the heat?  No thank you.

Anyway, back to the play by play.

I will write about my pre-marathon festivities of Friday and Saturday in another post (maybe...), so hang tight for that (yeah, I know it will be out of order/backwards.  I don't care.  I still have that indoor triathlon to write about too, and that was weeks ago now).

Sunday morning I woke up at like 4:15 am, just because I couldn't sleep anymore.  My alarm was set for like 5 am so that close enough.  I did end up having a Clif bar since I was up so early, in addition to my planned egg/cheese biscuit from McD's on my way to the race.

I had time to kill, so I put together a spectator guide in the morning for people that needed to find me on the course (including my estimated arrival times at each mile marker, and a photo of what I was wearing!)  My landlords decided the day before to come watch me (so cute!) so I mostly made it for them, but it would also be helpful for Michelle too in case she missed me at our planned meeting point at mile 15.  It ended up being extra useful because I posted it on facebook and had a surprise spectator show up near the finish line.  (R- Thanks again for coming, you rock!!)

I left at like 5:45 to get my McD's and pick Lina up at 6:15.  We were parked right by the start line by like 6:25 for the 7:30 am start.  I like to be early/ready.  :)  We just hung out in my car until go time.   We probably shouldn't have hung out in the car for quite so long, because by the time we went out to get in the porta-potty line it was too long and there was not enough time.  Oops.  It was okay for me because I had already gone like 20 minutes prior, but poor Lina hadn't to go without! Which reminds me of my favorite sign I saw on the course:  "If you're prairie-doggin' it....RUN FASTER!"  LOL!!  We walked around the stadium looking for a "hidden" bathroom in the parking lot, because a lot of the time they have portapotties there for football and basketball games and such, but no such luck.  I missed a pre-race photo with the A2Runners group while we were bathroom searching, but I did see a bunch of them at the start line and we got some photos then.

There are some interesting expressions in these photos.  Namely Alex in the top left, and me in the bottom left.  LOL!  
I felt pretty good the first half of the race, but never really "right".  I never quite got into a groove or got a runner's high going or anything like that, but it also wasn't hard either.  I definitely enjoyed getting to hang out with Lina for two hours though!  (Check out her recap here)  It's only the second time we've really met in person and she is awesome!   Turns out she is (coincidentally) going to California for the OC Marathon May 4th, which is where Michelle and I are doing the half marathon before our cruise to Mexico.  So crazy!  Seriously, what are the odds of that?  She and her boyfriend also joined my Third Coast Relay team for June.  So much fun to be had.  :)  Anyway, the first half went by pretty fast, and she served as my own personal paparazzi so I have some great pictures.  Thanks Lina!

Some photos that Lina took on the first loop.  She has major running-(sometimes backwards)-while-taking-photos skills.  
Saying farewell to Lina at the marathon/half-marathon split.  
I had about two miles of "solo" running (I hung around the 4:10 pacer) where I cranked my music and ran toward the 15 mile mark where Michelle was to pick me up to run the last 11 with me. I am SOOO glad we planned that.  After the half marathon runners split off, the course was a ghost town.  There were only 241 full marathon finishers, so there weren't a lot of runners or spectators out on the course for the second loop.  I stuck with the 4:10 pacer until about mile 22 when she started to pull away from me, and without Michelle there I would have been totally alone.  It wasn't like the first half with Lina where I was just having fun and chatting.  Michelle had the hard part where I was hurting and ignoring her, (if did talk to her it was only to complain/whine!), and listening to my music.  She was a trooper though.

 At mile 23.5 is when I really started to fall apart.  I managed to run up the big hill out of the "pit" but had to walk a little on the continued gradual uphill around the hospital.  I was feeling lightheaded and dizzy and my legs were just useless to pull me up the hill.  I walked two times that were not at a water stop (my plan was to only walk water stops) between 23.5 and 25.  Once we hit Observatory and headed downhill into campus and town though, I was okay to run.  I just had to pick up my feet and let gravity do the rest, so that was nice.  I just focused on keeping my footstrike cadence around 86-88 strikes per foot per minute and nothing else.  I felt like I really lost a ton of time on those walk breaks, but my splits really weren't too bad, considering the hills.

Splits, with the rough part highlighted in red.  Not as much damage as it felt like, really.  
Pace an elevation graph.  The spikes are where I walked through the water stops, plus the "bonus" walking between 20 and 25.  And the hills.  Oh, the hills.  
I had somewhat dismissed the hills on this course going into the race.  I was all like "Oh, I run in Ann Arbor all the time, there are hills on all my long runs, some of the ones on the course even".  No big deal.  And "Oh, hills will be nice to break up the monotony of the flat road and change up the muscles you use..." blah blah blah.  Even looking at the elevation plot right now, I still don't think it looks that bad.  But it was.  Hills suck.  My quads were fried.  That will be my first and last hilly marathon road marathon I think.  Trail marathons I'll accept hills at, but not road marathons for time.

Anyway, I expected I would cry at the finish, but I didn't.  (Here is a video of me rounding the final bend to the finish!)  I didn't really feel much at all, other than glad to be done.  The emotional experience of this marathon was basically a huge let down.  I wasn't really nervous going in to it, I didn't agonize over plans, I knew I could do it and I just lined up and ran.  There was no runner's high in the middle and no tears of joy at the end.  Which is sad.  I fear that the marathon may have lost it's mystique for me.  This was my fourth marathon, but the first one where I really had a major time goal (sub 10:00 pace), and I think I'm to the point now where the marathon isn't "special" anymore.  It happens with all the distances when you've done enough of them I think.  Sad.  I guess it really is time to work on that Ironman.  I do still want to do a flat road marathon for time, to see what I can do on a less challenging course, but racing for PRs is a different thing than tackling a challenging event just to finish, with the latter being much more satisfying, I think.  You never get that first marathon, half-marathon, Ironman, or whatever distance/type of race feeling back again.  That's how all of us endurance athletes get hooked and keep going for bigger and better things.  Watch out for those 5Ks....they're "gateway drugs" to an Ironman.  My first 5K was a HUGE one in Cleveland, the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in maybe the spring of 2005.  And it was a huge accomplishment that I ran the whole thing, and an overall amazing experience being out there with the crowds.  And I did 5Ks until they were easy, and then until they were horrible and painful because I always chasing PRs, and then I did the same with half-marathons, and it looks like I may now be there with the full as well, and it's kind of sad.

Previously, my marathon PR was a 4:28, with a glaring 10:16 min/mile in the pace column.  It was my only PR over 10 min/mile and it was bothering me because it was "ugly".  Now my PRs are pretty, but it's time to target a new one.  I usually pick the oldest one so I can "renew" it, which is unfortunate, because that means it's 5K time again.  I hate 5Ks.  I feel like it took me forever to get that new 5K PR at the end of 2012 (because it did), and it feels like it was really recently, but I guess it wasn't.  Hopefully I can get it on the first try and be done with that distance for a bit.  Who knows a flat and fast 5K in the early spring or late fall?  
At the marathon finish I had a slice of pizza (once I finally found it....there were no signs or anything at the finish and it wasn't very near the finish line) and hung out with some A2Runners peeps and got some photos taken.

Uhhh...some of them came out better than  We're easily distractible.  :)  
Aaaahh I'm running out of time to get this blog post out before work today.  I'm sure I have more to say, but I'm going to have to just cut it off or it will never be done.  Here are some photos of the expo and of the race schwag.
Half shirt top left, full shirt top right, expo shots on the bottom. 

Medal and stickers for my wall o' bling! 

Age group award!! 
I didn't do much reviewing of the race itself.  I wouldn't recommend doing the full marathon.  Not much spectator support and a very small field and a tough course.  I would do the half as a fun run for convenience sake since it's so close and so many friends register.  I don't really have strong feelings about the race one way or the other.  Nothing severely wrong with it, but nothing amazing here.  Standard fare I guess.

Another huge thank you to my official race support crew, Lina and Michelle!!!  (Start line photo with Lina on the left, and post-finish photo with Michelle on the right.)  You guys are my heroes!!!  Thanks for the PR!


  1. First of all, CONGRATS, again, on such an amazing PR. Seventeen minutes is HUGE!!! and I hope you're super proud of yourself for PR-ing on a course as hilly as this one was.

    Your splits are great - those couple of 9:08s and a 9:04 and even an 8:57 were probably what gave you enough leeway to be able to walk when you did and not lose too much time.

    I also hate 5Ks with a vengeance and try to justify racing them only as "speed" workouts that'll help me get faster at halfs and fulls. But I still really hate them. Something about running super fast for 3 miles just feels horrible, and I'm never ever in the mood to do it. If only they weren't so goddamn cheap.

    I think you should do a half in the fall. Training through the hot summer can be really rewarding! It'll motivate you to wake up superearly and go on long runs (preferably with moi??). DO it. Do it. Do it. Run the Detroit Free Press marathon with me!!! dooo ittttt. That could be another goal, right? instead of aiming for a PR, you just aim for more than 1 marathon per year. You know you want to. Do it.

    Love your post! And you're so welcome! And thank YOU for making this a super fun half for me!!! Agree with you on your point that this is a much better half than it is a full - and I haven't even run the full, but I know I wouldn't have wanted to do that loop again. So, kudos to you for gettin it done!

  2. Sorry to hear this one didn't feel special for you, but I understand. I didn't get as emotional about my first as I thought...but I'll probably still want to go back for more in the future. You should be pretty pumped - it's awesome that you beat your PR by so much and got a cool age group award. Plus, it's always a huge accomplishment that you just ran a marathon! Nice job. Hopefully you're recovering well.

  3. Well, I cried for you at the finish! (I stole your tears of joy. You can have them back. They are in a water bottle, capped tight). Congrat-u-fucking-lations! (can I say that here?)
    Also, your splits were near even. .That is magnificient.

  4. You are amazing! You crushed that course and would definitely be faster on a flat course. When you started running, did you think that half marathons would feel like short runs and marathons would just be "okay"? :) I think that would be my favorite sign too. Had to be a runner that wrote that!

    As far as I know - Indianapolis is pretty flat!

  5. Good work on basically hitting the goals you set for the race and on coming in for an AG award. Eventually I want to get down to that low 4 hour area, but knowing just how good of a runner you are in and how good of shape, I'm realizing that I have a long long long way to go. First I'll have to get it under 4:30.

    I know what you mean about not being able to recapture the feeling of some of your first races. I'm still trying to replicate how my first 5K and my first 10 Mile Crim felt. The first Detroit marathon was pretty close, but even with going that distance, it just didn't have that feeling. The same goes with my first Half (The Martian), but maybe, with those two distances, it's because I felt like I was going to die afterwards. Hard to feel accomplished when you're barely upright at the end.

    I hope you have a good year of running, and maybe we will be blessed with a milder summer.


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