Sunday, October 16, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Columbus Marathon

Today was a runner's nightmare. I overslept!!!

But despite the biggest thing that could possibly go wrong on race day going wrong, I beat my Cleveland time by...

Wait for it...

Drumroll please...


I ran the Columbus Marathon in 4:13:12, an average pace of 9:40, beating my Cleveland time of 4:32:50 (average pace 10:24). I am shocked at my time. I can't believe I did that well.

So my morning went like this: Heard the alarm go off at 4 a.m. thought I hit snooze but I didn't! Next thing I knew it was 5:15. 

Fortunately, I still had time to get there -- gun was at 7:30. Fortunately, Lizzie Dog peed right away. Fortunately, I had packed everything the night before so I was able to just grab my bag and go -- I'm out the door by 5:30. Fortunately, there were no cops on 161!  

I get into Columbus by 6:15 but traffic was snarly. It takes me a half hour to get parked and by the time I get to the Hyatt, where MIT was meeting, it was time to head to the start. "Way to scare everyone by showing up late," says Bill B. as I hand him my bag to put on the truck. I grin. 

We start the procession toward the start and I catch up to some of the 10:30s walking. "JESSICA!!!!!" Kim says, "You had us so worried!!" 

We get to the start and I have to pee big time. The line for the regular port-a-johns is atrocious, so Meredith, also in our pace group start poking into local businesses looking for a ladies' room with no line. In Dunkin' Donuts, someone tells us where there is a port-a-potty with no line. Jackpot!! Actually it had a short line, far more bearable still. We make it to the start just in time. 

There's no hope of finding the pace teams, it's too crowded, too many people!! That's right, I ran the whole thing without a pacer, and pretty consistently too!

Here are all the splits and average heart rates. I'm too exhausted to note where my stops were. So, if you see a slower mile, that means there was a stop! The number in parenthases is my average heart rate.
Miles 1-5: 10:16 (167); 10:17 (168); 10:07 (168); 12:24 (approx) (172); 8:52 (181)
Miles 6-10: 9:51 (172); 10:12 (174); 10:08 (171); 9:56 (167); 9:49 (169)
Miles 11-15: 9:59 (168); 10:00 (172); 9:27 (174); 8:59 (182); 9:00 (182)
Miles 16-20: 9:05 (182); 9:03 (181); 9:04 (183); 9:24 (184); 9:15 (182)
Miles 21-25: 9:06 (183); 9:03 (182); 8:59 (181); 9:04 (182); 9:54 (179)
Miles 26-26.2: 9:21 (183), .34 miles in 2:49 (189) (An 8:14 pace)

The gun goes off. Meredith sticks with me, and we hold a steady 10:15 for the first 10K. We did the first 10K in 1:03:47 with an average pace of 10:16. 

I made the mistake of wearing two compression layers -- my tights and my socks. By Mile 4 my foot is asleep, so I have to waste two minutes changing into the socks I'm so happy I put in my Fuelbelt. It would have been a miserable race without them! I probably shouldn't have tried to make up the time but I did, the next mile was 8:52. I caught up with Meredith. 

I spent most of the first 10K waking up. By the time we're a quarter of the way through, I'm feeling great. I felt like I could conquer the world. I perk up to the many bands that are playing. I smile, yell and wave at the many MIT cheering sections. 

I didn't mean to, but I sped up in the second quarter of the race. We finished the half in 2:12:26 with an average pace of 10:07. 

With the half over, it was time to speed up. I didn't feel at all like I had run 13.1 miles. I was feeling strong and confident. I tell myself to pick it up to 9:30, but I find myself running at 9. I feel good at 9. I feel strong at 9. "Slow it down Jessica you're going to regret this!" says one side of my brain. "Shut up! This feels great!" says the other half. I let that half win. 

At Mile 16 I'm still feeling strong. 10 miles, that's nothing! An easy MIT day! I can do that at 9! Michelle H. jumps in with me and we run together. I tell her I'm feeling good. I tell her I'm feeling strong. The next time I'd see her, the story would be slightly different.

At Mile 18 I hit the wall, totally and completely. My heart rate had skyrocketed. Everything hurts. For the first time during the race I walked through a water stop. I'd walk through several. Surprisingly, I kept the pace. Mile 18 was 9:24.

I was so tempted to stop and walk. It was time for some tough love. "If you don't do this you'll regret it". "Give it all you can, you won't get another shot." "If you blow this it will be 6 months of training wasted." "What will you think of yourself if you don't make your goal?" "What would Coach Randy say?" Those were the things going through my head. Negative? Yes. Sadistic? Completely. But it's what I had to tell myself to keep going.

A lot was at stake. Not only would I miss my goal, but I'd have to live with the fact that I ran a race poorly. I would forever kick myself for running too fast, too soon. There was only one option: Hold the pace. Deal with the pain.

At Mile 20 I was at 3:15:28, an average pace of 9:47. I realized I could slow down if I wanted to. As long as I kept it under 10, I'd reach my goal of 4:20. But my legs wanted one thing, and that was to be finished. At that point they had a mind of their own. "Slow down slow down you have wiggle room!" I told myself. But my legs kept going at 9 regardless.

The last six felt like an eternity. Every step took effort. What kept me going was the phenomenal crowd support. The signs were wonderful, I don't remember many of them but the ones that helped the most were along the lines of "Pain is temporary", "Your feet only hurt because you're kicking so much butt", and "If it was easy everyone would do it." 

The ones that didn't help: "You're almost there!" And, "X miles to go!" No. 5 miles was far too much. I didn't feel like I could run five if my life depended on it. Just a 5K? JUST A 5K??? One more mile? You have got to be kidding me -- way too far!!  

I'm walking through all the water stops. I had one Mile that was close to 10:00 (9:54) because of this, but when I was moving I was almost always around 9.

I see Michelle again, with Jeanne B., on the last mile. Right before I saw them, I actually stopped and said out loud "I can't do this." Hearing those pathetic words come out of my mouth was enough to get me moving again. 

Jeanne jumps in to run a few steps with me. I was so delirious that I didn't even know it was her. She has a pom pom and a cowbell and she's incredibly encouraging, but I think all I could keep repeating was "I'm dying" and "I can't do this". 

Somehow, I made it through that last mile. Somehow, when I passed the sign that said "26" I started sprinting.  Somehow, I crossed the finish line. 

The fact that the last half mile was as hard as it was meant that today I gave it all I had. There's no way I could have run any faster. This was my absolute best, and I am beyond thrilled with it! I am so happy for great crowd support!

I finished the race with an average pace of 9:40. There are three steps leading up to the recovery area. Ouch, ouch and OUCH. I hesitated before making the ascent. 

I do not have enough words to thank MIT. They were there with everything. My bag was out and ready to grab. I attempted an ice bath (with Bill's encouragement I lasted 4 minutes). I'm able to change. I'm able to find my MIT friends. I'm too exhausted to chat much, but it was good to catch up. 

The drive home was almost as painful as that last mile! I'm so tired, so achy, and just wanted my bed. I finally get in, Chipotle in hand. 

My reeling mind wants to do the Flying Pig and shoot for less than 4 hours. We'll see what that goal becomes once a cooler head takes over! 

I'll clean this post up more, make it look pretty and tag later, time for a nap!


  1. Amazing, Jessica!!! Great recap. I am so proud of you!!!

  2. WAY TO GO!!!!!!!!! You rocked that race out of the park!!!