Brace yourself, this one might be painful. The marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, is never “easy.” But somewhere along the way, I had forgotten how hard it can be. This wasn’t the worst race I’ve ever run, the most painful or disappointing…but it’s the worst race I’ve run since 2010 and most disappointing since 2004. Ouch. Dissecting it all as any nerdy marathon runner would do, here’s the blow-by-blow…one painful learning experience at a time. It wasn’t all bad, but not much was good either…
Final Race Preparation: Pre-Race Concerns
So, taper is a trip and something always hurts.
I know that. I wrote about it. I feel like every time I finish training, some strange pain pops out of nowhere to psyche me out (or I get sick). Then I run a race, recover and it all goes away. At about 10 days out from the race, when my right hip started barking, I wasn’t all too concerned. But it never really got better. In fact, it got worse. I don’t know if you can “over-taper” but if you can, I did, because I was so afraid to run on it.
I saw a Dr. about it just before the race, he showed me how to tape it and a few great “nerve flossing” stretches and sent me home with a lacrosse ball. The pain wasn’t much to worry about and was not going to stop me from giving my final 2016 BQ a shot — but it sure messed with my mind.
In addition to the pain problem…
I hate to even say this because it might sound crazy, but I do weigh 5 more pounds than I did 3-4 years when I did all my best running. I am definitely not at my ideal “race weight.” People ask how you know what it is and now I know more than ever, it’s about 112-113 lbs. The only way to know yours is through trial and error. In the case of this error, those extra 5 added up. After about 50K steps into the marathon I knew they were there. I doubt I’ll try to BQ again until I get these pesky pounds off. I don’t think they look bad, but they are there…slowing me down…
I’d been watching the weather like a hawk weeks up until the race and was convinced it was going to turn at the last minute and be a in the low 50’s at the start and mid to high 60s at the finish. I know, I’m delusional, but you can’t fault me for trying to being optimistic. The days before the race when I realized my high hopes of cool weather were not coming to and we’d be dealing with high 60s at the start and low 80s at the finish I did some research.
There seems to be a general consensus when it comes to running in the heat and it is…”adjust your pace.” Like a lot. Like 30 seconds per mile. When you’re trying to BQ and you haven’t in years, 30 seconds per mile really isn’t in the marathon pacing budget. I tried everything else in the book, pre-cooling, hyper-hydration…either I did it wrong, or it did not work. Read on…
Getting to the Race : A great train ride with So Cal Runner Gal
This was the fun part. The days leading up to the race I was an emotional mess and I think I cried like three times because I thought it was so sweet of Kate to give up her weekend to come to Ventura with me and fight for that BQ. I feel awful for missing it and letting her down bites too. But it didn’t stop us from having a really great trip. Ventura is only about three hours north of San Diego, but I needed fewer things to worry about so we hopped on the train Saturday morning at rolled into Ventura around 2pm.
The Hotel Accommodations
Because I was on the fence about this race for so long and Ventura is so small, I had pretty limited accommodation choices when it came time to book something. We ended up a the Pacific Inn Motel, which is a legit 2 star, drive up, ground floor mo-tel. But the upside? It had a bed, a coffee maker, a refrigerator, television and was most certainly a 5 start location and came with a 5 star shower. If you’re going to Ventura for the marathon, this is not a bad option. We were less than a half mile from the start/finish, less than a quarter mile from the train station and just a few blocks from the fun downtown drag.
After we checked in we headed for the expo to pick up the packet and grab some early, easy to digest dinner. I set out all my race gear and literally had nothing left to do. I brought my eye mask and thought I’d give sleep a shot since you really can’t have too much of that. Oddly enough, I slept over 7 hours the night before the marathon. I don’t think I’ve ever slept that much the night before a race — ever.
Race Morning: Everything was in order.
My alarm woke me up at 4:30 and everything was as best it could be. It felt less humid out and was about 67 degrees. I started hydrating and loaded up on caffeine and ate a power bar. Strapped some frozen towels to my torso to try and stay as cool as possible, checked my ridiculous hip tape, wrapped myself up in my pink runner gear, stuffed one last ice pack and a few gels down my bra and was out the door. I jogged out of the house at 5:45 for a 6am start and I had 7 minutes to kill before the gun went off. See what I mean by 5 star location?
Race #1: The first half ==> F-Ya! I’ve got this!
I really did feel good at the start. I felt light on my feet and it was cool out. I ran about a 1:52 first half. I really only needed to run a 3:40 and I’m the queen of negative splitting a marathon so I was pretty stoked at holding that 8:30 pace on the way out. I had worked hard on the worlds best marathon playlist and it was working perfectly for me. I was really having a good time and trying to stay conservative.
Race #2: Miles 13.1 to 20 ==> Wait a second here…
I kept telling myself you have 4 levels you can push it. I knew I had to stay below level 2 until the half. I really thought I had. I was prepped to pick it up to 8:15 at this point and really start having fun. This is my favorite part of the marathon. It’s when I get to pass people, it’s when I come alive. I knew I was going to get to find Kate somewhere between 17 and 20 and I was so excited to charge the finish line with her.
At about mile…let’s say 17, I started to realize I hadn’t picked up to that 8:15, I was still 8:20’s, but I was definitely at level 3 exertion wise. I bet this is when the sun was out in full glory and had tipped into the 70s. I had stuffed an bag of ice down my bra and had been dumping a full glasses of water on me (less the few sips) at every aid station since mile one.
“Adjust your pace” is what all the articles said…but I didn’t want to! I worked too hard to not hit my goal. I’m pretty sure this is where I pushed to level 4, which I know I can’t hold for 9 miles. It’s a 6 mile max pace for me, something that should kick in after mile 20. But I knew I wasn’t going to hit my BQ if I didn’t pick it up, so really, it was my only option.
Race #3: Mile 20 to the finish ==> And then the wheels fell off.
Of course. As I run into Kate and this should be our final 6 miles of level 4, BQ glory I just wanted to cry. All I said was…”I don’t have it in me” and choked back tears. She just nodded and ran along side me the rest of the way. Grabbed me water at every aid station, was there for me when I nearly fell over after stopping to tie my shoe and led me to about a mile from the finish. Even though we didn’t talk at all, I was still sad to see her go at mile 25.
So I made it to the finish line. It took just under an hour to finish the last 10K and that is more than a minute per mile slower than my first 10K. This is not the way I like to run a marathon. I’d like to have seen the exact opposite. I’ve had runs where I’ve felt so light and have shocked myself with how easy it is. I’ve said “it feels like I’m running in someone else’s body.” And I felt that way the last 10K, but it was not in a good way. It just didn’t feel like me. Not my marathon self anyhow.
Final thoughts on the race.
I think I care more than I should. I mean, if this is my biggest concern right now, things ain’t that bad. On the road from the start to the finish line of life, this is really a silly, recreational 10 min blip on the radar. But it just meant so much to me and I worked so hard. It’s humbling to fail, no matter the magnitude…
Things that were good:
- My training was awesome. I felt strong and lean. So what it didn’t stand up against race day heat, I still had 12 weeks of healthy effort.
- My playlist is fantastic. Curated over a few weeks on Spotify with help from Tansy and Scott. If you want it, message me and I’ll figure out how to share it.
- I really didn’t have any race disasters. No cramping, no stomach issues, no acute pain or excruciating chaffing (actually zero chaffing which is crazy since I ran with a bag of ice between my boobs) that forced me to stop for any reason or has left me too damaged to continue.
- I was overwhelmed by love and support from friends and family. Especially Kate and Sheri, my two best running buds. Everybody knew I’d be upset and all the kindness was heartwarming.
- I get to learn from this one too. I always say “there are no failures unless you fail to learn…” so I have a few takeaways from this one that will make me a better runner.
- I didn’t give up. It could have been really easy to stop and walk after I knew but I thought that might make me feel even worse. So I went the more physically painful route.
- I won’t quit. Somehow my dad thought it was so bad that I’d thrown in the marathon towel. That was until he talked to me Sunday night and said “I think I just forgot who you were for a minute…”
Post Race Celebration: off to Santa Barbra to lick my wounds.
This worked out well! I have a hard time sitting still and after a marathon (especially a hard one!) it’s the only thing you can do. Sunday night I trotted up to an adorable casita in downtown Santa Barbara for three days of relaxation. Tons of sleep, a little biking, plenty of wine tasting and a lot of not thinking and just being happy. It was a very nice way to mitigate the pain/frustration from this marathon.
Recovery Plan and Next Steps
Well, this is up in the air a bit at the moment. I won’t run much the rest of September and I’m continuing to see Dr. Todd for my hip because it’s actually still pretty mad at me. I’ll be adding some glute work to my functional training and spending more time on the lacrosse ball. I’m definitely all in for our October Fast Fall Speed Challenge with Gals Who Run! As odd as it sounds, I’m a little glad I don’t have to run Boston in 2016. That frees up the first half of next year. Woo hoo! Maybe I should trot off to Australia or something fun like that…
The next Marathon
Well now I have an entire year to try this again. Here are the two options I’m considering at the moment:
- California International Marathon (CIM) December 6th in Sacramento.
- Bonus: I have to go anyway because I told Nick and Luke I would months ago plus I have family going up as well. I could probably still capitalize on the 12 weeks of training I already put in. I ran this race in 2010 and it was my first BQ with an 8 min negative split on the back half. It should not be hot.
- Bummer: It’s sold out. Oops. I’d have to start piling on distance again ASAP in October and go right back to 12-14-16-18 mile runs on the weekends. At this moment, this does not sound appealing. And I’ve already run this race and I’d like some new courses.
- Surf City Marathon February 7th in Huntington Beach.
- Bonus: I can get a free bib to this race through my RacePlace Ambassador perks. I’ve never run this race! It’s close to home and I wouldn’t have to start training until mid-November. Maybe I could talk a few gals into running this one with me…Katie, Ang, Jodi…any interest?
- Bummer: I have to go to Sac anyway and it essential means my Ventura training goes to waste.
And the worst part? I lost “the bet!”
Maybe you saw this on Instagram, but I had this ridiculous bet with my good friend Nick. He was scheduled to compete in IRONMAN Wisconsin the same day as me. He was training for a 3:30 full to my 3:40. Years ago, when we first met, we were nearly the same pace. I found it hysterical that he was going to run a faster marathon than me AFTER swimming 2+ miles and biking 120. And guess what?
He did! By 8 minutes. He had the race of a lifetime and I couldn’t be happier for him. He tortured his training and murdered the race, beating his goal time by 30 minutes. I don’t mind losing to that one bit! And the best part, it just means I have to buy a keg of his favorite beer and we all celebrate!
There you have it. The good, bad and the painful part of it all. Have you had a bad race? What are your best recovery tips…emotionally and physically?
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