2010 A1A Marathon (Blood, Sweat and Tears)
Time 4:12:30 | Pace 9:40 | Age Group 13/34
This day has haunted me for the past 5 years. Around this time in 2005, I was training for the San Diego marathon, a race I never managed to start due to a multitude of injuries I will not discuss again. It’s been blogged a dozen times and I’d like to focus on positives today because that’s what got me through all the miles this morning.
The days leading up to the race were intense. I was a wreck. This was my first marathon. I’d never run this far before. But wait, there’s more. I had a fantastic 18 mile run. I then decided to wear my Newtons during a shorter run the following week. Big mistake. I hadn’t tweaked the laces properly and the left shoe was on a bit too tight. By the time I finished, my foot was a bit swollen and hurting but not enough for me to postpone my next long run. I slipped into my regular shoes two days later and went out for a 20 miler. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. At one point during that run, I wanted something to run over my foot, to put me out of my misery. I was hurting bad. It hurt to walk for the next few days. This is probably why my taper weeks looked more like “rest” weeks. It was a shame because the rest of my body felt great.
My foot started to heal, slowly, and I managed to get about 3 runs in before the race. My foot didn’t feel 100% better, but nothing was broken or fractured, so I decided to register for the full marathon. At the expo. Yea, I’m optimistic, but I wasn’t going to lose another $90 to some stupid injury. No way.
Then, all the monsters in my attic came to life. Here I was on the eve of a monumental day, signed up and knowing I’d make it to the start line. But then what ? Would I finish ? My 16 and 18 mile runs had been better than I could have wished for and I had powered my way through the longest and most painful run of my life only 2 weeks before. What was I worried about ? For starters, I didn’t know what would await me after mile 20. I’ve heard horror stories from marathoners. What if it was all true ? I didn’t want to hit the proverbial wall. And so on and so forth.
I opted for a simple pre-race dinner, something tried and true: Vegan Dad’s Creamy Mac and Cheez. I put it in a baking dish, smothered it with Follow Your Heart vegan cheese and baked it. It was perfect. Eventually, I was able to quiet the voices in my head and get some sleep- a whole 6 hours. I had two pieces of toast with peanut butter for breakfast and some gatorade. My stomach felt a bit queasy from all the nervousness. I didn’t want to push my luck, so I decided to skip my usual pre-race gel.
Geoffrey and Luka dropped me off at the start line 5 minutes before the race. It was way more crowded than last year which helped keep me warm. It was 60F degrees, with a forecasted high of 75F and not a cloud in the sky. Not even San Diego could deliver such perfection. Before I had the chance to become impatient, we were off.
Miles 1-6 ~ 9:34 | 9:08 | 9:26 | 9:14 | 9:17 | 9:21
It took me 6 miles to settle into my race pace. I either ran too fast or too slowly. I had to constantly check my GPS which is rare for me. Also, a few terrible things happened, not to me personally, but around me. There was an unmarked pothole just after the first mile. Fortunately, I saw it, but the girl behind me didn’t and well, you can imagine the rest. I feel horrible saying this, but I couldn’t even bring myself to look back. This is very uncharacteristic of me and surely I will pay the karmic consequences of my decision, but I was in a very emotional state at the time this happened and I just couldn’t deal with seeing someone injured. There was a cop nearby who ran over to help. I hope she was able to continue or that her injuries weren’t major. Just a few minutes after that, another guy fell down, taking a few people with him. This happened next to me and didn’t sound as bad as the first accident. From that moment on, I focused carefully on what was in front of me, lest I became the next incident.
Miles 7-10 ~ 9:19 | 9:16 | 9:09 | 9:19
Mentally, I started to feel better as I settled into my groove. My upper body relaxed and my legs felt great. My left foot, however, started to hurt more with each mile I left behind. I decided to apply smile patches every time I thought about the pain which seemed to work on some psychological level. Then, just before mile 9, the half marathoners turned around.
And there was silence. Suddenly I found myself alone. I could finally hear the buzz from the speckled Sunday morning traffic, my effortless breathing and the sound of my feet treading lightly on the asphalt. I enjoyed this moment of peace for the next mile, until we came across some more spectators.
Miles 11-16 ~ 9:23 | 9:20 | 9:18 | 9:27 | 9:02 | 9:18
That’s when I saw Geoffrey, holding a big sign, with Luka. I was floored. I wasn’t expecting to see them so early and nobody had ever made a sign for ME. I wish I’d had a camera to get a photo of them. I stopped for a brief moment to pet Luka and give Geoffrey a kiss. It was such a nice surprise.
I kept applying smile patches for the next few miles which some of the spectators commented on. If only they knew the pain hidden behind that braced smile. I was still keeping a good pace. Then we turned around…
Miles 17-20 ~ 9:37 | 9:47 | 9:46 | 9:25
Into the wind. The smile patches weren’t enough to conceal the pain while running into the wind, but I still managed to maintain a pace I was happy with. I could kiss a 4 hour finish goodbye, but maybe 4:05 was still doable. I focused on this new goal for the next few miles, but then, I lost it.
As I passed a guy who looked like he’d run out of steam, he attempted to keep up with me. This is one of my pet peeves. I am not a pacer. Do not follow me. Do not try to keep up unless we are running together. It annoys me and throws off my rhythm. Nothing personal. I backed off and let him pass me. Of course, he slowed down. We played that game for a few minutes until I became impatient and decided I had to lose this guy. I increased the pace which made my foot hurt beyond my tolerable zone. This was a HUGE mistake and probably my only regret about this race.
Miles 21-26.2 ~ 9:58 | 9:51 | 10:14 | 10:21 | 10:33 | 10:12
Immediately, I felt my pace slowing. Smile patches no longer worked, not even a little bit. This was not good. This last section of the race was uncharted territory. I didn’t want to start it this way. Before I had time to go into full panic mode, I saw Geoffrey and Luka again. Perfect timing. I greeted them cheerfully, again, and carried on.
The last few miles were brutal. Mentally, I felt strong. I was even questioning the whole “proverbial wall” thing. Is it a myth ? A self fulfilling prophecy ? Physically, the rest of my body felt great. So, I kept trying to control my pace but, eventually, I just gave up. Finishing was always my main goal and I’d already come this far. I had this one in the bag. I wasn’t going to let anything keep me from the finish line. I’d hop if I had to. So, I finally relaxed.
As I came around the bend with .2 miles left to go, I welled up. I thought about all the hurdles I’ve had to cross and all the struggles I’ve had to face to get this opportunity which so many take for granted. And, ironically, the reward wasn’t even an easy one. Fortunately, whatever I am made of, is quite powerful.
Overall, I am happy with my time. It’s rare that I am this easy on myself, I know. But I have to admit, I could not have delivered a better performance today.
See Garmin Data for more details.