I’m reluctant to put proverbial words to paper on this one because I’m really still not sure how I feel about this race and where I go from here. But it’s time. So here we go.
I did all the right things. I ate reasonably on Thanksgiving (for Thanksgiving, that is, though I did have a LOT of bread). I ate plenty of good food on Friday instead of one big meal real late like last time – see below my second meal of the day (and probably a meal’s worth of snacks extra), not the first. I wore various pairs of running shoes all week even though it was PERFECT weather for cute shoes and boots. My legs were coming around to where m-pace felt like holding back. Packet pickup on Friday was a breeze and meant I stayed out of the expo. Hell, I got 12 hours of sleep the night before the night before. Nothing but love here for process.
The only thing was my head was hardly in it. Usually when Zliten and I are about to race, we’re excited and nervous and chatter about the day. Well, he wasn’t all about that, so I tried to put it out of my mind and just pretend I was on vacation. That sucked for two reasons: a) no real race day enthusiam b) until about 9pm when I laid down to sleep and was bombarded by OMG ALL THE THOUGHTS about the next day. Which netted me mayyyyybe 3 hours real sleep total.
I also skipped my shakeout run for swimming in the hotel pool. Now, the shakeout run last year was the beginning of the end for me, which is probably why I ditched it. I don’t always shake out the day before, and I don’t think it affected me, but probably worth noting.
The morning of, I really just wanted to get this over with so I could get on with being on vacation. I wasn’t exactly the epitome of a pumped up jam. I did some of the normal things (purple stuff, kind bar) but not others (skipped coconut water which I think was a huge mistake, could not poo for the life of me). We got there, parked, I porta pottied (nada), took some pre race pics, sat with Joel until about 20 mins before the race started and all of a sudden needed to use the portas again (yay!).
Another reason for not-looking-forward-to-it: the forecast kept getting warmer and warmer and while mid 70s, sunny, and humid doesn’t sound like the end of the world it is certainly not optimal marathon weather, especially for us not-trying-to-qualify-for-Boston folk who are out closer to noon. To be clear, I started the race in a tank and shorts and I was completely comfortable before I started running. Bleh.
I got in with the thick of people, found a spot between the 4:45 pacer and the 5 hour peeps (no 4:50 pacer), and we had our countdown and then it was time for launch!
Start – 6.5
I held back here. My goal was to run 11 minute miles and I constantly had to pull on my own reigns to do it, but I hit the turn around at 10:58 average feeling great. I took in a gel around 1 hour and was enjoying the day so far. Around mile 5 I actually started to really get into this thing and had hopes it might be a great day after all!
Goal was to speed up to about 10:50s average by the half. I felt great until about mile 8-9 and was tempted to fix that average in the first mile after the turnaround, but I tried to be patient. Then, the first low got me – some of these miles go up a bit and the crappy sleep I got the night before started to show because I got hit with the tireds wayyy too early. Not a good sign.
Also, my sock kept twisting up, and I had to pull over a few times to fix it, and it never really felt right. I’ve ran with these socks MANY times and they’ve never done this before (grrr). I took another gel early -I figured crankiness = need more caffeine and sugar. Finished 20 oz full strength gatorade at 12 and ditched my handheld. I hit the half point at 10:55 pace and feeling decent, a little worried about my toe, but not exploding like last year.
When you’re doing the robot 15 minutes before the race, probably time to get serious…
13, 14, 15 were decent, I couldn’t speed up like I wanted, but I was holding steady (another gel around 14-15), and then at 16 I just… walked. It very much came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t fight it. I don’t understand how I have these strong 18-20 mile training runs and then fold at marathons wayyy before that, but it just happens. Something to fix.
I think it was partly my surroundings. A lot of people around me on the marathon course were walking. The half course was coming right at us and most people were walking since it was the 3+ hour folks coming into the finish (they race the second half of the marathon and they start 30 mins before us). I didn’t realize it until post-race unraveling, but it was REALLY demoralizing that day, and I need to be ready for that if I do this race again.
I walked, fixed my sock again, and then ran until an aid station and then walked and ran a bit and walked and stretched and played with my sock a few more times. I didn’t understand at that point how hot I was, but I was fading and starting to give up. Not good.
Around 18, the five hour Galloway (run/walk) pacer passed me and it woke me up. I was not willing to concede missing sub-5 hours and my thought was “hang on to that dude for dear life”. Now, you may giggle at the run walkers like I used to, but that pace is no joke, especially 18 miles into a hot marathon. When they called run, it was about 1 minute per mile faster than my goal m-pace. When they called walk, it was 14-15 min powerwalk pace, which was CHALLENGING with my current muscular condition.
Both running and walking hurt a lot, but in different ways, so at least it was changing pain which was better than same pain right then. Sometimes I had to run for two of their segments to keep up but I was not going to let that jerk (reality: awesome marathon angel) out of my sight.
I held with the group until about 22, I even passed them at one point but they reeled me back in. I had convinced myself he was WAYYY ahead of pace according to my watch (which lost data for a while and I had still set to autopause even though I swore I’d fix that after last year) and I’d catch him later. My plan was to gel around 3:45, but I finally got my fourth down right after 22.
Mile 23 and 24 were more low points. Whereas last year I rocked the last 10k, I didn’t get that same boost at 20, it was a major fight. I had the worst leg cramps ever and I had to continue to pull over to stretch them to the point where I had people ask me if I was ok.
However, the pixie dust didn’t completely evade me. When I hit 24.5 things fell back into place and I finally got that third wind. My last two miles were the fastest. The second to last mile was in the 10:20s and the last 1.2 averaged in the 9s. How? I’m not sure. Marathon magic.
I crossed the line probably looking like a crazy third grader on field day but feeling like an Olympic sprinter (EDIT: the video actually shows me chugging along fairly nicely but definitely hid the EFFORT that was going on there).
I got my medal and towel and cold washcloth, chugged 4 waters, and found Joel volunteering at the pizza tent. He got me a chair, a fresh slice of cheese, and gave me his ice pack and all I could say for about 15 minutes was “I’m so hot. That was so hard. So hot. So hard.” I limped to the beer tent and got one and sat down and maybe added a few words to my current vocabulary but I don’t think I made coherent sentences for almost an hour.
My garmin said 4:54, but somehow there was 6 extra minutes of farting around because I came in just over 5 hours official time. It was a PR (by 1:37), but I was just CRUSHED initially. I mean, it’s hard to bitch about a PR in wayyyy harder conditions but OMG, 58 seconds. Come on. If I could have known, I had to have been able to find that somewhere, right?
After 8 days of reflection, I have found some other things to be proud of.
1. Any day you can cover 26.2 miles and walk your ass into a grocery store after and order sandwiches less than an hour after you cross the tape is a good day.
2. While my third wind came so dang late, who can knock mile 25 and 26 being the fastest of the day?
3. I had heat, salt, and (really mild) dizziness issues for the next few days. I did not hold back here. While I might have had a few more minutes in me, I didn’t have all that much more than I gave. That. heat.
4. I placed 89/232 in my age group (38%). Damn near top third. Solidly in the top half. My goal time of 4:40 would have gotten me top quarter. It was a HARD DAY, y’all.
HR AVG: 162, which is probably pretty spot on for a marathon target. Zone 3.
That day, we spent between the balcony overlooking the ocean, in the pool, and laying in bed. Being directly in the sun was not good for me – I faded until I got into the AC, so the heat was definitely a factor.
The next week – I spent probably half a normal training week in the ocean on vacation so lots of active recovery. Along with a lot of good food, booze, and passive (lounging on deck chairs reading) recovery, I feel pretty darn stellar after just over a week. Water, especially salt water, is magic for marathon recovery.
What’s next? Well, I’m signed up for another marathon Feb 28th. I’m putting a lot of thought about how hard I want to train and race that one (or potentially drop to the half). I’ve decided I’m going to do a lot of whatever feels good this month, with a goal of maintaining some running base, and see where the chips lie at the beginning of January.