Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Marathon #2

"WELCOME TO THE ROCKET CITY MARATHON- 36th Annual Rocket City Marathon: A 26 mile, 385 yard footrace through Huntsville, AL. December 8, 2012 8:00 AM" ,

read the race websites home page.  Then further down the page, 

"The Rocket City Marathon is more than just a race. It is an "event" built around the race. We work just as hard creating exciting activities to make your trip to the Rocket City fun as we do conducting a flawless race on a fast course to produce an enjoyable race that should yield your maximum performance. The carbo supper is excellent and we feed about 500 each year so be sure to give it a try. These and the other Friday activities are provided to encourage you to run your best.''

It seemed so low key in comparison to my previous (and first) marathon experience- Chicago 2011- where the race app and broadcasting info were the type of specifics listed online.  I welcomed the thought of it. Chicago was generally a good race for me; my first marathon memories that are still so vivid, including cruising through China town to the beat of local drummers and their dancing dragon, very sloooowly running the last mile in the dead middle of a 4 lane downtown Chicago street and crossing an epic finish line flanked by rows of grandstands full of cheering spectators.  As I wove through the crowd to find my husband and friends in the reunion area, I was overflowing with pride. I'd accomplished something that 5 years ago would've seemed out of reach. I finished slower than I'd wanted to (4:30ish) but at least I finished uninjured and knowing I wanted to do another. Here are the Chicago results:

I chose to tackle other goals in early- mid 2012, but was very, very excited when I added an end of year marathon (Rocket City) to my calendar. I was also pretty darn happy to be joined in training by many of my Chicago training buddies. They are the ones that keep it fun! 

Training for Rocket City went very well with the exception of my final long run. My grandmother passed away peacefully and suddenly early in the week, and I knew by the end of the week I would be headed out for a long drive North towards family. My friend and Huntsville training buddy, Cristina, offered to run the 22 miler with me on Friday morning before she had to go to work and I had to get on the road. Off we went before 5am on a frigid Friday morning after staying up late packing the night before. It wasn't ideal, but I am so thankful she offered to go with me. I struggled so badly that morning. My legs felt like bricks, and by the time it was over I felt so weak. My confidence dipped, but slowly returned over the next couple of weeks as I ran some shorter distance. 

Race weekend rolled in and I felt ready: stronger and much less intimidated than I had been going into the Chicago marathon. I credit that feeling to a couple things:

1) Sticking with a good training plan and having a great running community to push and support me through it.

2) Experience. One marathon in the books eases ALOT of nerves caused by not knowing what is in store! One half iron distance tri in the books taught even more about what to expect  and how to react during endurance racing.

Friday afternoon I headed to Huntsville AL with my buddies. A couple hours later we were checked into our hotel and meeting with the rest of the Nashville crew for a pasta dinner. A friend, Meg, has family in Huntsville who not only graciously invited us into their home, but served us a Fan- Effing- Tastic meal. That hospitality set the tone for the weekend. It seems most of Huntsville is really into this event. The local race organizers did a phenomenal job on their end- no complaints there! AND I love my race shirt (pretty blue, long sleeve, with a rocket logo) so that doesn't hurt.  
Our hotel was the official race hotel, meaning the expo/packet pickup was held onsite and the start/finish line was on the street outside the front door!!! Logistically, it was a breeze compared to Chicago. Our Saturday morning start time of 8 am (outside our front door!) allowed for a little more sleep than normal, than plenty of time to get up and prep. Obviously, our first priority as a group was to don our East Nasty gear and take a group holiday photo pre- race. SUCCESS.

Temps were warmer than expected, but it never got really hot so I was happy in that arena. My buddies and I decided to follow behind the 4:10 pace group (meaning- there is a leader who will keep the correct pace to achieve a 4 hour and 10 minute finish time; runners with this time goal can follow along). We wanted to keep the 4:10 pacer in site, but not necessarily stay right with them. That type of pace intimidated me; the closest I'd come to naming a time goal was "I think I can do 4:30". Soon enough the gun went off, and our relatively tiny crowd of 1,200 runners surged across the start line. 

I summoned my confidence and made the decision to change some of my marathon strategies based off previous experience. At Chicago, I had been so afraid to expend any extra energy that I basically ignored the crowds, didn't cheer back at spectators, or talk to any other runners. Wow, was I bored by mile 9. I did those things out of fear and anxiety, and it was not a fun race. At all. I was bored and mentally struggling at only half way through. My half iron tri taught me that giving myself over to experience makes endurance racing a much more positive experience. Embracing these adventures in their entirety, acknowledging that I do them because I love the challenge and enjoy other people who share that crazy drive has shifted my approach to racing. 

So there I am racing in Huntsville. Exploring the new scenery. Talking to my current running buddies and meeting new ones (CARRIE- I 'm looking forward to doing B2B with you, hahaha). Cheering back to the folks who cheered for me- which was alot, I must say. The neighborhoods, the schools, the community athletic groups, our friends, and plenty of random people were all through the course supporting the runners. The vibe was great, so I thought "why not feed off it." Instead of thinking "don't cheer back at them, you'll waste energy" I went with a "let's cheer together and build more energy" approach. I think I'll stick with this approach from here on out, because the first 20 miles of the course felt great- FUN almost! 

Huntsvillians seemed really into "Worst Parade Ever"as sign theme, but I 'm gonna say my brother, Seth should win a prize for best poster and spirit. I'm mean he did get into the local newspaper and all! And then front page of Reddit.com the next day.
The last 2 miles were when the pain set in. My stomach got a little queasy and then continued to get worse so I dropped my pace down quite a bit, let my stomach settle and sprinted in the last quarter mile with the aid of the ever encouraging Daniel H. 

I found my friends, found a patch of grass, and started pounding Gatorade. Here are my final results:
476 Sarah Shearer 35 Nashville TN 4:14:18

I could hardly believe it! I'm still so proud and happy just thinking of it. My hope is that we all find that for ourselves- no matter what outlet (sports related or not) it comes through.
Recovery commenced, with the highlight being an "ice bath" in the outdoor pool.  It went from being just me, with Seth keeping me company here:

To a full fledged pool party in December attended by several of my cutie pie friends here:

I did have to warm my self with a hairdryer in the hotel room to regulate my body temp, but the pool was pretty effective in it's purpose- my soreness was gone by today (3rd day post race) and I feel great! I also recovered with great post race snacks and hydration provided by the marathon- the race organizers did a great job with that aspect, also. Mexican for dinner with the group followed by a lil shopping at H& M (Yes, Huntsville has an H& M! No, it is not fair.) rounded out an awesome race day and all around great weekend!

I'd highly recommend the Rocket City Marathon to anyone considering it, and hope to return to it again in a year or two! Oh, and here are more pics if you're interested.

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