A marathon is a special kind of race. The preparation takes a commitment like none other, and the race itself is long enough to encompass ups, downs and everything in between. When you’ve spent so much time and energy preparing for this one single event, you tend to get fixated on “the goal.” Whatever you decided was the ‘magic time,’ the one that would determine whether you finish the race ecstatic or crushed, becomes all-consuming.
Many of you surpassed your time goal, but many of you didn’t. Disappointment is tough to take when you’ve put so much into this specific day, and is a normal, healthy emotion. You have to let it run its course, then begin to realize that a marathon is a long, long way. Mere minutes are nothing in this event, and certainly don’t determine what is success and what is failure. Failure only comes into play when you give up, and we rarely see that happen with a Rogue. Every race, marathon or otherwise, is a learning experience, and each one makes you not only a better runner, but also a better human being.
Take a look at these amazing race reports from a few of our runners, covering every emotion from excitement to confidence to frustration to disappointment and back around to satisfaction.
Overall, I’m very happy with my race. I’d say it wasn’t a perfect day, but it was far from bad. Based on Steve’s talk about managing expectations, I’d have to say that far more things went right than went wrong.
I kinda did a no-no in that I tried something different race morning; on our last long (long) run, the 22-miler, I felt great on my legs but my stomach bothered me from about 13 or 14 until the end. I knew I didn’t want that to happen again as I knew it would mean a bathroom break and the ensuing trouble getting moving again, so I woke up at 2:30 and had my usual bagel (with almond butter and honey), and two scrambled eggs (which was also a new addition). I was back in bed by 3, and slept fairly well until my alarm went off at 4:45. By the end of the race, this strategy paid off as I didn’t have a single stomach issue.
I awoke, made some coffee to get things moving, and did a little foam rolling to loosen up my ITs and calves. I got to Rogue at 5:45, and our little gang headed over around 6:20. I did some light warming up — high knees, butt kicks, side shuffles — and made my way over to the 3:40 pace group not long before the race start.
The race began, and somehow we were instantly back with the 3:45 group. I tried to assure my running buddies this was OK, as I knew I didn’t want to work too hard in the beginning going up Congress, but I think we were all somehow worried we’d get dropped back and have to work too hard later to catch up. In hindsight, I probably worked a tad bit too hard on those first 3, but nothing major. Likewise, coming down S. 1st, I think we were all good about running light and easy, and not worrying about getting right up on the 3:40 group, but just keeping them in front of us and enjoying the break.
We hit Cesar Chavez and I felt great — warm, relaxed, and lots of energy. I began taking Clif Blocks at this point.
Everything felt pretty good going out toward Lake Austin, and then we hit the turn onto Enfield. The left on Exposition was the first semblance of fatigue I think I felt. On that 22-miler, I felt very strong on the Expo hills, and I remember thinking that they seemed easier than the last time I’d run them. Well, Sunday they didn’t feel as easy. This is where I started to wonder if I’d spent too much time on my feet the day before (most of it by necessity due to work), but no matter! We had a race to run.
I remember at 20k thinking that, wow, I’m not even half done and I’m starting to fatigue. All the same, I kept with the 3:40 group, and by 17 I’d dropped my running partners, hoping they were fine but determined to stick on the heels of 3:40.
At 18 I damn near fell off. I remember thinking this was far too difficult to maintain, but reminded myself that some miles will come easier than others, and began the mental game of “just make it to __ and you can reconsider,” whether that was a mile marker, and turn in the road, or what have you. 19-21 felt much better. A friend picked me up at around 20.5, and I was definitely tired. I told him to excuse my lack of talking, and that I was just trying to hang on the heels of 3:40. Literally — I remember running right behind the girl pacing, just concentrating on staying with her.
We got into Hyde Park and I nearly dropped off again; I kept telling myself to just hang on through that last north jut (at 46th, going up Ave. H), then everything would be “downhill” from there on out.
I hung on through Hyde Park and, just past 23, began to fade. Not much, but for the first time I was falling off the 3:40 group. I thought, keep them in eyeshot, catch your breath, and you’ll get back on them later. I wasn’t but 100 feet off running past HEB and got some great shout-outs from friends stationed there which gave me a quick boost. We turned right onto 41st, and just seeing that slight incline up to Duval almost broke my heart. At that point, the slightest incline felt like a mountain, and this looked like K2. This is where I really started to fall off.
At this point I didn’t care, but I didn’t want to stop to walk. I think I made it to about 24.5 when I told my friend I needed to stretch (which wasn’t untrue, but was more an excuse to stop without walking); I stepped off near a wall, pulled my right ankle back to stretch my right quad, and then tried the same on my left side and my left hamstring roared! It was not about to be stretched. At this time, my apparent lack of calories kicked in (no doubt coupled by ceasing to move for the first time in 3 hours), and I got very light-headed. I bowed down a second, getting my head level to my heart, grabbed my ankles to stretch my calves, and asked Daniel for a Cliff Shot. I took it, washed it down with a bottle of Nuun he’d brought, and started walking. A few seconds in, I started jogging, but that didn’t last long. I started to get fuzzy vision and knew that if I pushed, I’d pass out. I began walking again, hoping the Shot would soon kick in.
I proceeded this way for probably about a mile. It was along here I saw my coach and felt so bad to have my coach see me walking! But here is where mental fortitude had nothing to do with it — I was fuzzy and light-headed, and I knew pushing would only make it worse. I knew I had to walk for a while, so walk past her I did. Another friend picked me up just past Dean Keaton, and unfortunately she was a bit too talkative and optimistic for me. She was truly only trying to help, but I couldn’t take her encouragement. Daniel and his girlfriend (on her bike nearby) had the right idea — let me take my time and continue on as I could — but Jessica thought I needed pumping up. I began to get very, very angry and annoyed, not so much at her, but more at my body for refusing to go on. There was a mind/body disconnect I’d not felt ever before, where my mind was definitely ready to push, but my body was having none of it. Also at this time my right quad and the outsides of both calves were poised and ready to SEIZE! if I made the slightest misstep. It felt like my quads were ripped at this point, and every step was painful to them.
I continued to run/walk through campus, passing the stadium. I started to pick it up again there, but couldn’t even hold that to MLK. I jogged across the intersection, but didn’t even try to jog up the short hill to Congress. I turned left and began to jog again, only to start walking again after maybe 1/5 of a mile. Finally, coming up on the north end of the Capitol, I felt like the Shot had finally hit, and I began to run; as I crested the Capitol grounds I saw the throng of supporters, including my friend Colleen who gave me a huge, knowing smile (she, a 2-time Ironman, knows what it’s like at the end of a long day). I gave her a big hi-5, and then, as it turned downhill toward the finish, I picked it up. Like, a lot. I broke into a sprint (well, as much of a “sprint” as I could muster) and tore off for the finish. I finished very strong, and my parents and several friends were yelling at me right as I was crossing. I managed to lift my arms crossing the line, but that was about all I had in me.
I went to the fence to see my family, and I could barely talk. It was pure exhaustion, but I was so, so happy I’d accomplished the race, and very near my goal time.
It wasn’t until later that evening (after first a nap and then an ice bath) that it really hit me: I had run a marathon! I was standing in the shower, bathing off all the grime and sweat, and a big shit-eating grin broke across my face; I literally exclaimed out loud ‘I RAN A MOTHERF*&KING MARATHON TODAY!’ And it felt pretty awesome.
I knew that, no matter what, the first was going to be a learning experience. And like I said earlier, much more went right than wrong, but I know now that I need to better monitor my energy and nutrition intake, and also I think I would now recognize that it wasn’t my day and I would have backed off around 18 — just a little — and settled into the 3:45 group. Had I done that, I would’ve finished in the same time, but I think much happier so, and without blowing up like I did just after 23.
All in all, I’m extremely pleased with my race. I’m not thrilled that I walked, but I honestly feel like I had great mental toughness out there to hold on from 18-23. At that point, I really believe my body was the one that gave up, and that I can live with. I wanted to have great mental toughness out there, and I think I did, and I gained more as a result.
Although I was terribly disappointed (in tears) yesterday, after some reflection I found some positive in the race day events.
I woke up rested in plenty of time to eat a great breakfast and get dressed. The drive to Rogue was easy and parking was a breeze. I got to stretch and wish my friends good luck. Jamie and I walked to the start together and then went our separate ways after the port-a-potties.
I got in the corrals between 3:45 and 3:50…..giving myself some cushion. The weather was perfect, I was warm in my throw-away clothes. I chatted with Trey a bit then it was go time. I was not too nervous, but excited. The fireworks went off and I was ready.
I felt my hip in the first couple of miles (I always do). But once I was warm, it was not an issue. I was on pace mile after mile after mile.
I expected to see a friend, Jason, at mile 7 but he missed me (later caught me at 12.5). I was 2 min ahead of pace. Cesar Chavez and Lake Austin were not as boring or as long as I thought they would be.
I thought that Dave would be at 10 to help me up Enfield but he was not there…..Enfield was not nearly as hard as it was the last time we ran it. I was really excited about that. Dave was around the corner on Exposition. He jumped in to run the hills. I don’t even remember the hills being difficult. I do, however, remember looking at my pace band at mile 12 and being on pace TO THE SECOND! I said out loud, “Oh Hell Yeah”
The hill up and over MoPac was tough…..Jason showed up on a rental bike and we laughed at how he realized that he had missed me when a very pregnant lady (behind the 4:10 pace) had gone by…..he then went back for a bike.
We picked up Brenna at 13. Dave took the bike and Jason started running. I began feeling queasy and took a gu. By mile 16 (the baseball fields) I was feeling so sick! I have run through all sorts of pain before but I have never run feeling like I could barf at any time. Needless to say I started slowing down. Jason left at mile 16. Brenna and I picked up Michelle at about mile 19. I was not a happy camper.
Down Arroyo Seco and Woodrow I was miserable. I started to feel better at the top of North Loop but I totally fell apart on Red River when I realized that I would not make my time goal.
All though Hyde Park I saw friends and supporters…that was great. I saw my coach on San Jacinto at Dean Keaton….I was really sad then…..just past that, when my watch beeped at my goal time of 3:59:59, I was directly under the 25 mile marker….I was crushed. Only 1.2 miles left. Heartbreaking, and on Valentine’s Day, too!
I finished, wondering what happened….why did it start so great and finish so poorly?
After a day of reflection I’ve recorded the positive aspects of the day and the lessons learned.
I had an amazing training season. I feel like every workout (speed, hill, or long run) was successful.
I was consistent in my training.
I had a 64 min PR (but don’t really count it because it was a marathon in an Ironman)
I was spot on for the first 15 miles
I never gave up, even when I knew I would not reach my goal
I have wonderfully supportive friends
Take layers off sooner…..even if I don’t feel hot. I waited until after mile 11 to take off my gloves and top layer. I did not realize how sweaty I was.
Drink more water the days before the race. I might have been a bit dehydrated. I was really really salty.
My chip time was 3:22:29, which is 21 minutes, 54 seconds faster than my previous best, which was last year. It qualifies me for Boston. I never dreamed when I started the program so many months ago that I could have done this. It hurt, and I suffered, but not much more, I think, than last year, and this year I had the mental tools to deal with the suffering and keep going. So I really want to thank my coach personally, and Rogue, not just for the awesome physical preparation but the mental prep as well.
Several times I remembered that there was no Plan B, or told myself that walking wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal. Just knowing that it was meant to be unpleasant and that what I was feeling was expected was very helpful. Before this race I didn’t appreciate how important mental preparation was, those Wednesday evening talks, the emails, and the review of my marathon plan, were very effective!