‘Run Smart, Run Hard, Good Things Will Happen’

12/24/2016 - 14:54

By Tracy Green

568175_241648323_XLarge.jpg Months and miles of training, all leading up to one morning to put it all out there and see what you’ve got. To hope what you think you’ve got is, in reality, what you’ve got.

Dozens of weeks, thousands of steps, without wavering because the the task ahead does not care about excuses. No missed days, no missed workouts, no pity parties. Early mornings, late nights, some days both.

From not counting down to race day at all, to counting weeks, to counting sleeps.

From sweating August 20 milers to sweating the details.

And then — it arrives.

On Nov. 4, my husband and I headed north for the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

Heading into this race, I didn’t exactly have a race plan. I talked to my coach, Matt Ebersole of Personal Best Training, the week of the race and discussed some of my goal times.

"If you run 3:03 [my original B goal, and 4 minutes off my spring PR], we’ll sit down and figure out what we need to change. 3:01 would be okay. 2:59:59 is a lot more exciting than 3:00:10, but don’t focus too much on the splits.”

But then he opened the door: “How far under 3 can you go? I’m not going to guess at that.”

There it was. It was on the table that he thought I was ready, and I thought I was ready, so …

Ultimately, he said to “let the race come to you,” which I completely agreed with. I was worried if I went out explicitly trying to break 3 hours and hit 6:50 pace every mile, it would be overwhelming. And what if the course was long or my watch was off? I needed to rely on my ability to assess my perceived effort.

“Run smart, run hard, and good things will happen,” wrote coach in an email to the team later in the week.

This was my first time as part of an “elite” field, so there was a meeting to discuss some details and drop off our water bottles.

Race morning breakfast was wheat toast onto which I put a chocolate-hazelnut Hammer Gel. For my long runs, I have been taking a gel before and that’s it, so I wasn’t planning to eat very much.

My husband, Chris, and I warmed up with a couple of girls I know, including my PBT teammate Jen, running laps around the government building that was also housing the elite hospitality room.

I lined up with Jen and Chris — none of us had a formal plan to run together, but we were all hoping to run about the same time. And I had recently run half marathons with them both! (Jen had just run 3:01 something at Chicago, but was disappointed and thought she had a better race in her.)

I had mantras for different sections of the course, broken up by where my water bottles would be. My first 8 miles: “Calm and comfortable."

Around mile 6, my watch lost the GPS signal and I have no useful splits until later.

The half splits off just past the 7 mile marker, and I felt great. Just cruising. We had our little pack together. At mile 8 I snagged my first water bottle and gel, and moved on to mantra 2: “Confident and courageous.” I wanted to remind myself for the next 6 miles that I had done the work and this was just another day. Don’t back down, don’t get nervous. Just run.

We went through 10 miles in 65 minutes, which was a little alarming just because my 10 mile PR from January is 65 minutes. We caught one girl somewhere around mile 10, and another girl caught us a few miles later, and those are literally the only women I saw during the entire race.

The 10 mile marker was a good mental checkpoint because it meant just 16 miles left — and 16 miles is a short Saturday workout day. Just focus and think of it like any other workout. Don’t get comfortable, keep my foot on the gas.

Our pack of three comes through halfway in 1:28:24 (officially, I think it said about 1:28:30 on the clock when we crossed), and I said to Jen, “Okay, now let’s just do that all over again!”

I was feeling great, mentally and physically. It would’ve been easy at halfway to get scared — I had just lowered my half PR in September to 1:28 (although 3 weeks later I ran 1:26).

I whiffed snagging my next water bottle at 14 and literally had to spin around and grab it. In hindsight I should’ve just let it go, because I had an extra gel with me in case that happened.

Mantra for miles 14-20: Strong and smooth. I lost Jen up ahead but didn’t fret, I just relaxed and got my nutrition in and held the effort, knowing I’d catch back up. I wasn’t really sure where Chris was behind me at this point, although I couldn’t easily see him any more so I figured he had slipped back.

The hills on this course — which are not significant — are in the 16-18 area. I had eased back up to Jen and some other folks but I ended up passing her on a hill. Chris saw her drop out at 17.

Running through Butler University is always a fun part of the course, and then through a park and around the front of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

I had calculated that if I made it to mile 20 by 2:15, I was on-track for 3 hours with a cushion. When I passed the marker, I was on track and grabbed my last water bottle, took maybe one swig and ate about half of the gel. I had been drinking water at most of the aid stations along the way, so I didn’t need the fluids. They were mostly a back-up in case it was hot and I needed the electrolytes (and more fluids in general).

Mantra 20-finish: "Bombs away." From the Geronimo song … and I wrote Geronimo on the bottle because I thought dropping off a bottle with unknown fluid in it that said “bombs away” might make race organizers uncomfortable. But “bombs away” was a perfectly recallable phrase to remind me to give it everything I had left.

I had been hand-splitting my watch at the mile markers, hoping the GPS would catch back up. Finally around 20 it was almost back on track.

This was starting to get into the carnage part of the race, although it seems like the faster you’re going, the more prepared people are and so there are fewer blow-ups. Not totally though — I had passed back a number of guys from earlier. Any time I saw someone stopped, I’d encourage them to keep moving, start walking, hang in there.

At 23.5, we made a sharp right and rejoined the half course. Monumental gets major props for having this entire section coned off and doing a good job keeping half-marathoners on one side and marathoners on the other.

The somewhat questionable feedback I’m getting from my watch is that I’m still in the 6:45-6:50 range, even though I feel like I’m going so slow. There’s so much more crowd support plus all the half marathoners, so this stretch was really motivating.

There aren’t many guys ahead of me and I’m trying to chase them down one at a time, and drag them in, too.

We make a turn just before 26 and there’s a bunch of running group tents on the sidewalk and a ton of people. I see the orange of PBT and people are cheering for me — I am SO excited and finally realizing/accepting that this dream of breaking 3 hours is really going to come true. I’m not going to blow up, crash out, fall short. I still feel good, and I just have to run for a few more minutes.

I make the last right, with just a few hundred meters to go. The crowd is huge, there’s music, and I’m staring down the finish line. I can read the clock, I think, but I’m not sure because it seems to say 2:56, which does not seem right AT ALL. AT ALL.

But it really does. I see it roll over to 2:57 and I’m looking across the line to see if Coach Matt is there. All the race officials are in orange, so I’m having a hard time figuring it out, but as I get close I know he’s there because he’s standing in the middle of the lane yelling for me.

Last steps. Arms up. Arms up more. Huge smile. Huge hug from coach. Tears. More happy yelling by coach. More tears by me.

Officially 2:57:03.

Chris comes through in 3:03, a PR for him after a very long time (like 8 years at least) and a big BQ especially since he just went up an age group.

While I’m standing at the finish line, they start playing Geronimo! How crazy.

We check the results tent and get printouts, where I find out I was the 9th female finisher overall (!!!) and that my splits for the halves were 1:28:24 and 1:28:40. You don’t get a lot more even than that!

My average pace was 6:46 — the same pace as the last mile of my blind marathon pace workout the Saturday before.

My legs are tired but my heart is happy. All the work paid off. I ran smart, I ran hard, and good things happened. Now to recover mentally and physically, and reset for spring.

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