Day 112 of 112-Long Run-26.2 Miles #marathonday
Note to readers:
- This is a very LONG blog, akin to a self-therapy session. What would you expect? I’ve had a whole week to think about it!
- All the fun photos are at the end. Well, actually, all the photos are at the end.
“Our greatest glory is not in failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was pretty sure that last Sunday (June 17, 2012), the running of my fifth marathon, was going to be my best marathon. Not only was I going to set a PR of 4:15:00, but it was going to be the culminating event of a training that, for all intents and purposes, began last October with Christy Perros—a training that, alongside a new friendship, had flourished with transformative effects on my life. I had completed every training event, with the exception of less than 5 days, and completed them well—basically meeting or exceeding goals. Honestly, I just didn’t see (even with the heat that was planned and the hilliness of the course) how I couldn’t hit my goal. All I needed was to knock 12 minutes off of my last marathon time.
I wish I could say, “In the end, it was not meant to be,” but that wouldn’t be entirely true, because when you hit the wall at mile 12, after barely surviving miles 10 and 11, and you are contemplating dropping out of the race……well at that point it’s not “in the end” but rather “just shy of half-way in.”
I started this blog last Monday on a flight to San Francisco. At the time, I couldn’t imagine a worse fate after a day that didn’t end up as I had planned/expected/visualized for four months—getting on a plane for a 4 ½ hour flight less than 24 hours after a disappointing marathon finish. In hindsight, however, it was the best thing I could have done.
As each day went by, I was able to process the event, I believe, with greater clarity and objectivity. I received congratulatory words of support and triumph from my friends, coworkers, and family (in particular an incredibly generous and loving email from my father whom I had selfishly avoided speaking to the day before, on Father’s Day, because I just couldn’t get it together). I had a conversation with my company’s president on the plane about the accelerating effects of heat on lactic acid buildup in the capillaries and its effect on the heart and thus its effect on recovery, or rather its effect on the inability to recover. What I did not have was a lot of face time with Christy. Had I been in town and had we gotten together in person, I think I would have spent too much time trying to figure things out. As it was, before the race finished on Sunday, I knew what had gone wrong, we both did. But the subsequent days allowed us time on our own to lick our wounds, to continue to process, to allow things to sink in, to deal with the reality of the situation, and to move forward—her to the Chicago Marathon in October and me to the Detroit Marathon a few weeks later.
As I sit here now at 30,000 feet straddling the state lines of South Dakota and Nebraska on my way back from San Francisco, I am not nearly as excited about this next round of training. But maybe that’s a good thing. The training for the Ann Arbor Marathon pretty much consumed my life. Alongside my full-time job as a marketing manager, I had another .5 FTE with the training AND the blogging. I don’t feel as if I was obsessed with the training and blogging, but I was very focused. It was my priority, and I don’t think that’s bad, but I think it led me into the event with some blinders on because I was incredibly naïve about what the impacts of the heat (totally uncontrollable) and the course would be on my body. Ironically, it was during the marathon at around mile 21 that my husband confessed to me (he was out on the course with my aunt and uncle on bikes providing us with fluids and fuel) that he was sick to his stomach all week after biking the course the previous week having realized how hard he thought the course would be. Me? I didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t think it was going to be a problem. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of that from a good/bad perspective. I think it was partially good and partially bad. But good or bad doesn’t really matter now. All I can do is take what I learned from this marathon day and apply it towards others. And yes, there certainly will be others!
When I woke up on marathon Sunday I didn’t feel anxious at all. I was awake early ahead of everyone else, watched some tv, ate breakfast, got dressed, and headed out the door. It seemed just like a regular long training run. This was the first time that I had never felt anxious before a marathon. I thought at the time that it was a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. I wonder if I was too relaxed. I also think because the race was in Ann Arbor and it felt like a training run, the idea of quitting at mile 12 came too easy to me. From where I was when I quit, I could have walked home and been there in less than 2 miles. I don’t think I would have quit in New York or Detroit at that point, because what would I have done? In New York, I wouldn’t have caught up with family and friends until mile 17—if I saw them, which meant I would have had to get to Central Park to meet up with them, and that’s where the damn race finishes anyway, so I might as well keep running.
While I will complete my training for the Detroit marathon over the course of the next four months diligently, it will not be with the same unbridled enthusiasm of the past 112 days, and that’s a good thing, I think. I am in no way shape or form dreading it or not looking forward to it, but it will be different. It will be smarter. It will be more informed. It will be more realistic.
So what happened out there? Why this melancholy post? In short—2 mistakes, heat, and the course.
- We hooked up with the 4:10:00 pacing group and the pacer had us running a faster time than we expected. Mind you, it felt fine at the time. (Mistake #1). Our planned average pace to run with a 4:10 group was 9:33. The pacer was having us bank time, i.e., running faster now to have seconds/minutes to use later, but we were just not prepared for miles like 9:10 and 9:22.
- At 6.5 miles, we fell behind the pacing group when we stopped for fuel and food. Christy took off before me. I ran way too fast to catch up with her. We ran way too fast to then catch up with the group. (Mistake #2). I posted a mile in here at 8:47 and by the time we caught up to the group, we were pacing between 8:35 and 8:40.
- Around mile 8, we bid adieu to the pacer group.
- Despite slowing down, miles 10-12 were very, very difficult. I had gone ahead of Christy at some point in Gallup Park and without her next to me, all I could do was watch my pace times, which were getting longer, feel the sun beat down on my body, and see Geddes Road stretch out in front of me as if there was no end in sight. And so I decided it was over. With no hopes of obtaining my goal time, I thought about quitting. I didn’t see the need to get a PR that wasn’t what I was hoping for, and I honestly didn’t think it was possible anyway based on how I was feeling. Plus, I could not even fathom running another 14 miles by myself in such a state of complete and utter fatigue.
- Around 12, I stopped to get food and fuel with Doug and Lynne and announced it was over. I wouldn’t drop out, but the goal of 4:15 would have to be for a future marathon. I fueled and watered and reveled in the not running and waited for Christy. I would run with her.
- As I saw Christy approaching, she looks and feels like I did. I told her I was feeling terrible and had even thought about quitting but realized that was silly and that I would run with her, which she said would be a running and walking combination. She was getting ready to take off while I was still enjoying my down time, said something about mantras and “Shut the fuck up and run.” And we were off. Now to be 100% completely honest with you, I was, at this point looking forward to a fun rest of the run. I was looking forward to running with Christy and my good ole days of running and walking a marathon course. I didn’t envision it as being a struggle. I didn’t even consider it.
- THIS COURSE WAS THE HARDEST COURSE I HAVE EVER RUN IN MY LIFE!! And, I am not alone in this assessment. The sentiment was echoed by others we came across during the race and the next few days in the media. To think I was going to run IN THE HEAT and ON THOSE HILLS and not struggle was TOTALLY NAÏVE.
- I have never been so sore after running a marathon and/or while I was running a marathon—the top of my foot, my quads, crotch chaffing in six locations-3 on each leg (sorry, there’s just no delicate way to put it). I was astounded. I was in agony. I was defeated—emotionally and physically. And yet, when the 60+ year-old pacer for the 5:30 pacer group passed us as we headed down Main Street toward Stadium at approximately mile 22, I sort of chuckled to myself and said to Christy, “I’m sure one day we’ll look back on this moment and laugh.”
Finish time? 5:28:00, just “shy” of our 4:15:00 goal. At one point in the run I said to Christy, “Is it too early to start talking about Chicago?” So we talked. It helped take my mind off things. And I guess, in a way, aside from being finished, that was the best part of the run because I knew that things, that Christy and I, were moving forward. I am not running Chicago but I decided a while ago that if things didn’t work out in Ann Arbor I would pursue this elusive goal of 4:15:00 in Detroit in October.
As last Sunday wore on, the pain and fatigue set it, along with the realization that what I had planned for didn’t happen, and the melt down began—serious fits of sobbing from about 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. when I crashed in bed. My poor husband—a hostage in his own home. Even I didn’t know what to do with me.
So here I am now, six-days post marathon with the sobbing long gone, the tears welling up in my eyes with considerable less frequency, and plans to begin training for my second marathon of 2012 just two days from now (I’ve never run two marathons in one year, let alone in consecutive years so this is something new and good! See, I’m looking on the bright side already.). It will be cooler, it will be flatter over all, and I will go into it armed with the knowledge that changing your game-day strategy the day before the big game really isn’t a good idea.
Thanks for tuning in, friends, and for going along for the ride. Thanks for your Facebook “likes” and your words of support and encouragement.
I don’t know exactly how I will respond to the next 126 days of training as a 5-time marathon runner and as a person. I learned a lot about myself over the past 112 days. I hope you’ve maybe learned something about running, training for a marathon, cross training, or maybe yourself. Most of all, I hope you’ve laughed.
Tune in sometime next week to learn how things are going for me on the track, in the pool, on the road, on the spinning bike, in my head, and in my heart—but not necessarily in that order.
Carry on, friends. Carry on.
P.S. The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote arrived in my email last Sunday, marathon day, from Runner’s World as their quote of the day. I kid you not. And you know what? I think that’s a good sign.