The Race in Review

I’m going to go ahead and do this now, because I am fairly certain that tomorrow I will not be able to move at all.

I finished my first marathon today in 5:26:something.  You can see me crossing the finish line (time on the clock — 5:27:17) here.

My pace ended up being 12:28 per mile, which is a good deal slower than the 11:00 per mile I trained for.  I’m not sure I ever really got down to a consistent 11-minute pace, I ran mostly 11:20-ish until about mile 16 or so and then started to slow down (a lot), but I didn’t have to walk until mile 23, and even then I still ran more than I walked (although my pace at that point was probably as slow as a fast walk, but I ditched my watch around mile 17).  I’m not sure what happened exactly, it was cooler than I’d hoped for and even though I dressed fine for the temp I’m definitely more comfortable in a little warmer weather.  My energy level was fine, I ate tons of Gu and Gatorade and my legs and feet hurt much less than at the end of this run than they did after the 20 and 22-mile training runs.  I ran a very conservative pace the first several miles purposely to conserve energy – maybe I was too conservative.  Who knows.

Either way, I set a new marathon PR. 😀

The Good: I finished.  It was really hard, but it wasn’t a horrible experience.  I didn’t cry.  I don’t think I ever hit “the wall” (at least not physically, I didn’t bonk) — my body delivered the best it could under the conditions and I didn’t do anything careless or stupid to mess it up (no jalapenos!!).  Also, I didn’t go loopy like I have been — I had my wits the whole way, I think the extra Gu intake must have helped with that.  Tammy was able to ride with me almost the entire way, which was a huge boost since I ran alone for the most part (see: The Bad).  I had tremendous support from family and friends traveled from SF and LA to cheer me on (not to mention my kids, folks, and local friends).

The Bad: It was B-O-R-I-N-G.  This, I was not expecting.  I’m sure it was a lot more interesting running in the pack, but I guess I just expected something else — I don’t know, jugglers or something.  By mile 7 or so though it was starting to really set in that this wasn’t going to be as entertaining as I had imagined and that was kind of a mental letdown.  Physically, while I was “ok”, my legs just never felt that springy “kick” I was hoping for — again, I think the cooler weather had a lot to do with that and also just knowing that you have to pace yourself and conserve for a really long haul slows everything down and after 3 hours or so “springy” just ain’t going to happen.  But the biggest challenge was definitely the mental part.  I’d say this marathon was 60/40 mental to physical.

The Ugly: The last 10 miles of the race was an out-and-back on the road that parallels the park I trained in.  I was really looking forward to running this stretch, it’s normally such a busy road you’d be nuts to attempt to run on it, but it ended up being brutal.  As I turned onto the road I hit the mile 16 marker, while on the other side of the road runners were hitting the 25-mile or 12-mile marker (if they were doing the half-marathon, which most were).  Either way, the guy calling out the time is telling this huge mass of people “You only have 1.2 miles to go!!”  I look at my watch, it reads about 3 hours at this point, and I’m on pace to do a 5-hr. marathon.  They have 1.2 miles to go, I have 2 hours.  There are hundreds of runners on that side, I’ve been leapfrogging the same dozen or so runners and run/walkers forever.  There were 5 miles to run just to get to the turnaround and gradually the mass of runners on the opposite side shrank until both sides of the road were just as lonely.  The boredom and monotony, coupled with the cold and fatigue just made for a really long, mentally tough, slog.  I expected to hit “the wall” at mile 20.  That’s where everybody says the marathon breaks you.  For me, it was at mile 16 — way too early in a 26-mile race.

The REALLY Ugly:

Check out that second toe.

I honestly do not understand what I am doing with that toe when I run, but it has been the bane of my existence for as long as I’ve run.  At mile 23 I suddenly felt like I had a huge toe growing on top of my other toe.  I had to stop and look, to see if there was anything I could do.  I peeled off my sock and it pretty much looked just like you see it up there.  There’s a blister on the inside of the toe that goes all the way to the top of the toe, and then over AND UNDER the toenail (which just barely grew back).  There was nothing I could do, I had nothing to lance it with, no med station in sight where at least I could have cut a hole in the top of the shoe — I just had to run on it.  The big ‘ol blister on the instep of my big toe (which has a match on the other foot) wasn’t there at mile 23.  I can only guess they developed as a result of the change in gait to accommodate the middle toe, because I have never blistered there before.  So from mile 23 to 26.2 — a simple 5K — I alternated running (barely) with walking.  The throbbing in the toe came and went, but fortunately the blisters never tore or I doubt I would have been able to finish.  That was definitely the low point.  I wanted to finish — BADLY — and as quickly as possible, and I had not walked up to that point except to take water (and 4 potty stops — c’mon, how could I not with all those porta-potties out there?!) but ended up having to walk/run probably a 1:3 ratio for the last 3 miles because I knew if I pushed it and that sucker burst or that toenail ripped out I was in big trouble.

What’s next?

As late as my pre-race dinner I was thinking of doing another marathon — soon.  In fact, I was thinking of the LA Marathon in March, which is 18 weeks from today.  I was thinking that I could just start the 18-week training program from the beginning this next week and then I’d be ready for #2.  Around mile 19 I decided that was a MONUMENTALLY BAD IDEA.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that this was a horrible experience and I’m never doing it again — but it is only the fourth race/run I’ve ever participated in.  I’ve done two 5Ks, a trail run, and this — and this was HUGE.  I’m proud of the accomplishment, I’m glad I finished what I started.  Now that I’ve conquered this mountain, I can take that confidence into other smaller/shorter events and enjoy myself.  There’s a winter trail running series early next year, Turkey Trots, a few half-marathons, and some signature runs like Bay to Breakers that I’ve always wanted to try — now I have no excuse.  Nothing can be as bad as mile 23!  Maybe I’ll join a running club — I enjoyed my 18-weeks of training with Pinnacle Training Systems folks much more than the race itself — the routine, camaraderie, shared purpose and experience was great for me.  My immediate plan however is to get my 26.2 bumper sticker tomorrow if I can drag my butt out of bed.

And my tattoo.

Oh yeah baby.

Mama got her win.

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4 Responses to The Race in Review

  1. Amanda Leath says:

    I love reading your blog!!! Thanks for sharing your experience, Jen! This is an amazing accomplishment and you should be proud. If ya ever need someone to run behind you, you know who to call! 😉

  2. T1 says:

    You Rock! Congratulations! You look awesome. I’ve enjoyed hearing about your journey. Keep it up!

  3. Erica Morris says:

    Mama got her win, woot!! SOOO proud of you! I worked our local marathon on Saturday, at Mile 20. I thought about you a lot as I was cheering on the runners. Good luck w/ the blisters.

  4. M. Elizabeth Parker says:

    I hope this conquered challenge serves (frequently) as something you can look back on with great pride. I am physically unable to accomplish what you accomplished. So, thank you for the vicarious experience.

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