Today, I'm at a loss. How do you respond to the question, "How was the race?" for a race like this? It's complicated. It was really, really hard, but I feel gratified. I struggled, but I overcame. I cried, but I was mostly happy. I hated it, but I loved it.
Can you ever put into words the marathon experience for those who weren't there?
I don't really know where to start with this recap. In a way, I don't even feel the race happened. I spent so much time training and thinking over every aspect of race day, and now that it's passed, it seems impossible that it's over!
Still, I can't seem to feel bad about it. I finished another marathon, it was more emotionally grueling than any race I've ever done, and I truly know that I trained the best I could and went in as prepared as I could be. Race day is often unpredictable, and there are always uncontrollable elements that we need to work through as best we can. In the end, I'm proud of my training and my strength, and although I didn't meet my goals, I know that everything I could control and prepare for, I did correctly. And I can't ask for much more than that.
I was expecting to pick Megan up from the airport around noon, but her flight was delayed due to fog. Her new landing time was supposed to be around 2pm, so I made a trip to the running store to pick up Gu. While there, I decided to go on a hunt for a white tank top for race day. I knew by then that the weather would be hot and sunny, and I couldn't wear the dark tank I'd been planning on if I really wanted to be smart.
At 1:30, Megan called; she had landed early! I quickly paid for my tank - luckily I found one in a similar style to a tank top I already own so I knew it wouldn't cause chafing or issues - and went to get her. After some confusion about where she was waiting for me, we finally met! I recognized her immediately - she looks and sounds just like she does on her blog/vlog!
|Asparagus, pasta, and chicken for dinner!
|Flat-Ali: Nike dri-fit tank, North Face Bounce-b-Gone sports bra, Pro Compression calf sleeves, Pro Compression PC Runners, Apple Watch, Jaybird blu-tooth headphones, Sport Skirts lioness skirt, Asics Kayano-21.
The smell of coffee woke me up before my alarm, which was the plan. I made myself a cup and sat in bed from 3:40 to until 4:10, obsessively checking the weather, and finally woke Matt. Because I only live about 25 minutes from the race venue, the idea was to leave just before 5am and have plenty of time to park, use the bathroom, and relax before the race began at 6:45.
|"Partially cloudy" was mostly a lie, but those wind speeds were pretty accurate. So were the high temperatures - it got up at 83 by the time I was at mile 19.
|RIP neon green 404 hat...more on that later.
|Ready to go!
|Kristina and I cross the start line!
|Around mile 4.
(I think this is an asthma thing, because non-asthmatics seem to think it's unusual to have trouble breathing in strong wind; my mom pointed out that it could be from the pollen or dust in the wind, too. Anyway, it happened at Space Coast last year, too, but it never seems to happen on training runs! I ended up needing my inhaler three times during this race.)
|Coming up on mile 9.
|Despite my struggle, I was still keeping good paces.
At mile 14 I saw Matt and Steph and ate more ice; Matt told me a girl had asked him for his hat, because that's how hot it was. He gave it to her.
I told them I was really struggling and had no motivation, that I knew my PR was long gone, but that I'd get the race done one way or another.
It was really, really hard, guys.
By mile 18, I was beginning to feel better. Tiny little clouds began to dot the sky, and those little breaks from direct sunlight made a huge difference. I convinced myself to just shuffle along as best I could; at this point I was disappointed in how much I had walked, and I was really emotional, but I was determined to salvage the race as best I could.
I began to keep a steady running pace; I passed quite a few marathoners who had begun to walk. I tucked my head down to block the wind and just kept chugging.
At mile 19, I saw Kristin. She had parked near a turn-around and had a smorgasbord of food and drinks; I gulped down some Coke and it was the best thing ever. She ran about a quarter mile with me and pointed me in the direction of Matt and Steph, who were at mile 20.
Miles 20-23 were tough, but mostly okay...if that makes sense. I was back in neighborhoods with no shade and no breeze, but I was kind of in the zone. I experienced another awful intestinal cramp (I never got these in training!) just before Kristin showed up at mile 23.5 with a cup of ice water. I asked her to tell me stories while she ran with me a bit, and again she told me, "Matt's just ahead at 24!" and left me for the finish.
|Mile 24...check out the ambience haha.
At 24, I saw Megan, Kristina, Matt, and Steph all there cheering for me with ice and smiles. They told me I looked really good, that everyone else coming through was walking, that I looked strong...and I was seriously unable to speak because I wanted to cry so badly. I wanted to tell them that I was confused about my pace and my time and the course length but all I could say was, "I'm too emotional to talk; see you at the finish."
|27?! Seriously?! Sean's GPS was right at 13.1, but Megan's and Kristina's were both long, so I'm attributing the extra distance to not running the tangents and stepping off course for ice.
"You did it. You're going to finish another marathon. This was hard, but you did it. Keep going. Just get it done."
At 26 miles, I saw Sean waiting for me. He began running with me, coaching me along. "Just one more turn and a little sprint!" Again, I felt tears welling up.
|All alone in the finishing chute.
The clock read 5:52:52.
|I managed to finish with a smile. My official time was 5:51:50.
I wasn't sure what to feel. I was extremely confused about the length of the course and my pace according to GPS...According to it, I was on track and doing 12:30 miles the entire race. How had I lost so much time? Was it human error? Was my math off?
|Finishers! Sean secured the PR he was aiming for and Megan placed first in her age group!
|Having Stephie there was a major perk.
|This year I was hungry enough after the race to eat half my Reuben...last year I ate three bites of tacos and called it quits.
I figured out the discrepancy in my pace and finishing time...I accidentally had "auto pause" enabled on my GPS. So, while my running paces were on track, the times I stopped to use my inhaler and stuff ice in my bra ended up adding up. That was my mistake - pure human error. Still, my time spent moving was directly on track for the vast majority of the race, so I'm happy with that; next time I plan my goal paces, I'll keep in mind that sometimes I need to fully stop - either for a bathroom break, or for medicine.
|Finally, Skillets! I had a GF blueberry pancake and a southwestern omelet with grits!
I'm planning to take at least a week off from running, and my plans for the rest of this month are mostly to work on cross-training and easy runs only.
This race was much harder than Space Coast. I didn't realize until Sunday how lucky I was to have such an "easy" (by comparison) first marathon.
Even though I had a great training cycle and was mentally totally ready for it (the lack of spectators and quiet/repetitive route never bothered me), the weather destroyed me. There's nothing I could do about that. I know it sounds like an excuse; non-runners especially may hear that and think it's a copout. But I know, and those who ran the race know, that the weather was a huge factor. It was brutal. Not only was it hotter than last year's marathon, but it was windier and had less cloud coverage. The race began 45 minutes later than last year's, so we were running in the sun from the very first mile.
Other than practicing training runs in the sun, I couldn't have done anything else to prep for the mid-December heat wave...I know you northerners are really happy about running in shorts in December, but we in Florida are hating it.
I'm mostly proud of myself. I ran a smart race. I finished upright, running, and uninjured. I pushed myself to limits I haven't faced before. I trained really, really well. I conquered 26.2 miles (or more) for a second time. I'm disappointed, but mostly I'm just proud.
|My walking pace was in the 18s, but when I was running I was moving along well, even later in the race. So again, I need to account for walking/pausing time when I plan my next marathon's goals.
Thinking about last year, my random calf cramps seemed to be my kryptonite. This year, it was the weather. What I've learned is that 26.2 miles is a long way to go, and it leaves room for a lot of unexpected things to happen. So next time (in 2017 - I'm still not planning a marathon for next year), I'm going to need to prepare for the unexpected, and set more realistic expectations based on unforeseen circumstances.
I am so glad that Megan decided to fly down and do this race. It was so fun to have her here, and I feel like her being here gave the weekend an extra element of fun and wonder. I hope we made her first-ever trip to Florida something really memorable!
|I'll think of you whenever I look at it! :)