This is a tough post to write. As I sit here, I have a glass of wine (which I now regret as I’m realizing I’m still dehydrated) and am completely alone as I still want to just sit and cry in frustration…
Saturday we arrived in Chicago and got to the marathon expo just before it started to rain. Really rain. (Thank goodness this was happening on Saturday and not on race day!) I picked up my packet and some freebies and settled in to hear a guest speaker. The very last one. Women’s marathon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe. Why there wasn’t standing room only, I’ll never know, but what a treat! She and a Nike Running coach gave some great training and race day advice:
1. 3 days a week of strength training is ideal
2. Running is a single leg sport (mind blown. I’ve known this, but somehow putting it so simply really sank in)
3. Embrace all of the positives in the race to help you get through the “rough spots” in a marathon
Nothing revolutionary, but such great reminders. After that we headed out to dinner (turkey burger and fries), made a pace and nutrition plan, foam rolled, NUUN’d and went to bed.
Race morning I started with a plain bagel, banana and a cup of coffee, suited up and headed to the start corrals. I was a bit nervous when I wasn’t shivering walking to the start line. Is it really going to be this hot?! Nah.
I knew I wouldn’t PR this race, but I had goals. Based on my training and how I felt, I thought 4:15:00 would be more than doable. My strategy was to keep my pace conservative early and to have negative splits through the finish. As I dipped below the first bridge, my watch’s satellite reception went crazy and from that point on my mileage and pace was off. I had to rely on just the time and how my body felt to determine my pace. Somehow, I stayed at a 9:13:00 pace through the first 10k and then it was downhill from there. Within the first 10 miles my lower back started to hurt (my back NEVER hurts!!), then my hamstrings went, followed by my feet, left achilles, and my knees. Being distracted by the discomfort so unusually early in the race, my nutrition got a bit off schedule. My goal was to take one GU Roctane every 4 to 5 miles, and alternate Gatorade and water as needed. By the time I got to mile 18, I was in so much pain and my whole being was feeling woozy, all I could do was hang on. I continued my fluids, but I was done with gels before mile 20.
During the expo presentation they encouraged us to embrace the positive, no matter how small. They gave a cool breeze as an example. I waited for the breeze. Just one breeze to cool things off. It never came. The sun beat down, and even though it was only in the 70’s, there was no cooling. The fire department sprayed huge water fans and hoses were at a variety of aid stations, but it just wasn’t enough.
I crossed the finish line at exactly 4:41:00. Devastated. Angry. Embarrassed. Disappointed. Crushed. My training wasn’t perfect, but I knew I could do better. After beating myself up for 24hours, I realized that I still had a headache. I never get headaches…unless I’m dehydrated. The back pain, the muscle cramping, the headache were all because of dehydration. There’s no returning from dehydration in the middle of a marathon, there was no other possible outcome.
I have had great support from friends and family, even though it feels I let them down. All have given me fantastic nuggets to chew on, but more about that next week.
Enough about me. The Chicago Marathon has the most extraordinary volunteers. It doesn’t matter how many hours they have been working, they are always dancing and cheering on every runner. Their understanding smiles gave so many of us the strength and heart to run one more mile until the next aid station. The crowd support is unreal. There were many points when the music and the positivity almost brought me to tears (we all know you can’t cry and run at the same time – you can’t breathe!).
Everyone needs to run, volunteer or spectate a marathon. We’re all in the race together, as one team. Some running, some cheering, but we will come out the other side stronger and better people if we stick together and support each other.