marathon number two was one for the record books. it wasn't really the one i wanted to record, but it is what it is. i guess i'll just start at the beginning. with my alarm clock. all three of them.
i actually woke up before the alarm(s) went off. around 4:30 am, i had a little nightmare that they never did go off, and it was 8:30 and my coach was texting me, saying where the hell are you? i was too nervous then to go back to sleep, so i just lay there and waited until 5:30 to finally get out of bed. and after i poured over the hour by hour forecast & figured out exactly what to wear, i proceeded to pace. and pace. and pace. and when my husband went into the shower, i followed him into the bathroom so i could pace in a smaller space. he said it was like watching a lion in a cage at the zoo. trying to work out their escape. but mostly, he knew enough not to really talk to me. he knew i just had to do this crazy moving, breathing, pacing meditation. the pre-race morning ritual had to come to an end and coach and i said our goodbyes to our race support and headed down to the start.
as the mass of people shuffled closer & closer to the start, it hit me. this was it. i was at the start. all those months & weeks and i am finally here about to cross the start with coach. i totally teared up and i was glad for the cover of my sunglasses. the first mile was dead on pace, and the following several miles were pretty fast, there were a couple of sub 8's i think and a bunch closer to, but still under target pace. so we were able to buy ourselves a lot of wiggle room - although not quite as much as we would eventually need. we would have had to be kenyan to buy oursleves that much time. for a long time, we were 4 minutes ahead of pace, then 3 minutes, then 2. until the point at which, and i think it was 22 - we had fallen one minute behind.
this race was hard, right from the beginning. this was not my first marathon, where i was in some blissful, iloverunningsomuchicouldrunforever place. there were many points during the race where coach would say "i remember this spot from last year" ... my response was "i do too, only last year i was a lot happier". he asked how i was at one point, and it was fairly early (before mile 10) and i said "good, but not great". "you're not supposed to feel great". right. i needed to forget everything about my first marathon. could not compare the two. they were two entirely different races. run for different reasons.
i was more tired than i wanted to be earlier in the race than i wanted to be. the mantras kicked in. at first, they were fairly benign. forward motion, forward motion. and when i felt myself slumping a bit it was run tall, run strong. run tall, run strong. i think it was mile 15 when things started to really get hard. the mantras got more desperate. i said enough hail marys to make up for the 20+ years i haven't been to church. in the later miles, leading up to the wall, all the words would get mixed up and i didn't even know what i was saying. i remember saying to myself over and over again. don't lose this. don't lose this. hang on. hang on. hang on. and even though it got really tough at 15, we were still on target for that BQ all the way up until mile 21.
and then that's when coach started to say that it was going to be a great marathon pr. i knew what that meant. i knew i had lost the BQ. and when a guy in a hula skirt passed me and i couldn't keep up, i knew it was all over. and yet i still thought that while i may not BQ for 2008, i thought i still had a shot at 2009, when i would be in the next age group and needed 3:50. five minutes more. surely we had bought ourselves 5 minutes. surely my second wind would kick in. if only i could hang on. don't let this go. don't let this go. don't let this go.
i guess sometime soon after 21, maybe closer to 22, i don't know - there was a point that i knew i was close to being in real trouble. i'm sure the point was much earlier, i just wouldn't accept it. i could barely feel my body running. i was in a total daze. it was the strangest feeling. i wasn't dizzy, and it wasn't tunnel vision. i don't know what it was. had never been to that place. at one point, i told coach i felt delerious. and yet i kept up the mantra. hang on. hang on. i literally wanted to hang on. coach was ahead of me a bit. i wanted him to hold my hand and pull me along. i tried to call out his name, but i know it was barely a whisper. so i tied an imaginary rope around his waist and attched it to mine and hung on for dear life. only the rope kept getting longer. don't let go. don't let go. don't let go.
and i think its at this point that we were going through a water stop, and i had been walking through them in the later miles to try and have better success at getting more water in my mouth than up my nose. (more on this later). coach says he turned to say something to me, but i wasn't there, and he looked behind and i was swaying my way through the water stop. like a drunken runner. i don't know if he came back to get me, or if i made my way to him. but i remember his arm under mine, he was steadying me and holding me up and he said we are walking. i remember begging him, please don't make me walk. please don't make me walk. and then he said we are sitting down. and i begged him again, please don't make me sit. don't make me sit. i sort of recall him putting me down on the sidewalk and then i don't remember too much more. he said i was talking crazy talk. frankly, i'd be willing to bet he thinks i talk crazy talk all the time. so it must have been really bad. while i didn't lose conciousness, they said i was as close as you get to passing out without actually passing out.
i remember being cold. i remember warm things getting put on top of me. i remember people trying to give me water. they said they moved me to a warm sunny spot in the grass. i don't remember. i vaguely remember talking. or trying to. what happened? what did i do wrong? i have to finish. i have to finish. let me finish. i think my husband said it's over. i remember trying to cry but i couldn't. i remember my friend stroking my hair. she was saying, there is always a plan b. and she told me about the marathons coach never finished. and i felt better. i guess somewhere in between my delerium on the grass, coach saw a policeman & had him call an ambulance. i never even heard the sirens. thank god. if i had the energy, i would have been pissed. i vaguely remember getting put on the gurney. once i felt all the movement & got put into the ambulance, then i really knew i was in an ambulance. i remember saying through the oxygen mask, this wasn't supposed to happen. and fuckfuckfuck.
they pricked my fingers. it was my glucose levels. they plummeted. and so did i. dammit. maybe that self-imposed ban on gumdrops wasn't such a good idea. (more on nutrition & fueling in next post). after the IV, the oxygen & the shot of glucose, i finally opened my eyes. and the emt guy that was standing outside was saying how they would drive me to the finish where there would be food, etc. i don't know if i said it out loud or just thought it, but i thought over my dead body am i being driven in an ambulance to the finish line. i am finishing this thing. maybe i did say it out loud, because the emt guy who was inside with me said, you can do it. my husband was standing outside the ambulance & i told him i was getting out. i was going to finish this damn thing. i think at that same time i heard that coach was going to finish. and i thought not without me he's not. i just hope he didn't really want to run the last 3 miles. my husband was a bit reluctant - he said why don't you walk around and see how you feel. he turned his back for a minute, i got out. i grabbed my warm top. and started walking. when he turned around, i had caught up to coach.
it didn't take long for me to momentarily regret this choice. i i needed food. badly. i was drinking the gatorade now, and my husband & friend caught up with us and rode alongside us for a while (they spent the entire day riding around the course on their mountain bikes). my friend miraculously produces two of those sporty nutrition bars. i don't even know what they were. and i almost checked the ingredients to make sure it was diary free, but at this point, i thought who gives a shit. it was the nectar of the gods. got me through mile 23. by 24 i was feeling better. and it was just coach & i. chatting. and walking.
we got to 26, the corner to the finish was just up ahead. i was feeling good & there was no way i wanted to walk down that hill to the finish. i said, let's run home. he said it was up to me. we started running. god how those first few steps of running hurt. we turned the corner. running. there it was. the finish. down the hill. we cross the first mat and our names were announced. we cross the second mat and its over. and once again, i was happy for the cover of my sunglasses.
i had always been amazed when reading some race reports when people say at the end of a marathon how much it sucked and they'll never do another. i used to think - how can anyone possibly say that? i couldn't grasp the concept. until yesterday. in the later miles, i was bargaining with myself: you never have to run again. you can fucking walk boston. just get to boston. don't let it go.
boston got away. but i'll get it back. and it did suck. about as much as a race can suck. but i'll do another. and another. and another if i have to. i wrote a post a while back - wondering how far i could go. what am i really capable of? i've always been afraid of what would happen if you gave it your absolute all. do you fall apart? do bits and pieces fall off? i wondered how you balanced on the edge of giving it everything and still make it to the finish line. i didn't do such a good job of balancing on that edge. i came crashing down the other side. but i learned that while it may take a hell of a lot longer than you want, you can still give it everything and make it to the finish line.
the minuate of food and fuel analysis to follow.
and the really important stuff, the thank you's to friends, family and coach - those are forthcoming.