Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lucky Number 7....well, maybe not so lucky...

December 9 was the day I planned to see a big fat 3 as the first number in my marathon time.


That SO didn't happen!

As we got closer to the date of the race, the weather forecast kept getting continually worse. It started out as a starting temp of 40s, then it moved to the 50s, and by the time race morning rolled around it was 69 degrees at 6am. Add in 95% humidity, and it was downright YUCKY. I've had a few good runs in conditions like that, but not a marathon distance...and not 9 minute average pace.

I knew in my heart a 3:59 was not going to happen, so I adjusted my expectations to a 4:15 or so, maybe a 4:20, but I did think I might still squeak in a personal best (4:26:27) since I was a much stronger runner this season. I thought I could maintain less than a 10:10 average if my asthma didn't bug me too much. I held out hope that the cloud cover would keep me from getting too overheated.

I started off the race fairly conservative, running about 10:00 min average pace for the first couple miles, dropping to around 9:20-9:30 for a few more miles, but then just could not maintain it. By mile 6 I took off my tank because it was already soaked with sweat. Running a race in my sports bra for the first time...not a pretty sight, but I didn't really care!

My coach, Tony, stuck with me for much longer than I expected him to. He's probably a good 10 minutes faster than me in a marathon distance, and I know it's been killing him to not have a sub-4 on the books yet, so I told him if he stuck with me and it screwed up his race I would have to kill him. But he knew he wasn't really shooting for that goal for this race, either. It was simply way too humid out to get into a good race groove at that pace. So he hung out for a while and was perfectly happy doing so.

We saw my family at Mile 6 and it was AWESOME. Always wonderful to see friendly faces along the course, especially when you aren't feeling great. And I wasn't really feeling great. I had a decent pace, but I knew my breathing wasn't where it should be that early on in a marathon. I should feel like I'd barely started running, but I was already laboring. And it didn't help when I thought to myself, "only 20 more miles." Ugh, 20 more freaking miles in this soup??

At some point between miles 6 and 10 we saw another friendly face, our friend Dorothy from Georgetown. I had no idea she would be out there on the race course cheering on her friends. She jogged next to us for awhile and chatted and gave us a great mental boost. I seriously love that woman! I hoped we'd see her again (I ended up seeing her twice more...and each time she jogged with me for a bit and gave me the encouragement I needed).

Between miles 7 and 12 there were rolling hills, not bad ones, just what seemed like a lot. The director warned us so we really couldn't complain...but we did anyway. Tony finally decided I was running too slow and went ahead of me at 10 miles. I just wasn't running fast at this point. 9:30 miles felt like 9:00's. I think Mile 10 was more like 9:45. Tony was still feeling okay and I'm sure it felt better for him to run a faster pace.

At the 13 mile point I saw my family again so I finally took a walk break. I felt pretty good that I managed to keep running and was right around 9:35 overall pace through 13 miles. Plus the family had cold wet towels for me....what a relief! I walked through the timing mat at 13.1 (2:07), shared my towel with a couple other runners, (one lady I talked to ran a 3:50 marathon earlier in the year...I wasnt feeling so bad about my performance after learning that!),and then started running again. Mile 14, at 10:54, was my slowest of the race so far since I walked for a couple minutes.

Small race, awesome scenery

Woohoo....a towel!!
At this point I knew I still had a PR in sight if I could keep my asthma under control. Could I pull off a 2:19 second half? Maybe I could. I told myself to run until I hit 16.2 and then I'd give myself a short break before tackling the last 10.

I passed the 16.2 mark, checked my watch and saw I needed a 1:50 for the final 10 miles to hit a PR. I could possibly do that, so instead of taking that break I kept running. It just wasn't comfortable, however. I couldn't run much faster than 10 minute pace without feeling like it was way too hard to breathe, although my legs wanted to run faster. I kept at it until about 17.7 miles and just needed to give my lungs a break. For the first time ever in a race I had to take a hit on my inhaler. I knew I would see the family again at either 18 or 22 so I started running again.

They were a sight for sore eyes at 18 miles and I got another cold towel. I think I said something to Greg about it being an 8 mile death march to the finish. I couldn't believe I had 8 miles left. But I had to push through. I felt the PR slipping away but tried to focus on the fact that the albuterol might give me magic breathing powers and that my training was great and that I was one tough chick. That thinking didn't last too long, sadly.


After crossing the timing mat at 20 miles (in 3:22), I kind of gave up a little of my toughness. I was so frustrated that my lungs couldn't keep up with my legs (which were fine). I didn't want to walk. I knew that the stopping and starting would hurt my legs more than just keeping a steady running rhythm. But every time I tried to pick up my pace, I felt lightheaded. I had no choice but to walk to give my lungs a break. If I wanted to finish this thing I needed to be smart. This mental and physical battle gave me my slowest mile of the race (14 min) but I sucked it up and vowed to stick to 11's or better for the last 5 miles. I'd have a time in the 4:30's, which would be my third fastest marathon time. Couldn't really complain about that!

Funny enough, with all the turns through A&M we were making on this stretch and all the fantastic spectators, that last hour of the race didn't really feel that long. I saw Greg and the kids again at 22 miles, got my cold towel (I got a couple more after that, too, from towels stations....genius!!), and knew I really was on the home stretch. I was seeing a lot of the same runners going back and forth with me, which was comforting. I knew Tony was a few minutes ahead and hoped he was still pulling off a PR (4:17). I was going to get a time in the 4:30's, which in these horrendous conditions was something to be proud of. I tried running 6-8 minutes at a time, then walking a 1/4 mile, and it was working well enough.

When I saw the 25 mile sign I really felt better mentally. At a mile to go I just ran. It hurt horribly but I needed to be done. That last mile was actually 1.2 (something wasn't right about that extra distance and I should probably ask the race director about it) and it felt so hard to finish it up. When I made my final turn I saw Karen (who ran the half) and Punkin. Punkin started running with me and then I saw Tony with a beer in his hand and it made me smile.

Crossing the finish line was such HUGE relief....and then I couldn't breathe. The medical staff grabbed me, a sweet child from the Downs Syndrome Association of Brazos Valley put my medal around my neck, and the med staff got me my finishers shirt and took me to the medical tent right away. A few cold towels on me and some Gatorade made me slowly feel better. I saw my friend Randall, who also had a bad race, and I could see Tony patiently waiting to see if I was okay. No wheezing so they released me after a few minutes.

Thank God I was done.

Marathon #7 in 4:38:15. 80 degrees, 80% humidity at the finish.

I wasn't disappointed. I know I did my best. It wasn't close to my goal but my training made me a stronger, faster runner. A year ago this would've been another 5 hour marathon. Looking back I realized my legs held up well, I never felt too overheated, and mentally I kept the doubts in check for the majority of the race. Those are all huge wins. And I beat the average finishing time by 7 minutes. I'll take it!!

Karen rocked her half marathon and got a PR, Tony didn't PR but posted his 3rd fastest time of 4:28, and we were done!

Tony and I agree that we are not right in the head.