I signed up for this race last year on a whim during a flash sale when the entry fee was only $17. I was deep into Ironman Texas training and thought "what the heck" - a stand alone marathon seemed like a pretty fun idea at the time! I also knew it would be good to have something on the calendar post IMTX.
But then when my sister Megan and I decided to do the Rocky 50 ultra marathon together, I realized that the Cottonland Marathon just might be a great training run and a good test of fitness. So going into the marathon I didn't put any pressure on myself to get a PR, I simply wanted to treat it as a long training run with a chance to test out race day fueling, pacing, etc. The longer on my feet the better, but I definitely wanted to finish under 5 hours.
We had kind of a wild and busy weekend planned, so I knew that I wouldn't have much down time going into the race. But I hoped this would be good training for the Rocky 50.
Saturday morning started off with a 1 hour trail in Monroe. Nice and easy, just trying to shake the legs out and get some time in. After the run I stopped by Starbucks to grab coffee and breakfast and then headed to meet Chad at a championship pee wee flag football game. We had friends on both teams and it was an exciting game - I think they went into double overtime! Pretty intense for 3rd graders.
After the football game, I headed over to Fleet Feet to pick up some gels (Toasted Marshmallow and Espresso Love GU...the best flavors) and then to downtown West Monroe to pick up my race packet. Once I got my packet, I headed home to eat lunch (leftover pizza) and start getting things prepped for the race. I also helped Chad tie about 100 balloons for a game at the Fall Festival that Foundry was hosting later that afternoon.
About 2pm I headed up to the church to help set up for the Fall Festival and get things ready for the cake walk. My role for the afternoon was cake walk DJ and I was pumped! It turned out to be a really fun event and the cake walk was a big hit. But when are cake walks NOT a big hit?! The only downside to the afternoon was that I was on my feet from 2-7pm. I picked up dinner from Subway on my way home and after eating took care of my final race prep. I went to sleep around 8:30 with 3 alarms set for 4:25am, 4:30am and 4:35am.
Sunday morning came early and I was up at 4:30am. My legs and feet were a little sore from the day before, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I ate a quick breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter, banana and coffee. I took Emma on a quick walk to stretch out the legs and then got everything ready to head over to Kiroli Park.
I left the house at 6:15am and arrived about 6:45am...cars were already lined up out of the park. The park is one way in, one way out and there is a fee to enter the park ($1 I think? A small price to pay to experience a beautiful place!).
Once I got into the park I found a parking spot, set a few things up in the back of my car and headed to the Port a Potty for one last bathroom break. The half marathon course was an out and back from Kiroli Park to Lazarre Park, and the full marathon was basically the same course, just run twice. I thought we would come back into Kiroli before heading out on our final 13 miles, so I wanted to have a few things at the ready in the back of my car in case I was able to swing by. But alas, the marathon course did not go back into Kiroli until the finish. But I did enjoy a few Pringles before the race started.
The race started and we were off. The course was essentially 6 miles out, 6 miles back and then 7 miles out and 7 miles back. This really helped mentally break up the run.
The weather was perfect. For the most part it was a cool and cloudy morning. At some points the sun came out and things really heated up, but overall the weather felt great. I felt like I ate a ton during the race: 4 gels, lots of water, several cups of water/gatorade mix, handfuls of gummy bears, 1 banana and several pretzels.
I loved the out and back nature of the course - it let you see almost all of the participants and also helped you become very familiar with where you were on the course. I had several friends who were pushing for Ainsley's Angels, a great organization that seeks to help everyone of all abilities experience endurance events. It was awesome seeing them out on the course and I'd love to push for them one day!
Pain and fatigue didn't really kick in until mile 24, which I felt was a good sign. My main goal was to practice being on my feet for close to five hours, and practice taking in a lot of calories. Check and check! I saw friends at an aid station at the final climb back into Kiroli Park (the only major hill in the course) and then powered it in for the last mile.
After crossing the finish line I staggered over to my car and ate some more Pringles.
I stopped at Sonic and picked up a cheeseburger, tator tots and a chocolate milkshake. The tator tots went down very easy, but I was only able to manage a few bites of the cheeseburger. I drank the milkshake over about four hours.
Chad officiated a wedding in Ruston on Sunday afternoon, so while he was gone I completely crashed. I took a shower, went to sleep for a few hours, got up, ate some soup and then went back to sleep about 7:30pm.
Monday morning I woke up at 5am and felt great with hardly any soreness at all. I was very pleased and surprised at this - its a great sign that my body has been absorbing all of this training.
Next up...Big Dog 50k!