With a 7am start time, alarm was set for 4:30am. Hopped in the shower, toasted a bagel, slapped on some peanut butter and a banana, and Becky and I were out the door by 5am. Took about 70 minutes to make it to downtown Rockford, and we avoided multiple state troopers who had already pulled over some other folks. That’s definitely not the way to start a race day…
Our parking spot from last year was roped off and inaccessible. So instead of parking a block away from the start/finish line, we ended up two blocks away! Oh, the joys of non-big city races!! We walked over to race-day packet pickup, hit the bathrooms (real ones, not the portable kind!) and were back at our car to get dressed and chill out within 15 minutes.
All week, the weather report had called for temps to be 90+. Last year, temps were in the 40′s. By 6:45, we were already sweating and knew we were in for a rough day. Although I had trained hard to try and both smash my PR and break 100 minutes, I was already resigned to the fact that neither goal might be achievable. I was planning on heading out with around a 8 min/mile pace. Becky and I promised each other to be smart and not do anything stupid in the ridiculous temps.
We hit the bathrooms once more as the start grew closer and made our way over just in time for the start. My string of starting line watch malfunctions was broken (but more on my finishing issues later) as I clicked it on right at the start line. Even got a great pic in the first couple of feet.
I didn’t know exactly what the difference was between my gun time and chip time, but my watch read 7:50 for the first mile. In my head, I knew I’d need consistent 7:38′s to break 100 minutes. I was already laboring way too hard just in the first mile, and that pretty much confirmed for me that breaking 100 minutes wasn’t going to happen…but I wasn’t about to just phone in the rest of the race.
Miles 2 and 3 both clicked off around 7:50 and 7:56. I skipped the mile 2 water station. By mile 3, I was already drenched and knew I wouldn’t be able to skip any more water stations. Was losing liquid just too fast. I ended up grabbing two at every stop–one to drink and one to pour on the back of my head (which I almost never do because I don’t want my shoes and feet to get wet). And the hills felt much worse than last year. Actually, everything felt much worse than last year.
The miles were going by, but not nearly fast enough for how hard it felt to run. There was a weird cross-wind that pretty much ended up being a struggle both heading north up the river and back south.
There were a lot of fans on bikes that were holding signs for various runners. In the first four miles alone, I saw the same person with a “Go Zack” sign three times. I yelled out to her that I was wishing my name was Zack. It was also comforting to see a lot of the medical support teams riding back and forth on the course over pre-set distances. You could tell they were organized and prepared for the conditions.
I also saw more than a couple people handing out baggies of ice. Around mile 9, I tucked in my shirt quickly as I was approaching one, grabbed a bag of ice, and dumped it down the back of my shirt to cool off a bit. I could feel myself overheating since shade was pretty scarce on the course. The ice totally rejuvenated me. Although Becky and I weren’t running together, we had a similar gel plan–miles 4, 7.5, and 10.5. We even wrote the mileage on our hands before the race since we knew where the water stops would be. That helped a lot, too, as I needed all three gels.
When I got to mile 11, I started passing people from the 10k course. I tried giving some encouragement since some were really having a hard time. I knew I was still looking good to set a new PR, but I didn’t really know by how much. Miles 11, 12, and 13 were really getting hard and I knew my pace had climbed above 8 mins/mile. I needed to beat 8:03 min/mile for a new PR.
Finally, we started the climb up the last hill and I knew I was going to be close on the PR. As I turned the corner for the last 0.2 miles downhill and over the bridge, I could see the clock ticking closer and closer to 1:45. I needed to beat 1:45:18, and I ended up crossing the finish line at 1:45:07. I had set a new PR, but I didn’t know by how much. I was so tired at the finish that I immediately tried finding some Gatorade and forgot to turn off my watch. Again. Like an idiot. And since the official results weren’t posted until the next morning, I was obsessing over what my official time was for more than 24 hours…
With the food and drinks a little more scarce this year compared to last year, I walked back to our car to grab some chocolate milk and a Coke. I also wanted to grab my camera and see if I could get some pics of Becky near the finish. I got a bag of ice from the medical tent (which by this time was starting to fill up with runners) and used by finisher’s medal to hold the bag of ice on the back of my neck. Felt sooo good.
In the heat, a lot of runners that had signed up for the marathon ended up running just the half instead. It’s actually the perfect course for that type of thing since the split in the courses isn’t until 12.5 miles. I’m 95% positive that’s why it took so long for the official results to be posted online–I think they were manually resorting all of the results because so many people just ran the half.
I know I had trained appropriately to break 100 minutes, but that goal will be waiting for me at another race. I at least broke 105 minutes now. Even now a week later, I haven’t had more than a single moment’s taste of disappointment. In fact, I’m overjoyed that I was even able to PR considering the change in temps from last year to this year. I was mentally prepared to NOT PR, which made it all that much better when I did.