Friday, September 30, 2016

Quad Cities Marathon... Double Bib = Double Bling



The Quad Cities Marathon. Oh how I LOVE this event!

2017 is gonna be a big deal...it will be the 20th anniversary and I already know I want to be a part of it
There is SO much to say about this event. Since I've already said much of it in previous recaps (2013 Full Marathon and 2015 Marathon Relay), I'll just go with some details from this past weekend, and share a few runfessions for good measure.

Currently, I'm training for The Route 66 Marathon, and that is my main focus. That said, I still wanted to make a decent showing at the QC. I was not only registered for the half marathon, but I was also part of a marathon relay team. My goal, first and foremost, was to rally my team (comprised of myself and three cousins) to have a great marathon experience. My second goal was to run the half marathon strong, ideally with a negative split, and (if all the stars, moons and planets aligned)....nail a sub-2 finish or, better yet, a new PR.
ready for the start line
This was the 19th Quad Cities Marathon, and the latest stats showed more than 5,100 runners/walkers participated. The event offers a 1-mile walk, 5K, half marathon, full marathon, and a marathon relay.


Checking out the finish line (post-expo) with Rhonda
Leading up to the the big day (Sunday, September 25th), the weather forecast looked less-than-desirable. It showed rain and possible storms in the morning (WHAT????). As race day drew nearer, it looked better, but still not dry (the storms kept getting pushed to later). Finally, Saturday evening, it showed a cloudy forecast and possible rain/storms happening after 1:00PM. WHEW.

Imagine my surprise and elation to see this upon rising Sunday morning:

Key words: Scattered thunderstorms developing LATER in the day
Of course, with the rain getting pushed back, the air would still be humid. I can handle a little bit of humidity, so I was not concerned. I was just glad we wouldn't have to deal with rain, especially during the downtime before/after we had run our legs of the course.

I rode to the race site with Rhonda and her husband, Tim. We met up with the other gals, Jessica and Kelly, almost immediately after arriving. As mentioned, I ran the full marathon in 2013. Jessica ran it a couple years prior as well. This was Kelly's and Rhonda's first marathon experience, so they were a bit apprehensive as to how the day would play out (dealing with shuttle buses to/from the relay exchange points and getting to their respective exchange points on time).

Rhonda, Kelly, Jessica, and myself....Gunhus Gals
Since I was also running the half marathon, I had to be the first runner...which meant lining up at the start line, just like I'd done on that day back in 2013 when I ran this marathon for the fist time. I'm an emotional gal, and I was almost shaking with excitement as I waited for the gun to go off and get the party started.

The race began. The first half mile or so leads us on a straight-away before we merge onto a ramp that takes us to the first bridge across the Mississippi River, en route from Moline IL to Bettendorf IA. This part of the race is very tight and crowded. The 5K course had already split off, but the rest of us (marathoners and half marathoners) were crammed into one lane of the four-lane bridge. Granted it's a bit uncomfortable, but it does force one to run slow and easy...and that, after all, was my goal for the first several miles.

I made it across the bridge, and about halfway into mile 2 is the only major hill of the race. It's not steep, but it's very long and has just enough of a curve that you can't really see when it's gonna end. It wasn't until I was approaching the 4-mile mark that I noticed my GPS watch was flashing "2.59 miles...Save? Resume? Delete?" WHAT?????  Thankful that I had an extra watch alongside it (as a backup), I hit the resume button on the GPS watch. So much for knowing my splits. Not a big deal, since I'm used to calculating my approximate pace at the mile marks...but I do like having the stats to reference when I finish a race.

So, onward. I was feeling great, though it was difficult to hold back and not just run by feel and enjoy the route. If there's anything more awkward that trying to run faster than what feels comfortable, it's trying to run slower. As I have said many times, I am an average runner at best. I do not pretend to be a fast-paced sprinter, nor do I shun the others who are slower than myself. But, with my long legs, big feet, and lengthy strides, I often times struggle with "going slow" (unless I'm already exhausted from starting out too fast).

I was holding just under a 10-minute pace without any effort despite the warm temps. By the way, did I mention the clouds were a no-show? I was grateful for the lack of rain, but none of us were expecting to have so much sunshine on such a humid morning. I kept grabbing water at each of the water stations (which were at most of the mile marks).

I made it 6.5 miles and spotted Jessica at the relay exchange corral. I handed her the "baton" (which was a slap bracelet). By now, I had been running for about an hour, so my pace was doing well. I spotted a water stand shortly after the exchange, so I gulped down a gel and grabbed some water quickly before we continued on.The half marathon and full marathon share the same route until the 8.5 mile mark, where the half splits off and works its way back towards the finish line. Jessica and I ran those two miles together...and she really helped my up my pace!

Before long, we came to the spot where our two routes would split. We wished each other well, and went our separate ways. I grabbed some more water shortly after splitting from the marathon route and walked for a few seconds as I drank. Suddenly, I was feeling a little light-headed. The temps had gotten warmer and I could tell I was a sweaty mess!

By now, I had completely given up on my GPS watch (I had tried to "resume" the setting several times...and it still was showing less than 3 miles of distance). My other watch showed about 1:25 of elapsed time around the 9-mile mark. Although I was still feeling energetic, I found myself back in that all-too-familiar place....feeling the sub-2 and PR edging away from me.

I had also been trying to ignore the briefest twinges of "something" in my calves. There have been a handful of other races when after walking (which I had not done...yet), my calves would seize up when I'd resume running. Afraid of that happening, I had not let myself walk for more than a few seconds as I sipped the water at the water stations.

The cramping continued. I still felt energized, but had to stop several times to stretch and massage the knots in my calves. It had really gotten hot (mid-80's) and it was humid. Thankfully, there was a breeze, but it still was much hotter than any of us had anticipated.

Every time I'd start back running, I'd feel great for about a 1/4 mile or so, then the cramping would return. As frustrating as it was, I did my best to keep my thoughts positive. Unfortunately, this part of the course was on Arsenal Island, which is a private military base, meaning there are limited spectators allowed on the course. There was a long stretch(almost an entire mile), a couple turns, then another very long, straight stretch. And, there were a lot of runners who were walking in those final miles. There were several water stands, but not really any crowd support other than the volunteers handing out water, Gatorade, or fruit (near the bridge that exited from the island and lead us to the finish line). Mentally, it really was tough to stay in the game.

I was able to run the final mile pretty strong. It actually felt great going across that final bridge because you could see the water through the grates underfoot and feel the breeze blowing through.

Mile 13 of the half ends just after exiting the bridge (which is where mile 20 ends for the full marathoners...they then have turn to the left, and run an out-and-back 10K). For the half-marathoners, all that remains is a right turn and a short sprint to the finish line. As I was coming down the exit off the bridge, I immediately spotted my husband...with his phone (camera) ready.
my best "sprint" to the finish
My official finish time was 2:14:46.....again, not my greatest 13.1 finish time, but considering the numerous walk breaks and stops for calf massaging in the final miles, I am completely at peace with it. I'm not a wimp in the heat (or humidity), but it was almost more than I could bear (and that's saying a lot LOL).

Shortly after finishing, I found the husband in the crowd, as well as Rhonda and Kelly. Rhonda's husband (and both of their sons) were also there! Jessica was actually running the 2nd and 3rd leg of the relay, so that's why Kelly and Rhonda were still hanging around the staging area. We chatted for a bit, then they left to head to their relay exchange points.

I spent a great deal of time stretching and re-hydrating (water and two glasses of ice cold Pepsi). As usual, I had ZERO appetite, but eventually had a small bowl of mac & cheese. I ran into Meb (or maybe it was a cardboard version of the 2014 Boston champion)...
Well, hey there, Meb! What brings you here?
There may have been some post-13.1 planking....

the camera does not lie...this DID happen
Eventually, Jessica made it back from her 12+ miles. Later, we were reunited with Kelly. We may have enjoyed a few refreshments as we waited for Rhonda....

nothing like a little bit of tomato juice (etc.) to replenish some of that salt...
As soon as we spotted Rhonda making her way towards us, we joined her for that final jaunt to the finish line. Words cannot express the emotions we all were feeling in those final steps. Every finish line has a story behind it, and this finish line was no exception.

Hands-down, my favorite pic of the day....all of us are smiling as WE finish the marathon, together!
It had been a long day, in more ways than one. The early morning (5:15AM wake-up). The hot weather. Unexpected aches and pains. For some of us (Rhonda), it was the longest distance ever run. For others (Jessica), it was a tribute to her mom (and our aunt), who has been undergoing treatment for cancer. Still for others (Kelly), it was reassurance that one can, indeed, go the distance. And, for some of us (myself), it was a monumental race...my 30th half marathon.
WE did it!!!
This was such a great day. I cannot express how proud I am of these gals, and so thankful to call them family. Most marathon relay teams are made up of five members, but we couldn't persuade anyone else to join the craziness....so we made due with "just" the four of us. Our Aunt Linda (Jessica's mom) was our honorary fifth member, and we gave her the extra team shirt and medal.


We also were very thankful to have a support team there with us. My husband doesn't make it to every race I do,but he does come to the important ones. Rhonda's husband (and their two sons) were so supportive....driving back and forth between relay exchange points and capturing some of the days events on film.



Last of all, since it's the day for Runfessions, let me share five with you all:

1 - I must runfess... I am proud to be a runner and could care less about the "racing" aspect of races. Sure, I'd like to spank a few more PR's and capture some more sub-2 hour 13.1 finishes.....but I have done them all before, and I know I can do them again. I do not have the "need" to do them every time I pin on a race bib. I flat-out refuse let my finish time determine whether or not I enjoy my experience at any particular event.

2 - I must runfess...I am quite content with my finish time. Granted, it was not a fast finish for me, but I did the absolute best I could do given the circumstances of my situation. Even though I had to stop repeatedly for "muscle maintenance," I never felt like I was giving up on the race itself. My energy felt great despite the aches and pains I was feeling. Official stats said the "average" finish time for the half was 2:27:06 (the heat got to a lof of people). I finished 27th out of 113 gals in my age group; 318th out of all the 1034 females; and 713th out of the total 1765 half marathoners.

3 - I must runfess...I am OK with the GPS watch fail fiasco. I do not run with my GPS watch every time I lace up my running shoes. I am not addicted to the ongoing stats it can show me. And, I do know a thing or two about math, so I can calculate my approximate pace at the mile markers "old school" if I know my elapsed time. It's frustrating not knowing my splits (after I finish), but life goes on.

4 - I must runfess....as much as I love the sun, I was a bit blind-sided by it. I had spent the greater part of the week stressing over the forecasted rain, and was anticipating a miserable morning dodging lightning bolts. I welcomed the beautiful sunshine with open arms...but it did make for a very hot & steamy race.  

5 - I must runfess....the four of us are already talking about doing another marathon relay, possibly in the Bahamas! We know we can persevere in the heat, why not do it all over again elsewhere?

So there you have it. Another successful adventure in my running shoes, this time with family. Life is good!

Have you ever done a marathon relay? Ever ran the Quad Cities Marathon? Ever experienced cramping calf muscles? How do you feel about heat and humidity of race day?

I'm linking up with Marcia for the Runfessions link-up and also with Mar and Courtney and Cynthia for the Friday Five. I invite you to checkout both of these great link-ups!






































36 comments:

  1. Great job pushing through those leg cramps! What do you think made your calves cramp up? I'm with you on just running for fun. Big Sur showed me how great that can be!

    You had an extra watch on you during the race? Who does that? LOLOLOLOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure on the muscle cramps, but there have been other races in very hot/humid conditions where this has happened...I can't help but wonder if it's a salt/sodium issue (?)

      Delete
  2. Nice job on a difficult day. When something comes up in a race like leg cramps, it can cause your mind to go a bit crazy and you did a great job pushing though. I think going to the Bahamas for your next relay adventure is a fabulous idea. And I bet the husbands would definitely want to go on that trip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I was proud of myself for not giving up. Every time I'd start back running, I felt like I was gonna make it to the finish line....until the cramps returned. Oh well.... ;-)

      Delete
  3. Nice job! I think it's so great that you did the relay with your cousins. Back when I was first running marathons, GPS watches hadn't even been invented yet so even when I had my first I never used it during a race. Just depended on mile markers and my old Times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really question all the technology that's available to us these days. So many runners seem to be co-dependent on it.

      Delete
  4. Congratulations on the race. Sounds like a fun time with the ladies. The Bahamas would be a great destination race.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never been to the Bahamas.....how perfect would a "racecation" be? ;-)

      Delete
  5. I'm with you on the sun thing. It totally wears on me. Overcast is a life saver when its humid. What a special race for all of you! How great to have so many runners in the family. I do hope you do it again! Thanks for linking up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't embrace the heat/humidity, but for the most part I don't let it get to me. I never felt wiped out at the race, but I was a complete saturated mess when I finished the 13.1. There was some major sweating happening!

      Delete
  6. Congrats on your race! Loved this recap. I definitely struggle with trying to intentionally keep a slow pace, so I can imagine that being really tough! You did a great job as always...sorry to hear about the calf issues. What a wonderful way to honor your friend's mom...I love that you all match and end the race smiling. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that pic of us at the finish line ;-) People complain about speed drills, but seriously...the slow-paced stuff is much tougher for us tall gals like me.

      Delete
  7. I actually heavily considered the Quad Cities Marathon back in 2014 (when I chose Twin Cities), so maybe it will go back on the list! Love that you ran it with your cousins.
    As we talked about in our discussion post race, we are going to try some new things to try to head off the cramping, but we definitely had some improvements in other aspects of your nutrition and your mental game--which is really exciting to me! Ironing out the kinks, lady!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks ;-) Although I had to stop numerous times, I never felt like I was giving up on the race, just doing the necessary muscle maintenance (bad timing, of course!). I should have kept track of the elapsed time from each massage session....

      Delete
  8. Great job! It's always hard when the humidity and heat increase during a racer. I love that you did this as a family and for your Aunt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! The heat was tough! I chatted with the race director after I finished, and he told me he was really worried about the marathoners because it was so hot.

      Delete
  9. An extra watch during you race? Wow! How are he legs?? I registered for a marathon relay once and it was cancelled due to weather.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha ha, YES! An extra watch ;-) I have been having issues with my GPS watch only showing my pace and not elapsed time...so I bought a cheap "stop watch" that I wore alongside it...and that's the one that came through for me LOL The legs are feeling great...it was just when I was running those final couple miles or so that they hurt.

      Delete
  10. You do plank everywhere! I am doing a relay in a few weeks so excited. It just kind of has a different feel when you are running as a team. Have a great weekend

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha ha ha.... yes, I do plank everywhere ;-)

      Delete
  11. Can we talk about how amazing your calf muscle is looking in your final sprint photo?? Way to go girl!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! What the pic does not show is the deep-rooted burning going on within those muscles LOL

      Delete
  12. Sounds like a tough one! Congrats on finishing! Racing in the Bahamas? Sounds like a plan!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never been to the Bahamas, this might be a fun opportunity for another running adventure ;-)

      Delete
  13. Great recap and strong work pushing through the leg cramps! I love your runfesssions and positive outlook!! So fun to run with friends too :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was, indeed, a great day with my cousins. We'll never forget it ;-)

      Delete
  14. Sounds like a great event ! You have some fantastic photos of the 4 of you and the headband seals the deal ! The (unexpected) heat in my Paris marathon was a killer, so while we don't have the humidity, I feel for you !
    Congrats on your race, and I love reading your blog. You always have such a positive attitude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karen! As discussed, the "racing" is not a priority for me (much) these days. I'm not qualifying for the Olympic team, nor does my validation of a runner depend on another PR. I'm grateful for every run I do and thankful for every finish line I cross ;-)

      Delete
  15. I hate when I get calf cramps! They can stop you dead in your tracks. You have a great attitude about the race and it looks like a fun experience with the family. That is all that matters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do not get calf cramps very often (fortunately!), but they do take your breath away and make you want to scream out loud. I'm thankful they didn't get too out of control, and glad they waited until the last few miles to rear their ugly head(s).

      Delete
  16. Congrats on both your races! Sorry about the calf pain, I know how debilitating that can be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Calf pain is no joke! I'm glad this course is not hilly, and I'm VERY thankful it was only in the final few miles that the calf pain was an issue.

      Delete
  17. Way to power through! And way to get that plank it afterward. #beastmode

    ReplyDelete
  18. Aw, I love that Aunt Linda got the extra team shirt and medal! <3 <3 <3

    Heat and humidity can be a huge drain on the body (and the mind). We deal with it so much, but it still can be the difference between a great race and a bad day. You hung in there like a rock star!

    ReplyDelete
  19. How fun that you were able to run two races at the same time. Most races would make you choose one or the other. Double bling definitely made running this race extra sweet!

    ReplyDelete
  20. How cool to do that with your cousins! I wish I was as go with the flow as you are, my finish times often frustrate me, but I do get over it.

    However, I am NOT good in the heat. So of course my next 3 halfs will all be hot, LOL!

    ReplyDelete