Running on Empty
Monday, October 10, 2011
Yesterday I ran the Portland Marathon. It was a tough, tough race for me...but I finished. I'm very sore and gimpy today and can't wait for my massage scheduled for late this afternoon.
My time: 5 hours, 36 minutes.
My goal: 5 hours.
My experience: A glorious first 17 miles followed by a tough, tough 9. The last nine miles were in a word, excruciating. But I finished.
The race started at 7 a.m. The race started in waves according to projected finish time. I was in the F corral--the slowest running group. People were excited. There were lines. Lines to go to the porta potties, lines to drop off your bags at bag check. Standing in those lines took so long that I hardly had time to get nervous.
Our Portland Fit running group held a rally and warm up stretch session at 6 a.m. before the race. So I was able to find folks I knew to start. The first miles were easy. I tried to hold back, but, well...I didn't. To hit a goal of 5 hours, you need to run a 11 min 27 second mile pace. First mile: 10:50. A little fast. Second mile: 11:31. Better. Third mile: 11:11. Better slow down. 'cept I didn't. Mile 4 was 10:02 (downhill back towards the waterfront). Mile 5: 10:45....you get the idea. I didn't really get close to my pace again until mile 11. I managed to meet en route another fellow sparker, AELARLEE1 who ran a great marathon. It was so cool to meet you while jogging at the turnaround at mile 9!!! Congrats!
Once I hit the onramp to the St. Johns Bridge, I felt like I was moving backwards. I walked very slowly up the half mile to the bridge. Got passed by lots of people. I could only walk sloowwwly mind you. I fully intended to turn on the after burners once I hit the top of the bridge, but I couldn't. It was cold and windy on the bridge, and I felt chilled. My quads started cramping. I could only start to jog again after the downhill part of the bridge, but it was no fun at that point. [Note to those cheering on runners saying: It's only downhill from here...for some of us, that isn't a cheerful thought.]
By mile 17 I had slowed to a 15:13 pace; mile 18: 14:08 (the 17.5 mile marker was t the mid point of the bridge). I could do no better than a 13:33 mile at mile 21. Friends met and cheered/ran with me for a minute other side of the bridge. My son and dh met me at mile 21 (they were all a big boost!). The rest of the way, on my own, I walked/hobbled at 14-15+ mile pace. People passed, asking if I was OK. No, I wasn't but what could I say? After walking for a bit, I'd try to speed up...only to slow down after a short while (and so it went). The last 8+ miles I gutted out. My dh said I looked like a zombie as I approached the finish line. I didn't even hear them call out to me. By that time, I was wiped out.
What did I learn from this race? Determination can overcome a lot. But it really hurts when you hit the wall. I have never experienced anything like that before (I ran the Portland Marathon in 2004 in 5 hrs 10 minutes and don't remember such a wall)
I'm not raring to run another marathon any time soon. We'll see. I need to listen to those who say: go out slow. My Garmin went on the fritz after about 5 miles, so for those several fast miles it was locked on the heart rate screen. I finally was able to get it to respond and discovered how to "lock the bezel". So in the future I will remember to "lock it" right as I start on the miles and pace screen.
There's not much I can do about the rain and the weather. Not sure how I could've prepared for that. Once you are wet you are wet. I think my biggest problem was that I went out too fast. I was running along at a 10+ minutes per mile clip, easily talking to another fellow Portland Fit person for a few miles. Shouldn't have done that. I felt good, generally, until I felt very very bad. And then I had miles and miles still to go. Sheer determination saw me through.
I now know that I can do more than I think I can. If I run another marathon (and that's a big if at this point), I'm going to do it more carefully. Pace is everything. And sustainable pace is what makes marathon running doable without so much pain.
That is similar to what has made my spark journey a good one: sustained pace. No crazy diets. Consistency. Goal setting. And keeping on keeping on rather than running on empty.