Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 Prairie Fire Marathon and Half Marathon

The new Kansas record holder in the marathon, Raquel Stucky, and myself.
     Sunday was another good day of running. No. Sunday was a GREAT day of running. Sunday morning in downtown Wichita the 2014 Prairie Fire Marathon and Half Marathon took place.
     Conditions were great and the buzzing energy of runners made for a great start to the race. I was running a bit late to the starting line, so I had to jump the corral fence and dance my way to the front of the starting line as the national anthem was being sung. It was in the 40's with minimal wind. The sun was just cresting the eastern horizon as the race director said, "Runners on your mark..."
     Since I decided not to take on a full marathon this fall, this was my main race for the second half of the year. My training was descent in terms of mileage (averaging 85-95 mpw), but workouts were few and far between. Needless to say I felt much more fit going into Boston last April when I was doing 2-3 workouts a week. That is one of the things that I feel is a big difference between myself, a non-high school or collegiate runner, and someone who did run in high school or college. Doing workouts is what they are used to, I am not. But I have been doing this for long enough now to see the importance of doing fast repeats, tempo runs, fartleks, etc. I digress...
     I ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 10k two weeks ago as a gauge of my fitness. I ran a 36:40 (5:54 pace) and was a little disappointed. I expected to run a bit faster, but I reminded myself I had not done any speed work for a while. My goal for the Prairie Fire Half Marathon was to try and run 6:00 pace, but after this 10k I was thinking that might be asking too much.
     My legs did not feel "poppy" before the race and I did not taper down too much. I did 72-miles the week before the race (which is less than an average week, but more than I would do the week before a marathon). However, by Friday night and Saturday I was getting excited and I felt my energy start to increase.
     The alarm went off at 4:40 a.m. Sunday, and after a nine minute snooze cycle, I was up and getting prepared to race. After parking near the start/finish line around 6:45 a.m., I did some dynamic stretching and warmed up for 20-minutes, very easily. I then did a few more stretches, a few quick drills, took off my tights and put on my singlet, changed into my racing flats and made my way to the starting line. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, conditions were quite great for racing/running. I brought gloves and arm warmers with me, but after warming up I decided to leave them in my truck.
     The air horn sounded and away we went. More than 4,000 runners partaking in the marathon, half marathon, 5k, and kid's marathon were on hand.
     After saying a few brief words to a few runners I knew within the first 200 meters ("how are you feeling?" "what kind of time are you shooting for?" "good luck!") I was looking to settle in. At the half-mile mark I checked my watch, low 5:50's. "Take is easy," I though to myself, "stay in control." I went through the first mile at 5:53. I was thinking, "I'm feeling good." But then I kind of chuckled and thought to myself, "Of course you feel good, you're only one mile in!"
     I slowed down a bit the next two miles going just over 6:00 pace. After mile 3, I was ALL ALONE for the rest of the race. This is exactly how the 10k was two weeks prior. It is much easier to run a steady pace and, in my opinion, a faster pace when you are working/running with someone. But there was no one around. I kept trying to listen to spectators cheer for whoever was behind me but I never heard anything, so I knew I was going to have no help. (Of course, it is worth mentioning I was not running fast enough to run with the people in front of me, either)
     My stomach and legs felt good the entire race. I threw down a Hammer Espresso gel at the eight mile mark and that was enough. I went through 10-miles at 59:50. At that point I turned up the pace a bit for the final 5k and whatever I had in the tank was going to be used. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:17:43 (5:56 pace). I was pleasantly surprised with how I ran, and, of course happy to run a new PR. Below is an image of my splits from Garmin.
     *My Garmin read more than 13.1 miles, so these splits and overall pace are different than the official finish.
Splits from my Garmin for the 2014 Prairie Fire Half Marathon.

     So, after I warmed down and changed back into my tights and jacket, I made my way back to the finish line to watch my boss at First Gear Running Company, Raquel Stucky, finish the full marathon. Raquel is a great runner with many accomplishments, including a spot at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. I am not going to speak for her, but I will say, in my opinion, she seemed very fit and positive about her running and capabilities heading into this race. There was also a personal goal she set for herself: break the Kansas Women's Marathon Record. Several women from Kansas have run faster times than the record, including Raquel, but none of them have run a faster time IN Kansas. So, if she wanted to break the state record she needed to cross the finish line in 2:48:36 or faster. (Raquel has a 2:42 marathon PR)

     *click here for Kansas Road Running Records
     When the race announcer said, "Our leading female marathoner is now at Douglas (street)," (about a half a mile from the finish) and the clock read 2:4x:xx, everyone knew the record was going down. When Raquel ran down the east slope of the Lewis Street bridge, 100 meters from the finish line, the crowd was screaming for her. You could see the emotions overcome Raquel as she reached the finish line and knew what she had accomplished. 2:44:57. New. State. Record.
     *I posted a video I recorded of the finish on the First Gear Facebook page here
     What made the finish even better (again, I cannot speak for Raquel but I am sure she would agree) is that her family was there to cheer for her and congratulate her at the finish. Her brother, Hector, ran up to her with a big hug and lifted her in the air. It was incredible, powerful. I could not help but to run up and hug her myself. I personally thought it was REALLY cool that her two daughters were present and are old enough to realize what she accomplished. Great job, Raquel!!!
     *click here for an article from the Wichita Eagle on Raquel's record breaking run

     There are a few races I would like to do in November, but I won't put as much emphasis on them as I did this race or Boston last April. I also want to get back on my bike, so I'll substitute a few runs for some time in the saddle for the rest of the year.
     Thank you for taking time to read my blog! Happy running!