Monday, June 01, 2009

Marathon report - bit by bit

Yes, it's what none of you have been waiting for ... the marathon report.

It all started well as, the day before, I couldn't even find where I was supposed to pick up my packet. For the uninitiated, that refers to a set of stuff you need before a race, such as your number/bib and your timing chip. You always pick this up a day or so before, it's always at some booth or expo, and usually it's easy to find. In this case it was at a hotel downtown. Fine. I drove there. Fine. I couldn't find a place to park. Fine. I did find one. Fine. I walked to the hotel. Fine. I walked in and there was a sign saying "this way for marathoners." Good. I followed the sign, which led to another sign, which led to an empty hallway filled with locked doors. No kidding. Not fine. I exited the hotel. Not fine. I walked around in a circle. Not fine. I came across the booth outside the hotel. Oddly enough, there were no signs inside or outside the hotel saying "This way to the OUTDOOR marathon packet pickup." Oddly enough, the only signs were indoors, saying this way to the packet pickup, leading you to an empty hallway. Not fine. Now, I was feeling pretty stupid by the time I stumbled on the packet pickup, but not too stupid because 10 other people were doing this with me.

But packet in hand, I was set. The next day I got up at 5 am and took the light rail downtown to avoid parking hassles. I ran into some running buddies at the start line, chatted until about 20 minutes before the start, then got in line to use a port-a-potty before the race. Lines were such that I had 2 minutes after finally getting to use the facilities to get to the start line. Which I did, and I even found the 3:50 pace group. The plan, as you know, was to stay with the 3:50 pace group as long as possible, then drop back if needed. Worked great except I lost them 2 miles in and couldn't find them for 10 miles after that. I literally have no idea if they were in front of me, behind me, or running in the air above me. All I know is they were there, then they weren't, then at mile 13 they were suddenly right there again. So I rejoined them and stayed with them for a ways. The first half of the course was nicely shaded, and early enough in the morning that it was plenty cool. It was a bit more hilly than expected but hey, no big deal, right??

So I did a good job of keeping my pace reasonable - between 8:30s and 9:00s for the first 19 miles. I stuck with the 3:50 guys up until about mile 19. I kind of had a feeling I would be dropping back a mile before then as it was getting hotter and hotter. The sun was pretty much right overhead with no shade for most of the second half, and that just kind of sucked. So at mile 19 I started to slow down and had the joy of watching the pace group move steadily father away from me for the next mile. About mile 23 I started to walk a bit, and that does bother me. I try not to walk except at water stops on runs. Even training runs. When you start to walk, you always do more than you planned, and you always walk again and again. But I got really tired and so I started to walk for a few minutes longer at water stops, then resume the running. And sure enough, the walking parts grew longer and longer.

This was a freaky part of the run for me. Before I started to slow down, I had a good 6 minute buffer going, meaning that I was 6 minutes ahead of where I needed to be to get in under 4 hours. But when I started slowing, I really started slowing, and the buffer started vanishing. By mile 25 my pace was closer to 11 minute miles (due to walking parts of the miles) and I was feeling really drained. I had pretty much given up on the 4 hours at that point. I know that sounds weird, but there comes a point in many a long run when you're just thinking "I don't frigging care, just let me get to the end and sit down." I wouldn't say it's the worst I've felt on a marathon, but it wasn't a great feeling. Well, about mile 25 it hit me that I only had about 1.2 miles to go. I looked at my watch and realized I had about 12 minutes to get that done, so if I didn't walk much I could still make my time! And so I started running and just refused to walk another step. So of course the next thing I see is this freakin hill at mile 25. That's just mean. All these spectators were there yelling "You're almost to the top" "Keep going" "bla bla bla." Very nice and supportive but all I could think was "What the F*&% is with this F(#*ing hill??" That's just rude. But I kept on. I wasn't passing anyone at the pace I was going, but no-one was passing me either. I got to where I could see the finish and started to push it, and when I saw the big digital time display at the end, and that it still didn't say 4 hours, I started to run as fast as I could (which wasn't very fast). I remember literally saying "come on come on come on!" to the guy who was in front of me as we went into the chute, because I could see there were like 10 second left. We hit the chute, I crossed the second timing mat (that finalizes your time) and I literally jumped into the air and shouted cause I had seen that I was under the 4 hour mark. I felt terrific! For about 5 seconds. Then I felt tired and sore. So I limped around getting my medal, a banana, some water, some more water, and then some chips. Somewhere between mile 1 and mile 26.2 I had turned into a human salt lick. I mean I had sweat enough, and enough had dried on me, that I had white powdery stuff all over my face and some of my clothes. Those of you who run will understand. A horse could have used me for nutrients. I splashed water on my face at the finish line to try to reduce that possibility but still ... ewww.

The race organization did not improve - there was like this .3 mile walk from the finish line to where you got your finisher jacket. I know that's not a lot, but after you've run 26.2 miles, it is a lot. Of course, nobody really told you about the hike to get the jacket, you just had to follow the herd of limping runners. Then after I got the damn jacket, I had to walk back to the light rail terminal. I promptly got turned around and got a little lost. Remember what I said about walking after you've run 26.2 miles? Now do it when you suddenly realize you're walking the wrong way along the tracks to get to the terminal. But I got there, got to my car, and got home.

So was it my favorite race? No, that was the California one. I had a worse finishing time but it was a MUCH easier course, with much better weather, and of course my sister there running it with me. But this was my fastest run so far and I made my goal FINALLY so I'm very glad I did it. And even though I love to complain, and there are all the aches and pains to complain about, all the stuff I love about running was there too. It was a good experience, I'm glad I did it, and I look forward to the next one.

Thank you for your attention. You may now resume your regularly scheduled, uhm, living?

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