Saturday, March 7, 2015

Army Marathon Expo & Race Recap

I’m pretty excited to recap this race.  I always start with my experience at the expo, so let’s go there.  The expo was in Temple, TX at the Frank Mayborn Convention Center.  It was about an hour drive from my home, however because there was sleet and it was below freezing, there was ice on the roads and therefore a few accidents that caused traffic jams, so it took me about an hour and a half or so to make the drive.  I arrived at the expo and went in. 

I went in and went straight to the information table where I was given an expo bingo page to be signed off on by all the vendors there.  The second table I stopped at was the Marathon Maniacs.  Some of their members were running as pacers.  I had already decided my goal for this race was to finish in about 4:45:00, so I was happy to see there was a 4:45 pace group.  I talked to the members that were at the table for a few minutes as crossing the finish line at this race would qualify me for membership in their “club.”  I then made my way around to the rest of the booths.  One of them was a booth for the Miracle Marathon which has a virtual race that benefits the same organization.  This will be a pricier virtual race than I’ve done in the past if I do it, $50.  But it’s a good cause and the medal is nice, plus it comes with a really nice medal (haha).  I stopped at the USAA booth (my insurance company) and signed up for a raffle they were having and got a swag bag from them which included a tech shirt…YAY!

I next went to the bib table and was assigned my number.  The bibs are really nice, I love the awards printed across the top of it.
After that, I found the t-shirt table where I was shocked to find that the participant shirts were not tech, but regular cotton-polyester blend.  I mean, the shirt is attractive.  I really like the look of it, but it’s not a shirt I can run in and that makes me sad.  What I’m going to do is sew in the sides a little bit (it’s a unisex, aka men’s, shirt) to make it more of a ladies’ fit.  The shirt came with the gear check bag, which I really like.
After getting my shirt I found a table with ANOTHER virtual race!  WOOHOO!  This one is only $25 and also benefits a worthy cause.  They provide services to family members of soldiers killed in action.  This cause means a lot to me, so of course I’ll be doing it.

At the Team RWB table, I picked up a sticker for my car.

There wasn’t a whole lot of vendors at the expo.  Even with the 4 or 5 more that didn’t make it because of the weather, it still wouldn’t have been a lot of vendors.  But it was a fun expo.  Oh yea!  I picked up some hüma gels.  I decided after I had the one during the previous Sunday’s 10 mile run that I really liked this brand.  I also decided that I would run this marathon solely on hüma.  And I have to say that it went very well and am now looking into fueling exclusively with hüma.

Onto the race itself.  The week up to the race, the forecast had been like 60% chance of rain and 60°-something temps.  The night before, when I checked the hourly forecast, it was a 20% chance of rain, trickling down to just 5% by the time I would finish and temps in the mid-30°’s to low 40°’s.  I had to modify the outfit I had picked out to wear a little bit.  First, I’m glad I hadn’t yet cut the gold leggings I had bought to wear over my running tights because the extra length down to the ankles would be nice.  Also, my “I’m a GOAL DIGGER” shirt is a tank top, so I would need a long sleeved pullover underneath it. 

On the drive up, I stopped at Walmart and purchased some clear trash bags so that I would have a makeshift rain jacket to keep me drier and warmer.

It had “warmed” up to above freezing for the morning of the race, so my hour drive to the race start at the Killeen Civic & Conference Center was issue free and took me just an hour.  I arrived and parked and then snoozed in my car for a little over half an hour.  I went to the port-a-potty…no wait.  While doing that I discovered the gear check drop off, so went back to the car and grabbed my gear check bag.  I had stuffed it with dry clothes to change into post-race if the rain was enough to soak me.  Then went back to the car and started putting my stuff together and eating my bagel and banana.  About 10 minutes before the race was to start, I got out of the car and did my warm ups then made my way to the start just in time for the national anthem.  I quickly and easily found the 4:45 pacer and stood next to him while waiting for the gun.

Off we went!  The first few miles were pretty much downhill and therefore were super easy to hold the 10:45-ish pace that the pacer was setting.  A couple miles in, there was a rumbling in my lower stomach.  Uh oh.  I knew I would have to stop and use a port-a-potty.  Thankfully they had port-a-potties at EVERY water stop!!!  OMG!  This was fabulous!!!  It also made for a very short wait time when I stopped near mile 6.  I sped up and ran ahead of the pace group so I’d have less catching up to do post-potty break.  There was still a good downhill trend at this point so the catching up I had to do was easy.

Around mile 5, my shoe randomly came untied so I had to stop and retie it.  That was my first over 11 minute mile, but not too bad.  I again caught back up to the pace group easily and I was back on the 10:45-ish miles after that until mile 17.  This is where “The Hill” started.  I didn’t even realize it until I was all like “why is this so hard?” and then I looked at my Garmin and saw I was at 17.5 miles.  Oh, that’s where I am.  I had looked at the course profile before the race and knew there was a huge hill around mile 17-18. 

Mile 18 was a good amount over 11 minutes (11:26 to be exact), but it was totally understandable.  On this hill, the pacer pulled away from me and got about 50 yards or so ahead of me.  After the hill was over, I was able to recover my 10:45-ish pace.  Just before the Belton Dam, I decided that it wasn’t going to rain anymore and tore off my trash bag.  Around mile 10, I had picked up a recovery jacket from one of the volunteers, but didn’t put it on.  I rolled it up and was just carrying it.  I planned to put it on after I crossed the finish line to help me stay warm.

Per the course profile, I took it that there would be a gradual downhill trend after “The Hill,” but there really wasn’t.  It seemed like there was all these very gradual uphills followed by very short downhill breaks.  I cherished walking the water stops for the rest of the race.

The last 9 miles of the race were rough.  Really rough.  But I didn’t give up.  I didn’t let the pacer pull further ahead of me.  He stayed the same distance in front of me, so I knew that I had recovered my pace and was holding it.  I pushed through these final miles.  As I crossed the 20 mile mark there were some spectators cheering us.  I hollered “20 mile warm up done!  Just a 10K to go!”
The last 5K I felt like I was struggling to keep my pace up, but I still didn’t really have much of an issue keeping it up.  I really did just focus on keeping the pacer at the same distance in front of me and that helped a lot.  When I was just like .1 of a mile away from the finish line itself, I tucked the recovery jacket into my gear belt behind me so that I wouldn’t have anything in my hands as I crossed the finish line.  As I crossed the finish line, the announcer mentioned my “I’m a GOAL DIGGER” shirt and then announced my name and town.  I then was handed another recovery jacket and got my medal!!!

The pacer and another lady from the group, Brianna, were waiting for me since I had talked to them about how crossing the finish line would qualify me for the Marathon Maniacs and how I wanted a picture with my sign saying I had just qualified after crossing the finish line.  Brianna happily took photos of me.  Plus they let me take a picture with the pace stick sign…YAY!
I grabbed a water, a chocolate milk, a bag of Frito's, and a Clif Builder’s bar (snack size) and then stumbled upon the free massage tent and got me one of those!  And then I went to the gear check tent and retrieved my checked bag.  Then I found the warming tent and warmed up a little. 

Going to back up a little bit here.  Around mile 10, I started feeling a little teeny tiny pain at the back of my left ankle where my shoe was rubbing.  I figured it was just regular chafing.  Around mile 13, I decided to stop and have a look because the pain was pretty sharp at this point.  I noticed my sock had slipped below the top of my shoe.  The next thing I noticed was the blood.  I looked closer and there was a nice open wound there.  I pulled up my sock to cover the wound and started running again.  I sucked it up and drove on as we used to say back when I was in the Army so many years ago.  The wound didn’t bother me the rest of the race.

When I got to the warming tent, I drank my chocolate milk and ate my Frito's.  I then checked out my little wound on the back of my ankle and one of the volunteers saw it and then took me to the medical tent.  This is my first time taking advantage of medical services at a race.  And I wasn’t ashamed or anything like that at all.  It needed to happen, that is all.  The medical staff cleaned up the burst and bloody blisters…yep, there was a very small one on the back of my right ankle too.  Then they put bandages on them and I was on my way.  I decided instead of going back to the warming tent I would go stand in line to wait for the shuttle bus back to my car (this was a point-to-point race).  I got lucky and the bus arrived within about 5 minutes of me getting in line.  The guy I sat next to on the bus was really nice and we talked the whole 26 mile drive back to our cars.  While we talked, I put together all my collages and posted them to Instagram.
Thankfully the Civic & Conference Center was open for an art thing because the port-a-potties had already been picked up and I had to use the bathroom!

Overall, I am extremely happy with this race (the participant shirt being the only exception and only for the fact that it wasn’t a tech shirt).  I would definitely run it again.

Here's my finisher's certificate and official results:

Here's my official race photos (free download!!!!):

And here's my Garmin data:

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