|There were numerous "lakes" and "rivers" to run through on this course. Photo via hmgiraffy.|
But damnit, I thought grimly, I am going to finish.
The race had been a crazy adventure since Tricia and I climbed off of our warm yellow school bus that morning at 6:30 a.m. It was dark, and the rain cascaded down on us in horizontal sheets. Despite her parka, my garbage bags and our hodgepodge of throwaway clothing, we were both soaked in seconds, including our Vaseline-coated feet inside our shoes. We easily found potties and used them, but in my case (ominously) I couldn't "go". Usually I'm good for at least two pre-race trips. Something about that cold and wind had caused my entire digestive mechanism to halt, I think, and that's what I paid for at Mile 17.
We sought shelter inside an open convenience store that was packed with soggy runners in various stages of undress, but soon it was time to say good-bye to each other and venture out again for good. I found the 3:55 pacer as planned, and my spirits lifted a little. I didn't hear the gun go off. As always in a marathon, it was a relief to start running.
|The fast guys line up in the rain.|
|After the gun (photos borrowed from the Sacramento Bee; hopefully my blog is small enough I won't get in trouble for using them)|
Even by the halfway mark, I still felt good. I'd managed to take my Shot Bloks every three miles. That's more often than usual, but the pacers had also warned us the day before that running in a headwind requires more fuel and water. I had carried my bottle through 10 miles and ditched it at an aid stop when it was empty, but since then had had no problems grabbing water from volunteers. I was pleased at how my legs felt and how little the hills had bothered me. I wasn't happy or chatty, but I also wasn't grouchy. The rain kept sheeting down, and the wind kept blowing...but it had just become the way it was.
It was my stomach that did me in. It started speaking at Mile 15 and by the time I rolled up to the port-a-john line at Mile 17 it was urgent. I think Darren was right when he said I need to work on using sport drink of some kind instead of gels and Bloks. But it was too late for this race.
Mile 15-- 9:00
Mile 16-- 9:06
Mile 17-- 11:36 (there's the stop!)
When I started running again, despite wanting to get as much time between me and the 4-hour pacer as I could before he finished in the bathroom, I never got the early paces back. There may have been a bonk involved as well, right on schedule after Mile 18.
Mile 18-- 9:04
Mile 19-- 9:14
Mile 20-- 9:17
The 4-hour pacer caught me in Mile 20. With him was a woman about my height and weight, but much fresher and happier. I followed behind them as best as I could, listening to them talk. She told him how she was feeling great, had started with the 4:10 pace group and now "just knew" that a sub-4 was possible. Her original goal had been 3:50, but she was really happy with how she'd done. He told her she had been smart to start where she had. And I thought, "That's what I should have done, too. I wasn't conservative enough. I went out too fast."
Mile 21-- 9:05
Sometime between Mile 20 and 21, the rain stopped. I first saw blue sky peeking out when we crossed the bridge over the American River and headed toward downtown Sacramento and the finish line. But instead of feeling heartened by this, I kept thinking how the wind was still there, and I started slowing down again.
Mile 22-- 9:12
Mile 23-- 9:18
With three miles to go, I stopped to walk. My legs felt as though they were done, and I was so so sick of that wind in my face. I watched the smart happy girl and the 4-hour pacer with his red sign recede in the distance ahead of me.
Mid-way through Mile 25, though, with the crowds thick, I started to shuffle-jog again. I just wanted to be finished.
Mile 25-- 11:08
The park around the California state capitol building, where I knew the finish line stood, appeared on my left.
Mile 26-- 9:57
We rounded one corner, then another to the women's finish line.
Final .2--9:02 pace
I crossed the line, barely raising my eyes to the beautiful state building and the towering Christmas tree in front of it. The sun shone brightly, and soggy but mostly happy runners were everywhere. I drank some chocolate milk, but otherwise all I could think of was getting my drop bag and getting into dry clothes. I did wonder how Tricia had weathered the storm (very well, it turns out), but I also knew she'd understand my impulse to change and then get back to the hotel for my shower. When she got back, and after she got her well-deserved shower, we made our way down to the hotel bar. It was only then that I started to feel better. We had just finished a really hard, really wet and windy marathon. She had a beer, burger and fries, and I had a mimosa, a huge plate of nachos and some sweet potato fries. Man, did that ever taste good!
The final result: 4:06:32, a 9:24 average pace. I was 163rd out of 534 in my 35-39 female age group (top 31%) and 2544 out of 6496 total male and female finishers (top 39%). I was 817th among all women, but I don't have the total number of women in the race yet. It was a "personal worst" among the most recent three of my six marathons, but it was still better than my one-time "personal best" of 4:14 set in New York City in 2005. I guess there's something to be said that my standards have changed.
You've now heard all the things that went wrong. Here are some good things I did:
1. I lowered my expectations for a bad-weather day. Turns out I didn't lower them enough, but at least I knew not to expect to qualify for the Boston Marathon in that wind. I listened to the smart veterans around me. This led to much less disappointment than I might have felt (disappointed though I was anyway).
2. I learned the power of Vaseline. The only spot I chafed in all the wetness was on my neck where my headphones hung out until Mile 18. That's the only spot I didn't lube LIBERALLY with good old petroleum jelly. My feet didn't bug me at all during this race, whereas usually they are blistered in some way. Going foward, Vaseline will be part of all my long runs and long races.
3. I recognized the overall goodness of the CIM course. I'd love to go back and do it again next year because even amid the bad weather I can see why people like it.
4. The strength training I did with Colleen....a godsend. My legs are the least sore they've ever been after a marathon. To the extent that they are sore, my quads and hamstrings are feeling it equally, and it's the "good sore." I've had no trouble with going down stairs or going for short walks. I'm eying other runners I see out and about with envy. I'm going to continue to hit the weights hard going forward. It seems I've not done enough of that ever, for any prior race.
I've traded a few messages back and forth with Darren about a spring marathon. It's uncertain whether that will be the plan, or whether we'll tackle some more half-marathons in the spring and go for another big one in the fall. I'm hoping to try again sooner rather than later, but I will leave the ultimate decision up to Darren. He's smarter than I am with this stuff!
Thanks again for all of your buoying comments after the race and all of your encouragement before. Will 2013 be my lucky year? Will marathon number seven (wherever it is) be the One? I don't know, but I'm going to keep trying until some year and some race prove to be the Golden Ticket.