I feel like I need to write a real race report for myself so I don't forget how awesome this experience was and to make sure I've learned every lesson this race tried to teach me. So, bear with me (all 6 readers of my blog), as I delve into the marathon minutia!
Four years ago, I trained my tush off for my third marathon and second Columbus. I whipped myself from 3:25 to low 3:00 shape in a year. But one thing I didn't train was my head. I toed the line a mental case and ended up losing 5 minutes over the last 7 miles with a side stitch, which I now know was due to anxiety and a total inability to roll with the punches.
I knew if I wanted to make a serious attempt at a sub-3 marathon that I had to not only get into better physical shape, I needed to work on mental training as well. I'm certainly a work in progress and I am neither the physically fastest or most mentally proficient racer, but I've vastly improved myself over the last few months. And despite lots of life stress, which is inevitable while raising 2 toddlers and generally living an adult life, I managed to line up pretty relaxed and focused on Sunday. I had a goal and I was confident, yet I was detached from the result and ready to accept whatever the day had in store for me. I was ready to do everything I could do to reach the goal, but I was also ready to roll with the punches and do my best to work with what the race gave me. I didn't just say all this. I really worked hard to actually get to that place.
So after a week of scrambling to finish up a little lawyerly work and get mrp set up for an easy weekend of just him and the kiddos, I hopped into NC's car and we were off. NC took great care of me, even giving me a bottle of her magic pre-race elixir: pedialyte. It was kind of gross tasting, but if it helped her run a 2:43, maybe it would help run a 2:58!
We arrived in Columbus and NC dropped me off for E-speed's birthday lunch. It was great to spend some time celebrating E's 30th. We had some fun, loaded up the carbs and then I headed back to the hotel with E to prepare our water bottles. E had access to all the elite offerings in the race, including her own bottles at miles 6, 12 and 18. We decorated them with her special zebra, oops I mean white tiger, tape and other accoutrement and taping two gels to each. How honored was I that she wanted to run a marathon with little ol' me to celebrate her big 3-0?!!!
Before dinner, we went to my hotel to check-in. I was rooming with NC and BH and those sweethearts had two big signs for me hanging on the wall when I arrived. I felt so loved. (Here's a little aside. Bear with me some more!) When I came back to Cleveland after finishing up my degree in NYC I had mrp and that's about it. All my friends had moved away or were lost after my divorce (if you don't know about that, well now you do!) Slowly, slowly I made new friends through running and now five years later I feel so loved and surrounded by awesome supportive friends. It means the world to me to have that network and I love them sooooo much! Ok, cheesy (but necessary!) tangent over.
We went to dinner and had the usual blast--not sure I've laughed that much in a 24 hour period in a long time! E was freaking me out ordering beer and dessert. I was being very cautious about what I ate, and looking back I might have underdid it a bit. We didn't stay too long. I needed to run out and take peanut's good night phone call and head back to the hotel to get into some jammies and veg.
NC and BH were such accommodating roomies. They gave me some quiet time so I could recenter after a busy overstimulating day. They BOTH massaged my shoulders and back to help me relax. Did I mention I love them?
I managed to fall asleep pretty quick and had a good night's sleep. I didn't feel too bad when the 4:30 alarm rang. BH was running the half so she needed to start eating and prepping too. NC slept in through it all. BH went down to the lobby to get some food and I took that time to relax and visualize a strong race. I felt ready to rock it!
NC woke up and Espeed came to our room to pick me up around 5:45. We left around 6:15 to get to the elite prep area to drop of our bottles and warm-up. In all we jogged about mile together and did some light drills and strides. I had been feeling stitchy on and off over the week preceding the race and could feel the stitchiness during the strides. Part of me was really worried about blowing up because of a stitch for the second straight Columbus, but I knew it just depended on how much power I gave it. If I fought it, it would take over. If I just yielded to it and rolled with it, it would not impact my ability to meet my goal.
We lined up next to JS (who was planning to meet us around mile 20!) and a couple of other pals. The national anthem played. I was excited, yet pretty relaxed. Then the gun and FIREWORKS!!! Awesome! I felt good, but within feet of starting I was stitchy. I worked on all my techniques to ignore it. It took 7 long miles, but it finally went away. In the meantime, we were rolling along between 6:45 and 6:55 (according to E. I wasn't paying attention to my watch.) I was doing well at the water stops and generally feeling pretty decent. Somewhere after the 10k we met up with a youngster running her first marathon. She wanted to roll sub-3 so we invited her along with us. She stayed with us until the half. In retrospect I think she distracted me a bit. I didn't want to waste energy talking too much, but she and E chatted a bit and I think to me from the outside it made me feel like I was working harder than they were and worried me a little.
We came out of a neighborhood around mile 8 or so and it was a bit more work as it was a little uphill and then we turned and it was very windy for a stretch. But none of this really bothered me. We turned up High St. and it looks fairly daunting with long uphill stretched, but that didn't really bother me either. We came through the half in 1:29:31, which was actually a little slower than I wanted to be. I thought we'd be closer to 1:29:00, but that didn't really bother me. I did feel like E and the girl were getting away from me a bit at times and this got me down a little bit. Right around the half I declared, "I need sunshine up my @$$ right now!" Ha! When that didn't work, I decided to tell E we needed to let the girl go. We did right after the half. In my head, it seemed like she was rocking it and I was maybe, just maybe starting to struggle.
Even so, I was intent on staying positive and taking it one mile at a time. Mile 14 might be tough, but mile 15 could be better. Or miles 14-18 could suck and I could rally at mile 19. Who knows and I was not going to predict the future. I was living in the moment, as I had worked hard for all those weeks to do. Mile 15 was our first mile over 7:00 pace and E declared it would be our only one. I tried not to think too hard about that pronouncement, but I wanted to make it to 16 as close to on-pace as I could knowing I had run 16 @ 6:47 pace just a few weeks before the race. We made it to 16. Ok, from 16 the goal was to get to 18 for the bottle and because 18 meant I only had the same distance to go as the distance I ran in the Akron Marathon relay. Unfortunately, by 18 I was toast. I don't know when exactly it happened or really remember many of the details, but suddenly I felt really dizzy and disoriented. I stopped when we got our bottle. E got me moving again. I could still p.r. I knew I was in big trouble when I saw our mile 20 split on the clock. I wanted to be under 2:17. The clock said 2:20:45 or something like that. Oh boy. That's a lot of lost time in such few miles.
I had a little hope when we spotted a woman we knew was going for the OTQ. We caught up to her pretty quickly and it helped take my mind of my own agony to console her. We kept going and I got pretty disheartened that JS wasn't at the 20 mile marker. My spirits really dropped. I had very little to look forward to anymore and he was it! Poor guy! We did see his girlfriend JM and NC. I felt so bad to slog on by, obviously falling way short of what everyone had hoped for me. We finally spotted JS at mile 21. That was a long mile! He jumped in and worked hard to keep my spirits up. No one was going to let me quit! Honestly, I wasn't going to let me quit either. I am so glad I didn't!
I really don't remember much from there except the waves of sobbing and having fun and nausea and full body cramps. I remember stopping and then E pulling me along and JS imploring me to keep going so I wouldn't cramp up. I remember the 3:05 group whizzing by me along with all hope of pr'ing and then club-mates who are much slower than me usually passing me one after the other. I do remember passing the girl who we let go around the half. That was a surprise to me, but E said she knew the girl was going to blow-up.
All through the last few miles E and JS tried to keep me hopeful that I could pr, but I saw the clock at mile 25. It said I had 8:00 to run 1.2 to get to 3:10. I knew I couldn't do that in the state I was in. Sad. I tried to pick it up several times over the last few miles, but each time I was met with a big f.u. from the body--cramping, nausea, dizziness. I was better to just slog and survive.
Finally I saw the turn to the finish. It's less than 400 meters and all downhill. JS said, GO! Open it up! You can do it! So, I turned the corner and despite seeing the time well over my p.r. I did "sprint" it in with E by my side. As we approached the finish line, I grabbed her hand and we crossed it side-by-side with our hands held high in triumph. And then we hugged, apparently. I don't remember that.
The next thing I remember is seeing stars with my face in the jacket of a race official insisting I did not need to go to medical. And then after that I remember being in a bathroom and then in a nice warm room hanging with JS. E got me into the elite finish area. And that sweet thing went off on an epic hunt for my gear bag.
We were in that room for a long time. I snacked a little. I slowly revived and felt human again. The amazing thing was that I didn't feel all that bad emotionally. I was definitely depleted, but I wasn't sad. There was nothing during the race that I could change. I did everything I could control right. I bonked. That means I either did not eat enough or did not do enough training to teach my body to burn fat efficiently. When I went back to my hotel room I noticed my breakfast was half eaten. I doubt an extra 100 calories would have made that much difference.
I really believe that Coach G's training focused on strength, aerobic fitness and speed. These are all very important, but the thing we couldn't focus on while also focusing on all those things was training the metabolic systems to handle the marathon at the aerobic pace I was capable of. With the intensity of my training load, doing very many long runs over 18 was not really possible without the huge risk of breakdown. So, oh well.
As I've said all along, this race was just a stepping stone. I learned a lot and I had an absolute blast training for it and racing it. I am a little disappointed, sure. But I know it's a step in the right direction even if the final time suggests otherwise.