Jumping in the Deep End

People always say that you're never ready to become a parent - so don't wait to feel ready, just do it.  I felt really ready, quite honestly.  I had been waiting for years for the right time in our life to get on it and we did.  It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.  One of the other fulfilling and satisfying experiences has been running - especially running my first marathon.

Before and after my first marathon, 2009
Now - I can't really say every subsequent marathon has been totally fulfilling and satisfying - the last one I did really was.  I trained the best I have ever trained, and while my time wasn't the huge PR I was hoping for - the course was ridiculous.  So I felt very satisfied with my performance and my recovery afterward was great.  This was November of 2012, before I became pregnant, before most other things in my life would change dramatically.

Fast forward 5 years and after the Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half 2017 I'm all full of "I can do it" mojo, and I register for the Publix Georgia Marathon in March 2018 - which will grant me (if I finish) ULTIMATE PEACH STATUS.  Wow, I'm really a sucker for these race challenges.  The types of challenges that involve finishing, not speed.  Because I'm slow - I've always been a slow runner, and I slowed down during pregnancy as expected and ... just... haven't gotten any faster really since then.  Ok, maybe I have a little.  For short bursts.  But my easy pace is sometimes slower I think than when I was pregnant.  Probably due to the fact that I don't weigh much different than I did then - no judgement on that, just that weight impacts speed as a runner.  So here I am looking to feel motivated and set goals and I see them dangle the Ultimate Peach in front of me and... well.  Here I am looking to run my first marathon as a mom.

This is after first setting a goal that was more modest - to run a two day cumulative marathon event on my 35th birthday.  This event worries me almost as much as the marathon - because in order to complete the series of events on Saturday that make up the bulk of the total marathon distance, you must complete each event within a certain time frame.  So I don't get to just rely on finishing, I have pace limitations.  Most races do have time cutoff limits, but I usually am confident at finishing at least within the time frame allotted.  With this event, the cutoffs are close to my strong effort paces - and yet I have to keep going.  It will be a real challenge.  It's the Critz Tybee Island Run Fest - and on Friday I will run a 5K, then on Saturday we start with a 10K, followed by a half marathon, followed by a 2.8 mile beach run, followed by a 1 mile street run.  

Here's what they have to say on the website regarding the time limits involved: 

"If you are running the 10K and the Half Marathon, please be sure you can run the 10K in at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. This will ensure a smooth transition for you between the 10K finish and Half Marathon start. Remember that the Half Marathon will start at exactly 8:30am. The timing mat at the Half Marathon starting line will be turned off precisely 10 minutes after the start horn. This still gives you a 10 minute grace period in case you do not finish in under 1½ hours.
Every competitor should be able to complete the Half Marathon in under 3½ hours. After 3½ hours, remaining participants will be asked to complete the remainder of the course on their own, on the sidewalk."

So - my last 10K was extremely challenging and hot, and I finished close to 1:46 (Peachtree Road Race), which if this time is repeated will put me beyond the late start grace period before I even cross the finish line.  However - my other 10K this year (which admittedly was cool weather and mostly downhill) was 1:21 (Silver Comet 10K).  So my hope is to finish under 1:30 with enough time to make it around to the start quickly.  All races start and finish on neighboring streets (15th and 16th) so there is a common corridor path that runs straight from the finish of one race to the start of the next - it seems very well organized, which is definitely in my favor.  

After the 10K, which I will be having to give a real effort into to finish within the time frame, I then have to go into the half marathon immediately - I'm pretty confident I will not have any break time, if I do I probably ran the 10K too hard anyway, right?  So into the half marathon I will go, and let's look at my half marathon times.  On a cold Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta, while sick, I ran what was for me personally a rather shocking time of 3:13 - I was just hoping to come in under the cutoff that day.  Other recent half marathon times:  
  • 3:05:52 - Bridge Street Half Marathon (April 2017)
  • 3:17:24 - Montreal Rock N Roll Half (September 2016)
  • 3:59:39 - Mad Half Marathon (July 2015)
For context, the Mad Half was my first post baby half marathon, it's a ridiculously challenging course, and it was summer.  Not hot for the south but hot for Vermont, especially after 3 hours on the course.  Hopefully looking at my last 3, I will be able to finish the half marathon in under 3:30, but honestly I'm not sure how that will go after running a 10K immediately before, especially if I start late - which will make the half cutoff more like 3:20 of run time for me. 

I'm not very worried about the 2.8 mile beach run and 1 mile run after that - there is one hour between the start of the beach run and the final mile.  If I'm demolished, I am fairly confident I can walk it and finish.  Just moving forward will be the name of the game.  It's the 10k into the half I'm worried about.

Then I will have about 6 weeks to get ready for my full marathon, the Publix Georgia Marathon - which has a cutoff of 6:30.  My past marathon times, all before baby:
  • 5:56:53 - Really Big Free Marathon Nov 2012
  • 5:57:35 - Rocket City Marathon Dec 2010
  • 5:55:04 - Memphis St. Jude Marathon Dec 2009
I have a lot of trepidation.  A lot.  considering my best half marathon times since baby would essentially require me doubling the distance at the same pace to come in under the cutoff, I'm nervous.  Having done my best training and in my best shape, I ran a 5:56.  I have to admit - I think I've bitten off more than I can chew.  But - BUT!  I think there's a chance I can do it.  If we look at my 3:05 from within the last year, and that I ran a 3:13 while sick, if I really pace myself well, I think I have a shot at doing it.  I think I will have to be strategic, and plan a positive split that doesn't take too much out of me from the start.  I think that if I start too slow, I'll lose a lot of benefit from the starting race day energy.  I have been imagining setting myself a pace range - such as, no faster than 13:30 unless you're flying down a hill.  No slower than 16:00 unless you're struggling up a hill.  For example.  To allow myself to feel the energy of the course, the elevation, and allow myself to bank a little for the inevitable slowdown of the late miles.  Effort management will be key.  And ideally connecting with a pace group toward the end for extra mental motivation.  This is how I'm visualizing my best effort and chance of making the cutoff.  Worst case scenario - I have to bail and DNF the full.  Maybe still finish the half.  Not obtain Ultimate Peach but not hurt myself, or whatever.  

So this is where I'm at right now! Excited to be starting a new blog to have a place to really put all this down in writing.  Let's see how I do!