Big mistake number 1 happened before the race even started. Upon arriving in DC on Saturday morning, I realized I forgot something. I knew I would forget something that I needed to bring with me. Of course, I had to forget something I really needed: my KT Tape for my knee. I started to panic that my knee would not make it through 26.2 miles without my tape. I had no choice but to suck it up.
After meeting up with TNT briefly and waiting in line for the porta-pots for 45 flippin’ minutes, hubby and I headed to our starting corrals. He ran the half marathon and was in corral 8 while I was in 9 so we got to hang out together. The race started in waves so we had a bit of wait before we crossed the starting line. We had enough time to dash out of the corral and to the porta-pots next to the starting line for one last bathroom break.
Once we crossed the starting line, we ran together for the first half mile then I decided I needed to speed up a little. Enter mistake number 2. Because of my knee issues, I had to step back my training a little bit. Originally, my target pace was 9:09, but because of the knee stuff, I wasn’t sure what pace to aim for so I just went with what was comfortable. Unfortunately, what was comfortable in the beginning was way too fast for me. Allow me to break it down for you:
The first mile was fine, but dipping under the 9 minute mark by mile 3 was not smart. Miles 2, 3 and 4 were definitely too fast for me. After that my pace was okay. Ignore the appearance of speediness at mile 11, I think that was when I lost my satellite signal for a little while under a tunnel.
I started to not feel well by mile 8. Mile 8 out of 26.2. I knew that was a bad sign. I cursed myself for starting too fast. Although my quick start wasn’t my only problem. It was much warmer than I was used to in training. Even though we had a mild winter, I still grew accustomed to long runs in weather in the mid-30s to mid-40s. That is the perfect temperature for me. I had some really awesome long runs in the cooler temps. On Saturday morning, it was around 50 degrees at the start and warmed up to close to 70 by the end.
I had a side stitch that would not let up. A sweet TNT coach from another team ran alongside me for a little while to see how I was feeling. He told me to hang in there and that we had gotten through the worst of the hills. He was really encouraging, but I should know better than to trust that line about the hills. There are always more hills!
Around mile 12, my TNT coach pulled up next to me to check on me. One of the millions of reasons of why I love TNT is their amazing support at races. She told me if my side stitch didn’t go away by mile 15, I should ask the next coach I saw for some salt.
When the half marathoners split off to head to the finish line, I very seriously considered going to finish with them and calling it a day. Then I reminded myself that I didn’t do a 21 mile, a 20 mile and a 22 mile run to just do the half. I forced myself to keep going and took my first walking break. I was thankful that the crowd had thinned out so much. I was happy that when I hit the halfway point my time was 2:04. That’s better than my current half PR. I hoped that meant I was on track to at least finish around 4:15.
After my brief (30 second) walking break, I forged on and continued to fall apart. The nicest parts of the course were in the first half. The second half repeated back over some of the first part of the course then continued on through a lot of really boring parts of the city. There were some pockets of good crowd support, but they were pretty spaced out. There were a couple out and back areas and loops. Those are hard for me mentally because I envy the people passing in the direction that have already completed the loop or out and back. Note how my pace deteriorates rapidly:
I had to take a lot of walking breaks. I fought to get through every single mile. After my walking break at mile 13, I forced myself to get to mile 16 before taking another break. I walked as soon as I hit 16. Then I forced myself to make it to mile 18, then 20, then 21, and so on. My walking breaks got closer together. The more I walked, the harder it was to run again. Yet the more I ran, the more I felt discouraged and in pain.
The heat really got to me. Most of the second half was in the open sun. I can’t remember any shade except for a tunnel here and there. It was excruciating. I had my headphones in the entire time, but I didn’t listen to much music. I carefully created my playlist for the race so it would only have songs that really pump me up – songs that always make my legs move faster. This time, my music couldn’t save me. Every single song annoyed me. I ended up keeping it off most of the race. The bands along the course were pretty good, but we’d only hear them for like 30 seconds then we were gone again.
I think it was around mile 18 that another TNT coach caught up with me. He gave me salt packets and told me to either put them straight in my mouth or mix them with my water. I went with the salty water.
I drank so much water, nuun and Gatorade during the race. During my long runs throughout the winter, I always had 10 ounces of water and 10 ounces of nuun with me in my hydration pack and that was enough. That’s what I had for this race (I didn’t want a repeat of the intense nuun craving that I had at Baltimore), but it wasn’t nearly enough. I refilled my bottles 3 times along the course and I was still insanely thirsty. Even though I was so thirsty, I felt like my stomach was overflowing with liquid which made me really nauseous.
Hubby called me when I was at mile 21. The first thing I told him was “I’m dying. I can’t do it.” Being the awesome and supportive person he is, he told me that I could do it and I just had less than an hour left. He called me again at mile 23 and said “where are you? I’m waiting at the wrong place, don’t finish yet!” He didn’t realize the marathon finish line was different from the half. I reassured him that I had a long way to go. He caught up with me just before mile 26. He ran with me as long as he could before the finish line. Mile 26 was my fastest mile since mile 15 at 9:37. It was also the first mile that I ran without a walking break since probably mile 18. My legs seriously protested. I felt like little spasms were running through my quads.
The last .2 was uphill. Of course. After 26 miles, running up a hill, no matter how big, is hell. I pushed just a tiny bit across the finish line with the last bit of energy I had left in me.
As I made my way through the finishers’ area, I started hoarding fluids. Hubby made fun of me when we caught up to me because I had 2 bottles of water, a bottle of Gatorade and I picked up another bottle of water at the TNT tent. I was one thirsty runner. If I had seen this that was at the expo, I would have just drank straight from the nozzle:
During the race, I missed Zain like crazy. One thing that kept me going was thinking about how the sooner I finished, the sooner I would be back home with him. I saw lots of spectators with kids and it made me miss him even more. At one point, I saw spectators that were blowing bubbles. It made me think of Zain and his crazy obsession with “buh-buhs!” When we finally got home in the early afternoon, he was so was excited to play with my medal and even gave it a kiss. He’s too funny. He had a fun time playing with his grandparents all morning.
My knee ended up being okay during the race. It was achy and stiff for the first 5 miles then I don’t remember it bothering me. Maybe that’s because everything else hurt so much that I stopped noticing it.
From mile 16 on, I had one thought that ran continuously through my mind: no more marathons. I repeated over and over to myself that I would never again run a marathon. I promised myself this was the last one. Well, that’s a promise that is made to be broken. I know I’ll run another marathon. It probably won’t be this year. It might not even be next year. I don’t know when it will be, but I know that the pain is temporary. I am a marathoner and to me, there is nothing like the experience of running a marathon. I know one day I will run another.
Even though I had a really, really, really tough race, I am happy that I have a new marathon PR of 4:31:44. I took 23 minutes off my previous PR from Baltimore. Maybe next time I can get under that 4:30 mark.
Representing Team in Training during the race was incredible. Hearing cheers of “Go Team!” made me proud to run for such a great cause. Thank you again to everyone who donated and supported me while training with them!
If you made it through this 26.2 mile long post, you deserve a medal!