Sunday - Post Race
The 4:00 sun is low and dark orange. It hovers in the sky, stretching the day a little further as I travel west. Mumford & Sons hums through the speakers. I've traveled this route 4 times before, but this was the first time alone, the first time at dusk. Christmas lights clicked on over front porches, in windows, wrapped haphazardly around trees. They are humble displays, often a mixture of lights and rarely with any semblance of theme.
I am content. My heart is full and my body aches. The solace gives me time to thumb through my memory file, smiling as I stumble upon the moments that will stay in my heart. For what good are our lives without the joy of things to reminisce about. Some will remain just mine, selfishly locked inside. But other memories will be retold, embellished with the best tidbits as time wanes.
Wednesday - Pre Race
I stepped out of the car and put my key in the seat while I fumbled with my hat and headlamp. Then I shut the door. With my key still in the car.
Waving down a stranger in the parking lot to borrow his phone, I managed to get a hold of Adam who thankfully answers weird numbers. He agreed to rescue me in about 35 minutes - plenty of time to run 4 miles. I took off into the night and dropped right into a comfortable sub-8 pace. I pushed a little harder in the second mile, but everything felt good. At the 2ish mile marker, I turned around to head back. About 20 strides in, my hamstring seized quickly, painfully. I stopped dead in my tracks. Gingerly, I hobbled forward with the first fear that Adam would be worried waiting for me. The second fear that I was not going to be running 26.2 miles Saturday.
I hobbled along for a few steps and then tried to run on it very slowly. It was not acute pain like when it happened, but it was definitely sore. My stubbornness overtook any sensibility and I pushed through the last 2 miles back to the car trying to ignore that it was tight.
Megan painted my nails that evening while I compressed the hamstring. I tried to become distracted with our conversation, but I was fretting inside. I was hoping that I would wake up and the pain would disappear.
I compressed, iced, elevated all day. The only steps I took were to and from the freezer at work. It was tight and noticeably painful.
By the time I got home, the pain seemed to have subsided a bit, but I was far from 100%.
I arrived to Rehoboth first in our group and dropped my car at the house. My hamstring was still wrapped and though I really wanted to go walk along the beach, I decided to keep my walking to a minimum. Dogfish Head was super close to the house so I decided to belly up to the bar for liquid carbs and pizza.
I had just about finished my lunch when Ken came and joined me. We caught up and then went to the house where we met up with Gwen & Bacon. At some point, I removed the wrap and my leg actually felt a little better. Soon it was time for packet pickup, a return to Dogfish Head, and then back to house where more Loopsters joined us.
Chris went to task as soon as she got there making lasagnas for 15 people. We ate family-style, filling our plates and topping off our calorie stores. As the night began to wind down, people stepped away to lay out their race clothes and began getting ready for bed.
Angie, Chris, and I were sharing a king-sized bed. At first, I was concerned about space, but as we climbed in bed, there was actually a ton of room. I was sleeping in the middle and was pretty comfortable in terms of space. But it was too quiet, my hormones/travel/lack of sleep sent my body temperature rising, and I had to pee twice in the night. So I slept like garbage.
By the time I heard people rumbling around after 5 a.m., I decided to get up. The hammy whimpered only a smidge. Maybe I could still run 26.2. I popped a couple of ibuprofen between my bagel and Snickers bar.
Bangle and I started walking to the start together. Soon, everyone would join us on the sidewalk for a quick selfie. Bangle, Abby, and I lined up next to each other in the start corral.
While I felt stiff from the cold and lack of movement over the past couple of days, I didn't feel the hamstring barking. I didn't dare look at my watch as I wove through the crowd down 1st Street. Bangle and I jockeyed back and forth until we finally came shoulder just shoulder.
We made the now familiar turns through town and begin to head north as the sun rose. Running shoulder to shoulder with Bangle was perfect. We helped each other keep the pace honest. I yelled at Ken as he went flying by in the opposite direction and then bid adieu to Bangle as the half marathon split from the full.
The course is now on one of the trail sections and I suddenly spot the 3:25 pacer. A group is packed in tight behind him and I methodically inch my way to latch onto the group. For the next few miles, I let him do the work of pacing and while I don't feel great, nothing is inherently wrong either. I shed my gloves and pull down my arm warmers as the temperature begins to rise.
Around mile 8, I have a 10 minute stretch where I feel really, really good. I am thinking that while I am far from PR territory, I can definitely still hold on to the pace rather comfortably. I begin to look for Bacon, Randy, and Jay as I head down the highway to the turnaround point. I see each of them and wave manically from the other side.
We reach the turnaround point and I eye the cups of Dairy Queen with remorse.
I followed the pace group down the highway, but the group begins to gain space on me. I keep them within about 20 strides, but I am hanging on to the back of the pack. Every now and then, I feel a small surge and try to force myself to rally.
It gets hard. I back off my pace and try to get comfortable. As I get close to the 13.1 mark, I start to calculate what I'd need to still BQ, what I'd still need to do to actually go to Boston. Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew I had nine months still to qualify, but I also knew that I wouldn't feel satisfied leaving a 1:41 half marathon split on the table.
The pace group slowly crept away until I no longer had them in my sight and my splits slowly crept into the low-to-mid 8s. I was experiencing bonking symptoms and I was just over halfway done with the race. I felt wrecked.
I actually stopped and walked for about 30 seconds, fully berating myself. The hamstring was FINE! It was everything else that hurt.
I started back into a shuffle and tried to latch on to anyone that was near me. At this point, some runners had fallen into what I was experiencing, but others came by looking strong and fresh. I tried to keep up with those people as best as possible.
Passing on the opposite side of the course, I could see half marathoners on their way to the finish. I started trying to look for friends in the crowd and saw Melissa and Sara as they finished their final mile. Once I got on to the second trail portion, I was excited to start to see the fastest marathoners come flying by on the other side.
Something clicked about a half-mile into the trail portion and all of a sudden, I started to feel good again. Though when I look back on my splits, the pace only dropped by about 10 seconds, at least it was not complete drudgery like it had been for the previous 10 miles. Rob and I waved at each other, followed by Bacon and then Jay.
A girl and I had been switching back and forth when she suddenly stopped to walk about 10 steps ahead of me. As I came by I whacked her on the shoulder rather hard with my hand and told her, come on girl, you got this! Half expecting her to be shooting me the bird, I was happily surprised when she came running back and held on next to my shoulder for the next mile or so.
I kept my eyes out, looking for Randy on the opposite side. Being a bit taller and wearing an orange headband, I knew he would be pretty easy to spot. My heart fell when I saw him going the same direction as me about a quarter mile ahead near the mile 22. As I reached him, I asked if he had any 9 minute miles left in him to run into the finish with me. The good news is that he smiled as I said that, the bad news is that he declined to follow.
There was sense of relief at the turn around. All I had to do was make it to the finish. I remember thinking I would allow myself to look at my watch just passed the mile 23 mark, hoping that it would show 3:10 or less. If that were the case, I knew I could run 3.2 miles in 25 minutes.
I kept looking for Caitlin, Angie, and Dave as I made my way down the trail, but somehow missed all three of them. Angie would later tell me that I looked as though I was deep in the pain cave. At that point, it was more just end of marathon pain as I new I was headed to the finish with a respectable time. Far from my best, but still good enough to qualify for Boston.
Coming into the last mile, I managed to pass a few people, hovering behind them for a few strides before I made my move. On to 1st Street, over the grated bridge, and into the roundabout, I felt ready to push to the finish. A group of Loopsters who had finished their half marathons were waiting on the right side of the road. I came by with high fives for all and trucked it down the street to make the final right turn.
As I would later say, my finish photo shows such joy because I was finished with the pain. Humbled and finished. 3:27:48
With the stupid running part over, I was now free to enjoy the rest of the weekend. There was a lot of beer, ridiculous dancing, terrible singing, and friendships that were made stronger. There was a trip to Dogfish Head between trips to the tent, a balloon dash, sidewalkies, fancy beer in fancy glasses, mango salsa that took me an hour to make, girly shots, arcade basketball, shutting down all the bars, Bulls on Parade, long walks on the boardwalk, and definitely not enough sleep.
Reflective, I know the things that were in and out of my control that day. I can control the lack of long road runs, the lack of speed work, and marathon specific training. I can get better sleep 2 nights before the race and the night before. I can front load my nutrition.
Later, I saw my hormone- induced spike in resting heart rate - a jump of 10 bpm in 1 day a and probably the worst cramping I've experienced in 5 years. Normally I'm not too affected by this and have run races without noticing, but this was one of those weird anomalies. Not a huge factor, but one to consider.
I am not proud of my time, but rather my ability to find the strength to push forward. Ultras have taught me to never worry about the moment I'm in. Top of the world or bottom of the barrel, it will change. So while I was miserable and hating every step at mile 15, it was indeed possible to find another gear.