I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for the follow-up to my first post, and since I am running another race in a couple days, I figured that I’d better put you all out of your misery. So… the marathon…. March 6th, 2012. It was a cold, dark morning and I was tangled in my race shirt that I had lovingly lay on the hotel room chair the night before, pinned with my race bib, ready to go. The bib ripped and i had to scream for my husband to help pull it off of me. Hoping it wasn’t an omen of what was to come, I took my temperature one last time (just getting over a horrible cold that I feared was the flu), winced at the 3 eyedroppers of “kick-ass biotic” in my mouth, took 2 Tylenol (which my husband said would disqualify me if the officials found out – WHATever) and lubed up my feet. Stashing various energy bars, GUs, electrolyte pills and coconut water in my race bag, I was ready. Tired as hell (it was 5 AM after all, and I only got 5 out of my usual 8-hr beauty sleep), a little anxious, and, I’ll admit, excited, “andiamo!” I yelled at my husband. He’s Italian and always late. In fact, much of the night I dreamt that we would miss the bus to the starting line and miss the race. Of course,we were, in fact, the last people on the bus. They were all waiting for us, but we made it. *phew” Now the fun begins.
Jumped off the bus with my other awesome running friends, among thousands of other runners, all hopping around, trying to warm up in the 39 degree temp, which felt frigid given that most of us were wearing tank tops and short shorts. So many crazy people, just like me! I actually teared up with the enormity of it. My husband, Maurizio, and I had our plan down. We were going to find Johan, one of our running buddies, who is smart and experienced, and had his pace per minute calculated down to the mile to get his goal-time, under 4 hrs. We figured that if we could stay by him, we could get that pace too. Easier said than done.
So the three of us started out together. I felt good- dare i say, invigorated, and determined to not let the excitement push me faster than I knew I should go. Everything i had read said to start out at a relatively slow pace, and then push for those negative splits (faster after the 2nd half). So we were at about 9 min/mile. Maurizio kept itching to go ahead. I could literally see the struggle playing out in his body. Johan finally said “if you can’t hold back anymore, go for it!”. Maurizio hesitated for a second and then lurched forward, not to be seen again until mile 20. This was around mile 8, and I have to say, from the beginning until about mile 17, I was feeling great. it was a gorgeous morning, and watching the bright sun infiltrating the dense fog, laying over the vineyards, was actually meditative and relaxing. I thought about how a marathoning book I read mentioned that the top runners never even notice the scenery in their races, and what a shame that was for them. I stuck like glue next to Johan, and we chatted about where Maurizio could be, our childhoods, our children and whatever else passed our minds. Four hours makes for a lot of conversation! I was mindful to eat little bites of my energy bars every so often and drink lots of water. I even forced myself to walk through the aid stations, every 2 miles, to drink the water, rather than having 3/4 of it spill out as I try to stay on pace. At the half marathon marker, I noticed that I had beat my half-marathon PR (1:55), and worried that my mom and kids would miss seeing me at the finish line. I had told them that I expected to finish in around 4 and a half hours, Maurizio probably around 4, and even considered slowing down for a moment so that I could see them. That moment passed very quickly.
Around mile 17, I started feeling the beginning of a side cramp, which is what sidelined me at the angel Island 25k, as well as during some of our longer training runs. i knew that if I couldn’t stop it from coming on full force, Johan would go ahead of me and there would be no way I’d make my goal time. Johan reminded me to focus on my breathing and to stop taking shallow breaths. I was so thankful for him at that moment. I did focus on it and remembered reading, among the theories of how to get rid of side cramps, that lamaze breathing can help. So I started my Lamaze breathing. I didn’t give a shit what I looked like at that point! I breathed and I pushed the air out, feeling like i was giving birth to my third child. The cramp came on anyway, but I didn’t talk and kept focused on my breathing 100%. In fact, I was so focused on my breathing that I hardly noticed the pain in my quads, in my calves, in my hamstrings, in my feet, just to name a few.
We hit mile 19, which I had been warned about as the last, tough hill. The hill would have been nothing for us any other time, considering all of the crazy hills we run on Mt. tam every week, but at mile 19 of a marathon, just when you officially “hit the wall” and your glycogen is depleted in your body, a mile and a half long hill is hell, no matter what it’s steepness. About a mile into it, I said, “oh, look, now it’s downhill. that wasn’t so bad,” to which Johan responded” It’s actually still uphill. At that point I knew I must be slightly delirious.