Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Respect: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

I'm a firm believer that if you put your mind to something, and you want it bad enough, you'll get it. That's not to say that there won't be bumps in the road, setbacks, or a plan that will likely require some tweaking along the way. But if you can put your head down and keep that focus where it belongs, it'll come.

I ran my first marathon in the Spring of 2010. Only 2 weeks before I graduated from the University of Illinois. I found a way to enjoy my final semester of college with some lifelong friends while I trained for my first marathon. It wasn't easy. And I had one of my worst race days ever that day. But I made it.

Mile 1 - Illinois Marathon - Circa 2010
It's been just shy of 2 weeks since I crossed the finish line of my 11th marathon. And guess what? It wasn't any easier than when I first did it 6 years ago.  The marathon is a funny, awful, intriguing beast that I can't stop going back to. But Megan, you've done 4 Ironman's. How in the world could a marathon possibly be harder than an Ironman? Quite the opposite, my dear friends. Pull up a chair, let's chat.
Checked in and ready to run!
I rolled into Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Friday afternoon with Rob and my brother. We checked into the hotel, dropped our bags, and made our way to the convention center to pick up my packet. I was entering some serious deja vu. Mark had raced this marathon last year. We stayed in the the same hotel. Our path to packet pickup was identical. I was just as un-impressed with the expo this year as I was last year. But who cares about the expo when you're there to run. I wasn't nervous. Not even a little. The entire time, I made sure to keep reminding myself, "Tomorrow's long run is going to be just a little longer but definitely more fun."

The 3 of us met up with Jess for dinner. She was running the half marathon the next day. Ian {running his first full marathon} and Lindsey agreed to meet up with us in the morning. We found our seat and the TVs in the bar were still showing highlights and interviews from the Chicago Cubs World Series win. Being a die hard Cubs fan like you wouldn't believe, I had just spent the last month watching some of the greatest baseball I've ever seen. I watched my dad and brother cleanse their souls as the Chicago Cubs slowly checked off the 11 wins it took to wipe away the 108 year curse. I had more adrenaline in my veins watching post-season baseball than I care to admit, and I had never been this motivated to succeed.

Mark tried to entertain us before bed time

I woke up 3 hours before the gun went off, thanks to multiple alarms and Nate {who works the graveyard shift and promised to blowup my phone until I responded}. Pre-race rituals are pretty non-existent to me. I require a cup of coffee and a banana at the bare minimum. The rest? Meh, give me my shoes and I'm good to go.

Rob, Mark, and I made our way to the corrals pretty early. Shortly after, Jess, Ian, Lindsey and Brittany found us. We hugged hello, I stripped my sweats, and we all hugged goodbye. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some high expectations of myself for this race. I had run all of my long runs well under a BQ pace {Boston Qualifying pace ~ 3:35 marathon; 8:12min/mile pace}. I'm notorious for slumping earlier than most, usually around mile 17-18. And during this round of training, I had made it through my 16, 18, and 20 mile runs without any issues and ran them all under an 8 minute pace. But.. we all know that the marathon doesn't really start until mile 20.

The gun went off and it was time to execute. Step 1: Keep the first miles relaxed and easy. The plan was to run the first 2-3 miles just over an 8 minute pace. Don't get to caught up in the excitement. When my watch beeped and I saw 7:55 for mile 1, I definitely contemplated whether or not I should tell Ryan how fast I ran the first mile. However, it definitely could have been worse. I couldn't have felt better. By the time mile 2 came around, I spotted Mark on his bike. He found a way to cruise within 100 feet of me until mile 16 {when his phone died and he took off to claim his charger for the end of the race. Ugh, boys.}.  I approached the Monument Circle and the runners turned right while Mark pealed off to the left. Crowds were heavy and as I approached our hotel I heard Rob yell my name. I flashed my pearly whites, waved hello, and continued on.

Blurry pictures make me look fast :)

By mile 5, we entered an older neighborhood. Soon, Mark had some good news for me. Jess was only a few strides behind me! She inched her way closer and closer until soon we were running side by side. I welcomed her company with open arms and was so sad we only had a few miles together. Just before the split I told her she was on pace to run a sub - 1:45 half. Her jaw dropped. "Stay at this pace and you'll definitely see a 1:44." I told her. I was sad to see her peal off at the split.

Cruisin' and feelin' good!
The miles passed by 1 by 1 and they continued to feel effortless. I was feeling SO good that I promised myself after a super relaxed mile 12 {7:59, all miles had been between 7:52 and 7:59 at this point}, I was allowed a "fast" mile. Mile 13 clocked in at 7:37 and I kept the next 2 at 7:45. Alright, funs over. I settled back into my high 7:50 pace and was glad to have my brother by my side to keep me distracted. Until he wasn't there anymore. Somehow his phone went from 80% - 1% in minutes so he pealed off the course to venture back to our hotel and get his charger so he could use his phone at the end of the race.

The miles started to slow ever so slightly after mile 16. I dipped into the 8:00 mile range a few times {8:01 and 8:05} but still felt extremely relaxed. I didn't push the pace because I had to remind myself that I still had 10 miles to go. If I could stay in the 8:00-8:10 range for the last 10 miles I'd be the happiest girl alive.

Closing in on mile 20 I started to get nervous. The real test was about to start. Just after mile 20 I saw Rob on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this is also where my race started to fall apart. Somehow within a matter of 60 seconds I went from running on top of the world to feeling like I was running with the world on my shoulders. My stomach was in knots, my legs were heavier than lead, and I was struggling to find that motivation I once had. Mile 21 I did the best I could to stretch out my legs and my diaphragm, praying I would get some life back in my aching body. By mile 22 I was on the side of the road trying to find a way to get myself to puke. Definitely not ideal, but I knew I'd feel like a new woman if I could empty my stomach. I could even have a shot at finishing this race the way I started it, if only my body would cooperate.

In all honesty, the last few miles are a blur. Being passed by the 3:35 pace group at mile 23 was the icing on the cake. I knew I was capable of a 3:30 marathon and literally watching my chance at a BQ slip away at the very end stung pretty bad. I struggled to run for more than 3 minutes at a time. When I ran, I trudged. Somehow, I found a way to make it to the final turn. Shortly before the turn, Jess popped up on the course next to me and started to hug me. She was so excited to see me and I was in so much pain I could barely respond to her. I wanted to tell her that everything hurt and that I was worried about actually falling over, but even that was too much effort. She pealed off the course and left me to finish the race.

If this doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will..

So many feels for such a simple picture ❤❤
I crossed the finish line and the clock read 3:41. I missed my BQ by 6 minutes, but still walked away with a 19 minute PR. It had been almost 2 years since I ran an open marathon, 3 years since I'd PR'ed in the marathon, and today I proved that hard work and persistence pays off. I can't say that I'm not a little disappointed. I know what I'm capable of. My performance at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon was by far my best marathon, but I'm still a little hungry for more.

This marathon distance, it's a beast. I could say the same for the Ironman distance, but there's something about 26.2 miles at a "race pace" that continues to absolutely break me down. This distance is something that demands respect. It can humble even the most egotistical of minds. Finishing it is an amazing accomplishment. Finishing it at an uncomfortable pace while keeping your body held together is an entirely different ball game. One that I haven't mastered quite yet. But don't worry, I'm not done.  I'm about to switch back into full blown triathlon mode here soon, but I'm a runner to my core. My running shoes will forever be packed in my bag and ready for me when I need them.

I mean, how lucky can 1 girl be?  I was able to lace my shoes and do what I love with my 2 favorite boys. {Let's get real, how often do I do any of this stuff without Mark or Rob, or both of them by my side? #marklovestobethethirdwheel} I shared the course with one of my best friends {who just so happened to run that 1:44 half marathon I mentioned earlier}. AND - I was able to support Ian as he crossed the finish line of his very first marathon. I wanted to cry I was so happy for him.

I literally almost fell this hurt so bad.

Maybe Ian and I are using each other for support, maybe we're not?
The 2016 season is just about over, but not without a holiday fun-run or 2. {Gotta earn those cookies and milk somehow!} This fall has been something my heart and soul needed. I took a step back and went back to roots. I lived a little more relaxed while I logged some fast miles on foot. Rob, Mark, and I were able to see my cousin's hard work pay off when Cam came to Chicago and kicked off her Burning House Tour. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. I even ran away to the Smoky Mountains last weekend and caught up with my best friend/college roommate, her husband, and their newly adopted 8 week old pup. {sheppard/hound mix. Totes adorbs.} But it's time to get back on the saddle and start counting laps again. 2017 is right around the corner and I'll be damned if it isn't shaping up already. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, Santa's coming soon 😉

Because I knew if I didn't show you a picture of the dog, you might stop reading my blog forever.

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