Ilona joined us for our full marathon training program this past Spring, and a month ago, completed the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Ilona and Fleet Feet go way back to when she first joined our No Boundaries 5k training program three years ago. Prior to that, she just didn't run. I asked Ilona to share some thoughts on her Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon experience with you all. Read below for pancakes, blisters, cat photos, and group motivation!
I have been training with Fleet Feet Seattle for the past 3 years now and have participated in the 5k No Boundaries program and several Half Marathon & Full programs. Before I started in the 5k program, I had never run. Silly in hindsight, since I’m from the Netherlands where everything is nice and flat!
Last year I ran my first full marathon – the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll in 2013. Finished that one in 4:12 and a bit. Trained just about enough for this race (I had a lot of time to train – no work permit – long story), but I missed a lot of miles (lazy bum) and had to deal with blister mania.
I signed up for the full marathon program because I wanted to keep my mileage up. I knew I would have running buddies for the long runs, I thought I had my socks and shoes figured out – to prevent blister hell and wanted to see if I could run a marathon again. I also thought I would have a lot of time to train during weekdays.
Well, my life kinda changed. I got my green card in March and had a job in April. After not having worked for a couple of years, I was trying to fit this work-thing into my life. I trained with the Fleet Feet-ers on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the weekday runs took a backseat. Needless to say I got a little worried about this marathon. My mind was going back and forth between doing the half or the full – lots of self-doubt. It got worse after my 20 mile run when I ended up with a bunch of blisters. Ok. I started whining.
My running buds – especially Dave, thought I should just (SHUT UP and) go for it. And that’s what I did. Just decide on race day. The week before June 21, race day, my colleague at work started to ramp up the adrenaline, by giving me a daily countdown: “It’s almost there, are you nervous yet?". Umpf. Yes, I was nervous and probably a bit in denial. Coach Jaime had told us how she used to be in denial before a race, but that a good prep actually is key to getting a grip on your nerves. That’s what I tried to do, and I kept to my regimen.
On race day, I didn’t think too much about the 26.2 miles ahead of me. Luckily, getting to the start was stress free, thanks to my ride, Iris Munkh’s parking help, the Fleet Feet meet up before the race, the VIP potty stickers and a laugh before heading to the start. I really like having this “ritual” of meeting up as a group before a big race.
Of course there was a challenge to get a PR, thanks to Dave. If you’ve seen us run, you know we’re a bit competitive. :) All I had to do was beat Dave’s PR to get pancakes, which meant I had to run a 4:10 marathon but in his words: “you’ll likely do a 3:52”. It’s on Facebook somewhere with a bunch of other Pancake PR challenges (Pancake Races). So this marathon turned into a pancake race. I even specified what kind of pancakes I wanted – the ones with Bourbon syrup. Add in the Oatmeal comic about running marathons and this funny cat picture Spartan Master Rich posted on Facebook the night before the race to help us relax – and I was good to go. Pancakes!
I started out with the 4:10 pace group, but passed them pretty soon. I was happy to see Emily, Heidi and Rufus at mile 4 and I felt fine. I didn’t see a familiar face until we did the switchbacks on Lake Washington Boulevard and again on the I-90 bridge – Jane, William, Lisa and Laura! Loved it. Once I got on I-90 I was able to stay with the 4 hour pace group, and it was nice to run in a pack on the bridge. I started thinking, ok, I’m with the 4 hour group, aka I’m getting my pancakes. PR accomplished. By the time we entered the I-90 tunnel towards the city center I was still feeling good and left the 4 hour group behind – thinking they would catch up with me (and WTF I’m still running sub 9min miles)! To my surprise that never happened. I finished in 3:52:48. Exactly the time Dave predicted. Nuts!
Overall it was a beautiful day, the mountain was out, Seward Park was gorgeous, I got emotional seeing all the soldiers pictures (granted it doesn’t take that much to get emotional during a marathon), I walked through and had a drink at every aid station and surprised myself by finishing sub 4h! A voice in my head is now saying ‘pssst ….that’s “only” 12 minutes from your Boston qualifying time’. Oh dear.
A special thanks goes to my adopted mentor “sexy beast” Ian, to Dave for being part of our two person “in-between” group and of course to Fleet Feet Seattle for the training program and awesome coaches!