Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Guest Blogger: Nikki's new 3:07 PR at The Rehoboth Beach Marathon! 12/5/15

I have featured a race report by Nikki before, but I could not resist asking her to please share her experience at Rehoboth. If there was ever an example of how to run a race with control and confidence, here it is.  People have great races that often surprise them.  But that is not what happened here.  Nikki showed up with a plan and then stuck to it. That is one of the hardest things for a marathoner to do. It takes complete discipline and control. It takes letting other pull away and not drag you past your redline…  It takes knowing yourself and what you want to do despite everything happening around you.  But once a marathoner understands that it is possible for him or her to negative split the marathon, limitations are annihilated and massive personal records can be set.

Congratulations Nikki!  Almost 20 minutes off your marathon PR in just 7 months!  You work so very hard and it shows!  I am happy to see how wonderful you are doing! Thank you for sharing your experience here and letting me be a part of your journey!

I’m cruising down Rehoboth Avenue in the low 6s… slow down. Half marathoners and marathoners alike start to pass me from all sides. I love running a race where the marathon and half marathon start together because the half marathoners go out SO fast. It’s fun to be part of but it is tempting to press the paces early when you run with half marathoners… 640s, still too fast so I continue to pump the brakes as we weave through town. Somewhere around 7:05 pace I decided I had probably slowed down enough over the last few tenths of a mile to find “marathon pace” so I settled in… First mile, 7:08.

Over the next two miles as we kept to the streets of Rehoboth I focused on my breath. This had been a really good indicator of things to come at the Liberty Half Marathon. I was cautiously optimistic… breathing was easy and I was feeling much better than I had at Wineglass at this point but it was so early. So much could go wrong. And what is with all this headwind? (Miles 2 and 3, 7:14 and 7:19)

We entered the first trail portion of the race around mile 3. I thought I was going to hate this, but with the trail came a break from the wind so for the moment I felt relieved. The spectators were few and far between and for me trail running is a pace killer, but it was on the trail that the marathon broke from the half marathon and it was so peaceful and scenic. I was surprised to see a 7:13 on my watch at mile 4. Maybe trail running wasn’t so bad.

My ride on the trail running bandwagon ended a mere mile later with my slowest mile of the race. Mile 5 in 7:28. I tried not to panic, but I could feel my turnover slowing a bit. Was I already falling apart? I pressed a little bit to try and get back to my goal pace of between 7:15 and 7:20. Mile 6 and 7 were perfect but they felt harder than they should and I was starting to hate this trail running thing again. (7:17 and 7:20). We hit a fairly steep decline during mile 8 so I decided to seize the opportunity to pick up a little time and try and kick start my legs again. It totally worked! I came through mile 8 at 6:56 feeling rejuvenated and confident. Mile 8 was where I knew things were going to go awry at Wineglass so I did another body check. I felt incredible. Like holy cow incredible… but again, it was still so early and there was so much race left. I settled back into my prescribed pace. Mile 9 and 10 in 7:17 and 7:20. Chronotrack had set up a 10 mile split. I didn’t have the exact number in my head at the time but per the website I came through this marker at 1:12:49. (7:17 average pace).

Back on the road I moved from third female to fourth female when the eventual second place female finisher came up on my right shoulder. I told her if she kept this up she would be well under 3:10 pace. I asked if that had been her goal… she said she didn’t really have a goal except to finish as this was her first marathon… WOW. Just wow. I let her go, knowing I’d never see her again. She had pulled me through mile 11 at 7:09 pace… too fast for this point in the race so I let her go and I settled back into a 7:16 pace for mile 12. This was an exciting part of the race because we had hit the turnaround of
the first out and back. There were also some spectators along this part of the course which was awesome given the trail miles were almost entirely without human contact.

A few tenths of a mile before I went back onto the trail a very nice cyclist pulled alongside me to see how I was doing. He wanted to know if I was leading the women’s race. No way, man I wasn’t even close. He offered up some words of encouragement, asked if I needed anything and off he went. Mile 13 (7:10) finished back on the trail and I was gearing up for another body check at the half. I came through the half in 1:34:44 dropping 3 seconds per mile from my average pace in just 3.1 miles. Excitement was starting to build, but I knew mile 14 was going to be a little tough and that is where Wineglass had crushed my spirits so I did my best to bury the excitement and stay focused. Mile 14, 7:09.

Something happened after mile 14. When I crested the small incline within that mile and didn’t want to simply die, I felt incredible. I realized that MAYBE, if I could hold on, I was going to break 3:10. Mile 15, 7:01. I told myself to slow down but I couldn’t… it was as though muscle memory was kicking in from all those progressions and my body said, “screw you I got this.” But mentally I was still very unsure of myself. Anything could happen it was way too early to be confident or certain of ANYTHING.

Jeff was waiting for me at mile 16. (7:02) I was surprised to see him so soon and so I just said the first thing that came into my head. “I’m going for it. I’m going under 3:10.” Yikes… was I really going under 3:10? Could I seriously manage to not fall apart at the end of a marathon??

I was back on the road and cruising along. Mile 17, 7:03. Maybe I should back off if I was to attempt a progression beginning at mile 18. Mile 18, 7:09. It was here that the cyclist I had seen up north met me for another body check. (Who is this man? Is he some sort of marathon guardian angel?) He rode along with me for a little while, offered some final words of encouragement and sent me on my way. Mile 19, 6:58.

It was right around here that we met up with the half marathoners again. They were the greatest! As I turned for the second out and back of the course, the runners on their way to the finish offered up TONS of encouragement and support. It was awesome. Mile 20, 7:00.

That incredible high was met with a crushing blow of more trail. This trail portion of the race was brutal because of the loose rocks and because I knew any chance I had of hitting the progression I had originally planned was lost. But I had less than 10K to go so I pushed on: mile 21 (7:06), mile 22 (6:59), and mile 23 (7:06).

I was starting to do a lot of math on those late trail miles. If I fall apart now I will finish at this time, and if I keep it together but slow a little from fatigue I can still hit that time… I had started picking off other runners a few miles back but this runner I came up on somewhere between 23 and 24 was one of the only ones I chatted with beyond a few pleasantries. I told him if we could keep it together we were going to come in under 3:10. “Well under,” he said. “You are going under 3:08.” STOPPIT, there is just no way. I mean maybe somewhere in the 3:08 – 3:09 range but 3:07? I don’t know I was feeling pretty tired. But with less than 3 miles to go, I could survive tired… maybe. Mile 24, 6:58. Mile 25, 6:54.

We were now back on the road and headed for home. All I had to do was hold on. It was not until this point in the race that I was absolutely certain I’d come in under 3:10. I kept thinking I could fall apart at any moment and lose 3:10 altogether. I didn’t even check my split at mile 26 (6:53). All I could do now was run as hard as I possibly could. I kicked down to a 6:43 pace through the finish. The time clock was off to the left and obstructed so I had no idea what I’d be coming in at. I caught the clock right before I crossed the line… 3:07:51 (7:11 average pace).

I hunched over, put my head in my hands, cried my eyes out for a second, and then pulled it together. I was done, and it was amazing.

I have two regrets in this race. The first is that I didn’t listen to the woman that yelled to me about how close the girl in third was. If this race had been 400 meters longer I’d have had a shot at third. I thought she was talking about a half marathoner that she mistook for a marathoner. Another pitfall of running with half marathoners I guess.

The other is that I didn’t stay for the post-race festivities. This was a fantastic race. It was well organized and super easy logistically. The spectators though few and far between in some spots were always fantastic and there was even more water stops than advertised. PLUS, the race photos were free this year! The town is adorable and I really wish we could have stayed to celebrate with the rest of the field. Next year :)

1 comment:

  1. Amazing and inspiring race report. What an incredible rally at the end! Congratulations to Nikki!