1. Succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty).
2. Defeat (an opponent); prevail.
I learned a few more things about myself on marathon Monday. Marathon is truly a test of human endurance in so far as much as pushing yourself to the limits of speed over distance. There are ultra marathons for sure but to truly race the marathon distance is for me, the pinnacle of suffering. Each time I think I have suffered, there seems to be a whole new level of what I can endure and that's what I learned through this year's race. To look at my results? Plan C in full effect, I certainly would have preferred the 40k time as my overall!:
It's numbers on a page, it's meaningless without knowing what I went through to get it. By no means was this a PR race for me and I knew that going in. First of all, Boston could never be a PR marathon course for me, it doesn't suit me at all and that's OK, for me it was all about celebrating the accomplishment of getting there in the first place. In 18 months I did 3 marathons, scored a 3:42 PR at the first and did the next two at Boston, I'm very proud of that, not everyone gets to run Boston. I did twice now and I can hang up my marathon shoes with a smile on my face because I fufilled two life goals: breaking 3:45 in a marathon and qualifying for Boston. Check.
We arrived a day earlier then originally planned. Dave scored a really nice hotel for one night. After checking in, we cabbed it to the expo. The Boston marathon expo is fantastic, yet, each year we go (we've been there 5 times now: three Boston's for Dave, 2 for moi), we are in and out in under 45 minutes. It's literally packet, jacket (it's all about getting that Boston jacket!) and exit. Neither of us have the patience to deal with the crowds, it's all about efficiency and Van eating and drinking his way through the expo in those 45 minutes! On the way out we stopped by for a quick visit with Matt Long at the Runner's World booth- through years of affiliation with the firemanironman triathlon camp, we met Matt before his accident and have marveled at his recovery after. An amazing story.
Back at the hotel, Van hit the pool, his favorite destination for all trips involving athletic insanity.
Sunday morning, after a quick swim for Van and Dave and a quick 2 mile easy circulation boost on the elliptical for me, we checked out of hotel 1 and went to our main stay for the rest of the weekend. Lunch, back to the pool again for Van while I relaxed and read my book, early dinner with friends Marty and Eileen in town and then back to bed but this year there was no 5 am wake up call. I had an extra hour thanks to KB and the renting of the town car to get us out to the start. Joined by Dominick and Scott K, it was a very pleasant drive out. We arrived at the athletes village by 9 am, promptly stood in line for a port-o-potty for 35 minutes (oh man did I have to pee!!!) and then it was time to drop the bags off at the buses and head for the start which was fine by me, I don't like having a lot of standing/sitting around time. Comfortably corraled, the energy was palpable, everyone wishing each other a good race. My plan this year was to go out at a very controlled pace. Walking forward to the start line as a group I watched my HR rise up with anticipation, my corral started its slow jog and over the start we went, so exciting! I promised myself that no matter what the day enfolded, I would enjoy every minute. I drank in my surroundings, I smiled and waved at the crowds. I knew starting that this may very well be my last time running from Hopkinton to Boston and I wanted to hold onto those memories. Fully present, I reigned myself back in. First mile 8:38- perfect! As a matter of fact, miles 1 through 10 were perfect. I felt fantastic, I felt like I was out for a slow jog, I felt like I continually had to hold myself back to run slower. All going according to plan. The start is very deceiving. There is 130 foot drop over the first mile and then thereafter there are a series of rollers, up and down, up and down, mostly down, it's what sets up your quads for a checkout by the time you reach the big hills of the race in Newton. I held myself back this year in the hopes that I would have more in the tank for the hills to come, I felt GREAT, then suddenly at mile 11 I noticed I had to work a little hard to hold onto the 8:40's. Climbing up 12 I had to push a little harder again and by the time I hit Wellesley and the half marathon point in 1:56, I knew 3:50 was out of the question. OK I thought, onto Plan B, let's break 4 hours. Up and down, controlled pacing, mile 15 is a long downhill and then knowing what is coming is a little daunting. 16 is the first of the hills in Newton. I was kind of waiting for my friend Nick to catch me, his plan was to run 8:15's and he was in the corral directly behind me. I was keeping an eye out for him, then I saw Dave, who was waiting for Nick to pace him in for the final 10 miles first, it was a good energy burst, always happy to see my encouraging husband. Down 16 up mile 17, onto mile 18 and I ran with Dave and Nick and then slightly in front thinking that I was a good rabbit to catch for a little while. When Nick and Dave caught up I asked him how he was feeling and it was very much along the same lines as myself, not that great but holding on. Shannon jumped in there too, to help pace Nick to the end, good to see her as well but I couldn't talk at this point, it was full focus forward. I thought briefly about slowing slightly and running in with Nick but I was afraid to stop for fear that I would not be able to run again and that fear was well founded. Down mile 20, up mile 21- Heartbreak Hill and it really is, it's a long uphill that you never quite see the end to, finally I spotted this huge red chalk drawing of a heart with a zigzag through it that stretched across the entire road and I knew I was at the top. Up and over, down a steep descent. It's a sharp drop off heartbreak and that's when my legs caved last year. This year I didn't feel as bad running through the Newton Hills, I would slow into the mid 9's and then get right back on the 8:40's-50's running downhill. Then at mile 22 my right quad went. I mean full on cramp. "Keep running, it will work itself out" I told myself. The expected fatigue really started to sink in at 35k, when I started to think I only had 4 miles left and then realizing it was longer than that. Ouch. Could I make it, could I break the 4 hour mark? At mile 23 my left calf started to go- severe twitching. Cramping in the right quad, left calf now starting in, "hold on, 3.2 miles to go, you can do this!!!!", I was begging for mile 24 to come sooner and it did, I did manage to pick my pace up a little for that mile and it felt like I was running all out (haha). 2.2 miles to go and 17 minutes, crap! Fresh no problem, end of a grueling marathon? Problem. Technically I was running all out because my body was absolutely shutting down and I knew it. Citgo sign, 2 more miles to go "YOU WILL NOT WALK!!!" that's what I kept telling myself. The pain was SEVERE, more than fatigue pain, lots of twitching not only in my legs, but other ancillary muscles as well. I willed myself to try and run faster, my right oblique and abdominal muscles seized. Bent over, I kept running. At the medical aid stations I scanned for signs of anyone holding/yelling out "salts!" alas, this was not a long distance triathlon. I started craving chicken broth at the aid stations. What I did take was sips of gatorade to swish around in my mouth hoping that my brain would sense the carbohydrate and allow me to recruit a few more muscle fibers, simultaneously realizing this might not work because I know about the physiological jedi mind trick on the brain. Honestly, I think I was using every muscle fiber to stay upright and "running". Past Boston College, incredible crowds, relief at hitting mile 25 (FINALLY), knowing there is "only" 1.2 miles left. Jedi mind tricking myself, "1 lap around the block and a down and back on Ann Ave. at home". VENGA VENGA! Downhill under the bridge, passed the Army ROTC group rucking the 26.2, up the hill towards the Boston Commons sign, a right turn, slightly uphill but relieved knowing that when I made that final left on Boylston I had a little more than 0.2 to go. I could see the finish, tried to pick up my pace but ended up with a limping gait, my left calf was no longer firing. Crossed the finish line in 4:02 absolutely elated. I endured. I pushed past the pain and the fatigue. I came, I saw, I suffered. The hills conquered me yet again, differently than last year. That course is the devil, no doubt about it. Am I glad I did it? Am I glad that I overcame one of the more horrible winters to train in? Am I glad I suffered? Hell. Yes. This is life, I am alive, I am living.
I was asked on more then one occasion on the slow trudge through the finish if I needed help by the medical people. Apparently I looked like walking death because when Dave got to me at our designated meeting place he said "JESUS, look at you, your face is completely covered in salt, your streaked with white. Wash your face with some water, here.". I told him about the cramping, "no wonder, you have no salt left in you". Big mistake on my part. In the 3 prior marathons (Chicago '08, MHMR '09, Boston '10) I had a small flask of endurolytes. I forgot them this year, mainly because it has been so cold in training, I never needed them for a run 20 miles or under and that's really the key, 20 milers were my longest runs, I never felt the effects of lack of electrolytes in training because it's something I only associate with heat. Duh. I should have known better, I just simply forgot, it cost me. Probably early on too. I drank my own bottle of HEED for the first hour then just subsisted on water and the 5 gels I had. I forgot about the important role the 'lytes have played for me in the past. I am officially retired from long distance racing for awhile. I'll never say never again, the desire to push past my limits and see the amount of speed that I have still lurks in the background (because I know I'm in 3:40-45 shape on a flatter course easily) but for now I will be content to be racing shorter and faster and using this hard earned endurance for something else. There are other ways to suffer and enjoy pushing myself than running 26.2 on pavement and I look forward to exploring new roads down this alternate path. Thanks for reading! Hopefully I've helped you think about the things you want to accomplish and how you want to go about doing them. I started this blog just before running the Chicago marathon as a way of holding myself accountable to the goals I set for myself. You, reading my thoughts and commenting was very much a part of me achieving so much so THANK YOU. It's been a great ride and I look forward to documenting my next adventures in racing (so much to do!) and the pursuit of the PhD. Onward!