Where to even start.
I was a ball of nerves traveling down to VA Beach on Saturday – a lot of bouncy energy and excessive chatter which clearly made me an amazing travel companion. I had run a few easy miles that morning and felt good – really good – for probably the first time in months. I was excited, and confidence was high.
Until it was race day.
The weather that morning was a delightful 40ish degrees with a fairly strong wind gusting out of the north. My hotel was approximately one and a half miles from the race start, so into the wind I started to walk – and with every step, I knew I was going to be in for a rough day.
I wasn’t sure what my hip was going to do, and the weather wasn’t helping matters. Standing around in the cold for long enough at the start must have froze my brain though because I decided I would just try and keep the 3:35 pacer within sight and see what happened.
The start was a bit congested and I could feel the pace quicken a bit – I was trying to not stalk my watch less than a mile into the race though, so I just went with it.
At some point in the second mile, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the pace was just too fast. We had a tailwind for the first few miles and so I thought maybe the pacer was trying to bank a little time given the conditions. I looked down to find a 7:34 average lap pace on my watch and promptly almost pooped myself. HEY 3:35 PACER, YOU’RE FRIGGIN’ 40 SECONDS FAST. I immediately dropped off from the pack and let them carry on.
The next few miles were a terrible game of trying to settle into an appropriate pace. At some point in mile 3, one of the 3:45 pacers passed me. I looked at my Garmin to find I was still running under 8:10 pace and started to worry that my watch was screwy. I sanity checked with some nearby runners and determined that the pacers were on crack. I tried to relax because I knew I was running too fast. Key word there being “tried.”
Miles 1-5: 8:14, 7:58, 8:04, 8:09, 8:10
Somewhere around mile 6 brought the turnaround into the wind. This was mentally tough, because other than some weird little zig-zagging through Camp Pendleton, it was going to be straight into the wind until mile 16 or so.
I could whine about it for pages but for what purpose? It sucked. It was cold. The wind was gusting so hard, it blew my hat completely off my head.
Miles 6-10: 8:15, 8:18, 8:13, 8:15, 8:20
Somewhere around mile 10-11, we ended up on the Boardwalk. No buffer from the wind, and concrete underfoot. This is where it really started to fall apart for me. The concrete (at least, I think it was the concrete) aggravated my hip, which had been silent for the race thus far. It started feeling stiff – not really painful, but I felt it affecting my gate. My whole leg started to go numb. I passed by my boyfriend a little after mile 11 and only somewhat jokingly asked if I could stop now.
The next few miles were a blur. My leg/foot was getting that pins and needles feeling everywhere. The wind was annoying me. I had to keep pulling my hat down so it wouldn’t blow off. I let go of dreams of 3:35 – I knew I was too far off pace – but hoped maybe breaking 3:40 would happen if I could just maintain.
Miles 11-16: 8:18, 8:21, 8:17, 8:15, 8:16, 8:19
At this point, we turned off on Shore Dr, which was a pleasantly tree-lined street that was – YES! – out of the wind! Unfortunately, the quiet of the street and the absence of the wind allowed me to do a body-check and I realized I was in pretty sorry shape. My left leg was completely numb. My right calf and quad were feeling weird. The only thought I could come up with was “less than 10 miles to go!” Not comforting, brain. At this point, I was starting to wonder if I would make it.
Miles 17-19: 8:27, 8:37, 8:21
Mile 20 was a turn back into the wind. I just felt … defeated. I was angry about the wind, angry about my numb leg, and decided to walk through a water stop.
Starting back up again was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. My right quad went into full blown cramp. My left leg felt even more numb, somehow? And mentally, I just broke the seal.
I would try to explain the way I felt at that point, but a picture is worth a thousand words, yes?
Thanks a lot, marathonfoto. That’s a moment I want to remember for the rest of my life. (Although, on second thought, I just might give this race face a run for its money …)
Somewhere among these miles were a good-natured group of Marines who were jumping around and handing out something (I think). I tried to muster a smile at them (oh heyyyy) but it probably looked more like my face in the picture above (so sorry, cute Marines). There were people handing out beer and I remember some dudes around me actually drinking it. I remember a few people shouting out “nice pace!” and I wanted to punch them straight in the throat.
Miles 20-26.2: 8:50, 9:04, 9:26, 9:27, 10:03 (ouch.), 9:40, 9:24, 8:20 pace for the last .2
Official time: 3:45:55
So, yeah. I ran an 11 minute PR and I can’t be disappointed about that. And I’m not – 3:45 (look at me, rounding down like a champ) is a solid time, especially given the conditions. Clearly something is not right in my hip so it’s probably time to get that checked out. I certainly felt disappointed post-race, however. After mulling it over for a few days, I think it’s just due to the execution. I didn’t walk at all in my first marathon. So to run-walk for almost an hour in this one? It feels like I kind of gave up. Sure, I was in pain – but it’s a marathon. Everyone wants to die around mile 23, no?
All that aside, I’ve been recovering very well which I’m grateful for. I did some (very) light elliptical-ing on Monday and Tuesday which I think helped a ton. Yesterday was total rest, and today I plan on getting out for a few easy miles to see how things feel. My plan after this week is to reverse-taper and build back up into training for Buffalo. I know I have a stronger race in me and I’m ready to get back out there. I guess in some sort of sick way, I’m appreciative of having such a shitty race – I feel a renewed passion that I haven’t felt in probably a year or so. So for that, I am grateful.
Thanks for the memories, Shamrock. You were strangely fun and awful all at the same time.