You know you are a mother runner when you post and share that you finished your 17th state in your life goal to run a marathon in every state by your 50th birthday and a couple of weeks later you realize it was actually your 18th state. But who is keeping count? I’m not on a race to achieve 50 in 50, rather I’m on a journey. Hence the by 50 part of my goal. 50 in 50 by 50.
Indiana made me work for it for sure. I had heard rave things about the Carmel Marathon including its cute town, the flat and fast course, the awesome support and the great organization. I picked it because it worked with my timeline, and I was looking for a close spring race to impact my family and finances as little as possible. While the rain certainly distracted me from the course and I’m sure reduced the fan support, I would say the above are all true about this race.
I headed to Indiana on Friday after taking a personal day from work. The proposed drive time was longer than expected due to traffic, but when I arrived it was 60 and there was green grass everywhere so I really didn’t care too much.
I headed to explore the Arts District and grab some dinner. I ended up enjoying a delicious local IPA, perhaps the best sweet potato fries of my life and some March Madness game time. Eating in peace without someone asking for something, spilling their dinner or saying “I don’t like it” was well, perfect. I love my kids, but sometimes meal time is not my favorite.
Packet pickup was a breeze. Since the expo was almost over when I arrived, I grabbed my race bib and shirt and headed back to my hotel for the night. After laying out my gear for the next day, reviewing the race course and reading a little Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor (awesome book about running and mindset), it was time to get some rest. I looked forward to a night of sleeping alone in a comfortable bed knowing no children were going to wake me in the night. I had no problem sleeping.
The next morning I heard rain and thunder as I woke up. The weather was as forecasted. Rain and wind. Chilly. After getting dressed in my gear, I got a coffee at Starbucks and headed to race parking. Parking was a breeze and I lingered in my car longer than I normally would to stay warm and psych myself up for what lie ahead. You’d think with a weather forecast of rain and having been a runner most of my life I would own a proper running rain jacket. That would be a no actually. I figured after 26.2 miles nothing would be dry, so I just didn’t worry about it.
By the time I walked the couple blocks to the gear drop and the village of port-o-potties, my shoes were soaked. With the rain pouring down and the wind whipping, I stood in line for my turn to pee. I was filled with disbelief. I was actually going to run in this. I was trying to get my head right for the weather conditions I would have never done a long training run in. Just knowing others were out there about to do the same thing reassured me I could do the same thing.
By the start of the race, I was pretty much soaked. I could not wait to run so I could generate some heat and take my mind off what I had been doing for the past half hour. Standing in the cold, wet and wind. Once in the corrals the body heat of others warmed me up a bit. As I looked at a few others with ponchos, I recalled my inner dialogue with myself the week before about whether it was worth it to attempt to run part of the race in a heat and moisture trapping plastic poncho. I had decided no, but on race day sort of regretted that thought. The camaraderie of other runners near me in my corral was the perfect distraction. I chatted with a mom of two-year old twins running her first post-babies half marathon and her brother who was using the race as a training run for Boston. I met a member of Oiselle’s Volee which kind of inspired me to consider joining in the fun.
With the start of the race came a warm up. Running took my mind off the precipitation and the rain did lessen for a bit. I normally feel like I remember my races pretty well and have mental notes about each mile, but I don’t have that for this race. I’m pretty sure for the hardest miles my head had to really go somewhere that would get me across the finish line, but wouldn’t allow me to remember much else. I also have no pictures from the marathon except for the one race photo I purchased to document this actually happened. Below is what I do remember about race day.
The early miles didn’t feel too bad. I welcomed the warmth and the lighter rain. Just before mile 4 I got rid of my outer layer at an aid station and made a fast potty stop…less than one minute. It felt good to get that wet layer off.
A light rain fell during the middle miles of the race. I don’t remember much about what I saw. I felt good. I said I would do whatever I needed to do to accomplish this race. I even took Jolly Ranchers the kids were handing out and enjoyed my first Green Apple Jolly Rancher in a lot of years. Whatever I needed to do to distract myself, I was all for.
At mile 11 we got on Hagen-Burke Trail which then met up with the Monon Trail. I love running bike paths and rail trails, so this gave me an uptick in my moral and the tree cover made me forget about the rain some. I ran past a sign that said mile 25. I thought about how I might feel at mile 25. No matter how a race is going that last mile doesn’t ever really feel good. It’s a place of pain, excitement, exhaustion and emotion. It’s complicated to explain until you experience it.
Mile 13 took us by the finish and we got to see the half marathoners split off to finish their race. It is usually not easy to see the finish and know you are not finished. It either reminds you that you are half way done or you have half way to go depending on how you are feeling. On this particular day it was a mix of both. I felt good, but knowing I had more rain and wind to come made me think at least once how nice it would have been to have been running down the finish chute rather than continuing on.
The race continued on the Monon Trail for a bit longer. At mile 14 ish I felt some fatigue set in, so I began listening to a podcast for motivation and distraction. My current favorite is Women in the Woods as I’m really getting intrigued by the idea of some longer hiking adventures.
The rain picked up some. After a few miles the rain let up a little. At mile 18 I realized I was colder than I thought when I struggled to open my Huma gel because my fingers were so, so cold. My hip started to bother me more.
Mile 20 is where the race really becomes a race with yourself. It is where the fatigue starts to catch up to you. On race day it was also when it began pouring rain. The skies just opened up and let it rain down. I remember feeling so discouraged and frustrated with not feeling like I was enjoying being out there as much as I’d hoped. Drips of water poured off my hat. The wind whipped. That rain and cold and wind was about to catch up with me.
At mile 24 my hip, which had been giving me a sensation for part of the race so far, became much more than just a feeling. It was painful. I tried to walk some, but the slower pace just made me colder which made my hip hurt worse. I tried to stretch and work it out, but nothing was helping. In my head I knew if I had to continue walking I would not be able to finish without warmer, dryer layers. I also knew quitting wasn’t a choice. I had no one to pick me up. I seriously feared hypothermia if I attempted to walk in the rest of the miles as cold as I was. I felt tears welling up. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so close to crying in a race. I almost took my phone out of its fancy waterproof case (i.e. a plastic bag shoved in my sports bra) and called my husband to talk me through the last miles. I did not call him as I knew he was busy with the kids and likely did not have time to handle my hot mess self. Not finishing wasn’t an option though. I didn’t drive this far to not finish.
My choice of shorts came into question a few times during the race, but having run races in colder temps in shorts without issue I didn’t think it would be as big of a problem. Hindsight: I should have worn capris.
I eventually pushed through what I was feeling. Between miles 24 and 25 the rain let up some allowing me to warm up also. This made my hip hurt less. My favorite fans of all also helped me out. The elderly residents cheering and smiling in the rain with signs for beer ahead at the finish were so motivating for me. My other favorite fans were the little kids cheering for their moms and dads with huge smiles and hugs for their favorite runner on the course. Speaking of smiling. I know there is research about smiling through challenging tasks such as running that makes the perception of pain and difficulty less. I made myself smile a bunch of times during this race just to experience this…and it works to some extent.
That last mile I was so eager to be done. I just wanted to be finished. I was so cold and numb physically and emotionally.
Crossing the finish line was anticlimactic with no one waiting for me…like at all. No one stuck around at the finish. The post-race party was get to your car to warm up and try to get dry. I was relieved to have a mylar wrap to block some wind, but I was shivering so hard. Uncontrollably. I was so cold I didn’t take a picture. I’m not sure I could. You know I’m cold when a pictures is not happening. The temperature had dropped 8 degrees since the start making it in the upper 40’s.
I limped my way to the car as my hip was in super pain making it hard to walk. I was just so cold. I blasted the heat and got the congratulations from my husband and kids. I then headed to Starbucks to get a coffee to warm up. The barista thought I was insane with my visible shaking and spilling of some of my coconut milk latte as a result. I could not wait for a hot shower and warm clothes.
After a couple hours of warming up, I was ready to head somewhere dry to explore. I spent part of the afternoon at Newfield’s before heading to downtown Indy for dinner and some exploring.
Then the snow began as the temperature had continued to drop all day. Winter apparently just loves to follow me. A quick stop at a brewery for a celebratory brew and I headed back to my hotel.
While this wasn’t perhaps the most fun I’ve had during a marathon, I am so glad I did this race and experienced racing in the rain. Never before have I had to push through like I did on this day. It was a great exercise in mental toughness and perseverance. So many times during the race I said to myself-head up, wings out. Every time I saw a bird in the sky I borrowed Oiselle’s slogan that I’ve grown to use as my own. I reminded myself to just keep flying over and over during this race. I have a history of getting caught day dreaming with my head up, looking up at the sky and watching the birds, so this is really fitting for me.
I now see myself not dismissing a run outside because it is raining. I know I can do difficult things and push beyond some of the mental obstacles that I wouldn’t have before. I feel like my grit IQ increased a few points because of this experience. The only way to do that for me is to put myself in those challenging places and experiences and struggle through.
The next day I went for a slow stroll on the Monon Trail before making the long trek home. I just love the art and inspiration all around Indianapolis.
I’m now in the market for a new running rain jacket. I think I earned it. Please share some of your own recommendations if you have any.
It turns out running in the rain isn’t so bad after all.
Next up: South Dakota-Brookings Marathon in May