I’m smiling as I write this 🙂

I had a really, really good race today at St. Cloud’s Earth Day 20 miler. I finished 1st for women (7th overall!!!) in 2:14.51, which is 6:44 mile pace. I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do, especially considering how TIRED and slow I felt this week. So, this is exciting and encouraging!

How’d the race go? Well, we got to St. Cloud a little late (my fault, I was the one who let myself sleep an extra 10 minutes)… aprox. 50 minutes until race time. We walked in to SCSU to get our packets, then ran back out to the car to grab all of our stuff. Dropped that back off in the fieldhouse, and then went out for a quick 4 minute warm up (trying to stick to the regime recommened in Advanced Marathoning). Then — QUICK!! — get on all of my race gear. Garmin, check. Nathan race belt, check (testing it out to see if I’ll run the marathon in it). Bandaids on my heel, check (they’re really cut up, since I’m switching shoes so often now :(). Nike Lunar Racer shoes on, check. Race number and timing chip, check. I’m now at the 12 mintues to go point. EEEKKK!!! I run to the bathroom, because I honestly couldn’t run without going. Ok, 6 minutes to go (darn lines!!!). I sprint out of the fieldhouse, out to the roads. I have no idea where this race even starts. Luckily there are a few stragglers making their way to the start. I am running at about 6:30/6:45 pace, along the fence to pass everyone to get to the front. At least I have this shoulder to pass!!! I get to the start line, about 4-5 rows back. The race director instructs everyone to step to the start line. WOW. Just in time. I clear my watch, lock the bezel (for splits on the Garmin), say hi to Nate and my training partner Jenny, and try to relax. Note to self: be to race course 1 hour before start of race, at a minimum!!!

And the gun goes off: YEAH!! I’m excited to be racing. I keep it under control for the first mile, which is really hard to do when you’re running with a bunch of 1/2 marathoners! My splits for the first 5 miles were: 7:11, 7:13, 6:53, 7:04, 7:01. Perfect. I just ran easy, and watched women ahead of me. Were they running the 1/2 marathon or the 20 miler? I had no way to tell. Just stick to the plan : 5 miles easier, then pick it up to marathon pace. At 5 miles, I was lucky enough to pick up a man named Tom, and we ran together for a mile. We began talking, and I told him my goal. He was more than happy to pick it up to 6:50s with me (he was running the 1/2 marathon). We talked a lot, which was really fun:). He was also super nice and allowed me to take the waterstops first, cut to the inside of corners, etc. WOW. Seriously, that meant a LOT to me. When he just had a mile or two to go, I began to pester him about picking it up :). He was at conversation pace, which is fine… but with 2 miles to go, you should see what you have to go!! He said that he just needed a 1:45 to qualify for the fast corral for TCM. Fair enough, I told him :). He turned to finish, wished me good luck, and I had 7 miles to go. Brutal!

I wasn’t feeling bad, though, in fact, I was in a really good rhythm. Here were splits with Tom from mile 6-13: 6:49, 6:53, 6:50, 6:42, 6:47 (took a Hammer Gel at mile 10, feeling a little hungry), 6:49, 6:38, 6:31 (oops!!). As he turns off to finish, I wonder if I’ve let myself go too fast. I feel pretty good, though. I only have 7 to go. Can I keep it up? I see one lone woman ahead of me, in red shorts. I tell myself that I’m going to get her. Problem? I don’t seem to be gaining on her, even with a 6:31. My next few miles were pretty quick: Mile 14 and on: 6:38, 6:36, 6:23, 6:26. Gaining a little on red each mile. I can feel the liquid and Gel in my stomach a little, so start to limit the amount I’m drinking. I know at this point I’m not digesting a lot. Problem is, I get a little dizzy when my blood sugar gets low (and I started to feel that with 5 miles to go), so I have to make sure I have enough in me…

I caught the girl in red at mile 17. She’s breathing really had, and tries to keep up, but just can’t. YES!! :). I’m still feeling really good, considering I’m at 17 miles. I just have 3 to go. At this point, I’m passing 1/2 marathoners who I’m lapping left and right. It’s SO fun to be cheered on by people. The women in the race were especially enthusiastic. What a confidence booster! My 3rd to last mile was in 6:35. Uh, oh. Did I let myself to too soon? 2 miles to go, I can do this. C’mon Nichole, I cheer to myself. Let’s see what you have left. The 2 mile to go split clicks off in 6:29. Just one to go!! I’m flying by people at this point, and decide to go for broke. The finish of the race is really neat, curving around and finishing in the stadium. 🙂 It was so loud, and I could hear my training partner, Nate, a few friends from work — all cheering my name. I finished strong, and looked at my watch: a 6:15 last mile!!!! WOW.

I felt a little sick afterwards. Partially because I wanted to drink a LOT of water, but then my stomach wanted to rebel. My quads never tightened up like they did for Houston, which was very nice:). It’s nice to be able to walk after a race!! We stayed for awards, and I picked up a nice etched-glass trophy and a cash check :). No better award!

I don’t know that’d I’d change a lot about this race. I raced to my potential, and it shows me how well I can run if I run from behind (slow at the start, negative splitting the last half). I’ll have 3 weeks now to decide what strategy to use for the marathon… do I risk it and take it out slow? It’s very hard to negative split a marathon. But, as proven by today, I can definitely do that. I did the first 10 miles in: 69:23, the second 10 miles in: 66:48.

P.S. Random fun comments from cheering runners/spectators:
1. 9 year old boy on sidelines: Look at that kid, mom! Wow! Mom: I don’t think that’s a kid?
2. Gosh, look at their small butts! (They had already been passed by woman in red, then me 20 seconds later… the women talking were 2:30 1/2 marathoners, being lapped)
3. Darn Relayer!! (Man accusing me of doing the 1/2 marathon relay, which would explain the reason I was FLYING past him, I was actually lapping him…)
Oh, how I love random comments…

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