Friday, October 19, 2018

Prairie Fire Half Marathon

Originally I added the Prairie Fire Half Marathon to my fall race schedule in hopes of chasing a half marathon PR after my unofficial PR at the Aquarium Run. Thomas decided he wanted to run the full marathon there as his first marathon since the course would be nice and flat compared to the decently hilly Route 66 course. I felt really confident that I would be able to pull off a PR up until a week before the race. My tempo runs were all faster than my tempos before the Aquarium Run half and I had run the Corndog Challenge 5k while eating food in 20:15 compared to the 20:25 I ran at the St. Patrick's Day 5k, both races were 3 weeks out from race day. So I was confident I was speedier than I had been in the spring and I also knew my endurance was better since I've been running 15-22 mile long runs all fall.
A week out from race day all the sudden my left glute and hamstring were really irritated again. I ran on Thursday evening and everything felt mostly normal. I ran slower than I expected but definitely didn't feel anything off with my glute or hamstring. Then Friday morning those muscles hurt so much I barely managed sub-10:00 pace and cut my run short at 3 miles. I was scared and I wasn't sure what to do. I was afraid to do too much and further irritate the muscles so close to a race but I also didn't want to race in pain. I dropped my workout for race week, took an extra day off, and dropped my mileage more than I had planned. I hoped the more drastic taper would help and possibly I'd still be able to pull off a PR. I told myself I could be surprised on race day because I didn't expect to run a PR at the Aquarium Run either and I had. I added back in some physical therapy exercises my PT had given me in the spring and said once things were healed I could get by with just doing a couple times a week. I started doing them every day instead but was afraid to add in anything else in fear of irritating my muscles further and having a bad race. After the race when my glute and hamstring were super painful we replaced my exercise ball which had popped with a new one so I could add in the other exercises I had stopped doing when my ball broke. In retrospect we should have done that before the race and possibly I could have gotten things more manageable before race day, but at the time I was afraid to do too much all at once and risk making the situation worse. With how quickly the muscles felt better once I got the exercise ball I was really irritated with myself for not getting one sooner. But now a week out from starting those exercises everything is much better but still not 100% so it may not have been enough of an improvement to run a PR anyway.

At the race expo on Saturday evening I found myself wishing I was running the full marathon. I was afraid to run fast and was more confident in my ability to run a medium pace for a longer amount of time. I was a little jealous of Thomas who would be competing in the full marathon. I was still excited and held onto hope that I would get out there on race day and surprise myself. There's always that chance. I felt more confident in my ability to run 7:05-7:10 pace on my bum glute than sub-7:00 pace. I was thinking 1:33 was a reasonable goal and thought it would be fun to finally run a 1:33. I've run every time from 1:31-1:38 at least once except for 1:33, so it's about time! My plan for the race was to go out relaxed and hope my glute would hold together enough to negative split the race. I was most afraid of going out too hard and really bombing at the end and being in pain. The forecast showed 40-50 degrees during the race with a chance of rain starting at 7:00am and continuing through the entire race. People we saw at our hotel were fretting about the weather and I just flat out said, "It's going to rain." I was fine with that and mentally prepared for less than ideal conditions. It was easy not to worry about the rain when I had bigger issues with my tight muscles to worry about!

We left the hotel a little before 7:20 for the 7:30 race start, nothing better than being within walking distance of the start line. I went into the corral with Jeremy, Thomas, and Jack (Thomas' friend who he planned to run the race with, it was both of their first marathons). Then I decided to go ahead and ditch my warm ups rather than wearing them into the corral and then trying to find mom and dad to pass them over the fence. When I walked back up beside Jack wearing a tank top and shorts he thought I was crazy, but really it was perfect. I had my race team tank on, shorts, a headband, and gloves. My shorts, headband, and gloves were all blue which I thought might make it easier for mom and dad to spot me. Thomas and Jack saw a 3 hour pace group and stopped to start behind it. Jeremy and I walked further up and saw a 5 hour pace group. We debated going back to tell Thomas and Jack but were already pushing it on getting up in the corral where we needed to be. We positioned ourselves a ways back from the 1:30 pace group. It wasn't until after the race when I was talking to Thomas that we realized the 3 hour pace group had been for the half-marathon, not the full marathon. He said they had to walk for a while and then when they started running had to run around 10:00 pace.

We took off at the start and it started to rain almost immediately. I didn't mind the rain and was mentally prepared for it so I didn't really notice it too much. I saw mom and dad to the right of the course and started waving at them. They didn't see me and I just kept waving at them. I was laughing when I yelled out at them because I was so close to them I felt like I was going to whack mom in the face while I waved. I found out later that she was taking a video and that's why she missed me. The middle section of the roads where there were left turn lanes were completely painted to look really pretty but those patches of paint on the road were super slippery so I found myself having to weave around people to avoid slipping on the paint. Jeremy was running with me for the first mile or so. I could feel that my glute and hamstring were really tight but the pace felt pretty relaxed. I went through the first mile in 7:07 and was pleased with that. I definitely wanted to start slower and work my way down, if possible. The first few miles I was passing people the whole way. During the 2nd mile my glute and hamstring had loosened up. I could still feel that they were sore but they didn't feel super tight like they had during the first mile. I didn't feel like I'd sped up at all and was pleased to find I'd gone through the 2nd mile in 7:00 flat. During the 3rd mile we ran out on a road and then turned around and ran back. It was nice to see who was out in front of me and I counted that I was the 6th woman. Jeremy was close enough behind me that I didn't see him when I turned around and was going back the other way. I was watching for Thomas and Jack but missed them. I did see my friend who works at the running store and cheered for her. I enjoyed hearing cheers from the runners still going out on the road, telling me I was a top woman. Mile 3 was 6:58 and I was feeling good! My mantra for the early miles was, run patient. I felt really in my element.
Somewhere around in those first miles I pulled my gloves off and stuffed them in the waist band of my shorts. I had also decided to wear my sunglasses on my head just in case the sun came out and they were bouncing around a bit so I tucked the sides down into my headband. I saw mom and dad around mile 4, I think, and tossed them my gloves. It was having a lot of fun and really running joyfully. I smiled at spectators and thanked the volunteers out on the course. I found that every time I smiled I got a little pick me up. I went through mile 4 in 6:54 and started to think maybe a PR would be possible. If I kept slowly inching my pace down I could possibly get there. I felt good and really believed I could continue to pick the pace up with each mile. Then as we started mile 5 it started pouring down rain. It rained so hard and so fast that my shoes immediately filled with water and my feet felt so heavy. I got a little down and found myself wanting to give up. It was amazing how quickly my attitude changed. But I picked my head up, looked forward, and powered on. Although I was looking forward, it was raining so much I could hardly see. When I made it to the half-marathon/marathon split it was still raining so hard I couldn't read the signs but luckily knew black was for the half and yellow was for the full so was able to go the correct way. A woman in the marathon wasn't so lucky. Thomas said she came onto the course near them and had gone the wrong way and had to back track to get back on the marathon course. I was a little discouraged when I went through mile 5 in 7:22. I knew it would be hard to make up enough time in the last 8 miles to offset that mile. The rain continued to steadily pour down and I kept thinking how glad I was that I wasn't running the full marathon. Even after the rain died down there were huge puddles of water and some fast moving water that we joked were little rivers. After the race the timing company posted that they were missing a lot of the splits because the water got so high it ruined some of their equipment. I told myself that I could do this because I ran my 8 mile tempo during a torrential downpour and still managed to finish in a 7:08 average pace. Around that time I ran past a volunteer who yelled, "You can't train for this on a treadmill." I thought that was hilarious and told Ty later when we got home. He said, "You could, it would just ruin your treadmill."

I went through mile 6 in 7:02 and told myself a PR wasn't out yet. I knew I'd run a couple slower miles in the middle of the Aquarium Run and told myself if I could pick it up in the second half of the race I'd have a chance. I went through the 10k mark of the race around 44:20. I ate my Gu a little bit after the 10k mark. Mile 7 was 7:07 and at that point I knew a PR wasn't going to happen. I started thinking I was actually glad my body wasn't in a place to go for a PR because it would be disappointing to be running a PR caliber race but have the conditions keep me from doing it. At least I didn't have the heavy rain to thank for not hitting a PR, I could thank my irritated glute and hamstring for that! The rain weighing my shoes down definitely irritated things even further because it was more work for my glute and hamstring to lift my legs with the heavier shoes. During mile 8 was the blue mile. They had photos of veterans who lost their lives during service. I looked down at the faces as I ran by and felt myself getting choked up. They all looked so young, just babies! Then once we passed the photos the street was lined with people dressed in blue ponchos, holding flags. Their energy was amazing and perked me back up after the emotion. My split for mile 8 was 7:12 and I told myself to just try to get back under 7:10 pace if I could. During the second half of the race my mantra became, only ___ miles to go, one mile at a time! I tried to focus on the mile I was in and doing what I could in that mile rather than focusing on how many I had left. But the miles were ticking by so quickly. The race really was going by fast and I was enjoying it. After the 8 mile mark the rain finally slowed down and was just a regular rain rather than a downpour to where I couldn't really see.
You can see how soaked my shorts were from all the rain!
You can also see how off my form was, thanks to my tight glute and hamstring.
With 4 miles to go I could see a pack of 3 men ahead of me. I started working on catching them. I felt strong and knew I would have a good finish to the race. I was really pleased with how I'd run the race. I felt like I'd run a really smart race and hadn't forced a pace that just wasn't there on this day. My split for mile 9 was 7:00 and I felt strong. I had passed one of the guys who'd fallen off the pack and was gaining on the other 2 runners. I felt like I was speeding up more than I really was because I was reeling them in so quickly. A volunteer yelled, "You go, little mama," at me which cracked me up. I had some others say, "You go girl! Go get those men!" I thought to myself, I'm going to! I had a few botched water stops during this race. I'm not sure what all contributed to that but I missed a cup at one, sprayed water up my nose at another, and smashed a cup spraying water all over a volunteer at another. I know it couldn't have been because I was running fast as I've run faster with no issues, so who knows. Maybe my fingers were cold and causing me issues. I checked my overall pace and saw I was averaging 7:05 pace which would be a 1:33 half. I told myself I needed to run at least 7:05 for the rest of the race. I noticed that the further I went the more tired my glute got and I wasn't able to lift my left leg as far off the ground as I was my right. I noticed it because I kept scuffing my left shoe on the ground. When I didn't lift my leg as high, my hamstring got sore, so I tried to focus on my leg lift to ensure I lifted it enough off the ground.
Once I hit my stride at the end of the race with 7:00-7:02 pace I kept clicking them off. Mile 10 was 7:02 and so was mile 11. We ran past a dead opossum around in here and it smelled really bad. The marathon came through where the opossum was around mile 16 and a woman was looking at her phone and accidentally stepped on the opossum! I felt like I was really kicking it into another gear during mile 12 but we had so many turns it was hard to get going. I passed the other 2 guys around in here. Then I got passed and thought it was one of them coming back for me but saw it was someone else I hadn't seen at all during the race. I told myself no one else could pass me without me surging to go with him/her after that. Mile 12 was 7:00 and as I took off for mile 13 I told myself to hit 6:54 or under so the last mile could be my fastest. I started reeling the guy in front of me in a little during the mile. Other than him it was pretty much no man's land. The race was really spread out. I ran mile 13 in 6:54 and then when I realized I could see the finish line I took off sprinting. When I saw the finish line I knew it would be close whether I ran a 1:33 or just under. I ended up finishing just over 1:33 as my gun time, but my chip time was 1:32:55. I ran the last portion of the race in 6:10 pace.
When I stopped running and started walking I was surprised that I wasn't really breathing that hard and didn't feel like I'd just raced a half marathon. I think that in part has to do with it being a flat course which is easier on your legs but I think it was also due to the fact that since my glute and hamstring were so tight I just wasn't able to race at my max. Later in the day my right leg felt fully recovered like I hadn't even run a race while my left glute and hamstring throbbed so much it hurt to stand or sit. The only way it didn't hurt was to walk around. Even feeling and knowing that, I wasn't disappointed. I had so much fun, felt like I executed the race perfectly, and still ran a decent time. I was pumped up to say the least! I watched Jeremy finish and he looked great. Usually at the finish of a half or full marathon he looks like he's leaning to one side, favoring his injured hip but he looked awesome finishing the race. We walked through the chute together and were immediately met by mom and dad. We headed straight to the car so we could get out on the marathon course to cheer for Thomas.
I hadn't really felt all that cold until we got to the car and then I was freezing thanks to being soaking wet! I changed into dry clothes while dad drove to the first spot but my shoes were wet so my feet were still cold. I was so excited to get out and cheer for Thomas and Jack. When he ran by he wanted to know what our finishing times were. He looked like he was just out loafing along, not running a race. He look very comfortable. They were running a really smart race. They started at 9:00 pace and worked down to low 8:40's and high 8:30's for most of the rest of the way. We saw them at mile 16, mile 21, mile 24, and then again at the finish. Thomas said Jack's family saw them 3-4 times as well and all at different spots so they had lots of support. Thomas still looked great at mile 21 but then at mile 24 Jack smiled when we cheered but Thomas no longer did. I could tell he was starting to hurt a bit. For me miles 24 and 25 are the hardest miles of a marathon, then mile 26 isn't bad. We made it to the finish line just in time to see Jack finish. We weren't sure if we'd missed Thomas finish or if he'd fallen behind Jack. Then we saw him finish a little bit later. His calves had started cramping up the last few miles. Likely because he was feeling great at mile 20 so they decided to pick up the pace and ran 8:08 and 8:01 for miles 21 and 22. He still had an awesome race and averaged 8:45 pace! It was definitely a great first marathon. He says it will also be his last, he has no plans to run another.

I've been doing all my PT exercises multiple times a day and everything is already feeling a lot better. I'm kicking myself for not buying a new exercise ball when things got irritated again. I wonder if I could have had my muscles back to normal in time for the race if I had. But I'm not going to let that bother me and I'm not going to worry about it or obsess over what could have been. I made mistakes and I will move on and learn from it for the future. Now I know if my glute gets irritated I need to immediately address it with all my PT exercises, no matter what. I'm just glad this wasn't something that will put an end to my season or foil my marathon in 5 weeks. Overall maybe it was a good thing because I'm recovering better from the race since I wasn't able to race all out. Because of that I was able to get my 20 mile long run in just 3 days after the race to give me more recovery time before the Tulsa Run 15k and I can race a 5k this weekend.

I finished the race in 1:32:55 which was 7:03 pace according to my Garmin. That put me 27th out of 1,032 overall, 6th out of 600 women, and 2nd out of 111 in my age group. Jeremy finished in 1:36:02 which put him 39th overall and 8th out of 64 in his age group. Thomas finished the marathon in 3:53:40, 86th out of 329 overall and 8th out of 21 in his age group. The marathon was a lot smaller than I realized and was super spread out. I was surprised that Thomas and Jack weren't running in huge groups of people at the pace they were running but then realized I was comparing to Route 66 which has over a thousand more finishers! It was such a good thing Thomas and Jack had each other since the race was so much smaller and way more spread out than any marathon I've ever run. We had such a wonderful weekend and I was so glad I got to be there to watch Thomas run his first and possibly last marathon! Now on to races nearly every weekend from now until marathon day!


  1. You had an amazing race all-considering! It's crazy how much difference our bodies being a little off can make; running that close to your PR on a problematic glute and hamstring is really amazing (not to mention in a downpour for awhile!)! I am also really glad you're getting it rehabbed and it's responding well.

    That is a small marathon, so I can see how they ended up running alone. I ran 20 miles of it completely alone (after the half split off) when I ran it! Congrats to Thomas on his first marathon, although I hope he gets the bug and it's not his only. :-) Did you know Scott Chichon (from Pitt) got led off the course by one of the lead cyclists and ended up running about 1.5 miles extra and still got 3rd overall?!

    I think you're in a really good spot for your marathon in a few weeks!

    1. Thanks, I was really pleased with the race. I was tempted to try to force a pace out of my current ability but I was proud of myself for running smart instead!

      I can't imagine running a marathon alone! Thomas was so glad he and Jack had chosen to run it together since it was so spread out. I saw Scott placed 3rd but had no idea he was lead off course, that sucks! Was he in first place at the time? It was hard to follow course markers with the rain because we couldn't see some of them!

    2. He was in 2nd when he was led off course, then when he got back on he was in 5th. He worked his way back up to 3rd, but his time nowhere near reflected his pace (he averaged 6:10, so would have been 2:42ish, but instead had a 2:53 with the extra distance).

      You ran smart! It's hard not to force the pace but especially in that weather it wasn't the day to do it.

  2. I saw on facebook that Scott had been led off course. That would be awful.