Hmmm. It's been a while again, hasn't it? This was a harder race report to write - I don't think I've been more disappointed immediately after a race. Don't worry, though, I'm not dwelling much, now and I know some good things came out of it this year.
So . . . let's start with the good things:
~ No matter how miserable I was feeling, the individual miles never dragged. I never felt as though I was making no progress.
~ While walking definitely occurred, never for very long and I ran the entire last 3 miles.
~ I have never felt stronger at a Grandma's finish.
~ Despite feeling as though there was NO possible way to take another gel and not throw it right back up, I ate every one on schedule and had no problems at all with them. Which means I've finally found fuel that will work no matter the weather conditions - huzzah!
~ I met an awesome runner around 16 or 17 who chatted with me (well, mostly TO me since I couldn't talk much, but I really appreciated it!) for a few miles. I finally let her go just as we were getting into town so I hope she did what she wanted.
~ I recovered at the finish (and after the race) fairly quickly.
On to race day:
I woke up Saturday morning at the campground and . . . I could see the lake! I did a little dance - seeing the lake means the humidity isn't so ridiculous. Non-ridiculous humidity was something I could handle. Time for food. Now, I don't think I've talked about all my experimenting for race day breakfast this training go-round. The last couple of years, my stomach/nerves seem to have gotten worse and worse - on race day morning, I can barely eat anything be it a marathon or a 5K. Now, it's okay to just get down a piece of toast for a 5K but it's not such a good idea for longer races and I've been trying to figure out what my stomach might tolerate come race morning. I've been doing Malt-O-Meal the last couple of years but, again, come race morning I can only get down about half of what I usually eat. Plus there's the whole - 'oh shit! My hotel room doesn't have a microwave!' problem. I'd read some things about meal replacement beverages being a good thing to try, so I experimented with a couple varieties and found that strawberry flavored Boost works great! Plus - it requires no prep so it's stress free and easily packable. Come race morning, I had no problem drinking it all down - great news!
I had laid out all my race clothes the night before and brought them out for dressing. Hmmmmm. Where are my pace bands? I printed them off, grabbed the tape to laminate them and I'm sure they made it in my bag. Hmmmmm. Can't find them anywhere. Okay. No problem. I know I need to run 8:12s for a 3:35 and even 8s for a 3:30 so I know where abouts I need to be without the band.
I had been thinking about having my parents just drop me off on the side of the highway across from the starting area. I get so annoyed waiting for the buses to slowly drive down to the drop off area. It takes a couple of minutes to get to the starting area from the pickup spot and then it takes 15 minutes to hang out there waiting until they let us off. Really, though, I get on the first bus out of the Super One lot in Two Harbors so there's plenty of time so I decided to follow the rules and take the bus. Good Sam.
Time to jump right into the porta-potty line. Get to the front, take my turn and head right back to the back of the line. I figured I didn't have anything better to do :) Connie joined the line next to me and slightly behind. Showing my usual flair for picking the worst line, Connie got through her line several minutes before me. In fact, when I hard the Star Spangled Banner going on, I decided to ditch the line and head to the start so I wouldn't miss the jet fly-over. Going by the number of people still in line, I'm not sure how they all made it through before the start. Since it was lower humidity and the sun was hiding at the start with some threatening looking clouds, I decided against the small water bottle I brought. I think that was a good decision - I didn't have to carry it around and I never really needed it. It's super comfortable but why carry what you don't need to, right? So all I needed to carry was my homemade gel pouch in my left hand. I shall update with details later!
My "stars align" goal was 3:30 and lining up at the start, I was pretty confident. I felt good, the weather looked great and I might as well just start at that pace and see what happens and how long it felt good. I think it probably would have been smarter to stick to 3:35 pace from the beginning (a difference of about 12 seconds/mile) but who knows what that would have changed. I wanted to hang out just behind the 3:30 pace balloons but could only find the 3:40 pacers in the starting crowd. I found a nice open spot a decent amount in front of them, though, and ran into Connie again. It was nice to be next to a friend at the start.
Off goes the starting horn and away we go!
My first couple miles are a little fast and I realize I'm catching up to the 3:30 balloons faster than I should so I back off a bit. I find my pace and hang out just behind the wall of people that make up the 3:30 group. Things go along pretty smoothly, actually: 7:47, 7:53, 7:56, 8:02, 8:02, 8:08, 8:03, 8:14, 8:18, 8:07. I'm comfortable where I'm at and feel strong. Then, all of a sudden, comes mile 11. Nothing too traumatic, I just suddenly look up and realize the balloons look further ahead of me and my watch is saying 8:31. Strange. The next mile - not any better. Suddenly, my body is acting strange and not responding. I tried not to really panic, since it was early on but I was nauseous and finding it hard to breathe and so it would continue for most of the rest of the race.
It was really, really frustrating. I felt as though my body was acting like it was hot and humid out and here it was, a perfectly lovely day. Okay, it wasn't PERFECT weather, but it was pretty damn nice and loads better than it has been in the past so what was up? I'm not sure at all and I don't like it. This is my first marathon that went wrong where I haven't been to pinpoint exactly WHAT went wrong. I was frustrated with myself and disappointed at my inability to get it back in as I fell further and further back. I've had plenty of training runs where there's some iffy miles that I just have to plow through and then I come out the other end of it just fine. Well, I didn't seem to be able to plow through this very strongly at all and wasn't feeling any better and was reduced to just plugging along. The outsides of both my knees were extremely sore the rest of the day, probably due to the strange shuffle I was doing.
One thing that was nice was making it to Lemon Drop (after being disappointed again by the orange slices right beforehand) only to easily run my way up it thinking how it wasn't much of a hill at all. Then, at about 3 miles left (a bit after Lemon Drop), I was 99% sure that puking was finally going to happen (this is also where I confess to thinking about taking one of those offered beer samples on London Road, just to make myself hurl and get it over with. Happily, I resisted the momentary urge!). I moved to the side and assumed the Stance (you know what I'm talking about!) but it was not to be. Okay, back into I go and then ran every step of the last three miles a million times stronger then I had been.
It's pretty fun to do those last miles while feeling not completely miserable - the crowds are massive, the downhill is so nice and I was passing tons and tons of people. However, I was pissed that I was suddenly able to go and worried that the stronger feeling wouldn't last long but decided that at this point, the plan was to go as strong as possible until I couldn't. As it turned out, I could push it good all the way in. I couldn't believe it when I got a nasty, nasty sideache less than half a mile from the finish, though. But, really, I think the only surprising part now is that I didn't get one before with all the difficulty breathing I was having. Well. Who cares if you can't breathe, there's half a mile left. I had long been promising myself that at the finish I could finally let myself hurl and let myself cry so I might as well add letting myself double over to gasp for breath to that. Happily at the finish, there was no hurling and no doubling over. I did have Tonya to hang on for a minute, though.
So the Grandma's curse stands. I'm not happy with a 4:07 when I wanted a 3:35 but this was my fastest Grandma's so far so maybe I'm chipping away at the curse little by little. Maybe next time around I'll smash through it! Right now, I'm a bit peeved that I have do a fall marathon, now, if I want to do Boston next spring. I was starting to think about Moose Mountain but I think that's a bad idea if I have to do a road marathon, too. My original backup was Fox Cities but . . . it's a lot more expensive then just doing Whistlestop. So, despite it being the weekend before Wild Duluth, I think that's going to be my plan. But we all know how well I make decisions . . .