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Leading Ladies Marathon race recap

I promised a race recap, so here it is.  It’s been almost 2 weeks so it’s about time that I sit down and write it all out.  This wasn’t quite the race I planned for or trained for but that’s ok….there was a much more valuable lesson in it for me.

During the week leading up to the race, I only had short, easy runs.  In some ways that was really nice.  Mentally, it wasn’t that great: I felt like I should be running more, that this was my last chance to get in a little more work….basically a panic situation.  But I stuck with the commitment that I made to myself and followed my training plan exactly as written.  That’s kind of a big deal for me.  Overall, I was very, very pleased with my training.  Even with the heat, I managed every run and hit the times I needed to hit.  I had no doubt that I would hit my goals.  Speaking of goals, I set good, better, best goals for this race.  This strategy really resonates with me way more than setting A, B, C goals.  So my good goal was to set a new PR (no problem at all since I was faster in training runs), my better goal was to break 4 hours (extremely realistic based on my training), and my best goal was to qualify for Boston.  My best goal was somewhat of a stretch for me and was really dependent on what the day brought.  I trained for a 3:45, plus the course was downhill and the temperature was much cooler in South Dakota than in Texas.

So on Friday, we all headed out of DFW for our flight to Rapid City.  This is us at the airport with our friend Patricia.  Patricia trained with us the entire time time but wasn’t able to go with us so we did the next best thing and put a picture of her on a stick.  The perfectly logical thing to do, I know.

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We arrived in South Dakota a couple of hours later and made our way to our hotel in Spearfish, near the race start.  We chilled at the hotel that evening, excited to drive the course and go to the expo the following day.

So on Saturday, we drove across the street and picked up our race packets and shopped at the expo for a little bit.  We got to meet the race director who loved hearing the story about our friend and gave us a shirt to take home to her!  That was so cool….and we knew Patricia would love it!  Then on to drive the course….

I’ll admit that I’m not much of a nature kind of girl.  But South Dakota was absolutely beautiful.  Everything was so green and tranquil and the landscape was just stunning!  This is the waterfall we passed near the halfway point (although we weren’t close enough to see it during the race):

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As far as running goes, the course didn’t seem that bad.  The little uphill in the first mile wasn’t bad at all….we hill trained on a much bigger hill.  The downhill was gradual for the most part and did not seem overly intimidating.  The scenery along the course could easily distract from the pain of running the marathon.

Before we settled in for the night, we received this message from our running group back home.  Every one of us was completely touched by the love and effort that went into doing this for us.  It was the final thing that really pumped us up for the race.  We were fired up and ready to go!

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Sunday morning came quickly and I think we were all awake before our alarms went off at 3 AM.  For some reason, we were concerned about sleeping through the alarms so we had multiple alarms on multiple phones set as well as the hotel alarm clock.  Turns out we didn’t need any of that!  So we were all up, ready and headed to the shuttle buses by 4:00.  I always love the excited buzz of race days.  There is a lot of happy or nervous energy, especially considering how early it is.  Because this is an all female race, it was a lot of fun to see all the other women there and hear the stories from the ladies that had run this course before.  They all had positive things to say about it so we were ready to get started.  So we all boarded the shuttle bus and headed to the start line.  It was an uneventful ride until the bus driver asked if we knew where we were supposed to turn…. Fortunately, we weren’t too far off course and made it to the right location.  There’s nothing to make a nervous marathoner more nervous than being in the middle of nowhere at 5 AM with no cell phone reception to look up directions.  But it worked out and we got there.  We made our way through the portapotty line, took a couple prerace pictures, and got ready to start.  Here are our happy prerace smiles:

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The race started promptly at 6.  I’m a big stickler about races starting on time…I just don’t like it when they start late, especially really long distances where nutrition and nature calls need to be carefully times.  The first mile was on a dirt road and included an uphill.  The uphill was tougher than expected even though we had all trained on hills much bigger than this one.  Because we were at 6,000 feet elevation, I think that gave me a little trouble breathing.  It definitely made the effort feel much harder.  I didn’t hit my goal time on the first mile but wasn’t worried about it at all with the downhill coming soon and only 30 seconds to make up.  Mile 2 was fast and downhill and switched to a regular paved road.  I was able to make up my deficit from mile 1 and bank a few more seconds.  The next several miles were pretty similar….downhill and pretty fast.  I slowed down some to stick with my pacing plan but still banked a little more time and felt pretty good.  The next few miles were pretty uneventful.  For the most part I was running alone and enjoying the amazing scenery.

Then we hit miles 11 and 12 which was uphill on a dirt road to pass by the waterfall.  I was a little sad to not see the waterfall but it was nice to know it was there.  I don’t know what was so bad about this hill but it really exhausted me and I slowed down quite a bit on the uphill and downhill.  The only good thing I can say about this section was that I got to see all of my friends and give high fives or words of encouragement.  After the hill (and a quick portapotty break, which is apparently another effect of elevation), we were back on the main road.  I slowed down some at that point and decided that I wasn’t feeling my “best” goal and to just enjoy the run.  That worked for a few more miles.  At certain times, I would feel like I was giving a hard effort and running too fast (like 6 or 7 minute miles) only to look down at my watch and see a 10:00 minute pace.  Seriously?!?  That can’t be right!  But I did the math in my head (assuming my watch was right) and saw that my “better” goal was still within reach.

Somewhere around mile 18, my hip and hamstring started bothering me and I had to slow down even more.  Time didn’t matter to me anymore as I just wanted to finish the race.  I tried to avoid looking at my watch over the next few miles because I knew it wasn’t good.  I jogged what I could and took frequent walk breaks and was perfectly fine with that.  Those last miles seemed to take forever but I made it through and was soon entering the park near the finish line.  For some reason, the last little stretch of a race seems to take forever and that was the case here.  I finally made it through the finish line and was met by my cheering friends.  The time on the finish clock said 4:21:something so I had a new personal record!  I hit my “good” goal!

We even all managed to smile for a post race picture:

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On Monday, we set out to see Mount Rushmore.  While the short walk was a little challenging, it was an amazing site.  On the way back we drove through Bear Country USA.  After all, you have to see bears in South Dakota, right?!?  They are super cute to see from the safety of the inside of the vehicle.  In you are ever in that area, you’ll definitely want to check out the bears!

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So the learning experience from this race was to enjoy the run and learn to adjust your goals.  My finish time was over 20 minutes slower than I expected to finish and had trained for….and I’m okay with that.  I won’t go as far as saying I’m happy with it but I’m okay with it.  It was a brutal race.  How could anyone expect it to not be tough?  It’s 26.2 miles, for goodness sake!  It’s going to be tough even under the best conditions for the best trained athlete.  I trained as hard as I could and stuck with my plan so I have every reason to be proud of my effort.  Even though I missed my time by a long-shot, I still finished another marathon.  How incredible is that?!?  The non-athletic little girl who never dreamed of running a marathon finished her 5th marathon!  There’s absolutely no reason to be disappointed in that.  But the Houston Marathon better watch out….I’ve got a score to settle with the marathon in January!

Congratulations to the best running friends and training partners a girl could ask for!  You all rocked that race!  It was an amazing weekend that I’ll never forget!  I am truly blessed to have these women in my life!

Do you have any marathon lessons or stories to share?  I’d love to hear them!

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10 comments on “Leading Ladies Marathon race recap

  1. Y’all are awesome! I will probably never run a full but hope I can run a half.

  2. your post came at a very timely moment…. I am going to be doing my first marathon – of sorts…. Next week, I am going to be walking the west highland and great glen ways. it is a little bit under 200 miles to be walked in 12 days. I have been “training” as much as I can, but am still feeling a bit unprepared – I think some of the feeling is that I just don’t know what to expect. (It is one thing to read about a 300m climb, and another thing to experience it). Anyway, your post has made me realize that I need to set some goals for my trip – at least one that will be realistically obtainable – and others that may be a bit more challenging. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Thanks for your comment! Your adventure sounds so exciting! Completing 200 miles in 12 days is an accomplishment in itself, regardless of how quickly you complete it. I’m sure it will be a huge challenge regardless of how much you trained. One of my favorite sayings goes something like “if your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t challenging enough”. Enjoy your walk and I’d love to hear how it goes! ~april

  3. I have enjoyed reading about your Marathon journey each week. You did awesome!!!

  4. I have loved reading your blog. We are so proud of you. Makes me wish I were younger and wise enough to race. Hugs.

  5. […] is my post-marathon race recovery.  If you missed my race recap of that, be sure to check it out here.  The even better thing that is starting is my training for the Houston Marathon in January.  I […]

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