Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Race Day! | Kathy Kliebert

I was taught several years ago to do a race report after finishing a big race so you can remember the things that worked and those that didn’t during a race. It’s a great tool to memorialize things you learned in the training and race process.  Here is my race report from my first - and last - marathon:

I mentioned in my earlier blog that I am rather obsessive about my training.  Unfortunately, that obsession comes with some negative effects.

The obsession over training slowly begins to monopolize my life. All my activities start to revolve around how I am going to get a long run in when work or family interferes. It usually means I sacrifice sleep or leisure activity to get the training done and then I get frustrated that I ever committed to doing this in the first place. 

Although, obsessive training comes with some great benefits. Because I work so hard to follow such a strict plan, I usually have a really good race on race day.  I followed the last several weeks of my training and nutrition plan religiously. Even though my hip hurt so badly that I could barely walk a few days before the race, I was ready on race day. 

I had a nutrition and hydration plan, a plan for clothing in different weather scenarios, a plan for where I would start, a plan for dropping off my jacket and gloves, a backup battery for my iPhone to assure I had music the whole way, a plan for exactly how I would run the race (short walk breaks every four miles), and a mental plan to just go with it if any of the plans failed.  

As a runner, you usually hear that all the planning doesn’t work out come race day, but all of my planning actually worked! My husband and I positioned ourselves around the 4:40 pacer although we knew that was faster than our pace but wanted to be ahead of some of the slower runners to avoid tripping at the start.  My husband and I started together and I felt really good and began running faster than I had on any of the training runs. I kept hearing him say, “You’re going too fast!”

Whenever I run, I never look at my watch except when it vibrates to tell me a mile has gone by. My husband checks his constantly to run a certain pace.  I run like I feel like running, really having no idea what my pace it is.  I once ran a 5K and thought I was averaging 9:40 a mile but really averaged 8:40. I just couldn’t tell the difference between the 8 and 9 on my watch. If I feel good, I run faster and if not, I slow down.  On race day I was feeling good.  I ended up running faster and left my husband at about 1.5 miles. 

At 3 miles I dropped off my jacket and gloves and then at four miles took my first water and gu walk break. I was really feeling good and almost didn’t stop for the short walk, but then I got nervous that everything would fall apart if I didn’t follow my plan. 

I was still feeling great all the way up to mile 11. I was high fiving everyone, dancing a little on my run and then I saw that the half-marathoners would turn off to head to the finish line and the marathoners would go on to finish 15 more miles.
As soon as the half-marathoners turned off, both race participants and spectators thinned out considerably. I started thinking about how 15 miles was a really, really, really long way to go. 

I kept following my plan and really didn’t slow down very much until about mile 19 – I was averaging right below an 11 minute mile and realized that I could probably make it in under five hours even if my pace slowed a bit.  My prediction was 5:15, thinking I could definitely do 5:30, but my ultimate goal was 5 hours. 

After I got to mile 20 I knew I could do it and started taking each mile one at time – taking a short walk break if I needed it but constantly calculating what I needed to do to make it under 5 hours.  The people along the course were great, constantly encouraging me. Once I hit the top of the overpass, I knew I could run the rest of the way and would make my goal. 

I finished in 4:53. Two of my grandkids were there to see me finish, which was great, but even more exciting was that my brother and 86 year old mom surprised me and were waiting at the finish line.  My mom hugged me right afterwards and with tears running down her cheeks (and mine) and said, “I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished” – what a great finish to this journey.

SO what did I learn? Here are the most important tidbits that I picked up along the way:

The sacrifice was worth it.

A marathon is a very large jump from a half-marathon.

You have to have family and friends to support you.

Marathons are for young people. If you want to do one, do it when you are young. They are very tough on old knees and hips!

I can keep my mind still for longer than I thought I could.

The Boston Qualifying time for my age group next year, when I will be 60, is 4:25.

Some people can run amazingly fast.

There are some wonderful stories of courage and determination from people with disabilities and those runners that support them.

Follow a training plan!

I’m confident that my next chapter in fitness will be more about helping others achieve their goals rather than achieving mine.

No matter what your age – it is always great to hear your mom tell you that she is proud of you!

I am a marathon runner.

Kathy Kliebert
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary

Kathy is an avid triathlete, taking on the challenge of her first full marathon with the 2015 Louisiana Marathon. When she isn't running a state department or keeping up with her triathlon training, she loves spending time with her grand kids. Follow Kathy on twitter @KathyRunsLaDHH

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