Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buffalo Marathon Race Report

The whole week before the race, I checked the weather.  Last year, this race had been super steamy and I was hoping that we would catch a break.  Work consumed my life the week before the race which actually worked to my advantage because I hardly thought about  the race until the weekend snuck up on me.

Saturday morning I did a super easy run with my running buddy before packing up and driving to my in laws.  We planned to stay with them the night before the race so we wouldn't have as far to drive on race morning.  Brian and I went to packet pick up which was very small so it was just a quick in and out before we headed back to relax for the rest of the day.

My mother in law made the most delicious pre-race meal of pulled pork. homemade baked beans and salad.  It was a pretty low key night as I went to bed early since I was waking up at 5am for the race.

Race Morning

I slept great and when my alarm went off I just felt good.  I had my usual pre-run/race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee.  Brian was a little slower to wake up and with 15 minutes before we had to leave, I dragged him out of bed.  He had breakfast and then disappeared upstairs as I waited and waited at the door to go.  I finally gave up and went upstairs to find him shaving! We were already late by 10 minutes.

Once we finally got on the road, I started to get a little bit nervous.  We were running late and I hate being late.  The good part was that the weather was perfect! Cloudy skies with temps barely touching 60F.  We stopped to grab Brian some Tim Horton's coffee (of course!) and that put us even more behind.  I had wanted to get to the race and be parked around 6:15am but it was getting closer and closer to 6:30am before we even arrived at the race area.

I headed for the start line and the the port-a-potties.  The lines were so long but I knew I would need one potty break before the race.  I met up with my running buddy and we waited in the lines for the bathrooms.  I was getting more and more nervous as it was about 10 minutes to race time.  Finally I got in to go the bathroom, did my business and met back up with Brian.  I gave him the last of my stuff, kissed him and headed for the start.  The start was so crowded - there were so many people because it was literally about 2 minutes from 7am (official start time), but my running buddy and I squeezed through the people and made our way to just in front of the 3:30 pacer.

After both national anthems (Canadian and US) we were off!  Even though it was crowded, we did not have to weave around people.  We just took it slow and let our legs warm up during the first mile.  The plan had been to warm up during the first 6 miles but of course we were feeling good so after the first mile we were already close to 8:00 minute pace which was our goal. 

We passed Brian for the first time and headed into the first section of the half marathon course.  The half marathoners and relay runners were running with all the marathoners for the first half of the race.  This part contained some weaving around the city, one short out and back and then one long 6 mile out and back before the half way point of the marathon.

Everything was feeling good, legs were happy and we were feeling pretty good.  We saw Brian again around the 3 mile mark and you could tell we were feeling good.  We had to focus to not go to fast. I remember really enjoying this part of the race.  I was running with my buddy, we were happy, lots of people cheering and the weather was perfect.  I had decided to wear my visor because I knew if I didn't then it would become sunny - sort of a superstition thing I guess, but it worked out because it never got sunny!

As we headed into the second out and back portion of the first half, my running buddy started to not feel as well as she had  hoped.  She had a cold the previous week and it had taken it toll on her.  She decided to slow down a bit and I pushed on.  By this time the 3:30 pacer had passed us but we were only about 15 feet behind him.  I kept him in my sight as we ran along.

The next 6 miles were still pretty crowded with half marathoners but I just kept plugging along and enjoying the race.  My breathing was good, but my hip flexors were hurting a little bit.  I tried to not think about my legs because I knew they would be fine, I just kept going.  Around mile 8, I started running with another girl who was trying to stay with the 3:30 pacer.  She was running her second marathon and it was nice to have the company.

As we approached the 13.1 miles, the half marathoners began to split off and finish.  I wasn't really paying attention, just kept looking and following the pacer.  The pacer actually followed the half course and I almost went with him.  I don't know why he did that, but thankfully a volunteer steered me back on course because he saw that I had a marathon bib on.  From that point on, I never saw a 3:30 pace group again. 

The pacer had been quite a bit ahead and as I ran through the half, I was right on where I wanted to be.  (See bottom for splits) Before I rounded the corner to the 13.1 mile marker, I stuffed GU chomps in my mouth and of course around the corner was Brian snapping pictures of me.  It was hard to smile and chew at the same time!

The second half of the course was a full out and back - 13.1 miles of twists and turns before rounding back into the marathon finish. I was still running with a few people and I was feeling good.  My knees would hurt and then feel better but otherwise I was doing really well.  The first part had been mostly flat, while the second half had a few hills - mainly around mile 14 and mile 22.  I just pushed on.

I ran with a few men who asked about the 3:30 pacer - no one knew where he had gone.  My legs started to hurt more and more as I entered the 18th mile.  I took another gu chomp at mile 15.4 but then got a little absorbed in my thoughts and didn't eat again until mile 19.  I think this is where I started to lose it mentally during the race. 

I had been running so strong and feeling so good that around mile 21 when my legs started to not listen to my brain, I didn't know what to do.  I wasn't out of breath but my legs just kept getting slower and slower.  I started walking through the water stations because I was so thirsty.  I started to give up more and more.

At the beginning of all this marathon training, I had decided to run this race with my running buddy.  She is the one who loves the high miles, she is the one who has always wanted to run a marathon.  I knew that if I had a buddy to run with, I would train for it - otherwise I most likely would not. So she was my motivation to do this and she was my inspiration to run.

Out on the course, I started to wonder why I was even running this marathon.  Why was I putting myself through this when I really didn't want to.  My goal had been to run 3:30 for the marathon and qualify for Boston but this was when I thought I would be running the whole race with my buddy.  Out there on the course all alone, I started to give up because I didn't want to qualify for Boston without her.  I didn't want to run without her.  If I went to Boston, I wanted to go and run with her.

I know it may seem silly, and of course my mind was not thinking straight when I was at mile 21 and 23 and 25.  But I just could not bring myself to keep going and running the same pace.  My dream had been to do this with my friend, this wasn't about my goals, it was about her and being together.  My dream had been that we would cross the finish line together.  I know this is the excuse my brain came up with during the race to allow myself to slow down.  It was my mental way of saying its ok to not meet your original goal.  I know I hit the wall and fought with my own demons for the final 6 miles.  It felt like the race would never end and even though my brain was telling my legs to keep going, to keep moving, they just did not want to.

I walked through all the water stops from mile 21 on.  My legs were in so much pain - I can't even describe it.  My right hamstring started to feel a bit funny as well.  It actually hurt more to stop so by mile 25, I just pushed on and kept going until I saw Brian at mile 26.  He snapped a bunch of pictures as I ran by. Although my legs were hurting more than ever in my life, I don't think my face showed pain (or my usual death face) because I wasn't breathing that hard.  After 26 miles, I was hardly out of breath - it was the weirdest thing ever.  

As soon as Brian stopped taking pictures and lowered the camera, I started to lose it.  I almost started to cry, my eyes teared up - I didn't even want to run the last 0.2 miles.  I wanted to stop right there.  But he said to me "I am so proud of you" and even though that made me tear up more (and still does now as I write this), I kept going.

When I got to the finish, I tried very hard to smile and actually my finish photos came out really nice.  I stopped immediately after crossing the finish line because there were people in front of me.  I tried to take a step forward and my legs almost gave out.  A volunteer grabbed me, handed me some water and started walking me back into the finishers area.  My legs were in so much pain - more pain than I can ever remember after any race.  They ached and throbbed and no matter what I did, I could not get them to stop.  When I was finally stable, the volunteer let me go and I immediately went for the table of oranges and began stuffing my face.  It wasn't until I was about 4 oranges in, that I saw Brian standing off to the side waiting for me.  He had seen the whole thing and was worried but I told him I was ok but that everything hurt.

I expected to feel more at the finish line.  I expected to feel this great sense of accomplishment but I didn't.  I felt defeated.  I felt like the marathon had owned me.  Over the last year, there have been so many races where I have controlled the race, the speed, everything.  But this race, it took control of me at the end and it took everything I had to hold on.  For having so much mental toughness in so many other races, I really just gave up mentally in this marathon.  And that is a hard thing to deal with.

After the race, I got a quick mini massage which helped my walking immensely.  In my head and out loud I kept saying that I would never do this again.  And to be honest, I don't know if I will.  Now that is has been almost three days from the race of course I feel like I want to run again and do better, but I can't see myself doing it again.  Maybe some day in the future but not for a while. I enjoy the shorter races too much and I also enjoy the shorter recovery time :)

Today, my quads are still sore - better than the previous few days but still sore.  My left leg especially for some reason, although I am not sure why. I am proud I did the marathon because its a freaking marathon.  Everyone at work is so amazed I ran 26.2 miles this weekend and I am actually walking normal and not a total cripple.  It is an amazing accomplishment, it still doesn't feel totally real and I can't believe it was only a couple of days ago.  It all just feels like a dream.  But I did it.  And I am glad I did.

Chip Time: 3:38:55
Place: 217/1045
Female: 45/479
Age Group: 9/102



Amy said...

Yay!!!! Congrats!!!

abbi said...

Congrats to you! It is too bad about your friend not finishing with you but sounds like you had an overall great race!

Kim said...

You did an AMAZING job! Especially for your first race! IMO, it is REALLY hard not to break down mentally in those last few miles. I don't know how the elites do it. It's one thing to do a long run at an easy pace to practice but once you get out there and push it so hard your legs start to feel so heavy and your brain tells you all sorts of reasons to slow down!

I am happy you are proud, because you should be. And your friend is probably proud of you too!

(Re: being late to the start - my husband does that to me A LOT. He can never seem to be ready when I tell him we need to be. Makes me bonkers. People tell me to lie about when we need to leave but that doesn't seem nice!)

Rebecca said...

I AM proud of you!! :-) So many things just went throught my head reading that.... will have to shoot you an email.

You are the best friend ever. I know I somehow talked you into the marathon. I kind of feel bad I did, esp. because I could not hold our original pace. I am so happy you did it and you are awesome!!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

You did a really amazing job so try not to discount this accomplishment. Crossing the finish line isn't that emotional 'I can't believe I did this' feeling for everyone - especially if you have a goal in mind (BQ'ing) or a way you picture the race ending (crossing with your best friend)... I think with time you'll come to appreciate this accomplishment more. I thought I was done with marathons, but I'm on my 3rd... so I wouldn't be surprised if you changed your mind down the road. But if you don't, that is totally ok, too!

Again, congrats! What an awesome first race!

Nicole said...

amazing amazing job girlfriend. i felt a sense of defeat after my first marathon as well... i wanted this big elaborate finish and i never got that. to this day i never have. its a big let down. LOL... but um hello you ran a 3:38 your first marathon and that's FREAKING AMAZING. GREAT JOB!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

You did something not many people do. GOOD JOB!

Amber said...

CONGRATS! I completely relate to not feeling very accomplished. I didn't feel accomplished after either of my marathons and with both of them it took some time to sink in just how big the accomplishment was. A marathon is a really funny beast. It is frickin hard, and so far with two under my belt no amount of training has completely prepared me for either, even though my 2nd one did go better than my first in a lot of ways it was still really flippin' hard!

For now, just relish in the fact that you ARE A MARATHONER! You can worry about the next one (if there is a next one) later ;)

Indi said...

Congrats!! sounds like it was a real mental game towards the end! When it comes down to it you run for yourself and while we run with great running buddies...the key is finding the real reason you run and what makes you happy! I hope you find your happy running place and the rest will fall into place!

Vanessa @ Gourmet Runner said...

Congrats! You did something really amazing and you should be so proud!

Rena said...

Congrats on finishing your first marathon! You should be proud of yourself. Very select few people can run their first marathon so fast.

On a random note, I fairly recently ran the Seneca 7 relay and saw some people with the shirt that you wear (the red one GVH), but I don't think you were there.

Anonymous said...

COngrats!! You are a marathoner now!!!!

Johann said...

Really awesome and you did it in a great time, well done! This race did not own you. You showed it what you could do by finishing in that awesome time even though you were sore. Rest well!

Jamie said...

Congratulations!! You did a great job!

You finished, and for your first marathon that's all that matters :)

Marlene said...

First of all, HUGE congratulations. It may not have gone how you'd hoped or been the time you wanted, but you freaking rocked your first marathon! 3:38 is fantastic.

I think it takes at least a couple of marathons to really build the mental strength for that last 6 miles. You held on really well. Reading your recap, it sounded like you slowed WAY down (I shuffled through the last 10K of my first... okay, and second!) but seeing your splits, you really stayed strong.

Be proud!!

Elizabeth said...

Congratulations! You were amazing out there. Marathons are tough, and it's all about the learning process. Sounds like you really challenged yourself and hung in there when it got hard. Nice job!

Allison said...

Congratulations! That last 10k of a marathon is always such a mental challenge and you did really well, considering it was your first one. And 3:38 is a great time, even if it fell slightly short of your original goal.

misszippy said...

Congrats! You ran a really great race, even if it wasn't your goal time. you should be proud of fighting that hard when the going got tough. If this is your first marathon, you have no where to go but amazing times from here!

Rest up and celebrate.

Suzy said...

You ran a great race! I hope that now that there has been some time you no longer feel like the race owned you. :)

Unknown said...

Gut Wrenching... I teared up reading your post! Way to go!!!

Being Robinson said...

congrats on your race! it's tough, marathons. you had an incredible finish time, especially considering your leg pain! i kinda feel the same way you do about marathons, i like shorter distances much, much better. which seems like a big no-no to admit in bloggy land. so i'm REALLY glad you said it. because ME TOO!! :)

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you -- you marathoner!! Your really pushed through when times were tough. Congrats on finishing strong.

Molly said...

You did fantastic! I'm sure it's still sinking in, but you should be so proud of yourself, what a great race! I had to laugh though at your husband shaving when you wanted to get on the road! Congrats again...only 5 weeks until the Boilermaker : )

Laura said...

That is an AMAZING finish time! I think even though you didn't reach your 3;30 goal, you have to be so proud of yourself for how hard you pushed. I think running hard when you're NOT feeling great and your legs hurt is a lot more admirable than running fast when it's easy (which, sadly, is what I usually do). Congratulations!!!!

Oh, also - did you ever find out what happened to the 3:30 pacer? That is so weird that he quit halfway through!

Suz and Allan said...

Congratulations on running a really fast marathon!

Lauren @ Sassy Molassy said...

Marathons are no joke! Congrats on your first one and awesome time!!