I won't keep harping on the marathon (okay, I will a little), but with this blog post I'll hope to come to some sort of closure and tell the tale from Sunday...
I woke up at 5:00am and began to make some coffee. Then I took a shower and ate some oatmeal. Emily and I were wheels up at 6:15am and en route to the starting line, all while drinking water and sipping Gatorade. She dropped around 6:30am (7:50am race start) and I proceeded to relax, drink Gatorade/water in the VIP area. I was quite hydrated, having gone to the bathroom 4-5 times that morning, but I wanted to keep my mouth wet based on some advice from Joe Navas and to combat the dry conditions that correlate with Phoenix in the winter.
I ran some high knees and butt kicks in an ally then made my way to the starting line. I met up with Breezy and Bain and we exchanged pleasantries before the sound of the horn. I started out slow and found myself in 15th place before the half mile mark. I slowly picked it up until I was running 5:55s. By mile one I was in 5th.
There were two guys way ahead (running low 2:20 pace) and another two guys just ahead of me. The two guys just ahead of me were running the same pace as me, but had gone out about 20-30 faster over the course of the first 3 miles. At this time, I told myself that I would win the race. It was always a goal of mine, but in all honesty, winning was more about who showed up, than about race tactics I might implement. Still, I figured the two guys at the front had gone out too fast. The other two guys, just ahead of me (including the eventual race winner) were SLOWLY coming back.
The race stayed this way for miles and miles. Like a fighter pilot, I kept checking all my systems during this long warm-up. Everthing felt fine - check, check, check. I spit out flem, shot out some snot-rockets and coughed until my system was clear of "debris". Since mile one, I had been dealing with a minor side stitch. We've all had them - no big deal, and better now than later - and I shrugged it off as such. I still drank water/Gatorade, but just a gulp or so every other stop. The weather was 45-50 degrees and I made the decision to not upset my stomach/stitch by drinking water I figured I did not need.
By mile 4 I was running just north of goal pace. I told myself to stay here; it was still early and if I could get through 20 running 5:39-5:44s, then I'd be well on my way. Hold the line. My splits in the post below indicate I did just that.
At mile 6 I ditched my lucky white Nike hat. A companion for over three years, she'd sat on my red head during many a' race, but with sunglasses, I simply didn't need it anymore and dropped it, very neat-like, on the top of a traffic cone. Part of me wept...
At mile 8 I ate a couple of beans and had another slug of water (3rd or 4th hydration stop).
Runner #4 bee-lined it to a port-a-john somewhere between mile 8 and 12 and now, all of a sudden, I was in 4th. Spectators congratulated me on my stride and pace and told me I was catching the guys ahead of me (what I really think they meant is that I looked strong..and maybe smoother than the other guys).
I hit 13 and realized I was a tad slower than goal pace. I glanced down at my watch just before 13.1 and the GPS indicated I was running a 5:12. Not yet! I scaled things back and continued to maintain my per-determined pace.
Shortly after that, my quads began to get super heavy. I didn't think much of it at first, but soon it became apparent that this would be a huge problem, considering I still had 11 miles to run. They became increasingly heavy after each subsequent minute. I tried to not think about it, but it soon became overpowering. After mile 16, the course slopes downhill (after running uphill for 3 miles) and that slight (and I'm talking very slight) pitch of pavement really shot up my quads. I was accustomed to feeling this type of pain, but usually it was in the hours after completing a marathon, sometimes after mile 20, but certain not 2/3rds of the way through the race. My pace began to slow. With mile marker 19 just out of view, I stopped down and began to walk. Most spectators stopped cheering, but occassionally someone would yell "you're doing great". I was doing great. I squeezed my thighs with my fingers hoping to work out the kinks. I then started to run again, but it was all for naught. Again, I tried to work out the kinks, but my thighs felt like two giant hams. I didn't want to believe it. I had been training for this race since September. My eyes began to tear behind the shades of my sunglasses and my fists clenched in angry balls. Other spectators encouraged me on, but all I could do was stare back with wet eyes. Then it seems as if a great big hush came over the crowd as I silently limped down the middle of the road. How did this happen? I had successfully (miracuously!) beaten the tendonitis back and had felt no pain. My stomach was great. I hadn't needed to stop and take a leak in the middle of the race - all of which were fears of mine prior to the race. I had gone out slow and was now I was picking it up... still I failed. Still, the marathon got the best of me. Secretly, as I noted above, I had designs on winning the race; winning it for me and winning it in Lauren's memory. I dreamed of this.
The runner who had taken a bathroom break then ran past me. We looked as each other - our eyes in pain - but we said nothing. I cheered on Bain (who would go on to get 3rd!) and then Breezy (who ran a PR!). In fact, I tried to run it in with Breezy, but again, I could not move. All I could do was walk.
After two failed attempts, I commandeered a car, which, eventually brought me to the finish line well over an hour after I'd quit. I was finally done.
The runner just ahead of me, who I had been chasing since mile 1, ended up winning the race. The two guys who were way up front, succumbed to their own marathonitis and eventually fell back. The patient men prevailed that Sunday.
I played the patient card, or so I thought. In the end, I can't remember ever feeling so frustrated after a race.
WHAT I LEARNED AND NEXT STEPS
A lot of people have remarked something to the effect of: "hopefully you learned something from the experience." To be honest, I don't know what I would have done differently, which, I think, means I haven't learned a thing. Perhaps I would have forced myself to drink more water early on? That would have kept my side stitch alive and might have led to stomach cramps, but maybe the fluids would have prevented the quads from seizing up? Maybe I should have run a hard 12 miles on the roads sometime in the weeks before the marathon to get my quad muscles ready for this type of abuse? Maybe the marathon just isn't my thing? It's an incredibly boring race early on; the entire time I was out there I kept telling myself "just x more miles" or "just x more minutes until you can start to really race" and other things. Maybe I'm not suited for such an endurance race, despite how much I enjoy training for it. Perhaps I take a week to recover then double down and go after it again next month? Tallahassee? Austin? I might never be in this type of shape again and, as others have noted, I can chalk this up as "just" a hard 18 mile training run. Or maybe it's better to stand down and simply use this fitness later this spring? I have a few days to ponder all of this...in the meantime I still can't walk without pain or without limping, especially going down the stairs. How pathetic. How frustrating. How real. How come?