February 27, 2016

Race Recap: 26.2 with Donna

I was about to start off by saying how my race recaps never seem to be upbeat, but really that just seems to be the marathons. Because while this race, like the marathon last November, did not go as I had planned, I still have run races and runs that I'm proud of and happy with the results. But none-the-less, for mostly my memory's sake, here is the race recap of my 26.2 with Donna.

It's called that, 26.2 with Donna, as this race was created by a three time breast cancer survivor, Donna, who runs the full every year (or at least I think she does - she did this year anyway). The run takes place in Jacksonville, Florida and ends right at the Mayo Clinic where the proceeds of the race money go. It is the only marathon (also called "The Breast Cancer Marathon" dedicated to breast cancer research (there are many other breast cancer runs/walks/events - this is just the only one with a marathon distance involved). The run goes through beach towns where the neighbors come out in full force to support the runners and it was probably the best community supported race I've done. It has a half marathon and relay as well (all on the same route) and if we were going to be living here next year I would definitely consider running again for the 10th year as I'm sure it will be even more impressive. It's a Boston Qualifying course and was so well supported and organized.

Going in to the race I felt fairly confident. I wish I did one more long training run and I wish I stayed a little more on track with my pacing during training, but generally speaking I felt ready and optimistic I could reach my goal of a sub four hour marathon. I was planning to wake up at 5:30 the morning of the race, catch the 6:30 shuttle with my friend Julie and hang out in the warm up tents until the 7:30 start time. Well, instead of getting up at 5:30 I got up a little after 2am when Mary woke up vomiting! Miles has graciously offered to sleep in the same bed as the kids (we had two double beds in our hotel) so that I could get decent(ish) sleep, but neither of us go much sleep at all when poor Mary woke up to puke and then she only wanted to sleep next to me. She would fall back asleep and then wake up again every 20-30 minutes needing to spit up/puke. We thought at first it was something she ate and thankfully Finn was spared. 

I was able to eat a good pre race breakfast (oatmeal, peanut butter, banana) and nerves were compensating plenty for any fatigue I may have been feeling from my lack of sleep. Because my friend Julie and I wanted to use the porta-potties one last time before the race we ended up pretty far back in the corals and it was so congested trying to move forward I knew I wouldn't be able to start with the 4-hour pace group. I wasn't planning on paying much attention to the pacers anyway though as they were utilizing the Galloway method for running which is a run/walk combo and I wasn't about to try that for the first time on race day. 

When the race started I felt good. I made sure to keep my pace slow despite adrenaline wanting me to go faster and planned to keep it slower for two miles, then slowly speed up to my training run pace and hope to hold that until mile 20 and then just fight through the rest. Only a little over a mile in to the race someone grabbed me and hugged me and it was my West Point roommate Katie who I had no idea was in Jacksonville! She came down last minute to run the half with her cousin and had forgotten I was running so it was such a treat to get to see her during the run (and such a great coincidence we literally ran in to one another!) We chatted for a bit then parted ways and I just tried to focus on my training and my pace. Hindsight - I wish I didn't focus on pace so much during the first half and went off feel instead as the first 14 miles we faced a pretty strong headwind and I am sure I put forth more effort to keep my pace than I would had it not been windy. None-the-less when I got to the halfway point on track to where I wanted to be, I felt good. I saw Miles and the kids around mile 17 which was a good boost, but could tell I was starting to slow a little bit in the coming miles. I saw them again at mile 20 and was happy with my time, I knew it's where I needed and wanted to be, but I was starting to get worried about how tired I was feeling. At mile 21 I knew I needed to push to stay on track, but by 22 I ran into the dreaded "wall" and I hit it hard. Right around this time the run goes off the roads and beach towns and on to the freeway with a nasty little hill. It was the only part of the course I really despised, but I'm sure that has largely to do with how miserable I was feeling. I don't know how to describe it other than it just felt like my body quit. My legs no longer wanted to move and I was feeling nauseous and on the verge of vomiting for the remainder of the race. I saw my pace go way, way down and slowly and painfully watched my goal get further and further away.

I honestly don't know if there was one big thing that caused this (like a fueling issue) or if it was just a combination of things (waking up early, maybe starting a tad faster than I should have, putting effort in to combat wind, etc), but it was pretty defeating to be on track for so long and then to have it go so horribly wrong for the last four miles that I ended up so far from my goal (finish time ended up being 4:24 - I had a couple of 15+ minute miles in there at the end - it was bad!)

This was the last race alert Miles got for me, so when that estimated time came and went he said he started to get worried something happened and was about to check at the medical tent. I would have been worried too since I finished so much later than predicted. But I'm proud of the pace/time up to that point - if only marathons were 20 miles!

 So, for next time (and I don't know when that will be, but know that I still want to reach this goal enough that I will do another marathon at some point) I will try to pace myself a little more. I didn't think I could run the second half faster than the first half for a negative split, but I think I should focus more on attempting that versus relying on "banked time." I also think I need to take in more calories early on when my stomach can handle it a little better, and I need to no sleep in the same bed as a puking baby.

While I'm still really bummed with the end result (especially because this was supposed to be my redemption run from Rock n Roll last November), I am proud of finishing and putting another marathon in the books.

Everything hurt. Especially my pride.
The day after we came home, Miles and I caught whatever stomach bug Mary had. Because nothing is more awesome than finishing a marathon only to get the stomach flu the following day! Here's hoping for better, healthier, happier races!


  1. I understand being disappointed with not meeting your personal goal, especially when you were on track for so long! But as someone who probably runs a 15 minute mile after getting 2 miles in (but I wouldn't know because I quit after two miles because I'm not a masochist, I mean a runner), I think you are amazing! Kudos to you, my friend.

  2. Oh friend. I sure wish it were a better outcome for you. I think your time was totally incredible, but again, I'm more the 10k runner and not so much the marathoner. You are inspiring and I know that doesn't change your time or interest to run another, but I am proud of you. You're one badass mama. I kinda feel like you should get your own hotel room next time, or leave everyone at home and hotel it solo near the race for your next go. Make it different and monumental and most of all, without distractions (or puke!). Puke is the worst.

  3. I'm in awe of you. 26.2 is no joke. Finishing it is really incredible, particularly as well as you did. I know you wanted to do better, but I'm most impressed (with myself and others) when you have to fight thru that wall - and do. That's tough stuff.

    1. Hopefully that didn't come across as how impressed I am with myself - more that I can really appreciate how difficult it is to fight through all of the excuses to do something that is hard. The runs that I enjoy the most are typically the ones that I really, really don't feel like starting. There's something really incredible about working through that, and you plow through those excuses like a boss. That's really admirable.

    2. Not at all! I knew what you meant and appreciate the comments. :)

  4. I know only a few people who will ever run a marathon and even fewer who will run two. All of this is impressive but the fact that you know you plan for a fourth one day takes the cake.

  5. Caroline, it sounds like the cards were stacked against you for this one and I'm proud of you for running and toughing it out after a night in bed with a sick kiddo. I echo the comment above - next time you should get your own hotel room :) Isn't marathoning addictive? I'm already thinking of my next one and plotting a return to Boston in 2017. Maybe we should meet in person for Boston 2017?

    I think you are awesome and inspiring, but I know how disappointing it is to not meet a goal. You'll get there, friend.