Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Broke the Curse

I finally did it. I made it to a race I paid for.

For the past two years, I've signed up for several races and on race day? A no show. I really didn't want to miss this one - the inaugural Rock and Roll marathon in Raleigh. And I just couldn't be sure if I'd show up until a few days before, when I was pretty sure I was ready.

"Ready" is a stretch. When my friends and I signed up, almost as soon as sign up for the race opened a year or so ago, we had visions of major training; being in tip-top shape by this point. My estimated time to finish was 1:50, a PR.

Fast forward to the last month before the race and, while I had been training, I started too late (January?). My long runs, starting at 8 miles, were crap. My legs just couldn't handle the long miles. While I ran two 10 mile long runs, I had not done more than that; I'd never made it to a 13.1 mile run. And these runs had a lot of walking involved. I think it was around the 9 mile training run that I decided to update my estimated finish time to 2:15.

Race day - April 13th. I'm feeling pretty good. Excited. Tim drops me off, which is great. Because this place is crowded - the race is sold out with 12,000 participants. That doesn't include everyone else helping with the race, including spectators.

Corral 13 - Looking ahead
I find my corral, #13. I can't find my friend Melisa. I think she decided to start in a faster corral. She could do it; she can push through pain.

I recognize my friends Joel and Erick and meet Erick's beautiful daughter. I notice a person from my work right next to me. I don't know her name; just someone I see at the gym. We chat a bit - she tells me she overslept and decided not to do the race. But at the last minute, she asked her husband to drop her off. She got there at 6:41. Race start time was 7AM. It was delayed but she didn't know that when she scooted over...

Corral 13 - Behind me
It took nearly 30 minutes for our corral to cross the start line. It felt great. I was going to keep a conservative pace. I wanted to run the entire race, or at least see if I could do it. Despite having walk breaks in my long runs, I've run a long time through those runs with minimal walk breaks. I thought that I could try to keep a slow pace and just run the entire 13.1.

The start of the run went great. So many spectators with wonderful signs. I loved it immediately. I usually don't like big races - too many people - so I don't get to see many people on the sidelines. This was really nice to see people cheering everyone on. And they *literally* were. One sign said "I'm so proud of all you strangers!" I couldn't stop thinking about that one. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I would have really loved to see that sign within the last half of the 13.1 miles.

Band on the Bridge
I took pictures while I ran. I took several shots, hoping at least one wouldn't be blurry because I WAS running as I took pictures. Unfortuantely, at some point, I pushed something that made the rest of my pictures black and white and I did not have the brain power, nor the coordination, to figure out how to bring back color...so I was like "fuck it - black and white it is".

In these first few miles, I was sensing a lot of uphills. I knew there would be more, as I had run part of the race course with my friend Melisa a few weeks back. But I was feeling GREAT. The hills were not bothering me.

Running through the neighborhoods was great.
People were out with their kids, in their PAJAMAS, drinking coffee, cheering us on. Again, so nice. I thought about how nice it would be to live off the route so that you could do that. At one point, I passed a couple dressed in wedding garb. I think the woman's sign said "You caught us!" I can't remember. It just made me smile.

Lots of things were making me smile. And still, at this point, miles 3, 4, 5, I'm taking in each of those hills and seeing people around me walking. Wow. There are a lot of hills. I wondered what out of towers thought of this course. And I wondered what marathoners were thinking, having to start like this and having 20+ miles to go? Is Boston this hilly?

The bands were great. To be honest, I didn't feel like they were close enough. Were they really at every mile? I don't know. There was music, which helped, and the bands did help, when they were there. Counting helped. When does counting not help? It's my saving grace.

After passing mile 5, we are running up Peace Street. One of my miserable 8 mile runs, I ran the first four feeling spectacular, and as soon as I turned around for the final four, it was like an abrupt feeling of "yuck". Just like that. I thought: I made it to five, let's make it to six and I'm almost halfway there. If it all goes to shit then...well, I can manage.

Peace Street Holy Hell Hill
Well, it was shortly after passing mile 5, running up the rolling hills of Peace Street, where my legs were like "what the fuck? these hills?! seriously?" So I decide at the next water stop, I'll take a little break, fuck the 'no walk' plan. I have to give my legs a break. I have seven more miles to go. I go up yet another hill. And then down, and then? ANOTHER GOD DAMN HILL that was quite steep. I was done. My legs were like 'uh, no'. So the first walk came at the hill to Glenwood on Peace Street.

I started back to my run at the top of this hill but I think I walked again at the next hill. And when I got to the water stop, I didn't stop running because I wanted to cross the 10K line in a decent time. But once I crossed it (because it was hill to run to it), I walked UP that hill.

My legs were killing me. But I felt better after the water and the walk so I kept on moving. I was determined to get to the finish faster than walking would do, even if I had blown my 2:15 time. Whatever. 2:30 will work. 2:45 will work. Just let me finish.

It's around this time that, not only do I stop taking pictures, I stop looking at spectators. I had to dig down to just get myself to the finish. Take each mile and just go. Count them down. They're getting smaller. Then mile 7 comes. Nearly the entire mile 7 to 8 was just UP. I walked most of it. This was CRAZY.

Pointing to the walking (winning) marathoner
At mile 11, which was mile 24 for marathoners, the race folks were asking us to move to the left to let the lead runner have room. I wanted to get a picture of him, which was a great distraction for running up the hill that I was on. When he finally appeared, I had made it up the hill and turned to take a picture when I heard the race folks in the lead truck say "Wait. He's walking again." I looked, and yes, that poor guy was walking up that hill. And they said "AGAIN". Well, that is telling. Marathoners in the lead do not walk. This course is hilly. I cheered him on and screamed "It's HILLY!!" There would be more hills ahead of him, I would find out later.

I'm sure he's not happy that I caught this photo in his most humble minute but, hey, it proves a point about the hilliness of the course. It *is* beautiful though. I just needed to train better.

My pattern at the water stops was to get gatorade AND water. At this point, I didn't care what it would do to my stomach, being that this wasn't anything I did in training. In fact, I did no water during training. Yeah. That was stupid. I couldn't find my Nathan belt and never bought another one. And once I reached my 10 mile runs, I was like: well, they'll have water on the course, no need to buy one now.

It actually affected me well, the gatorade-water-walk pattern. I felt re-invigorated after that and would start running, feeling great...as great as worn out legs could feel. That would last until half of that mile and I'd feel tired again. But when I reached 12? I was like I GOT THIS! I'm going to finish this race!!

And I did. I ran that last mile like there was no tomorrow. Well, more like this sign I saw: "You run like dogs pulling (squirrels)." I don't even know if I was running that fast. But I was running - that's what I'm going to say.

I didn't have much in my legs to put in that last OOMPH to race to the finish. I just tried to stay upright and cross it. I did and almost instantly, I felt great again. I could walk OK. I searched for water and gatorade. The gatorade was warm :( but it didn't matter since I could get it opened. I found a banana and that was the best damn banana I've ever had.

I texted Tim to meet me at the Mickey D's by the auditorium. He got me and I asked for help for my gatorade. Apparently they have a foil cover. 'WHY DID THEY DO THAT TO ME?" I pleaded. He said "They didn't do that to you. They do this to every gatorade."

My finish time was 2:27:56. Yes. I would have love to done better. This is the very opposite of a PR...it's a WR - Worst Record. But I'm not bothered (maybe a teensy bit but truly, it's just teeny). I enjoyed the run despite having to fight through nearly 7 miles. But that's what makes me proud. I loved the spectators. I thought the race was set up wonderfully. And if I do it again, I have to train better. My finish time is all due to me and not training well. But I trained well enough to run 13.1 miles and THAT makes me happy.