I apologize if this post is disjointed. I put it together rather quickly... Some of it was written while hopped up on Ativan and Dewars!
Spoiler Alert: I did not reach my goal. I didn't even PR.
Full disclosure: Leading up to the race, I was confident I would PR. I had PR'ed in a training run for goodness sake. I wasn't cocky about it, but I just figured that if I could PR in training that I could PR with a proper taper and the excitement of a race atmosphere.
Reality: It was not my best day, but I did the best I could do on that day.
Before The Race:
I woke up at 3:36 to the sound of Ali's coffee maker. Ah, coffee! I was surprisingly awake and refreshed. I drank coffee, fiddled around on the computer, and got dressed. Before I knew it, it was 4:55 and we were out the door, headed for Cape Coral!
Ali only lives about 20 minutes from the start of the race so we arrived with plenty of time to eat our breakfasts check my gear, and go to the bathroom 500 times before the 6:45 start. We met up with Kristina before the start as well. The closer the start got, the more jittery I was. I popped into the port o john one last time as they were singing the national anthem. It felt wrong to be doing what I was doing during the national anthem...
I squeezed my body through one of the starting corral barriers so I could get up near the front. It was a good idea, because when the race started, I wasn't slowing anyone down and was passing people until I got into a groove. The sun had just come up and it was already getting warm. I wasn't going to worry about the first mile or two, I wanted to let my legs warm up. I turned on my podcasts and hunkered down for what I hoped would be a PR.
The course was flat. It was an out and back through neighborhoods. The vegetation and architectural style was different than that of PA, but when I am on a mission, I don't have the energy to be looking around at scenery. In fact, I didn't even hear a lick of my podcast. It was playing, but I don't know what was going on! My own thoughts were overpowering what was coming out of my earbuds.
I was having a hard time getting into a comfortable pace during the first 5 miles (heck that's almost half the race! Whenever I felt I was comfortable, I'd look down and my pace was near 7:30. No, that was not going to do. I picked up the speed a little bit and got a couple miles in at a sub 7:20.
Mile 7.5 is when things first started going wrong. I got a stabbing side stitch. Not as bad as the one I got at the Dover 10 miler, but I feared it was going to get worse. I breathed, I rubbed it, and I slowed down. I figured if I slowed my pace for a bit I could make it go away, then I could pick it back up and make up some time. I slowed down for about two miles but the pain lingered. I decided I was just going to have to deal with it as it didn't seem to be getting worse.
I tried picking up the pace but it was hard. Anything below a 7:30 felt hard. And yes, I know it's supposed to be hard, but it was harder than it felt during training. The weather was warm and it was quite sunny by this point. There wasn't anything blocking the sun at all.
I knew I was going to have to work for this PR, and there wasn't much time left. Unfortunately, at mile 11.5 the next thing went wrong. BOTH of my calves seized up into painful knots. This was not just general soreness/achiness. This was like having a really bad charlie horse but in both your calves. This new problem was my downfall. To prevent my calves from tearing I was not going to be able to push the pace. This meant my A goal (1:34:XX ) was officially out of reach. The way I saw it, I had two options:
1. Push the pace and still try to get a PR (<1:38:07), which would seize my calves up even more and knock me to the ground. If I was lucky, I would be able to walk to the finish line and obtain a personal worst.
2. Slow the pace so the calves would stop seizing and hope I could make it to the finish line with a respectable time without tearing my calf muscles.
Obviously, I opted for number two. Luckily, while my calves were still seizing, if I ran just the right pace (8:00) and altered my gait a bit, they didn't get worse. But I seriously almost cried when my Garmin hit 13.1 and the finish line was still around the bend and down a bit of a stretch. My Garmin read 13.33 as I crossed the finish line.
I clocked in at 1:40:50
Not my best, not my worst.
After the Race
I was worried about how I would feel when I stopped running. A volunteer helped steady me. I got my medal and some water. I walked for a bit but wanted to sit down. I found a shady spot behind some cars and sat down carefully as to not bother my calves. Bad idea. The left one knotted up so bad I couldn't even move it. Looking back I should have taken more salt immediately after the race. (I say more salt because I took salt tabs and water during the race but clearly not enough!) So I couldn't move my leg and it hurt really bad! I needed help.
"Can someone help me?" I called out tentatively. No one responded. I was shielded by cars and it was loud due to being near the finish line.
"I need help!" I shouted a little louder.
My calf hurt so bad I couldn't imagine standing up could hurt it worse, so I made myself stand and walk, hoping it would relax the way it does when I walk off a charlie horse. It worked. I was not going to need any help. I walked and didn't sit down for awhile after that!
I wondered why my training went so well and the race didn't. My training runs didn't feel easy but they weren't horrible at all. This whole race was hard. Not a single second felt the way I thought it would feel. Hitting the paces I needed to was hard. I felt a little puke-y and poop-y. How comes I could hit a PR in a training run but not during a race with proper taper and race day excitement? I have a lot to learn about what my body apparently needs as far as hydration and electrolytes are concerned. I drank and took salt tabs during the race but it clearly wasn't enough. Time to learn, experiment , and hopefully race better with a new strategy!
Runner Perks/AG Award!
The post race perks for runners were awesome! They provided free massages, so I got one! It felt good on my tired legs. They had all kinds of food (which I didn't eat), alcohol (also didn't imbibe) and water and Diet Coke- which I did have! The medals were huge!
While they were doing the 5k awards, I nosed around and looked at some preliminary 1/2 Marathon results. I counted and it appeared that I was the 7th woman overall! I thought statistically I had a good chance to place in my age group, so I hung around for that ceremony. Well, I did end up placing first in my age group! I got another medal AND I got to stand on a podium for the first time! I am so proud! I kept thinking, "My parents are going to see this and be so proud of me."
Waiting for Ali and Kristina
After I got my award, I headed to the finish line to wait for Kristina to come in. It was quite warm out by now... it had been warm for hours! It was so inspiring to see the half marathon runners cross the finish line and get the glory they deserved! It was around the 3 hour mark when the winner of the MARATHON (which was a woman!!!!!) crossed the finish line. Wow, it was so cool to see that! I was glad I got to chill at the finish line and see all that. It really put things into perspective for me.
I got to cheer for Kristina and take some pictures as she finished. Make sure you check out Kristina's blog to read more about her thoughts on her race.
After Kristina recovered, we walked backwards on the race course to Mile 24 where we were going to cheer for Ali, who was completing the entire marathon. We found some shade and sat down and cheered for the runners. At this point, the sun was brutal, and it was really affecting the runners. Most were walking by this point. I was busy chatting with Kristina when she noticed a runner hunch over in pain. We rushed over to render aid. He was suffering from major cramping and was writhing in pain. I ran to the nearest water station and they sent help. Eventually, an ambulance came to help the poor guy out. His calf would seize, then his quad, then his other calf... He was debilitated by pain but kept mentioning the finish line. I looked at Kristina. "I don't think he is finishing," I said, and she agreed.
Once we knew he was in good hands, we walked a bit more to hook up with Ali's husband and sister. Before we knew it, Ali came running by, looking way better than many of the others now who had either slowed to a shuffle or a walk.
We gave her some encouragement and off she went. Two more miles to go! The rest of us hopped in the car and drove to the finish line to wait for her.
As we waited for Ali to finish, guess who we saw walk across the finish line- the dude we had helped at Mile 24 who was suffering from cramps! HE DID IT! I took his picture and told him he is an inspiration.
I was brought to tears watching Ali complete her second marathon. It was a boring course- two out and backs. The sun was brutal. The wind affected her asthma. But quitting was not an option. She sucked it up and she DID IT and now she is a two time marathoner! Oh, fun fact, her Garmin clocked the course long as well! It said 27.1 miles. "Ali, you just ran your first ultra!" I told her! Be sure to check out her blog, as I am sure she will give you her full race recap soon!
Post Race Giddiness and Hash Out
Boy were we giddy to be done. We took the obligatory post race photos. That's Sean with us- he earned a half marathon PR that day and he was so happy! It was fun to share in his happiness.
We went home to shower and then stuffed our faces at a deli. Ali, Kristina, and I spent a little time re-hashing the race at lunch, but Ali and I spent even more time rehashing it later on that night on her back porch.
The Next Day
Can I just tell you my calves and quads were a little sore the next day, but my IT band was not bothered at all during or after the race! This is great news! It makes me feel like my body is holding up quite nicely. I am already getting ideas...
... What ideas am I speaking of? Well, I am not giving up! I want that half marathon PR and I am going to get it! I want to learn how to not get side stitches and convulsing calf muscles and then I want to go KILL IT. I will have to decide if I want to try again soon or in a couple months. No decision has been made yet as I have a lot to think about. But I want you to know I am NOT deterred! Sunday was not my day, but my day is coming!