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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Omaha marathon: Race report

In heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here. -- accordion players between mile 7 and 8

I ran my sixth marathon in Omaha on Sunday. We headed to my sister's in Nebraska at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, two sleepyhead kids in tow. We were armed with movies and their portable DVD players, which may be among the smartest items I've ever purchased. The kids were great on the nine-hour trip. You couldn't ask for more from a 2 and 4-year-old.

My husband really wanted to get out for a bit Friday night, so we left the kids with my sister and grabbed dinner in the Old Market, which I have gone to since I was in high school. It's a small cobblestoned-street area of shops and restaurants and I still love it. Hubby treated me to a steak and baked potato, yum.

Saturday was busy. We grabbed lunch with my sister and her kids at Spaghetti Works, which has also been in Omaha forever. Mmm carbs. I went over to the race expo to pick up my packet and left Brett to explore record stores in the Old Market. The expo was held at shiny new TD Ameritrade Park, where the College World Series are played. At least, it's new to me. They were played at the old Rosenblatt stadium when I was growing up. 

As I picked up my race bib my stomach jumped around. I guess I'm really doing this, I nervously joked to the lady who handed me the bib. She smiled and looked a little bored.

I also picked up what has to be the most boring race shirt ever. I don't care that much about the shirt, but this is like no one even tried. It is white with black letters that say Omaha Nebraska and the date on it. The back lists the event organizer's other races. Boring.

As I was wandering around the outdoor expo, contemplating whether to buy a shirt that said "Run this city" with a picture of the Omaha skyline, I noticed the sky. It was huge and bright blue, not a cloud to be seen. I was also sweating. It was really warm. The forecast for Sunday had been creeping up that week, and as of that day it was supposed to be 55 degrees at race start and climb to 81 later that day.

I hate warm runs. This is why I don't do many, if any, summer races. This is also one of the reasons I start my runs at 4:30 or 5 in the morning. I run really hot and get overheated. I don't know why, I just do.

My high school buddy Andy, who lives in Omaha, and I had been texting and Facebook-messaging the changing forecast to each other every day for a couple of weeks, poking fun at ourselves for being obsessed. That's one of the great things about other runners -- they get your crazy. 

So the newest forecast had me feeling a little nervous. 

My marathon PR is 4:46, set last year at Chicago in much cooler conditions (high 51, low 38, mostly overcast -- dream running weather to me!)

My "dream" time was to be close to 4:30 this year. I had my best training season ever this year and knew I was in really good shape. But with that warm forecast, I mentally tossed that goal out and hoped to at least come near my PR.

Back at my sister's house, my kids were busy chasing her three cats and playing with older cousins. At one point that day they decided to throw kitty litter and cat food all over the basement, which the older kids cleaned up. Good grief. I couldn't believe how naughty they were being! 

After empty threats of not getting to go to another cousin's birthday party, we went over to my brother's house. He had swimming pools and a water slide set up in his yard and my kids went to town. It was fun. And warm. I wondered about how the race would go with such warm weather. I kept telling myself, nothing you can do now. What is going to happen will happen.

That night my sister made is pretty much what I requested for dinner -- chicken, baked potato and veggies. I could only eat half because my nerves were messing with my stomach but it was delicious. My sister is a saint, by the way. 

A little before 8 I began to lay out my running gear. And discovered I forgot a running bra. Dumb dumb dumb. Thank God for Target and their C9 high-performance bra. It wwound up working great and was only $21.99, much cheaper than my other running bras.

Sleeping that night wasn't great. I think I slept a stretch between midnight and 3. My sister got up at 5:15 to drive me to the race. And didn't complain. Seriously how did I get so lucky to have a sister like her.

It took 15 minutes to get to the race because this is Omaha, not Chicago, so I was there wicked early. It was nice and chilly too, which calmed me. Andy got there and we hung out with a few friends of his. I know Andy from when I was a flag girl and he was in high school band. We went to high school in suburban Bellevue and graduated more than 25 years ago. And yet he's almost exactly as I remember him -- super friendly and chatty. It was nice to be around him even though I so t know that I said much back. I just wanted the race to start so I could settle down the butterflies in my stomach.

Andy was so cheerful! 

Finally, shortly after 7 am, we were off! Andy took off, hoping to land a 4-hour marathon for the day. I attempted to take it easy as 900 people passed me. 

The first seven miles were cool and in the shade, mostly. My left hamstring and foot felt tight but never worsened, so all was good. It dawned on me that hmm, I'm going to be running this whole race solo.

I almost never run alone. I'm blessed with a great group of running friends that I almost never have to run alone -- usually if I run alone it's because I've chosen to. So this was a little daunting -- no conversation to get me through the tough parts.

How awesome is this guy?

By this point in the race the shade disappeared and we were on a concrete path that eventually ran along the Missouri River for a couple of miles. People were starting to walk but I was feeling okay. I had slowed down a bit but no big deal. When I got to the mile 10 aid station it was getting warm but I knew I would see my family -- Brett, the kids, my sister and her husband and one of their kids -- in just three miles, at the turnaround. I still felt okay and wondered how long I could hang on to feeling the way I did.

Around mile 12 I saw Andy flying toward me, having already passed the turnaround. He looked like he was having a great race. We high-fived and he tore off. Sure enough I saw my family at mile 13. 

Let me tell you. I know standing and watching a race can be really boring. You wait forever, see your runner for a minute or less an then they're one. But to us it means the world. 

My kids, however, seemed a little confused. I must have smelled pretty badly, too, because when I kissed both of hem they squirmed. Usually I can always at least get a nuzzle from the girl.

My splits by that point:

Mile 1     10:05
Mile 2       9:25 I've never seen this part of Omaha.
Mile 3       9:55 Nor this one. Or, really, about 95% of this course. Huh.
Mile 4       9:43
Mile 5      10:13
Mile 6       10:09 Beautiful Miller Park -- I had no idea that this part of Omaha existed. 
Mile 7       9:53 Accordion band, yay.
Mile 8      10:23 The shade honeymoon obviously ends here.
Mile 9      10:35
Mile 10    10:44 Lingered at water stop.
Mile 11     10:27 Running past Carter Lake, which technically is in Iowa? I don't know.
Mile 12     10:11
Mile 13     10:36 Yay, family!!

Now, time to run back -- this is an out-and-back course.

It got really warm by then. By mile 14 I chucked my running shirt and pinned my race bib to my shorts. I am 45 years old and have given birth to three kids, so I do not take off my shirt lightly in public. But it felt sooooo good to take that layer off. Screw it. 

Now we were back on the river. This race course was sun-drenched. There was nowhere to hide from the sun. The breeze was slightly cool, but man, it was just warm. And that Nebraska sky was as big and blue as ever. Not a cloud to be found. 

A lot of people were walking by this point, about mile 14-16 or so. I struck up a conversation with an older guy from St. Louis who was run-walking. His running was faster than mine, so we could only chat in spurts. He was nice, on his 10th marathon, and was proud that the marathon bug had just bitten his wife, who wanted to run/walk one with him in the fall. 

Past mile 16 we were running past a depressing trailer park. The sun was becoming brutal. More runners walking. I was still happy to be running.

Mile 14     10:25

Mile 15     10:36
Mile 16     10:35
Mile 17     10:32

By this point I was getting tired but still doing OK.  The next five miles I noticed that hey, there are a few slight hills here that I obviously didn't notice coming down earlier in the race. They weren't bad, but a bit of a challenge when I was tired and hot. I also began slipping into 11 minute-mile territory. 

Mile 18     11:08
Mile 19     11:06
Mile 20     11:04

A little mental trick I've tried on long runs is to "bundle" them into small increments. During my last 20-mile training run I thought of it as doing four five-mile runs and that worked pretty well. By the time I got to Mile 20 I thought, OK, I just have another five-miler to go and change. But it was a struggle to stay positive.

Mile 21     11:09
Mile 22     11:10 Hitting the wall right...  about... now.

I felt awful. There was no mercy from the sun. It was so warm. Holy hell. Hello, death march. I was so nauseous and couldn't drink anything else, and yet I was so thirsty. Each water stop I lingered and walked a bit longer. I took sips of water but spit them out, afraid of angering my stomach anymore. My front shins were cramping off and on, weird.

I still can't figure out what to do about nausea in long races. Obviously something to dive into.

Mile 23     11:19
Mile 24     12:05 Stopping in the middle of the course and putting your head against your knees slows a girl down
Mile 25     11:33 

When I saw the Mile 25 sign I sort of yelled at it. I was sure -- probably nearly hallucinating -- that I was near Mile 26. I couldn't bear the idea of running another mile. I wanted to quit so bad. But I hung in there.

Mile 26     11:58. It was 73 degrees at this point.

The last stretch of the course -- surprise, no, literally, they don't tell you this until the end of the marathon -- you have to enter Ameritrade park and run around the stadium. WHAT THE HELL. I was so mad. It is a nice park but sheesh. I saw myself up on the jumbotron and almost didn't recognize myself in just a running bra. I think I've lost some weight, I feebly thought.

I crossed the finish line with everything I had. Which wasn't much.

4:57:29. Among women 45-49, I was 26/44.

I felt myself stumbling. All I wanted to do was lay down. Suddenly my sister, like an angel, was by my side and asking me if I was OK. I told her no and that I needed to lie down. I just wanted to be out of the sun and off my feet so badly. Someone else helped her escort me to the medical tent where I asked for ice. It was awful. My husband and kids and Missey all stayed there until I finally felt cooled off. My stomach was a mess.

(And seriously, how awesome is my sister? I show up with my wild little family, take over her weekend, make her schlep me to a race and then she, not a runner, stays and watches it with her awesome hubby and one of my nephews. And then I sweat all over her. I am the luckiest sister ever. When I saw her at the finish line, I could have cried, I was so happy to see her.)

My husband did everything back at my sister's house to pack up the car and get back to Chicago. Oh yes, since I don't have a lot of time off accrued at work yet I only had one day to take off, so I took Friday to drive in. We faced a nine-hour trip back.

Right before taking a shower, I asked the kids if they wanted to see the medal. I dropped it and it shattered. It was made of glass. What the hell? Yes, I made another mess at my sister's house. I swept it up quickly and my sister shooed me away to the shower and I think finished up cleaning. God.

Forty miles outside of Omaha, I begged my husband to pull over on I-80 and threw up. I could tell it was almost all Gatorade and water. It splashed my feet but I didn't care, I was so relieved to just get it all out of my system. I've never gotten sick after running before.

We finally made it home around 10 p.m.

The next day, I was bummed about my time being so slow. Yeah, I'm a dope like that. I finished the warmest marathon I have ever finished and yet I'm whining about this.

The old reporter in me wanted to figure this out. I needed some science.

I googled heat effects on marathon performance. Who knew there were so many scientific studies on the topic. So scientific that this ex-journalist/political science major was like, um, maybe there's Runners World story on this topic instead?

A few articles I found suggested that for every 10 degrees above 55 or 60, depending on the source, marathon performance slips 3-6 percent. 

So, doing the most embarrassingly poor math ever, I calculated that my final race time was nearly 4 percent slower than the previous year's time at Chicagom, when I ran 4:46 on a day that the high temp was 51 and the low was in the upper 30s. So almost 20 degrees warmer and I ran a mere 11 minutes or 3:95 percent slower. I probably should have my friend Nancy, a math professor, check my math.

I texted a friend, shared my discovery (like they had been sitting on the edge of their seat, waiting for that epiphany LOL) and announced, OK, I'm done moping. I will get my head out of my ass now.

I ran the best race I've ever run. My training was the best. I don't love the time I finished in, but then again, I don't love the number on the scale even though I look fine and my clothes fit fine. It's just a number.



  1. What a brilliant, inspiring report on a great race, Tammy! You are my inspiration. Nice going.

  2. WOW! I'm sorry about your medal, but super duper impressed at all this! Wife. Mama. Co-worker. Communications Guru. Runner. And WARRIOR!