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|
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|
|Checking out the finish line (post-expo) with Rhonda|
Imagine my surprise and elation to see this upon rising Sunday morning:
|Key words: Scattered thunderstorms developing LATER in the day|
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|
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|
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?|
|the camera does not lie...this DID happen|
|nothing like a little bit of tomato juice (etc.) to replenish some of that salt...|
|Hands-down, my favorite pic of the day....all of us are smiling as WE finish the marathon, together!|
|WE did it!!!|
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?