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The Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon- 2016 Race Recap

The Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon- 2016 Race Recap

In the weeks leading up to the 3 Bridges Marathon I was confident and sure that this was going to be my best marathon to date. I’d had a strong training cycle with my highest and most consistent mileage.  I was running my best workout times and my tune-up races were right where I wanted them to be.  I knew the race course well (my first sub 3 was at 3 Bridges) and both times I’d run it the weather was in the 30’s & 40’s.  I could just picture the finish line clock reading a 2:56 or 2:55.  Everything was coming together for the perfect race.  What could possibly go wrong?

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Race Week

Monday (5 days before 3B26) I was ready for it.  Race week was here and reading my coach’s email had me so excited.  I felt like a kid right before Christmas.  The extended weather forecast wasn’t ideal and I saw that the high that day might get to 70 but the night before would be in the 40’s/ low 50’s so I just knew we would be fine Saturday morning. img_9875.jpgTuesday (4 days before 3B26) I woke up with a sore throat.  It hurt when I swallowed and my glands were a little swollen.  I drank water all day and was determined this was just a little bump in the road.  I would be fine.  Saturday was still 4 days away.  Wednesday (3 days before 3B26) my sore throat was gone but now my ears were popping and I was having head pressure/ constant headache.  I knew it was some type of sinus issue and at this point doubt starting to set it. Thursday (2 days before 3B26) I went on a short shakeout run that ended in frustration and tears.  I felt about the same as Wednesday and I wasn’t sure if Saturday was going to happen.  John immediately calmed me down and told me to take the rest of the day to rest and relax.  He assured me I’d feel better if I did.  So I took the day off work and laid in bed the entire day.  I actually started looking online for replacement marathons but I knew anything later would cut into Little Rock Marathon training so a different marathon wasn’t going to be possible.  I thought about skipping a marathon all together and finding a good half but there really weren’t many options- especially not locally.  It was either run 3B26 or nothing at all.  Thursday night I went to bed having decided if I felt better Friday I would race Saturday.  Friday (1 day before 3B26) I woke up feeling a lot better.  The ear popping was gone and the head pressure was much better.  I wasn’t 100% but I was definitely on the mend and I knew if I had another restful day I’d improve even more with one more night’s sleep.

Leading up to Friday I had been watching the weather like crazy and it seemed unreal that it was predicted to be in the 60’s and 70’s.  How could it possibly get that warm? Every morning had been in the 20-30 degree range.  The worst thing about running a marathon in warm weather was that I had done ZERO training in the heat in the 6-8 weeks leading up to the race.  Had I run in this weather anytime from June- September I would have been much more acclimated.  I went back and forth to John and told my coach, my family, and close friends that I wasn’t sure about the race.  What was the point in racing it when I knew I couldn’t run my best time?  Every race has a purpose- some I’ve used as training runs, others for Grand Prix individual or team points.  This was my goal race and I had planned to go for time.  I don’t even like racing half marathons in those temps so I was really worried about doing a full marathon when I wasn’t acclimated to warmer weather.  John reminded me I could do hard things.  He reminded me that our kids and others look up to me and if I only raced when things were going my way then what kind of example was that?  He was right.  Once I was feeling better the main thing making me question racing was my pride.  Pride that I wanted a fast marathon time and I knew a marathon in these conditions was not going to give me that. I had to get over it.  It can’t always be about the time on the clock.

Pre-race pep talk from my Abi. I knew I couldn’t let this girl down.


Race Day- Saturday

I woke up at 4:40 race day morning and for a second I debated, should I still do this?  I looked at the weather (already 64 degrees) but got out of bed.  This was the race I’d been training for the past 4 months.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, in fact it could easily turn into a train wreck of a race but it was still MY race and I wasn’t going to let the weather, a recent illness, or my pride stop me from running it.

Am I really about to run a (hot) marathon?

By the time we had all the kids loaded in the van it was 5:15.  There was definitely a little pressure added with having the whole family come out to cheer.  I couldn’t let them down and I couldn’t drop out of the race.  My kids were going to see me finish this thing.  I met my friend and coaching client Amy at the race.  I picked up my race bib, chip, and shirt there.  There was plenty of time for multiple bathroom stops and then put my bag in the race drop-off truck.  I had no idea how this race was going to go but as I stood at the starting line I prayed that God would give me enough strength to finish with no regrets.

Photo credit @ Amy Houston

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Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

The Race: Miles 1- 13.1

If you would have asked me my 3B26 marathon pacing plan at anytime in the past couple months I would have said 6:35-6:45.  In Chicago my watch averaged a 6:43 and I was in better shape than Chicago.  However, everything changed the week of the marathon and due to my recent illness and race weather I knew I’d have to adjust my goal pace considerably.  My coach had warned me that the first half would feel easy but by the second half the heat would catch up to me so I’d have to think positive and go by effort.  I planned on pacing around 6:55-7:00 for the first 18-20 miles and then if possible I could pick it up.  I really had no idea how my body would respond but I knew things could get ugly fast.  Whenever I would start to doubt I would remind myself that I was ready for this.  I was in the best running shape of my life so if I had to run a marathon in these conditions this was the best time to do it.  That was my logic anyway.

Within the first mile I had settled into the position of first female and fourth overall.  The second place female was pacing right behind me.  I’d raced against her a few times times before and she’s always finished in front of me. In addition to being a strong athlete she’s always been kind and humble.  This was her first marathon so she was using me as the pacer and running one second behind me (which was exactly what I would have done had the tables been reversed).

mi-2

Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

I just got in the zone and tried to knock out miles.  We were averaging just under a 7:00 min pace and it felt effortless which is what I wanted at this point in the race.  Around mile 3 or 4 we caught up to the third place male.  He was running our pace so I stayed behind him.  It helped when I was able to follow him so I didn’t have to think about course navigation or anything like that.

mi-6

Photo credit @ Go! Running

Around mile 8 his breathing was getting heavier and I knew my time pacing behind him was coming to an end.  By mile 9 I had the lead and the two of them were following me. John and the kids were at mile 9 just before going over the Clinton bridge.  It was so good to see them and I wanted John to know I was feeling good.

My boys cheering with me in the distance

After we crossed the Clinton Presidential Bridge we rounded the cul de sac and turned around.  Then it was time to go back over the bridge.

mi-10

Mile 10- Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

I saw John and the kids again at the bottom of the bridge and I knew I’d see them somewhere between 14-16.

Photo credit @ Tara Caudle

mi-11

Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

My next race goal was to get to the half marathon point. I was still feeling good at the half but knew going sub 3 was not going to happen.  I crossed the half in 1:31:18.  (2nd place female was still right behind me at 1:31:20.)  First 13 mile splits: 7:02, 6:58, 6:56, 6:58, 6:53, 6:53, 6:49, 6:52, 6:53, 7:04, 7:03, 6:58, 6:56.

The Race: 13.1- 26.2

The second of the marathon was a completely different race.  Erika, who had been pacing right behind me fell back and for the first time the entire race I was on my own.  I saw John and the kids again around mile 14.

I tried to hold onto my pace but by the time I reached the Big Dam Bridge (mile 17) reality was setting in and the heat and mileage was catching up to me.  This section has the biggest incline of the entire race- right before mile 18.  I passed the second place guy at the beginning of the bridge.  I had no idea how much of a lead I had as first female but I had to get over the bridge.

mi-18

Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

I focused on getting to the next checkpoint which was at mile 19 when the race crosses back over the start/ finish area.  I knew I’d see John, the kids, my sisters, and my parents there.  The bridge really took it out of me and I had my slowest mile. By the time I made it to John at mile 19 he could tell I was pretty worn out.

mi-19

Still 7 more miles to go?!! (Photo credit @ M Winston Photography)

Next up was the hardest section of the course.  It’s when you cross over the Two Rivers Bridge and head into Two Rivers Park for a big 10k loop.  The run itself is very flat but there are many isolated sections and every time I’ve run it I’ve been alone and in that dark place you go to towards the end of the marathon.  Of the three times I’ve run this marathon this was the worst I ever felt going into this section.  I was wishing I could fast forward the next 40-45 minutes of my life because I knew it was going to be extremely challenging.  My pace goal went from 7’s to 7:15’s and by the time I entered Two Rivers Park I was holding onto to 7:30’s.

drink

Up until this point I’d had a gel at miles: 5, 10, 15, and 20.  I was also rotating water and gatorade every mile or two.  I wasn’t getting enough to drink though and it was catching up to me.  I misread my watch at mile 22 and thought it said 23.  For the next mile I was thinking I could do it, I was almost done, and I started counting down the laps in my head.  Then my watch beeped and I read 23.  I had misread it the first time.  I still had over a 5k left to run!   The last 5k seemed to be moving in slow motion.  At a few of the turns I would glance back to see how much of a lead I had and I couldn’t see Erika but I knew better than to assume I had the win.  I had to keep pushing because she could come up from behind me at any moment and I did not want to lead this long and lose it in the final minutes of the race.

Photo credit @ Tina Ho

Around mile 25 I started feeling some chills and I was not sweating at all.  My calf muscles began locking up and I had to shake them.  This started happening more frequently and I wondered if I was going to be able to finish.  I remember praying to God that if He would just help me get to the finish line then I didn’t care what my legs did.  I hit mile 26 right before going over the bridge for the last time.  This was it!  Less than 3 minutes of running to go!

mi-26

Last Bridge! (Photo credit @ M Winston Photography)

I heard my parents and sisters cheering.  I saw the finish line and I saw John. I made it!

Photo credit @ David Edwards

mi-26-3

Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

mi-26-32

Photo credit @ M Winston Photography

Photo credit @ Jenny Massanelli

Official Finish Time: 3:08:33.  1st female and 2nd OA.  Official Results can be found here.  Last 13 mile splits: 6:53, 7:03, 7:08, 7:05, 7:36 (Biggest bridge climb), 7:19, 7:16, 7:30, 7:38, 7:28, 7:46, 7:35, 7:44, 7:33 avg. pace for last .32.

After I crossed the line I made my way over to John and as soon as he held me my legs went limp.  I only wanted to lay down.  The next thing I remember they were taking me to the medical ambulance they had set up for race participants.  The overall male winner was also receiving medical attention.  In all my years of racing I’ve never had to receive any kind of medical aid so I really can’t compare this to anything.  I stayed there for about 45 minutes while they started me on IV fluids and I tried to drink and eat something.  I felt a lot better after this.  I was able to meet up with Erika and then my client Amy.

With Erika who finished 2nd female (and 3rd OA) in 3:13. Awesome time for her first marathon and in these conditions!

Amy finished in 4:13 which was a big PR and one step closer to sub 4!

Receiving my award from Bill Torrey, race director for 3B26

Post Race Thoughts

The 3 Bridges Marathon went nothing like the way I had envisioned but I’m so glad I followed through and did it.  I worked so hard for that finish and learned more from this experience than any marathon I’ve done.  When it comes to racing you can put in all the right training and find the right course but there will always be things that are out of your control.  When something doesn’t go your way to you give up or back down?  Or do you decide to try anyway, knowing that it won’t be what you wanted but it will be your best?

What’s Next

I actually don’t have any races planned for over a month.  It’s been a while since that’s happened!  I’m taking some time off and resting up before I begin a shortened training cycle for the Little Rock Marathon in March and the Boston Marathon in April.  2016 was an amazing year in so many ways. I am thankful, content, and also hopeful for 2017.

I’m especially thankful for this bunch right here. Couldn’t do it without them.

20 Comments

  1. Congratulations on your marathon finish and win, Tia! Also glad to hear you are recovering after having to race on such a tough day and go to the med tent, I am sure that was a scary experience and glad it’s over.

    Your post really stuck out to me… all your posts are good, but I liked the part where you talked about John saying that if you only raced when things were good and going your way, what kind of example would that set? I know so many runners who have that attitude- they will DNF a race because it’s not going their way, or DNS a race because the conditions weren’t great. Obviously if you’re injured or ill, that is different, but you handled the race well and with a smile. Seriously… you got some great race pictures out of this one, even if it wasn’t your best time. Plus you got to share the race with your family and with the 2nd place lady who finished her first marathon, and your coaching clients. You also set a really good example for them, I know you would never want them to quit when things got tough. It’s the same way in life- in races like this and tough situations a person’s real character comes out and this post showed it for you.

    Once again I hope you are having a good recovery because this had to take a LOT out of you! A guy I am friends with here in Charleston ran it. He has run so many marathons (he is a maniac), and even said this one had some of the worst conditions. I am just glad you finished and are okay… and you have Christmas to recover!
    Amy Lauren recently posted…Weekly Rundown: December 12-18My Profile

    1. Thanks Amy!! Interesting to know about your friend who ran and had the same experience with the conditions. I hope his recovery is going well. If he’s a marathon maniac he’s probably used to pushing his body to the limit. I’m taking this recovery comeback a little easier than usual since I’m not racing for a couple more weeks. Hope your recovery is going well.
      Tia recently posted…The Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon- 2016 Race RecapMy Profile

      1. Well, he lives and trains here in Charleston so I guess he has that advantage in a hot race, but he mostly just runs the marathons for fun and doesn’t focus on time (he’s an older guy). He’s definitely not a speedster like you (or even me), but I have a LOT of respect for him and the other maniacs just because they get through so many marathons without getting injured and it is tough on the body regardless of how fast you run it.
        Amy Lauren recently posted…Weekly Rundown: December 19-25My Profile

  2. First of all, that picture of you and Abi is SOO good! What beautiful sweet women! Second of all, thank you soo much for your openness and honesty in this post. It is good to hear that even the best of the best have to work on their mental game. You showed how perseverance and determination pays off! Even though you weren’t in the best of conditions, you killed this race! I love how gracious you were to and about the 2nd place woman. She will never forget that! Congrats on an amazing finish! I really admire you and am happy you had such a great 2016 – now go REST and take care of your self and that family of yours!

  3. As usual, wow!! That sounds like pretty miserable conditions but you made it work and ran so strong! The training you did will carry forward into your spring marathons- although I know it’s a bummer not to run the race that you know you have in you. Looking forward to seeing how things come together in the spring!
    Laura recently posted…One of my favorite 5k workoutsMy Profile

  4. Ok, I have SO much to say today! First, I love your mindset about this race. I sometimes roll my eyes when I hear people say, “I ran it for my kids” or “I ran this for so and so” because I think mostly people run for themselves! But in this case you were right on – your kids learned such an important lesson seeing you choose to run, and win. despite obviously challenging circumstances. They’ll remember seeing you suffering, but they’ll also remember you crossing the finish line, and these memories will serve them well in various challenges in their lives.
    I also wanted to mention something I observed from your pictures. Now obviously, you are a very experienced racer, and much faster and more accomplished than I am, so take or leave any advice! But I noticed from your pictures that you are retaining fluid in the second half. Usually people start to look really scrawny and lean and dehydrated as a race ends, but you are definitely getting some puffiness where you normally don’t have any (your muscle definition is way more noticeable in pre-race/early race pictures than at the end). What this tells me is that you were slightly overhydrated/hyponatremic. In that kind of heat and humidity, you would sweat a lot anyway, but because you weren’t acclimated, you were sweating even more than usual – in fact, your photos show an alarming amount of visible sweat! Your fluid and electrolyte intake didn’t keep up with the sodium loss from sweat, and your body starting holding fluids in in an attempt to retain sodium (the saying is “water follows sodium” – if you’re trying to hold onto sodium, you’ll retain water as well). All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I recommend, should you run another unseasonably warm race, taking salt tablets or salt packs throughout the race.
    Anyway, congratulations on another win, and at a very tough race (and second place girl – wow, what a tough first marathon for her, poor thing!).
    Gracie recently posted…Recovery after a rough raceMy Profile

  5. Awesome race recap!! I love hearing what other people think about the same race conditions and what goes through their mind! You are definitely someone I look up to and I hope to be as successful as you in marathons some day! I should really start a blog, that way I can keep track of all my racing experiences.

    1. Yes, you should!! You’d have all kinds of great training stories/ race recaps since you do triathlons too! I started this blog a LONG time ago and I love going back and reading old race recaps before I run a race again. It’s a good refresher and it immediately brings me back to where I was the last time I ran it. Anyway, you did great! All marathons are tough but when it’s 70 degrees it adds a whole other challenge!

  6. This is an amazing post! I really love your attitude. These are all such hard lessons to learn– when you train so hard for something and everything is going *perfectly* and then something out of your control comes along. And you can choose to have a defeatist attitude, or you can choose to make the best of the situation, which you did. All of the hard work you put in during this training cycle will definitely stick with you and make you even stronger for the next marathon. Congratulations!!!
    Elizabeth C. recently posted…Running after Mono: Comeback in ReviewMy Profile

  7. Loved reading this! You are such an inspiration, and it’s so fun to follow you on Instagram. Thanks for being so transparent! You are superwoman, that is for sure!

  8. Thank you for this detailed post, and congratulations on your win! What an amazing result! You are an inspiration for newbie runners like me who have high hopes for the future! Thanks, and wonderful pics – you are in excellent form! Good luck!

  9. I am always so happy to be able to read such detailed race recaps! Your post really helps less experienced runners like me when preparing for a race. I am currently training for my first half marathon at the end of this month, and am scared to death. I hope I make it to the actual start line. I am not setting any unreasonable goals, all I want to do is make it to the start and hopefully to the finish line. Thanks for your blog and congratulations on your amazing result!

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