Sunday, November 08, 2015

Marathon race report

Getting to the starting line:

My training was going super well for most of the summer. I started officially training for the marathon on Memorial Day weekend and was so diligent--I was doing a marathon-training program that was a huge step up (used Higdon last time, used Pftizinger this time) and so I spent 7 weeks building up my mileage before the 18-week marathon training began. So 17 weeks in (7 week build-up + 10 weeks marathon training) I started having this horrible cramping pain in my calf that was so bad I couldn't run (later diagnosed as complications from Achilles tendonitis and IT band syndrome, which was the diagnosis under which I ran the marathon--in actuality, it was a pretty nasty tibial stress fracture).

I tried a few things for a week or so and rested and iced and stretched, but nothing worked, so I started physical therapy. I ended up with almost 2 full weeks of no running and 6 weeks of very restricted running. I wasn't able to do my 3rd 20-miler and my long runs were seriously curtailed (the longest runs I did in the 8 weeks before the marathon were only 14 miles, which had been the length of my previous medium-long midweek runs). I was only able to run 4 days a week, and 3 of those were quite short (5 miles tops) at an easy pace. I was in pain all the time--it never ever went away during the day or night. I did an hour of physical therapy every day, cross-trained as much as I could, used ice/heat to deal with pain and swelling, and Neil would massage my calf for at least 20 minutes every single night to get rid of the huge lumps that would have developed during the day. I cried so so so much worrying over whether I would be able to run the marathon and whether I SHOULD run the marathon.

The week of the race, I ran on Monday and Tuesday and both runs were very painful. I took the next three days off and focused on yoga, stretching, physical therapy, and resting as much as I could. I was a huge mess of nerves and then Luke fell in the grocery store on Halloween weekend and got a concussion...then Isaac fell at school the night before the race and got a concussion. Neil drove home to meet my mom at the hospital and I spent the night crying and worrying and stretching. I eventually cried myself to sleep...not the most auspicious way to start a race, but apparently it guaranteed a good night's sleep because I went right back to sleep when Neil returned to our hotel after taking Isaac home from the hospital (you guys it was CRAZY). is the race report.

Mile 1: 9:58--Started out with the 4:30 pace group to ensure that I would run slowly for the warmup and not go out too fast. Took a Gu before the start.
Mile 2: 10:19--Saw my husband at the 2-mile mark and he said that his bike had a flat, so he needed to go repair it. I started worrying a little because I'd given him my belt (with my chia water & all my Gu/Honey Stingers) at the start line and I only had one Gu in my belt.
Mile 3: 9:50--Keep having to slow down to stay with the pacer, so I drop him as we pass Monument Circle and just run at what feels comfortable.
Mile 4: 9:31--Pace feels good and easy. Very enjoyable.
Mile 5: 9:54--still running solo; walked through water stop
Mile 6: 9:35--passed the 10K timing mats which had been motivating me on for the last few miles.
Mile 7: 9:34--took a Gu. Still hadn't seen my husband--starting to get a little worried.
Mile 8: 9:54--walked through another water stop.
Mile 9: 9:26--start thinking that a PR might be possible. Much mental math ensues.
Mile 10: 9:37--feeling great.
Mile 11: 9:46--walked through another water stop. A cute little kid handles me a Twizzler and I manage to make it last for a mile.
Mile 12: 9:38--still feeling great. Loving all the crowd support.
Mile 13: 9:36--if I can hold this same pace in the second half I will PR by 4 minutes. Very excited by this. Happy to see that I've dropped a few seconds per mile since the 10K.
Mile 14: 9:35--Sudden depression occasioned by leaving all the cheering fans behind and having passed the 13.1 timing mats that I'd been looking forward to for the last few miles. Started feeling kind of crummy here; checked my watch and realized it was 14.2 and I hadn't taken any nutrition since mile 7 other than the Twizzler. Still no husband, so ate the very very awful banana-flavored Carb Boom that I'd picked up a few miles back. Literally the worst thing I have ever eaten in my life--it was super grainy and tasted TERRIBLE.
Mile 15: 10:06--spent awhile at the water stop trying to wash out the awful banana flavor from my mouth. So awful. Also started to get down mentally here--worrying about why I hadn't seen my husband in 15 miles and whether I was going to be able to make it for the rest of the race if I didn't have my Gu, since I didn't think I'd be able to manage another Carb Boom. Started questioning why the $^&* I was doing this in the first place. 11 miles to go seems absolutely impossible. Left foot feels like a thousand blisters have formed on top of each other and I have the horrible sinking realization that I forgot to put any anti-chafing stuff on my feet. This worry occupies me for the next three miles.
Mile 16: 9:56--hit the hills but my husband showed up (he had to go 20 miles up the freeway to find a Walmart with a bike tube in stock), so I felt sort of better. Took a Honey Stinger.
Mile 17: 10:11--not enjoying the hills. Remind myself that they are comparatively miniscule, but self is not convinced.
Mile 18: 10:17--walked through water stop and saw another runner stop and just start screaming and hyperventilating while her friends all gathered around her trying to get her to calm down.That was a little freaky. Took another Honey Stinger and more of the chia water. Got really bummed because the 30K timing mats were earlier than I'd expected (I never actually did the math and just randomly expected them at mile 20, and I had mentally blocked out the course in terms of "get to the mats and then it's just a 10K"). So that was really bizarrely upsetting in the way that only makes sense during a race where you're pushing yourself along mentally.
Mile 19: 9:49--downhill and feeling better but not as strong as I was earlier.
Mile 20: 9:54--not feeling wonderful and starting to worry about hitting the wall. Took another Gu. Really starting to worry about whether I could finish. Part of me was still thinking I could possible PR but another part of me thought that was idiotic.
Mile 21: 10:22--slowing enough that the PR seems impossible. Feeling worse and worse--quads and hips are really hurting and my calf is starting to twinge. Tell myself that I will never do this again because it is stupid and pointless. Decide that some people are superhuman and I am not. It seems like everyone around me is walking--I really want to walk, but I've never done that before and it seems like admitting defeat. At the same time, I don't know if I can keep running another 5 miles. Realize that walking may be the difference between a DNF and a non-PR-but-still-finish, so I give myself thirty seconds to walk and then running is sooo much easier. Actually feels good again.
Mile 22: 10:37--another 30-second walking break and then walking through the water stop. This is doable. Not fabulous, but doable. Another Honey Stinger.
Mile 23: 11:16--walking breaks are coming more frequently now as the cramps get worse. With no shot at a PR, I decide to just focus on one mile at a time. The road is TERRIBLE around here and running on the camber over potholes is very painful.
Mile 24: 11:34--calf is getting more painful. My brain says that I am using the sore calf as an excuse to wimp out on running, but then my legs tell my brain to shut up. Another Honey stinger and finish off the squeeze bottle of chia stuff.
Mile 25: 11:52--cramping is really, really, really bad now. Muscles are jumping and running is pretty rough. I pass one guy lying on the sidewalk crying while a medic works on him. My husband says he's going to head towards the finish line but I ask him to stay with me until the mile 25 marker.
Mile 26: 10:54--so close, and so painful. I really want to run this whole mile, but everything is spasming so much in both legs that I have take one walking break just to press the balls of my thumbs into my quads until the muscles relax enough that I can run again. Coldplay's Viva La Vita comes on over my earbuds just as I make the first turn into the skyscraper-shadowed street (my favorite running song) and I tell myself that it's all running from here on out.
Last .36: 3:23 (9:23/mile pace)--last turn and the finish line still looks SO far away! Normally I really try to sprint as soon as I see the finish, but about 100 meters down both legs spasm so much that I almost fall over. No idea how I managed to stay upright, but I bend over as I run and smack my fists all over my legs until the pain eases up enough that I can run. I'm crying now with both pain and relief that it's almost over; I tell myself that I can pass one more person before the finish line and somehow I do.

Thoughts afterwards:

1) Surprised by how quickly I went from feeling awesome to absolutely despairing so early in the race. Not sure if it was nutrition, worry about my husband, or just being undertrained the last 8 weeks. Fortunately I got through the emotional despair but I wish it hadn't hit at the same time as the hilly portion of the course

2) My right knee and quads are absolutely trashed. My calves barely hurt at all. GO FIGURE. I have not had one single twinge from all the areas that were bothering me so much pre-marathon.

3) A nice old man asked me at church today if I had back problems after he watched me sort of fall into my seat.

4) Part of me feels like I handled the last six miles of the race very poorly by "giving in" and walking when I maybe didn't need to do so quite so early or so much. Another part of me is saying that I ran it conservatively because I had a pre-existing injury. Really hard for my competitive nature to reconcile this here!

5) I will definitely do another marathon but I absolutely positively need to lose about 15 lbs first to make things easier on my joints. That will be my goal over the winter--I hear the holidays are a really great time to go on a diet...

6) I'm happy with my pacing. It was even enough for a long enough period and felt very comfortable and easy, so I feel like it was a good choice to hang out in that 9:30/9:50 with water stop range. Most of my worry pre-race was in getting to mile 20; I knew it was going to be really dang hard after that with my leg and the lack of training for the previous 8 weeks. I was consistently passing people until mile 21.5 when I had to stop and walk, and that was good for me mentally (although it got kind of frustrating passing the same people over and over from miles 21.5 to 25.5...).

7) I'm so darn glad that I didn't give up when I was first injured and that I stuck through all the crappy runs, the hours of physical therapy, the daily tear-inducing massages, etc. until I actually was able to run the race. It made it much more meaningful not just to me but to my kids, since they saw me crying my eyes out working through the PT exercises every day and how determined I was to stick with it and somehow make it to the starting line. It was probably the most impressive thing they have ever seen me do, and I think it made a real impact on all of them. Several of them mentioned more than once something about working at your goals even if they seem so impossibly hard, "just like Mommy's marathon after she got hurt."


Rosalind said...

This is amazing Rachael. Such.a beautiful journey of self-discovery! And so cool for your kids to learn about work and perseverance from you. I am so happy you were able to finish so well! It is in the furnace of affliction that we find a resevoir of strength-- looks like you found yours!!

Neil said...

Congratulations, sweetheart!

Handsfullmom said...

Congratulations!!! You should be so proud of yourself. I can't believe you did so well after your injury. You are made of some strong stuff! Reading this race report reminds me of why I'm sticking to half right now. I'm signed up for one on thanksgiving, and I fear I am really unprepared.

Adrienne said...

that was fun to read your play by play. I've run 2 marathons so I sympathize. I pretty much get through my marathons by doing mental math. Maybe one day again. I signed us all up for a 4 mile turkey trot this year. I hope to run a mile or so. That would be great progress for me. Baby steps.

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