When planning my fall marathon season, my main goal was to set a new marathon PR. My summer training was going well, but I wasn’t sure if I would be in PR shape by September when I was to run my first marathon of the fall. When Justin suggested running the Cape Cod Marathon in October, I objected. I remembered him describing the course as hard; the words “hills” and “boardwalk” stuck in my mind. Although I actually prefer some rolling hills over pancake flat courses, you never know quite what you are getting yourself into when somebody describes a course as “hilly.” Hills that are too long, too steep, or come at an undesirable time during a race can dramatically impact your marathon time. As far as the boardwalk goes, I am not a big fan of running on wood. (The day after I wrote this, I wiped out running over a wooden bridge!)
While I am sure the Cape Cod Marathon is a wonderful marathon, I wanted to make sure my October marathon had a course that was conducive to setting a marathon PR in case my attempt in September failed. Next Justin suggested the Atlanta Marathon. All my experience with Atlanta was on I-75 going to and from Florida for spring break, but for some reason when I heard “Atlanta” my mind thought “fast.” So, without researching the race, I agreed to run it.
At the packet pick-up of the Atlanta Marathon, I asked one of the race volunteers to interpret the elevation chart for me. I am terrible at reading elevation charts - it all depends on the scale. You can make a flat course look hilly if you set the scale right. The race volunteer excitedly explained to Justin and me that we would not find a flat section on the course. It was constant ups and downs - mainly the short and steep type, not the long and gradual type. Upon hearing this, I was immediately thankful that I achieved my goal of a new PR the month before.
Since I had never run so many hills consecutively, I decided that I would run conservatively going up the hills and push on the downhills. In the first mile of the race, I met a lady that was shooting to run around 3 hours. We ran together until around mile 20. I use the term “ran together” rather loosely. It was more like we were constantly passing each other for the first 20 miles. She was a strong uphill runner and would surge ahead of me going up. I, on the other hand, followed my plan of working the downhills and would wiz past her on the downs. Just when I was beginning to think race strategy on how to take the lead, I found myself keeping pace with this lady on an uphill leading into mile 20. This was my chance. There happened to be a long downhill segment after this hill and I ran hard to get as big of a gap as I could. I kept the pace strong until the end, finishing 1st in 3:01. I was happy with my time but found myself wishing I would have pushed harder since I had a lot left at the end. If I run this race again, I won’t be as intimidated by the hills.
Two weeks after the Atlanta Marathon, I planned to run the Veterans Marathon. I am not like Justin and do not typically embrace running marathons that close together. How he runs marathons on consecutive weekends or consecutive days is beyond me. However, I wanted to run Veterans this year to redeem myself from dropping out last year. It is pretty demoralizing to drop out of a race.
By the time I was at the starting line of the Veterans Marathon, my legs were feeling good and I thought that trying to run just under 3 hours was a reasonable goal. Within the first few miles of the race, I found myself running with a great group of guys that were all hoping to run right around 3 hours. Although there was a lady ahead of me, I decided to stick with this group. We were running my goal pace and it was too early to try to go faster than it. I felt great through the half, took the lead shortly there after, and then hit the wind. I kept telling myself that the wind would be at my back most of the last 10k as I fought to maintain my pace. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted once the wind was to my back that I couldn’t enjoy it. Now, I don’t make a habit of walking during marathons. However, I was feeling really dehydrated late in the race, so I walked through the last aid station to take full advantage of the fluids they were supplying. After 3 cups of water and a glass of sports drink, I was off and running to the finish to complete the marathon in 3:04. I was a little off my goal time and a little disappointed that I crashed the last 10k. However, my fall marathons this year all went much better than last year, and I have now completed the Veterans Marathon.
The past couple years, Justin and I have considered running the Rainbow Lake 5k, but it never ended up fitting in our schedule. This year, we decided early that one or both of us would run it. Justin, unfortunately, injured his foot the week prior to Veterans Marathon and running two marathons on it did not help its recovery. Although I hadn’t done any speed work for over a month due to the spacing of the Atlanta and Veterans marathons, I decided that this could be a fun and painful way to reintroduce speed work into my training. I went with the conservative goal of running under 19 minutes though I really knew I would be disappointed if I wasn’t decently under that time. The race started like many 5k road races with a slew of youngsters sprinting their hearts out. I didn’t think much of them until I was a little past the first mile. I noticed there was still a younger looking girl ahead of me and she appeared to be going strong. I gained on her slowly during the second mile but when we hit a strong headwind in the last mile, I stopped gaining ground. I wasn’t able to find another gear. I knew at that point that if she didn’t start fading, she was going to win. I finished second in 18:38. I was pleased with my time and while it is always more fun to win, getting second makes me eager to get back to speedwork.