Sunday, November 10, 2019

Impromptu Indianapolis

Yesterday morning I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. This race was not originally on my schedule and was a last-minute addition due to some well-timed business travel.

About three weeks ago, I found out that I needed to be in Indianapolis for sales planning meetings November 5-7. Business travel during marathon training is always a challenge because I don't know where I will run, and if it's dark I won't feel safe. When I learned about the business travel, I knew
that the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and half would be that weekend. I figured I would stay in town and do my long run as part of one of those races. Initially I thought I would register for the full and do 20 miles with some marathon pace work incorporated. But I didn't register immediately.

Then I ran the Columbus Half marathon, where I set a PR of 1:31:55, followed by a 73-mile week. I felt great in the week following the half with no lingering soreness. This indicated to me and my coach that I can recover really well from a half marathon, so I could race Indianapolis Monumental with minimal disruption to marathon training. Of course, part of me wondered if maybe I didn't race Columbus to my full potential since I didn't need any recovery time. But then I remembered that I vomited at the end!

So I decided to run the Monumental Half Marathon as an all-out race. This meant tapering during my business travel which relived the stress about finding a place for a hard workout. Perfect!

My business meetings were located in the suburbs-- an area called Fishers. On Friday morning I transferred to the downtown area, checked into my new hotel, and had another meeting near the Soldiers and Sailers Monument. After that meeting, I procured my bagels for the next day from the nearby Au Bon Pain. Then I did a 30-minute shakeout run which felt good, but very cold. It was only 27 degrees.

After that, I met up with my friends Kathy and Meredith for lunch. They are both local to the Washington metro area and it was cool to get to see them in Indy. We then picked up our bib numbers at the expo. I did a lot of walking on Friday-- more than would be ideal the day before a half marathon. Everything is close enough that you wouldn't take an Uber, but yet annoyingly far to walk if you are trying to rest your legs.

Sam and me after dinner
I relaxed and did work in my hotel for a few hours afterwards until it was time for dinner. I had dinner with fellow blogger Sam, whose blog I had been following for years. (I would link it here but she recently retired her blog.) I had never met her in person but I felt like I knew her! We both ordered the salmon which came with a side of fingerling potatoes. Yum!

I returned to my hotel to find a group of about 50-60 kids (aged 10-16) swarming the hotel lobby. The line to get up the elevator was wrapped around the lobby. And of course they were very loud. Thankfully, I had a room all the way at the end of the hallway. But once I got into bed, I could still hear the room next to me being very loud. Thankfully, I was prepared with my white noise maker. I always travel with one, and I blasted it on high and it successfully drowned out all the noise that the kids were making. I fell asleep at 8:45 and slept reasonably well. I was awake from 1:45-2:45, but then fell back asleep until 5:30.

Before the Race
Race morning arrived and I felt pretty chill. Since this race wasn't part of my original fall plan, I didn't feel any nervousness around it. I had already PR'ed my fall half marathon, so anything I did now would be gravy. I believed I could shave about a minute off of my 1:31:55, although I thought if things went really well that 1:29:xx could be in the cards. Here's why I thought I could shave a minute off:
  • 20 seconds for running the tangents and a Garmin distance of shorter than 13.25
  • 20 seconds for improved fueling
  • 20 seconds for 3 weeks of solid training post the Columbus half.
So I believed I should be able to PR by at least a minute, maybe more.

As for the weather, it was much cooler than Columbus: 28 degrees at the start and 31 and the finish. Columbus was in the low 50s. I would have added another 20 seconds for these improved weather
conditions, however the forecast showed a headwind for the last four miles, whereas Columbus had no wind. As for the courses, I think they are both equally as fast. Columbus has more hills, but the Columbus hills are placed in advantageous spots and they aren't that steep. They both have a fair amount of curves and turns. My 13.25 in Columbus was because I personally did a lot of weaving to pass people and avoid uneven pavement. 

Given all of this, I knew I was in a great spot going into the race. And unless I just "wasn't feeling it," or the wind got me at the end, then I had high confidence in a PR. I had run the full marathon back in 2017, and I had a horrible race. Even though that was not my day, I did like the course and I thought it would be nice to get some redemption.

Before the race
Anyway, I did my pre-race routine which involved having my bagel with peanut butter, getting dressed, preparing my UCAN, and spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I left my room at 7:15, which was 45 minutes before the start. The forecast was 28 at the start, 31 at the finish, cloudy, and windy. I decided on compression capri tights and a long-sleeved lightweight shirt. I had been debating short sleeves and arm warmers, but since it would be overcast and windy, I thought it would feel even colder than the temperature indicated.

As I left my hotel, I hid my room key under a table in the hallway on my floor. My capri tights had no pockets for a hotel room key so I needed a place to stash it. I wouldn't be checking a bag because my hotel (the Westin) was literally right at the finish line. I waited in the lobby until about 7:35, drank my Generation UCAN and then I went outside to warm up. Instead of drinking a full serving, like I did in Columbus, I only drank half a serving and planned to take a gel at mile 8. My hope was that this approach would give me more energy and avoid a vomiting situation.

It was really crowded near the start, so I was only able to warm up for about 5 minutes of "real" running. But then I jogged in place in my corral. I wasn't nearly as cold as I expected to be. It was 28 degrees but I guess all the body heat made things feel warmer. 10 minutes prior to the start, I tossed my throw-away jacket. Usually I am freezing when I toss off my throwaway jacket, but I was comfortable.

I immediately began questioning my decision to wear a long-sleeved shirt. I looked around at all the other runners in tanks and arm warmers and I told myself that would have been the right move.

Miles 1-4
The race started and I was mentally prepared for it to be crowded. Indianapolis Monumental is a competitive field, so plenty of people would be running at my pace. A few minutes into the race, the 3:05 pace group caught up to me (which is a 1:32:30 half). I didn’t necessarily think they were running too fast, but I was running too slow for my goal. I wasn’t intentionally running that much slower than goal pace, but it was crowded and I didn’t want to weave around people. So I was stuck in 3:05 land for the first two miles. I didn’t stress too much about it because I knew I could make up the time later.

It seemed as if the 3:05 pacer and 3:00 pacer were too close together because as soon as I broke free of 3:05, I was at the back of the 3:00 pack. As much as I try not to run with pacers, I always seem to find myself caught up in their groups.

After just one mile, I rolled my sleeves up because I was warm! Note to future self: If it’s 28 degrees at the start of a half marathon, that’s too warm for long sleeves. Typically I carry a disposable bottle of water for the early miles of a half marathon. In Columbus I kept this bottle for four miles because the weather was mild. Yesterday, I didn’t carry a bottle because I thought my hands would be too cold/numb to handle it. I also regretted that decision because it wasn’t all that cold and I have a hard time drinking from the cups.

This first portion of the race had a lot of twists, turns, curves and crowding. It was hard to establish a rhythm but I still felt good.

Mile 1: 7:08 (Garmin) 7:02 (Strava)
Mile 2: 7:06 (Garmin) 7:01 (Strava)
Mile 3: 7:02 (Garmin) 7:04 (Strava)
Mile 4: 6:45 (Garmin) 6:46 (Strava)

Note: My Strava splits were different from my Garmin splits for the first 4 miles, so I have included them both. After that, they began to match up.

Miles 5-8
As always in a half marathon, these were the “glory miles”. I felt strong and the fast pace wasn’t too much of a strain. I was optimistic about my ability to stay strong throughout the race. We had a tail wind, which I didn’t feel, but was reflected in my speedy paces. I hit the 10K timing mat in 43:20, which would have put me on pace for 1:31:25.

I spent miles 5-7 gradually making my way up to the front of the massive 3:00 pace group. I passed the 3:00 pacer after mile marker 7 and was convinced I would be able to break 1:30. This was also the point where the half and full marathons separated, so there would be no more 3:00 pacer anyway.

Shortly after the split, at mile 7.5, I took my Maurten gel. I had never used a Maurten gel in a race before. The first time I had tried it was two weeks ago during a 20-miler. I chose it because it was tasteless and was supposed to be easy on the stomach. You also don’t need to take it with water. I had pre-cut the gel so it was easy to open with my teeth and it went down quickly in two parts. I did not have any water with it and that was fine. They make these gels with and without caffeine and I decided to use the one with caffeine since Greg thought it was helpful during his recent half marathon.

Mile 5: 6:52
Mile 6: 6:45
Mile 7: 6:41 (must be that tailwind!)
Mile 8: 6:53

Miles 9-12
Okay, this was it. I knew that it would be time to dig deep as I fought against the headwind. Miles 9-10 were annoying because there were so many twists and turns and the pavement was beat up. I was wearing my Nike Vaporfly Next% and there’s not much stability there to run over uneven pavement. I tried not to dodge it too much because I didn’t want to end up with 13.25 miles again. Every time I thought I had good momentum, there would be a turn or a section of broken pavement. It was mentally exhausting, but I made it through.

I clocked in at 1:09:06 on my Garmin at the 10-mile marker, which is faster than my 10-mile PR by nearly a minute. I knew I was on track to reach my goal so I had to stay strong during these final miles. The headwind became real once we hit the 11th mile. My plan was to find someone to draft off of but all the runners near me were either going too fast for me to keep up with or too slow for me to want to stick with.

This is when I employed one of my most successful mental tactics: running by time. I looked down at my Garmin, which read 1:13:xx and I told myself that I had less than 20 minutes to go. So short! 20 minutes in a workout is like nothing. I kept repeating “you want this, relax,” over and over again. I had to remind myself that I wanted that PR in order to fight through the wind.

My splits make it look like slowed down in miles 11-12, but my effort level was stronger than it had been the whole race due to the wind, and that is reflected in my heart rate date.

Mile 9: 6:56
Mile 10: 6:53
Mile 11: 7:04
Mile 12: 7:02

Mile 13-Finish

Once I had only 10 minutes to go, I was able to really push harder. I could do anything for 10 minutes!

I told myself that mile 13 was a make-it-or-break-it mile. I had my chance to run sub-1:31 and it would be won or lost in this mile. The mile started off slow, but my Garmin pace kept getting faster and faster the closer I got to the finish line, until it beeped at 6:50. I felt so strong running that pace that I wished I had dialed into that gear sooner. I felt like I could have continued on at that pace for another mile, which is the beauty of marathon training.

As I approached the finish line I glanced down at my Garmin and I saw I would be cutting it very close to 1:31:00 and I wanted to squeak under that. I pretended I was running a 100m interval and gave it everything I had.

Mile 13: 6:50
Last 0.15: 6:32 pace

After the Race
I felt pretty good after I crossed the finish line, although I did have the urge to vomit. I stepped aside made the action of vomiting, although I didn't have any water in my stomach so nothing came up. My Garmin read 1:31:01, so I didn't know if my official time would be sub-1:31 or not.

Oddly, I couldn't find anyone to give me a medal so I had to grab one from a pile. I also couldn't find where they were giving out the hats, so I missed out on getting one.

My hotel was literally right at the finish line so I made it back to my floor, retrieved the key from its hiding place, and got my phone. I looked at my tracking and saw that I had, in fact, made it under 1:31 with an official time of 1:30:58!

I quickly changed into warmer clothes and went back out to the race to cheer on my friends. I had the most perfect aerial view of the finish from my hotel room, but I wanted to be part of the action and take photos. I had about 10 friends I was tracking so it was fun to cheer for them all as they finished.

I couldn't stay out there too long because of my 12:00 hotel checkout time and my hands had gone numb. But I had a blast watching so many runners crush their goals. What great inspiration for CIM in four weeks!

I flew home later that afternoon, and when I arrived, the house smelled like PR cake. Greg made me a zebra striped PR cake and it was so delicious!

Final Thoughts and Stats
My official time was 1:30:58, which is a negative split, given my 10K time had me on track for 1:31:25. This is a PR by 57 seconds. That's a lot of time to shave off in just three weeks, but I explained above where that time came from: fitness, fueling, and tangents.

I placed 11 out of 688 in my age group (40-44), which shows how competitive this field was. In Columbus, my age group had 681 runners and I placed 3rd-- with a slower time! I had looked up last year's results and based on those, I did not expect to win an age group award.

I think I could have pushed into that higher gear sooner and run about 20-30 seconds faster overall. And if it hadn't been for the wind, I wouldn't have needed that higher gear to maintain the low 6:50's. Even though I regret not going for it sooner, I still wouldn't have run 1:29:xx. Plus, I want to recover quickly so I can immediately jump back into marathon training. There was no need to destroy myself.

Mentally, my approach of telling myself how much time I had left to go instead of distance was very helpful. I've done that before, but usually it has been in full marathons.

I felt much better during the last three miles than I did in Columbus and I attribute that to the Maurten gel + having a few extra weeks of endurance training. I think I will continue to use my Generation UCAN homemade gel for the full marathon because I know that works, but instead of Honey Stinger chews at mile 20, I will take a Maurten gel.

Over dressed!
My Nike Vaporfly Next% worked better for me in this race than in Columbus in that my big toe didn't get bruised. I think that could be due to the lack of hills. Regardless, I plan to wear a half size larger for the marathon. Since I ran both Columbus and Indianapolis in the same shoe, I can't say that the shoe was a factor in my PR.

I can't believe I overdressed. I always err on the side of being colder rather than warmer. I don't think it impacted my performance but it was annoying to be running in a long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The capris were fine because I don't overheat from having more leg coverage.

In closing, I'm really glad I ran this race. It shows me that 1:29:xx is realistic for me within the next year and it makes me confident that my 3:10 marathon goal is realistic. The McMillan calculator predicts 3:11:24, and I still have four more weeks to build fitness. However, if CIM gets warmer than 50 degrees, which it may, I might have to re-adjust that goal. I cannot use a race with 30 degree temps to predict my performance in conditions that are over 20 degrees warmer.

Time to get back to the grind of training so I will be ready to run a full marathon in four weeks!


  1. Awesome job! Looking forward to seeing you crush CIM!

  2. Good luck in CIM! Will be rooting for you to succeed :)

  3. Wow, congrats on the unofficial 10-mile PR, too! Very solid race, and I definitely think you are in 3:10 shape: you built fitness up in just three weeks between half marathons, so I know you're close to peaking. Very excited to watch CIM!

  4. Wow, congrats! What a fabulous race! I love all the detail you put into your reports.

  5. Congrats on another fine Zebra run! Very impressive those splits and speed you running these days. You are definitely in the Peak of your running career, so appears you are taking any and all advantages to see just how fast you can take it in at all of the race distances from 5k to marathon! You got solid and awesome training/conditioning backed with some superb half-marathon tune-up race performances that put you in full control to run that 3:10 or so marathon. I will be cheering for you to Ride Tiger!

  6. Wow I can't believe I missed this and it took me this long to reply but then again, I didn't know you were doing it. I have to say you are AMAZING... Not just as a runner but as a person and I hope those that follow you are inspired by your incredible success and also how humble and real you are as a person. I know why that is... You've struggled with some things (aka Boston qualifying... if not for that Jenny Hadfield podcast I'd never know you) and know how it feels.

    You've been amazing to me, your running is amazing (you as a person are even more amazing though.) You continue to excel and you don't let age stop you!! I know 3:10:00 is tough but I'm glad it's in your head because I've been thinking such since last year (as I think you know.) I know it's not an easy challenge but that's how we get the best out of ourselves and I encourage you to go for it. 7:14 miles on the nose gets you 3:09:39

    I've heard CIM is a pretty fast course so I hope the weather holds for you and I'm truly looking forward to it because I at least know I'm going to see a PR based on your training. You continue to kick ass Elizabeth!! I LOVE seeing it and love that you keep writing a blog!!