Race: Mercy Health Glass City Marathon
Place: Toledo, OH
Date: April 28, 2019
After a really good shakeout run using Glass City’s Savage 5K as just that (and somehow placing in my age group), I spent the rest of Saturday in my hotel room. Sitting on my bed. Feet up. Eating. Blogging. Watching television. Not out walking around Toledo. Not hanging out at the expo. Off my feet. Foam rolling. Stretching. All of it.
I was really taking this prep seriously! I didn’t actually leave the room until about 4 pm…when Cathy and I headed into Toledo to hit up Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery for dinner. We had looked at a few places in Toledo, but it is so hard to gauge how safe some places are, and some reviews on places I had been looking at weren’t so good on my Find Me Gluten Free app. We were going to do my new favorite thing before a major race – sushi…but Toledo’s only safe sushi place only had the a vegetable roll, cucumber roll, or avocado roll for vegan options. BOOOO! I am lucky to have Dragon King’s Daughter for my vegan sushi needs in Louisville/New Albany. As we were driving up to Toledo, my fellow Celiac blogger and Instagram friend, Margaret, was on her way down to Columbus for the Gluten Free Allergy Free Fest and posted about Organic Bliss. They closed at 5 pm, so we went early and got there to figure out what we wanted for dinner. And, of course, we would get a box of goodies to go back to the hotel with us.
The people there were very kind and gave us some time to look over the menu, and we finally came to our conclusions…Cathy went ahead and got the BLT with Chips. And I went with the Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich (avocado, romaine, spinach, tomato, cucumber, black beans, papaya poppyseed dressing). I got that with a side of the Chickpea Salad. And then we boxed up some treats: A Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake, an Almond Scone, a Cranberry Orange Scone, a Cinnamon Roll, and the Peanut Butter Quinoa Bar. We paid and went and took a seat in the corner while meals were prepared and brought out to us.
Sandwiches before a race are a good back-up it seems. And this sandwich was AMAZING. I loved it. And the Chickpea Salad was the perfect side. Got some carbs, protein, healthy fats…perfection. They were trying to get ready to close, so the floors were being swept and people were coming in for last minute purchases. We finished up and headed out to go back to the hotel for the night. And you better believe Cathy and I split that Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake for dessert back at the hotel.
I went ahead and posted on my Instagram feed the motivation, the drive, and the reason I was running the following day: my mom. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January, just after the New Year. It was a shock to my family and one that none of us were prepared for. Right now, she is going through chemo, keeping her spirits high and her thoughts positive. What a warrior. This race, save for a couple of miles, was to honor her. Mile 1, my roommate claimed. Mile 26, my friend Natalie claimed, And Mile 10 was in memory of my friend Tina’s daughter, Kinsley, who died in her sleep at the age of 10 a couple of days before I left for Toledo. I would carry these honors with me respectively on the race course.
I did one last round of stretching and foam rolling while watching Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network…and got an onslaught of uplifiting and motivational gifs from my coach. I do love my coach. He has been amazing, even when training went slightly off the rails when I busted up my knees. The gifs made me laugh. And he threw in a Game of Thrones reference, so that was winning. But, soon it was time to turn in for the night. I set two different alarms. One for me to get up and take my medicine and use the bathroom…and then go back to bed. And then one for Cathy…which would be when I would get up and get dressed. No surprise…I couldn’t sleep well. And I shut off my first alarm before it even went off. Tried to climb back into bed and wait for the other alarm, but then my mind wouldn’t shut off. So, I got up and did my PT stretches for my hips…and then went ahead and started to get ready. By the time the second alarm went off, I was pretty much dressed and ready to head out the door. So, while Cathy got ready, I started prepping my hydration vest bladder with 1 liter of water, grabbed my Maurten gels to use as additional fuel on the run, and put on my clothes I would shed prior to the race.
Because up in Toledo…it was 41 degrees on race morning, but with the windchill, it was in the real feel was in the low 30s. They had been predicting snow…but thankfully that didn’t happen. I had, thankfully, packed some clothes that I could wear over my race gear (and a back up short sleeve shirt since a tank top was the original plan for this race), so I felt like I was good in the wardrobe department. I was glad I had the clothing to give to Cathy before I got into the corral, because I was cold in that wind.
We left the hotel early. Like 5:45-ish early. And we made the 20 minute drive to the University of Toledo, where we found a lot to park in. And then…then was the walk to the start. It was slightly drizzly, but Cathy had purchased some trash bags at Kroger so, we both donned them and set out down the sidewalk to get to the start. It was a pretty big walk, but it was a good way to warm up for sure. If you know Cathy’s history with directions, you will understand that I kept checking with her to make sure that she was on track to getting us to the start line, especially when random runners who were walking near us would veer off and we’d continue on…into the land of empty sidewalks and roads. But, we turned at an intersection and I could hear the tunes of the start line, and they just so happened to be playing my theme song for this year, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes.” It was a good sign.
We went to find a spot for Cathy to stand for the start of the race and just sort of made that base camp. I stood behind her to break her from the wind. We took a few photos. I looked miserable. I was miserable. Spring marathons were not meant to be spent freezing. At least, not in my opinion. I drank my bottle of UCAN with 30 minutes to go and eventually, with about 10, shed my extra layers, save the trash bag, got a hug from Cathy, and headed to Corral B.
It was here in Corral B that I set out on my mission to find the 3;35 pacers. The Web site had two of them listed, but as I hunted for the tiny yellow signs the marathon pacers held, I just couldn’t find any in my corral. So, I went up to one of the half marathon pacers and asked him where the marathon pacers were. He said that they should be in here…and asked which group I was looking for. I said, “The 3:35.” And he told me that there was no 3:35, only 3:30 and 3:40 and to find and line up with the 3:40 so that I start slow. I was determined not to melt down or let this mentally get to me. The National Anthem was about to be sung, and after that, I gave one last look around my corral for pacers….shed my trash bag, and decided I was going to have to pace myself this time.
That’s a scary thought right? But that was how it was going to be. Corral took off and I saw the bobbing of the yellow pacer signs up there. So…one more chance to check for them in my corral. No luck. None. Deep breath. We were moved up toward the start line. Waited two minutes. And then…we were off.
I reeled it in immediately. Normally that race start is intense and the adrenaline is rushing and you just GO. You bolt it out and find some space, but it uses up valuable energy, and I had been given a plan to follow, and while I couldn’t see the first 5 miles through with the pacer as the plan said, I wasn’t going to blow it up by going out too fast too soon. I could hold it together and hold back. Five miles. I had this. My coach wanted me to be around an 8:12-8:10 pace for these miles. I did the best I could, and while a few of them were slightly fast, the last two were just slightly slower (not by much) than that pace. Just before Mile 4, Cathy had found a spot on the side of the road to cheer. It was amazing. Cowbell and all with a crowd. I will say this, for being a smaller race, I never felt like I wasn’t supported out there. Going into Mile 4 was a huge example of this. Lots of people, even in the damp cold, just there to cheer on the runners. It was great.
From Mile 6-15, I was supposed to maintain a slightly faster pace, not sprinting, not going too fast, but hitting those high 8’s. And I managed this. Holy crap, I was doing it. And I felt good. I didn’t feel like I needed anything, and technically with UCAN, I didn’t…but I didn’t want to run out of steam, and I have always been told to fuel early and often. So, I took my first Maurten gel at Mile 6. Here we were guided through some neighborhoods, and people were down at the end of their driveways cheering. Our bibs had names on them, so they would shout out your name and some encouragement as you went by. Loved that. While big races are all fine and good, this was the feel of a big race without all that big race stuff.
It was actually just before Mile 10 that the half and the full marathons split. This was clearly marked with big gates for the runners to go through. The half marathon runners turned left, while we continued on. This did bring the number of people around down some. But, again, I never, ever felt like I was running alone. At Mile 10, I fueled again (remember, early and often) and then I did give a point up to the sky and said Kinsley’s name. She gave me some wings on that mile.
It is just before Mile 11 that the marathon course enters Wildwood Preserve Metropark. We would actually run through this park twice on the course, but, trust me, it didn’t really feel repetitive. The open streets we had been running on narrowed to a running/biking path, but it was paved and beautiful. There were race volunteers out there, handing out water at the two water stops that were inside the park. There was a band playing as well at some point. On the first pass through the park, somewhere after Mile 12, we are sent to the right to run out onto the streets again. I fueled again at Mile 14, and pressed on, still feeling strong and confident. It was somewhere in Mile 16 that I caught up with the 3:40 pacers.
Yep…the 3:40 pacer. I shook this off, figuring that it was fine. The problem was, I joined up with them as we were sent to run on the shoulder of a road, and in a pace group, that made for some tight, tight quarters. This made my split at this mile much slower than I would have liked, but I was afraid of clipping runners ahead of me, or being clipped by runners near me. This happened twice, if you recall, when I started with a pace group at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon back in November. When I had an opening, I did pass and get ahead, able to stretch my legs back out and pick it back up. I didn’t panic. Not at all. I just found my own pace again and was happy to not be in that pack anymore. I had some breathing room and it took that anxiety away. I fueled again at Mile 18 and just kept on going.
Just before Mile 20, we re-enter the park again, from a different entrance and make our way back through that path. It was here that we have to navigate a small bit of an incline. And it was here, that my legs slowed down and just wouldn’t pick it back up. The final 10K…where I wanted to just maintain and keep going strong. A tiny little bump in the elevation took the speed away from me. I felt like I was picking it back up, but I wasn’t. I truly wasn’t. This time as we go to exit, if it’s your second loop, you turn left, and now you’re heading back out toward the university. I still felt good, I just couldn’t find any sort of speed at this point. We are still on this paved trail, and runners were scattered, but we were strong. The 3:40 pacer passed me again. And I didn’t fret or sweat it. I did shed my gloves around Mile 22. My hands were getting really hot finally. And I was close. I also took my last gel at this point. Fuel for the final four miles.
There were some really perky and happy ladies running a friend in for his last few miles, who were fresh and really uplifting. It was nice that they came by me because they definitely helpful in that stretch. Around Mile 25, you can pretty much see the school. You know that finish line is on the field of the football stadium, and you know…you really are almost there. People are cheering. Shouting your name. Encouraging you. Telling you how good you look. How fast you look. That you’re doing amazing. I still felt good. I still felt confident and strong. I knew I wasn’t getting the BQ I had been training for, but I hadn’t glanced at clocks or my watch for time…just my pace. I never peeked at it if it wasn’t buzzing at me for a mile lap. I hit the turns to take the chute into the 26th mile…and then it was on to the stadium. The crowd was amazing. Loud. Screaming. I saw Cathy as my name was announced and I kicked as much as I could toward that finish line. Crossing it…with my hands up. I paused my Garmin and took a look at the time.
I was just off of my BQ time by 3 minutes and off my goal time by 5 minutes. I was so close. I didn’t get my goal, but I was incredibly happy and proud. I hadn’t hit the 3:30’s in a marathon since 2013, where I did it twice. Both BQ times. I was elated. I cried. Cathy came over after I got my Mylar and my medal and gave me a hug. I told her I needed to put my feet up so we went over to the field and I laid down in the sunlight and propped my legs up on her.
Eventually, I decided that I did, in fact, need to move. So, we headed out of the stadium to the runner finish area. Here we collected my commemorative glass mug (you get it upon finishing), and went to the food tent. I couldn’t eat anything, but poor Cathy was starving so she had my beer and pizza tickets, so I let her claim those. I was feeling lightheaded, so I went to sit down and shiver in my Mylar.
Cathy and just shown up when my Instagram friend, Scooby (who had a fantastic day as the 3:15 pacer) wandered by. I called him over and we chatted for a minute, but he had just snagged some pizza and I didn’t want it to get cold…so we congratulated each other and I let him go. Cathy had two beers to try. The first one she hated, the other one she sipped on until I decided I was ready to go get warm with a hot shower at the hotel while she went to get me some coffee from Bigbee Coffee. The walk to the car felt longer than it probably was, mostly because my body was tired and a little sore from the effort that day. I eventually foam rolled, stretched, and went to get dinner at Corelife Eatery before seeing Avengers: Endgame that night (the theater was advertised as having reclining seats – it didn’t…and by the end, I knew I had made a big mistake). It was a good day, and I am still basking in my accomplishment. I think, next time, I’ll get it.
So, the official results of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon are that I finished in 3:38:46, making it officially my third fastest marathon and the first one back in the 3:30s since 2013. HOLLA! Stoked. I was 408/1278 finishers overall. I was 108/527 female finishes. And I was 30/96 in my age group! How amazing is that. I felt good and strong the entire time, never letting any self-doubt or negative talk enter my head. I was focused on the race at hand and the people I was running it to honor. Marathon #15…done. Now to find the perfect fall marathon to make the next attempt on that Boston Qualifying dream.
Remember…training rarely is linear…race day can throw so many factors at you…trust the process and remain focused on your own race that day. You never know what you are capable of until you try.