On Sunday.. at about 10AM, I vowed to myself that I would never go into a race without proper training every again. Minh has heard that one before (after every endurance event I’ve done so far), but this time it’s going to stick. I have never felt so much pain (physically and emotionally) when it comes to a race than I did on Sunday.
Sunday morning started normal enough for a race day. Minh and I got up at 4:30AM to get packed up and head off to the start. We didn’t anticipate the amount of traffic trying to get to the starting line (but should have.. with 30,000 runners + spectators, volunteers, etc). Minh got me as close as he could to the starting line, but I ended up having to walk a little over a mile to get there. I just got out of the car and started hoofing it since (once we got off the freeway) we moved about 1 mile in 30 minutes. I had to visit the port-o-potty before I headed into my corral (usual pre-race business that always happens right before the race is supposed to start). The lines for the toilets were long (at the start and throughout the entire race), but I managed to get in and out and head off to the start just before my corral went (got lucky there).
I started off with an easy pace between 9-10 min/mile (I say “easy”, but this is actually my normal pace with a run-walk strategy). I kept it up for about four miles before I took my first walking break. I couldn’t believe how many people there were at this thing. It was insane how crowded the race was. I was weaving around people pretty much the whole time. I don’t think I’ve ever participated in a race so dense before, and there really wasn’t any where that runners started to spread out.
I kept an eye out for Minh because I knew that I would spot him before he was able to spot me (he didn’t really know what my pace was going to be). I can’t remember when I first saw him (probably around mile 5?), but I very was happy to see him. I saw him again at around mile 15, and I knew I wasn’t going to make my time goal (4:30), so I told him to go check out of the hotel and I’d see him at the finish. He gave me a Bonk Breaker bar before riding off to take care of business. And then begins my slow downward spiral to defeat… Here are some pictures while I’m still smiling and happy:
My left hip was the first to go (before Mile 15). It started with just a slight pain that was manageable. I ignored it and set into a light jog when I could, taking short walking breaks (less than a minute) when it got a tad more annoying. This lasted till about mile 17, where I was starting to take very long walking “breaks” with very short jogging intervals. The pain in my left hip was excruciating. It was ok to walk, but whenever I tried to start jogging, it felt like I was getting stabbed in the hip. A pain was starting to develop in my right hip as well… and my knees. I would have to stop every quarter mile or so to try to stretch and bend my joints. Everytime I would try to start jogging again, I would get about 100 feet before the pain started to become unbearable and I would have to walk. Occasionally, I would try to extend the jogging out longer, but the pain was bringing tears to my eyes, as well as the defeated feeling that I was not even going to come close to my goal. It was bad. I would start crying, slow to a walk, try to compose myself, stretch, start jogging a little, and then start crying again. This lasted to about mile 20.
At this point, the course goes on a loop around Fiesta Island. I almost skipped it and was about to just walk my way to the finish, but I told myself that I would finish the race, even if I had to walk the last 6 miles. Luckily for me, around Mile 21, I ran into four of my cousins (sisters), who were running the race together. I was so happy to see them. My slow downward spiral to defeat had bottomed out and now my spirits were lifting a bit. I stuck with them (more or less) for the rest of the race. Jogging at their pace and talking walking breaks when they took theirs. It really helped me get through the last 6 miles, even though I was still in a lot of pain. I just tried to ignore it and keep on going. I went on ahead at the last .2 mile so they could have their finishing moment together.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I grabbed my medal and a cold towel, and then plopped down in a chair at the medical tent for some ice. I had them wrap ice around both of my knees before getting up and getting post-race nutrition. I grabbed a banana (that was DELICIOUS) and some other snacks and water. Went to family reunion area to find Minh, and ran into the rest of my family also waiting at “Q”. I didn’t know that they would be there, but I guess my family just all thinks the same. They had burritos from their “support” crew. I got half a burrito, but couldn’t fiinsh it, so I gave it to Minh. I just wanted my Muscle Milk (wish they had some at the finish) and to lie down and stretch. Unfortunately, there was no where to lie down and stretch at the finish. We were in a hot parking lot that had rocks all over the place. No grass areas, and emergency blankets to lay on. I ended up doing some pathetic upright stretching before Minh and I just headed off to get out of there.
Minh was nice enough to let me ride his bicycle while he walked. We just wanted to get away from the race area and find a place where he could pick me up. We ended up finding a Carl’s Jr that was on open streets. He left me there on the grass (got some stretching in) and headed off to get the car. My joints were already starting to feel stiff, and I knew that I would be in pain on Monday. I couldnt’ get a good stretch for some reason. Maybe I was too tired to do it properly, maybe it just hurt to much to move. I was happy to get in the car and just lie back with my feet up on the dash (Minh did not appreciate my stinky feet on the dash).
Since we already checked out of the hotel, we didn’t have a place to get cleaned up. The next option was to find a beach shower to get cleaned up at. We were unsuccessful in that attempt, so we ended up using the bathroom at a Starbucks and some babywipes I brought. We got cleaned up enough to be somewhat presentable for dinner. More on the food for the weekend in another post.
The drive home was quick and uneventful. I was happy to be home in bed. I took a quick shower. Then hooked myself up to the Slendertone (our Compex replacement becuase it was so much cheaper and does essentially the same thing). Did “Active Recovery” on my calves, quads, and hamstrings before putting on my Zoot compression tights and going to bed. It hurt to move, but it felt a little better. I think I would be in a whole lot more pain today if I didn’t do that last night.
Anyway.. I finished the marathon in 5:22:06 (968 of 1472 F25-29; 3353 of 5505 Female; 7401 of 10625 Overall). This was so disheartening for me and a huge wake-up call that I can’t just assume that I’ll be able to finish multi-hour endurance events just because I have good fitness. I really need to be training for these longer events. The shorter events (sprint tris, 10Ks, >1hour long bike races, etc) don’t require training since they’re comparable to normal weekday training sessions, but I really need to put in the longer workouts on the weekends and the strength/endurance sessions in to make myself stronger in longer distances. I also need to figure out my nutrition for these multi-hour events. I couldn’t chew the Bonk Breaker bar, so I had to toss that out, and I was forcing the GUs down because I needed something in my stomach. That does not seem like it would yield the best performance.
Anyway.. save any comments about training and nutrition for yourself. I’ve heard it all before. I’m just not one to put good advice into practice.. until now. Here’s the gallery: