Six hours of flights, three hours of layover, and a three hour ride home is a lot of travel time, and a lot of thinking time.
First I need to say that minus the race, it was a wonderful weekend. I missed Josh and the kids, but had a special Mother's Day. I had a lot of quality time with my parents, which is priceless. I enjoyed talking with them, watching them, listening to them, and just being around them. They were incredible as always. I also got some nice time with my brother and his friend which was awesome too. All four of them were amazing cheerleaders. I got to see them multiple times along the course, and Mark and his friend even made big signs for me. We ate a lot of good food too. Most of the restaurants we went to were great about me needing gluten-free stuff, and I even had gluten-free pizza and a burger with a gluten-free bun.
I got to meet two of the runners I coach, and one I got to go to lunch with and then she was on the course with her super cute daughter cheering for me in a bunch of spots with an awesome sign that they made. And one of my former colleagues was there cheering on her daughter in her first marathon and she cheered for me a bunch too. It was fun to have so much support out there, even though I felt like I was letting everyone down.
At first I was not going to do a full race recap but I guess I will, if for no other reason that I can process it and have a record of it.
Everything went really well leading up to race morning. I ate well, I was well-hydrated, my shake out run and strides the morning before felt good, and I got plenty of rest. I did not have any aches or pains and I was healthy. You can't ask for much more.
They day before the race, Chris, a really nice guy that I had connected with (and a very fast runner - check out his blog) had offered to drive the course with my parents and I so that I could see the course and so they could know how to best see me on race day. Chris's coach, Ray, came along too and they were both great. We got to see the whole course and my parents got a spectating strategy and directions.
I was a little unhappy with some significant hills (on a course that was advertised as "flat and fast" and no updated elevation profile was provided). There were also a lot of turns, including a turn around a cone in the middle of the road. It was not a fast course. Even if I had PRed and run a great race, I would not have felt it was a fast course.
Our hotel was the host hotel and it was SUPER convenient. On race morning I didn't have to get up until 5:30. After getting ready, I went out and did a short warmup, came back in and used our bathroom one last time, and then went back outside about 20 minutes before the race started. There weren't any corrals and it was just a "line up at your pace" kind of start, so I positioned myself just behind the super fast looking guys. I was nervous but not terribly so. I think mentally I was in a good place. I was ready to go.
My parents, Mark, and Alex got to stand right close to me as we waited. They sang the anthem, told us 7 minutes to go, 5 minutes to go, 3 minutes to go, 1 minute to go - and then we waited and waited and waited. We ended up starting 7 minutes late without any explanation to the delay. It was awful to hear "one minute to go" and get all ready and then to just wait. It was VERY overcast and muggy. Right before we left the room I checked the weather one last time and it said it was 61 degrees and 98 percent humidity. Bleck. Chris had warned me that being along the coast that there definitely would be wind at different points of the course too.
We finally took off and I felt pretty good. It was much warmer than I was used to (I have only even run in the 40's a few times so far this year, the rest has been 30's or colder) and the air was thick and muggy, but I felt ok. It was super overcast and I almost wished it would rain, but it never did more than sprinkle. The plan from Coach was to go out at about 7:15, and then drop it down. I was running about 7:05 on the downhill/flat miles and about 7:20-7:25 on the uphill miles so I felt pretty good about where I was at.
At mile 2.5 I saw Ray (Chris's coach) on his bike, and he was great! He rode along side me for a little bit, told me I looked great, warned me about the hills coming up, etc. I handled the early hills pretty well and the intermittent head wind. It never felt too bad, although it was just one more added challenge. Around mile 7 I started to feel like I was working harder than I should have felt for only being at mile 7. I know it is supposed to almost feel easy early on, and it definitely wasn't. I tried to make sure I was hydrated and fueling, not to obsess about the Garmin, to stay relaxed, etc. and assumed I would regroup and recover, but it just kept getting worse.
I saw my family for the first time at mile 9 which was a great boost and I saw them again around mile 10 and 11. At this point my pace was around 7:20, although it felt like I was working MUCH much harder than that. I kept hoping I would recover and rebound and again, it didn't happen. Over the next few miles I kept the effort level the same (maybe even increased it some) and my pace just kept slipping away. It was extremely frustrating. I was working so hard and the pedal was down, but I just couldn't make myself go any faster. In Tallahassee in February I held a 7:00-7:05 pace for 17 miles so I know these paces should have felt much easier than they did.
When I crossed the half-way point I knew a PR was not happening and I knew a strong time wasn't even happening. There was zero chance of picking up the pace, and even maintaining the pace seemed impossible. The dizziness and light-headedness started about mile 14 or 15. I just felt exhausted. I knew my choices were to quit, or to take it easy and finish the best I could. I figured it was Mother's Day, and I was going to be kind to myself and just finish the race taking it easy and not beating myself up.
I walked quite a bit, ran as much as I could, and appreciated the support from my parents, Mark and Alex, Ray, Portia and Maple, Susan, and a few others. Pam jumped in and ran with me for little bits a few times which was sweet and fun. I cheered on other runners and talked with a few.
I eventually got to the finish line and was glad to finish, but did not have that sense of accomplishment. I did not feel strong. I did not feel fast. I did not feel proud.
A silver lining in the whole thing is that I did not have to stop ONCE for my stomach. Not once! I have never made it through a marathon without any bathroom stops. Heck, some days I don't make it through short, easy runs without a bathroom stop. Since I used the bathroom in our hotel room before the race, I actually never even entered a portapotty the whole weekend.
I had a terrible headache and was quite dizzy after the race, and it hurt my lungs to take a deep breath. The dizziness passed in about an hour, but the headache and the pain in my chest lasted until the next morning. It was just a rough day.The humidity kicked my butt, which I didn't expect, especially since it was not super hot. 60-65 was warm for me, but definitely not hot. Some people still ran well in the conditions, but I was not one of them.
When you put so much training and preparation and hope into a race, it is hard not to be disappointed and discouraged to have it turn out so badly. Keeping it real, I have even had some of those, "maybe I am just not good at this" thoughts.
So I really thought about it. I thought about not training and racing, and just running for fun and for fitness - no stress, no pressure, no nerves, no disappointment, no risk.
And I could not even pretend that I wanted that for more than a minute. There is nothin wrong with running that way. But i love to run, and I love to train, to race, and to push myself. The day will come when I just run for fun and for fitness, but that day is far away and for now, I truly want to see what I can accomplish and how good I can be, and I believe that is what I am supposed to do. Just because it is hard sometimes doesnt mean it is not good and worth doing. And every race is a learning experience. So I am definitely not giving up. I am going to keep at it, even though there will be days that are rough and days that sting. They will just make the awesome days that much sweeter.
Couch Doug has been great, and I am really confident in and grateful for his guidance and support.
So, we keep moving forward. Some recovery, some shorter races, and training for Chicago Marathon in October.