So I lied. I said I'd have a report up on Monday, but doing laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning up around the apartment got the nod over blogging. I'm a couple of days late, but here we go.
As I mentioned on Sunday, the OKC Memorial was my best race ever. It's the first time I've felt that I've effectively executed a race plan and everything fell into place. The weather wasn't ideal, but my attitude going into this race was extremely positive. I felt strong and I felt prepared. All it came down to was execution. Friday night before the race I talked with my coach for 20 or 30 minutes about my strategy. The weather forecast was calling for 20mph winds from the NNE and a chance for some light rain/drizzle. Temps were projected to be in the 50s so we knew heat wouldn't be a factor. Most races I've run, I've always been told to take the first few miles easy and then gradually increase into my race pace. However, for this race Ryan told me to do something different. The start of the race was downtown and most of the wind was blocked. However, after mile 1 we turned north and we were running into a headwind through the first 6 or 7 miles. He told me if I didn't push and keep a strong pace through the wind, I'd never be able to make up that time on the back side of the course when I had the wind at my back. Our plan was for me to really push myself those first miles and make sure I was on pace when I made the turn south. He told me that my turn south would allow me to maintain my same pace with less effort on the backside of the course since I'd have the wind at my back. It turns out this was a perfect strategy. My first mile was easily my slowest mile at 8:01 pace and after that I found a zone in the 7:30 to 7:45 pace and never fell out of it. The funny thing about my race is that I rarely looked at my Garmin. Normally I would be checking it every 2 minutes making sure I was on pace, but I just felt like I was running strong and I didn't want to let doubt start creeping in if I saw how much faster my pace was than what I initially thought I was going to run. I was feeling really strong and I wanted to just run by feel. I knew I was in a spot where I could maintain my effort and come in with a time that far exceeded my original goal of 1:45. As I turned the corner in the last 1/2 mile I had the biggest smile on my face. I was in a zone. I was starting to hurt, but I knew I had a huge PR in my pocket and no one was taking it from me. All the hard work and training finally came together during a race and I was elated.
After I finished, the cold really set in. I went from just being mildly uncomfortable to shivering uncontrollably. I was a wet mess from head to toe due to the nonstop rain during the race. Nothing I did could make me stop shivering. The north wind just added to the misery and I finally found shelter in the Team-in-Training tent for a bit while I tried to drink some chocolate milk and stretch out a bit. I finally found a cup of coffee that made everything better and then I made my way to my car to change into dry clothes so I could head back out on the course to coach our Team-in-Training runners still on the course. Needless to say, I was wet and cold within 5 minutes. My job as coach was probably the best one of the lot. Since I ran the half marathon, I just stuck around the finish area and met all of runners as they made the final .5 mile run into the finishing chute. It was so amazing to see all of their faces and talk to them as they made their way to the finish. There was a lot of pain, a lot of pride, and a lot of shared misery among the marathon runners who had to endure the rain for much longer than me. At one point, about 3.5 hours into the race, it even started hailing. It was small hail, about the size of peas, but it stung and you could tell it was just one of those moments where everyone threw up their hands and said, "Really?! Hail too?!" Ha, it was definitely a day to remember for everyone out on the course. I can't imagine that anyone will walk away from the 2011 OKC Memorial Marathon without memories for a lifetime. I was blessed to be a part of it and can't even begin to explain how much I love this race and everything about it. You really should come join us sometime.
This race really instilled a new confidence in my fitness level and training. I feel like I'm making significant strides and all those early mornings, hours on the trainer, and days lifting weights are beginning to show up on race day. Now all I need to do is bottle up that confidence and excitement for future races and mix a little patience in for a perfect combination. My biggest downfall is my lack of patience. I'm not one to sit around and take small steps. If I'm in, I'm all in. It's the way I've always been and that will never change. Most of you probably already came to that conclusion when I signed up for the full Ironman after only doing one triathlon. Yep, I've still only raced one triathlon and I have my first half-Ironman coming up in 5.5 weeks. Dream big. Work hard. Make it happen.
After this weekend, I really caught the marathon bug again. My result made me realize how much better I can do at that distance. None of my race times this year point to anything near the 4 hour mark. They all plug me in the 3:30 to 3:45 range. My performance in Chicago left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and I can't wait to get back out on the marathon course and see what I really have inside of me. I know that time will come. For now I'll have to keep working hard and shelve that marathon desire for a few more months. I plan to shatter that marathon PR in 2012.