Saturday was the Pilgrim Pacer Marathon in Shawnee, Kansas. This race report starts very similar to others. We arrived later than expected Friday night due to road construction and a later than planned departure after work. I got to bed at 2:00 a.m., but did get to sleep a fair amount en route to Kansas thanks to my amazing support network aka the husband.
Upon arriving I was pleasently surprised by our hotel room. We always get rooms from Hotwire when staying out of town-ALWAYS. I usually love our rooms, and I love Hotwire for their great rates, reliable star ratings, and excellent customer service. Of the 26 hotels rooms, 5 car rentals, and 2 flights I’ve booked through the company I’ve only had one issue with a hotel room. They immediately refunded my purchase and helped find a new room. If there star ratings change after you’ve booked a room, then they offer you two choices- #1) Keep the room and get $25 towards a future room reservation through Hotwire or #2) Cancel your reservation with no consequences and rebook a room you want. This has only happened twice to me in the past few years.
This weekend was no exception except we got a lot more space than I’d anticipated for $125 total (both nights).
After five hours of sleep, I was up and getting ready. I was hungry so I ate a granola bar I’d never eaten before (Broken Running Rule #1-Don’t eat new foods on race day). I got dressed for the warmer weather (highs in the 60’s) I was looking forward to. Because of the cool initial temps I wore Asics Arm Warmers I got for Christmas last year, but had never gotten to wear yet (Broken Running Rule #2-Don’t wear new race gear on race day). They turned out to be perfect for the change in temperatures during the race. Then I grabbed breakfast at our hotel (a bagel) and headed to the race without my water…oops (Broken Running Rule #3-Drink water/start hydrating before a race.)
When I got to the race everything was smooth sailing. Within 15 minutes I had picked up my packet, used the bathroom, and taken my extra gear back to the car. While in line I met someone originally from Wisconsin and chatted with runners about the challenging course. Soon it was time to take off.
My goal for the race was to run near 9:00 minute miles and run under four hours. The first half of the race was good. I noticed in the first miles that this course was going to be much hillier than I’d anticipated. I knew I was in for it on the last miles.
We then passed Shawnee Lake and continued on the trails. The entire race was ran on paved trails that connected Shawnee to Olathe, Kansas. The race was an out and back half marathon and an out and back x 2 marathon. I’d never ran a marathon route like this before, so I wasn’t sure what I’d think about it. I didn’t feel like water so I skipped a few water stations (Broken Running Rule #4-Drink before you feel thirsty.)
The colors were in full blaze and the temperature was warming up. I was feeling really good at this point in the race. I reached the first turn around and had a mix of feelings-the exciting, it’s the turn around and the dreadful-I have to run back to this spot again.
It was at this point in the race that I realized just how tired my legs felt from running a PR in a half marathon six days earlier (Broken Running Rule #5-Don’t race a PR before running another much longer race days later.) My legs hadn’t been sore or tired on my mid-week runs, but I hadn’t ran far either.
The hills we ran down in the beginning were rough on the way back. I just couldn’t believe that I wasn’t done at the half marathon. I had to repeat this whole distance again! I really wanted to be done at the half marathon and actually let my mind go to that place of maybe I should short change myself and finish after 13.1 miles. Then I slapped myself mentally! You don’t drive to Kansas to quit. I must have been delirious or just a damn dummy. Ryan’s grandma, Evelyn, used to affectionately use this phrase often. You damn dummy!
Miles 13-15 offered a shift in mentality. This race was full of highs and lows. These miles were highs as fans cheered really hard for marathoners since there were not a ton of us mixed in with half marathoners. Even fewer than marathoners, I learned, were female marathoners. The encouragement of fans saying “go marathoner”, “way to go lady”, “go #236”, “your the fifth female”, and just the extra excitement they gave to marathoners helped me push passed my mental struggles. On the second out and back so many half marathoners cheered for me that I couldn’t help but smile. I really needed it at that point, too. I saw the guy I met at the bathrooms who recognized me and began yelling, “go Wisconsin”. The running community is so supportive and kind!
At this point in the race I was basically running alone. My mental state began to swing low again. I was also thirsty. I passed a water stop and only had one drink. Bad idea. (Broken Running Rule #Whocankeepcount) Then my mental state went waaaaayyyyy low. I had used my mental toughness up earlier this week PR’ing at the Rails to Trails Half Marathon. Yes, I believe it is hard to run challenging races back to back. The mental energy it takes to stay focused and on pace should never be underestimated. It can be freakin’ exhausting at times. I really struggled with this as evidenced by the rest of my mile splits. I just couldn’t get my mind to go to that mental place where I push through.
At the second turn around of the full marathon I had three drinks. One gatorade, one water, and one ginger ale. I had never had ginger ale in my life (Broken Running Rule #7-Do not try new food or drinks on long runs/races), but learned I really like this stuff. I knew I was dehydrated at mile 18. I was starting to get dizzy and feel disorientated. All I could think about was being done running and guzzling a gallon of anything. It was warmer than I’d anticipated and I have only myself to blame. I did not drink enough fluids the day before or the day of. Going out Thursday night and having adult beverages until too late in the morning was not good pre-race preparation either. (Broken Running Rule #8, 9, and 10-Get a good nights sleep two nights before a race, drink extra fluids the days before, and avoid things that dehydrate you i.e. alcohol.)
I knew I had to drink more fluids so at all the remaining water stops I had both a gatorade and a water. It helped and by mile 23 or 24 I started to at least think clearly again.
The last two miles were uphill. I hated them. I didn’t like running them one bit. I would not run them again with a fox (no matter what it says.) I would not run them in a box. I would not run them again for free socks. You get the point. This was a rough race for me and I have only myself to blame.
Considering I broke at least ten common sense running rules prior to and during this race it is a bit of a miracle that I finished. I didn’t reach my goal, but was content with my time considering it was way hillier than I thought it would be and that my last run over 13.something miles was the Big Cottonwood Marathon in September in Utah (and we all know how in shape I wasn’t for that race.) There were also only 34 female runners who ran the marathon compared to 90 guys.
Nevertheless, I think the last paragraph sounds like a whole lot of excuses. It was a weird feeling at the finish line; I actually felt kind of stupid. Who did I think I was? What was I thinking breaking so many “running rules” and expecting to run decent on a challenging course. These were new and unexpected finish line emotions for me. In all honesty, I needed a challenging race like this. I needed a race like this to humble me and remind me of the beast the marathon is. You cannot outsmart the distance. I needed a little kick back to reality to remind me that you have to train, prepare, and get your body ready. No matter how many races you run, you are not too good for simple running common sense. I let myself get cocky and overly confident.
Consider myself humbled. I’ve learned my lesson until the next time. I look forward to my winter recovery and base milage building that will help me start spring training with a strong base. I look forward to actually training for a marathon again, instead of running them underprepared. Running the Pilgrim Pacer Marathon was the perfect wake up call I needed.
The actual race was well organized, beautiful, and challenging (which they said many places on their website). The medals were huge (size of a cd) and the shirts were super cool; a big part of why I picked this as my Kansas.
I also chose this race as my Kansas because it was close as possible to home and the time of the year worked well for my schedule. I was bummed to not get pumpkin pie or a mug like the website said, but in all honesty I didn’t really deserve those things after the performance I gave.
Enough of my self-pity. Humbled. Lesson learned. We all need races like this every now and then. It doesn’t mean we’ve failed; we just get to come back smarter, stronger, and better ready to face future challenges.
Pilgrim Pacer Marathon
Age Group: 3/5