Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Route 66 Marathon....my toughest race ever



Let me set the scene....

I registered for the Route 66 Marathon back in March. There were several races between then and race day (including that 12-hour Ultra), and a few odd-ball injuries. I had long-been contemplating working with a coach, so I hooked up with Coach Suz and we got to work in late August.



Fast forward to the race weekend.

My friend, Barb, and I loaded up and hit the road around noon on Friday, and arrived in Tulsa just before 8:00PM. Thankfully, it worked out for my friend, Traci (from RUN? Are you in? ) to pick up our bibs from the expo so we didn't have to worry about that detail.

First up was the 5K on Saturday morning. We were anticipating decent weather, but the temps were a bit cooler than what had been forecast. We had plenty of sunshine, though, so it was bearable.


Why do a 5K the day prior to a marathon? Well, there is a bit of extra bling (and a bonus prize for doing one of the Double Challenges (running BOTH the 5K in addition to the half marathon, full marathon, or being part of a relay team). But, for me, it's an added day of running in a new place. I have done numerous "double" challenges such as this, usually with the goal of simply shaking out the legs a bit (and after an 8-hour car ride, I thought it was a necessity).


Oh my goodness. I had no intention of running the 5K for any kind of fast finish time (and Coach Suz would have jumped on a red-eye flight, met me at my hotel, and shaken her finger at me if I did). But the 5K event was a bit of a circus....lots of people (which is a good thing),but many of them didn't seem to have much knowledge of race etiquette. We're talking lots of walkers (again, a good thing, but walkers typically should start the race towards the back of the pack), and numerous kids (seriously, where were their parents/guardians?). I'm all for big events, and love seeing so many people being active,but it's frustrating to be constantly dodging groups of people and (almost) running over little ones who abruptly stop directly in front of my feet.

Anyways, the route took us through some of the streets of downtown Tulsa. It was cold at the start line, but I felt fine once we were moving. Despite the constant weaving, my pace was pretty consistent. Per Suz, I was to run the 5k "easy" and not even think about "racing" it. Mission accomplished...29:03.

Even the 5K had a decent-sized piece of hardware
Next, Barb and I found a Starbucks, grabbed a hot beverage, and headed to the expo. We found some bargains (arm warmers!) and met up with Traci for a bit.


Later we did some walking on the streets of downtown Tulsa and grabbed dinner before settling in for the night.

Yes, we found a selfie-appropriate landmark... 
Sunday morning, we were greeted with much cooler temps than expected. We had saved our heat blankets from the 5K and used them to keep us warm before we lined up for the race. Despite the cold temps, we were blessed with a beautiful, sunshiny day.

can you say, "Brrrrr...."
I was cautiously optimistic. I had trained hard. I put in more miles than ever before. I did a lot of speed work. And I felt ready.

Hanging out, ready for some dynamic exercise warm-ups
We heard the National Anthem, there was a loud blast and tons of confetti and streamers, and we were off! Barb and decided to line up near the 4:15 pacer. My marathon PR is 4:33:32, and although I was hoping to break 4:30, I was really hoping to run a sub-4:20 (and Suz thought I could do 4:15!).

Ready to go!
I had tried to get in line for the porta-pots, but the long line did not move quick enough, and I had to bag that idea right before lining up. Ugh...I didn't know how long I would last before I'd need a potty stop. Barb and I hung with the pacer, but at the 2-mile mark I knew I needed that potty stop ASAP. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long for my turn. Back outside, I decided to shed a layer. I wasn't really feeling hot, but I didn't want to get too sweaty and then be cold later when it did get warmer on the course. Talk about an awkward wrestling match in attempting to shed that batman shirt!

I didn't know how much time I'd lost, but wasn't worried when I saw the 4:30 pacer up ahead. I had 24 miles ahead of me, so I figured I could catch back up with the 4:15 group. I knew I had to just continue on easily (about a 10-minute pace) and eventually I'd find them. Except, I was starting to notice a little wonkiness with my left hip, kind of in the groin area. It had felt a little weird the past week or so, but not bothersome when running....but there it was.... acting up on the race course.

Back on the course, I passed the 4:30 group. I was not going fast, but trying to keep a steady pace. I knew the 4:15 group couldn't be too far ahead of me that early in the race. Onward. Easy does it. I kept telling myself the hip thing would work out the kinks in a few miles, and I'd probably be able to get some Biofreeze or pain meds at one of the aid stations.

The course was beautiful, taking us through residential neighborhoods. There were many historic houses, and constant rolling hills along the route. There were aid stations almost every mile-to-mile and half, all of which had ample water and Gatorade...I still wasn't seeing any first aid supplies, though. By the time I made it to the 7-mile mark, I had to pull over for another potty stop.

When I came out, there was the 4:30 pace group...again. Since my hip was still feeling funky, I decided to hang with them for awhile, then I wouldn't have to concentrate so much on my pace by myself. Maybe after several miles at that easy pace, I'd be able to conserve some energy for the second half of the race, right? By then, the hip/groin would feel better and I'd be able to just let go and run.

Except the hip/groin kept hurting. It wasn't gut-wrenching, but it was nonstop. Every step with my left foot reminded me that I was not in complete comfort. I kept taking periodic deep breaths and tried to relax. Maybe there would be a substantial first aid station at the halfway point...if I could persevere that long, I'd be fine.

It was just before the 12-mile mark that we crossed under a bridge with an historic Route 66 sign. I decided to pullover for a quick photo op...only I couldn't get my phone to pop out of the pocket on my fuel belt. Not sure how much time I lost on that "short" pit stop, but I got my selfie.


A short ways later, I spotted Traci! I called her name as I caught up with her. It was so great to see her. I was really having a tough time...the hip still had not loosened up, and I was desperate for some relief. The marathon and half marathon had shared the same route, but the split-off was coming up and Traci and I'd be parting ways. For a quick fleeting moment, I was tempted to follow Traci to the 13.1 finish line and call it a day..... but, No! I had trained for 26.2 miles, and I'd regret quitting early.

We wished each other well, and I turned off with the other marathoners. A mile or so after the split-off, the route headed due south....on a long stretch, straight into a fierce head wind. I still had not seen any first aid stations, nor had I noticed any such medical supplies at the numerous water/Gatorade stands. Suddenly, I had the crazy idea of just turning around and back-tracking to the 13.1 finish line. By this time, I was having serious doubt as to whether I'd be able to actually finish the marathon. I was barely past the half way point, and the hip was not feeling any better.

A short while later, I spotted the 4:30 group and was able to catch back up with them. I decided to (again) try to hang with them for a few miles, then (maybe) progressively up my pace and (hopefully) find the 4:15 group. I still held on to the hope I'd find an aid station with more than just water or Gatorade, so I pressed on.

It was finally near the 16-mile mark that I decided to walk for a bit. The constant hills were not giving my hip any relief. Thankfully, most of the hills were fairly short and not many were steep, but there was very little flat terrain in between any of them. Also, I continued to entertain the idea of turning around (and seeking out the long-passed 13.1 finish line).....but I also kept reminding myself how much I'd regret it. I think it was finally near the 18-mile mark that I reached an impasse; I decided to just keep going. There still was a slight chance I could get my PR, but the 4:15 (and 4:20) were pretty much out of the picture.

Throughout the course, there was constant crowd support, though. There also were numerous police officers keeping the intersections clear of traffic. Many of the neighborhoods had "block parties" with people dressed in costume, handing out jello shots and various other beverages of choice. Thankfully, all of the spectators were wonderful and really helped keep me distracted from my frustrating situation.

By the time I made it to 20 miles, I had lost the 4:30 group. I can't even remember when the last time was that I saw them.There were a lot of people walking in those final miles. Despite my aches and pains, I never felt like I had hit "the Wall." I was able to run at a decent pace, but had to keep taking walk breaks because of my hip.

Within the final mile, there is the Center of the Universe detour. It's a unique little Route 66 feature....you can do the extra (out and back).3 mile detour, and in doing so you not only earn bragging rights to having run the "world's shortest ultra," but you also receive a commemorative coin as a keepsake.

Center of the Universe detour...and the coin
I finished the detour, and rounded the final corner towards the finish line. By this time, my body did feel exhausted. I could barely lift my arm to hit the shuffle button on my ear bud cord. I have never cried at a race before, but I did have tears (and a painful lump in my throat) at the Route 66 finish line. Tears of exhaustion, tears of relief, tears of pride, and a few tears of disappointment. I had never had to work so hard for a finish line....but I did it, all on my own.

pics from MarathonFOTO
I got my medal, posed for a few pics, and stumbled to the medic tent. I asked if they had any Biofreeze or anything like that ...and they offered me ice. Seriously? (no thanks). I walked (slowly) through the food line, and found Barb waiting for me.

It's always dangerous sitting after a marathon...getting back up is not a guarantee
Barb had done well....I think she finished around 4:18. I, on the other hand, didn't even come close to my desired finish time. My official time came in at 4:50:19 (my watch showed 4:50:27), 30 minutes longer than what I'd hoped for. That finish time does reflect a couple of lengthy potty stops, two wrestling matches when I discarded my top layers of clothing, the photo op at the bridge, and the detour near the finish line. Don't get me wrong, 4:50:19 is not a bad finish time...it's just not the finish time I wanted, expected, or trained for.

These numbers don't lie....
Haven't we all been there, though? We invest a lot of time, energy, training, and miles into one morning of our lives.To have it not play out the way we envision or hope (due to weather, unexpected illness, injury, or whatever) feels like a slap in the face.

I didn't even look at my results printout until a couple days post-finish line. It shows my 20-mile split as being 3:30...which indicates I actually wasn't too far off pace at that point (and there had already been some walking by then). The final 10K (and detour) took me well over an hour (like 1:20) to complete...hence the finish time. If it was any other day, I probably could have finished the remaining 10K in less than an hour.


I have had several days to think, soul-search, analyze, and reanalyze my Route 66 experience. Here's what I've come up with:

*The Route 66 course was tough, and so was my training. Had I not put in the blood, sweat, and tears in preparation, I would have had to walk a lot more...or possibly taken a DNF.

*This was the toughest race I have ever done. I knew the course would be hilly, and I expected some wind. The hip/groin thing is what blindsided me, though. As mentioned, I had noticed a little something going on with my hip, but I didn't think it was an issue because I didn't have any discomfort on any of my runs during my taper (but none of those runs were on hills or for extensive distances).

*I felt ready, and did not approach the start line "over confidant." I sincerely believe it wasn't just the hills, or the wind, or the wonky hip...but a combination of all three (mainly the hip, though) that messed up my performance.

*Despite my challenging circumstances, I still enjoyed the race. It was a top-notch event with awesome crowd support, a huge expo, plenty of aid stations, and near-perfect traffic control. My only complaint is the lack of first aid supplies on the course. There were a few medical personnel along the route, but none of them had the usual items I see along race courses of this magnitude (bandages, Biofreeze, pain meds, petroleum jelly, etc.).

*I am at peace with everything, finally. Honestly, I am ever-so-thankful for the ability to not only run...but to run races of this distance. Although I respect the marathon for what it is, I am not afraid of running 26.2 (or more) miles. And, I'm already registered for another in 2017.

*I would rather run a tough course, and have a few struggles along the way. Anyone can run an "easy" course (and some purposely choose such a course in hopes of a BQ or a PR), but the tough courses are the ones that show us what we're really made of.


The race jackets are nice! Long sleeves, nice (bright!) colors, and thumb holes. Win!


And, would you check out these medals? The marathon medal is like a small trophy!


So tell me...have you ever run Route 66? Ever endured a tough (hilly) course with compromised body parts? Ever considered bagging a 26.2 finish line and turning around?

I'm linking up with Marcia and Erika and Patty for Tuesdays on the Run, I'm also linking up with Deb for the Wednesday Word (and the word is endorphins...which I think were present at Route 66, but I was not consciously aware of them), and I am also linking up with Suzie and Debbie and Rachel and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner. I invite you to take a look at all of these awesome blogs, as well as all the linked blogs...there's a wealth of expertise and information!






43 comments:

  1. That sounds like a really tough run! Marathons are always a challenge, but with hip pain thrown in there you had some serious mental toughness to finish that out! Congrats!

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    1. Thanks!! Yes, it was a tough course...the wind and hip pain just magnified the "toughness" needed to finish LOL

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  2. Some of my most "accomplished" races are not the ones I Pr-ed at but the ones that were tough on me.

    That is neat about the coin thing. Did they give it to you as you round the corner of the detour? Don't forget that little detour took some time too so in essence you have a PR for an Ultra! Good job pushing through Kim!

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    1. I agree...the tough races are the victories ;-) They gave us the detour coins (more like medals without the ribbon) just after the turnaround. And, yes, this does qualify as an Ultra PR ;-)

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  3. Ugh. Way to push through and finish that sucker. Who knows why things flare up when they do? Sorry it had to be during your marathon.

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    1. ha! Yes, the timing certainly was not ideal for the angry hip...but with the hills and what not, I guess any "sleeping" issue would be jostled awake

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  4. Awww Kim, I know that feeling exactly. You train hard, felt ready, and something just goes awry race day. I feel like that is exactly what happened to me, I was still pretty close ot goal at mile 20 and then I took forver. I feel your pain...literally.
    You did a great toughing it out! and earning the cool bling, and I really do like your race shirt! It is fun you did the 5K too :)
    Way to go!! you got it done.

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    1. Any race can go awry....no matter how prepared you are, everything has to come together in perfect unison for those few hours on the course. I'm glad I trained as hard as I did, it definitely got me to the finish line

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  5. Obviously I've never run a full, but I have run a couple of hilly races injured and it's no fun.

    I also had one half I trained for so hard, felt so ready . . . and then an out of season heat wave hit.

    But you're right, that's the game we play when we sign up for a race. I'm sorry that it didn't go as you planned, Kim, but you finished & you'll get that PR, I've no doubt.

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    1. Thanks, Judy ;-) The PR would have been a great reward for all the training, but was not really a priority... it was just disappointing how out of reach it was at that race LOL

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  6. Congratulations - you put in such a great effort when things didn't go your way. I get how frustrated you feel, but hopefully you feel proud too! I hope your hip/groin is better now. Those mystery pains are the worst, but even worse on race day.

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    1. Thanks ;-) I am happy I was able to persevere, and am proud to have another 26.2 under my belt. We never quite know what the race day will bring until we're actually running...oh well. Route 66 is my most "recent" marathon, but certainly not my "last."

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  7. Route 66 is a bucket list race for me!

    So sorry to hear about all the troubles/frustrations you experienced on race day, but you persevered and finished! Way to go! Plus, THAT BLING!!!!

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    1. Route 66 is an awesome race, but be prepared for LOTS of hills ;-) The hip/groin discomfort was a total buzz kill....I'm thankful I had the training to withstand it.

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  8. Races are not just about finish times. This race was about heart. This race was about grit. And you showed that you have that, and more. You should be proud of yourself for figuring out how to make it work under tough conditions!

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    1. Desperate times...desperate measures? I didn't mention how many times I cursed the wind (out loud) or said (also out loud) "seriously? You've GOT to be kidding!" as I plodded up some of those hills. I'm glad my coach had me in shape to face those challenges ;-)

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  9. I'd say that for this race, finishing is winning. I've had races like that--and you just need to feel good about your grit and determination to cross the finish line! Congrats on a well fought race!

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    1. Thank you, Wendy! Finishing definitely was winning at this race...that hip/groin thing was almost a major deal-breaker LOL

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  10. sounds tough but you did great! way to go!!

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    1. thanks! I've never been so happy to see a finish line ;-)

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  11. Way to stick with running through your hard race. I had a similar experience with my half in June. I trained shard and failed miserably. I almost had a personal worse on a new to me course but I hope to run it again next year.

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    1. It's frustrating when an unexpected wrench gets thrown at you on race day...I'm glad I stuck it out and didn't let the hip/groin discomfort "win"

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  12. I'm happy to hear that you did enjoy your race, despite it being your toughest. I had a weird hip/groin thing during my marathon too, and it was the first time I had experienced that pain in any of my training. I'm sorry that you didn't get to reach your goal but you still did amazingly well with the weather and the potty breaks!

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    1. I was totally blindsided with the pain....not anything I'd trained with or experienced before.

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  13. As they said: what doesn't kill use makes us stronger!"

    You are one strong runner and your marathon PR will come. Probably when you least expect it.

    Hope your hip is healing.

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    1. Thanks Darlene. The PR wouldn't have been such a big deal if I hadn't trained so hard, but I did learn how strong I can be on the race course if I need to be

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  14. Even though it wasn't what you hoped for or trained for you did awesome. Now you can learn, move on and PR at the next marathon! Great job!

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    1. I'd really love to learn what I did to cause that hip/groin pain LOL And why it didn't make a big grandiose appearance until race day. Definitely moving on ;-)

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  15. way to stick it out, it takes a lot more to keep going then it does to quit plus it was a hard course so extra props to you :) and that medal is awesome!!

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    1. You're absolutely right...quitting is the easy way out. I'm glad I stayed with it and finished...and yes, that medal is heavy LOL

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  16. I am sorry that you did not achieve the goal time you hoped for. I so enjoyed watching how excited you were with your training goals. You made so much improvement in the course of your training even if your race time does not reflect that. You always inspire me!

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    1. Those race days can totally spank us...or be our best friends. Thanks for all your support and encouragement ;-)

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  17. Aw, I'm sorry you didn't achieve your goal. But you kicked ass anyway. And we've ALL had those races. Some of us more often than others, unfortunately. Sounds like you had a great coach. ;)

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    1. Thanks ;-) That %$#& hip/groin issue is what did me in (or at the very least, it certainly was my nemesis for the morning). My choices were 1) ignore the pain and just go for it, 2)turn around and finish the 13.1 instead, or 3) just deal with it as best I could. I seriously was worried if I pushed too hard (ignoring the pain), I'd be side-lined and be forced into a DNF.

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  18. :hug: to you. I know exactly how you are feeling, and it stinks. However, you did work hard, and I'm glad you're at peace with that. No one ever know what to expect on race day, an edit sounds like this just wasn't your day. You'll get it and you'll hit that new PR soon!

    My hip started chattering at me at Space Coast this weekend. I told my coach I planned to listen to it more than to her, and if it cost me a PR (it did), then so be it. Sometimes, it's all you can do.

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    1. It stinks, but I know it happens to all of us. I'm grateful that I had the endurance and strength (and stubbornness?) to grit it out and finish ;-)

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  19. Congrats on finishing your tough marathon. I'm bummed it didn't go your way, but they don't always and you've processed it really well! I signed up to run the half next year! What marathon have you registered for in 2017?

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    1. Route 66 is a great event despite my experience...and I can't blame anything on the race itself, it was that stupid hip/groin thing that messed up race LOL I'll just warn you, be prepared for hills! Not big hills, per se, but nonstop hills ;-) I'm headed to Duluth, MN for Grandma's Marathon in June ;-)

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  20. You pushed through a tough race, and for that reason, I applaud you. You didn't give up, when so many others would have. I'm so proud of you!

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    1. thanks ;-) Now I have a wonky hip/groin to deal with as it heals LOL

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  21. Congrats on persevering and finishing the race! I remember a few of those marathons that seemed to get longer the longer I ran. For me, the Georgia Marathon was such a race!

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. HA! It was a tough course, I certainly didn't need the wind and/or hip problems to add to the chaos ;-)

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  22. Wow tough race. Congrats for pushing through. It sounds like life (or the race) threw you a couple punches and you just dodged them or threw one back. Good for you ! You trained so hard.
    You are already registered for another one ? Wow. I am loving the downtime.
    You rock despite not hitting your desired goal. Huge accomplishment. Bravo !!!

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