Bust need not apply!!! (in more ways than one)- Sorry to disappoint, D! I know an epic blowup would have made better blog material, but no such luck for you.
I went into this marathon with one goal- give it my best shot at a sub-3 hour time. It may not have helped that i took 2 weeks off 6 weeks out from the race, but I think that is compensated by the months and months of ironman base I convinced myself I could pull from.
Race morning was awesome in that since our hotel was near the start/finish and the race started at 7am, we didn't wake up until 5, which is a race-day treat!
We headed to our pre-race meetup with barbie escorts rachel & katherine. I was blinded by the joy of matching outfits and can't remember much else from pre-race. Or, maybe I was blinded by the lululemon logos on our skull caps.
We lined up in the first corral and came up with the race plan- 6:45s all the way. The gun fired and we were off. I got a bit ahead of the girls after the first half mile, but looked down and saw that the pace was right on target, so I kept it moving and prayed they'd shimmy up through the crowd and yoyo back to me. Soon enough, Rachel was by my side, and Katherine was right behind. We clicked off our 6:45s (which soon turned to 6:50s) and kept ourselves entertained with conversation (mostly Rachel who was feeling fab). I think she was trying to distract me so that I stopped breathing super loud. She was worried about me. Sadly, that is just my normal running.
So we kept trotting along out and back down the Las Vegas strip with 28,000 of our closest friends for the first half of the marathon (which is shared with the half marathon course). At mile 5, we saw James bolting back towards town (he ran a 1:15!) and cheered for him. I must admit I felt less than awesome. By mile 7 I realized this was going to be a lot harder than planned. My heartrate was already in the mid 170s (even in Kona- my HR for the marathon was a 155 average and never hit 170) and every little grade felt like it took way more out of me than it should.
Rachel and I hit the half right around 1:30 and I may have dropped an F-bomb and said, "crap- we are going to have to negative split this." Right around that point, things got plain old hard. The course had changed since I ran it in 2008 and it turns out that now the back half includes 4 bridge overpasses, tons of turns, and lots of other stuff that makes you want to crawl back to the VIP tent and grab a glass of champagne and sit your but down.
But no, onward we went. Just before mile 14, heading up a hill, Rachel told me her quads were barking. I told her to take a minute and I would keep the pace. I thought for sure that she would trot back up to me a minute later, but the next thing I heard was a bunch of dudes running up on me on a significant hill. The 3:00 pace group engulfed me and as they swallowed me up (ok, there were only like 5 of them so swallowed may be a bit of an exaggeration) I realized I had to make a decision. My heart rate was about 180 and I felt like I was completely at my limit. But, I knew that if I let them pass and drop me, that the shot at sub-3 was gone. I was in NO shape to make up lost time, so I thought of Monique, and decided to "Suck it Up, Buttercup!" I was running 5k effort to stick with the group, but got a little break when we crested the hill and went down.
I psyched myself up a bit and tucked into the group for the next mile or so. Somewhere around mile 16 I fell back about 20 yards from the group. Dire straits. I thought I was done. But then, I looked over and there was a guy there. A guy on a bike. A guy with a walkie talkie on a bike and official race-looking stuff. Oh no you didn't! He looks at me and says, 2nd place just dropped, you're in 3rd. And magically my pace improved by 20 seconds per mile.
I was talking (or typing) with Rachel before the race and told her that I do believe strongly in a little race day magic. But usually it comes from within. However, I'm not afraid to admit that on Sunday I was a little externally motivated :). I hadn't considered that I'd be near the front of this race, but I was happy to accept the new reality. The good part was, I got another wind. The bad part was, that wind died a couple miles later (18-20-ish?) and I was struggling. I had passed the 3-hour pace group, but they were pretty much right behind me. I looked back and saw that they had picked up a girl. CRAP! Soon enough, the 3-hour pacer, who I had luckily befriended, bridged the gap to me and said, "You got this. She's breathing heavy and sweating like a pig." I found this hilarious at the time. Especially because she was this tiny little thing that certainly didn't look like a sweaty pig, but I didn't argue. At this point, I could see the second place woman ahead of me. For some reason, in my painful haze, the thought of trying to catch #2 never really crossed my mind. All I could think about was holding off #4, but she was closing the gap and just sitting there 10-20 yards behind me for MILES. I knew she was going to catch me, I just wasn't sure when.
The last few miles were pure survival. The cyclist escort kept telling me the gap to 2nd (15-20 seconds) but stopped mentioning the girl in 4th right behind me, I think because he thought she was plotting her attack and was surely going to chew me up. My heartrate hit 188 (the highest number I've EVER seen was 183 in a 5k a few years ago) but I knew that I could break 3 hours if I didn't stop and I kept sight of that goal regardless of my placing. I kind of resolved that #4 was going to pass me. But she didn't. We hit mile 25. Then we hit mile 26 and were 1/4 mile from the finish and she made her move. I have no idea how long she had been on my shoulder because I had stopped looking back. At this point, we were speeding up but not sprinting. I turned to her, smiled wide, and said, "Nice race, great work." I let her think she had me. She didn't respond to me, stayed stone faced and passed me. I think maybe English not her first lanaguge. Anyhow, in my mind, I Macca'd her. I let her think I was done. I faded back a step and rounded the corner a couple steps behind her. 25 meters from the finish, I turned on the kick and sprinted like I never had before. I got quite the gap on her by the time we crossed the line and the clock read 2:59:00. Looking at the video, I'm realizing that if I had kicked just a bit earlier, I might have nipped #2 (pink shorts)...not quite, but I saved 3rd, broke 3, and got on the podium at a big marathon. Who knew that 2nd, 3rd, and 4th overall would come down to less than 2 seconds in a marathon. OUCH.
Its hard to see exactly how it played out, but the video gives an idea. The best part is 20 seconds after the finish where you see that I could not speak or move, but I can still smile :)
Minutes later, Rachel (3:03!) & Katherine (3:07!) were there to join me and PR hugs were had by all. James and Bryan, fresh off the half and a couple shots of Patron were also good finish-line entertainment.
I love this caption contest waiting to happen photo of skipper (me) & the runner barbies (rachel & katherine) at the finish...we may look like a what-not-to-wear tragedy, but I say you can wear whatever you want when you are 3 of the top ten overall women in a marathon...
I'm not usually a sucker for awards, but this time was different. I was on a huge stage with male winner Josh Cox, female winner Dorota Gruce (who, sadly, is hidden completely behind me in the picture below. It's not that I'm that big- she is that tiny! You can kind of see her yellow jacket behind me. By the way, she killed it and ran 15 minutes faster than any of the rest of us). Ok, back to the podium. Flowers, plaques, a chunk of change AND there were like 10,000 people in the crowd cheering and watching the awards. Oh wait, they might have been there to see Bret Michaels who played a free show directly after us :). Ok, fine. But it was still pretty cool. And they were TOTALLY there just to see me.
So that was the race, but of course, in Vegas, it's all about the afterparty...more to come. CHEERS!
Thank you to everyone for your support and for following along. As always, thanks to Nytro Women, Betty Designs, and Zoot sports. I'm proud to say my Zoot Ultra Tempo 3.0+s carried me to sub 3. And of course, our matching Kona edition Zoot compression socks helped with all the PRs. And- huge special thank you to Rehab United for the brutal but necessary strength training that I know was HANDS DOWN the reason I kicked #4 to the curb. Thank god all those squats are good for something- finish line power!