Monday, November 23, 2015

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

Remember my Marathon Race Plan? It did not happen.

I owe this race to my training and my friend. My training, because absolutely nothing went right during the race. My legs only kept moving and crossed the finish line because of the work I’d put in for months and months beforehand. My lovely purple-haired friend, because she stood waiting for me in the cold at mile 22 and ran with me for a quarter mile to make me keep running when I was hyperventilating and trying to give up.

The day itself was brilliant and joyous. Le Excellent Boyfriend ran his first half marathon and rocked it! He’s already hinted at maybe perhaps doing a full. He will deny it to the utmost extent if asked, but he's become a very good runner in a short amount of time and loves it. My friend came from Washington to also run the half! She ran the full with me last year, but due to being awesome this fall decided that with time constraints training for a half was more reasonable. She squeaked in under her goal of 2 hours and was super happy.

The week leading up to the race, I was nervous and stressed. I was worried I’d be far off my goal. I couldn’t decide what socks to wear. I spent endless time debating on a long sleeve mock turtle neck shirt or a no sleeve with arm warms and gloves. I planned out each meal for the week but my stomach still felt queasy and upset up until Friday. I calmed down as the day approached but still got butterflies and a vaguely constipated look on my face whenever I thought about the race.

Race day was cold and windy, but just warm enough to go with a no sleeve shirt and arm warmers. My plan was to run with the 3:35:00 pace group for the first 13 miles (at 8:12 pace), and then speed up to run 8:00s the second 13 miles. One of the two pacers showed up just before the race started, sans balloons. It was good I introduced myself at the expo or I would’ve been SOL. We started out at the back of our corral, which in retrospect was a terrible idea. Too many people from slower corrals had squeezed into mine, and the streets are narrow for the first few miles. First mile was 8:45. The next few weren’t any better. The pacer was unaware that we were going too slowly and spent a lot of his time saying hello to people and complaining about the course.

At around mile 1, I realized that what I thought was a stomach full of butterflies and nerves had turned into a stomach full of cramps and hurting. It only got worse as time went on. By the time we hit mile 8, a full 2 minutes behind 3:35:00 pace, I was hurting, frustrated, tired of listening to the people in the pace group complaining about running group logos, and wanted desperately to be done. At mile 8, I started eating my BonkBreaker bar. Gels have historically not worked for me. But the bar upset my stomach even further. By mile 11, when we hit flat ground again, I was feeling vaguely dizzy, nauseous, and angry. The pace group was still almost 2 minutes behind and they seemed to be slowing. I ran away, followed by a guy who wanted to follow my plan of speeding up in the second half.  I should have sped up sooner, but I felt so miserable I simply couldn’t imagine continuing the early miles without company.

I kicked it up, running at just slower than my half marathon pace for almost the rest of the marathon. As we split from the half marathoners, I wanted to cry. I genuinely didn’t think I would make it the full 26.2 miles, let alone anywhere close to the time I wanted. I ran up Kelly Drive with tears threatening behind my eyes. My thoughts kept time with my feet, which were keeping pace independently of any higher mental functioning on my part. I can’t make it. I won’t make it. There’s no way. *starting to hyperventilate* Stop it. Calm down. Check in with yourself. You’re still alive, right? Breathing? Heart beating? Legs moving? Yes, no idea how. Ok. Then just try. Just go another mile.

I hit mile 15 and I decided I could keep to sub-8s for 5 more miles until mile 20, at which point I could fall apart if I wanted to. I made it to mile 20. I almost stopped at the turnaround to run back into the city. I knew I was getting dehydrated, so I kept forcing myself to drink water and Gatorade. Every time I drank, my stomach cramped further. I couldn’t breathe. Somehow there was a headwind both going up Kelly Drive AND back down it. By mile 22, I was mewling like a beaten kitten even though my eyes weren’t producing tears. My purple-haired friend was standing right next to the mile marker. I saw her, and started to slow down in order to stop and fall into her arms crying. From 200 feet away I was shaking my head, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

She turned and started running away from me, forcing me to follow. “You can.” My friend is not a runner. She is athletic and fit, a master equestrienne and talented weight lifter, but she has often declared publicly that she will not be doing any races. She ran with me, at 7:45 pace, with a big purse, for a quarter mile, shouting that I was fine, that I could do it, that I was almost there, that running wasn’t that terrible, and to keep it up. She believes in me so hard, and I simply couldn’t disappoint. As much pain as I was in, my legs weren’t actually hurting all that much. They seemed almost separate from the rest of me, churning along to their own tune. So I let them continue, breathed, and realized it was almost over.

A Goal – 3:31:xx

B Goal – 3:35:00

Result – 3:33:57

Boston Qualifier. I qualified for Boston. I’m so happy with my time. Actually, I’m so shocked by my time. I felt awful the entire race, and yet I still ran from behind to finish better than my B goal. What can I do if I feel good? If I train just a little harder? If I run with a pace group that keeps the pace? My friend from Washington and I signed up to run the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon in June. I’ve got the BQ. Now I want to run a 3:30:00 and get into the race.

Thank you to my wonderful friends and my boyfriend. I love you guys. I couldn't do it without you.

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