It was a beautiful day. I was a little hesitant about how I would do, since I hadn't been sleeping well for a few nights and I was (gentlemen, avert your eyes) having bad cramps and bleeding freely. Oh, and coming off of a monster mile week. But I decided that I would just take it easy and go along with my pace group - I had deliberately chosen one slower than what I really hope to do.
I should mention, again, that it was a really, really, beautiful day, and the course was magnificent. Wooded areas, beach, prairie, well-marked, great views of the city, friendly volunteers, funny signs at mile 12, well-stocked and well-staffed aid stations. A runner's delight.
I started with my pace group and warmed up with them, but within a couple of miles found myself pushing forward. Wanting to keep running every time we stopped, wanting to walk quickly when on a walk break (I usually do, I was surprised at how slowly folks were walking), wanting to pass immediately when we came up behind a slower group. And so I did. I broke away about mile three and the rest of the way I just ran on my own, no music, just enjoying myself and the surroundings.
And in the end I ran a full half-minute pace quicker than expected and felt comfortable throughout - my last two miles were my fastest overall. I think I'm ready.
Some technical stuff:
- I've been supplementing my nutrition/liquid stores with Starburst jelly beans and water - that way I don't have to carry quite so much liquid with me. (Otherwise I would have had to carry my bladder - 70 oz. - plus two small bottles - 24 oz. - for this run, and presumably the bladder and two large bottles for the marathon, which is a lot to carry.) The mix continues to work well.
- I've been finding the 5:1 run/walk ratio to be a bit short, so I expanded it to 7:1, which feels more comfortable. (I only do this on runs above 15 miles. Runs that are 10-15 miles long I take a walk break once a mile, and anything shorter than 10 miles I just rely on traffic breaks to get a rest.)
- The only trouble with the course was that it canted to the left, exactly the wrong slant for my legs (my left leg is marginally shorter than the right and I notice it in my right ITB if the road tilts left). This gave me some serious trouble during the middle section when there was mostly pavement and I didn't have a choice but to run on it. Once we got past mile 13 I was able to run on the shoulder where it's sand or dirt and the pain went away. During the marathon itself we're on city streets so I'll be able to choose to run on the right. The lakefront paths all tilt towards the lake so I don't have a choice - if I'm running south the lake is always to my left. Up north where I usually run I can almost always run on the side of the path so I don't think about it, but in the middle of the city it's only pavement.
I seem to have gone over completely to dairy-free (as much as I can living in my household, where I have promised not to mess too much with classic baked goods - I make no such promises about new recipes, though). It makes me very happy for all kinds of reasons. And now I've successfully made almond milk hot chocolate at home, so I think I really don't have any reason for going back.
I was talking with a couple of women during the brief time I was with the pace group about recent races and I was just struck by the ridiculousness of some of the swag given away at these events. All I want is a good tech shirt, a fun medal if it's a long enough course, and maybe some very runner-specific extras (I have received, and enjoy using, a yoga mat, headband, and reusable drink bottle from different events). But necklaces? Champagne glasses? Half-naked men at the end? I'm not kidding about that one - not exactly swag in that you couldn't take them home (at least, I wouldn't try to) but definitely falling into the ridiculous category.
Okay, done ranting.
What's the most ridiculous swag you've ever gotten from an event? Professional conferences also fall into this category.