Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Comeback Queen and her Merrython: Grandma's Marathon

I was injured. I didn't think I would be able to even run Grandma's Marathon. I didn't think I would even be able to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May. I was way undertrained. I didn't run more than three days a week for training. More often than not I ran two days a week and when I put in my 20 miler, that's the only run I did that whole week. My top weekly mileage up to the marathon was 24 miles. That's less than the marathon itself.

Just call me the Comeback Queen.

When all was said and done, I finished the marathon in my worst time (5:17:22), but I had the best time. Several things contributed to this. I resest my goals, I went with the best people and I let myself walk.

My goal was to make the marathon my merrython. That involved letting my competitive side take a rest. It's hard for me. I'm slow and normally end up as road kill on a regular day, but I'm still competitive. I knew I had to go easy with my groin pull. That just sucks to write. Nobody wants a groin pull. I have IBS too. Irritable bowel syndrome. I attract illnesses and injuries with embarassing names.

On my first marathon, I kept to Hal Higdon's training plan like glue. On this marathon I trained by feel. If I hurt, I rested. Life had exploded anyway with the extra child and taking classes. Time and health were not on my side. After my first marathon my body hurt so bad. I knew from doing several half marathons that my body gets used to the distance and the run doesn't hurt so bad. I wanted to finish this marathon feeling good or better. On my last marathon in Milwaukee I was injured during the run. I felt pretty crappy for a few weeks. Stupid porta potty. Can't you make them for short people? I digress.

Girls weekend! Loved it.

Bobbi invited anybody and everybody to Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Mn. She talked up the course. Originally, my friends Carrie, Chris and I were going to stay about an hour and a half away in Hayward. I was going to bring the family. They were going to come and watch. In the end it was a girls weekend and our friend Yvonne came up too. Chris was course marshalling. Carrie and Bobbi came to break 5 hours and Yvonne came to qualify for Boston. I came to finish. You don't get a shirt until you finish the marathon. I wanted that shirt, and the medal to go with it.

We had so much food in the room we could have lived there for a week. I told hubs I would eat wisely before the race. I did have fries. I got chastised later. Early to bed for race day.

Marathon morning - Chris took the picture before we headed to the buses.

Duluth takes its marathon seriously. The whole town of Duluth seems to support the marathon. Retailers and restauranteers wear shirts. The spectators are out in full force. The race is very well coordinated. The buses are well coordinated to take you out to the start. The porta potty line was ridiculus but we all made it through. I was in the stall during the National Anthem ("What?" you say, "you didn't stand?!" and missed the airplanes flying overhead. It did rock the porta though, felt totally X-Files.

Grandma's is a point to point course. The fans don't really come out until mile 18, which is really when you need them. The weather was really up in the air. We had gotten an email earlier in the week about possible red flag conditions, which pretty much says prepare for death but not as much as black flag which says death is running behind you and gaining. When the race started it was a green flag start, but it was still hot and muggy. The course opens up to the lake every once and a while, and it is very soothing. I loved the scenery. I didn't love watching so many people pit stopping on the course sans portas.  I carried a lot of stuff on this race. I had my just-in-case water, gu, stinger gels, electrolyte tablets, and my ipod. I didn't want to bonk, and I have found that B vitamins help me a lot. I even took an electrolyte tablet at the finish, and I think that it helped me recover.

The hubs and I worked out a plan to keep my legs from giving out. The first water station was at mile three. I had a watch with a time and would rest for one minute at the water stop. There were water stations every two miles until mile 20 when they were every mile. We planned to spend the first three water stations taking a minute rest, two minute rest for the next three stations, etc every two miles. If I needed more rest later, I would take it resetting my watch for a minute longer. It would mean I would get the rest I needed when I needed it, later in the race.

The first half went really well for me. The rests seemed long. I gu-ed starting at mile six and planned to have a gel every five miles. The temperature during the race dropped. The front came through and a strong breeze pushed us forward every once in a while. It actually got cold. I love running in the cold. I was surprised to find out the my hands were cold because at the time I hadn't mentally put together that it was cold. It took me while to figure out. It sunk in when one of the runners had her arms in her shirt and was looking on the side of the road for stray long sleeve shirts. When she found one, she put it on. Spectators were wearing heavier clothes. I figured it out.

At mile 15 I thought I might need some tunes to help me through. However, after digging out my tunes the ipod said that the battery was dead. I checked it the previous night. I've been having some trouble with it lately when turning off. It must have drained itself out. I was mad but resisted the desire to throw it out. I really wanted to. I had to reenergize myself.

I was doing really well. Somewhere in my mind I got ambitious. I thought perhaps I could break five hours again. Competition reared its head. Then at mile 17 I saw people crowding around a man. He was wrapped in foil blankets. Someone is holding his legs, and he was seizing. As I passed him I saw that he had an oxygen mask on, and I started crying. I could hear ambulances for the next mile. Nobody signs up for a marathon to get taken away in an ambulance. It spooked me. I had done three previous marathons and been fine. It still spooked me.

By mile 20 I was still on course for a 5 hour marathon. However, I had to use the facilities at mile 21. Putting my compression capris on after the pit stop was like Ross putting on his leather pants in Friends. It took me a mile to get readjusted, and I could have easily strained myself. There is only one large hill on the course at mile 22. After seeing the guy at mile 17, I gave myself permission to walk it. I generally am not a walker. I love a good hill. Seriously. The hill was long, and I did feel a little guilty especially when the spectators were trying to encourage us on.

I was hitting the wall. I knew I was going to finish, but I didn't care how long it took me to get to the finish. What I didn't know until later was that I forgot to take my mile 21 gu. My sugar levels were tanking. I was doing a lot more walking. Around mile 23 I took my last gu thinking it wouldn't any good. It did. I was able to run in the last mile and felt good about it. Chris was course marshalling at 25.5 mile. I missed her. I've never needed the foil blanket before after a marathon. At Grandma's I did. It was crazy cold. In fact it started raining, hard. Blah. I felt bad for everybody left on the course.

At the finish I found out that Carrie broke 5 hours, Yvonne was just shy of her Boston goal, and Bobbi's tummy didn't want to race that day. She didn't finish, but the following week she kicked some bootie at another marathon.

We didn't stay long at the end of the marathon. It was cold and yucky, but they had a whole tent for blister relief. It was awesome. People who wanted to take care of my oooky feet. The rest of the weekend was nice too. We had the best pizza - a baked potato pizza. We watched random bad television, had facials and chillaxed. I ate a disproportionate amount of chocolate. Overall, a great weekend with great people and a great race.

Now I can really start running for the year...