Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My First Marathon - MacNic

This is the second post in a new series I am starting on my blog called, "My First Marathon". The concept is simple, write a post about your first marathon, a race recap, why you picked it, how training went, if you liked the race, etc. and I will post it on my blog. If you are interested in participating in the series you can email me at fromcouchtoironwoman@gmail.com.

The second post comes from Nicole, or MacNic, who is from Canada. Mike and I had the pleasure of meeting her at Around the Bay in March, and I even ran with her for 9 miles of the race. I hope that we'll have a reunion at ATB in 2014!

 This is her personality!

Why did I decide to run the Mississauga Marathon in May 2012? 

Because I knew I could. It really is as simple as that. I knew if I put myself to that goal, I would achieve it no matter what. I’m kinda stubborn that way.

But why Mississauga? Well, I grew up in Mississauga (but the north part, not the south part where the race is run). Plus I ran my first ever race there in 2009, a 5k which hooked me on racing. I returned to Mississauga after the birth of my second child to run my first half marathon in 2011 and so it was fitting to complete the circle by running my first marathon here as well.

What did I learn? I learned that mental toughness matters more than any training you can do. That having someone to run (most) the race with is a gift. Most importantly, I learned what everyone told me: The goal of the first marathon should be to enjoy it. The time on the clock will not define the rest of your running career, but the joy you get from crossing that first finish line of that first marathon, very likely will.

[NB for my American friends – I break down the race every 10k or 6.2mi)

What follows is the story of my first marathon (this is her actual race report from that day):

I picked up my race kit almost at the open of the expo on Friday and was pleased with the shirt colour and stuff that I got:

 

As you can see, I had picked up three pace bands. The 4hr one for my wrist and the 4:05 and 4:15 ones for my belt (there was no 4:10 pace band). I spent the rest of the day working and instead of getting to bed early, I devoured 50 Shades of Grey (OMG and wow! The writing is pretty crap, but. Um. WOW) and watched the ball game. I eventually put the iPad down and went to bed when Ken came up to bed at midnight. Saturday we did the normal Saturday stuff and I did a 20 minute run and felt great.

My cousin Jodi showed up around 4pm and we sat around and chatted and prepared dinner (pasta primavera and grilled chicken with garlic bread), put the kids to bed and chatted a bit more until about 10pm.

Sleep went very well. Until 3:30 when Fergus woke up. Ken and I tried to get him back to sleep between us, but he was up for the day, so eventually Ken took him to the family room so that I could get more sleep. I did doze a bit and woke at 5am with my alarm. After laying in bed for a bit, I got up, got dressed, lathered on the sunscreen and went downstairs to eat.

Jodi and I ate, brushed teeth,  made final preparations:

 

And headed off to pick up my neighbour Kerry (10 minutes late!). Traffic was fine and we met up with my group and friend Sarah (half marathon finish: 1:55) in plenty of time. Eventually we all headed over to the port-a-potty lines and I was happy to run into my daily mile friend Lyndsey as she was heading out of a john. Eventually, the group headed over to the start and Jodi, Peter, Gerald and I went to look for the 4 hr bunny. We could easily see the walk/run 4 hr bunny, but not the continuous one. Even the walk/run bunny was too far away, so we gave up and decided to run our own race.

Aside - I did see the 4 hour bunny around 25k passing me going the other way. I was right on pace at that time, so she must have been WAY ahead of where we were at the start. Also, she was short. No wonder we couldn't find her.

Peter's and Gerald's race strategy was to see how things went. They just wanted to finish happy, but were keen to start at a 4 hour pace. Jodi wanted a 3:50, but had hurt her hip earlier in the week and decided to start with me and see how she felt around 25k. I was happy to have some company for a while at the least. We decided to go slow for about 2k rather than to weave and then make it up on the significant downhills in the first 10k. 

1-10k - This is FLYING BY!

As I suspected, these first 10k flew by. Amazingly, I didn't put my MP3 player on, I just spent the time running, chatting with Jodi and Gerald (Peter ran slightly behind us the whole time). I enjoyed the early spectators and the early and easy running. At one point, we were running quite fast down Burnhamthorpe Road and Jodi asked if I was trying to make up time (due to our slow start). I admitted that I was, but said that the downhill helped and I wasn't expending extra energy. As we were trucking over the Credit River, my friend Kerry came upon us on her way to a PB half marathon (2:08)! It was nice to say "Hi" and carry on. Also during this point, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You go, Nicole!" I knew she had read the back of my shirt.

 

We turned onto Mississauga road and then into UoTM and that's when I really knew that the race was speeding by. It seemed so much faster to get to this point then when I ran the half marathon last year. 8k was coming up and this is when I had planned to take my first gel. Jodi's plans were the same, so we slowed down and walked for a bit to take the gels just past the water station. I still had my own 500mL bottle at this point and we were able to quickly move on. Once out of campus, I began to look for my friend De who had said she'd bike over to this point to cheer me on. I spotted her easily at Dundas and booted over to hi-five her and tell her that next year was her year for the half. From there, we headed up the hill with no problems at all. The first 10k were in the bank.

6:02-5:44-5:43-5:29-5:38-5:38-5:32-5:32-5:42 (GU)-5:43 - time/split: 56:33, pace band: 56:52 

11-20k - Don't cry! It'll mess up your breathing!

We hit the next water stop and I tossed my empty bottle and walked through getting water. I told Jodi, "I'm walking and drinking at every one. I'm not fucking up this race on hydration" She had a fuel belt on but would always go off to the side and wait for me. It was in the early part of these kilometers that we first lost Peter (first full finish: 4:20:29) and then Gerald (first full finish: 4:43:25) who hurt his Achilles in the past week! It was nice to have Jodi with me and she commented on how strong she was feeling. I asked if she was ready to go ahead to get her 3:50 and she wasn't ready yet. She wanted to wait until 30k to see how she felt. That was fine by me! At UofTM, we were in the thick of the run/walk 4hr group, but lost them on the hill. I had high-fived a bunch of kids in the first 10k and kept the tradition up here. Every time I saw a kid, I looped over to them and slapped their palm. I love this part of the race through the rich Mississauga Road homes and enjoyed the lovely shade from the old trees and the people out there.

At one point, people had this massive speaker system on their lawn and it was playing James Brown and I started singing along and pointing to an older couple who were bopping to the beat. They loved it and so did I! Before long we were passing the highway and getting close to the turn off. When we got to the point where the half splits from the full, I did a little fist pump. I was feeling AMAZING and was very happy to be making the turn onto Indian Road. I got a little misty eyed and told Jodi that I felt like I was going to cry. She said, "Now don't cry now, it'll mess up your breathing and your throat will get all phlegm-ey!" Quickly, I sucked it up and assured her that I'd do no such thing. I put on my MP3 player at this point and was able to zone out a bit.

I was happy to have run this part of the course before because it was dead. The water stations were great, but the rest of it was very barren in terms of spectators and support. Just before the 16k station, a guy passed us and said, "You're killing it, rookie" and I was again grateful that I had taken the time to write on my shirt. After our water and gu walk at the 16k station, we started up strong again (this part of the course feels all up hill even if its not). Around 17k there was a teen aged boy and his mum sitting watching the race and he was saying, "You're almost there!" I couldn't help myself, I yelled back, "No we're not! You're a liar!" I think I heard some laughs from the runners around me. We also caught back up behind the run/walk 4hr group at this point (a great sign as they had started before us) and saw the pacer hit the bathroom. I turned to Jodi and said, "Can't wait till he blows by us". Sure enough he did a few minutes later and we gave him some cheers. I hope his stomach was okay and he just had to pee. Soon enough we were on Lorne Park, then Trustcott and about to hit Southdown road and the real race.

5:35-5:34-5:36-5:33-5:37-5:38-5:59 (GU)-5:39-5:46-5:41 - split: 56:48, time: 1:53:21, pace band: 1:53:45

 
21-30k - NICOLE! Suck those thoughts up! You've run all of this before! 

We passed the half marathon point BANG on pace at 1:59:50. I was very happy because even though our splits were a bit random, we were still able to be where we wanted to be and I was feeling great. I had planned to run this race mentally as follows: 10k, 10k, 10k, 5k, 5k - and then fly and I hadn't had to even think about distance until this point. I began to get a bit overwhelmed and worried about how I was feeling (even though I was feeling FINE) and had to really scold myself to get the thoughts out of my head. I don't know what happened, maybe a really good song came onto the MP3 player, but I managed to get the thoughts out of my head.

Past the 24k water stop, we took our GUs as planned and began the long trek down Southdown road to Lakeshore. I saw the 3:15 pacer pass us and started looking for my running room coach who was aiming for an easy run at 3:20. I never saw him, but looking for him was a welcome distraction from the sun and the smell (I never saw Chris because he was ahead of the 3:15 pacer, finishing his easy race in 3:13:45). I know a lot of people don't like this part of the race, but it was exactly what I needed. I loved being able to watch the other runners coming back towards me. Just after the turn around, I saw Peter's 9 month pregnant wife and tried to call to her, but she doesn't know me from Adam, so she likely didn't pay attention. I did see Peter on my way back and he was looking strong. We managed to high-five and I told him that Jenna was right where she said she'd be. I also kept looking for Steph (first full 4:48:02) and Peggy (first full 4:53:41) and saw them and we waved at each other as I was on the path and them on the road by that point.

Around 28k, Jodi stopped to walk. She was in a lot of pain with her hip. She told me, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" but I brushed that crap off. I told her, "It doesn't matter! I'm going to finish this thing and time isn't important!" And at that very point - it wasn't. I still wanted to run the strongest race that I could, but I didn't care about the time anymore. After that, we started again, but slowly Jodi faded behind me.

5:33-5:37-5:40-5:36-6:15 (gu)-5:38-5:34-5:56-6:08-5:36 - split: 57:33, time: 2:50:54, pace band: 2:50:38

 
31-40k - Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

As you'll see soon enough, the walk at 28k opened the flood gates. We had been walking every water station up until this point but that walk was the first one outside of a drinks station. You'll note below the slower splits every other KM. Those are the water stations that I was walking through. Instead of walking just to drink, I was walking from one side of the station, to the other and then until I was done the water or Gatorade sipping slowly.

My legs started to hurt at this point and I started to think: 5k, just do the next 5k. Keep going. In case you don't know, these 10k of the race has some rollers. Like, every 2km there is a roller. I concentrated on effort on the uphill and relaxed my hands, shoulders etc and tried to make up time on the downhills. I made the turn onto Lakeshore and made my way along to the 32k point where the water station came just before the inflatable wall that you run through. I walked through the station, took my water, walked through the wall, punched it and then took my last gel. I was walking a bit, drinking the last of my water, when Jodi came up to me and said, "Okay! 55 minutes to run 10k. YOU CAN DO IT! Keep going." Off we went. I felt like, okay! I can do this and then I thought, Holy crap, that's a 5:30 pace. GAHHHHH. I had really stopped looking at my watch at this point as the time didn't really matter anymore and I didn't push hard for 5:30s (betcha a few marathons for now, I'll be able to). I don't know where I lost Jodi again, but I didn't see her after this (Jodi finished in 4:15:56 - she really had a hard time with her injury in the last 10k). Running with her for so long was amazing. I would have never been able to do so well without her. We are planning to try a shorter race together and soon.

 

I headed into Jack Darling park feeling okay, if tired and sore. It was in the park that I decided to make a decision to walk for one minute. I looked at the time on my watch, put my hand in the air and walked. As I was walking, an older man passed me and smiled and told me that I was going great for a rookie! I was so glad to have the encouragement. There were a few spectators here and there and I made a point to fist pump or give the thumbs up to anyone that I saw. Things were hard, but not unbearable. I fell into the run 10 minute, walk 1 minute drill and ended up hitting my walks around the water stations where I took a full cup of Gatorade and a full cup of water. Somewhere here there were people handing out pieces of banana and orange and I took one of each and almost couldn't chew the banana, my mouth was so dry! I washed it down with orange and felt fine. I then popped another piece of mint gum in my mouth which helped with dry mouth.

Getting past 35k, was fine. I kept going. And going. On Ben Machree, a man passed me and said, "A Virgin! You're killing it, virgin!" I replied, "I'm. Going. To. Finish!" He looked at me like I was crazy, "Of course you are!" I can't even explain how much the time goal of 4 hours didn't matter at this point. I was fine with slowing down as this is what I needed to do. I knew that no matter what, this was my BEST effort on this day. I started thinking about how perfect and beautiful the day was and about how close we were to the end. A photographer took a photo of me and said, "Looking strong" and I replied, "I feel like complete shit!"

 
I'm clearly saying "shit" here

I anticipated the Port Credit bridge and knew that I was so, so close. I kept to the 10 and 1s and just kept going.

6:08-5:43-6:15 (gu) - 5:42-6:44-5:42-6:15-5:47-6:12-6:27 - split: 1:00:55, time: 3:51:49, pace band: 3:47:30

To 42.2k - MY FIRST ONE! MY FIRST ONE!

An evil, evil part of me suggested that I could run 2.2k in nine minutes, but I knew that was a complete bullshit thought. I told myself that I had 12 minutes of running left, no walking. I told myself, "You have been through 12 hours of labour without drugs and two C-Sections. This. Is. Nothing." And off I went. I just kept running. No thoughts. Nothing. When I saw photographers, I tried to smile and give a thumbs up. At the beach, I saw a girl from my half clinic, Janae who was a volunteer and she had made a sign for us:


I gave her a high five and kept going. Before I knew it there was Ken, taking a photo and giving me a high five: "200 meters left". I had just heard that. I ran on. A few meters later, "Looking strong! 200 meters left." I couldn't help myself: "Everyone keeps saying that!" The spectators laughed! Then Chris was in front of me screaming, "You are AMAZING! You are ROCKING IT! Go! Go!" and high-fiving me and sending me on my way. At this point, I starting giving the number one to the spectators screaming, "My FIRST one! MY FIRST ONE!!!"

  

This was an amazing tactic to get massive cheers from the crowd! It was perfect.

 

I saw the finish and picked up speed even more, putting my hands in the air and crossing the line, triumphant, and happy.

 

41-42.2: 5:35-5:36-2:29 (5:01 pace)

Final Time: 4:05:12

Place: 466/842
Category Place (F30-39): 52/101 

The aftermath

As soon as I was clear of the finish line and photographers, I stopped and put my hands on my knees breathing deeply. Two volunteers rushed over to ask if I was okay. "I'm fine. I'm just SO happy to be finished." They backed away and told me to keep walking. I saw the space blankets and said, "Oh, hell no" and got some good laughs. I got my medal and my chip cut off and then wandered around getting Gatorade, my photo taken with the medal. Getting the food and water and eventually finding Ken. We found Jodi and spent some time stretching and chatting. We took a finish photo:

 

Then we looked up and there was Peter! He was happy with his race and we watched as Gerald and Steph and Peggy came in. Then a lady came up so say hello and it was Robin! I couldn't believe it! We chatted for a bit and she told me that she saw me come in strong. Amazingly, she got a BQ in this race, three weeks after running at Boston! We chatted for a bit more and then said goodbye. We made our way over to Chris and said our goodbyes, heading to my parents house to get the kids with a Tim Horton's pit stop for me.

This race could not have gone any better. I realized my "B" goal (and my "D" goal) and I know that this is the marathon that I had in me for this race. I'm happy. And sore. And I can't wait to race again!

MacNic also ran this race in 2013, here is her race report from that race, and she is going to be running it in 2014!

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