Hey friends! Thanks for checking in!
We are one week past the 2015 OKC Memorial Marathon, and all I’ve written about it was The Pretzel Story. My wonderful husband and close friends have already had to listen to so much jabbering about that whole day, but for posterity’s sake and for any readers even considering marathon training, I just want to lay down some thoughts and feelings about this year’s experience. It’s taken a week for my thoughts and feelings to settle and clarify a bit, so thank you for indulging me. xoxo
I was kind of a mess last Sunday after what ended as a really difficult, sloppy, not awesome feeling race, at least compared to the year before. The 2015 race will go down in my personal history as “The Crying Games” or “The One When I l Learned a Lot By Doing Everything Wrong” or maybe “Shark Week 26.2.” Okay.
First, let me say that the beginning of the run was great! With just one exception, I felt strong, fast, and happy for the first 18 miles. The one exception was that I was in the middle Shark Week (sorry, errant male readers, that’s just TMI but crucial to the story) and it was necessary to take several porta potty breaks much earlier than I would have liked. Well, naturally those lines were all very long. So I lost not just time but also momentum. Womp-womp.
But I kept running and running, without music for about 12 miles, just listening to the thunderous footfall around me and eavesdropping on all the silly, energetic conversations between running groups. Admiring the firemen for running in full gear while carrying large American flags. Thinking of the reason we run. Allowing swells of pride for my home state. Everyone seemed to feel good! I played celebrity look-alike in my head, trying to catch up to my pace group after breaks. I craved the hills and took them and it felt like flight! Generally I was smiling and happy. My body felt good. I was loving the sparkling clear, warm morning with cool breezes. Such a pleasant contrast to last year’s weather. With that one uncontrollable physical exception, the early part of the race was charmed. Lovely.
Even Lake Hefner was fun this year! I circled the route there while listening to Miranda Lambert and even called my favorite guy to report how strong I felt at the point where last year I was beginning to wonder. He laughed and cheered me on. Anything felt possible.
Unfortunately this magic did not last.
Around mile 18 Handsome made one of his wonderful appearances with a sign that both drenched me with love and triggered so many emotions. ALL the feelings. Good, bad, ugly. You name it: I was feeling it. I started crying and couldn’t stop. And by this point in the run I was so annoyed by those inconvenient porta potty breaks that I was stubbornly refusing to accept regular water or Powerade, which would have necessitated more breaks. So I was sweating, crying, and not replenishing fluids. Really smart!
Miles 18-22 were not terrible, but by now my chosen pace group was no where to be seen, and this, plus the crying, had a deteriorating effect on my attitude. Also an older gentleman in a wheelchair passed me and I just about lost my mind. No offense to him, but I’d been running so much faster lately! At the time it was really hard to wrap my dehydrated mind around that little defeat. I did some math in my head (badly) and estimated my pace was about a quarter mile per hour. I was on the verge of an emotional melt down, friends. Not kidding.
Around mile 22, right at the end of the street of my childhood home, I hugged and kissed my family (I love you guys so much!!), and laughed because my husband showed up there in his Batman costume. Ha! This all should have had a much better influence on my feelings than it did. It’s no one else’s fault that I was in such a bummer state of mind! My fault totally.
Despite everyone’s loving efforts, I then started feeling really bad. I ran south on Classen to eventually collide with my book club girls. They showed up for the second year and melted my heart! Near the gold dome (locals know this area) I just collapsed in their arms. They were all festive and sweet, in celebratory moods and sipping mimosas, probably expecting me to be happy at that point just like last year, but I was a mess. When she saw me up close, Melissa’s face fell noticeably, Oh my, and they all wrapped their arms around me (Eww super sweaty, gross! Sorry!) and asked Are you okay? and Why are you crying? About all I could say in reply was I’m just so sad!! And then I started sobbing. I wasn’t sad exactly; I was dehydrated and completely empty of glycogen and feeling weak mentally because I felt bloated and slow and loser-ish.
Okay, I was sad.
From there, in that state, three-point-two more miles seemed perfectly impossible. But I kept running. Sloppily, I’m quite sure. I cried a lot as I ran which is weird because usually I am grinning like an idiot when I run. Even at twenty miles I usually feel amazing. I learned this year that sometimes there is a vast difference between twenty miles and twenty six. One lady stopped to check on me. I waved her on but she kept pep-talking me over her shoulder as she sped off at the thin, toned, sparkling speed of light. I loved her and hated her all at once.
As I meandered painfully through that last big, shady neighborhood with lawn parties and sprinklers and generous encouragements, Handsome texted me the most beautiful love note. I looked at it like five times to keep going and also felt completely guilty for having a hard time running. I felt like a complete waste of a person in those last miles.
About nine years later I saw a wide vinyl banner strung across the street that said “Half Mile Aisle” and there might have been a band playing. I was excited because of this thought: Oh good, a half mile left! Just like 4 minutes to go! (Training pace lately had me pumped up beyond realistic marathon pace expectations) Umm, two appropriate responses to myself here: a) That was not my pace that day. At all. b) Even if 4 minutes to cover a half mile was possible, at that point I was so crazy spent physically and mentally that four minutes was still a lot to give. No longer easy-breezy. No more running hard to catch up whilst playing celebrity look alike in my head. It was an eternity left to run.
About seven months after the Half Mile Aisle, I finally crossed the finish line at a pathetic jog. Not a strong, glorious, Chariots of Fire burst of energy, not even the giggling elation I felt last year. Just, finished. Quietly. And it was enough for me. I walked immediately and stretched my legs then walked some more. Someone hung a finisher’s medal around my neck and said sweet things that made me cry again. Someone else took my picture which turned out looking like I’d gained about twenty pounds. I found water and Powerade (that I still wouldn’t drink). I went for a half banana and the guy said, Hon you look like you need chocolate. WHAT!!! HOW DID HE KNOW?? I accepted the chocolate-almond protein bar and tore into it like a velociraptor.
The rest of Sunday was blissful, thanks owed completely to Handsome for all of his love and attention throughout the day and into the evening. We went immediately for steak fajitas and salty tortilla chips, at a place near the farm where my sweaty clothes, pronounced limp, and weird mood would not be noticed. Actually, by this point my mood had lightened considerably. Being with my guy again and just being finished was such a relief.
Big thanks are also owed to my wonderful friends and family for their notes, text messages, and sweet social media comments that I read later that night. (My husband had been posting race updates on Facebook in excruciating detail, complete with photos. LOL) But all over again I felt guilty for receiving so much support for such a poor showing. I felt super lame and embarrassed.
Okay, the detailed account could go on and on. Here are some things I learned this year, which I am determined to carry over into my next marathon training, which maybe be Spring 2016 and may be sooner:
- Dieting for weight loss is not something you should do right before a big race. It’s silly and possibly dangerous. In those middle training months I had been making so much progress with speed and endurance and also making small improvements with body fat loss that I thought, Well, if I just slash all carbs now I will be so skinny on race day! The opposite happened. I gained a little weight (our bodies are smart and know when we are trying to kill them) and had no energy. Terrible result. One pasta meal in the week leading up to 26.2 is not enough glycogen. Lesson learned.
- Especially in those final eight miles or so, hydration and energy supplements are crucial. I won’t neglect them ever again. Even if you have to pee later, those little sips are worth it. But chances are, really, you won’t. Your body will probably use every ounce of hydration you offer it. Take the water! Take the electrolytes! Eat the sports beans every ten or fifteen minutes! No matter what you consumed yesterday, after a couple of hours you have spent it and need more.
- Pacing is not a guessing game. I could have done so much better at this, and this coming season I will. Pinky promise.
- Also, negative splits are good. Running hard at the beginning and then faltering at the end is positive splits, which is actually a running negative. I finally understand the value of running negative splits (saving energy for the end of the race) and plan to practice this a lot.
- The wall is a real thing. This year I discovered The Wall, and it was about five miles thick. I’ve felt tired before in long practice runs, and last year’s marathon gave me a challenge here and there, but nothing compares to this year! For the first time I hit the wall really hard and was stunned. It’s as real as a runner’s high, and it hurt my feelings. But I’m actually glad to have experienced it. Now I know how it feels and can train against it, not take those happier runs for granted.
- The mental game is real, too. So real. The more I concentrated on how poorly I (thought I) was doing*, the worse I did. The more I indulged in sad thoughts about loved ones lost or disconnected, the sadder I felt. It was only in those early miles when I chose to focus on the lightness in my legs or the wonderful purpose of the day that running felt glorious.
So that’s it! My 2015 recap. Stories abound, so if you’re ever bored and want to be even more bored, let me know. I am so glad to have this under my belt, even as rough and ugly as it was. I learned a LOT and that’s valuable life stuff, right? Thanks again for checking in, friends! Have such a beautiful day.
*Perception: My sloppy running and sloppy head math made me think I was running about a 17 minute mile.
Cue the emotional break down. I actually averaged out to about a 12 minute pace,
which is much slower than I had been training but also not quite so terrible.
I am really excited to set speed goals this coming year!