So I’m only a month late on this, but I can’t not do a post on the marathon. I got into town later the night before than I had hoped to, and barely made it to the pasta dinner with the group (thankfully my friend had thought to reserve a seat and order for me before I arrived). I didn’t get to bed until far too late, and then didn’t sleep well on top of that (it’s always hard for me to sleep well the night before a big race…a combination of being in a hotel room, the anticipation, and worrying that I might not wake up to the early alarm). I woke up nonetheless, at quarter to four, ate a banana and a Clif Bar, laced up my shoes, and met my group at 4:40 by the hotel entrance. The Marriott we were staying at was close enough to walk to the buses, which would take us to the start. These marathons that start way up a canyon seem like so much more than 26.2 miles on the way up in the buses. Every several minutes the thought comes to mind, how are we still not there yet?
The ANTICIPATION is the worst part of a marathon, for me.
Our bus actually got lost on the way up, which was particularly funny considering it was leading several other buses, but after some tight maneuvering it was able to get turned around, and we still made it to the start about an hour and a half before the race was to begin. So what to do for an hour and a half in the freezing cold while waiting to run a marathon? Huddle around fire pits, of course. And wait in line to use the port-a-potties. Chat about all things marathon. And wait. And wait. And wait. The anticipation really is the worst part, I think. Can’t we just start running already? If I could start right away, I could be almost half done by the time the gun actually starts the race. I try not to dwell on that thought.
Even after the gun is fired, unless you are an elite runner, lined up with your feet at the start line, you still must wait…anywhere from several seconds to several minutes…to cross the line and actually begin the race. Runners are supposed to line up according to their estimated finish times. It took me five minutes to cross the start line at my first marathon (I had gotten in line way too far back), and it took me just over one minute at this one. Thankfully, due to individual chip timing, the wait has no affect on your final time whatsoever (your chip, attached to your shoe or ankle, starts timing when you cross the start line and stops it when you cross the finish line). And so the anticipation continues after the race has officially begun and you are still standing still…then slowly walking…then barely jogging…as you make your way through the congestion, towards the start line.
I spent the first 13.1 miles hanging with a running buddy from my group. The miles passed quickly and easily as we chatted. At mile 7.5 we were treated with the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, blaring from an onlooker’s truck stereo. One of the great things about a marathon is all of the support, especially the random people from the small towns you run through, who come out of their homes to spend the morning enthusiastically cheering the runners on. My friend’s wife and little boy drove up along side us and shouted some words of encouragement around mile 10. And there were throngs of people lining the streets at the half way mark. I just love all of the people, especially the ones who yell things like, “you’re looking great!”, at mile 22 or 23…when you know full well that you are not looking great.
The course was beautiful…absolutely gorgeous…which a marathon needs to be to be good. It followed gushing rivers, took us alongside green fields, around a sparkling reservoir, and through a rock-walled canyon. I missed my goal time
…under four hours…by just a few minutes. In fact, I came in at 4:03…the same exact time as my previous marathon, the very time I was trying to beat. There are a lot of factors, the combination of which…or perhaps even just one of them alone…kept me from my goal. This is ok, though, because I still improved, for this course was more difficult than the last. And I gained valuable experience which will surely benefit me in the future.
So what factors slowed me down? First, I spent much of the first half talking to my friend. This was fun and kept me upbeat, and I actually would not go back and change it…but I am sure it slowed me down some. I stopped twice, at miles 14.5 and 19, to rub some Icy Hot into my knees and hamstrings. Perhaps I should not have done this. The two stops combined amounted to at least three minutes, but then again, if I hadn’t, would I have slowed down over the long run anyway due to the unmitigated pains? I don’t know for sure. But I do know that the pain was not that bad…it was certainly bearable, so I’m thinking I probably should have just toughened up and bore it.
The most embarrassing factor is the nasty spill I took at mile 21. Anyone who knows me very well knows that I am somewhat of a klutz, and this trait does manifest itself sometimes while I am running. I was keeping a pretty fast clip as I made my way down a somewhat narrow canyon. This particular stretch was divided by tall orange road markers, runners to one side and cars to the other. I had great momentum as I moved left to pass someone…and bumped a road marker in the process. The marker fell down, and I proceeded to trip over it. Of course I did not witness my own tumble, but based on what I felt…and the reactions of the people who did witness it…I’d say it looked something like this: I stumbled on the fallen marker, then flew forward before landing, then slid along the road for a few seconds before coming to a final stop. It was nasty, but luckily I was aware enough of what was happening to purposefully take the brunt of the fall with my side and hands, rather than my legs…which I knew I would still need for running. I laid there just long enough to assess that I wasn’t seriously injured, then jumped back up, yelled “I’m fine!” to the car that had stopped to help, and took off again without hardly missing a beat. My rebound must have looked just as amusing as the fall itself, but I knew I didn’t have any time to lose. Once I was on my way again, I noticed that I had a minor cut on one of my palms and had scraped up the other, my shoulder was scraped and bruised, and my hip had been bruised sorely. I’m not sure how much time this episode cost me, but hey, at least I was able to provide some entertainment to the other runners around me.
I think the biggest factor in missing my goal was my watch stopping. It first turned off at mile six, I’m guessing because I bumped it as I was getting water. I didn’t lose too much time from this instance, but it happened again when I fell…and this time it took more than two miles before the GPS finally loaded again. This proved to my detriment because I didn’t have a proper clock to gauge my pace for the final three miles, and at mile 24 I lost it mentally. I slowed down way too much for that entire mile, and lost all my momentum. I kept looking at my watch and thinking, I think I’ve got enough time to take it easy for a while, but it was really just guesswork since my watch was so off, and I should have been kicking it. I picked the pace back up at the very end, but by then it was too late.
The final factor was the course itself. It was just the opposite of my previous marathon in that the first half was easier than the second half. Last time, I was forced to take it a little slower than I would have liked during the first half, but then I had an energy reserve that, combined with the easier second half, led to a negative split marathon by almost ten minutes for me (meaning I ran the second half that much faster than I ran the first half). I was hoping for another negative split this time, but after a very strong first half, it took everything I had just to keep up the pace…so I certainly was not running faster…and then adding the Icy Hot stops and the fall, my second half ended up being about four minutes slower than my first half.
Oh, well, so I didn’t make my time. I did learn many lessons, though, and gained valuable running experience. And it was fun; I had a great time. So no worries.
Just reading this was an exercise in endurance for you, huh?