Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Date: November 6, 2021
Life is all about taking risks. If you never take a risk, you will never achieve your dreams.
Let’s skip to the good part:
- BOSTON QUALIFIED!
- This was my second fastest marathon in the 17 I have run (my PR was my first marathon back in 2013)
- I negative split a marathon for the first time…EVER.
- I threw the plan away halfway through the race…and this wasn’t a bad thing.
Whew. Deep breath. Now let’s talk about why all of the above is important, because coming into race day, I was starting to really have my doubts. Legit, I was having meltdowns over the possibility of everything going wrong on race day (hey…it can happen), and in turn letting myself and everyone else (honestly…no one would ever be disappointed in me) down in the process.
As many of you know, this race, initially, was supposed to be Marathon #3 in a span of 6 weeks. Berlin 2021 would kick it off…then Boston 2021…then Monumental. So, when I started back with my coach in February, we were working on getting me prepared to run decent marathons over such a short span of time. But, I opted to defer Berlin, not knowing where the world would be with COVID at that point, and I really wanted the FULL experience in Germany, up to and including Oktoberfest, which was canceled in 2021. Boston announced a reduced field size, but with it being the 125th running…registration was crazy (this included international, which eventually meant spots opened up because of travel restrictions, which were then given to those who qualified and registered for the Virtual Boston Marathon (I have a lot of opinions on that too…and if you know me, you’ve heard them, so I won’t voice it again). So, when I lost Boston because a buffer that would have been big enough on a normal year wasn’t good, I was heartbroken. When Boston offered spots to those who opted to do the virtual (I opted to train and do a marathon and qualify again for more than that reason), I was crushed. It was heartbreak all over again. And it took A LOT of wind out of my sails. Not going to lie.
But we move on.
I will say this…my training from February through November was crap. I pretty much hated every bit of it. Not all of it. But I felt like the things that concerned me or that I didn’t like weren’t being heard. For instance, I don’t like training by time. I would much rather be told how far to run, and not what amount of time to run for. I have never enjoyed training by time, and I still don’t. Pretty much every run had some aspect of speed in it. I love a run where I get to chill and not think about pushing paces. Whether it was fartleks, or strides, or hill sprints, or some ungodly amount of 800 m repeats…it was always something. And let’s talk about the summer heat. For years, I was fine in the heats. I did better in the heat. But the last three or so years, I wilt in the summer and summer runs legit take it all out of me. And speed work in the heat…that’s instant death. It was rare a summer speed session went the way it should have. And when you’re a perfectionist like me…well…that gets in your head.
Add to that, getting a text from your coach a few weeks out and being told that he isn’t confident, based on training, that my BQ goal was likely. Nothing sucks more than having the person who is supposed to be confident and instill confidence in you tell you that he’s not confident. It made me not confident. Thankfully, I have family and friends who told me otherwise on repeat because that totally messed me up. And guess what? When the cooler temperatures moved in, my paces got faster and felt easier. I ran a fast half marathon without even pushing my full potential just a few weeks prior to this race. That was a confidence booster there.
On the Thursday before the race, my coach called while I was driving home from work to go over race day expectations. He was out on his long run and had three athletes running Monumental, so hew as knocking them out while on the run. He once again brought up my training, and how it really never clicked until 3 weeks out from race day. So, he said, expectations for a 3:35 were possible, but felt my 3:30 suggestion was out of my reach. He said, honestly, that a 3:37-3:40 was most likely where I would come in. He said lining up with the 3:30 group might be disheartening if I went out hot and then fell off. He said to line up with the 3:35 group…and expect that I might fall off them, but to just do my best to hold on. And…to have some names of people in mind to dedicate the later miles to, when the race would surely get hard and start to hurt. Considering I dedicated every mile in my first marathon to people, this is a tactic I have used before.
Welcome to Friday. I took the day off work so I wouldn’t have to try to make it up to Indianapolis after work when traffic might be crazy and I would be stressed out. This allowed me to do my shakeout run (45 minutes…PLUS STRIDES) in the daylight, which gave me way more options on where to run. I chose a hilly route and took it easy…then finished off those strides feeling strong and fast. Awesome. Took a shower. Finished packing. Called in my order to my local sushi place to get my sushi to go and haul it up to Indianapolis (in a cooler, just FYI) with me so I could keep the “magic sushi” pre-race/long run tradition alive. We picked it up…stored it in the cooler, and made the drive up to Indianapolis…with no delays or problems.
Because I am a self-proclaimed princess (or maybe it’s the 4 tiaras that I own…ha!), my roommate and I were staying at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. I know…fancy. And Marriott rewards points are always nice to have and use. This was convenient, as it wasn’t far from the start and finish line…nor was it far from the expo. The one thing that was of concern was my roommate had suddenly started snuffling on Wednesday. She claimed, like everyone does, that it was allergies, but finally admitted on Friday it was a head cold. Worst. Timing. Ever. We got up to the room, on the 18th floor, and then headed out to the expo. Despite being triple vaxxed (2 shots + booster) we masked up, and with Cathy dealing with a head cold…it was the smartest thing to do.
The expo was small, but this one usually is. Cathy got her packet first…super easy. I went and got mine. And then I picked up a packet for a friend of a friend of mine. No hassles or problems. Very easy and streamlined. Then I went to Runner’s Services to pick up my Monumental Ambassador shirt (did I mention I was a race ambassador? This was fun…but it weird to still be doing it in a pandemic year as I feel like there would have been a lot more going on had we been able to gather) as well as a hoodie that was mailed to me, but never actually got to me. Seems about right. Thanks for that USPS. I met up with fellow BibRave Pro, Juan…and then took a spin through the official merchandise. It’s good luck for me to buy SOMETHING from the race. I thought about a coffee mug, but they weren’t selling any. Boo. So, I started looking for some tops…which, sadly, by 3 pm on Friday, all that was left were the L-3XL. I was really disappointed. On a side table, I did spot a bright yellow quarter zip that had a few women’s smalls in it. So…that’s what I ended up with. It wasn’t the piece of merchandise I was interested in…but it’s something that will get worn. I wandered around the expo, hoping to run into a few friends…but eventually had to head back to the room and get off my feet.
On the way back to the hotel, I did run into Tammy & Dean, who I’ve run with in the past and are local runners and friends of mine. We chatted for awhile, I we informed them of the lack of actual merchandise for smaller people. We parted ways so they could get down to the expo and I got upstairs. My friend Kelsie called just as I got back and was down at the expo. We decided we would meet up before the race because we both wanted photos together. Afterwards, I showered and settled in for the night. Yes…with Food Network and Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (duh…always!). Cathy ended up opting for an easy room service order of a quesadilla, instead of trying to find something downtown that she could carry out back to the hotel. The box she picked up had three quesadillas in it. No lie. I think she ate half of it and put the other half in the fridge to have after her 5K (she never got around to it, though). I busted out my sushi I brought with me from Dragon King’s Daughter. I didn’t have any chopsticks with me…so I turned it into finger food. You do what you gotta do. Thankfully, sushi isn’t a messy meal.
Soon after, I was brushing my teeth and getting everything ready for the morning. I set three different alarms. One for me. Another for me. And one for Cathy. Lights out was close to 9 pm. And, of course, I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t really had good sleep since I moved apartments in March 2020 (and we all know what else happened in March 2020). I try though. And while I did fall sleep, it was for 20 minute spurts and then I’d wake up…roll over a couple times…and try again. My first two alarms never actually went off because I was already awake to turn them off.
All week, I had been fussing over the weather. We were getting a cold snap, so once again race morning was going to be cold. If you remember, in 2019…it was around 29 degrees when I crossed the finish line. This year, it was going to be 30 degrees at the start…no wind. So, after going back and forth on it…I opted to wear shorts (who am I?). Getting ready in the morning is easy. First I ate my over night oats. Then I put on my race outfit. Then sunscreen (always sunscreen!). My new friend, Sue, who I had picked up the packet for, was on her way to my hotel to get her stuff, so I headed downstairs to meet her. When I handed it off, she mentioned that it didn’t feel too bad out there. I asked her if the shorts were appropriate. She said yes. We wished each other luck and I went back up to my room. I now had to put my hair extensions in and put the signature pigtails in my hair. Thankfully, everything cooperated. I brought some throw-away clothes, which I slipped into and filled up my hydration pack with Nuun, and grabbed my Maurten gels and my Maurten 320 to drink about 30 minutes prior to the race. Cathy handed me a Mylar to wrap around myself while waiting for the start…and we were out the door and on our way to the start line.
The plan was to meet up with EVERYONE at a specific statue at the Indiana Statehouse. I managed to find a few members of my She Runs This Town (SRTT) chapter, but not everyone was there yet for the photo. I went to go fuel…and immediately had a meltdown over the race, which Cathy had to deal with. She spotted my pacer and told me to go and talk to him. He was easy to spot. REALLY tall. Wearing a throw away tie dye shirt. I called him Tie Dye Guy (any other Only Murders In The Building watchers?). His actual name was Riley. The corrals got really crowded really fast. I met Jason, another pacer. And Gerald, from Chicago. We chatted as other people started to cluster around the pace group. I ducked away just briefly to ditch the throw away clothes and returned…ready to run.
I never did get to meet up with Kelsie or Taushah. And I missed the photo op with my SRTT ladies…but the race was getting ready to go. The national anthem was played. And then Wave A was sent off. I was in Wave B, so we were moved up and had to wait until we were sent off. That was about 5 minutes later.
The first mile of this race was CROWDED. I mean…crowded. The pacers were having a hard time getting up to pace and the rest of us were trying to duck and dodge people in order to keep up with our pacers. Despite all of that…the first mile was WAY behind pace…clocking in at 8:30 (a 3:35 means an 8:11 mile average). They encouraged us by saying that we would slowly chip away at that in the next couple miles and get back on track. Mile 2 came around at 8:08 pace. As we entered Monumental Circe, there was a crowd there and a lot more room to move (finally). So Riley and Jason took us a bit faster but got us back on pace by the time we clipped over to Mile 3 with a 7:33 pace. WAY faster than we should be, but back on track.
Miles 4-7 were really easy. I stayed with the pacers or just behind them for most of it. And I found myself moving slightly ahead around Mile 6. I was talking with Gerald. Easy conversation. I could easily have a conversation. But we noticed the pace group was falling back behind us and both decided we should back off pace and keep them closer. Here, Riley busted out one of his cheers, which really made it fun. Just before Mile 8 is the split off where the half marathon runners go left and those running the full go straight. I fueled at this point with the rest of my Maurten 320 and again found myself up ahead of the pace group. I eased back again, even thought I felt good. I was Mile 8…too early, I told myself. I still stayed just ahead of them though…because I know sometimes pace groups can get crowded (I have been tripped more than once running with a pace group). I heard someone chatting behind me about living in Clarksville, Indiana. And I turned my head and said, “I’m in New Albany!” He mentioned probably seeing him on the Greenway if I run there. I’ll have to see if our paths cross next time I am down that way. I remained really steady with my pace from Miles 9-13, and was distracted between Miles 10-11 as I searched to see if my friends George and Susan were out as they live on the road those miles fall on. It was really cold…I didn’t spot them. I doubt they were out, but I always check…just in case.
We ran through the halfway point, and Riley busted out his second cheer to get us motivated and keep it fun. I still felt really good. I moved ahead again. In my head, I was hearing my coach telling me to hang with the pacers through at least Mile 20. I thought about how much further I still had to go. But I also knew I felt GOOD! So, I said…”FUCK IT!” And I went.
This is where I meet my new friend Stephanie. She moved up with me and asked if I was going for a BQ. I told her I was and asked if she was as well. She said she was and she said I looked really solid with my pace. So for awhile we were right there with each other. The miles clicked off and I never felt tired. I fueled at 12 and again at 16. I made sure I was hydrating at every mile, and in between if I felt I needed it. Mile 18 clicked off and then we hit my favorite part…the downhill at Mile 19. Love it. Downhill is my favorite.
Mile 20 is where most people start hitting the wall, but I was starting to pick the pace back up. I started passing people who were slowing down or starting to walk. (No shame in the walk game, FYI…I managed a 3:49:46 at the Dopey Challenge in the marathon (which is after running a 5K, 10K, and Half in the 3 days prior to the marathon) taking walk breaks). I actually felt like I could run this pace all day. Stephanie and I ended up running those last few miles together. It was nice to have company stride for stride. She was kicking ass. In 2019, the last three miles had a terrible headwind. This year…none of that. The sun was out. It was over 40 degrees (which meant I was now hot, but didn’t want to slow down to mess with taking off arm warmers). At Mile 23, i said, “We’re going to do it!” to Stephanie. She said, “Fuck yeah, we are!” I knew I liked her. I took my last Maurten Gel at Mile 24. I know only 2 miles remain at that point, but why risk having a lull in energy? Stephanie moved just slightly ahead after Mile 25 and inside my head I was cheering her on because it was motivating me. My friend Dean was somewhere around that last mile and he gave me a motivational cheer as I ran past. I smiled and waved. I still felt good. That final turn into the finish line was amazing. So many spectators cheering. I was looking for Cathy in the crowd, but didn’t see her as I headed into the finish line. I crossed…throwing my hands up into the air and stopped my watch AFTER I moved past the photographers. She was on the other side of the finish…holding a sign.
Stephanie turned around and we gave each other a hug and congratulated each other. We’re now friends on social media. I then went over to Cathy, and finally uncovered my watch, seeing 3:33 staring back at me. And I broke down in tears of joy. I not only hit my goal…I smashed it. She told me to go get my medal and goodies and she would meet me at the end of the chute. I spotted Riley after that and he said, “Did you get your BQ?” I said I had and he high fived me. So did Jason. I got wrapped in Mylar and received my medal. A volunteer opened my water bottle for me and I took a sip while I waited to take a photo with my medal. Gerald found me then and we talked. He also got a BQ. And the guy from Clarksville…he was behind me in the line and we chatted some more too.
Got my photo. Got my winter hat. Grabbed a bag of chips and a cookie. One runner dropped his cookie near the table and thought about bending over to get it. He started to do that, but then stopped. I said, “It lives there now…just grab another!” He did exactly that.
I met up with Cathy and we moved to the lawn so I could lay down and put my feet up. We were waiting on our friend Greg to arrive. Cathy went to grab my Indython charm and scarf and to try to get my medal engraved. The line was crazy long so I said it wasn’t that important. Greg did arrive as I was finishing up a phone call to my mom (I always talk to my mom when I finish a race). We headed back to the hotel so I could get warm. I laid on the floor with my feet up for a little longer before heading into the bathroom to shower and change.
While I wasn’t very hungry, I also know that post-race nutrition is important. So, we walked down to Harry & Izzy’s, but the patio seating wasn’t open and there was a wait for seating. Instead, we walked to where Greg was parked and headed into Carmel to try to get seating at Woody’s Library Restaurant. There was a small wait, and we decided to walk up to the gluten-free bakery, No Label at the Table, for some goodies. The restaurant called while we were in there so Greg and a I hurried back to get the table. I noticed then that I wasn’t as sore as I usually am after a marathon. Not mad at that.
My dinner was Greek Tacos with Kettle Chips (the tots and fries and stuff used to be GF here, but it’s been 2 years since I’ve eaten there and that is no longer the case). After that, Greg drove us back to the hotel and dropped us off. Cathy and I took a walk through the park before calling it a day and heading in for the night.
It was a good day. It was a very good day.
The official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon are that I finished in 3:33:46, which now makes this my second fastest marathon to date of the 17 I have now fun. This honor had since gone to the 2019 Monumental Marathon, but I beat that time by 2 minutes. Also, this was the first time I ever negative split a marathon. Cathy waid she was watching my splits and going, “She’s speeding up!” I was 1315/3948 finishers overall. I was the 333/1598 female finishers. And I was 54/287 in my age division. Considering how nothing felt like it was clicking or going well in all of my training leading up to the day…this result couldn’t have been more welcome. In the end…trust yourself…trust your abilities. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t ready or that you can’t do it. Prove them wrong. Chase your dreams!