Warning: This race recap is ridiculously long, sorry.
I always manage to completely stress myself out in the days leading up to a big race. With memories of last year in my mind, I was determined not to get sick, so I started in with the precautionary Airborne tablets on Wednesday. I was completely convinced on Thursday that I was coming down with something. I had a headache and what I swore was the beginning of a sore throat. I was so upset about it that I started dreading the race. This snowballed for the rest of the day, and I was having thoughts like what was I thinking trying to qualify for Boston? It’s too hard, I’ll never make it. I can’t wait until this is all over, etc, etc. I went to bed at 9:30 on Thursday night determined to knock out my non-existent impending illness.
I ended up getting 9 hours of pretty good sleep and woke up Friday morning in a completely different state of mind. I was excited about the race again, though I still couldn’t wait until it was over. I work half-days on Fridays, which worked out well. After work I stopped over at Performance Running Outfitters in Brookfield to pick up my new team jersey. I joined their racing team (sweet!), so the jersey is a really cool perk (see photo below). After that I headed over to REI to look for some new running shorts and pick up some gels. I was originally planning to wear capris for the race, but when I saw that it was going to be in the mid to upper 70′s, I knew shorts were the way to go. I haven’t bought any new running shorts in several years, and the only ones I had that are confortable were either neon green or white with neon green, neither of which would match with my sweet new jersey. I ended up getting these:
Let me tell you that they are the most awesomely comfortable running shorts I have ever owned, and are worth the steep price tag of $38.
After my little shopping trip I headed home for some afternoon relaxation. Unfortunately, I did have a bit of work to finish up at home as well, but I got that done pretty quickly. I got all of my stuff organized for the race, and then it was time for an early dinner. I had a small salad topped with a veggie burger, half of a sweet potato with cottage cheese, and some crackers. I know it sounds random, but it’s the sort of thing I have been eating before all of my long runs, so I knew it would sit well. A little bit later I also had a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin with dark chocolate peanut butter for dessert. Holy yum.
I got into bed a little before 9pm and put on a movie (movies usually have the effect of putting me to sleep unfortunately). Within 20 minutes I was really tired so I turned off the TV and was out. I woke up a few times during the night, but not as much as usual before a race. I woke up at one point wondering how many minutes before my alarm would go off at 4am, and when I looked at the clock it was 3:59. Don’t you just love that?
I got up right away and immediately made a cup of coffee. I had my usual bagel with peanut butter and honey, and then another cup of coffee for good measure. I got dressed and gathered all of my stuff, and before I knew it my friend James was picking me up at 5am. We made the drive down to Kenosha, stopping at a gas station along the way to use the bathroom. We luckily found a free parking lot about three blocks from the start/finish area. I put on my running shoes, then snacked on a banana and 2 big dates (they are nature’s miracle energy food if you ask me). We jogged down to the starting area, and of course by now I had to pee again, so to the port-a-potty line we went. I should mention here that there was a woman announcing over a microphone all sorts of information about the race. She said that after the race there would be brats for the runners or pancakes. This was music to my ears because I love me some pancakes, and brats are really just not my thing. We made out way to the starting line around 6:45 and waited for the start. My plan was to start out holding steady at an 8:15 pace, banking about 7 seconds per mile (overall goal pace was 8:23).
The race started and we were off. The first 6 miles were fast. 7:57, 7:47, 8:02, 8:07, 8:09, 8:10. There was a lot of energy because the half-marathoners were also on the same course. After the first turnaround I started to see some people I knew and waved to them. I took a Hammer gel around mile 6, after which my stomach felt a little weird. All I could do was hope it would hold out, which thankfully it did. Miles 7-12 stayed really consistent. I knew the pace was fast, but I felt great and decided to just hold steady and bank as much time as possible, knowing that I would need it later in the race. 8:05, 8:10, 8:10, 8:04, 8:05, 8:02. Somewhere around here the half-marathoners split off towards the finish line, and the marathoners kept going for the southern portion of the course.
I felt like I was pushing it a little, but I still felt comfortable. I think I took another Hammer gel around the halfway point. The southern portion of the course takes runners all the way to the Illinois border and back. We were headed into the wind here, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. It was also starting to get pretty hot, but I actually don’t mind the heat too much. James and I just kept pushing forward at a consistent pace. I was starting to get tired, but I knew that after the final turnaround we would have the wind at our backs for the rest of the race. Miles 13-18 were 8:17, 8:19, 8:00, 8:14, 8:15, 8:14. By now we had banked over 3 minutes, and I knew I was in good shape for a 3:40 finish. We reached the final turnaround at mile 18.5 or so, and the wind was at our backs. Why is it that when you run into the wind you can really feel it slowing you down, but then when you turn around and have it at your back it feels like there is no wind at all?
Miles 19 and 20 stayed consistent at 8:19 and 8:16, and then things started to slow down. Somewhere in here I took another Hammer gel. By the time I hit mile 21 I was hurting. I was just tired all over, and I knew the last 5 miles were going to be killer. To me miles 21-24 are always the worst. I was in so much pain, and at the same time so close but so far away. 8:25, 8:37, 8:36, 8:28. Somewhere around mile 23-24, my calves started to cramp up. They were really twinging, but luckily it never progressed to a full-blown seizing and I was able to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. With two miles to go I knew I just had to hang on and I would be headed to Boston. I was hurting so so badly and all I wanted to do was stop. I just kept telling myself to push a little longer. This is it, I didn’t work my ass off for four months to come here and lose it in the last two miles. Mile 25 was 8:42. With 1.2 miles to go, I tried to pick it up a little, but I had nothing left. Mile 26 was 8:37. With about 400 meters to go and the finish line in sight, James looked at me and asked if my endorphins were kicking in for the finish. I couldn’t even respond out loud that no, they were not. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:37:49, and my Garmin had the course measured at 26.45 miles. There were quite a few turns, so that’s not really surprising.
Boston, here I come!
I collected my cheezy finisher’s medal, and DailyMile friend Krista came over and congratulated me (thanks Krista!). I seriously could barely walk over to the water table. I grabbed two bottles of water and a banana and collapsed on the grass. I thanked James for running with me, because seriously, I don’t think I could have pulled that off by myself. He is super-speedy (already qualified for Boston with a smokin’ 3:13:something in Phoenix earlier this year), and I was very grateful to have him pacing me.
After sitting for a while on the grass, I wanted my pancakes, so we headed over to the food tent. That is when I saw a sign that said “runners with food tickets, brats only.” WTF? You are telling me that I just ran a marathon and I can have a free brat, but I have to pay $5 for pancakes?? I was pissed. That’s when James offered to trade me $5 for my food ticket, so I got my pancakes and he got another brat and beer.
After we ate, it was time to make the trek back to the car. Only problem was, I quite literally could not walk. It was as if my hip flexors had been completely deactivated, and I could not lift my legs whatsoever. It was weird, and something that has never happened to me before. I tried walking backwards and sideways, but nothing was helping. I didn’t know how I was going to make it three blocks. I was also shivering, which was making things worse because my muscles were just locking up. James finally had to walk ahead and get the car while I kept inching my way pathetically down the sidewalk.
I didn’t remember to take a finishing picture until we got back to Milwaukee, so here I am outside of my condo:
I pretty much just relaxed and ate for the rest of the day. I was so incredibly dehydrated I probably drank 2 gallons of water, and I was just constantly thirsty. Steve and I went over to James’ place to grill out for dinner. It was really nice out so we ate outside, then indulged in chocolate angel food cake with strawberries and ice cream for dessert. We also had quite a bit of wine, and by the time we got home around midnight I was toast. I crashed hard and this morning I slept in until 9:45! That is a huge feat for me, as I am usually up by 6:30-7:00 even on the weekends. My legs are quite sore today, and stairs are presenting a bit of a problem. I still managed the walk down the street to Trocadero for some delicious brunch, and the rest of the day has been spent relaxing. This week will be a bit of recovery, and then I am going to ramp up into tri training. I think my bike is feeling a little neglected, so hopefully the weather stays nice and I can start racking up some serious mileage.
What a great start to racing season!