Well, marathon #2 is in the books.
I would have liked to start this post off telling you I still can’t stop crying happy tears because I got that BQ, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. 4:15:40 is what you’ll find with my name if you go lurking through the Fargo Marathon results.
Pre-race I was pretty calm–especially for me. We ate dinner at Olive Garden, and I had the exact same thing I did before the St. Cloud half (plain spaghetti, breadsticks, and salad). Then I got to go see Alishia (and 6,199 other people) run the 5k. We didn’t spend much time at the expo and I was on my feet less than half an hour at the 5k, so don’t go gasping at me being an idiot (just yet.)
After the 5k Jeff and I headed back to our hotel. Alishia (she’s my best friend from high school) kindly offered to stay with me that night just so I had someone to talk to and whatnot–so after she got dinner with her family she came over. She’s a year from being done with PT school, and was able to do some fancy moves on my shoulder to make it feel TONS better (oh yeah, did I mention my shoulder was all jacked because I got rear-ended on my way home from work the night before? Yeah.)
I actually got a great night’s sleep, and popped right up when my alarm went off at 5:50. I quickly set to making coffee and toast (I brought my own coffeemaker and toaster…psycho) and getting ready. Everything felt good. My shoulder had loosened up, my stomach was great. I was ready to do this thing.
The forecast for race day had been all over the place in the past week, but the theme was some combination of hot, humid, windy, possibly rainy, and gross. It was drizzling when we left the hotel, but fortunately the start-finish at the Fargodome meant we got to stay inside until it was time to line up. I went to the bathroom like 4 times (do I have to pee? No? I think I better go get in line again then…) Jeff and I ran into Rob (of Dailymile fame), found Jenessa, then made our way to the front entrance until we couldn’t put it off any longer.
Once we got outside, it was cold. And it was raining a little harder. Alishia had kindly parked the car for us so I wasn’t sure if we’d see her again, but we did just as I was looking for my pacer. She hugged me and told me she was so proud of me. Thanks, friend. Just what you need to hear as you’re lining up : )
I found my pacer and listened to her rattle off how she was planning to run even splits, what to do at water stops (for the first-timers), blah blah blah. I was focused intently on my Garmin, which was refusing to find a signal. It finally did with less than a minute to spare, but boy did that give me a scare.
Once we were off, I did just exactly what Coach told me to. I kept the pacer within shouting distance, kept my head up, and just ran. I was in the middle/back of the 3:40 pack, and everything felt amazing. Oh, and in the first mile I saw a power line fall down and almost hit some runners. True story.
I heard my Garmin chirp at mile one and was surprised to see an 8:44. It actually didn’t throw me off though–I figured it was better to be 20 seconds slow than 20 seconds fast. I turned my music up and just ran through the rain, keeping the pacer close enough, but not too close.
Maybe the biggest mistake I made was not paying closer attention to my Garmin, but Coach said check her every few miles to make sure she’s on track, not keep your eyes on your Garmin constantly–so I didn’t.
And then we ran a couple 8:14s, a couple 8:18s, an 8:19–and soon my average pace was below goal pace. And I knew this couldn’t last. I let her go here, because I know my limits. I was still feeling fine, but I knew this pace wouldn’t feel fine at mile 22.
The next place I remember really thinking was at mile 10, where I checked my pace band and realized I was only 20 seconds off the pace after my slow-down to try and FIND my pace. I was in good spirits here–I truly would have been THRILLED with a 3:41 and I told myself so.
Something happened shortly after that. My feet had been feeling, well, uncomfortable up to this point, but they started to really hurt. I’ve never had tons of problems with blisters, but I could feel them forming on my feet. Every step was kind of painful. (THEORY! My shoes got soaked in the rain that lasted well through the first hour, plus I stepped in some puddles that I just wasn’t able to avoid. Might have been why my usually-trusty purple shoes FAILED me.)
Somewhere around here Jeff and the 3:50 group passed me. I could tell he was worried about me–he started blurting out encouraging things, patted me on the back, and told me I could run this pace in my sleep. (And I can! What the hell! Why couldn’t I run it Saturday?) I waved him off, gave him a smile and hoped he understood that meant I was ok. I wasn’t falling apart. Wasn’t crying. I just couldn’t find the gas pedal.
I hit the half in 1:55:03. Yeah, do the math. That second half? Embarrassing.
I still had my head in it, but nothing was working and I didn’t know why. I was following my nutrition plan (side note: I squirted my 2nd Hammer Gel all over my arm accidentally. Not wanting to lose calories, I licked it off. All of it. Can’t wait to see if the race photographers caught that) and my stomach was being good to me. My feet felt like they were on fire, but otherwise I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific that was wrong–I just couldn’t speed up.
I hit 20 3:06:49, which didn’t bum me out at all–I’m telling you guys, I was so tough mentally out there Saturday. I told myself this is about how long it took me to do 20-milers last fall, and back then, that was the fastest I could go. This was turning into an epic fail and I was at least still holding that pace. Keep running, I told myself. You’re still in this.
It was hard for me to figure out where I was on pace to finish because my average pace got so so so SO much slower. Around 15 was when I had to start playing games with myself. (“At 16 you get to take a gel! Just get to 16!”) For a brief moment around 15 I wondered if I should drop out, save my legs for the Minneapolis full in 2 weeks (I’m doing the half there–as a training run) and get it right there. But then I remembered I bought a finisher’s jacket at the expo, and DAMMIT, I was going to wear it.
My last 10k took about a thousand years. I had a friend/coworker who got married Saturday (the 22nd) and he said to think of him in mile 22. So that became my new bait. “Get to 22. You promised Brent you’d run it for him!” At 22 we turned into the ever-increasing wind and it hit me so hard I actually stumbled backwards a little bit. I laughed a little. (Because I think otherwise I might have been tempted to cry.)
At this point, all I had on my mind was to just keep running. No walking, I told myself. You don’t need to walk. I slowed down during a water stop somewhere in here to take Powerade–my stomach had started to knot up and the thought of swallowing more gel made me gag. It was getting hot. It was humid. I was freaking tired.
At 23 I thought I might be able to pick it up–just a little over a 5k left! But my legs didn’t seem to get the memo we were supposed to go faster. I don’t know what the hell happened, but I just couldn’t RUN. So I kept shuffling along, telling myself I would eventually get there.
The final turn into the dome is a slight downhill and I picked it up as much as I could heading in. I saw Alishia and her bright pick poster out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised to find myself with an ear-to-ear grin. I raised my hands over my head and had the BIGGEST smile on my face when I crossed that line. I didn’t expect to be so happy, but I’m glad I was.
I found Jeff pretty quickly and muttered something about it being the “biggest f*%king bonk ever” but that I didn’t care. I ran the whole way. All 26.2 miles. He PR’d by something like 17 minutes, and broke 4 hours! We went to get some chocolate milk and basically moaned for the next 20 minutes or so–I was thisclose to throwing up and my feet hurt so badly I could barely walk.
When Alishia found us (she had my phone) I was able to call my Coach and tell him the bad news. He’s a good guy though, and he wasn’t hard on me–in fact, I almost got the feeling he thought he was responsible. “I’ll fix this. Don’t worry about it,” he told me later. This was all me though. I could have let the pacer go sooner. Not sure what I could have done about my shoes. And I’m sure I still have lots of mental toughness to learn, but I gave it what I could.
I know a 4:15 is no big deal, and I should have been able to run 4:15 with my hands tied behind my back–but I don’t care. I ran the whole way. After what happened in Philly last fall, I’d never felt like a real marathoner because I had to walk SO MUCH that day. But today I can tell you I know what it feels like to RUN 26.2 miles. (It hurts! Ha!) It would have been so easy to say SCREW IT at mile 15 when I knew things were getting really ugly–but I didn’t. And that’s something.
You know what else isn’t SO bad about my crusty time? Last year at this time 6.2 miles was the farthest I had ever run. And this time would have been amazing to me in Philly. It’s nice to see that even my bonk has improved : )
Even though it was only 48 hours ago that I was ready to call it quits, I’m sitting here thinking about how I’ll get it right next time. More miles. More endurance. More toughness. The marathon is still my Everest–I haven’t gotten it quite right yet–but that’s alright for now. I know I’m capable of doing better, and that’s ultimately what gets me out on the road at 5 am. Knowing I can be better.