Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Date: November 9, 2019
“Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing
Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision
Always had high, high hopes
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling
I was gonna be that one in a million
Always had high, high hopes”
~ Panic at the Disco
But I am getting ahead of myself at the moment. Because like any and every story…you have to start at the beginning. And the beginning, for me, started on Friday.
Friday was a complete rest day for me. Normally I do shake-out runs and the like, but I had a continuous training cycle through taper, and had done my usual (albeit much lower mileage) runs on Sunday-Thursday, with 2 of these including some sort of speed workout. So, I slept in, per usual. I took a shower. I didn’t go to work…so I had time to stretch, finish packing, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at home. For the record, it was Trader Joes Gluten Free Pumpkin Bagels and Kite Hill Vegan Cream Cheese. I had my first melt down. I ran a couple of errands with my roommate. Made a quick lunch. Had another meltdown. She called in my sushi order at Dragon King’s Daughter (if you’ve been following my weekly training logs, you know about my “magic sushi”…so you better believe an order was traveling in a cooler up to Indianapolis with me), loaded the car, took out the garbage, went to pick up sushi order…and hit the road.
The drive up to Indianapolis was easy and uneventful. Just the way we like it. My coach, Daniel, called me on the drive and we talked. He always knows what to say to calm me down. He asked me how I felt…I told him I was nervous. He asked what I was nervous about. And I told him…the weather. To date, this was shaping up to be the coldest marathon I will have run. Beating out Twin Cities in Minneapolis, MN…and Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2018 in Orlando, FL (which held the record…yes, Florida was colder than Minnesota). The weather was showing a 28° start, with a nice wind chill making it feel more like 21°. Good times. We discussed how my training had done, despite not really having weather like what I would be running in for the marathon. I told him this would change my wardrobe and we went over what I could/should wear and ways to keep my core temperature up before the race. I told him I already had cried twice that day…and he asked what type of crying it was…and I told him it was the “I want this so bad” type of cry. He told me how to channel that and my unease about the weather into mentally having a successful race. Honestly, I found the BEST coach. We hung up…and as we neared Indy…the local station we had found started playing every hype song it could throw at me. I cried…again.
We made it to the hotel, staying once again at the Omni Severin Hotel in downtown, and only a short walk to the start and finish lines. We got checked in. I put the sushi in the fridge, along with my overnight oats I made at home to have race morning (just as I did before EVERY long run this cycle). Then we went to the expo. I got my packet for the marathon. Cathy got hers for the 5K. And I picked up my friend, Melissa’s, packet for her so she didn’t have to drive 4-5 hours round trip with her baby to do it. Then, we went exploring. I ended up buying a singlet for this race, and my roommate bought me a finisher’s jacket (she’s the best) and a Bondi Band. She also got herself a new racing hat, featuring this race (the first one she ever trained for last year). Then, we made our way around the expo, checking out the different booths and races that were represented there. Once done with that, we took photos with our bibs, found my name on the giant poster, and headed back to the hotel.
We settled in for the rest of the day, because I wanted to stay off my feet as much as possible. We watched a couple episodes of Mindhunter. Cathy went and got herself dinner from the hotel…which was offering a nice pasta dinner with a side salad and breadsticks (although she got hers to go and they didn’t pack the breadsticks…but she said there was plenty of pasta). We ate. I stretched and foam rolled. We watched Top Chef (still in Boston…again…good sign!). Then, we called it a night. Lights out.
I didn’t sleep well. I kept waking up…needing some water…or just nerves at times. I turned off my first alarm before it went off because I was already awake. The second alarm went off at 6:00 am. Both my roommate and I got up with that one. It was officially the start of race morning. She had coffee and juice delivered to the room for her to have with her breakfast (she does this every morning, so this is part of her routine).
I had about 3 meltdowns just getting ready. I wish I were kidding. After talking to my coach on the drive up, I decided to officially nix the shorts. While the temperature would be climbing in the over three hours I would be out there…I didn’t want to start cold. So, for the first time in the history of my marathon running…I ran in pants. Capris. Of course they were bright and wild colors. HA! Because I gotta be me! I decided to go with a short sleeve shirt (BRIGHT PINK), compression sleeves, my Newtons (I also brought my Adidas Boston Boosts), arm warmers, a buff, a Bondi-Band, gloves (with hand warmers), and a throw-away hat. I wore everything pink I could…to represent my mom (as has been my theme this entire year I have raced). I started to put together my hydration pack, pouring room-temperature Nuun into the bladder (I knew it would be cold just being out there…so why make it super cold by starting that way?), packing my Maurten Gel 100s (three with caffeine, three without), shaking up my Maurten 320 Drink Mix (which some of it went into a little bottle in my pack to take at Mile 8), and then I tucked some very important tokens into a pocket to carry with me. My amazing friend, Kelly Lorch, gifted me with some plates that were to go on my shoelaces. I had my shoes on…and tied…so I said I would carry them with me. She is amazing and has been SO supportive of me reaching my goals. There was no way these weren’t coming along on the journey in some way.
Cathy pinned my bib on…then I pinned her up. I layered on my throwaway clothes and then we both wrapped ourselves in old Mylar from previous races and trash bags. Then, we headed out to meet up with Melissa at the MRTT/SRTT photo meet-up spot in the Westin (which also gave us a warm place to wait for the start AND bathrooms if needed). I walked in and was immediately flagged down my Kelly. Melissa came over and gave me a hug too…and I started to have another cry. But, thankfully, group pictures were happening so I had to go and attempt to look “homeless chic” in my “how to stay warm on a cold-ass race morning” attire. The photos were taken and Melissa had me join her as she waited for her husband, Paul, to park the car and bring the bundled up baby inside. They arrived and she brought out the MOST AMAZING sign ever. It said, “My auntie Karen chases unicorns and runs BQs.” She said she and the baby worked very hard on it the night before. I cried…again.
No sooner had I dried those tears, Cathy said we had about 15 minutes until the start of the race…so we needed to mosey outside. BOOOO. I shed all my throwaway stuff and handed it off to Paul, who was finish line support and baby watching this morning. He was very kind to let me do that so they can live to be tossed another day. I got re-wrapped up in the trash bag and Mylar…and we headed out into the cold. We stopped just before the start line, where I needed to make my way down to my wave corral, and I got final hugs. Cathy let me know (for the 2 millionth time this training cycle) that I had this. Paul wished me luck and told me I had this in the bag. And Melissa, because we are the same person, took my head in her hands, made me look right into her eyes, and gave me a pep talk to end all pep talks. We hugged it out…and I went to go get into place.
At first, I thought I was about to have a Glass City Marathon replay…because as I got to my corral…I could see the 3:40 pacer and the 3:30 pacer. No 3:35. I was about to cry again, when I spotted a guy standing in an Official Pacer orange shirt…minus the sign. I went over there and asked if he was the 3:35 pacer. He said he was, and his partner was currently missing and had the sign. The other guy showed up a few minutes later, but he was prepared to get us all there with or without the sign. I felt a lot better. No need to stare at my watch and fuss over the pace if I could hang with them. About 5 minutes before the start, I went to ditch the Mylar and trash bag and got back in line with the two pacers. The race started, with the wheelchairs. Then Wave 1. Then my wave. As we crossed the start line, it was crowded and packed, and the pacers were a bit ahead of me, but I didn’t panic. I waved to Cathy, Melissa, and Paul…and began to weave a bit to make my way closer to the pace group.
I caught up to them in the first quarter of a mile and made sure not to feel crowded. If you remember, last year I attempted to do this very same thing…but ended up getting tripped a few times. That wasn’t happening this year. NOPE! We were a fun group and the pacers were great at not only giving direction on where we were turning or where aid was…but just keeping us talking to keep our minds off the race. One of my pacers was from Sellersburg and we talked about Louisville races and whatnot for awhile. That was really cool. He apparently had never heard of me. He must run in the wrong circles, HA! Just kidding.
By Mile 2 I had already talked his ear off about the Dopey Challenge. So…there was that. This is also where my watch was off from the mile markers. And, yes, my friends…it remained like that until…I kid you not…MILE 26. My watch was beeping about .1 mile after the actual mile markers. So, with the new course changes this year, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get in a full 26.2. BUT…I was also reminded by the pacers, that with the tunnel overpasses we run under/through, plus the buildings in downtown…you can’t really trust your GPS and that the course WAS measured correctly. SO…we went with it. I let it go. I just let it be.
The first couple of miles of this race is a lot of turns. For real. I feel like we go around so many corners, but it was okay. Also…we were slightly behind pace for the first couple of miles, but I trusted the pacers to get us where we needed to be. I was, however, keeping a close eye on my watch, in case I needed to just break away and do this on my own. Then, we busted out a faster fourth mile and had to tone it down a bit. Too early for that kind of craziness…and they knew it.
From there on, we pretty much stayed steadily just ahead of the actual pace, which made up for those first three, crowded miles. Also, this time I wasn’t tripped about three times heading into the 10K mark. For real. Last year, I had lined up with the 3:35 pace group and it became hazardous to my health around this time. Nope. We were a large group, but we were very aware of each other’s space. And that made a whole heap of difference. I was able to stay relaxed and just breathed. We crossed the 10K mark and kept on going. One of the pacers asked, “Who was worried, for no reason, about how cold it was today? You’re warm now right?” We all raised our hands. Don’t get me wrong, it was cold…but our bodies were working hard and we were definitely warm.
At Mile 7, we separate from the half marathon runners. They take a turn and the full marathon continues on straight. I was surprised at how good I felt at this point, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. Despite the cold, I was fueling how I did in training and staying relaxed. I had goals, but I didn’t want to get worked up over them. I was just going to run my best on this day. And right now, my best was feeling good! At Mile 8, I fueled with the 5 oz flask I brought of the rest of my Maurten 320 from the morning. Onward.
I stayed just slightly behind the pacers through Mile 15 to be honest. But, I wasn’t going to sweat it. I distracted myself from Mile 10 to Mile 12 looking for my friends Susan and George. They live along there, and were going to come out to cheer. If they were out, I totally missed them. If they weren’t…I don’t blame them…it was cold. But, I continued to search for them on the sides of the roads, where people had come out of their warm houses to cheer everyone on. At Mile 12, I took a Maurten Gel 100. AND…I ditched my throwaway hat that I had kept on my head until then. The sun was finally coming out and I knew that the day was about to really start warming up. I was, however, glad I had my head covered up until that point. But now…now it was time to let those pigtails fly!
Halfway there…and I was smiling and high fiving kids and just having a blast. I mean, if you’re going to run 26.2 miles…you might as well have fun while doing it, right?
I was keeping a very steady pace, which continued as the miles ticked off. I fueled with another Maurten Gel 100 (and I was taking sips of water from my hydration vest EVERY mile (because I tend to under-hydrate in marathons and had practiced this in training so that it would be a habit and I wouldn’t crash at the end…which I still think is what happened at Glass City) at Mile 16, because I was going to do it every 4 miles to make sure my fuel stores stayed primed as the race went on.
The pacers had pulled slightly ahead of me, but I remained calm and breathed because I still had a ways to go. Panicking over pace right now wouldn’t serve me. Stay calm. My mantra crept in…”Keep Fighting.” At Mile 18 we went through this little park-like area…which I remembered last year had a lot of people inside just screaming. Same thing this year. It made me smile. “Keep Fighting.”
I caught back up to the 3:35 pacers as we started down the exit ramp at Mile 19. If you know me…you know…downhill is my favorite speed. I smiled a lot at this point…because I was still feeling good. I was feeling strong. I was ready to keep going. I had 7 more miles to go. I did that pretty much every easy run day. I just had to hold on.
At Mile 20, I took another gel. This was the last 10K. This is where most people hit a wall. Not me. I wasn’t going to hit a wall today. I was on a mission. I kept my head up, soaking in the sun (which was now up), thinking of my mom, running as fast as my legs could possibly go that far into a marathon. I was feeling strong still. No wall to have to break through this time. Although…to be honest, they have you run through this inflatable arch thing that looks like a brick wall… which did amuse me.
I maintained quite well the next few miles. I could feel some fatigue setting in, but it wasn’t bad. I still felt good. I kept telling myself that I had done this before. I raced a 30K and managed to be under my marathon pace. I did two of my five 20+ miler training runs at my marathon pace. Whatever road I still had ahead of me…I knew I was beyond capable of bringing this home.
And then, around Mile 23, we turned a corner and the headwind hit. And it hit hard. While the pacers continued on, I could definitely feel the need to fight a bit more now. The wind was no joke…and I knew we’d have it for the next few miles, at least until we turned and headed to that finish line. I wasn’t going to let it get in my head. I had time. I had this.
At Mile 24, I tried to open my final Maurten Gel 100 (I listen to enough runners on podcasts warn people to not skip that final gel in the last few miles…and now I understand why). It was hard to tear open, so I slowed to a light jog, got it opened, and picked it back up while I took it down. 2.2 miles to go.
The next few miles, I had my personal trainer, Corey’s voice in my head. All these little moves he had me do that would strengthen my body and get it prepared to find that “next gear” all came into play here. The wind was whipping, and I was fighting it the best I could. The next couple miles ticked off. I even had a friend of mine from Instagram shout at me from the side of the road. I smiled. That was amazing.
I made the turn onto W New York Street. From the years prior of me running this…the full and the half…I knew the finish line was around the corner. I made the turn. I could see it. I could see it and I picked it up…I started to just fight every part of my body that wanted me to slow down. As I got closer, I spotted the signs…the one Cathy held and the one Melissa held up. I could hear them shouting at me. I could hear them cheering. I was already crying. I was already crying because I knew I was doing it. I knew I was about to do it…FINALLY!
I crossed that finish line, arms up…and then, after I moved past the photographers…I paused my watch and glanced at it.
3:35:13…I had done it. I had gotten my BQ time for 2021. And the instant I confirmed it, I just started bawling. I was ugly crying right there at the finish. Cathy, Melissa (and Baby C), and Paul rushed over to me and we all hugged and cried together. All of us. Except for the baby, ironically. HA! Cathy pulled up her phone and started to play Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up To Boston.” I cried some more. I cried more than I thought I could because I was just so happy. Cathy texted my mom and my coach. She told me they would meet me at the end and to go get my Mylar, medal, and snacks.
After I got my medal and Mylar, I spotted the pacer I ran with from Sellersburg and I told him I got my time. He high-fived me and I tried not to cry again…but I think I was. I met up with my amazing friends and they were patient enough with me to let me lay down and put my feet up for a few minutes. Melissa went to retrieve official results. Cathy and I went to see about getting my medal engraved. Then we went to retrieve my bonus shirt and medal for the Indython Ultra (for doing Fort Ben Half too). I gave Paul my free slice of pizza. It was a lot of emotions all at once and the reality of it all just kept hitting me. And I just kept crying…and smiling.
We made the walk back to the hotel together. Paul and Melissa very kindly went to retrieve some coffee for all of us. I took a shower and got dressed because I had the USL Eastern Cup Final happening in Indianapolis as well and I needed to go cheer on Louisville City FC. This also meant I had to go back out into the cold, but Cathy promised to bring blankets. Our friend Greg came with us to the match and to dinner.
I actually didn’t get to eat anything until long after the match, but the wait was worth it. I enjoyed some gluten free pizza and gluten free fries from Harry & Izzy’s. I had half the pizza left, so Cathy and I decided that would be breakfast the next morning. No shame.
We then returned to the hotel where we FINALLY got to crack open the wine I had been saving for the BQ moment. The three of us lifted our hotel plastic cups and enjoyed the celebration.
Let me also mention that Melissa and Cathy ran the 5K on race morning, with Melissa turning in her BEST post-baby 5K time and Cathy running a new PR (and her first sub-45 minute 5K).
Now that I’ve bragged on them…let’s go to the stats…
The official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon are that I finished in 3:35:13, which makes it my second fastest marathon to date of the 16 I have now fun. This took down Marshall by about 42 seconds. So damn proud of the hard work and training I did to make this happen. I was 1282/4962 finishers overall. I was the 329/2111 female finishers. And I was 98/412 in my age division. I might still be in shock from how everything played out that day. When it started to feel hard…I just kept fighting.
Never, ever give up on your dreams. It sometimes takes time to reach your goals. But that’s what makes them mean so much. Keep fighting.