Race Report: Blue Ox Marathon 2023

Where will you be in 10 years? Had you asked me at the 2013 Blue Ox Marathon, my first time at this race, I never would have guessed I would be here now. There are so many amazing blessings in my life that I never could have dreamt up and also trials that I would never have anticipated. 

I originally wrote this post like a week ago and it was much longer. Like super long, too much and I don't have the emotional capacity to share anything besides mile stats and race deets at this point. Running is so simple in that way - like numbers are a weird source of comfort.

In a nutshell, we keep on keepin' on, trusting God in all things.

The structure of marathon training is very enjoyable - predictable, exact, a box to check. It is a time juggle but it's about the only thing in my life that is a box that I can check off! Most everything else is fairly repetitive, ongoing and requires way more emotional energy :) So marathoning is hard but also so simple. 

That must be what keeps me coming back for more.

I was originally signed up to run CIM again this year in December but decided to stay closer to home with mom going through this battle with cancer. That made for a short 11-week Blue Ox training cycle and, boy, did it fly by! Peak week was 70 miles and it was just a very enjoyable training cycle overall. 

For the first time ever, Leo was able to come to this race (it is smack dab in the middle of sugar beet season) and the four boys were there as well, of course. He had one full day off regular work and then lifter driving, so we made the most of a mini family vacation! Pool time, hotel fun, run a marathon "quick" and then off to the Science Center we went. It was a short but great trip together.

Race morning starts pretty late, which I appreciate as we usually are driving 2 hours to get there. On this particular morning, I just woke up at a normal time, attempted to eat quietly in our hotel room and headed out to warm up. 

The weather was a tad chilly but idea for Fall racing weather. 

I lined up by a 3-hour pacer that I was surprised to find! This was the first year I have seen a 3-hour at Blue Ox. His girlfriend was also shooting for sub-3, so I thought we could stick together and keep company for part of the race. For this race, I carried two small water bottles with me, one in the back waistband of my shorts and the other in the back pocket of my sports bra. This is something I had practiced in training and it went really well, allowing me to take gels when I needed them rather than waiting for training loops or for race day aid stations. 

Carrying those water bottles ended up being a HUGE help at Blue Ox. This is a smaller race and aid stations are limited. I used them mainly for a swig of sports drink but was otherwise well fueled with just my carry-ons. Aside from having one guy runner within eye shot for a while and the lead biker with me, I was alone for the first half of the race. 

Fueling went as follows (as I had shared on IG): 

6:30 - Half bagel + PB, banana & 12 oz of nun
Honey Stinger waffle a bit later
45 min prior to start - Clif Mocha caffeinated gel, since I didn’t drink a morning coffee as usual

8:30 - Gels approximately every 30 min, non-caffeinated Clif vanilla except the 1:30 gel was mocha caffeinated. I took about 4 gels down (with water) during the race and then a sip of gatorade at a couple aid stations.

Pacing went well! Not exactly to the plan that Coach Pooley at the Dakota Distance Project laid out but I felt like my effort was as good as it could be. I faded in the mile 17 hill start as we ran through the State Park. My legs were feeling some fatigue at that point and I was hoping they would hold up. The hills hadn't even started rolling yet! By now the biker and I were catching up to some half marathoners and lake-loopers, which provided some distraction and excitement! 

The goal was to run by feel for the rolling hills from mile 20 and on - easy up the hills, push it on the way down. Though pacing had gone really well through the beginning of the race, I knew I was falling off the pacing during these hills. Two miles hit the 7's but I did feel a slight boost once we got off the hills and had hit the homestretch. 

I reallllly wanted that sub-3 and kept pushing in case there was still a chance! Some of the tight turns made me a little worried, that my jelly-like hill legs would give out or something, but besides that I felt relatively strong. I do think much of that is because of the 20-milers in this training cycle! One went pretty terrible and felt harder (fueling/dehydration probs) than a race itself. Then the other was a solid effort... both building mental strength for race day.
2:57:06! A PR by 11 seconds and an effort that I felt proud of. It was even more rewarding to have Leo and the kids at the finish line, along with my sweet friend Amanda and her family as well!

In all things, to God be the glory! This has been such a hard year yet blessings and positive memories have been sprinkled throughout. As far as running goes, I'm glad to take a break from structured training for a while and then continue to push the envelope in 2024 with the DDP.

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