The Qualifier Marathon: Race Report

So lighting struck twice, more or less, with this racing experience. Weather conditions were not similar to Boston just during the race, but also post-race. It is a perfect 57 degrees and overcast in Chicago right now. In Midland, MI where The Qualifier Marathon took place yesterday it is 60 and overcast, and in Green Bay where the marathon was actually shut down yesterday because of the 91 degree heat with 63% humidity, it is 68 and cloudy with far lower humidity.

Fortunately for “Team Boston Re-Bound Redemption”, the much smaller event that was The Qualifier, was not halted, and everyone finished looking strong and healthy.

Post race. Redemption achieved.

The best part of the experience yesterday was that because it was a small event, I was able to cross the finish line, shuffle over to the porta-potties, and then find a spot right up front along the last 400 meters of the course in under 5 minutes.  So I was able to cheer in all six of my friends as they finished their races!

But I digress, here’s how we got there.

Being a lazy blogger, I still haven’t gotten good a capturing the details in pictures (I’ll work on that, I promise!)…but anyway:

We met up at Fleet Feet on Saturday morning to pile into a rented mini-van. 5 runners and one amazing friend who came just to be the most supportive person ever! She drove, cheered, sprinted a quarter mile to give freezie pops and water to an extremely irrational and grumpy runner who shall not be named (definitely NOT me…ok, it was me), and paced for the last 10k only to immediately go coordinate cars and pickups. Amazing.

Our sixth runner and a second traveling amazing on-course support crewman, met up with us in Midland.

Once in Michigan we went to Shelly’s parent’s house where they fed us a perfect pre-race dinner of pasta, chicken, rice, garlic bread, salad, and beer! It’s amazing how much stress is reduced when you don’t have to worry about finding quality food!

After dinner the group shoved off to their rooms at The Residence Inn, one of our runners is a serious road warrior (hard worker, brilliant, beautiful, AND a stellar runner…) and was able to get free accommodations!

I stayed with Shelly at her folks place, and I actually got a full night’s sleep! This has NEVER happened before. Usually I average about 3hrs of sleep before a race, even if it’s a 5k, and even though I know I am not, like, in it to win. I just get excited, and terrified. Neither of which support sleeping.

On to race day:

I suspect this outfit lent itself to some “interesting” race photos. We shall see…

5am – 6:30: Typical pre-race prep…food, coffee, bathroom, pin bib 50 times.

6:30ish: the van pulled up and we were off to the start.

7:45: Race start. A few things were great about this start. Firstly that it was 3 hours earlier than the Boston start. I don’t know what the temperature was, but I would guess around 73-ish. It felt fine. the sun was still a bit low, so for the first few miles there was some shade. The other nice part was starting only several feet behind the line. I crossed the start 7 seconds after the gun.

Miles 1 – 3: I worked really hard to go out easy. Ideally, I wanted to run about 20 seconds slower than I did. But with a flat course, several early turns (which I find fun, and therefore tend to speed up), it was too stressful to put on the brakes.

Mile 1 – 7:30
Mile 2 – 7:40
Mile 3 – 7:45
Miles 4 – 6: My “plan” was to run really controlled and as relaxed as possible for the first 10k. In anticipation of the heat I already moved the 3:15 target to my fall marathon goal, but I wanted to stay calm with the thought of keeping a 3:20 finish within sight. I felt really good during miles 4 and 5, but tried to put on the breaks to a pace I knew I could maintain…like a 7:35…which proved tough to hover around. Yes, I looked at my watch about every 5 seconds the entire course.
Mile 4 – 7:26
Mile 5 – 7:25
Mile 6 – 7:34
 Miles 7 – 10: During this stretch the heat was building. I began mentally preparing myself early on for the long stretch of the course with no turns and no shade from around mile 12 to mile 21. Fortunately between mile 9 and 11 (I think) there were several little shady moments. And throughout the entire race there was a light breeze that really did help. I was actually glad that we didn’t have the predicted tailwind, it was better to feel the cooling effect, no matter how slight it was.
 Mile 7 – 7:36
Mile 8 – 7:28
Mile 9 – 7:30
Mile 10 – 7:35
 Miles 11 – 14: A lot of self talk was happening here. I could feel that I wouldn’t be able to hold 7:30’s, but I was really struggling to let go of trying to run a 3:20. I had spotted two men within the first mile who appeared to be running my pace, and they looked experienced (that is, they were chatting and relaxed, but talking about their splits). I hovered about 20 yards behind them from mile 1 to mile 16. Close enough that whenever I fell off pace I could keep them in sight and feel motivated to catch up, but far enough back that I wouldn’t be a creeper. Turns out they totally knew what I was up to and just before the 14 mile marker waved me up to run with them.
I learned a lot from the Boston 2012 experience. Two of those things were 1: I engage in a substantial amount of negative self-talk when I run and 2: when I am running with hard effort my upper body goes rigid…as noted by the 3 day headache and rock hard traps that followed Boston. So I filled my time trying to keep my shoulder girdle low and relaxed, and correct each negative thought with a positive one.
At the 5, 10, and 13.1 mile overall splits I was on-target to finish in 3:20 or under. I felt a lot of excitement about that, but talked myself out of trying to surge because I also felt like I was running in a furnace and I was really concentrating on my form, every step was deliberate.
Mile 11 – 7:39
Mile 12 – 7:31
Mile 13 – 7:28
Mile 14 – 7:34
Miles 15 – 17: I ran with the above mention men for about a mile. They were beginning to slow, and I felt like I was too, but still tried to hover around 7:30’s so I started slowly creeping ahead. The long straightaway  looks like it is actually downhill on the map…but it did not feel that way. It was rather grueling.
I was really looking forward to mile 18 where the half marathon course merges with the full. I was banking on them bringing some energy to boost myself through a few miles. I knew my pace was slipping, but I was really working at convincing myself that I could get it back, or maybe even speed up once we turned at mile 21. (spoiler alert: I was WAY wrong). I also was hoping to see Shelly at some point (she ran the half…and rocked it!).
Mile 15 – 7:45
Mile 16 – 7:40
Mile 17 – 7:44
 Miles 18 – 21: Oh boy. Here comes the great decline. Man, was I frustrated! That 7:45 in there, felt like the second mile in a 5k…you know the one, the one where you regret getting out of bed that morning and you can’t possibly imagine the race ever ending, but you’re pissed also because you know without a doubt that you can do better, but can’t figure out how to. I saw Shelly at mile 19 and something, I think, we exchange a few holy-shit-it’s-hot-we’re-nuts-you-look-strong-hug-awaits-at-the-finish sentiments and I started to wonder if I was ever going to see another water stop. There was supposedly one every other mile….but that’s not how it felt, or how I remember it.
Erin, our course support professional was somewhere within mile 20 (again, I think), and I was really scared I would never find water. I said as much (but in a not very nice way), and she went and grabbed a bottle of water and 2 freeze pops, then sprinted to catch me and I nearly cried for joy.
As it turns out, I was actually AT a water stop when she caught me. Figures. I am an A-hole.
Mile 18 – 7:51
Mile 19 – 7:45
Mile 20 – 7:52
Mile 21 – 7:51
Miles 22 – 26: I hit the wall, then laid down at it’s feet. I felt like I had a parachute tied around my waist. There were some great spectators along this last 4 miles of the course. But I did yell at someone for saying “A little over a mile to go!!” when we really had a little LESS than a mile to go. I feel really bad about that. About being a pissy and ungrateful runner…but if you’re not wearing a GPS that kind of mis-information can really kill you. I tore off my pace band at mile 23, I wasn’t sure I would even get in under the 3:35 mark for a BQ. I also have to admit that my ability to do any sort of simple math was gone. Obviously.
Also at mile 23 I decided to hit a running milestone. I had to pee at the start and it came and went throughout the race, at mile 23.5 the pressure was painful and I decided to go for it. I would totally just pee my pants (er…running skirt). I tried, and tried, and then swore, and tried again.
But I couldn’t do it! Maybe next time.
I began wondering and worrying about how the others were doing. I was a little frustrated during miles 22 to 24 because I knew I had been roughly in 4th place for females the whole race, and now, because we were mixed with the half-marathon runners I had no idea if I was “competing” with anyone I could see. By mile 24 any thoughts of trying to place were gone, because, well, all thoughts were gone. Period.
Mile 22 – 7:53
Mile 23 – 7:59
Mile 24 – 8:20
Mile 25 – 8:41
Mile 26 – 8:59
.2: I wanted so badly to sprint to the finish. I kept saying to myself 400 meters 400 meters  400 meters … then I saw that the finish line clock was still under 3 hrs 25 minutes, and even though most of my brain cells had gone into hibernation, obsession took over and I knew that if I could make it under 3:25 I would be able to submit my Boston 2013 registration in the second phase (the 10 minutes or more below the BQ standard), which is a huge anxiety relief… and was able to “kick” to a 7:45 pace…not exactly a sprint. But it go me over the finish line, so mission accomplished, more or less.
I was totally unable to figure out how to slow down, so I hit the stop button on my Garmin, and came to a 100% stop myself. Fortunately, as vertigo hit and I started to lean into a face plant, a man caught my shoulders and kept me upright. He asked if I was OK and I said “Yes, but can you please not move for a minute?”
He kindly stood with me for a bit, probably just 30 seconds or so, and I was able to walk again.
Annabelle Winters #482
Chicago, IL

Age: 30 Gender: F

Distance MAR
Clock Time 3:24:15
Chip Time 3:24:08
Overall Place 30 / 470
Gender Place 6 / 185
Division Place 1 / 24
Divtotal 24
Sextotal 203
Pace 7:48
I chugged a bottle of water, hit the bathroom (peeing success this time!), and found an awesome spot to watch the finish.
Everyone in my group finish with great form, looking controlled and strong! It really is impressive that everyone finished with very respectable times (all in 4hrs on the button or under!!!) after the experience in Boston. To face conditions like that knowing how painful and scary it can be is a kind of mental toughness that I think we should all get a bonus medal for!
Overall I am thrilled with how this event went. There are plenty of places where I can improve, but the course was great (not including the heat, duh), I was in the best company imaginable, I captured a BQ by the new standards, and I feel ready to train hard this summer to aim for a 3:15 at Chicago!
I was blown away yesterday at how many people checked in to see how I did. Thank you  more than I can say without sounding ridiculous, for your support!!!

Silver for finishing, Gold for the BQ.


21 responses to “The Qualifier Marathon: Race Report

  1. Congrats! Sounds like you ran a great race!

    • Yah, definitely ran with a pace that was moving the in the wrong direction, but now I know what I need to work on this summer! Thanks for reading!

  2. That’s tremendous effort under the tough running condition. Congratulations on the BQ10!

  3. Awesome job! It was so flippin’ hot this weekend! I had a couple friends running Rockford and they melted. Great effort and way to run. You are sooooo fast! Love it! Are you running Chicago?

  4. Congrats on making it back to Boston!

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