Race Recap–My first marathon, the Corning Wineglass (originally posted 10-2011)

24 May

Going into the marathon, all I could think about was “what does it actually feel like?”  I wanted to know how bad it was going to hurt and when it was going to hurt.  Everyone talks about the physical parts of the marathon and the mental game once you’re running it, but everyone neglects to talk about the mental stress leading up to a marathon.  The fear of the unknown, if you will.  Maybe i’m the only crazy one that experienced this.  But i seriously doubt that.  I wasn’t really nervous.  I was just curious and felt unprepared, since I didn’t know the answers to my questions.

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In any event, I learned pretty quickly the answers.  At mile 6, I told myself that I had 4 more things to do and then I could do whatever I wanted the rest of the day.  4 5-mile runs.  Nothing to it.  But by mile 7 in the pouring rain and 38 degrees, my left calf/achilles started cramping.  I was doing butt kicks to try to loosen it up, but nothing really seemed to help.  But it was mile 7.  I was NOT about to stop.  In fact, I was planning on running the entire race.  Walk was not in my vocabulary. I’d already passed the 4:25 pace group, and I was feeling really good about that.

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By the half marathon point, I was feeling good.  I’d run a 2:10, which is a PR by a lot.  I started having serious thoughts about a stellar 4:20 finish.  Those thoughts took me to mile 14ish, at which point I started to realize how tired and cold I was.  I dropped a sopping wet glove trying to get some frozen skittles to eat (yes. skittles are my race food.  they are fabulous. :) ) and I stopped to pick it up.  But then I realized that I actually was warmer without the wet gloves, so I threw them.  And then I realized how much my legs were already hurting.

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I kept plugging away.  I made it to mile 15 without too much incident.  I had put on my ipod, but the rain was making the ear buds slip out, which was annoying me.  So i put it away at mile 16, telling myself I now had just 2 5-mile runs.  Easy peasy.

By mile 16.5, I was really hurting.  Too early to hurt like this, I kept thinking.  Then the other part of my mind would yell and curse, don’t be negative to yourself.  Chin up.  Focus on your form.  Count your steps.  Put one foot in front of the other and just keep doing what you’re doing.  Around this point is when I started to pull the motivational quotes that I had created for myself.  The night before, in a moment of resignation (yes.  it’s really going to rain on race day.  you need to be ready for that.), i self-laminated them with packing tape.  Thank God.  So i pulled them one at a time, every half mile or so when I needed to dig a little deeper.  I tried to keep talking to people who were out spectating (they loved my “will run for wine” tank) and thanking the race volunteers (their job may have sucked worse than mine to be honest).  Thanking people really helped make me feel less awful.  Around mile 17 or 18, the 4:25 group passed me.  I was disappointed, but I watched them run by and decided I didn’t really care.  I was doing the best I could and would hold on and hopefully not get passed by the 4:40 group.

I made it to mile 21-ish and I don’t really remember too much about the course or what I was thinking all that time.  From 21-25, I also don’t remember too much.  I remember a lot of pain, and I remember looking at my Garmin, disappointed to see how my mile splits were slowing down so much.  I had gone from a 9:45 pace to a 10 to a 10:15 to a 10:30 to a 10:50 in just a few short miles.  I had pulled a quote, though, that “whatever you’re doing is good enough for now” (something to that effect) and it helped, so i kept that one handy as a motivator and decided to stop looking at my pace.  Around mile 22, I’d run out of water in my bottles on my belt.  So i stopped at a water station and had someone fill up a bottle.  A little bit later, i had to do it again and I couldn’t even get the top off my bottle.  Some guy grabbed it from me, filled it and put it in my belt for me.  I swear he was an angel.  I don’t even know what he looked like.  I don’t remember what stop it was.  By that 30 second water stop, restarting running was more painful than anything I’d ever experienced.  I wanted to just walk, but I knew if I was going to beat various people’s times (there was a list i had in my head of who i’d like to beat), walking was not an option.  I told myself I was not walking anymore because it hurt so much to start running again afterwards, but by 24.5, I had to stop for 30 seconds again.  I had thought at this point I could talk myself into finishing without walking just because it was only a mile or so left, but it really required some digging to keep going.

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At mile 25.5, there were people from brightroom photography there, and I wanted to break their cameras.  I don’t need any more bad pics of myself out there.  But I was too tired to break cameras.  And I wouldn’t have been able to run to get away from anyone who wanted to come back at me for breaking their stuff.  So i just soldiered on.  The last .2 was murderous.  I saw eric right before the finish out of the corner of my eye, but I was focused on the finish.  I crossed at 4:37 gun time, which is 4:35 chip time (chip starts when you actually cross the start line, which when you’re not an elite, means you have to wait for all the fast folks to go first).

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Eric came up to me to hug me at the end.  I was all wrapped in my space blanket, but i was freezing and my legs hurt.  I did not have the melt down that i thought i would, but I did cry a little bit and blurt out that i hurt so bad when eric asked how it felt to be a marathoner.  I didn’t even recognize my voice because it was all thick with tears.  We walked up and down the street a bit, then went to the car so i could change.  I ate a bunch and drank a bunch, then we came home.

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Yesterday I hurt a lot.  Going down stairs was the worst.  And i had a weird thing with my lower back on my spine, which felt like there was a bruise there (but there’s not).  But i wasn’t too bad i didn’t think.  I was surprised.  Last night, around 3 am, i woke up in severe pain.  Everything hurt.  My whole back, my quads, my ankles.  I couldn’t go back to sleep because it hurt that bad.  I went to work this morning to leave sub plans and i came home.  Yesterday after working a full (and long) day, when i took my socks off, my legs had swelled so much that the socks cut into my ankles and left marks.  can we say cankles???

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I’m hoping today is the worst of it and I will be able to go for a really short, easy run this weekend.  I’m planning on the elliptical on Thursday, just to get my legs moving a bit.  We’ll see how the swelling and pain are though…

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In any event, I’m glad i did it, and really proud of myself.  Running a marathon hurts, but really eventually you forget how bad it hurts and you just keep going.  You can’t really think straight, and that’s a good thing.  There were over 600 DNFs between the half and full, and the 4 people who were supposed to qualify for olympic trials didn’t even come close.  The winner of the race should have ran a 2:19 and did a 2:33, so i’m looking at my time and saying if he ran almost 15 minutes slower than he should’ve, then maybe if the weather had been better I’d have done a 2:25, which was what I’d kind of wanted.  When i start thinking what ifs, it’s dangerous.  Because I like to try to find out answers to what ifs.  Which means I gotta run another marathon.  Just to see.  New goal?  4:15.  I think I can do that, especially knowing now what to expect and how to train better.  Game on.

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