Welcome back for part II of my marathon recap! And if you missed it, here’s part I again.
So I believe I left off with our tasty pasta dinner and prep work before bed. I know I said we were in bed by 10:30, but I didn’t fall asleep until at least 2am. I sat in bed, eyes wide open, unable to stay still. No matter how much deep breathing I did, my heart was racing so much I thought it would burst out of my chest. Finally, our alarm went off at 4:10 and I was able to get up. A quick wash of the face and brush of the teeth was all the primping I did. I was dressed and eating my Tropical Fruit Tart Larabar by 4:30am. My shoes were double knotted and my D-tag sensor was attached. My space suit jacket was zipped up, my hat was on, my headphones were safely tucked into my tank top for easy access, and sunblock had been applied. As I sipped on my fruit punch Powerade, I prepped my last accessory – my pace tat!
Kristin had woken up feeling strong and dressed to race (yay!!). Just to be safe, she packed a lightweight jacket to throw on in case she jumped out at mile 10 or 16 when she passed our cheering squad. Doug came upstairs ready to kick some a** and take some names, bagel and Gatorade in hand. And last, but certainly not least, my number 1 fan was also dressed to impress.
We headed to the Metro right on target at 5:15 and were at the Rosslyn train station by 6:15 or so. A little mini-mall attached to the station gave us a chance to visit a bathroom with running water for the last time. It also gave us a place to wait for Kristen and Harlan since they were coming from their hotel. Here’s our little trio goofing around a bit while waiting:
After one last pit stop, we walked to the start line which, incidentally, meant walking past the finish line (oh how I couldn’t wait until we met again). We also walked across the start line on the way back to our corral, which ended up screwing up our online tracking system so much that my parents thought I’d perished at the mile 10 aid station! Kristen and I stuck together through the opening ceremonies and the V-22 Osprey fly over (possibly the coolest part of the whole day). When the gun went off, we approached the start line with big smiles on our faces. Finally, the day had come – it was time to put all our hard work and training into action! We split up around the .5 mile mark and I began to soak in everything around me. I was loving the crisp air, the spots of sunshine, the conversations going on all around me. I’d grabbed the 4:20 pace tat because there weren’t any 4:30s and I figured I’d just keep an eye on my pace relative to the 4:20 splits.
Mile 1: 10:20 – right on target for a 4:30 marathon. I ditched my space jacket after the first mile when I knew I was nice and warm.
5k – 30:45 – whoops! how did I dip below a 10 min/mile pace? I had my first Gu at mile 4 to keep my energy up and continued on.
10k – 1:01:26 – hm, still on track for a 10 min/mile pace and feeling good. I hadn’t stopped to take a walk break yet because the crowd was still so thick, but I felt great!
Miles 7-8 took me up and around Georgetown and it was the first chance I had to see runners going in the other direction – man, they were cruising! I tossed my $1 gloves from the little boys’ section of Target and down through mile 9 I soared, trying to be careful of the downhill but totally living off the vibe of the crowd. I had my second Gu at 8.5. I’d also noticed a slight twitch in my left quad, no pain, but it felt a little strange (like when you get a twitch in your eyelid).
15k – 1:32:50 – Still under a 10 min/mile pace, could I really be on target for a 4:20 marathon??
As I dashed past mile 10, I shouted a quick hello to Harlan and Kristen’s parents and cruised on by. Everyone was cheering that the hills were over and it was smooth sailing from here on. I couldn’t believe it! I ran around the park feeling grand, mild twitch still showing up here and there, but no complaints otherwise. I had Gu #3 at mile 14 after reaching the half mary mark at 2:11:11. Still a 10 minute pace, still feeling good. I’d started my run 7, walk 1 routine around mile 10 but really just wanted to run! I hit 25k at 2:36:17 – slowing just a bit, but still feeling good.
The Huz ran out from the crowd at mile 16 to give me a Gu and make me smile. His only words to me were “You look great and you’re flying! Slow down!” My response was “don’t worry, I’m sure I will…” I began running up and around the National Mall and somewhere around mile 17 I stopped for my walk break and something felt very wrong. The twitch in my left quad and suddenly turned into a radiating pain all the way up and around my entire leg. And my right quad suddenly felt the same way! I determined then that I wouldn’t allow myself to walk when the pain was worst because that only seemed to aggravate the symptoms. I arrived at the 30k mark at 3:10:20. Suddenly I’d tacked on 5 minutes to my previous pace and I started to panic! Where had those minutes gone? Had I walked too long? Or had my running pace slowed that much?
The bridge appeared at mile 20 and I had another Gu. The sun was high, the heat had set in, and many of my running companions had become walking companions. At mile 21, I decided I had to stop and stretch my legs a bit but this proved to be a huge mistake. When I pulled my foot back to stretch my quad, I got a cramp in my hamstring! I couldn’t stretch forward or backward and everything was starting to hurt. 35k split was 3:45:18. Where had I lost those 15 minutes? I started bargaining with myself. Just run for 5 minutes, then walk. No? Okay, just for 4 minutes. Okay, now you can walk for one minute. Alright, two. You can run for an extra minute if you promise to pick up the pace for your next running segment.
I’d hoped to see The Huz at mile 22, but he’d gotten there based on the splits I’d been putting up in the first 16 miles. Worried that he’d missed me, he left after 15-20 minutes and went straight to the finish, just in time to miss me hobbling along.
40k: 4:24:28. At this point, I almost burst into tears. 24.8 miles in 4:24:28. I still had 1.4 miles to go and only 5.5 minutes if I wanted to reach my goal. I think I’d secretly been holding out hope until this point. If I could just muster enough to sprint for a few minutes, or run through a walk break or something. Anything! But no, 4:30 would not happen. Neither would 4:35. Or 4:40. My IT bands felt like stretched rubber bands. I felt myself wavering as I walked and whole songs passed on my iPod without any notice. I had to snap myself back to attention several times, especially when I saw an older gentleman lose his footing and tumble. Just a little further!!
At mile 25, we started the downhill to the finish area. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t clear my head enough to pick up my feet. I was dragging and just wanted to be done. I was about to burst into tears at mile 26, as I turned toward the final .2. The last .2 are a steep uphill to the Marine Corps War Memorial. It’s a short, but treacherous climb and one that got the best of a young woman just 100 yards from the finish who was just in front of me. As I hobbled up the hill (at the behest of the handsome marine who told me to “Run, dammit!! You’re almost there!”), I saw this young woman’s stomach rebel against her and she revisited the last glass of water she’d consumed. Her dear friend was kind enough to wait for her and they crossed the finish shortly after I did. I wish I could say I felt triumphant when I crossed the finish line, but I honestly don’t think I felt anything at all. I was so exhausted that I have almost no memory of receiving my space blanket or my medal (except that I gave that marine some attitude about the medal being too heavy and then had to apologize). I remember being herded into photo lines and then to get a bag of food before again being herded out to the finish festival. I staggered, shivering and covered in salt, seeing almost nothing in front of me. Almost 40 minutes after I’d crossed the finish, I finally found The Huz. He saw me in the crowd and ran up to me. Giving me a huge hug, he asked “how do you feel?” and I promptly burst into tears.
I’d like to say I was emotional because I was proud of my accomplishment, but that would be a lie. I’m much too selfish. I cried and cried into his shirt. He kissed my salty cheeks and told me I deserved to be as proud as he was. All I could say was “I fell apart. I didn’t make my goal. I just fell apart.” And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I still feel incredibly disappointed. I know how selfish that feeling is. I am so fortunate to have the strength and support that carried me over all my training miles, through hours of cross training and through DC on Sunday. But what I want to do now is stomp my feet and have a good cry.
Will I run another marathon? Will I hang up my running shoes for good? Stay tuned for my post-race recap and thoughts on my next steps!