It's no secret that I went to Indy with the goal of running 2:45:00 or better. I truly felt like my fitness was there, whereas before my past OTQ attempts I've always felt more comfortable with 6:20ish but tried anyway since that is so close to the 6:17 average needed. My pace plan was 6:20 for the first 10K, then 6:15 from there on, dropping lower towards the end if I was up for it - and although I never looked at my watch I averaged 6:19 for the first 10K and 6:14 from there to the half. Mother Nature dealt a brutal south wind, which we turned into around 13.5 miles of the mostly north-south course. I kept telling myself that I was strong enough to run 2:44 even with the wind, but it turns out I wasn't; I finished in a PR of 2:46:08, 68 seconds shy of what I need to be able to run in Atlanta on 2/29/20. God has different plans for me, and I know they are better than mine, but that doesn't lessen my heartbreak over this.
Official results are here.
My dad's finishing video is here.
You can read more about my training cycle and philosophy for this race here.
The Less Short (truly long is to come, as usual):
The elite field at Indy Monumental on 11/9/19 was by far the largest it had ever been, with the timing being great for runners to notch an Olympic Trials Qualifying time, recover, and rebuild towards the Trials on Leap Day 2020. The course is known for being flat and the weather cold, and this year the race had 2:45 pacers and performance bonuses for any athletes hitting the standards. For me another major draw was that it was a drive-able distance away (about 7 hours), and it fit better with my work and family schedules than other race options. While I think the California International Marathon course is faster, I figured less travel stress would even things out.
During the week before the race, I talked to a few women about pacing together. I hypothesized that the 2:45 pace group would go out too fast, because pace groups almost always do, especially when you have people amped up about a very specific time standard. I wanted to start at 6:20 for the first 10K, then drop to steady 6:15s for the rest of the race. I hoped I could drop to 6:10 or under for the final 10K, but staying at 6:15 would get me under 2:45:00. My coach trained me for 6:10-6:15 goal pace, so 6:17 wasn't nearly as intimidating as it has been in the past for me. There were 4 other women who expressed interest in the "conservative start 2:45 group" as we called ourselves, and we figured we'd pick some more up along the way. I think nearly every one of the 62 women in the elite field was aiming for 2:45 or under! I'll write another post about the wonderful elite hospitality at this race.
Race morning was cold - 28 degrees with a windchill of 19 at the 8 a.m. start. I'd spent most of my season worried that it would be too warm for this race, but it was cold enough I wore a full singlet, arm warmers, an ear warmer headband, and gloves for the whole race. There was also a significant south wind that increased throughout the morning.
I started the race calm, confident, and ready to execute, telling myself "you are a sub-2:45 marathoner". I started with 3 of the women I planned to work with, Tawny, Sam, and Stella (we could never find our 4th, Jen, but I later learned she dropped out with a calf injury). Tawny's husband Dustin ran with us and told us every turn in advance, helping us navigate the tangents well. With the size of the event (19,000) and the half and full marathons starting together, the first 5 miles were more crowded than I'm used to, but for the most part I could stride out and keep a steady tempo.
Before the race, I'd decided that I would work with my group, use the 2:45 pace group as a gauge, and run by effort. Several people told me that Garmins would be wonky for the first 6-7 miles due to the many long underpasses we ran under and the downtown buildings, so taking manual mile splits was recommended. I decided against doing so because I didn't want to mess with my watch, which was the best decision for me, but I don't have my actual mile splits because of that (only the splits from the course mats). The course had clocks at every mile marker, and while I missed a lot of the markers early on, I saw all of the important check points.
The miles rolled by quickly, and I focused on staying relaxed, running the tangents, and working with those around me. Our first elite bottle station was around 10K, and I easily grabbed my Generation UCAN. I started the race with 3 gels in my shorts for peace of mind, so that even if I missed all of my bottles I'd be fine with what I had plus water from the course aid stations. Shortly after the 10K mark, the half marathoners split off and we had more room to run.
Power of the pack (pacer is in orange)
I can't tell you much about the course, except that it was flat. I just focused and executed. It felt like a pace I could do all day. Our group was solid and the large 2:45 pace group was 30-45 seconds ahead of us. A man running with us kept telling us at each mile marker some rendition of "we're on 2:44:30 pace", and it wasn't until mile 8-10ish that we learned he was one of the 2:45 pacers! He'd gone out more conservatively while the main group with the sign had gone out fast. We all laughed when we collectively figured it out, and I told him, "I thought you were just a very helpful guy...well, you are a very helpful guy, but you're official too!"
Our second bottle station was around 20K, and I picked up my nuun energy plus a gel there. I ended up giving half of that bottle to a man running with us, because I really wasn't sweating and didn't need much fluid. Before I knew it we were at the half, in 1:22:05ish. I thought something like, "that was the easiest 1:22 half I've ever run, I feel so fresh, I bet I can run 1:21:50 for the second half and come in at 2:43!" Endorphins were flowing and the power of the pack was real. At some points my hands got numb and cold, but overall my body temperature was ideal.
The course is a large loop, starting out going north, going a bit west, then coming back south. Around mile 13.5 we turned south and into the wind. The 18+ mph headwind was tough, but I tried to draft off others and not stress about it since I couldn't do anything to change it. I was planning to take my second gel with my 30K bottle, but around mile 17 I decided I was ready for some calories and used one from my shorts pocket. Our group had slowly been both losing and picking up people, and between 17-18 it really dismantled and I never saw the 2:45 pacer who'd been with us again (the pacers were planned to run to mile 20 so I assume he stopped there).
I'd been following just behind Tawny for several miles, and she looked so strong. I kept telling myself to just stay with her and we were going to do it together. At mile 18, she abruptly slowed. I went past her, encouraging her to come with me (I later learned she suffered with a lot of cramping in the final 8 miles). I felt like a million bucks at 18, and was comparing how I felt to that point in the Phoenix Marathon in my head ("only 8 miles to go - I'm doing this!"). At mile 20, I thought about how much better I felt at that point than at 20 in Grandma's Marathon, with almost exactly the same 20 mile split (2:05:3X). I felt confident that on my fourth try, I could actually do this thing.
The wind was relentless, but I just kept telling myself that I was strong enough to do it anyway. Doubt creeped in at times, but I pushed it away - positive thinking is so powerful and is something I think I have down. I didn't run with anyone from 18 on; I was blowing past people who were struggling, and people who were finishing at 6:00 pace were blowing past me. I slowly sucked down the gel I'd pulled off my 30K bottle between 18-22ish, mainly for the caffeine boost and distraction. At mile 22 I told myself that there were only 3 miles left, since the last mile takes care of itself. I was feeling fatigued and started pulling out every mental trick in my play book: running the mile I was in, looking ahead and pretending a rope was pulling me towards the next person ahead of me, thinking about my dad and Jon at the finish line, thinking about how I wanted to give my dad a plane ticket to Atlanta for his birthday, remembering my whys, and thinking about what felt good instead of what hurt (my hamstrings were screaming but my calves and quads felt strong). I had Hebrews 12:1 written on my arm, and for a good portion of the final miles I just repeated "Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:1" over and over to myself.
My arm sleeves covered this, but I knew it was there
I got to 23 knowing I had to keep moving. I threw every ounce of energy I had in me into fighting the wind. The long straight stretch running south to the finish was something I'd looked forward to from the course map (no turns! lock in and go!), but in reality it was the worst part of the race. I did everything I could think of to make it feel better; I pushed down my arm sleeves and pulled my ear warmer off my head. I told myself that the man passing me was 2:44:50 and I had to go with him. I tried to latch on to anyone who passed me. I used the energy of the crowd. I told myself that I was a sub-2:45 marathoner.
At the mile 24 clock, I got worried. By my shaky (but distracting!) math I needed to run 6:10-6:15 for the final 2.2 to make it, and I was struggling. Before the race, I'd had grand plans to finish the final 10K at 6:05-6:10, but I didn't have it in me. The wind just ate me up, and I was too worn down to pick up my pace; instead I was slowing. People all around were yelling at the women coming by, "You can get the 2:45, but you've gotta move! You've gotta move now!" I kept trading off positions with another women I'd run much of the race with (and who is pictured below finishing steps behind me), and a man was running on the sidewalk encouraging her, "Amy, no one closes like you, you can do this!" I pretended he was talking to me and I fought to stay with her.
I fought with everything I had, but when I saw the mile 25 clock I knew it would take a miracle, or a 5:45ish final 1.2 miles. I refused to give up, but all I had was a 6:43 final mile and only a 6:42 pace final 0.24 (this is how I truly know I physically gave it all - I could not pick it up at all at the end; generally we have a little extra gear because our minds are stopping us but our bodies have a little left in reserve). I passed the mile 26 clock around 2:44:50, knowing that I had only fit 26 miles into the time I needed to fit 26.2 into, and it stung so hard. I ran with all my heart for the final 0.2, although my heart was a little broken at that point. However, I crossed the line joyfully and thankfully in a PR of 2:46:08. 68 seconds away, but 66 seconds closer than I've ever been before.
The obvious is that I gained a PR from this race. I bettered my previous marathon best, which I ran in perfect weather on a net downhill course at CIM, on a flat loop course in brutal cold wind. I gained a greater appreciation for training and the every day process during this training cycle; that was the best part. I gained new friendships and bonds with amazing women. I gained the guts to go for it on an imperfect day; previously I always thought everything had to be just right to even try, but now I think I'm strong enough that things just need to be pretty good, and that's a big step. So many people told me that my race was a sub-2:45 performance, and I truly believe it was, but the USATF doesn't wind-grade times, so... Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying that I'm going to keep trying, but after my fourth try for it at Indy, I know even more that a 2:45:00 is in me.
Should've adjusted the arm sleeves &
headband, but was barely able to function!
Stay tuned for more race details!
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. - Hebrews 12:1