Akron Marathon

September 27, 2008

I'm the gal who takes extra packets of splenda from coffee shops and absolutely refuses to buy something at regular retail price. You call it cheap-o, I call it "deal-conscious". Anywhoo, I knew my Ohio race when I saw it: included in the registration fee (and in addition to the medal and long sleeved technical tee), the Akron marathon included a one year subscription to Running Times and FREE Brooks running shoes.

My fall training, including the Akron marathon, has been designed around a 50 mile race in October. I had prepared for this race with the understanding that I would not be "racing" it, simply "running". Yet, in the days leading up to the race, I felt like I was in the shape to beat my current best time from Arizona (3:32:59). I admit this to NO ONE since that would automatically make me accountable to actually doing it.

During the drive to Akron, I offered up my secret to Trey. Without hesitation, he went into full support/coach/inspiration mode. By the time I got off the phone with him, I had convinced myself to line up with the 3:30 pacer and see what happened. Besides, this was my first race as Suzy GOODWIN!

At the expo, I was able to see my friend Dane speak about his 52 marathons (a race every weekend, while maintaining a full time job) in 2006 to benefit L'Arche Mobile Foundation. Dane is an awesome role model for anyone who embraces the camaraderie, spirit, and challenge of marathoning. So when he asked me what time I was aiming for the next day, I dug myself even further into the hole by admitting, again, that I'd try for a personal best.

On race morning, I met up with Kim, who had run the Air Force marathon the weekend prior and had a half marathon…wait for it…the next DAY! I mentioned going for a PR but instead of getting nervous or overanalyzing it, we caught up and chatted as if we were anywhere BUT the start of a race. When I lined up, thanks to Kim, I was not nervous or worked up at all- I didn't really have time to be!

We had a cool, crisp 50 degree start in downtown Akron for a few loops. I enjoyed running through the University of Akron's campus, although I was a bit disappointed not to see any Phi Mu ladies out and about! Clocking 48:58 at the 10K mark and solidifying a sub 3:30 pace, I would find out later that Mom (who was receiving text messages with my splits) thought, "Oh no! She's going WAY too fast!"

Running very even 8 minute miles brought me to 1:13:57 at 15K (9ish miles), as we headed to the Ohio & Erie Canal Trail. This dirt towpath was eerily similar to the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, where I bonked in 2007. As soon as the negative association and thoughts entered my head, a gentleman from North Carolina lifted my spirits and my pace. He joked that marathons were the "only time he could chase young pretty girls and get away with it" and we discussed training on the Tobacco Trail in Durham. We were rockin' a 2:03:28 at the 25K (15ish mile), on pace to finish around 3:33- the time I was aiming to beat!

Despite my best efforts to maintain a positive mentality, my "bad self" started creeping in at mile 19. I began to make excuses- "I wasn't expecting all of these hills", "I started too fast", "nobody will know if I walk for awhile", "this isn't even my main Fall race! It's a training race and nobody PRs on those anyway". The negative thoughts were reflected by my performance- the 3:30 pace group blew past me, I slowed down to a 3:38 projected finish time, and hit 30K at 2:29:19.

Bad news or good news first? Bad: mile 23 was dubbed "Heart Rate Hill" (funny play on words when you're NOT reevaluating being a runner in the first place). Good: at the top of the hill, a spectator shouted "the last 2 miles are downhill!" 2 whole miles? For real?! I just KNEW it was some cruel joke until verifying it with the runners around me...so then I told myself, "Suz, you will never be this close to a PR again with a downhill advantage".

Even though I learned in my sport physiology class that strenuous eccentric movement brings on DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness…I really shouldn't study my hobby, should I?!), I let the last 2 miles RIP. I sprinted. Turned the music in my headphones off and focused on moving as fast as I could.

The finishing stretch into Canal Park baseball field was the most painful .2 I have ever experienced, but secured my finishing time (and PR!) of 3:31:22, 10th of 119 in my age group, 27th of 543 women, and 174 of 1585 total runners. No matter how you crunch the numbers- time, ranking, or value of race-related schwag for the "deal-conscious", Ohio was my best state/race yet!