At the 10 days out weather forecast, the conditions in Jacksonville for the day of the race were perfect. I can't remember it exactly, but it was a low temperature with low chance of precipitation. I was so excited. My redemption race was going to go as planned! No heat. No humidity. Perfection.
Then, the race got closer and the temperatures increased right next to the humidity and chance of rain. Lightning bolts start coming out of the forecast grey clouds, and suddenly it looked like a hurricane was planning on coming to Florida for one day only: marathon day. It just didn't seem fair (because, of course we all know that life is always so fair).
I ran a shakeout run the Saturday before race day, and I walked into my house after a slow run sweating bullets because of the humidity. Seriously? I thought for a brief second about not even going. Luckily my sanity came back and when Caitlyn came over at 10 and we headed up for Jacksonville. We went straight to the running store where packet pickup was. The Jacksonville Bank Marathon is a small race, so there wasn't an expo. I didn't take any photos because we were there so quickly and there wasn't really anything to take pictures of; it was a standard packet pickup. I was also really anxious.
We met Nick and Beth for dinner at Brio that night, and I really didn't do much talking and instead just shoveled forkfuls of pasta into my mouth. I came up for air to Beth questioning whether I was okay. I don't know what it was, but aside from my nerves about running a marathon I was extra anxious because of the questions about whether the race would happen, what the weather was going to be like, and what would happen if the race started and then it started lightning. I'm an overanalyzer to the nth degree, so this many uncertainties didn't favor me.
I went to bed at 9:45 with an alarm set for 4:15 to get up and start moving. When I looked out the window it was dry and windy, and it was 71* at 4:15. Yikes! We headed to the shuttles and made our way to the gym at the school where the race starts.
I had brought a trash bag, double bagged my phone, and pretty much waterproofed myself in every way possible. The double bagging of the phone would save me, but the garbage bag was just ridiculous once the rains started. I would most closely relate the effectiveness to putting on a trash bag in the shower and then standing in it for 4 hours. It wouldn't do much good.
Starting with a pace group
The rains still hadn't come when we made our way out to the race start. It was humid and muggy with 10-12 mph winds, and there were ominous clouds in the sky. I decided before the race to start more slowly than I had originally thought because of the humidity and higher temperature (it was hotter than Disney's start). I joined the 4:30 pace group with the plan of running the first half with them. The thought process was that I'd run behind people in the pace group to block the wind, so I would essentially get a bit of a drafting effect off the front line of the pace group until the turn around.
The winds were in our face for the first half, and my plan worked seamlessly. I was lucky that there was a larger man running with the group that seemed to want to be the group leader, so I tucked in behind him and he didn't seem to mind. The first 5 or so miles with that group were uneventful, and I kept thinking to myself, "this is too slow." I then reminded myself that in a marathon that's what you should be thinking for the first bit. I stuck with the pacer and didn't do a lot of thinking through the first 10 or so miles.
I took a gel at mile 5 and 10, and I took 2 salt pills at miles 5 and 10 as well. I drank water at ever aid station, and when the Powerade was first offered I slurped those cups down as well. I will say that one of the mainstays and successes of my day was my nutrition. I feel like I ate and drank at just the right times, and I know that was part of my success for the day.
I say that I didn't think about much until mile 5, because mile 5 is when the rain first started. It started light enough at first, and over time and as the day passed turned into monstrous showers. I was glad to be in a group because it made me feel like I was running with people instead of running alone. We didn't talk, but I knew they were all there and it was the same faces.
Here are my splits for the whole day so you can see my slow start.
The pacer was pretty on point except for a few miles here and there.
At mile 10 I needed to go to the bathroom and we came on a portopotty that was full. I didn't want to wait so I ran on. There were more at mile 12 and I did make the stop this time. My stomach had been feeling just a tad off all day from the mixing of fuels, but it wasn't any emergency of any sort. I lost about a minute there, but you can't see it in the splits because I picked it up to catch up with the pace group during the same mile.
On my own
I had been thinking about when to leave the pace group for a couple of miles. I didn't want to move too soon and hit a wall again, but at the same time I knew I was feeling a little too comfortable running at this pace that I probably could have held all day. The rains were torrential for a few of the miles towards the end of my time with the pace group, but they had slowed a little around mile 15 if I remember correctly. It was during that period that I started thinking I could make it on my own and didn't need the support of a group anymore. The rains were probably on their way out of town (note to self: never make assumptions about rain when you haven't seen a forecast or radar in hours).
So at mile 15.5, I believe, I picked it up just a little bit to get out in front of the pace group. And from then until 22 the rains just got worse and worse and worse. There was a period of time when the sky was so dark around mile 17 when we were in the park loop at the bottom of the course map that I honestly looked at the sky and wondered if the sun had just decided to set early. The rains continued. And I pushed on with a smile on my face because of the thought of how ridiculous we all looked.
I just know spectators who don't run or don't run marathons think marathoners are probably a little nuts, but I'm 100% certain that the spectators who saw us out there on Sunday had no doubt left in their mind. I couldn't help but laugh. I looked at a cop as rain was now dripping steadily off my Rev3 visor and yelled, "this is just silly!" He just smiled back.
But somewhere, that true insanity that I knew everyone was seeing in us came out in me, and I found myself in a happy place. Maybe it was the gels or the salt pills or the music or the solitude, but I was truly happy. I was just doing what I loved and not letting anything stop me. I truly fell in love with running at that moment. It sounds dumb. It probably is. But I didn't want to stop. I just wanted to keep running, rain or not.
And just to add a photo here, because I don't have ANY from the race yet, here's what the photo company posted on their facebook page after the race yesterday, so you can see how truly insane I may be and how truly ridiculous this race was:
Every time I hit a mile marker from 16 on, I just thought to myself, "well, you ran more than this last weekend," or, "seriously, only 7 miles? That's nothing. You can totally keep running 7 miles." So I did.
And I kept wanting to find a rabbit or someone to run with. I started picking it up again at mile 20, because Karen had left a comment on my goals post about how if it doesn't hurt I'm not going fast enough. And it wasn't really hurting physically, so I just ran a little faster. And I was passing people that were walking left and right. I guess the last 6 miles of a marathon is more like a death march. I kept looking for people that I could run with, but everyone seemed to eventually stop to walk. I saw a guy up ahead in the distance that was just pushing, and over the next 2 miles I slowly gained on him until I caught him.
And then I probably scared him a little bit. I took one headphone out and called out to him in the rain, "Hey! I've been watching you the last two miles and you haven't stopped running. We're going to run to the end together, and we're not going to stop to walk, right?"
And either because he's crazier than I am or because he was so scared he thought I might hurt him, my new friend and I just picked it up again. We didn't talk at all. I didn't know his name. I put my headphone back in and we just kept going. We walked through the last two water stops like we had been doing, and he fell a little behind with a mile to go.
I had looked at my watch and calculated at mile 24 that I could possibly run under 4:20 if I ran under a 9:00 mile pace. I had run tempos at 8:30 and just held onto that knowledge until the end of the race.
And I pushed and pushed and pushed. And I didn't realize I was going to be over 4:20 until there was about .03 miles left in the race. And I almost slowed down, but then I thought, "what is wrong with you? You've made it this far. Just push a little more."
And I finished my second marathon in 4:20:13, which is officially 15:47 faster than my Disney race. And I got my redemption. And do you know what my very first thought was?!
Well, crap, now I'll have to do another one of these things to get under 4:20. I have a feeling that's the spirit that keeps us hooked.
I didn't hit a wall. I didn't stop to walk at all besides water stops. I took a gel at 15 and 20 and salt tabs in sets of 2 more frequently through the end of the race. And I fell in love with running in the midst of mini monsoon 2013. I don't know how to explain it.
A few random thoughts:
This isn't going to make sense to anyone, and it doesn't make sense to me either, but I felt like I was running downhill the entire race. It was a super flat course, for sure, but something between wearing the visor, the grey clouds in the sky, the rain that settled in my eyes and made it a little hard to see, and hill training for a couple of long runs literally made the course in front of me look like it was slightly downhill. I kept thinking for the first 16 miles, "Ugh! This is all downhill. We're going to have to run it all back up the way back." And then when we turned around there was never a shift, and I kept just seeing the course as going slightly downhill. Clearly an out and back course cannot be downhill both ways. It was between that realization and the fact that the water was just sitting on the ground and not running "downhill" that assured me that we were running flat. That visualization impairment probably aided in keeping a positive attitude.
And just to really make you laugh, for some parts of the race when the leaders had already made the loop and were coming back while we were still running toward the loop I was actually looking at them and thinking how fast and awesome they were looking for going uphill. Again. Can't explain it.
Oh. And this is Bill, the guy I scared at mile 22. I asked to take a picture with him and asked if it was okay to post it on my blog. He said he wanted to get a picture too because he wasn't sure if I was an illusion during the race. He thanked me and I thanked him and we were on our merry way.
After sitting for a few minutes I went and found Kristin and Jennifer, who are also ZOOMA Ambassadors (Use discount code FLAAMB7 for 10% off for ZOOMA Florida on January 18th) and were volunteering. I read both of their blogs and was excited to meet them in person! Caitlyn ran the half and had to wait around on me for a little bit at the end. She got me a Mylar blanket, because by the time we finished we were so soggy it felt cold, even though it wasn't really.
Here we all are at the finish.
And that's it. That's the story of my own personal best marathon on a day where the weather was far from agreeable. I can't wait to see how much better I can do next time!
And for next time, I really do think I started out a little too slowly yesterday. After a full marathon training cycle I'll probably try to start out a little faster and pick it up a little faster from there even. But this negative split marathon is definitely something I'm really proud of! I'll share my pictures once they're posted. I know they're going to be ridiculous. I mean, I wore a trash bag for 90% of the race.