Well, when you put it like that ... but I have to say my Nuun teammate pretty much nailed my day on Saturday.
About the race: Fort4Fitness is the largest running event in Fort Wayne and hosts a weekend of races – Kids and Seniors marathons on Friday night and a 4-Mile, 10K and half marathon on Saturday. This year, Fort4Fitness added a marathon, which would consist of four loops – a bonus loop and then courses for the other races. The bonus loop, around 3 miles, was followed by the 10K, the half and, finally, the 4-mile race. The marathon began at 7 a.m.; 10K at 7:30 a.m.; half marathon, 8:30; and 4-mile, 10:30. These start times might seem insignificant but they come into play later as unless you were running a sub-9 pace, marathoners would be smack dab in the middle of the other races.
The plan: As I said earlier in the week, Fort4Fitness was to be a supported training with friends. To keep it a steady pace, I would run with my friends leading the 4:40 pace group (10:40 pace). If I was having trouble, endurance wise, I would back off on the last loop – the 4-mile course.
Pre-race: I was nervous as hell. I didn't feel ready to run a marathon, having only ran 18 miles before and one of my long runs was Ragnar Trail Cascades. I was glad to have my friend Kim there to distract me from the 26.2 miles ahead of us.
It was one of those perfect days. The temperature at the start was in the high 50s, where it was going to stay for most of the day. Clouds blanketed the sky and though the threat of rain had the humidity near 100 percent, it was one of those damp cold days.
The kind of day you want to run. And run I did.
Just shy of 6:50 a.m., I headed to Corral D and lined up with the 4:40 group. Joe shared the pace team's plan to keep the pace around 10:30 and bank a bit of time. While for most races, this strategy wouldn't be recommended but with the anticipation that we'd hit gridlock on the fourth loop when we hit folks at the back of the pack for the 4-mile race.
There was a silent countdown and then the cannon fired. We were off.
The pacers did a great job keeping the pace controlled and smooth on the first loop, as well as engaging everyone around us. There was a new mom who had a 6-month-old at home. A fan of Tough Mudders was running her first marathon. A Michigan man who liked to go on racecations was running his third marathon in as many weeks.
And then there was me. The girl everyone said wouldn't stick with the 4:40 group. But I did. There were times where I'd creep up and have force myself to slow down to let the group catch up. However, I was really conscientious to take it loop by loop, mile by mile.
Splits, 1-3: 10:30, 10:21, 10:10
The first loop seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, and we found ourselves turning right on Baker Street and heading toward the start on Harrison. We were about a minute behind the start of the 10K and once we were on course, we quickly found ourselves weaving around walkers.
With as much politeness as one could have in the situation, the pacers tried to advise the other participants to keep to the right so that we could pass. Thankfully, a course marshal on a bike cleared a path on the left side of the course so that we could make our way south down Calhoun Street.
Again, I found myself creating distance between myself in the pacers. Again, I tried to slow down. Again, I reminded myself that his was a training run. I needed to race smart so that I could recover and continuing training for Monumental. So I did what anyone would do – I turned around and busted out some quick dance moves for the entertainment of the group.
Just before the third mile of the 10K course (and mile 6 for us), we hit a spot that was added purely for mileage. We turned left down a side street, ran a half-block, around a cone and then rejoined the previous course. When we previewed the route three weeks ago, we identified it as an area of congestion – and we were right. But it was probably for the best because, as Stacey said, the group was running hot.
As hot as the pace was for the group, the first two loops felt like a warm-up and I was on cruise control. My mind started trying to go places but I fought it. Fought it hard.
Splits, 4-9: 10:11, 10:22, 10:30, 10:16, 10:07, 10:23
When Fort4Fitness announced the marathon earlier this year, I was skeptical. I did not like the idea of the four loops, and I thought it was a recipe for boredom and DNFs. Surely, passing the turn off to the finish three times would be too tempting for some runners.
However, I really found myself liking it. The loops broke up the race, and I felt like I just had to get through that loop. A marathon is much easier to take on when it feels like it's only 6.2 miles or 13.1.
As we started the half marathon, we again found ourselves navigating walkers but I was thankful to see that the crowd thinned out quickly enough – and by quickly enough, I mean within 3 miles.
But the work to get through it mean that I had lost the 4:40 group. I knew that this could mean trouble. There would be no one to keep me on pace but me. I'm terrible on not running like an asshole, and I have began doing my tempos on the treadmill to stay in the right zone.
Just keep it at 10:15, I told myself. If you're not going to do 10:30, make it 10:15. 10:15 is just fine.
I turned west onto Tillman Road and headed down one of my favorite stretches of the course. It's a fairly wide four-lane road that feels like it's in the middle of the country but is right in the middle of the city. It can be really hard not to open up on the stretch and more so on Saturday because I got a high-five and well wishes from the Fort4Fitness creator, whom I've gotten to know well over the years.
From Tillman Road, the race joins with the Greenway and we run nearly three miles through Foster Park – my home turf. It can be a monotonous part of the race because there's little crowd support and not much to see beyond trees and trees and, well, trees. For me, though, it was like a game of cat and mouse. I saw a pace sign ahead of me and wondered it was the 2:20 group for the half. I did a couple strides to catch up and told myself that I'd stay with them. But, it was the 2:30 group going at an 11-something pace and so I moved on.
I passed my BRF's husband, punched him in the arm (nicely, of course) and continued. I found the 2:20 group tried to slow to stick with them but couldn't, so I ran on.
Earlier in the week, I had been Athlinks-stalking someone and decided to see what my time was from the Columbus Marathon in 2012, my first 26.2 and my PR. (I ran Veterans in 2013 but ran a 4:35.) My time that day was 4:26 and change. As I made my way toward mile 9 of the half and mile 18 for me, I started doing some math.
Let me just say this: Math while running, much less racing, is never a good idea.
I looked at my watch. I looked at overall time. I looked at total distance. I factored in the extra distance I had already accumulated. And even still, if I ran a 10-minute mile, there was a chance I could PR.
Just then, as if the cosmos read my watch, I came up on the 4:25 pacer. I asked him if they were on pace and how he was feeling. They had lost time on the 10K loop but were running about a 10:03. I started to slow down to stick with him but I could tell he wasn't feeling it and so I moved on.
But with the discovery that a PR would be a possibility with a 10-minute pace, I tried to rein it in and stick to 10 minutes as I made my way to the last loop.
Splits, 10-22: 10:12, 10:04, 9:57, 9:51, 9:45, 9:42, 9:50, 9:43, 9:40, 9:50, 9:40, 9:26, 9:35
I like walking. I think walking is good. I think walking in a race is fantastic. I love that Fort4Fitness brings out so many first-time racers and walkers to its events, too. I really, really do.
That said, the last loop was a cluster.
I turned down Baker Street toward Harrison Street where I got the best surprise – my BRF was there with not one but two cowbells. She was there cheering on a host of folks racing (like her husband) but we'll pretend she was there just for me.
I was in near solitude as I made my way down this stretch, nary another marathoner in sight (there were less than 500). I grabbed a Gu and some water and headed toward the mats to begin the last of the race.
But by the time I made the two turns toward Calhoun, I found myself in a sea of walkers, 10 wide headed south. I debated going down the right. Or maybe left. At one point, I wondered what would happen if I spread my arms and just blasted down the middle. But the truth of it was that there was no good way to run it. I was either sacrificing my race or coming off like a complete asshole. At one point, around 1.5 miles into the last loop, I had to walk a block as the congestion at a water stop was impossible to navigate.
I tried to control it but I couldn't: I was pissed.
And when I rounded the corner with 2 miles to go and saw the boys, Mark could see the intensity in my face. He thought I looked strong, and I did feel strong, but really I was frustrated. So I ran with it.
It might have been that annoyance that pushed me through any potential wall because, I'll be honest, I never felt like I hit one. I felt good and capable, and I think my fueling was on point. I took Gu at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 23 and salt tabs at 7, 13 and 21. I drank from my hydration pack through the first three loops and then hit the water stations. Hard.
There were other stations, too. With beer. I had told myself that I would stop at the beer stations in the Williams Woodland Neighborhood during the fourth loop but I was ready to get it done. Beer, sadly, could wait.
Even having moved past walkers for the better part of 3 miles, I was still weaving in the final stretches. I finally gave in and started yelling, "Marathoner on PR pace coming through. Make room for marathoner."
And as I made the turn, I finally got to go left toward the stadium. I had made it. I ran down the drive and onto the red dirt of Parkview Field, the baseball stadium for our minor league baseball team. I had two tenths to go but it seemed so much farther. I stuck to the inside, not antsy to run any more than I could, and picked it up.
I picked it up and took it home ... in 4:23:33 – a nearly 3-minute PR.
Splits, 23-26.2: 9:48, 9:26, 9:53, 9:33, 8:47 pace