How I PR'd at my second marathon by seven minutes: Eau Claire Marathon recap

Thanks for Mike for coming along, biking along the course and being my photographer!

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I can now say that I’m a two-time marathoner (woot!) and I have a new marathon PR! In about six months, I was able to take seven minutes off my time from the Twin Cities Marathon and get a sub-5 hour finish at the Eau Claire Marathon.

But let’s back it up a little from the marathon finish, to just over a day before when we arrived in Eau Claire. Mike and I had dropped Vinnie off with Mike’s parents and driven in the day before. Before checking into our hotel, we stopped at the expo so I could pick up my bib. It was a pretty small expo so we weren’t there for long. I also grabbed a couple more GUs for the race and a bumper sticker for my car, plus had Mike take my picture in front of the #RUNEC sign.

After we checked into the hotel, we relaxed for a little bit before heading out to Chipotle for dinner and stopping at a CVS to grab some snacks for the night. The rest of the night was just relaxing (we watched an episode of Handmaid’s Tale) and eating chocolate. The pre-race ritual of champions for sure.

We went to bed early to make sure we got enough sleep and I got in an awesome night of sleep even though we were in a hotel. I had made sure to bring my pillows with to make sure I’d sleep better and it felt awesome. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. and started getting ready for the race. I had brought our French Press and coffee grounds, along with oatmeal, for my breakfast. I knew there was a fridge and microwave in our hotel room and I didn’t want to rely on the hotel for breakfast.

It was a short drive to the start but when we got there, the parking lot was full already. There were two other ones at the University of Wisconsin so Mike dropped me off so I could get to the start line and he biked back from the car (and biked most of the course too).

 My view as I walked up to the start

My view as I walked up to the start

Race start was really simple, no corrals since it was a small race so everyone just lined up according to pace. I started off with the 4:45 pacer and after the national anthem we were off!

 Eau Claire Marathon Start

Eau Claire Marathon Start

The race a mixture of full marathoners and marathon relay runners, which made it interesting every time we hit the spot where the runners traded off. Because the new relay runners would be on fresh legs and passing everyone running the full marathon and it was a little bit demotivating until I figured out how to tell if they were relay runners. If someone passed me with an ankle band, I knew they were a relay runner and it didn’t get me down as much. I ended up getting passed by just 12 people running the marathon and I passed 11 people!

 Thumbs up at 5K!

Thumbs up at 5K!

I stuck with the 4:45 pacer until just after the five mile mark where I felt really good and just continued along. That was a big mistake as I would find out later in the race. I went through a big mental struggle starting at around mile 19 and it would be been so helpful to be running with the pace group. I had been passed by the 4:45 pace group right around mile 19 and I started feeling the heat and sunshine.

 Mile 10

Mile 10

But before that 19 mile mark, I was feeling good. I kept it at a good pace even without the pace group but I was going a little bit too fast compared to where I should have been running for a 4:45 finish time (and faster than I would have gone with the pace group). It was a gorgeous course with a lot of nature to see and views along the river. That helped a lot with keeping me going even though it was getting near 70 and sunny with little shade.

 Mile 17

Mile 17

After I got passed by the 4:45 pace group, I started struggling mentally and my pace started dropping. I was even thinking if I was going to drop out of the race. Luckily, I had started reading Deena Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run which was all about how positive psychology had helped her reach success.

So I started working on changing my thoughts from “I’m so hot, I don’t think I can make it” to “My legs are strong, I’m still running. There’s a water stop up ahead and I’ll get some water there”. It took about a mile but I got my mind back on track to finishing the race. And that’s how I made it to the end, water stop by water stop. Drinking a glass of water and dumping another one over me to cool down.

I started doing mental math at around mile 20 and realized I could easily make it to the finish under the 5 hour mark if I kept up a 12 minute mile pace. So that became my focus for the last 6.2 miles. Half of those miles were over the 12 minute mark but the other ones made up the difference with being under.

 Mile 25

Mile 25

And at the end, there was an uphill section right before the 26th mile. Who puts an uphill right before the end of a marathon? I walked up that one but I speedwalked the hell out of that hill. When I finally glimpsed the finish line (with a short distance to go) I pulled out everything I had to sprint to the end.

 Racing towards the finish line!

Racing towards the finish line!

Finally seeing my watch where I stopped it at the end almost brought me to tears. 4:55:07. I had made it in under 5 hours and finished over seven minutes faster than the Twin Cities Marathon.

I got a bottle of water as soon as I crossed the finish line, even before I got my medal, which was the best thing ever. I chugged that as I got the medal and made my way out of the finishing chute. I didn’t even stop to get the free food, I just wanted to see Mike. Plus, we were getting donuts at a food truck there (they were key lime and amazing!).

Eau Claire Marathon Stats

Time: 4:55:05

Average Pace: 11:16 per mile

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Splits

4M: 42:42

10K: 1:05:36

13.1M: 2:20:19

20M: 3:38:46