Wednesday, November 11, 2015

REVEL Canyon City Marathon Race Recap

I have been sort of dreading writing this recap... It means I have to relive the race (and the disappointment that came along with it), but I will live to fight another day and run another race so I've gotta persevere!

Have you ever received advice from numerous sources, know that it was the best thing for you and then do the exact opposite? Well, I guess you can say that is what I did on race day... And I paid the price for it... But let's start at the beginning.

Ryan and I both had to work until 2pm on Friday. Once I got off and he got home we packed up the car and headed to drop the doggy off at our friends'. We were on the road by about 3pm, but with Friday traffic we didn't end up making it to Azusa and the "Expo" (I would say it was more of a packet pick-up than an expo per say, seeing as there were maybe 6 "booths") until closer to 6:15pm. I grabbed my bib, shirt, snapped a quick picture and we made our way to dinner.

After inhaling some pizza we drove over and checked into our hotel. The hotel was great and two doors down from where some friends were staying (who I would be carpooling with in the morning to the starting line). I nervously laid out my racing gear, made sure all of my throwaway layers were packed and did some foam rolling and stretching before trying to lay down for a bit of sleep.

Hubby helped pick out the outfit... I guess he figured a neon blob coming
down the course would be easy to spot ;) #Totally80s

Just like with most nights that I have to set my alarm (whether it is for a flight, work, a run, etc), I got pretty craptastic sleep. My body is always worried that I will sleep through my alarm(s), so I am constantly waking up every 20-30 minutes to check the clock and make sure I haven't. Oh well, I'm used to it (and also made sure that I got as much sleep as possible Wednesday and Thursday nights to try to account for the assumed bad "sleep" I'd get Friday night).

I was out of bed around 2:50am... Never made it to the alarms

I got ready, checked the weather (which actually didn't look as bad as they were predicting earlier in the week - they were originally saying in the 30s with 35-50mph winds and it looked like it was going to be in the high 40s with less severe winds) and then put my phone in the book bag Ryan was bringing with him to the race. With the race being in a canyon, you don't get cell reception until about mile 23 of the marathon, so why waste the battery or have the extra weight?!

I walked over to meet up with Smitha, Jenn and Vanessa. They were staying at one of the host hotels and they had little breakfast/ lunch sacks pre-made and ready for them in the lobby. I'm generally always too cheap to stay in a host hotel so it was fun to see how they were catering to the runners (although I heard they wouldn't allow late check-outs, which is sort of weird because I doubt West Covina is a hoppin' place and a real destination location for too many folks). We picked up another friend on the way to the buses and made it over to the parking lots by about 4:40am. The marathon shuttles were leaving between 4 and 5 so I think we timed it just about perfectly (I would have much rather sat in a warm car in the parking lot than up in the cold at the top of the mountain).

Smitha and I on the bus - Purple Pals!

The bus ride up was uneventful, which is always a bonus. Our bus driver didn't seem super comfortable with all the windy, hilly roads (she would pull over into the passing lane to let other buses go around us), but she got us there safely and THAT is what matters. Once the sun started to rise the views were absolutely stunning! At the top of the mountain we were able to relax a bit, use the port-o-potties and snap some pictures before it was GO time.

Smitha, myself and Kindal
Thanks to Smitha for the picture! (Like I said, I left my phone w/ the hubby)

Some of the lovely local ladies!
Photo credit: Smitha

Kindal, myself and Sandy!
Photo credit: Sandy

Before we knew it we were putting our gear check stuff in the truck and getting ready to line up. I was able to say HEY to Robert and then found Pam and Sarah before lining up with Kindal behind the 3:25 pacer.

Thanks for the picture Robert! Love seeing this speedy guy at local races!

Do we look ready?! Or like we are scared poop-less?!

So, the game plan. There was going to be no 3:30 pacer (which is a bummer because that was the pace band I printed off and what I was realistically shooting for). Kindal and I decided that we would try and stay behind the 3:25 pacer (because most of the time pacers draw a crowd and we didn't want to be having to fight to find space to run) for the majority of the race - hopefully keeping him in sight.

Originally I was thinking that 8 minute miles for 26+ miles sounded insane, so I was thinking "What if I ran 7 minute miles the first half and that gives me wiggle room for 9 minute miles the second half?". I mentioned this to Pavey and I think he wanted to slap me (with a smile on his face, of course). He reminded me that was NOT how I was training (I normally do progressive runs, running faster at the end of a run) and that trying to "bank" time in a long distance race was NOT a smart race plan (AND I KNEW THAT). Pam also reinforced this before we started by telling me "No 7 minute miles the first half. If you see 7's, pull back and save it for the second half of the race."

Kindal and I had talked before hand - we would try and stay together (we both wanted that infamous Boston Qualifying race), but if one of us was having an off day, the other would charge forward and we would meet up at the finish line.

Last picture before Kindal put her phone away for the race.
Photo credit: Kindal

I was actually a bit surprised when the race started because there was no national anthem, no real countdown, people just started going... Maybe there wasn't much of a sound system at the top of the mountain, who knows, but it sort of threw me for a loop.

Anywho, we were running and that's what mattered. I had left my blanket and pants in my gear-check bag, but was still running with my hoodie and gloves. By mile 1.5 or so it had already warmed up enough to drop the hoodie (which was a BAD sign).

I kept the gloves and arms sleeves on for a while because when you were in the shade of the hills it was still a bit nippy (and I've thrown my gloves too early in a couple races and haven't been able to feel my fingers - no fun!). The only thing really cold on me were my feet... And they were cold like NUMB... I don't think I could feel them till around mile 3.

My watch beeps every mile. The first mile was supposed to be around 8 minutes even. When it beeped and the time said 7:26 I looked at Kindal and said "Well, that was too fast... And too easy". Mile 2 was some of the same (although there was a bit of an uphill included to add distance to the course so it slowed our pace a bit) and we clocked a 7:36 mile. When miles 3 and 4 came at 7:13 and 6:52 I knew I was in trouble.

By this time we had passed the 3:25 pacer and were cookin' downhill. I knew it wasn't the game plan, I knew it was the OPPOSITE of the game plan, but the adrenaline mixed with the downhill, it was hard to stop this freight train. I felt like at that point it was going to take more energy to try and hold myself back than it was to keep at the same pace - so I stupidly (and even at the time I knew it was a bad idea) keep chugging along.

Then it happened. Mile 6. If you look at my splits you wouldn't have been able to notice anything, but man could I feel it. I started to get a knot/ cramp in my left calf. Every step I took on that leg I could feel the knot throbbing. It wasn't enough to stop me (especially with Kindal and I seemingly kicking so much booty), but it was something I felt every step I took.

[Warning: Please do NOT take this as me saying to run through an injury. If I had felt as though it was going to cause long-term damage I would have pulled out in an instant. I knew it was more of a cramp/ knot that was just going to continue to remind me of its presence but not knock me out for the count.]

The miles just kept ticking away. Before we knew it we were half way down with the race. And that half-way marked the first timing mat (because it was the starting line for the half marathon). I didn't necessarily want to know our time because I knew if I heard it I would probably be nervous I wouldn't be able to hold on to the speed we were flying at (and I would have been 150% correct). Kindal looked at me and said "1:36:16". WAIT... WHAT?! 

Like, really... Those times are stupid fast for someone who still has another half marathon to run...

My current Half Marathon PR is 1:44. You mean I just ran a 8.5 minute PR AND still have another half marathon to run?! Oh, THAT wasn't the smartest idea I've ever had, let me tell you! Sure, sure, we had probably lost about 5,000 feet in elevation by that point, but still, running THAT FAST when I still had another 13.1 miles to get through... WAIT... WHAT?! 

Around mile 14 was where I knew I had to start letting off the gas. The calf knot/ cramp was not getting any better and I was starting to feel not only the fatigue of pounding my legs down a mountain but also somewhat dehydrated.

Maybe it was the mountain air, maybe it was the quickly warming temperatures, maybe it was actual dehydration, but whatever it was, my throat was super dry and I felt like I couldn't get enough water. (I do have to say, the majority of the aid stations had clear plastic cups. Although this made it easier to know exactly what was in them, it made them hard to fold and drink on the run, so I was probably getting a lot less water than I should have along the way.)

Also, although the race is a net downhill, the second half definitely has rolling hills. Even if the hills aren't crazy big, after pounding DOWN for 5,000 feet, any type of uphill is a shock to your body. And at that point my body wanted NO part of it... [My Garmin data had a loss of 7,318 feet and a gain of 2,237 feet so it was definitely not ALL downhill.]

Mile 17 was when the 3:25 pacer caught back up with me and flew by. At this point I decided I needed to start taking some walk breaks. I "knew" it was going to hurt my time, but I also knew I couldn't hold the pace I was going... "Forward is a pace" and it was the only pace I could go. At that point I felt like I still had 10 minutes "in the bank" that I could play with, so I excused myself to take a few walk breaks when I needed them. At this time I also started grabbing 2 cups of water at the aid stations because I just could not quench my thirst.

There were points that I thought I would end up just walking the rest of the race. I was playing mind games with myself - "If you run to that third cone you can walk for two cones after that" - but you know that once you start wanting to walk on the downhills that the wheels have completely fallen off.

By mile 21 the 3:35 pacer had caught me. At this point I knew my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon was DONE-ZO. I also knew I had 2 races coming up this weekend (one half in San Diego on Sunday morning and one half in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon) so if I wasn't going to BQ I didn't want to kill myself and risk not being able to run in those races.

On the left picture you can see the 3:35 pacer in front of me and on the left picture you can see the Half Marathon 8 mile marker in the background. Still trying to smile, but I knew this was FAR from the goal race I was hoping and training for.

As you can see in my Garmin stats, I hit that wall and I hit it hard. I literally felt like I was walking more than I was running, but I tried to keep a smile on my face, a positive thought in my mind and my legs moving towards the finish line.

Dropping from 7 minute miles to 11 minute miles was QUITE the blow, but I needed to keep moving forward and finish this dang thing!

Around mile 24 I saw Skyler. You remember, the guy who dressed up down as Ricky Bobby in tighty whiteys for our Ragnar Trail race a couple weeks ago?! He asked me how I was doing. I told him something along the lines of "I feel terrible, but I've gotta finish". He was a ROCKSTAR. He jumped in and started running with me. He told me I was running faster than he thought I would be at that point in the race, that I looked strong and that there were some sparkly ladies ahead ready to cheer me on. [Skyler, I texted your wifey to pass along my appreciation, but just in case you are reading this - please know how incredible grateful I am that you jumped on the course and ran those few hundred feet with me. I needed it!]

Don't worry, this go around Skyler was FULLY clothed!

And just like Skyler said, the Sparkle Athletic team was out and cheering on all of the runners. Elise had run the half marathon earlier that morning in an attempt to PR so the crew made a morning out of it and cheered on everyone they could.

Holding a cup of water in one hand and the unicorn charm in the other,
heading towards my #TeamSparkle cheer squad!

Carrie and her family knows what's up when it comes to spectating!
My favorite crew! #UnicornPower

How did I forget to talk about this already?! Elise, when she was picking up her bib for the race the day before, left an envelope for me in my packet. There was a unicorn charm and a Boston ribbon. The unicorn charm had been worn/ carried by 4 ladies who have all qualified for Boston so she was passing along the sparkly, speedy magic to me. Also, they wore the pin a few days after the Boston Marathon bombings when they ran Ragnar as a reminder about the running community and how we all have each other's backs.

Once I knew I wasn't going to qualify I actually took off the unicorn charm (I had put it on a bracelet) and was carrying it. I was planning on giving it to the hubby when I saw him so that I didn't carry it across the finish line and "ruin" the magic, but when I saw Elise on the course I gave it to her then. At least then they could still say that every one who wore/ carried it across the finish line had qualified for Boston.

I was actually thinking if I qualified for Boston that I would get the unicorn
tattooed on me because I just think she is so stinkin' cute!

Oh yeah, and in my packet I only had 3 safety pins, so the ribbon worked out perfectly as my fourth pin when I attached my bib to my tank top.

Honestly, it felt like those last couple miles were never going to end. I saw a kid on the course that actually recognized me from the RnRLA and said "Hey, there's Rosie the Riveter" - how fun is that?! It definitely gave me a little boost (albeit super short, but still, every step counts at that point in a race).

As you can see, around mile 16 or so I started taking walk breaks and they were frequent...

A bit before I hit mile 26 I saw Linzie. He had downgraded to the half after smashing his full marathon PR the weekend before at NYC. When I saw him I ran/ hobbled over and gave him a big hug. At that point I would have been okay if he would have told me to just sit down and hang out. He asked me how I was feeling, I told him my legs were trashed and then he told me the We Run Social crew was just ahead. THEY WAITED FOR ME!

I saw Ivie and Sarah a few yards ahead and ran over to them. I don't remember if I gave them hugs at that point or if they told me to keep going, but I am forever grateful for those ladies. I'm sure they could see the sense of defeat on my face but they continued to tell me how proud of me they were. THOSE ARE REAL FRIENDS! THAT IS WHAT WE RUN SOCIAL IS ALL ABOUT. 

I love that you can see Linzie running along side of me, cheering me on and Ivie and Sarah in the background too!

Linzie told me that I only had two turns to go and I just had to put my head down and charge. The rest of the WRS crew was at the end of the road (with my hubby). They were all cheering and screaming. They had run their races. They had finished. They were ready to go home and start recovering. But they waited. They waited for ME!

I knew the sooner I finished the sooner I could be done, so to the finish line I went. Their finish was a bit strange with the turns because spectators were sort of out in the road and you had to veer around them, but other than that it was a straight shot in. I faintly heard the announcer say something about people finishing the marathon now could break 3:45. My current PR was 3:46, so decided to push it and see if I could still salvage a PR out of the race.

Thanks to Sandy's hubby for catching these pictures of me
heading towards the finish

This is where there were spectators out in the course

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE free race photos, but
it seems like you get what you pay for... Mine were
less than amazing, but something is better than nothing!

I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:45:41. A 69-second PR. Sure, I should be stoked about a personal record, but I REALLY wanted (and trained for) a BQ. Not to mention, when I plug in my Phoenix Marathon time from earlier this year into FindMyMarathon it says I should have run a 3:30 on this course (and, to be honest, I feel stronger and faster than I was in February). But, as always, you've gotta take the body and circumstances that show up on race day.

Can you believe it was already in the 80s before 11am when we finished?!

As you can see, my pace continued to drop (and drop quickly) as the race went on...

When I crossed the finish line I was given my medal and then we got to walk through a big smorgasbord of goodies. After races I can't eat anything for a while, so I grabbed two bottles of water and made my way to find somewhere to sit and stretch my calf (but the pie they were cutting up and serving did look divine!).

Once I exited the finisher's shoot I saw Kindal. I asked her how she did and she KICKED BUTT! She ended up getting a sub-3:25 and earned her RIGHTFUL place at the 2017 Boston Marathon! I am so proud of her and all of the hard work she has put in!

Shortly after that the WRS crew made their way over. I gave them all HUGE hugs. I could not thank them enough for sticking around to watch me finish. I know originally they wanted to be there to celebrate a BQ, but once it was apparent that was NOT happening, they still stuck around (some 1-2 HOURS after they finished their own races!). THAT is community! I wish I would have grabbed a picture with all of them, but as I am sure you could imagine, I wasn't necessarily in the picture taking mood (and they all wanted to get going anyway).

I originally wanted to stand in line to get a picture with the official backdrop, but the line was pretty long and after standing in it for a few minutes I quickly realized I needed to get to the car and sit down sooner rather than later.

Thankfully this was just a race. Life is so much bigger than that. I will persevere. There are more races. And like the REAL Forrest Gump said in a speech at Disneyland last week, "You only lose if you quit trying" and I am NOT gonna stop trying. (And shoot, the older I get, the longer my BQ time gets, so if I am still mobile {and alive} at the age of 80 I have 5:25 to finish.)

I am planning on doing another post with lessons I learned (or re-learned) during this race, but I wanted this one to be more of a recap. You should also check out the recaps of my fellow friends.

Now, the all important and obvious question... Would I do it again? That's a great question and one I have until November 5, 2016 to decide (but registration is already open and the cheapest it will be, so maybe I should decide soon). For now, I am recovering (still, because MAN is a downhill course rough on the body) and getting ready for my SD2LV adventures this weekend!

What type of race course do you prefer? Flat? Rolling hills? Downhill?


Unknown said...

I feel like each marathon is a learning experience, even the ones that you run well and PR, you learn something from. I'm confident you WILL get a BQ--you are a fighter <3

Congrats on a PR!!!

Boston Bound Brunette said...

Looks like we had a similar race experience except whatever I did in the first half caused severe calf cramps for almost the entire second half. I took my salt pills and fueled properly so it was so unexpected. I thought my shin was going to be the show stopper but I was able to run through it. I never hit the wall but the frustration just killed me mentally. I'm not sure if this is a good course for me. Although I trained on the course, the transition from the first half through those rollers what not part of my training. Live and learn. I'm not ready to give up either so I'm getting back on the horse once this shin is better. You finished in a very respectable time which I would love to have. Glad we met and I hope to see you at some races in the near future. Take care and keep inspiring!!

Angela said...

Our recaps are very similar -- PR in the half but calf trouble and didn't meet the goal in the end (I came in about 2 minutes over my PR from Phoenix). That's me in the purple in your photo after mile 17. :)

Like you, I had also done a preview run on the course that went really well. In retrospect, I should have done some of those miles at race pace -- then I would have known how hard it was going to be on my calves. There's always something to learn from a race and this one was a big teacher.

I'll be rooting for you to get that BQ!

Angela said...

P.S. Did you see that the 3:35 pacer was WALKING the last 5K? He came in well after 3:35. Guess the downhill course can get even the best of us!

ivieanne said...

I feel like I need to do the race again next year for revenge...those hills tho

Unknown said...

Carlee you are such an inspiration. I love that you continue to find the positive in each and every day. I am trying to teach my kids this daily. Keep rocking every day like the superstar you are. Hugs to you friend!

Unknown said...

My heart broke for you when reading this. I'm so sorry you missed your goal but I know you'll get it in a future race. It's hard for a reason and when you get there it's going to feel even sweeter!

Kristen said...

Congrats on a PR! I know it's not the time you wanted, but it sounds like you made the best of it and you looked like you were having fun and feeling great even at the end. I know you'll get your BQ soon!

Unknown said...

Wow! Our races were so similar. I trained so hard for Revel. I went into it knowing it was a net downhill course - but that 2K+ gain - whoa!!! Game Changer! Especially after flying down that hill and keeping myself in check for a lot of the way with a 10 minute half PR. I also ran Revel sick. I had no idea how sick I was until it really began to show itself in mile 20 or so. I spent 5 minutes in the blue box on the side of the mountain....sigh. I totally crashed and burned. I missed my BQ and missed a PR. I trained solidly with every pace run, tempo run, LSD run being right where it needed to be. To say that I am disappointed is such an understatement. Revel was my 13th full. I guess it wasn't so lucky after all. No PR, no BQ - very painful legs and three days where I can not turn the switch off on this race. I wish you all the best as you continue to try to get your BQ. I am a few years older than you, so my time is 3:55, but I was trained for a 3:50. I was seeing in my mind 3:48. We will get there. Here is my review if you wish to read it: said...

My friend I'm just so proud of you. First your time rocks. Your drive is an inspiration and marathons ARE FREAKING HARD! You just never know what you're going to get that day. Boston is in your future... I know it. Sending you lots of love. I'm so proud of you!

Bain said...

I'm sorry you didn't get the race you wanted this time. You're still a really awesome runner in my book!

See you in Vegas!

Kara said...

You are AMAZING!!! I'm so proud of you. I know it was not the race you wanted but you still rocked it. Can't wait to see you in Vegas & celebrate your half PR :)

Tayna said...

Thanks for your recap! I always forget how tough downhill races are until I run them. It just kills your legs! And then going down stairs is brutal for a while. Anyway, I heard some people talking before one of my marathons and they said they would make a list of 26 people to run for, one for each mile and gaining in significance with each mile. I've started doing it for my races and it is pretty fun. I thought it would be something right up your alley and I wanted to share it with you. Good luck with your next race! You rock!

Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes said...

First of all, congrats! You had a PR and that is nothing to be upset about. But, on the other hand, I totally get where you are coming from. I ran MCM with a huge goal in mind (not a BQ, but still a shoot for the stars goal) and didn't make it despite having a big PR, but for some reason, that disappointment overshadowed the loss of the big goal, so I get it. But you are right. It is JUST a race, and there will be plenty more opportunities. We learn something from each on be it good and bad and push on to the next. Congrats lady! Hope to meet you in Vegas!! And good luck in San Diego!!

Juliana said...

You are so amazing and inspirational! We all have goal races that dont go according to plan (for me it was the LA Marathon where I crashed and burned from the heat and also slightly NYCM where the course was insanely tough). thank you for always being so open and honest with your running journey. You will get that BQ-I know it!

Jay from Boston said...

Really appreciate the detailed recap. I'm actually running this race in about a month and coming out from MA. I live in a hilly area but training for this race is tough. I'm glad I read it as I didn't realize there were so many uphills. I will be very careful and follow the pacer in the first half thanks to your post. As for the BQ, you'll get it (if you haven't already). I can relate. I got a BQ at the Baystate Marathon about a year ago but it was only 2 minutes under for my age and that wasn't fast enough by about 30 seconds. Bummer, especially for someone born and raised just down the road from the Boston Marathon but as you note throughout, we keep plugging and believing and we'll get there. Best and thanks again.