It occurred to me that I never got around to writing about the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15th.
So much was going on in my life around that time that the marathon (my 12th) was just another thing I had to get done during the weekend.
It was warm at the start line, which was probably the only time I have ever run a marathon and not been freezing while waiting around for the race to begin. That meant it was going to be brutally hot by the end but I didn't really care. Heat is fine. I love the heat. Bring it.
The start was ridiculously congested, but it didn't seem that bad once I actually made it up to the start line. I was able to start running and sort of hit my pace without too much jockeying for position and bumping in to people.
It started to feel more crowded to me around mile 2, and I had to weave in and out just to avoid hitting slower runners who had started way too far up.
My pace started dropping off a lot. Like, a lot a lot. As in, holy shit, what the f*ck is going on, a lot. I hadn't worn a GPS and thought maybe one of the mile markers was off. I expected everything to normalize soon, but it didn't, and I started to freak the hell out. I took off like I was running for my life, just to try to make up for that lost time.
I had begun the race at a nice and easy, nobody's-trying-to-be-a-hero 4 hour pace, but within a couple of miles of frantic running, I had caught up with the 3:45 pace group. Not where I wanted to be at mile 8 of a marathon. I was able to run sub-3:45 back in the day (before child), and while I would have loved to run that fast at this marathon, I knew that it was not likely, given that the course was hilly, I had caught Rob's mystery illness, and was likely running with a fever, and I had fallen and twisted my ankle not once but twice in the week leading up to the race. This did not look good.
About the time that I caught up with the pace group, I heard everybody around me talking (complaining) about how the mile markers were all messed up, and I realized that I should have trusted my body and not the idiot (who hopefully got fired) who had put up mile markers in a seemingly random, haphazard fashion that had no relationship with any actual distance.
I spent several miles mentally composing angry tweets and blog posts, on the subject of the mis-placed mile markers.
It was during this time frame (mile 8-ish) when I finally saw Rob. He had been standing somewhere along the road during the early miles, but we hadn't seen each other in all the congestion. This is the first time that's ever happened. In all the other marathons I've run, we've never missed each other.
Instead of saying something sweet or kind to him, I think what I shouted out was "The f*cking mile markers are f*cking messed up." I was definitely feeling bad by around mile 8, which is not a good sign in a marathon. I resorted to busting out my Emergency Amy Ray Playlist.
Between mile 10 and 11, we entered Forest Park, where I have run hundreds of miles since moving to St. Louis. I didn't feel great, but at least my pace had stabilized, and I had Amy Ray. I knew I could gut it out, I just wasn't sure how long.
I saw Rob a couple of more times in the park, and I am pretty sure I what I said to him (again) was how dissatisfied I was that the mile markers were f*cked up and how much I hoped somebody got fired for that.
Mile 15 took us past Washington University. I had been kind of dreading running up the long, steady hill during that section of the course, but as I was actually doing it, I realized that I didn't even notice that I was running on a hill. In fact, I hadn't noticed any hills on the course so far, even though I knew there had been plenty. I took this as a good sign. By mile 15 in the last marathon I ran, my legs were completely toast, and I briefly cried in Carondelet Park when I saw a gigantic hill looming over me at mile 17. This time, even though I felt pretty shitty, at least the hills weren't bothering me, so I thought maybe I was in better shape after all.
Around mile 16, I saw Will. My parents were staying with us, and they had brought him over there. He seemed a bit confused about what was going on, but he gave me a high five, and my spirits were totally lifted. My mom told me afterwards that when I went past, he started crying, I guess because he thought I should stop and go home and play with him. He didn't understand why I just kept on running.
I popped another S!Cap around this time and felt like a million bucks. I even turned off my iPod. I have never, ever experienced a second wind during a marathon. In my experience, once the badness and craziness sets in, it is a whirlwind cascade to rock bottom. This time, it seemed like I might have found my way out of that mess.
It occurred to me, however, that I had not taken in any food since before mile 8. Early on in the race, I felt honest-to-god hungry (also never a good sign during a marathon) and ate 3 Clif Shot Blocks (amounting to about 100 calories). I was super proud of myself for being able to eat that; generally during a marathon, I cannot eat anything in the early miles and then I pay for it crashing up against the lactate threshold somewhere between mile 18 and 22.
The thought of food, particularly sweet food, like shot blocks or gel packs was repugnant. Gatorade was repugnant, and I couldn't escape the memory of what it was like to throw up Gatorade all those times during hyperemesis. Somewhere during these miles, Rob showed up on the side of the road and handed me a bag of Emergency Pretzels, and I sucked the salt off of them. That helped. I still felt good. I thought I could do this-- I would be fine on S!Caps and water for the rest of the way.
At mile 20, I felt like doing cartwheels. It was amazing. I have probably never felt that good at mile 20.
At mile 21, everything was still great. I could tell that I wasn't going to have the fastest time ever, but I would be able to come in well under 4 hours and the most important thing was that I felt totally awesome.
And then there was mile 22.
We entered the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood (which I always pronounce "Skinker-DeBelvedere"), and I immediately saw Rob on one of the side streets. He darted into the course (it was now quite sparse of marathon runners) to join me. He was wearing these eye-catching, breezy short shorts of his (red, yellow, orange and green stripes) that he got on a clearance rack at some marathon expo many years ago, no shirt, a white visor, and huraches. He had the pockets of his "hot pants" filled with everything I could have possibly needed (more pretzels, electrolyte tabs, shot blocks, water, gatorade, etc).
When I first saw him, I thought, "Oh boy! Rob!" I wanted to tell him that everything was super fantastic, but before I could open my mouth to do so, a wave of awfulness swallowed me whole. It was like I had been floating on air for the last 6 miles, and then suddenly I'd had my limbs chained to my body, lead weights attached, and was plunged into a raging river. I felt terrible.
For the first time, I noticed the hills.
I turned back to my Emergency Playlist and listened to "Give it a Go" on repeat for the remainder of the marathon. I have no what that song is about, but it made me want fight and that is exactly what I did.
During the height of the awfulness, I slowed down enough that even 4 hours now seemed out of reach. Rob stayed by my side, encouraging me with every step. I dug down, got angry, and gutted it out to finish in 3:59:24.
I was briefly proud of myself for managing to bring it in in under 4 hours when I had so much trouble taking in food or liquids for the last, oh 18 miles, but then I realized that I was actually 3 to 4 minutes slower this time than the marathon I ran last fall, when I had been a crying, hysterical basket case from mile 9 on.
That got me to feeling pretty shitty about myself.
It didn't help that the post-race nausea set in soon afterwards, and that I had 300,000 projects going on in my life and absolutely no down time whatsoever.
Ironically, my muscles recovered quite well from this marathon (I just was a little bit sore for a couple of days), but I couldn't get rid of the awful, doom and gloom exhaustion that hit me precisely at Mile 22. I have really never experienced anything like that. It was like I was hollow inside, and I didn't have the energy to talk or even smile at anybody. It didn't go away for a long time. I felt like one of those celebrities you read about, who gets hospitalized for "exhaustion," except that I am not a celebrity and I had to keep going to work and making everybody dinner and doing the laundry. It's been almost a month and a half, and I am only now beginning to come out of it a little bit and finally leave mile 22 behind.
This was my 12th marathon, and to tell you the truth, I am a little sick of this distance. I am not done with it completely, I just think that I might not want to run another marathon again in the fall. This is going to sound crazy, given what I just described above, but I think I want to break into ultra-marathon running (that is, longer than the marathon distance) instead. Marathons are all the same-- balls to the wall, give it all you've got, hammer out a certain pace per mile and ignore everything around you. I feel like Ultras are more relaxed, more about the journey than the finish. And if there's one thing life has taught me thus far-- it's about the journey.
Here are my splits from the marathon, just to illustrate the ridiculousness of the mile markers in the first 7 or so miles:
- 1-- 9:14
- 2-- 11:10 (an 11:10 mile made me freak out)
- 3-- 9:12
- 4-- 10:17
- 5-- 5:53
- 6-- 6:50
- 7-- 8:48
- 8-- 8:58
- 9-- 8:35
- 10-- 9:21
- 11-- 8:17
- 12-- 8:56
- 13-- 8:34
- 14-- 9:57
- 15-- 8:35
- 16-- 9:14
- 17-- 9:12
- 18-- 8:59
- 19-- 9:27
- 20-- 9:03
- 21-- 9:22
- 22-- 9:12
- 23-- 10:14
- 24-- 9:38
- 25-- 10:10
- 26-- 9:42
- 0.2-- 2:20
Thanks for reading (this wasn't supposed to be so long).