Today was the OKC Memorial Marathon and 1/2 Marathon. And after a gorgeous day in Oklahoma yesterday, today was cold and rainy. It was just a little cold for a perfect day to run, especially since most of us were probably expecting 80+ degree temps for the race. I would like to give a shout to my supporting cast...my trash bag for keeping my Garmin dry pre-race, my long sleeve throw away shirt for keeping warm in the cold north wind through mile 4, and to my Zoot compression socks for keeping my feet "feeling" dry when they were actually soaked. Without you guys it would have been miserable - oh and to the plastic baggy around my ipod so it didn't drown.
Okay, now onto the serious stuff - this race was perfect. I finally put everything together, and while the weather wasn't perfect it was ideal for running and helped me out. I made sure to line up closer to the 10 min pace marker then the 9 so I would be forced to keep it slow at the beginning. This cost me about 90 seconds of the race, but I think I would have paid for those seconds in the end. I also put my mantra words to the test today - especially "I AM strong" and "finish strong". When my legs got tired I was able to mentally push through for the first time. I think the extreme conditions also helped with this as I was much more worried about hypothermia and frost bite in my right hand then how tired my legs were getting.
Pre-Race: an early 4:30am wake up call with some stretching and a monster english muffin with peanut butter and honey. As we loaded into the car with our special cheerleader Houdini, the first drops of rain started to fall. The temps were holding steady at 57 degrees but they were predicting dropping temps through the morning. By the time we got downtown for drop off it was 55 and the rain was steady, so was the lightning. Shortly after, the race was delayed by 30 minutes. I found shelter in a local church that opens up for a pancake breakfast and free restrooms. I waited out in warmth for about 30 minutes then headed out in the rain to acclimate and find my corral.
Race: after a moving 168 seconds of silence for the fallen in the Oklahoma City Murray Building Bombing the race finally started. The streets of downtown OKC are narrow for the 22,000 runners and we were detoured in several turns to avoid construction (both road and building). I hit my first split at 10:30, well below my 9:30 goal pace, but along the lines with my progressive run philosophy. Just when we were gaining some room we were funneled down again for the biggest hill (and series of hills) of the race. Second split was at 9:59. These were the only two splits that were below 9:30 - go me!!!
Once we got past mile two we really were able to open up on the road and start passing the slower runners and those that went out too fast. I was working at this point to get my Garmin back on the pace screen, I was running blind at that point and just using the mile split clocks to check my splits. I also thought that my mile splits on the watch were turned off because I wasn't seeing them. Come to find out later the beginning of the race had us off the miles by almost .3 miles because of the detours (later we made up half of that). We ran through some crummy roads in this area were water was starting to puddle so wet shoes became and issue - as were prissy girls that didn't want wet shoes. I suffered a heel to the ankle from one girl that side hopped over a puddle right into me (I passed her later!). I had really settled into a good pace by mile four and also dropped both my trash bag and long sleeve shirt.
Splits: Miles 3-5 - 9:26, 9:24, 9:09
As you can see from mile 5 I was also finding some speed. We were moving into the development section of the race where I had been logging miles over the last 5 months. I settled into a comfort zone and applauded myself for dedicating my hours on Fridays to running these hills. I took a Carb-boom around mile 5 and focused in. I was able to pass several people through the hills and was feeling great. I passed the 10K point at 59:41 and was feeling good. Right after 10K I had my first friend stop. It was great to see them. After that I turned onto one of the final big hills of the race (neighborhood named it "Gorilla Hill") and also headed towards the end of the cold north wind running.
Splits: Miles 6-8 - 9:11, 9:08, 9:10
I turned onto the longest straightaway of the trip which is boring (excepts for the best water stop and the Buffalo crossing at my office). Thankfully I had my cheer group about 1/3 of the way down the 2 mile stretch to re-energize. Took another gel at 10 because I could feel my legs starting to tire. Since this is the area I normal tank on I really took to mantras and positive thinking. I wouldn't let myself get sucked into the tiredness and just kept looking around at the people I was running with and how strong we all still looked. As we turned into the final development (where you feel so close but still have 3 miles to go winding around) I really dug deep. I looked down however to see I was running steady in the 8:50s...worked to slow a little so I would have a little left for the end. I walked the water stops and dug deep the rest of the time. By this time the wind and rain picked up again and the temps plummeted. I couldn't feel my right hand and focused on that instead of my legs. I never saw the mile 12 marker, but I just knew that I was under a mile. My legs started shutting down and I let myself slow for a few minutes to recover. I knew if I pushed to the final aid stations I could down some Powerade and muscle through the final 1/2 mile.
Splits: Miles 9-12 - 9:19, 9:18, 9:26, 9:08
Finally we made it to the final turn and I knew the last 1/2 mile was here. I found my second wind and just pushed as hard as I could. When I finally saw the finish chute and eventually the finish line myself and the entire group around me just picked up the pace and started sprinting. I was amazed how much I had in my legs to give to the 1/4 mile or so sprint. As I came to the finish line I could see 2:08 on the clock and knew I started 4 minutes in and thought I'm going to beat 2:05!!!! As I hit my Garmin I looked and saw 2:04:15 and knew it had all finally paid off!
Splits: Miles 13-finish - 9:19, 7:54
Overall the race was 13.25, somewhat due to detours and somewhat to massive weaving I did to get around slower people. I was more excited about my mylar blanket then I was my medal and headed for food and cookies. Thankfully my cheer squad brought my sweatshirt to cover my now un-working right hand (which makes it really hard to stop at the porta-potty). Finally got to the truck and sat in 90 degree heated bliss the entire ride home. I'm still beaming from my accomplishment, and I'm amazed how easy it felt. After today I am leaving the mindset of 1/2 marathons for awhile to focus on mileage build and my upcoming marathon attempt in January 2012. I leave feeling accomplished and knowing when I come back next year I will be able to pick up and go for a sub 2!!!