Thursday, January 26, 2012

My first marathon race report (finally): Carlsbad Marathon 2012

I run a marathon and drop off the radar! Motherhood is basically active recovery.  There has been very little rest happening.  I've been going to bed on the earlier side almost every night.  In fact I could easily go to bed right now (it's 9pm) but I can sleep in a bit tomorrow, and I really wanted to start writing.

After picking up my bib.  Don't mind the mess behind me.

Anyhow, yes--I ran a marathon!!!  My first marathon.  It's still a little bit surreal that I completed 26.2 miles.  That is a long way.  And it takes a long time.  I'm definitely proud of myself and can't wait to get a 26.2 sticker for my car.

Things didn't quite go according to plan--but, let me start at the beginning.

I think I finally got in bed about 10pm on Saturday night.  I had everything laid out on the couch, my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the fridge and a bag packed for my husband to bring to the finish line for me.

Some child woke me about 3:30am which bummed me out since my alarm was set for 3:50am.  Surprisingly though, I did doze off again and my alarm woke me.  I got up and started getting ready.  It went smooth since everything was laid out.  I left the house a little before 4:30am with my PB&J and coffee in hand.

Ready to go!

The drive was about 40 minutes and I ate my sandwich, drank a little coffee and a little water as well.  The start of the race was in a mall parking lot, so there was plenty of parking and I was just a few isles from the port-a-potty city.

I took a few minutes to gather my things, put my belt on, thread my ipod through my shirt etc.  I made a last minute decision to not wear water on my belt.  I left one bottle in the car and carried one bottle in my hand for several miles and then tossed it.  I'm glad I didn't wear the water.  My belt ended up bothering me anyways, and that would have made it worse.  It worked to carry one bottle with me for a while and there was plenty of water available on the course.

The weather ended up being great! It rained the day before and the day after the race, but it was dry on Sunday.  I was concerned about it being pretty cold, but it honestly wasn't.  I had a zip up hoodie as a throw-away that was perfect.  I had a pair of pants and a long-sleeve shirt in the car too, but didn't need them.  I wore gloves for a little while but they weren't super necessary.

A few weeks before the race I connected with Sarah on Twitter and we realized Carlsbad was the first marathon for both of us, and we didn't know anyone else running it.  We decided to meet up before the race, at least to have someone to wait with before the start.  I went to our meeting place but didn't see anyone I thought was Sarah, so I went to use the bathroom.  One thing I learned about running the marathon as opposed to the half is there are PLENTY of porta-potties when the races have different start times.

Headed back to our meeting spot and just a few minutes later Sarah showed up and we met for the first time!  It was great to have someone to talk to and share the nerves with.  We both were excited and confident, but just anxious to get going.  After a few minutes we made one more bathroom stop and then headed to the start.  About 10 minutes later, we were off!!

Start line is the orange banner in the distance

Me at the start.  Think I'm excited?!

Sarah and I decided to run together for a while at least.  Her training runs had been a little faster than mine, but they were the pace I'd hoped to run.  It was so dark for the first few miles.  The roads were full, but we didn't really get stuck behind anyone.  By the 2nd mile the roads were wider and everyone was pretty spread out.

My new running friend Sarah!

I shed my hoodie around mile 2.  Although I was still a little cold, it was fleece and making me sweat.  I was much happier without it.  We hit the ocean and it was gorgeous! THIS is why we live in San Diego!  Running along the ocean in short sleeves in January.  Can't beat it.

Around mile 5.5 I realized I should take in some nutrition.  I wasn't feeling the need, but know it's best to stay on top of it and that's how I've been training. I pulled out a bag of Honey Stingers and shared them with Sarah as I wasn't feeling the need to eat all of them. They didn't settle great (even though I've used them plenty in the past) but I just ran on.

Our first 5-6 miles were about a 10:30-10:45 pace.  I could feel that it was faster than my training runs, but I felt strong and good and knew this was a good pace to meet my goals.

Miles 6-9 were a gradual climb.  We'd have a bit of flat road, then it would climb again.  Around mile  6 and 7 we saw the leaders coming back down the road hitting their miles 12 and 13. It was pretty awesome to cheer them on from the other side.

Right before we hit mile 8, I told Sarah to go on ahead of me.  My stomach wasn't feeling great and I figured I should slow a bit on the hills and hopefully pick up a little on the way back down and maybe the kinks would work themselves out.  I think I tossed my handheld water around here too.

This has never happened on a run before and I was frustrated.  I felt slightly nauseous and although I could run through it at that point, it was definitely slowing me down.  Finally just after mile 9 we got to turn around around run down the hill for the most part.  This road was rolling though, so there were a few small climbs too.

I think my pace through these miles was around 11:00-11:15.  Slower than I wanted, but I was waiting for my stomach to right itself.  I took a little water at every other aid station or so.  Around mile 11 or 12 I decided to take a Gu.  I was afraid of feeling totally depleted even though I was still nauseous.  I suppose the Gu helped my energy, but it didn't make my stomach feel so hot.

Miles 13-15 were stupid.  One of the things I didn't like about this race is there were a ton of U-turns.  We'd run a street, only to turn around and run back the other way.  I realize it was necessary to get 26 miles out of the area, but I found it really mentally challenging.  I'm somewhat familiar with the area, but I didn't have the course memorized to know when the U-turns were.  Miles 13-15 though I just kept waiting for the U-turn because I knew it wasn't a very long street. I started taking a few walk breaks here and was getting discouraged about my splits.  

In spite of my struggles, I hit 13 miles at 2:20 which had me on a pretty good pace to hit a sub-5 hour time.  Right around mile 15 we ran across a bridge and under us was the 101 full of half marathoners.  I'm sure there are marathoners here too, but it's mostly halfers I think.  I decided to stop for a minute and document this point in my run since I hadn't taken any photos during the race and probably wouldn't again.

And of course the self-portrait! 

Right after this was where we joined with the half marathoners.  It was weird running in a crowd again after things being so spread out in the miles prior.  After a few miles though, the course split and the marathoners ran on a few more miles before ANOTHER u-turn and the half-marathoners did a u-turn at the split.  Sarah was well ahead of me by this point and I found out later she missed the split and ran a bit before realizing and turning around.  I read another account of someone who missed the split and never realized it and ended up with a 23-mile run.  Big bummer!  When I ran through the volunteer at the split wasn't very exuberant in her directions and I can totally see how people missed it.

These next few miles sucked.  A lot of uphill.  Wondering when the u-turn was coming.  And my stomach was only feeling worse.  I didn't feel like puking nor did I need to use the bathroom.  I was just nauseous.  I kept taking water at aid stations because I did not want to get dehydrated.

Finally at mile 18 we turned again and it was the home stretch now.  Straight ahead for 8 more miles.  Perhaps the longest 8 miles of my life.  I was struggling.  I was seeing my goals slip through my fingers.  Whenever I ran too long, I'd feel even sicker and I'd have to stop and walk.  I tried to run at least 4-5 minutes between walk breaks and keep my breaks to 1 min or so.  But there were times I walked longer.  And times the intervals were shorter.  When I was running, my pace was pretty slow anyways.

At some point I texted Bean and told him I was feeling sick and struggling.   I didn't wait to see a response, but it helped being able to tell someone.

My cousin lives in the area and had told me she was going to try to come cheer me on.  She told me where she'd be, a location we passed twice, but I never saw her.  She has two young boys and is pregnant, so I figured any number of things could have changed their plans.  When I hit mile 19 I started to hit the wall.  I felt dizzy and lightheaded.  I was exhausted.  I was disappointed.  And then at 19.5 I heard my name.  At first I thought it was just someone who took the time to read my bib--but then someone was coming towards me and it was my cousin!!  My sweaty status didn't stop her from giving me a huge, long hug which was exactly what I needed.  She asked how I was doing and I said "I'm struggling but I'm doing it."  Turns out she had missed me twice already but I'm SO glad she took the time to try again and find me.  It was just what I needed to get through that wall.

Around mile 20 I decided I needed to attempt some more calories in spite of my stomach.  Over the next mile or so I slowly took in a package of Honey Stingers a few at a time.  They didn't make me feel great, but since I ate them slowly it wasn't terrible.  Someone was passing out oranges at mile 23 perhaps and they were SO delicious.

Honestly, I was walking a lot, and I was running slowly.  My sub-5 hour time was out the window and I was just focused on finishing.  I was bummed, but I was still going to finish a marathon.

At mile 24 I got my phone out again and had a text from my sister that was easy to open, so I texted her that I was 2.2 miles away.

It would have been stellar if I could have run out those last few miles, but it was getting harder.  My legs were so dead and my stomach was feeling terrible.  I walked a lot of mile 25.  With just under .2 miles left, I dug deep and started shuffling again.

I RAN across that finish line, seeing my family on my left side.  I snuck in at 5:20, before it hit 5:21.  Not that one more minute mattered, but it's still nice to say 5:20.

I did not run a sub-5 marathon.  I did not run a 4:45 marathon.

But I ran a marathon.  I trained for a marathon with 3 young children and a job.  I ran a marathon before I turned 35.  Had my stomach not revolted, I think I could have run a sub-5 and maybe even that 4:45.  Sarah was stellar and finished around 4:45 herself!

After I crossed the finish I started walking and it was incredible to think I didn't have to start running again!  I got my medal, had my photo taken and got my food bag and water bottle.  I had to walk out and around a fence to meet my family and then I got to sit down!  It was so incredible.  I took my shoes off and found 2 big blisters on my right foot and every toenail on that foot was tender.

I changed out of my wet shirt and into the race long sleeve tech shirt.  I chugged the chocolate milk my husband brought me and ate a little food.

When my husband went to bring the van closer I started to fade and told my sisters I could lay down on the concrete and fall asleep right there.  My sisters drove the car home that I drove up and my husband drove me home in the minivan and I definitely dozed off while on our way home, after eating some of the donut he also brought me.  YUM!

Once we got home I ate a little more, got into an ice bath, then a hot shower and took a nap with my three-year-old!  I was pretty stiff and sore, as would be expected.

All in all, it was an incredible experience.

These shoes (still not my favorite) carried me 26.2 miles.

It will be awhile before I see this mileage and time elapsed on my Garmin again.  My overall pace was just over 12:00min/mile.  More analysis of my splits later

I still need to download the pic's that my family took on the camera.  It was so great having them there at the finish.  Even though they had to wait longer than anticipated, the kids were really good and excited for me.  It was awesome that both my sisters came too!  My youngest sister chose her days off in order to be there for my finish.

So that's the basic run down of my race.  I plan to write a few more posts about it, analyzing what might have went wrong and other tidbits from the race too.