Saori Hanaki-Martin’s Mardi Gras Marathon Race Report (2/28/10)

Mardi Gras Marathon (February 28, 2010) Race Report (Sorry – it’s long! I got too excited!!)

The fun began as we (Coach Gary, Elissa, Julia, Kristin and I) drove off Lexington in the early Friday morning. It was a long, 12-hour drive to Louisiana, but we talked the entire way without any music or audio books – pretty impressive! But I must say, Nikki’s famous caramel brownies definitely helped all of us to be in happy mood :)

New Orleans was an ‘interesting’ place. As we navigated our way to the convention center/expo, we had pretty much figured out that every block in downtown New Orleans has its own unique smell (not so pleasant kind…). At the expo, I changed my starting coral from ‘7’ (I originally planned on running a relaxed 4:00 marathon) to ‘2’ (3:10 coral since there was no coral assigned for 3:20 finish) as suggested to avoid the ‘inconsistent’ runners. This change turned out to be a good one as I never got stuck behind slower runners. The fellow runners from the same coral helped me to move along at a good pace during the run.

The morning of the marathon was crisp and cool that was perfect for my liking (but it got a little warm by the end). After taking a group photo (thanks to Ann Sophie, JB’s girlfriend) with Dorothy and Royden Kern, Dorothy’s brother JB, I left the group for a quick warm up and a shot of Carboom! (my favorite gel). As I waited for the start in the coral #2, I realized I had dropped one of my Carboom! somewhere! I panicked a little, but gathered myself and re-strategized the plan – “I will pick up a packet of GU at the mile 12…, not a big deal.” I looked at what I wrote on my hands, “BREATHE,” “RELAX,” and “I CAN!!” and remembered what Kristin and Gary had told me – always think positive, I had trained very well! I CAN DO THIS!!! And just like that, the marathon started.

I was moving with the flow, letting my feeling take over. I checked my Garmin and noticed that I was moving faster than I was supposed to… low 7:20/mi. I thought about slowing down a bit, but I was feeling so good, so I just kept moving at the pace where I felt good at. My heart rate was about 170 bpm, pretty typical at that pace (I’m not Kristin, so I can’t do 131!!). I stopped at every aid station as I planned during the first 10 miles to fuel/hydrate using Cytomax (the flavor was different from mine, but it worked fine). I took my Carboom! every 30 min or so with some water. I had written where I needed to take the gel on my bib, so I didn’t have to think about it during my run. All together, I took 5 gel packs during the run.

I chose my path pretty carefully during the run as the condition of the road was pretty bad – potholes were everywhere! I wasn’t going to let myself twist an ankle to ruin my plan of running a “GOOD marathon.” I was on the mission! After I passed the mile 10 mark, I skipped one aid station as I planned. Making the run interval to 20-some minutes from 10-ish minutes made it a little more difficult for me to handle mentally, so I have decided to walk a little through all remaining aid stations on the course. A couple of Ironman triathletes came along the way and ran and talked with me. I ended up keeping my eyes on them to motivate myself rest of the way, so it was nice that I came across with them. I was still feeling strong… then the “mile 19” sign came, so did the usual dizzy spell! This dizzy spell (aka, “the wall”) had been the one that had prevented me from running a “good marathon” in the past. It had always gotten me. I felt like I was losing my balance as if something was pulling me down to the ground. I slowed down almost to stop completely, but then, I told myself that I had to beat it this time. “It will be different this time,” I was determined to overcome it, and I started to pick up (in my mind, anyway). My heart was approaching 180 bpm (yeah, I was pushing it!).

The final 6+ miles took conscious effort to keep it going. I verbally told myself “I am strong, and I can do it!” As I passed or being passed by other runners, they looked at me sort of strange as I was repeating that phase aloud (pretty loud too!), but I didn’t care. I thought it was my day and my race. By the time Gary spotted me (at 23-ish mile?), I was fully determined that I would pull off what I trained and came to do. I had noticed my Garmin indicated I was no longer running sub-8:00 pace, but I knew I was still on the overall average pace that I planned originally. I kept plugging in (still talking to myself aloud). As I approached the museum at the park, Elissa and Julia shouted my name and told me the finish was right around the corner. I picked up the pace (for real, this time!), and sprinted down to the finish. As I crossed the finish line, I looked at my Garmin, and it was right before 3:22. The official time was 3:21:27, 18-plus minutes faster than my PR from 5 years ago (3:40:00). I didn’t break 3:20, but I didn’t care (I think Paul is relieved that I didn’t break his record, though)!

I am happy with how I ran the marathon – the race didn’t control me, but I did! I wonder, though, what would have happened if I started slower during my first 10 miles. Would it have helped me maintain the pace during the last 6 miles? Who knows? But I will test that out next time. The training plan challenged me a lot, but made me realize what I am capable of. It had not only built my strength, but my confidence. All the support and suggestions from the teammates (specifically on mental strength) really helped me to be strong and to believe in myself. The training had even helped me become a better swimmer! I have been swimming very well, and I think I will swim well at the upcoming swim meet! I can’t thank all of you, Gary and the team, enough to accomplish the goal I had had for this past 5 years. I would also want to thank (not the least) my husband, Paul, for supporting me in so many ways.

Here is my data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/26105307

Photo courtesy of James Miller (JB in the report above)