April 12, 2014
Time: 4:20:55 Pace: 9:58
Age Group: F30-34, 30/62
Half Splits: 1:58:12/2:22:43
8K: 42:42 20Mile: 3:13:36 Last 10K: 1:07:20
I don’t know where to start other than everything I did was wrong. I did not hit either of my goals: to run a PR and to run a sub 4 hour marathon. I’m still a newbie endurance runner considering this was only my second marathon and mistakes will happen along the way, but I knew better. Let’s just start from the beginning.
Friday was the expo and since my company was one of the sponsors, we had a booth at the expo. The optical manager and I had to be there around 9:00am to set up our booth. I knew it was going to be a long day so I woke up at 5:00am to get in my 2 mile easy run to loosen up. Because it was still so dark and Indy hasn’t been the safest lately, I opted for the treadmill. I had very minimal pain in my right leg but just enough for me to notice it, but I knew I could still run on it. I arrived at the expo at 9:30 am and it took the optical manager and I until 11:00 to set everything up. By then the expo started. The expo ran from 11:00am to 9:00pm. During slow periods I would sit at our booth and use the trigger ball on my legs. I had brought plenty of water with me to stay hydrated and the expo coordinators provided a plethora of food throughout the day. But when it was busy, I was up in front of our booth promoting Lanter Eyecare. Talking to people for hours at a time really takes it out of you. By late afternoon I was exhausted and started to get a headache. Bryan came to relieve me around 7:00pm but by then some of the other booths were starting to clear out and it had died down. So we made the decision to go ahead and start packing up as well. I had originally planned to make quinoa pasta and red sauce when I got home for my prerace dinner like I usually do, but I had two slices of pizza and some breadsticks at the expo so I figured that would suffice. By the time I got home and ready for bed, it was 9:00pm and I was out. I usually lay awake and roll around with anxiety the night before a race but I was so tired that I was asleep immediately.
The next morning my alarm went off at 4:30am but I hit snooze until 5:00am. I washed my face and prepared my oatmeal. I always have a difficult time eating so early in the morning and I usually gag on my oatmeal before getting it down. But this time, I couldn’t get it down at all. I had maybe 5 or 6 bites of it. If you gave me oatmeal right now to eat, I could eat it in a second. But for some reason, it’s difficult for me to eat it before a race. So I thought it’s okay, I’ll just eat my Picky Bar. But in the car, I could only eat one bite of it, still gagging. I was hydrated so what was my deal?! Bryan thought of applesauce and we stopped by a CVS and two gas stations on the way to the race and none had applesauce so I settled for mandarin oranges. I knew I didn’t have enough calories in me to sustain a marathon. But what could I do that this point? If I kept gagging on my food, I wouldn’t keep it down.
Bryan dropped me off at the start and wished me good luck. He told me to race smart and to not start out too fast. Just stay glued to my race pace. It’s like it went through one ear and out the other. I found my sister at the start and she kept me company while I stretched until the race began. Waiting in the corral, I felt okay. It was chilly, but bearable.
After the countdown, I was off. I felt good, light on my feet. And surprisingly my right leg didn’t bother me at all. I settled into a comfortable pace or so I thought. I was trying not to look at my watch as much and just go based on feel. My heart rate was low and people were passing me so I wasn’t going out too fast, or so I thought.
Mile 1: 8:25 – Whoa! Slow down. Just adrenaline.
Mile 2: 8:20 – Okay Melissa, slower not faster.
Mile 3: 8:44 – Okay getting closer to my race pace.
Mile 4: 8:26 – Jeez, apparently my body is so excited to be running outside that I can’t slow down.
Mile 5: 8:37 – Okay, I’m having difficulty harnessing my energy from my taper.
Mile 6: 8:56 – That’s more like it.
Mile 7: 8:46 – Steady. Gel #1.
Mile 8: 8:50 – Stay.At.This.Pace.
Mile 9: 9:06 – Finally, settling in, maybe.
Mile 10: 9:24 – Slowing down, still have 16 more miles to go.
Mile 11: 9:35 – A little slow, but not worried because I started out too quick.
Mile 12: 9: 28 – Cruising along.
Mile 13: 10:15 – Running.on.fumes. Am I done yet?
Miles 14-26: awful! Miles 14-16 were a straight up blur. My kryptonite mix of not eating enough and starting out too fast finally hit me. If the half marathon point wasn’t in the middle of a neighborhood in no man’s land I probably would have just raised my white flag and retreated. But for once my mind told me to suck it up and keep going. Usually it’s my mind that wants to give up and my body wants to keep going. This time it was the opposite. My mind was pushing me through the second half of this marathon because my body was literally running on fumes. A gel wouldn’t cut it. If I had a banana and a granola bar I think I still could have pulled out a PR, but my measley gel wasn’t going to pull me through. At mile 14.5, I stopped to walk for the first time and take my second gel. This was way to soon for me to be walking. In Chicago I didn’t walk until mile 19ish. So I had my gel and collected my thoughts. Just then the 4:00 hour pace group passed me. That totally deflated any sort of confidence that was left in me.
I started to to break the race down into small segments to get through it. Okay 6 more miles and I’ll see Bryan and my coworkers at our water station. The thought of seeing familiar faces kept me going. It wasn’t fast but at least I was moving. Bryan knew I had to be at our water station at Mile 20 by a certain time to be on pace, but since I wasn’t there he went searching for me on his bike and found me around mile 19.5. He knew I was struggling and gave me some water and half a banana. My morale totally lifted as I ran through our water station to see my friends/coworkers and Gary & Connie. It put a smile on my face. Their energy helped me get through the last 10K.
After going through the water stop, Bryan gave me my last gel with caffeine. It was espresso flavored. Bad idea during a marathon. I was dry heaving trying to eat it and could only manage half of it. A mile or so after the gel, Bryan gave me some orange slices. They were the best orange slices I’ve ever had. The weird thing was even though I was fighting for ever single mile, my heart rate was still reasonably low for me. Bryan was wondering how I was able to talk to him while running. Obviously, I wasn’t running fast enough. My body physically wouldn’t move faster. Bryan said “I lit all my matches” going out too fast at the start. He knew I was still struggling, but told me to set mini goals. “Catch that girl in front of you that is wearing pants during a marathon when it’s 70 degrees outside.” He always knows how to make me laugh. But it worked. I focused on passing one person at a time. While everyone else in front of me was walking, I was passing them, slowly, but at least I was running. Bryan finally sped up on his bike to the finish line where I would meet him. During the last mile before the finish, there was one final hill, again everyone in front of me was walking, but I slowly chipped away at people and when I got to the top of the hill it was the final 0.2 mile stretch into the finish. And also at the at the top of the hill were Gary and Connie, my parent-in-laws. I was so excited to see them. I ran over to Connie with a smile on my face. After them, I saw my sister Cassie. She was jumping up and down cheering for me. I was so excited to see my sister that I almost ran over to her and jumped in her arms but knew I needed to keep going and just finish already. And finally, after fighting for 26.2 miles, I finished. It wasn’t a PR and it wasn’t a sub 4 hour marathon. It was ugly, but all that mattered at this point was that I finished and I didn’t give up.
This marathon was a very humbling experience for me. I automatically thought that I would get a PR because it was my second marathon, but I was wrong. Every race is different and has it’s own challenges both mentally and physically. I honestly would not have gotten through this race without my husband, sister, Gary and Connie, and my coworkers and friends. They pushed me through every mile.
At the end of the day, I take total responsibility for my performance. The weather was great, the course was relatively flat and fast. My main mistakes were not consuming enough calories before the race and starting out too fast. I only have myself to blame. And apparently I like to learn the hard way. It’s frustrating putting in 18 weeks of training and not achieving my goals. I know I can run a sub 4 hour marathon. I just didn’t do it. Looking back on my training, I didn’t do enough speed work – I had it on my training plan but instead of doing repeats, I would run the equivalent milage at easy pace. Instead of more race pace runs, I ran at easy pace. I do think the treadmill has it’s time and place, but not for every run. I think I ran a total of 3 times outside for a total of 18 weeks. That definitely didn’t prepare me for running outside. On a lighter note, I did PR my half marathon time of 1:58:12, which was previously 1:58:39.
My next marathon won’t be until the Indy Monumental Marathon November 1st. I do have the Boston 5K, Indy Mini Marathon, and numerous sprint triathlons until then. So for now, I need to enjoy swimming and cycling as well as running in preparation for my triathlons. Until we meet again 26.2, next time means war.