When I first started training for my first (and only to date) olympic distance-ish triathlon in 2007 — I remember thinking how absolutely idiotic it was to even consider running a half marathon. This made sense as this triathlon event only required 8km of running, or just a little over 5 miles. The most I had ever run before in a single day was 8 miles, and that was when I was fresh out of college in tip-top shape, or at least my best impersonation of said shape. Running a half-marathon, or 13.1 miles, was quite the stretch.
And then in November 2011 I finished my first half marathon — the inaugural Savannah Half Marathon. Even though it was over a year and a half ago, I vividly remember the pain and discomforts of all sorts (note: do not change your race-day feeding plan on a whim, especially with cytomax). Toward the end of the race, I recall there being a ramp-off for the marathoners to go on with their, in effect, second half-marathon. I thought they were absolute idiots. Sure, I would go on to run in 5 more half-marathons over the next 19 months, but a half-marathon was “manageable”; a marathon? Manic.
And then this past week I finished my first marathon. In other words — I became one of those idiots.
If it helps, I’m far from a hardcore idiot. My embarrassing finish time of 6:29:57 was in the bottom 4% of marathon finishers — 6249 out of 6494 (and that’s rounding up). So yeah, I am one of those idiots, but at least I’m a not a manic idiot. Those are the worst.
Race Day Recap
My wife sent me an article on analyzing my race performance as a learning tool for future races. Apparently she knows me well enough that I’m so unsatisfied with my time that I’m going to try again (in due time; I had 5:30:00 as my goal). So let’s start analyzing. I want to focus on the experience itself — the feelings (pain) and emotions (sadness) that encompassed the event.
The race started early, if one were to define a 4:00 AM wake-up early. We were told by others that this early rise shouldn’t be a problem, as this was the west coast and we were still on east coast time, which would put us at a 7:00 AM wake-up really. These were, sadly, lies. What is important to remember is that the night prior to running a marathon, you will not be able to sleep. Your body knows what you are about to do to it, so it goes all pre-emptive on you.
I was admittedly concerned about the race-day weather. I have had too many lost battles with heat (e.g., passing out in gym locker rooms). While the ideal running temperature for many is 56 or so, I prefer it to be in the upper 40s. San Diego weathermen predicted a cool low 70s, which mathematically speaking is slightly higher than the ideal upper 40s. Ultimately, I was fortunate — low to mid 60s with cloud coverage the entire race. I didn’t even need to wear sunscreen, which I forgot to apply in my 4:00AM morning fog.
At 6:15AM, we were off. By 8:30AM, the first marathoner would cross the finish line. I, however, would take much, much longer. Maybe it was the zydeco dancing my wife and I did around mile 5, or the rave dancing we did in the tunnel complete with colored lights and techno music. Whatever the cause, despite feeling like the first 11 miles just flew by at their on-target 12:30 min/mile pace, by mile 14 my body and mind abruptly gave in — I had to start walking.
Now, bear in mind that I’ve seen far more miles in my training — 18 and 20 — and I didn’t *need* to walk. But on this day — the day I would aim for 26.2 miles — my legs decided to check out after less than 3 hours of running. I would be more accurate to say I shuffled a marathon than ran one.
While the first half of the marathon was all running glee and happiness, the next 3 and half hours were miserable. Ugh, just typing that makes me feel bad — 3 and half hours of walking after running 3 hours.
Granted, it was a fast walk — 16:00 min/mile average. And to be positive, the weather was enjoyable enough, I stayed properly lubed, my Larabars were a godsend in keeping me out of to porto-potties, I partook in some quite delicious salt packs, and drank a lot of refreshingly lukewarm water. I don’t, however, ever want to see a watermelon-flavored sports jelly bean ever again in my life. They are dead to me.
I’m not going to lie — realizing that I only had enough strength in me to walk for the next 12 miles was terrifying. I did the math, I knew what it meant. When I got to the 1.5 mile hill that started on mile 20 my heart sank as did my my pace; it was reduced to 17:52 for that mile.
But on the last mile, the Team in Training mentors all joined me and my wife to finish slaying this marathon beast. My pace picked up to at what the time felt like a sprint, but was later to be revealed as a mere 13:000 min/mile.
I finished a marathon.
After The Race
After the race as friends congratulated each other, I wobbled around drinking 12 ounces of Jambajuice (*awesome*) and snacking on two small bags of Cheetos — it’s the small things, folks. I limbed back a mile to the hotel and enjoyed one of the most pleasurable showers in history. After, a big group of the Team in Training folks walked another mile to Fred’s Mexican Cafe. I enjoyed cheese dip and a carne asado for the first time in, oh, 10 months — it was delicious. Some of us imbibed way too many subpar dirty-water looking margaritas. It made the walk back tolerable, however.
The next day we walked a mile to a brunch at Cafe 21 that, ultimately, took 3 hours. I enjoyed a rosemary lamb sandwich with mozzarella that left me with heartburn for the rest of the day. But it didn’t matter — we were still giddy, basking in the sweet post-run glow of endorphins that flowed through us. That afternoon we walked 2 more miles (enough with the walking already!) to Coronado Beach, where over the roaring waves of fighter jets landing in the nearby military airport, we played Cards Against Humanity. We finished that evening off with an early dinner at Leroy’s Lounge where I consumed more fried food in one day than one should consume in one week. By tequila margarita two, this marathoner was ready to cab it home and call it a night.