My training this year, and particularly this fall has exceeded all of my previous expectations and performances. I’ve been equally excited and exhausted by the miles I’ve logged and the time I’ve committed leading up to Across the Years on December 28th. Throughout it all, however, I’ve grown immensely as a runner, and found a decidedly beneficial balance in my life that has served me well on numerous levels. This past weekend, I tackled yet another new challenge amidst the variety of training scenarios I have been putting my body through during the fall. I registered for the Indianapolis Marathon on Saturday and the Des Moines Marathon on Sunday, officially attempting my first “double”, as my fellow Maniacs are fond of calling it!
On Friday morning, I hopped in the car with three friends for the 9 hour drive down to Indianapolis. My mind may not have been quite awake yet, but I managed to toss my bag in the car and try to conserve as much mental and physical energy for the weekend as possible. On the one hand, I was treating both of these races as a combined training weekend. However, my personal competitive nature meant I was itching to see just what I was capable of after so much more training than I had ever done. My previous marathon PR of 3:54:49 in Little Rock this past spring was floating around in my head, taunting me to push my body and see just what my legs had. However, I was committed to waiting until the morning of the race to truly decide how I would approach Marathon #1 of the weekend. We went out for an early sushi dinner and retired to the hotel room to get a solid night of rest. For the evening, convincing my mind and body to fall asleep so early was enough of a challenge!
We woke up around 5:30AM on Saturday morning, and began to get ready and eat a small breakfast. We loaded up the car since we needed to check out of the hotel before leaving for the race, and then hopped on the shuttle at 6:40AM. Leaving this early for a race that didn’t start until 8:30AM wasn’t ideal, but it meant not driving ourselves, which we certainly appreciated afterwards. The sky was overcast, although the darkness hid the full extent of the cloud cover. The light drizzle, however, was immune to the rotation of the earth and greeted us through the 35 degree temperature. We arrived at the starting line, and situated ourselves in one of the race tents to try to conserve body heat before the race.
The Indianapolis Marathon, in its 18th year, is a club race, and still relatively small (around 700 runners) with a multiple out-and-back course that takes runners through various area parks and wooded areas, along paved trails. We are able to avoid downtown, and the number of runners and looping course is perfect for interacting with friends and other runners on multiple occasions. I lined up in my assigned corral, although it was unclear what pace was affiliated with this place in the starting area. I decided about 3 minutes before the gun went off that I would seek out the 3:30 pacer and try to hang on as long as I could to see what I really was capable of under race conditions. The course was incredibly flat, so I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to test my body.
The gun went off, and I could see a pacing sign ahead of me so I raced to catch up, only to discover it was the 1:50 half-marathon pacer. I pushed on, and finally happened to run into the 3:30 pacer after about 3/4 of a mile. I only noticed him because of the conversation he was having with runners around him, as the rain had destroyed his sign. From the beginning, he was an amazing pacer and I was impressed. He was very calm, kept everyone comfortable, and engaged everyone on an individual level, going out of his way to make runners feel more at ease as they trekked on. Over the course of the race, we had a variety of fantastic conversations about marathons, ultra-running, and life in general. He was certainly an experienced pacer, and an asset to the Indianapolis Marathon.
I stuck with him and wet hit 8:00 minute miles pretty consistently. The variety of conversations, combined with a surprisingly large contingency of spectators helped the miles melt away effortlessly and my legs were feeling great. Several friends fell in with us around mile 8, and I was able to run with them for a solid 6 miles before we separated into different paces. I was able to hold out on a bathroom break until around the halfway point, but finally broke down. Luckily, the pacer stopped as well, and we raced to catch up to the 3:30 group together, and fell back in with our consistent miles. I hit the half-marathon mark in record time, and my pace was incredibly consistent. I was simultaneously excited and curious as to just how long I could maintain it!
The longest out-and-back was a rather long straight-away in both directions, which did get a bit tedious at times, but my spirits were high and I was excited by my endurance, which kept my spirits high. At the 20-mile split, I was still moving strong and feeling pretty good, although my legs were definitely starting to get a bit tired, and I could feel the impact of the pavement on my feet a bit more. Around mile 22, I could tell I wasn’t going to be able to maintain my 8:00 pace for the next 4 miles, and after I hit mile 23, I dialed back around 30 seconds for the final 5K. My feet were heavy, but I was still feeling really good and incredibly excited by my progress.
Throughout the race, I kept running into various friends and fellow Marathon Maniacs, and the energy exuding from that expansive support group no doubt had a great deal to do with my continued push forward. As I entered the park and closed in on the finish line, I knew I had to be close to my crazy 3:30 goal. I kicked as best I could, and crossing the finish line never felt so good, mere seconds behind a friend who had run a phenomenal race himself. I looked down at my watch and was greeted with 3:30:01!!! My official time was 3:30:41, and either way, I had destroyed my previous PR. I was a bit in shock to be honest. I knew I had trained well, and gained a bit of speed, but I certainly never saw 3:30 in my immediate future. I broke into a wide-mouthed smile as they handed me the medal, and I made my way through the shoot. I gathered some water and snacks, and the two of us made our way back near the finish line to cheer on other friends as they crossed.
In the following minutes, I was able to see friends hit BQ times, new PRs, age-group placers and cross the marathon finish line for the first time ever. The level of accomplishment in my circle of friends was incredible and I couldn’t have been more proud to know each of them. Everyone laid it all out on the course, and walked away with incredible efforts to be enormously proud of and memories that we all shared together. That small city park on the outskirts of Indianapolis was the site of some amazing running memories amidst a diverse group of friends, and being a part of such an amazing running community is by far and away what keeps me motivated day-in, day-out.
We hopped back on the shuttle bus, snuck into the pool shower area at the hotel to clean off quickly, and then back in the car for the another 9-hour drive. We spent the time chatting, celebrating, planning future races, discussing other possible adventures, and of course stopping every hour or so to stretch and eat! We rolled into Ames around 10:30 and I walked in the door tired, with sore legs, and some amazing memories!
Before drifting off to sleep, I filled the beautiful epicurean in on our adventures, and got everything set up for the next day’s marathon. I would get up in a mere 6 hours for marathon #2…but that’s a story for another blog post!