Memphis was 8 weeks after Chicago. I had a 33 minute PR in Chicago and then a 16 second PR in Memphis with a final time of 3:59:42. I am excited to have pulled off running back-to-back races without getting injured or really tanking in one of them. The consistency in the times shows me this is where I am right now.
Chicago and Memphis were my 7th and 8th marathons. However my past PR of 4:32:58 that I broke in Chicago was from 2007. When I ran Memphis three years ago, I finished in 4:53:45 and my finish time for the last marathon I ran a year and a half ago (Bayshore) was 4:37:24. While I did want something more in both races, especially Memphis, these two races show me how far I've come, what I can do when I train hard, make me believe in my bigger goals, and show me that we can often do more than we think we can. When I was running marathons between 4:30 and 5:00, I never thought I could run a sub 4:00.
Back on track...Memphis.
Marathons are tough and this one was no exception.
It's hard to be in Memphis the weekend of the marathon and to not be affected by the exposure of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. The marathon raises money for St. Jude's, a hospital that treats children with cancer and where no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food. The kids' faces and stories are everywhere you look, families are out on the race course thanking the runners, and you run through the campus of St. Jude's hospital where there is an unbelievable amount of crowd support. I walked away very thankful for my health, the health of my boys and those around me, and that I was able to be out there running a marathon.
I had a really good 8 weeks in between Chicago and Memphis and was really happy with my training. When I reflected back on Chicago and reviewed my training in between the races, I thought it was possible that the time I took off for my hip injury before Chicago affected me more than I realized. My times and splits for speed work and pace-specific runs were often better than my goal and I felt better on all my runs than I did in the final weeks before Chicago. This made me believe I might be able to do more in Memphis.
As I mentioned before, my biggest goal was not a specific time, but rather to feel strong at the end of the race and to pace myself better than I have before...essentially, for me to remain in control instead of the race controlling me. However, I did have a time in my head. I thought a 3:55 would be a safe goal as long as nothing went terribly wrong, a 3:50 wasn't too much of a stretch, and maybe...just maybe....I might be able to get close to a 3:45. I actually saw a girl from my area in the corral before the race and found out she was a 3:45 pacer. For a brief moment, I considered putting all my chips in and going for it, thinking she would be a good one to motivate and push me, but I opted not to (thank goodness, hindsight really is 20/20 and I am not ready to run a 3:45...yet).
My plan was to start in the 8:50s and stay there until mile 8 and then re-evaluate. I really, really, REALLY wanted to start slow and inch up my pace later in the race. I have faded at the end of every marathon I've run and I think it is because I start too fast every.single.time. I was really committed to this plan, but failed to implement it - I started too fast and then faded at the end...again. I'm guessing you know one of my goals for my next big race?
I drove out to Memphis Friday afternoon and met up with Betsy, who I ran Ragnar and Chicago with, at the expo. We grabbed dinner afterward and got to bed at a good time.
My fueling plan worked so well in Chicago, I replicated it for Memphis. We woke up 3 hours before the start time of the race and I ate a bagel with peanut butter and had coffee. I sipped water until about an hour before the race started. I arrived at the race about an hour before the start, used the bathroom and got in the corral.
Mile 1: 8:50
Mile 2: 8:40
Mile 3: 8:41
Mile 4: 8:46
Mile 5: 8:54 - bathroom stop
Mile 6: 8:48
Mile 7: 8:50
Mile 8: 8:49
The race started well, except that I knew when I was in my corral waiting for the race to start that I would need to use the bathroom. But I also knew it would be quick and that it wasn't an emergency. I didn't have time to go before the race at that point, so after it started I waited until I saw a porta-potty that was open where I could slide in and out quickly without waiting in line.
The weather was what I thought would be ideal race-day weather with temps in the low 50s and a light breeze (Chicago was the same temp with slightly less wind and slightly more sun). I've worn a tank top and shorts in that weather many times before with no problem (including Chicago) and didn't even really think about wearing more than that. But I was cold for most of the race. I ditched my long sleeve towards the end of the first mile and ditched my gloves around mile 7. I really regretted getting rid of my gloves. I don't know why I was so cold that day, but I was.
My pace obviously wasn't where I wanted it to be for those first few miles and I started faster than I intended. I finally decided to settle in there and to not worry about it, it felt comfortable and I didn't feel as though I was 'banking time' or pushing myself too much.
Mile 9: 8:46
Mile 10: 8:40
Mile 11: 8:41
Mile 12: 8:53
Mile 13: 8:42
Mile 14: 8:37
Mile 15: 8:55
Mile 16: 8:46
Mile 17: 8:50
I still felt okay, but still just okay....kind of like I was watching the race and not really in it. I don't know why I was so neutral about it, but I never really got into it or felt a part of it. My pace started to slip away a little and towards the end of this section and it is about when I knew it was going to go downhill....figuratively, not literally :)
Mile 18: 9:06
Mile 19: 9:10
Mile 20: 10:50 - bathroom stop
Mile 21: 9:19
Mile 22: 9:05
Mile 23: 9:12
Mile 24: 9:40
Mile 25: 9:30
Mile 26: 9:31
Mile .62: 8:30
The end was hard. After the second bathroom stop, I just put my head down and ran so I could get to the end. I didn't take anymore fuel or stop at any water stops. Not the brightest idea, I know. But I was cold, I knew my goals had slipped away, I didn't know what my stomach would do if I had more Gu, and I just wanted to be done. In the last few miles, I turned my music off, put my big girl panties on, and just ran.
I mentioned above that I replicated my fueling plan for Chicago since it worked well for me there, but it obviously didn't work as well for me this time. I didn't have to make any bathroom stops in Chicago and I had to stop twice in Memphis. I took a Gu every 4/4.5 miles and I alternated between water and a sports drink about every other water stop (as I usually do) until my second bathroom stop, then I stopped and just didn't take anything else.
Memphis hosts a great post-race party with tons of food and beer and it's held in a stadium (baseball I think?) where you can watch the finish line, but I was not in the mood. Last time I ran this race, Brian and I hung out and had fun. This time, I wanted to get back to the hotel, meet back up with Betsy, get some lunch with her, and then get on the road so I could get home. We ended up getting a great post-race lunch at iHop for pumpkin pancakes...I kind of can't believe it's taken me this long to go to an iHop post-race, it was perfect!
Garmin official time = 3:59:23, 26.62 miles, avg pace 9:00/mile
Memphis official time = 3:59:42, avg pace 9:09/mile
Memphis stats (tells a slightly different story than my Garmin splits and makes it look like maybe I was closer to my intended plan):
I can't say I have a better race in me or that I could do X, Y, or Z if I did this or that....I ran two races 8 weeks apart and my Garmin times give me the same exact pace per mile. I think this is where I am...right now. I know I have a better time in me. But I think I need to do more work before I get there. I learned a lot from these two races and they have stirred up a bunch of emotions in me - reflection on where I've come from, anticipation for what I want to do, hope for what I might not even know what I can do...and more. It is exciting to PR to consecutive times in an 8 week span and to break a PR from 2007. My goals are big and I've made the biggest strides ever this year and I'm excited to see where I go next year.
Have you ever had a fueling strategy work one time and then not work at all the next time?
Do you get different stats from your Garmin and race chip? I understand the difference in total distance, but not the mid-race pace stats.