Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grand Rapids Marathon Race Recap

Going into the Grand Rapids Marathon, I knew one thing. I wanted to PR it. It was the only thing I was going to try to PR all year.

My strategy to accomplish this goal was to practice pushing through negative thoughts and to run happy and consistent. In order to PR, I didn't have to be fast. I just had to be consistent.  The few days before the race, I had some doubts. I felt like I could do it. But would I? I told myself I had to believe I could in order to succeed. My old PR is from the 2012 Chicago Marathon with a time of 4:44:54.  Ironically enough, I ran 20 miles of that race with Julie! :)  I see a theme! My goals were:

First goal: Time of 4:35
Second goal: Any time in the 4:30's (even if it was 4:39)
Third goal: PR time of 4:44:54

To say I was excited for this race was an understatement. I felt like this was going to be my first marathon (even though it was #7). I've only heard good things about this race. I've also been there twice supporting friends through a full and a half. I've seen parts of the course so knew a bit what to expect.

On Saturday, I headed down to Grand Rapids for the expo and packet pick up with Julie and Derek. Julie was running the full as well and Derek was running the half. Julie of course was a beast and just ran the Chicago Marathon the week before too!  We got to the YMCA where they help packet pickup. It was super easy and fast, which was nice. We checked into our hotel and ate dinner and called it a night. Well, I tried to call it a night. The walls of the hotel were super thin and the room next to us was loud and up to all hours of the night. Oh well.

Saturday, we got up and there was frost on our cars. I was hoping I would be warm enough wearing the capris, t-shirt, and arm sleeves I brought! We got down to the marathon but had a bit of trouble with traffic and trying to park. I felt a bit rushed but Julie thought it wasn't a big deal. We found the porta-potties, did our business, headed to the start line, and of course...took a pre-race selfie! No run is complete without one!

Pre-Race (L-R: Julie, Derek, Me)
Julie and I decided to start together. The weather actually seemed pretty decent once we started running. The first 4 miles or so are in a square around the town, then you head out onto the trail. The course wasn't too crowded but there was a good amount of people. There was also a half marathon and we ran with them until around mile 7 or so.

I knew there were a few hills on this course. I looked at the elevation chart prior to going. I trained on some hills in the Palos area just so things were easier for me. Julie and I had a decent pace going. I wasn't sure exactly what it was as my garmin was already way off by mile 10. But around mile 10, we were with the 4:29 "Team Oprah" pace group. The pace groups are set based on celebrity marathon times so it's pretty funny watching Oprah's head bob around on a stick.  I never expected to keep up with the Oprah pace group but at this point we were doing pretty well. I think we were keeping around a 10:18-10:20 pace going.

The hills started around mile 7 and I think that lasted through mile 15 or so. Most weren't too bad but a few just made me want to cringe. By the last one, I was so over them! Ha! But I'm glad I knew they would be there. I knew it was completely flat. That helps mentally when trying to tackle them. I just kept thinking of all those weeks of Palos hills I ran. I could do the hills.

When I got to the half way mark, I thought to myself that maybe I could just have a good 16 miles, then if I needed to, I would have to walk more. At this point Julie and I were just walking through every water stop and start running again. Perfect race strategy for me! It gives me a goal. Just get to the next water stop.

Around mile 15, the race was handing out their infamous "pickle juice".  Ok...I've heard about this. It's the only race that gives out pickle juice but it's supposed to help with cramping due to the sodium content. And I happen to love pickle juice so I was definitely going to try it. Because it's always good to try new things on race day, right!  Um.. right?  Actually, I don't have a weak stomach usually so I wasn't particularly worried about that. Julie and I both tried the pickle juice and ... wow, that went down and we had to muster a face! It was strong and the taste lingered in your throat! It was weird to drink it during a race and not in the privacy of your own kitchen as you sneak a drink of the pickle jar.  Good or bad? I don't know. I was fine drinking it. I didn't cramp up? Do I usually cramp up during a race? No. But definitely after a marathon and I don't remember that feeling so it could only have done good things right?

Ok enough about the pickle juice. Julie and I decided to split up around mile 16. We were both tired but I'm sure the marathon she just ran the previous week (BEAST!) was getting to her. I was still determined to keep my pace going. I was now at mile 16 and I thought maybe I could keep it up until mile 18!  Mile 18 came and I decided I wanted a good 20 mile split. I was so close.

I started having pain near my IT band around mile 13. At that point, it was minor so I just pushed through it. Nearing mile 20, it was making itself more known and I just kept powering through. I crossed the 19 mile marker and almost wanted to cry (from joy). I was doing this. I was having a good marathon. I was pushing through. All my running and training to push through and run happy was actually helping!  (If you remember, my marathons last year were painful and miserable so I was really happy at this point).  At mile 20, I only had 6.2 miles to go.

And then I decided to walk out of turn (not at a water stop) around mile 20.5. And my wheels fell off.  I wish I could have prolonged doing that had I known this was going to happen. The pain in my IT band just got so bad. I was tired and that part of my leg hurt. I would walk but then it was so painful to just start running again. Ugh. I basically did a run/walk for the remainder of the race.  I was getting so mad that I just couldn't keep running. I would run maybe 1/2 mile at a time and walk. I just wanted to get through with a PR and I should be able to. I knew I couldn't rely on my garmin because it was a 1/2 mile off. I tried to calculate times as I was running/walking to make sure I could still PR.  I still wanted to get into the 4:30's too but really wasn't sure. I kept trying to push as much as possible. Keep going. Keep going. Move forward. Get to the end.  I was just repeating to myself those phrases. Over and over.

Around mile 23, I was leap frogging a woman. She would run past me while I was walking, I would run past her while she was walking. I stopped to walk yet again and she came by, patted me on the back and told me I was doing great and to keep going. I so appreciated that. It really helped keep me going.  Thank you fellow runner! I tried to offer the same encouragement to her about a mile later when I told her we just had a little left.  I hope she felt the same encouragement from me.

Nearing the end, there was a guy before a turn.  He said that when we turned, we would be able to see the finish line! I decided to walk one last time right before that turn! Ha! Because once I saw the finish line, I wasn't going to walk again.  I turned the corner and started running.  There it was. The finish line. But it was SO FAR AWAY!  I looked at the time I had been running. I knew I would PR. YES! But would I reach the second goal of finishing in the 4:30's (I knew 4:35 was out).  I really wanted to but didn't think I could make it there in time. I didn't know the distance to the finish line and it was just so far away! lol.

A bit later, I saw my boyfriend Derek with his half medal around his neck.  He hopped on and ran about .2 miles or so with me, which really was so appreciated. He said I was doing good. I told him I was going to PR but didn't know if I could make it to the finish by 4:39. My watch said 4:36 right now. He told me not to worry about it. But inside, I thought, I'm going to try for that 4:39! I might not make it but I'm going to try.

The time on my watch said 4:39+ when I crossed the finish line. I was hoping I started it at the right time and that it wasn't ahead and I really finished in 4:40 or something. lol. The little things. 

And I did it!  I finished in 4:39:20!  A 5.5 min PR!  I could not tell you how happy I was. 

I am so pleased with my splits through mile 20. That is better than I had hoped for. I was a bit upset with myself that I couldn't push through the last 6 a bit better. Had it not been for my IT band, I know I could have done even better. But how can I complain about hitting my 2nd goal for my marathon. And getting a PR that was long overdue. 

Julie finished just a little behind me. She did awesome considering the number of marathons she has done just this year alone! Derek did well for the half also and I was happy that we were all leaving pleased with our races! Of course, there was tons of food afterwards to eat as well including Culver's ice cream! I was glad I wasn't too cold for that!

Me and Derek - my love!

Julie and I - Marathon Finishers!
The 3 musketeers!  All done and ready to head home!
The Grand Rapids Marathon didn't disappoint. I'm sorry I didn't whip my camera out to take some photos but I was just so focused and didn't want to fumble around for it. The course was nice, aid stations were well stocked. There was water, gatorade, bananas, oranges (yes please!), pickle juice, cliff shots, etc. though out the race.  I loved running on the trail past a few lakes (rivers? I don't know, I'm a city girl). Anyway, it was beautiful and I was trying to look around as I was running to see everything.

At the end of the marathon, the race director is there to shake everyone's hand. I wanted to give him a hug. I felt like I knew him after weeks of weekly newsletter emails he sent out. 

Would I recommend this race? Absolutely! Would I do it again myself? Possibly in the future! It's only a 2.5-3 hour drive from the Chicago area, which isn't bad. I really enjoyed this marathon and am so glad I decided to do it this year!  A PR was icing on the cake!  Thanks for reading my long race recap. I was just so proud of myself!


  1. Wow! Congrats on the huge PR and hitting your second goal! Funny about the pickle juice. I think I need to drink something like that for my next marathon to prevent the leg cramps that I got during the Chicago Marathon. Congrats again!

    1. Thanks! Yeah maybe try the pickle juice! I actually heard so many good things about it. I just had to try it. lol

    2. Amanda,

      We supplied the Pickle Juice Sport Drinks for this race. I am glad you tried it. We have 3 different products here at Pickle Juice Sport. We have the 2.5 oz shots, 8 oz Drinks, and 16 oz with all have a little different taste with each. I would love to send you samples and your next race take a few pictures with our product and post them!! Take Care and Good Luck on all your races...



    3. PJS - Thank you so much for your comment. I would love to have a few samples of your product and would definitely post pictures on my blog! I will contact you through your website, unless there is a better way to contact you. Thanks!

  2. You're a freaking rock star! Really well done!

  3. Awesome job girl!! Congrats on that PR! I have never had pickle juice during a race, although I've heard of it. Sounds very interesting!