On Saturday night I got roughly one hour of sleep (and that is rounded up from a more realistic number of 47 minutes). It may have been pre-race jitters, it may have been Cohen be annoying, it may have been something else. I wasn't worried about it, as I sleep like shit every night before a race anyway, and at the very least I chalked it up to be good training for the hundo, running on little sleep. I met Katie and Matt at the gas station across from the start, to make sure I could park by them because I'm a freak like that. We had over an hour to kill before the start of the race, so I chilled with Becca (the New Balance rep for our area) under her New Balance tent. She's so fucking awesome, I'm glad she works for a company that is compatible with her awesomeness. She also threw me some free swag.
Like I have previously posted, Kalamazoo Marathon was nothing but a training run for me. I would never run a road marathon and back it up as "great training", but you can't not buy into the Hometown Marathon. It's just too fun! Katie was also using this as a training run, as she is setting up to race Bayshore up in Traverse City in just a few weeks. I made it up in my mind that we would come in around 4 hours, 1) because I was not about to be out there all god damn day running the god damn streets of Kalamazoo that I've run 100 times and 2) I knew that this time would be completely capable for Katie, even though she might not realize it by herself - which lead to 3) I knew I could get her there, because I know her as a runner, and she's so much stronger than she thinks she is.
Lining up for a race is one of the most intense feelings of excitement. It's also where the pacer sets up the person they're pacing for for success. I know this because Joe Trupp did this to me last year without me even realizing it, and after the success I brought I realized the benefits of it. I aimed for the 4:15 group, and after realizing who the official pacer was for it, I inched us forward to the 4:00 group. The gun went off, and I realized that Katie Wittenberg saying "I don't get race adrenaline" is the biggest lie that she has ever told me. Actually, it's probably the only lie she's ever told me. ...But still. As we were cruising down Gull Road I had to say (MULTIPLE TIMES) things like "Easy, Wittenberg" or "Hey now" (as I slowed us up) or just simply "Katie slow down". I can't recall this without laughing out loud. At this point we had put some major time on the 4:00 pace group, which we both acknowledged would probably haunt us in about 10 miles. I had to pee badly, and there was a porta-potty (spelling?) on the Kalamazoo Mall, which is so foreign to me because on trail races you just duck into the woods.. :) Anyway, I jumped in and peed as fast as I possibly could. I didn't want us to lose time, even though we weren't racing. I peed so fast that I literally ripped my underwear yanking them back up. I am not, in any way, shape or form, joking about that. I ripped my underwear for Katie Wittenberg.
The first half of the race went perfectly, despite the god-awful parts of the course such as 1) Stadium Drive. Wow, what a horrible road to run down. 2) WMU's Engineering Campus. Wow, what a terribly boring loop. They're both great places to gain some speed because of the flatness, but when it's so boring like that it's incredibly hard to reach another gear. At least it is for me. This is one of the many reasons I run trails. I took my one and only gu around here, on the Engineering Campus which I believe is about 10 miles in.
Let me just talk about something for one moment here. You fucking road runners are unfuckingbelievable. Okay, wait, stop, let me preface with the fact that this does not apply to every road runner that I know. I love some of you with huge chunks of my heart, and the following does not apply to you, and you know who you are. It does, however, apply to most of the rest of you. I picked up 9 gu packets off of the ground in the matter of one hour, and these were only packets that were directly in my way. I saw so many more laying everywhere, and eventually I got sick of picking them up. TWICE people right in front of me just fucking threw them right on the ground. Matt reminded me that there is course pick-up after the race, but that is NOT my point. My point is, that the people who do this, are the same fucking people that do this to my trails. Yes, I know I just said my trails and entitled myself to them and that seems so egotistical to you but for once, I do not care. I run those god damn trails every fucking day and I pick up after you lazy fucks. I pick up your empty gu packets, or your stupid plastic water bottles that you decide to bring out to the trails, not to mention your gatorade bottles or stupid other shit that you think it's acceptable to just THROW TO THE SIDE. You're probably thinking "But Kels, I'm racing and I don't have the time or energy to put the packet back where I got it from," and I get that. To a point. I understand that for elite runners, people who are literally using every single muscle in their body to its fullest potential to reach an amazing time, people who spend every day and night training, not just a long run on the weekend and a few static runs during the week. If you're out there running a 3:30 or a 4:00 marathon and you think that you don't have the time to stick an empty gu packet back into your pocket or handheld or WHATEVER, then you are an idiot. I hope recycling your cans for $.10 makes you feel that much better about yourself because you're too fucking lazy to take care of a gu packet that you have the time to take care of it for. For the love of God you can fucking hang on to the thing until the next aid station and throw it away like the responsible person that you are supposed to be. Don't throw down a fucking gu packet in front of me like you don't have the time to take care of it. You're not sprinting. Jesus Christ one time one of them was WALKING in front of me. Unbelievable. Like I said, I know some people don't do this, but a lot of you do. And most of them that do it don't just do it on road races where people clean up after them, they do it on the trails, and they do it on their long training runs.
So the first half went really well. Going through Winchell neighborhood was SO. FUN. Wow, you guys are amazing. I shall say that about all of Kalamazoo, the crowd support on this race was just so awesome. I love every single one of you that was out there. Thank you so much. But, I do have to single out the Winchell neighborhood for their awesomeness. A bacon and pancake station? Streamers lining the roads? You guys rock. Going down Bronson Blvd was a welcomed, looooong downhill, and this is also where I met Erin! She had run to the race, raced the 5k for speed work (she took third) (she is amazing) (she is an animal), and then was running home, but she said she'd hit the marathon course backwards to find me, and she did! It had to seem like something out of a movie, as I was screaming "EEERRRIIINNN!!!" while we were running towards each other, and engulfed in a huge hug. She ran a bit with me and told me our dear friend Michelle (you can see a picture of us from awhile ago on the 'read this first' page of my blog), was in first for the Marathon. First! But, we all knew that she was going to win, because she is Michelle, and she is amazing. It seems that she keeps her training quiet and then just explodes at races, takes the win with a huge smile and a large dose of modesty. So, that was uplifting to hear! We chatted for a bit and then Erin turned off to head home. After this was when things went downhill. And I don't mean the elevation of the course (though that would have been nice).
I knew Katie was getting inside of her head. That is her biggest battle. Running is mental, and once you get into a dark spot it can, quite often, be impossible to come back. This is what I was supposed to stop from happening. This is why I was here. I kept asking her how she was doing every so often. I made sure to ask her how her body was doing, and every time she said "fine", followed by her saying her mind wasn't doing so well. I tried to think of things to say, stories to tell, anything. But NOTHING was coming to mind. Every aid station, from then on (about mile 16? 17?) I told her, repeatedly, to take 3 cups of something. It didn't matter what - water or gu brew. Just three cups. I was also using this strategy for myself, making sure at least 2 that I took were of gu brew, as I had stopped taking gu after just the one. I was riding the line between being fine and bonking, but I felt confident that I was getting enough calories from the gu brew. Also, about this three cup thing, it's something that Joe told me during last year's 5/3rd River Bank 25K. He started making me take 3 cups, no matter what they were. It seemed absurd to me because I didn't feel like I needed 3 cups of something. I ended up crushing the shit out of that race, so I try to implement the 3 cup rule, especially when you start to think that you don't need it, or, more so, when you think you might not be able to stomach it.
I started to tell Katie things that I say to myself when I feel overwhelmed by my training. When I say overwhelmed by my training, I mean days where I feel like I can't go on, and I never want to run again, and it is all pointless. I say them out loud. I have the sentence "Remember why you started." written on my bathroom mirror.
I told her how the mind quits sooner than the body does. I reminded her that her body felt fine. This marathon was easy for her muscles, it was just hard for her brain. She is so strong, and despite the fatigue she may be feeling, she was still running. She had not walked one step. We came up to Kindleberger (or whatever it's called) Park/Hill and I said "Do not walk this." And she replied with "No. I'm not going to. I'm not walking this hill." A lump swelled up in my throat because I felt like I was going to burst into tears from being so proud of the girl next to me. Here she was, battling with herself inside of her head, and saying those words right out loud. Do you know how strong of a person that takes to do that? Do you? No, probably not. So I'll tell you: Really. Fucking. Strong.
We passed 5 men and 2 women on that hill. All of them were walking.
Once up that, there were a bunch of children. Immediately I cringed, because that is what I do at the sight of a bunch of children, but they were holding out flavor ices! I said to Katie "My god! Ice cold sugar, what could be better?!" And we downed those fuckers. I started to panic because I didn't know what flavor to take because it is obviously impossible for me to make decisions like this, but I knew we couldn't stop so I forced myself to just grab the next one that I could. I usually don't even like the green flavor, but damn it tasted good. I took Katie's wrapper for her - NOT because I was afraid she would throw it on the ground, because she would not do that, but I know how annoying it is to be beat down and have to hold something while running. My right hand was awfully sticky after holding onto them for a mile.
Next we came up to Spring Valley Lake Park Avenue Trail. I have no idea what it's really called, I do believe it's Spring Valley something, and it is a paved trail around a small lake. There's a tent on each side of the lake, which is a real mind fuck being able to see where you have to run - all the way around a lake. Katie agreed. We had about 4 miles left to go. Actually, under, I think. A 5k? Something of the sort.
Katie fucking started to crush it, and I couldn't even stop her. I tried, too. I said (more than once) that
"people train all winter and all spring for this, and here you are, using it as a training run. That kind of makes you a fucking boss." And when THAT didn't work, as we were going up the hill at the end of SVLPAT, I said "Katie, slow down. There is NO need to push yourself right now, this is a training run for you. This is not your race, your race is in a few weeks. There is no point to pushing like this." It worked for about 32 steps. So then I was all uuuggghhh fine, I guess we're bringing it in fast. And we did. Once you have the finish line in site, there's no control over what your feet start to do. Running down that last little part of Gull Road and turning to the finish was something really amazing. I had just helped my best friend PR her marathon time by (an official) 19 minutes on a god damn training run. I have never been so proud of someone. Never.
Here's a picture of us finishing:
photo by: James Buck.
This was on mlive/kalamazoo gazette, in their article "19 Kalamazoo Marathon Pictures You Don't Want To MIss". Is that not the most adorable thing? How can you look at that and not go "OH JESUS I LOVE THAT." Sometimes the hobby jogger just shines right through me ;D
Back to a summary of MY race report: I felt so fucking fantastic throughout this entire race. I interacted with crowd support as much as I could because I had so much energy, my body felt amazing and my mind felt great, too. It does my brain some good to know that I am so incredibly overtrained for the marathon distance, as I should be at this point in my training for the 100. I'm doing the DWD Gnawbone 50 miler this coming Saturday, and for once in my life I think I am going to try to go for the win. Just because I have admitted that, I'll probably end up having a terrible race and pulling something pathetic like a 12 hour 50 miler. Haha. Nothing like jinxing yourself in writing! But seriously, it was a huge confidence booster to know that I can stroll out a respectable time for a marathon right now. My training is going quite well. I am obviously doing something right.
And also, Michelle did win.