I've been considering for a week now how to look back at this race. My first attempt at writing about the race earlier this week turned into a whiny rant that will never see the light of day. It felt good to get it out though. It's been expelled out into the digital emptiness of the unpublished blog posts never to be seen again. As you can guess I was disappointed with the results of the race. The thing is I don't want to concentrate on what went wrong when so much went well, so let's break it down into three categories.
Let's start at the beginning. The start of the race, as I captured above on my iPhone, was awesome. This year we were broken up into corrals based on previous marathon times that were submitted while signing up for the race. My 3:34 and change finish 2 years ago earned me a spot in the second corral. This made it really easy to get right up with the 3:30 pace group at the start. Two years ago I got stuck way in the back of the pack and wasted a ton of energy trying to catch that group. This year I was able to get with my group and enjoy the start of the race without weaving around all the walkers and slower paced runners that decided to go to the front. Sweet.
We were off to a beautiful start on a wonderfully cool and clear morning. Within the first few miles I started my new feeding strategy: eat and drink early and often. I didn't make any changes in what I was eating before and during the race. I was just going to eat more of it. Peanut butter on bagels and bananas before the race and Gu and a Clif Bar to nibble on throughout the race. This strategy had worked well during my long runs and on race day. Basically I snacked my way through the first 20 miles of the race. I wanted to battle my tendency to run out of fuel by the end of the race and the tendency to run into cramps. It seemed to work! By the end I wasn't wasted and ravenous and the cramps never appeared.
As I warmed up over the course of the first half of the marathon it became clear that it was going to be a good race. By mile 13 I was humming at a good pace and feeling really, really good. Everything was going exactly as planned, so it was time to lay back, keep my cool and not push the pace. It would be really easy for me to get excited and blow it all between miles 15 and 20. I set myself on cruise control, kept the 3:30 pace group in sight and enjoyed the morning. I decided to go no music, no head phones and just enjoy the morning and the crowd support. It was the best decision I made that morning.
It was at mile 21 that I had a breakthrough moment. It was just after mile 21 that I realized I had plenty of gas left to finish the race. I realized the dreaded cramps were not going to come. Everything I had planned was working, and my goal of a 3 hour and 30 minute marathon was within my grasp. I closed my eyes, smiled and let my legs carry me on at a steady, smooth pace.
It was at mile 22 that I had a breakdown moment. Just after the mile 22 marker my right knee suddenly throbbed with an intense pain that seemed to start from the outside of my knee and shoot across it. I was forced to slow to a walk. This was not good. This was not a muscle pain. This was some sort of ligament pain. Oh no. This wasn't good at all. Suddenly the 4.2 miles left were beginning to look like a very long way. I walked for a bit before attempting to run. It lasted about 100 yards until the pain grew to much to bear. Attempting to stretch only caused my other muscles to burst into cramps. Ugh.
My mind began to whirl as I realized the race was slipping through my fingers, and my plans were unwinding right before my eyes. I wondered if I did something wrong. Did I not stretch enough? Did I go out to fast? Was it that douche canoe that kicked the cone in front of me at mile 13 causing me to do the most awkward and painful hurdle I've ever done??? It was hard for me to accept the reality that 4 months of training 6 days a week had gotten me this far. Uuuuugh.
Was my mood after the race. I was in a foul state of mind as I hobbled, walked, jogged the last few miles to the finish line. I had a fake smile plastered on my face, which probably looked more like a grimace, as the wonderful crowd encouraged myself and the rest of the runners. I wanted to appreciate every word, but I was not feeling it. I didn't stick around after the race for any amount of time. All I could think was to get out of there asap.
In the week since the race I've had a lot of time to mull over how things went. The day after the race I came down with a flu that kept me in bed for a few days, so I really had time to mull over the race. It was like going through the stages of grief: shock & denial, pain & guilt, anger & bargaining, depression, anger, more depression. All that was on the first day. Things have turned around as time has passed. I'm happy with what was accomplished, and look forward to doing it again. Maybe soon.
Part of my recovery was getting out on Saturday to pace for part of a race and cheer on a friend and fellow runner. It felt good, and she was awesome. More on that later. Let's watch the beginning again. That was fun.