Overall, I am happy to report the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Nov. 2, its sixth running and my sixth 26.2 mile race, was a positive experience.
The Expo and the Course
Out of the four different marathons I have run the Indianapolis course was the most beautiful. The weather was near perfect at about 42 degrees at the 8 a.m. start time. It rose to near 50 by finish, and the sun was out from the beginning. I was able to peel a cheap long tech t-shirt off at about mile 2 and ditch the gloves at about mile 13. I cannot remember a blah spot on the course, even the typical one toward the end of most races. Crowd participation was impressive and the number of gel/block and water stops were many and well manned. Also, the route was very, very flat. So much so that two very fast women, a 16 and 49-year-old, managed to score 2016 Olympic trial qualifying times. Race organizers gave out what I consider the sweetest tech t-shirts of any full or half marathon I ever ran.
The only disappointment I heard from any participant about the Monumental was a critique of the size of the expo. A few runners expected it to have more. The Flying Pig Expo is at least twice the size by comparison, with its various goods vendors, race promoters, and free product samples. This combo is usually bad for me since I always drop more money than I want to at these things. So, the smaller Monumental expo might actually have been a plus.
Mind games and race day
My whole mantra for the fall marathon training season has been, “Have fun. Take it easy. No pressure.” I adhered to the first and third part of that goal all season. The take it easy part often got pushed aside in group runs when we all went a bit faster than we were supposed to and on those weeks when I doubled up and ran with two separate groups on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I was still having fun and felt no pressure (or real pain), so I justified it. I also ran my long runs slower than what my typical race pace is, sometimes much slower.
So, when race day finally rolled around I felt pretty good physically and didn’t, at least initially, have those knots in my belly when wondering how I would do on the course. Having ran with a good pace group on Tuesdays, I decided to pace with them on race day for as long as I could because I liked the coach and the people next to me. Of course, I wasn’t sure I would stay with them since they were gunning for a 3:55 hour time, and I never broke 4 on my previous five marathons.
Indianapolis is about two hours away from Cincinnati, which meant I had to get a hotel room to stay the night before the race. I got there around 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, went to the expo, tracked down some friends on Facebook, and agreed to meet them for dinner at 7:30 p.m. On the ride up there I thought I was starting to get sick. My throat felt scratching, my sinuses were irritated, and I just felt tired after having slept nine hours the night before. I won’t lie, I began to fret a bit. Even with no goals/no pressure, it would have monumentally sucked to suddenly find myself very sick on race day after training for four months.
When I met my friends for dinner, it was with their pace group that averaged about a 3:09 finish after the Monumental. One of my less than charming characteristics is my general insecurity and low self-esteem that likes to rear its head from time-to-time. So, I felt a little awkward and on edge at dinner, along with ill. By the time dinner was over, I was feeling pretty squirrelly and went straight back to my hotel room. I crashed at 9:30 p.m. and was up by 5 a.m.
I followed my normal ritual of coffee, banana, English muffin with a dab of peanut butter, and layering up. I met with my pace group at a nearby hotel lobby, hit the restroom 20 times worrying if I had pooped and urinated enough, and nearly forgot that I wasn’t feeling sick at all.
In my mind, at the start, I decided on three things about this race that would make me happy: Run further than you had before without walking; run the entire race; or run the race with the group and set a phenomenal new personal best.
I did the first and still managed by a frog’s hair to set a new PB by 2 minutes. I thought I might have actually beat the second and third up until mile 23. Looking at the course splits I maintained a 9 minute 2 second pace through 30K. I know, by feel and my split from the pace group, I was going slightly faster than that pace during miles 20-22.
And, as you can imagine by those pace numbers, and my experiences of slamming into a wall between miles 18-20, I was feeling pretty great most of the race. After the half-way point my mind started counting down the miles ahead, instead of ticking the ever-increasing numbers. I started to envision a tearful sub-4 hour finish at mile 21. I was beaming inside.
Then came mile 23 when my right quad started spasming, ever so slightly. I tried to lengthen my stride a bit. But don’t stop, I thought to myself. I ran a bit further. The spasm grew worse and spread to my left quad as well. It intensified enough that I surrendered. I stopped, I stretched, I tried to pick back up the pace. I would get about a quarter of a mile, and spasms again, only worse. Yes, I was upset. Yes, I pushed on, setting small running goals to make it to the finish. Because of the difference of clock start and my start, I didn’t even think I set a PB. A friend who followed me online had to text me to congratulate me on the results before I knew I had.
At the finish I learned three people in the group I started with beat the 4 hour race time goal. The group coach and many others actually fought cramps and crossed the finish line with me or a few minutes behind me. It may be awful to say, but my normally insecure mind was quieted when I realized I am not alone after hearing their stories. I am not some wuss who just gives up too soon to pain. These things happen to a lot of people. Also, I bested my first goal and did something I had not suspected I accomplished with the new PB.
And, of course, my analytical mind went to work trying decipher what I might do better next time. For one, I need to make the pre-race thing less stressful. Going back to the idea I was sick and squirrelly, as of Thursday, five days after the race, I don’t even have a sniffle. The worry about health and performance was all in my head, a self-defeating impulse that has lessened of the years, but is still there. I need to practice, to the best of my ability, the art of setting goals and then going zen.
I can only plan the best I can for success, not control the outcome.
I think with my three-tier goal plan this race, I did well in defining what success, for me, was going to look like.
The other issues I dwell on after the race are two.
I drank very little Gatorade this time, sticking to water and a few electrolyte tabs. With the cramping, I need more of one or the other. I hadn’t cramped that bad since my second Pig, when tummy problems had me using the restroom a lot and I wasn’t rehydrating enough.
Then there was the music. I brought my head buds and music just in case. When I got ahead of my pace group at mile twenty, I thought I was being proactive by popping the buds in to battle off bad thoughts. I fumbled with the iPhone, picked up pace too much in the process, missed a water spot and wound up discovering only one ear bud was working. I tucked the headset in my shirt early on and my sweat must have ruined them. I was disappointed. That disappointed threw me off my internal rhythm and positivity. I can’t say not having the music, or if having the music work properly would have prevented leg cramps, but it did throw in a bit of drama on the course I did not need.
So, next year, more tabs or Gatorade for fueling and either I find a better way to bring my music, or I don’t bring it at all. That’s that.
So, is there still a twinge of disappointment to have come so close to the goal of a sub-4 marathon five days after the race? Yes. Overall am I happy with my six marathon? Yes.
After suffering four major stress fractures during my first marathon that I ran in 4 hours 11 minutes, being skittish about pushing myself after that time and gaining a bit of weight, I can say I feel I’m back to the physical base pace I started at three years ago. I believe it is only forward and a bit faster from here. I’m confident my best race is still ahead. On that front, I’ve started eating healthier and plan to drop a few pounds before January.
And not to be too mushy on myself, I’m mildly impressed in my determination, my willingness to try again. I can’t guarantee what the next marathon will be like. All I can do is repeat the phrase stuck in my head all season.
You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on
- Record number of runners to race in Monumental Marathon Saturday (fox59.com)
- Boulder’s De Reuck Wins Indianapolis Monumental Marathon In Olympic Trials Qualifying Time (coloradorunnermag.com)
- Snider grad qualifies for Olympic trials (wane.com)