As of this fall, I’ve been running for 16 years. These last few months since finally recovering from spring illness have been spent putting in miles and chasing after some goals I wasn’t even sure if I had the business chasing after. I put in 260 hours of running, strength, training, and cross-training through the summer and fall — that’s almost 11 entire days worth of training! According to Strava, over 6 months, my fitness improved by over 65%. Which makes sense…in May I could barely go for a walk without being fatigued! I have certainly come a long way since then…
This weekend I capped off that big block of training with a half marathon race in Indianapolis — the Monumental Marathon. Spoiler alert: it went well! But the week leading into this race had several wrenches thrown into it…
Not in the Race Plan
In the week leading up to the race, a weather check in Indianapolis indicated that the fall weather I’d been enjoying training in would not exactly be promised on race day. While Indianapolis usually averages around a high of 51°F and a low of 33°F, Saturday morning was around 64° with 20mph winds gusting up to 40mph! I would not have chosen these conditions for racing, but it’s what we were given and it didn’t feel as bad as I thought it might!
Another thing that wasn’t in my race plan…rolling my ankle the week of the race! On Tuesday, I was finishing my final tune-up workout on the track and was jogging back to my car to head home. About 10 feet from my car, I stepped into a pothole and rolled my left ankle! I had some swelling and a good bit of stiffness and pain the rest of the week, and went through all the stages of grief LOL…But thanks to ice, ibuprofen, my sports chiropractor, and prayer, my ankle ended up being a non-factor during the race and feels totally back to normal as I type this recap post.
Race Prep & Race Day
During this training block, I really tried to work on a few things, one being eating adequate carbs. The day before the race, I did a 1-day carb load using resources from fellow Kent resident and nutritionist ionist extraordinaire Meghann Featherstun of Featherstone Nutrition. I must say: I did not really enjoy the way the carb load made me feel (I missed vegetables!) but I think the carb load did help during the race!
On race morning, I loaded up on graham crackers and made my way to Indianapolis, squeezing at the last minute into my corral. I read online that being on the left side of the corral would be helpful for running the tangents, and I would say that tip was accurate! I was able to finish with 13.13 on my GPS tracker, and that’s the first time that I haven’t run a good bit extra in a race due to not running the tangents and/or weaving in and out of a crowded race field. I did almost step in a pothole in the first mile, but fortunately I was able to quickly divert from that and continue on my way!
I felt really good the first 6 or so miles, averaging a 7:06 mile pace. Then mile 8 came, when I got a gnarly side stitch birthed in the bowels of hell. I never get side stitches during training or hard workouts, so I’m eager to work on a few different things in my next training block to prevent that from happening again. From mile 8-9.5, I slowed my pace while painfully praying that the side stitch would go away. It was really tough to keep pushing at this point; this was my darkest portion of the race mentally. I really wanted to just drop out or walk! But I kept pressing forward, hoping that it would subside and I’d be able to get a second wind.
By mile 10, I was able to pick up the pace again and get my second wind until I hit…MORE WIND! Miles 11 and 12 were my slowest, a 7:31 and a 7:33 pace. While I attempted to draft off a few other runners, people were really slowing their pace, and one man even told me “If I can’t, you can’t!” when I tried to tuck in a few feet behind him. Yikes! In the last mile, I was able to push through the pain in my legs and my strained breathing (at this point my heart rate was its absolute max, too!) and throw down a 7:05 mile, giving it my all. I finished with a time of 1:34:48, a 2-minute and 24-second improvement from my previous personal best!
My legs were pretty trashed from the effort, and I also forgot to run a cooldown because I was trying to get back to my family as we watched my sister-in-law run the marathon. She crushed it, running over a minute PR for a speedy time of 2:51! I really enjoyed hanging out with my niece after the race, who is just so sweet and cute!
I was pleased to meet my goal of breaking 1:35! I think with better conditions (less wind and cooler temps and also no hellish side stitch), I could’ve run a bit faster, but I’m definitely not disappointed with how my race went.
Gear: This was my first time running in carbon plate shoes (Ascis Metaspeed Sky), and I really enjoyed them! I didn’t notice that they’ve made my calves more sore (some people say that), but I did do a few workouts in them and other workouts in some nylon plate shoes (Saucony Endorphin Speed). I think they really do help speed up that pace while not making the effort seem as difficult as it would be in regular trainers or flats. I ran in Tracksmith Allston Long Shorts, which have nice pockets for fitting my gels! I used Maurten gels in training and the race which worked really well for me! For the race, I took one caffeinated gel 5 minutes before the race followed by 2 regular gels taken at mile 4 and mile 8.
Training Plan: I really enjoyed the training plan I used from Neely Spence Gracey and her stellar book Breakthrough Women’s Running (my friend and I call it our running bible). I felt like the workouts really gave me confidence while not being too mentally intimidating that I started to question my ability. My favorite workout was 6×1 mile at half marathon pace with 400 meter jog between reps. I did this workout during a 16 mile long run day, and felt absolutely unstoppable. I loved thinking about that workout during my race and reminding myself how strong I felt and that I still had that fitness in me even as I fatigued.
A fun bonus about my training/race day was that Neely was also running the half marathon at Indy! I was able to DM with her and let her know how the book helped me!
Final thoughts: I wrote this a few weeks ago in an Instagram caption, but I’ll put it here, too: My fall training has been some of the most rewarding running of my 16-year stretch. 12-year old Grace was a self-conscious and insecure runner who was embarrassed about how much taller she was than her peers and that her singlet was so sweaty after races, but 28-year old Grace now knows that there’s much more to this sport than looking a certain way or impressing others. It’s about enjoying movement, exploring the outdoors, taking care of my body, spending time in the company of a friend on a long run, and showing up even when the conditions are not always ideal. I’m excited to keep showing up for 16 more years, and 16 more, and then 16 more after that 😉