Better late than never, yeah?
I originally delayed this post because I just didn’t really want to think about the race at all. When people asked how it went, I just kind of ignored the question. “Fine, I guess…” But I’ve gotten over the initial sting and I’m laying it out now.
I guess I should really start with training for the race, or lack there of. After the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in May, I promptly was dealt the most excruciating, and apparently, long-lasting bout of ITBS for the entire summer. I ran a half in June that was riddled with pain. I took A LOT of time off. I went to physical therapy. I ran another half in August (my first run over a few miles since the one in June), and it went surprisingly well. PT paid off.
With the ability to run longer than a few miles without fearing for the crazy pain that would come during and after, I started to realize I kind of had a marathon coming up that I was supposed to be training for. I was still really, really nervous about running. I was afraid that any little tweak would set something off again. I cautiously approached Dumbo Double Dare (10k + half marathon) weekend at Disney and felt okay at the end of the weekend. Lakefront was a month away.
The next Monday at work I had the ridiculous urge to run an actual long run. I left work early and set off for the gym (treadmill for the win). My thought process/intended distance was to run at least 18 miles. I wouldn’t recommend this to a friend. I know you’re supposed to build your mileage back up and I’m very lucky I didn’t manage to re-injure myself, but there it is. I ran just over 19 and felt good. The next week I ran 15 and a half after doing leg day in the gym for the first time since spring (file under: other things I wouldn’t recommend to a friend, ow), and that weekend I paced the 2:15 group at a local half marathon. The next weekend was Lakefront. I had done what I could.
Luckily, the day & night before the race was spent cheering on one of my favorite people eva, Sara, at the North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon, and then proceeding to eat away our pain at Comet Cafe. So my mind was occupied and I didn’t really have time to stress about the impending race, which was nice. After we ate I went home and started packing up for the next morning.
Everything I had on my person:
The North Face Better Than Naked running hat
Oiselle Flyte tank top
Moving Comfort Rebound Racer sports bra
Skirt Sports Redemption Fitness Shorts (my favorite. pockets. I wear them like… more than you should without washing them in between)
CEP Compression Sleeves
Mizuno Wave Rider 18s
Garmin Forerunner 920xt
iPod shuffle or nano or something old that I was given so I don’t know what it’s called
Nathan water bottle & holder (they apparently don’t make it anymore, and I can’t remember what it was called)
Tailwind Naked flavor (3 scoops in the bottle)
1 pack of strawberry Clif ShotBloks
Nutrition is always a main area of contention for me. In that, nothing works. When I run long runs I usually don’t use anything or bring anything with me or I’m on a treadmill and am just generally unconcerned with anything major happening that I can’t just stop running and walk the quarter mile home. This is all fine and dandy and works for me, except that during marathon distance race situations (I don’t bring anything for half marathon races, so…) I feel like I obviously need fuel. I had used ShotBloks in the past, and they worked okay, but at Green Bay I got so sick of the overly fake and sweet taste of them (I rarely eat fakey processed foods, so it always is that much worse tasting for me) that I didn’t really want to use them again. But, I hadn’t used anything else and knew that even if I hated the taste they would ostensibly work out for me, so that’s what I brought. I used Tailwind in my bottle because I figured the naked flavor would help negate the disgusting taste issues I have with everything else. Turns out, I was wrong (more on that later).
So, I woke up around 5ish the morning of the race and started getting dressed/ready. I don’t eat breakfast before races either (again, I wouldn’t recommend this a friend, but it’s what works for me so don’t yell at me because I won’t listen), but I did take a Red Ace shot of beet juice (because I’m seriously obsessed with beet juice. I can’t stop). I live about 20-25 minutes away from the start of the race (it’s point-to-point, and ends a few miles south of my apartment, so I was all good on the return trip), so I acquired my ride and was on my way. I still wasn’t really thinking much about having to, you know, actually run a marathon. I got there early, as I tend to do (I have a very serious fear of being late to the start of a race), so we just walked around/waited to go to the bathroom. Around 7ish (the start was at 7:30), they announced that we should start lining up.
I should mention, this is a very small race. It’s usually capped at 2500 runners (I’m pretty sure?), but this year, for the 35th anniversary, they capped at 3500 instead. There are no corrals, but there are pace groups and signs off to the side of the start denoting the estimated finish times for that area of the start. I really, really wanted a sub-4 finish, even though I hadn’t really trained for that I felt (and still feel) very capable of that. I lined up near the 4:10 pace group thinking that that would help me not go out too fast.
I like numbers. When it comes to running, I’m a statistic fiend. Which is ironic, because I’m really (REALLY) bad at math. Like, I have to count on my fingers. I wish I were kidding. But anyways, I had analyzed and compared previous marathons and plotted pace for the entire race to negative split. I knew exactly where I wanted to be at the half. Even though I tend to do better during races if I don’t overthink it while I’m running, I couldn’t help myself.
So I put in my headphones and started my music a little before the race started to try and get out of my head and at 7:30 sharp we took off. I just ran according to feel, but I felt GOOD. The first few miles clicked by like nothing. I like to split up marathons in thirds in my head (9-9-8.2), and the first third was over before I knew it. I took a ShotBlok around mile 7, but I had to choke it down, so those were out of the question for the remainder of the race. But still, I was running relatively on pace, and was just ahead of the 4:10 group for most part. I felt like my iPod was playing the best possible songs on shuffle and things were going swimmingly.
Just before the half, I really started to hate the taste (naked flavor! how could this STILL have a taste?!) of my drink, so I planned on pouring more water on top of it at the halfway aid station to dilute it and hopefully make it more palatable. I clicked through the half at literally the exact pace I had planned on and was feeling great. I stopped quick to put the aforementioned water in the aforementioned bottle and carried on.
As the 14th mile clicked over on my watch (I only look at pace as it clicks over at each mile marker. I’ve learned early on to NEVER look at it otherwise. In my case, it’s always a recipe for disaster, no matter what race distance), I was disappointed that it was a little slower than I was going for. I figured, no matter, I stopped for the water and that’s probably why. I can make that up easily. But as I went into the 15th mile, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t get my legs to turnover AT ALL. They felt like bricks, and my pace fell even more. I can only hypothesize that this was due to my lack of caloric intake, but I could not force myself to eat anything. I barely wanted to drink my (highly diluted) Tailwind at this point even.
The next few miles went by in just a hellish slog. It wasn’t that I was in any sort of specific pain, I just felt so lethargic. It felt like my playlist had exhausted all the best songs in that first half. Around mile 18, I started throwing up occasionally. I diluted my water even more.
As my pace dropped and dropped, I started to consider that clearly my A goal (sub-4) was probably out of the question. I was waging a mental war with myself, while my body waged a physical war with itself (at this point, my left glute had stopped firing, making my stride all weird and off). I was mad at myself for even THINKING about not being able to hit the A goal, but also I guess I was trying to be realistic? Either way, myself was mad at myself.
Once I was around the 20 mile mark, I was already calculating how long it would take me to run the last 10k. I really wanted to will myself to pick up the pace here. It literally runs along my typical running route which I love and thought would help here. Last year at this point in the race I was picking up speed significantly and I was hoping some of that old juju was still floating around, and it would hit me and I would feel better and faster and it would stop hurting so damn much. No such luck. With each successive mile closer to the finish, I tried to push myself to go just a little bit faster, but I just couldn’t do it. Those last miles certainly weren’t the hardest I’ve run, but they sure as hell were not fun either.
When you get to the Lakefront park, spectators start lining the sides of the course (aka park path) to cheer you on. I just really wanted nothing to do with any of it anymore. I didn’t want all these people to see me struggle. I tried to push myself even harder so I just be done with the whole ordeal, and even with like .15 miles left to go I just could. not. do it. I was so frustrated, but finally it was over.
My official (and Garmin time, so weird) time was 4:09:00. Exactly 10 minutes shy of my A goal. My B goal, however, was to get a PR, and I made that by 2 minutes and 54 seconds. Bittersweet. (The C goal, is always, always to finish.) I think what is more frustrating than my finish time, is that I had such a terrible time in the second half. I REALLY love running, but I really, really hated it for a little over 2 hours, and that makes me sad. At the same time, I realize that having such a terrible experience helps me appreciate the good races even more. No one in their right mind should think a marathon will be easy, no matter how many you’ve run. And I think that’s the reminder I’m taking with me to the next race. Until next year, Lakefront.