In past training recaps, I’ve basically said regarding this marathon: “I believe I will finish it in one piece.” That’s the most I can say about this race – I did finish in one piece! It was not an easy journey to the finish line, and it was much more mentally and physically challenging than my first marathon 11 months ago.
I guess I will get into it first with a recap of the week leading up to the race. I only ran one time – I don’t know if one or two more easy runs would have helped – I don’t think so. I ran on Tuesday night for 30 minutes, and it was a nice, peaceful run – cool weather, a little mist in the air, and I was getting excited about the marathon.
I tried to eat lots of carbs in the days leading up to the race, and focused on getting lots of water intake on Thursday and Friday. We dropped by the expo on Friday afternoon to pick up my stuff, and as is my usual custom, didn’t stay long. I’m so anti-social at these things.
The race swag included a tote bag, Brooks shirt, throwaway gloves, socks, KT tape sample, Biofreeze sample, two coozies, and a few other things.
I didn’t go to bed as early as I would have liked Friday night – probably close to 10 even though I had wanted to be asleep by 9. Oh well, I still woke right up when my alarm went off at 5. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, got dressed, and had time to get everything together before leaving around 5:45. I drove to one of the shuttle pick-up locations and left my car in the parking lot there, then took the shuttle bus to the start of the race.
It was about 48 degrees when I first got out to the race site, but the forecast had the temperatures rising quickly. It was projected to be about 52 degrees at race starting time, with 100% humidity. Though the humidity percentage was projected to go down as time went on, the temperature would only rise. It was expected to be 68 degrees by 11 a.m., which I expected would be the last new hour of my race.
I decided to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, even though for this race (the half marathon) last year I wore a long-sleeved shirt and tights. It was just a warmer race this year. This did concern me a bit because I had trouble with the higher temp/higher humidity long runs I did during training. I took a PowerBar Energy Gel 20 minutes before race time.
Standing at the starting line, I was already in a mental battle. I didn’t feel excitement to run, I just felt like I couldn’t believe it was time to do this and I didn’t feel ready.
I carried the “I’m not ready for this” feeling throughout mile 1, where I just already dreaded the hours to come and felt slightly uncomfortable. The race is a double loop – so the half marathoners were with us for the first 13.1, and then as they headed to the finish line, marathoners would keep going to do the same 13.1 one more time.
It was congested and crowded for awhile and then spread out more, and we ran first through a small neighborhood and then onto LSU’s campus, going by the baseball and football stadium, and through the quad area. There were one or two steep climbs during this portion of the race, and for all of the “hills” I would slow down quite a bit so that I wouldn’t exhaust myself. We ended up running down Sorority Row past all the sorority houses and along the big lake by LSU until we left campus and proceeded to City Park.
Splits (1-6): 10:12; 9:57; 10:05; 10:04; 9:57; 10:05
I was aware that a 10:18 pace would get me to a 4:30 marathon, and I thought if I played it smart but still gave myself some room (“bank extra time”) to maybe stop for the porta-potty eventually and slow down through water stops, that it could possibly happen.
The rest of the loop took us around the City Park lake and then over a bridge overpass (where there was a lot of traffic and it was a little nerve-wracking despite the police patrol directing cars), then back through a neighborhood bringing us back to City Park, with three miles completely the same as what I did in my training runs many times over. Since the race course included a lot of the same route that I run myself all the time, it was helpful to know exactly what was coming, but also a little disconcerting in the second half because I kept thinking of all the landmarks I hadn’t passed yet, when the end seemed so far away. (Amazing how much 2 miles is when you’ve done 24 and are desperate to be done). I took my second gel at about 10 miles.
I really, really wanted the first half to be over because I felt it would be a load off mentally to have done the loop once already and be able soon to start counting down miles in the single digits. It was a weird feeling to be running parallel to the half-marathoners as they crossed the finish line, and I was only halfway. The volunteers at that point were very encouraging. I passed the halfway mark at about 2:13.
Splits (7-13): 9:58; 10:07; 10:09; 10:00; 10:02; 9:59; 9:51
As soon as we passed by the finish line and began the second loop, it was like a ghost town on the course. I had two people in front of me and for a while didn’t see anyone behind me. The race thinned out immensely. Luckily the course was very well marked so I didn’t have to worry about missing a turn, even if I couldn’t exactly remember what came next at a certain point. I began to feel a little more tired, the weather was getting warmer, and I had to stop and go to the bathroom during mile 16. Still, I tried to keep up my pace, though it was becoming more and more difficult.
I took my third gel around mile 18. At that time, I still felt hopeful to have a good finish and was thinking, “Yay, only 8 miles left! I can do this!”
Splits (14-18): 10:00; 9:59; 11:41 – bathroom break; 10:25; 10:34
I believe Mile 19 at some point is when I hit the wall – I never “hit the wall” in my first marathon, nothing like this. I went from “Yay, only 8 miles left!” to “Oh my gosh, I cannot do 7 more miles. I hate my life.” I was suddenly very thirsty and the finish line felt years away. I felt slightly light-headed and my stomach started getting upset.
I believe that the weather had a lot to do with this. It was getting tougher to keep up my pace, and I believe my heart rate was getting too high. This only made it more tough mentally to press on. I wanted to start walking already, but I told myself I could walk when I got to Mile 20, which was the designated point where I would text my husband so he could have an idea as to when to be at the finish line waiting for me.
When I got to Mile 20, it also happened to be right at the beginning of a steep climb, so I texted my husband this message:
Then I walked until I got to the top of the climb, then ran about 100 feet to the next water stop.
Splits (19-20): 10:22; 10:57
Those were the last of my decent splits, although you can see Mile 20 wasn’t that great and was the start of my very bad ending.
So, Mile 21 is when I started walking more consistently. I found that when I ran, I could do so for a minute or two before my heart was just beating too hard. I think this was due to the combination of the warmer weather and my consistent pace earlier (which is just the best pace I could have expected for this distance – I am not fast, don’t have that natural talent that others do). I needed optimal weather for this to not overwork me, and I just didn’t get it. I really had no other problems – yes my ever-persistent IT band felt a bit achy, my legs as a whole were starting to be achy, but all of that I could have withstood if it didn’t wear my lungs out out to just run.
It reminded me of my first 20-miler in late October where I had to walk-run the last 5 miles because of the same problem – it was hot, and I just couldn’t breathe well anymore while running. This was very frustrating, and I HATED having to walk so much.
Miles 21-24 are kind of a blur, a lot of forcing myself to run for a couple of minutes and then having to stop. A lot of other people that were doing the race around me also were walking/running, and I don’t know if that was what they would have done anyway or if the weather affected them too. Many times I would force myself to run to a certain landmark and then let myself walk.
At mile 22, there was a water stop that no longer had volunteers at it, but they had set up a bunch of cups with Powerade and water. I felt so thirsty, so at this point I took my final gel and drank two or three cups of water.
At mile 24, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it still felt so far away. I walked most of that mile, just waiting to see the magic 25 signaling the end of the torture. For the most part, I had started to run if I saw a water stop up ahead just because I didn’t want to walk up to one, I had too much pride for the volunteers to see me walking. For the water stop at mile 24.5, I didn’t even care anymore, I walked to it and walked after it. Even before I knew my PR would not be beaten, I just developed a “I don’t care, I just need to finish this and be done with it” attitude. I did still want to come in under 5 hours.
At mile 25, I took two pictures and then started to slowly run. Knowing my husband was waiting for me at the finish, knowing I could go home and just lay down for the rest of the day, all that motivated me to just get through that last mile.
It was a little disconcerting that a lot of the people who had already finished the race were coming back the opposite direction on the same path (towards those of us still running) to walk back to where they had parked. It was their only way back because it was on the sidewalk and they had no other choice, but it crowded up the path and was disheartening to me mentally to see them with their drinks and medals and all happy, and I was miserable.
As the finish line got closer I just felt relief, and when I saw my husband on the side taking a picture of me heading for the finish, I got a bit emotional.
When I crossed the line right as the clock struck 4:50, I just felt such disappointment at first. I got my medal and a cup of Powerade, and then turned around to go find Hunter. I started crying before I even found him, and had to put my head down as I walked toward him because I didn’t want strangers to see me. I hugged him and cried for about two minutes, just frustrated and disappointed at how it turned out. I felt I had done so well keeping a consistent pace for 19 miles, and then the last 7 miles just ruined everything.
Splits (21-26.58): 13:09; 10:49; 14:35; 14:17; 14:33; 12:18; (0.58) 5:44
After getting over my little meltdown, I felt better and had some orange slices and Coke and water. Again, the same as after my first marathon, I had little appetite and couldn’t eat any real food for about three hours.
My husband was again very sweet, encouraging me as I cried then having me sit down while he went to get me drinks. He drove me back to where my car was parked and I felt fine enough to drive it home.
Official Chip Time = 4:49:39
As the next 24 hours wore on, I still wished things had gone better but I know what’s most important is I didn’t quit, I did what I needed to do to make sure I didn’t pass out or faint and hurt myself, and I still accomplished something great.
This was a good learning experience for me. I think if I had trained harder, working more on endurance and speed work, I would have maybe prepared myself to better handle the humidity and weather, at least my lungs. I did end up doing more miles in this 16-week training period than the previous one, but my first marathon was in January and began with 30-something degree weather that I don’t believe ever got above 55. This was just unpredictable how the weather would turn out, and I could have been more consistent with my training, put in more miles, and been more prepared for it mentally and physically.
Overall, while disappointing that I did not get a PR and instead added 10 minutes to my time, I know it was a good learning experience and still something to be proud of.
My two marathon medals side by side: