Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Detroit Marathon

Right before the finish, focusing on being able to stop.
In what is a really long and probably boring story that I'll spare you from, I ran the Detroit Marathon instead of the Chicago Marathon this year. (Short version of the story is my sister ran Chicago for the first time and I was along the sidelines to cheer her on instead of running behind her as she's faster than I am ... or so we thought ... ominous foreshadowing music).

As the Detroit Marathon is the week following Chicago, I had a 19-week training schedule, so three weeks of taper, which seriously freaked me and my body out. There were days at work that I would get up and walk around the office aimlessly to work off nervous energy (this is different than my usual aimless walking around at work because that's me just getting away from my desk for a few minutes). Add to that the fact that I had to travel to Detroit to run a course I don't know anything about and I had to go over a big bridge into Canada and worry if the border patrol was going to decide I looked like a terrorist, well let's just say, I pretty much went into this race full of nerves.

We drove in to Detroit on Friday afternoon and hit up the exp. It was your usual expo other than the fact that I had to show my passport to pick up my bib and then be told that if I had any x-rays recently they would need to scan me to make sure I wouldn't set off some sensor at the border. I asked if my recent mammogram counted, and they didn't know. So I had to go to another area to let other officials know that I indeed have had my boobs squashed recently to learn that no, mammograms are not a cause for concern, but thanks for asking.

Friday night we had a crappy dinner at a local place by the hotel out by the airport where we were staying and went to bed as early as possible as Mr. H. and Baby H. had races in the morning. Saturday morning we procured a late checkout and proceeded back into downtown Detroit for the 5k and kid's run. Mr. H., ran his first real 'race' since his hip injury during the Wisconsin Marathon. He ran a 21:01, finishing 18th overall and 3rd in his age group. It wasn't a PR, but I think he felt pretty good about the results. Baby H. ran the .83 mile kid's race. Mr. H. ran with him, and while I'm not sure of his exact placing, he proudly told me and anyone else who would listen that he ran the whole time and didn't stop even though he was getting tired. After the races, we went back to the expo for more punishment - I mean a shirt that I wanted to buy on Friday but didn't. We then high tailed it back to our hotel to check out, and then came back to the city to eat and wait for my sister to get into town so we could check into the awesome suite that she and her Hilton Honors Double Diamond holding boyfriend were able to secure for us that was RIGHT NEXT TO THE START LINE!

A little side note, I really wish I had been able to do more sight seeing of Detroit than the little bit we did. We did go to a really cool bookstore, John King Used & Rare Books, that was a block away from the hotel. And we walked a bit around the expo center and to dinner on Saturday night. Detroit feels very similar to Cleveland and it's a shame the troubles that the city is having. But it does look like there are a lot of efforts to build up the city again, and it really was a pleasure to run their marathon.

I was tempted to wear capris,
but glad I stuck with my
original outfit.
Marathon morning I woke up not too early since I had to literally go across the street to get to the start line. I applied my 4:30 pace tattoo, my 'A' plan. I met up with Sue from my CARA training group in the hotel lobby and we waited with the 100+ other runners that had taken over the lobby. It was pretty cold outside, low 30s, but I stuck with my pre-arranged clothing. I knew I wouldn't be too cold once I started, and I didn't want to have a long-sleeve shirt on in case it warmed up later. Of course I had a throw away hoodie as well as a heat sheet to keep me warm. With about 5 minutes before the first corral went off, Sue and I made it over to corral I to see if we could find the 4:30 pacer.

Ok, so waiting that long to find the pacer was probably a bad idea, but honestly, it wasn't an issue. Sue and I got into the corral and as each corral was let off in waves every minute, we didn't have to wait too long, and passed the start line about 7:17 a.m.

Miles 1-3

The first three miles were spent headed west toward the Ambassador Bridge that takes you into Canada. Sue and I had a quick first mile (9:51) and an on target second mile (10:20), but we slowed down leading up to the bridge (11:12) as the road narrowed. I'm still pretty nervous this whole time. I try deep breaths to get the butterflies to go away, but they seem to want to hang around.

Miles 4-8: Canada

Just after mile 3 we started heading up the bridge. As we went through the immigration checkpoints, there are officers making sure we all have bibs on. If you have something covering up your bib, they point a light at you and if you don't have a bib you'll get arrested. I am assuming that's what happened to the guy we saw being taken away in handcuffs. I'm not sure if he thought he'd be able to just jump into the race and make it into Canada or if something else was going on. Other than that, it was smooth sailing through immigration and we make our way up the bridge. Mile 4 was still slower than desired pace (10:53), but once we crested the bridge and go down, we made up some time: 10:14, 9:55 and 10:06. We ran along the road that hugs the river to the tunnel that took us back to Detroit. It warmed up considerably in the tunnel, but since it's so cold outside, it's no where near as bad as I had been prepared for (apparently it can be quite humid).

Miles 9 - 13

Now that we had done the bridge and Canadian portion of the race I started to calm down. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to keep the first Gu I took around mile 5 down, but the second one around 9.5 was easier on the stomach. One of the things I'd been preparing for was making sure I ate enough during the race so I didn't bonk at the end. I wasn't going to let nerves derail my plan. After the tunnel we headed west of downtown for a bit and then circle back in. The course came dangerously close to the finish at mile 13 for those running the half marathon. I had steeled myself for this because I've always said I didn't want to run a marathon with a half as I wasn't sure I could motivate myself to keep going. I shouldn't have worried, I was actually a little glad to have so many people leave the course and have some room at the half way point. My family was supposed to be at the half to cheer me on, but they missed me by mere seconds, so they say. Miles 9 and 10 were a little slow about about 10:50, but then we hit two fast miles with a 9:59 and a 10:09, before having a slow 13 mile at 10:57. However, that last mile was a little long, because I didn't lap my watch in time. For some reason I had a hard time picking out the huge blue mile marker banners even though each mile really was clearly marked.

Miles 14-19

After downtown, we headed out to the east side of the city. While several of the miles (14-16) are straight down one road, we went through some cute neighborhoods with nice crowd support. Sue and I admire the cute older houses that would cost a pretty penny in Chicago. All but one of these miles were at or below our goal pace, two being sub 10s; I check my pace tattoo and we were pretty on the money for a 4:30. At mile 18, someone had put up a wall that you could run through, which Sue did. However, that's also right around where I pulled out a bit in front of her. She caught up to me at a water stop around mile 19 and asked where the hell the island was, but that was the last I saw of her until the end.

Miles 19-26.2: Belle Isle and the Finish

Sue and me at the finish!
As Sue noted, once we had run around Belle Isle we were pretty much done. There was a bit of an incline over the bridge, but it was nothing like Ambassador Bridge. I heard someone running the other direction make a comment about the head wind, so I knew I had that to look forward too. We did a loop around part of the island and then went back over the bridge, where there was indeed a headwind. I kept a fairly even pace until the running into the head wind part. Mile 23 was slow, almost 12 minutes, and I took a longer walk through the water stop than normal. I took my final Gu and steeled myself for the final 3.2 miles. I didn't so much want to stop as I wanted it to be over. I made one final check of my pace tattoo, and honestly I thought I'd be about 5 minutes behind. I actually was a little upset I was right on pace only because that meant I had to keep pushing because making a 4:30 was going to be possible. Running on the river path was nice, if not a little windey, and I kept passing people so that was making me feel good. There was a little bit of a hill at mile 24ish that made me think of Mount Roosevelt, so at least I had that experience (ironic smiley winky face). The "last turn" really wasn't the last turn, but then I did get to the last turn at 26, could see the finish line. I looked at my watch, and even though I knew I wouldn't make my 4:30 goal as I had only 30 seconds left, I sprinted as much as I could and finished with a 4:31:09. The best part was hearing my name being called and the cheers of my family as I crossed the finish line. Oh and the gloating I get to do now that I have run a marathon faster than my sister (her time was 4:36) - though I'm pretty sure that won't stand too long since she's already talking about signing up for another marathon later this year.

Of course, hindsight being 20/20 and all that, if I hadn't walked during mile 23, maybe I would have made that 4:30 goal. But then again, maybe I needed that rest to stay on pace for the last three miles. Who knows. Sue was about 3 minutes behind me, which is a PR for her and under her goal time of 4:40. I'm so lucky to have had someone with me most of the race. And I'm so lucky to have had family there to cheer me on and support me throughout what it takes to train for a marathon. Leading up to and through yesterday I had been thinking that would be my last one. Of course, now that a whole 24 plus hours has gone by since I've finished, and the pain in my legs is starting to diminish, so is the memory of the anxiety and pain. So who knows. Do I have what it takes to run a 4:30? Do I want to find out?

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