Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Teal Nightmare

A week ago I ran the St. Louis Rock and Roll Marathon.  It was my 11th marathon overall-- my 3rd since Will was born and my first since he stopped nursing.  I trained pretty well for it, considering that I'm also working full time, caring for a small child, writing a novel, creating a new framework of Alouatta ontogeny, folding laundry, scrubbing toilets, and cooking everybody's dinner in all my spare time.

Weather on race was perfect, and other than being chronically sleep deprived, everything was great.  I dressed all in teal, as you can see below.  I don't know why.  I didn't really plan it.  I centered my wardrobe around those shorts, just because they are really comfortable.  It turned out that the race number was teal too, which I didn't even find out until the day before when I picked up my packet.  Before the race I even wore a teal fleece, which was also unplanned.  It is just the oldest fleece I own and the one I would be the least sad to lose if I ended up just throwing it down on the side of the road.  I felt like a veritable teal nightmare.

Rob's parents visited us that weekend, and they stayed at home with Will.  Rob and I took the metro downtown before dawn, which was nice and also kind of fun.  The train was packed with runners, and I made friends with a nice lady who was running the half.  We arrived downtown by about 6:30 and then stood out there in the semi-cold for an hour waiting for the start.

Melissa pre-race


Early miles


Enjoying the run


I ran pretty slow in the first miles, kind of just because I had to.  They did a "wave start" (I was in the 6th corral), which probably helped a lot with the conjestion, but it was still fairly congested.  After the first couple miles went by way too slowly, I got a little panicky and started frantically trying to pick up the pace.  The thing is, it actually felt pretty difficult to run any faster, which should have been a bad sign.  You don't want to feel tired at mile 4 of a marathon.  I ignored it and ran faster.  This is a terrible strategy, I know, but it actually worked for me really well at the Indianapolis Marathon in 2008.  I thought I would be okay.  I ran a couple of 8:15's and then kept it steady at 8:35 for a while.  I thought I could pull off a 3:45 finish.

There were hills.  I didn't worry about them.  I just ran.  About mile 8 I thought, something doesn't feel right.  I'd brought my phone with me and had an "Emergency Playlist" of Amy Ray songs to get me through if something terrible happened.  I never ever ever listen to music when I'm running a marathon, but at mile 8, I turned it on.  I thought, I'll just listen to this for a mile or two and then I'll feel better.

Around mile 9, I saw Rob again.  I smiled and gave him a thumbs up, all the while thinking, why am I giving him a thumbs up?  I feel terrible.  I kept running.  I ate some Clif Shot blocks and took some Endurolytes.  I drank water at every aid station.  The energy replacement drink was "Cytomax," which tasted like Lemon Pledge.  Seriously.  As a public service announcement to race directors: Just do Gatorade.  Always.  I guess it is probably more complicated, involving things like sponsorship and money and whatnot, but Cytomax and Melissa did not mix.  I know, I know.  I should have realized Cytomax was the energy drink at this marathon and gone out and found somewhere to buy it so that I could get used to running with it.  But seriously, I just could not deal with that.  Too many loads of laundry to fold, too many crock pots of chili to make.  I can buy Gatorade at Schucks, so that is what I train with.  During the marathon, I got horrible stomach cramps, so I stopped taking any Cytomax.  I thought, I've got my Clif Shot blocks and Endurolytes... I'll be okay."

There were more hills.  There was a big hill at mile 14.  I'd been running 8:35's but I dropped to over 9:00.  The 3:50 pace group passed me.  I remained convinced that their pace leader was running way too fast and they were ahead of schedule.  I picked up my pace again but felt completely dead and I still couldn't catch them.  I then convinced myself that it was actually the 3:40 pace group that had passed me.  (It wasn't).

I felt more and more terrible.  I took an orange slice from somebody in the crowd.  It tasted good, but I felt no better.  I didn't understand why I just had no energy... I'd eaten a whole pack of Shot Blocks by this point (200 calories)-- which is more than I've eaten during some entire marathons.  I wasn't drinking electrolytes, but I had taken a couple of Endurolytes, which I thought would be equivalent.

At mile 16, I saw Rob again.  I'd been listening to Beauty Queen Sister for a while on repeat by this point, completely ignoring all the cover bands out there on the course who were playing things like Sweet Home Alabama. I must have looked bad.  Rob stayed with me for the next 10 miles, riding off to the side on his Bike Friday.

He said he had a banana and did I want it.  I said yes.  I couldn't even say thank you when he handed it to me.  I took a bite and knew it was a mistake.  It felt kind of like when I threw up kale, except with banana instead.  I'd had enough calories, I didn't think I needed to eat, so why did I feel this way?

There were more hills, and a hairpin turn around a cone in Carondelet Park.  I couldn't handle anything but water at the aid stations, and most of the time I ended up coughing up the water because for some reason my throat wasn't working right.  Around mile 18, they were handing out salt packets and I took one.  I've never done that at a marathon before.  I thought, surely, this will help.

At mile 19, I thought I would call my mom.  I tried to get the voice activation thing working on my phone but for some reason it didn't, and I was too exhausted to mess with it.  I just kept listening to Amy Ray, and I kept looking at Rob on his bike.  I thought, I didn't put Dairy Queen on this playlist.  How could I have forgotten?  It was the song I gave birth to.

There were more hills.

Rob said, "You can finish it in 3:55."  But that was only if I could hold my current pace.

At some point after mile 20, there were a couple guys on the road who cheered for me, and said, "You're doing great, young lady!"

I actually laughed, and I said to Rob, "They think I'm young." **

There was more of a crowd as I got closer to the finish.  During the last couple of miles, I remember a short haired lady along the sideline who looked right at me and cheered and gave me too thumbs up.  I started crying and whispered, "Thank you."

Finally I could see the finish.  I was running exactly 10:00 minute pace, which would put me there at exactly 3:56. I thought, if I can just pick it up a little, even just a tiny bit... I can cross the finish line while it is still in the 3:55's.  Even if it is 3:55:59.  I gave it everything I had.  I gave it to glory.  I crossed the finish line at... exactly 3:56:00.  I have no idea what my "official" chip time is.  I've never bothered to look it up.  I don't really care, I guess.

It was an ugly, ugly, marathon for me.  Not my ugliest by far, but definitely in the top 3 of Melissa's Ugly Marathons.  Afterwards, I was so nauseated I felt like I was having a bout of hyperemesis.  We took the metro home and it was all I could do not to puke.  I was pretty sure that I was Mostly Dead.

We got back home (we have to walk up a big hill to get from the metro station to our house).  I think Will may have been napping, or maybe I got to talk to him for a little while, I honestly can't remember.  I was Mostly Dead.  I had made a crock pot of chili the night before, so that everybody would have something to eat for lunch, but I couldn't really eat it.  I tried to tell myself, I was really sick after Indianapolis last year, but I started feeling better after I actually ate food.  I managed a few bites, but felt even worse.  I got myself upstairs and slept (emesis bowl in hand) for maybe 20 minutes or 2 hours, I can't remember which.  Eventually I realized I was going to live, and I was able to eat again and started feeling better.

I really have no complaints about the Rock and Roll Marathon or the race course or organization, per se.  A marathon is a marathon.  It is going to be hard, it is going to be ugly.  There is really no way around that.  The course was definitely hilly, but how do you have a flat marathon in St. Louis?  You don't.  I thought I would be okay with it, considering that I live here and this is where I do all of my training runs.  Rob pointed out that I run a lot in Forest Park, which is essentially flat.  This could be my problem.  I consider Forest Park to be fairly hilly... at least, with a few gently rolling hills.  I thought, training there would be better than nothing.  I'm not sure it was.  I don't know.  There is a giant hill right by my house, that I have to run up everytime I run.  I thought that counted for something.  I guess not.  I've never survived a hilly marathon very well.

I had to work until 8pm the next day, and that kind of sucked, but not as bad as I'd feared.

I am about 99% certain that I am going to run the Go! St. Louis marathon in April.  The website describes the course as challenging and hilly, so I am probably out of my mind.  But here is my rationale:  I'm not going to do well in a spring marathon, period.  It is just too hard to train in the winter when you've got 2 months of ice on the ground and it gets dark at 4:30pm.  So I'm going to suck it up, use it as a training run to keep myself in shape, and finally (hopefully) get my redemption with my 13th marathon next fall, a year from now.  Maybe then I will have finished my novel and the howler chapter, and we can hire someone to deal with our laundry and crock pots of chili so that I can get more rest.  Maybe it will be easier to travel somewhere and run something flat and fast again.  We'll see.

Thanks for reading.


** This references an Arrested Development quote, but I can't find a good website with the line.


Ragfield said...

I know the feeling of hitting the wall at mile 4 of a marathon all too well.

Anonymous said...

CONGRATS on another SUPERB MARATHON!!!!!! IN spite of all the high drama along the way, Give yourself a BIG pat on the back for FINISHING the race, ( UNDER 4 EVEN) and staying UPRIGHT and NOT HURLING!!! I would have been worn out BEFORE it even started what with the RIDING THE TRAIN!! WALKING for miles 'getting to the right spot' and what not!!! NOW~~ PUHLEEEEEEZZZE take a much needed BREAK~~~~~~ Hugs TO ALL~~ luv ya, mama

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS Melissa! I am hot, tired, thirsty and ready to puke just reading this. I don't know how you do it, but then, I have never been a runner. Glad you got through it safe and sound.


Anonymous said...

I do not know where ever you got that running gene??? but if it makes you happy, it tickles me to death!! Congrats on making it through 'The Teal Nightmare' ... Lots of love, auntiep

Cathy Willman said...

My husband did one this weekend too. And he had to walk a bunch of it, and finished in 5:45. He was not prepared. Even though you felt like ass, you did it! That in and of itself is amazing. You didn't get scooped up by the bus of shame, and you ran the whole thing. AND you knocked it out in less than 4 hours. Frankly I think you're Fabulous!

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