I have determined that not only does taper suck, but it’s an opportunity for me to get sick, really fast. My immune system decides since I’m not training so hard, it can slack off, and low and behold, I get sick before every big race. I mentioned this to Coach as I was heading back to my car after the race today. I start with this as it completely pertains to how my day started. I woke up at 3:40AM, burning up. I knew I had a fever because as soon as I left the covers, I was shivering horribly. I also woke up with a headache, and I knew it wasn’t from being dehydrated as I had drunk enough water this week to float a boat. I quickly grabbed an ice pack and towel from the kitchen, and scurried back under the covers with the ice pack on my head. Somehow I managed to go back to sleep til 6. It was weird to me to not be up at 4AM on a race day. Shamrock weekend is on my own stomping grounds, which makes it easy for me to run the races every year. My first year, 7 years ago, I ran the 8k. The past five years, I have run the Shamrock Half Marathon, which starts promptly at 7AM. This is why I am used to being up so early, so I can eat, stretch, and go find parking and the porta potty several times before the race starts. So, with me running the full marathon this year, it was strange to not even have to leave until after 7AM to head to the start line. When I did get up, I ate my usual bowl of cheerios, and within minutes it came back up. This was NOT how I wanted to start my day.
I left my home shortly after 7 to find a parking spot somewhere on Laskin Road, and quickly realized that the Beach Movie Bistro would be the best spot again this year without stressing about if my car would still be there when I returned. I had stressed about the weather often this week, and wasn’t surprised when I woke up to find it in the mid-40’s and windy. I had dressed in my hot pink capris, my short sleeve grey “I may look harmless on the outside, but on the inside I’m really a badass” shirt, and my long sleeve tie-dyed Swirl Gear shirt. I figured I would be warm enough while running since the rule of thumb is to dress for 20 degrees warmer than what it actually is. I also knew that my fever still hadn’t broken, and I’d be plenty warm just from that. I opted to check a bag for this race, and I’m glad I did because I needed my hoodie and jacket after the race since the temperature dropped tremendously and the wind only continued to pick up as the day progressed.
I met my little sister in ASA, Gwen, at Catch 31 around 7:20, and proceeded to take advantage of their facilities several times since my stomach was still upset. I quickly realized after we sat down to wait that I left my headphones in the car…. all the way back at the Beach Movie Bistro. My fabulous little sister ran the whole way to my car and back to grab them so I could stay off my feet. She so rocks for being up early, and for grabbing them for me! While I waited for her to return, I met a man named Dan from San Antonio, Texas. Today would make his 378th marathon. He was an older gentleman who has been running for a long time. It blows my mind what our bodies are capable of when we put in the training and set our hearts on something. I told him this would be my 3rd marathon, and he grinned, and said just enjoy the run.
Gwen came back with my headphones, and we sat until about 8:15 before I decided I needed to go do some strides to warm up and stretch everything out. I was assigned to Corral 3, and seeing the start line out the door of Catch 31 made it really easy to realize that I could just go out the door and find my corral quickly. The wind cut through my gear quickly as I warmed up, but I knew I would warm up as the miles ticked by. Gwen walked me to the corral openings, and I hugged her goodbye before taking off on my own to Corral 3. I found Lori and Roy, and did a few more stretches before they started the clock for Corral 1. Sheila often tells me I put on my race face as soon as I cross the start line to any race. Today, I felt really off, and I don’t know that my race face ever took it’s spot.
I stuck with Lori and Roy for the first mile and a bit, but they were going ahead of the pace I wanted to be running at, so I dropped back. My goal was to maintain a 10:00 pace for the first 10 miles, and then to pick it up. I knew there would be a head wind since on the way out over Rudee Inlet there had been a solid tail wind, and I wanted to give myself some lee-way for time if the wind was being vicious. I felt chilled as we started, and for the first several miles, but eventually my hands warmed enough for me to roll my sleeves back. I didn’t feel like my legs really warmed up for a good while after that. We crossed over Rudee Inlet with no problems. I just dug in like I usually do when I have hill workouts, and it came and went easily. The first half of the marathon course went over some of the same route that the Rock N Roll Half Marathon does on Labor Day weekend, but the time spent in Camp Pendleton was much shorter. I loved this because I didn’t have to run that obnoxious loop around that huge field today! However, around miles 8 and 9, I was able to high five several dozen uniformed soldiers, and that was a serious pick-me-up to not only get the high fives, but to hear them cheering for all of us, BY NAME. They took the time to call out everyone’s names that they could see near them. That was one of those moments I won’t forget. By this point, I still felt pretty good, strong, and at pace. My miles were wavering between 9:45s and 10s. I had eaten a full Lara Bar, and it was sitting just fine, so I wasn’t stressing about anything.
As we came out of Camp Pendleton, the head winds hit us hard, and it was a battle to run in a straight line. I was trying my best to run the tangents, as Coach had instructed to run the least distance, and essentially earn “free time.” This was hard to do as I approached Rudee Inlet, so I tried to stick behind some people taller than me and just make it over. As we made our way back to Atlantic Ave, I could see the half marathon marker, and quickly realized that I was doing pretty well with my pace. I reached the half marathon mark at 2:10:42, and knew that I was moving steadily. After all, it was the half way point, and I was on my to the finish line! There’s something about reaching the half way point at any given race. It’s like your mind realizes that whatever battle you are dealing with that day, it’s half way over, and it can’t be that bad if you already completed half of it. By this point, I was seeing some familiar faces on the course. My friends in HRR were finding me along the way and cheering me on. It’s a great thing to know your friends are out there, cheering for you, and wanting for you to succeed in something so mentally and physically demanding. Thank you to all of you who were out there today, especially after running your own races, and sticking around in that horrible wind!
This feeling of being content in my stride and pace stuck with me til about mile 14. At mile 14, my stomach started to twist into knots, and I knew that weird, almost hollow feeling oh to well. I was on the verge of gagging or puking or both. Ugh. Not again. That feeling, including the gagging and coughing, stuck with me for the remainder of the race. It was about this time that Mike found me as he was riding his bike along the race course, checking on all of the people he knew running. After running with people for a while, we all can reach each other’s faces pretty well. He quickly asked what was wrong, and I told him about my stomach. He assured me I could run through it, as he had done it before, and the best thing to do was to slow up a bit, drink some water, and push through it. All I could think about was that I could care less if I did have to puke; I just wanted to finish the race, no matter what my pace or final time would be.
After Mike left in search of others running, Frank R. found me, and said pretty much the same thing as Mike. Except that he insisted if my stomach was going to revolt, it would do it, so might as well run through it. Frank stuck with me, on and off, for much of the remainder of the course, and for that I am super grateful. The way I felt, I am almost positive I would have slowed way down. My pace had started to take a nose dive. I was only off by about 20 seconds from my pace, but it quickly slipped closer to 11 minutes. By this time, I asked Frank if he had salt tabs, and he handed me some to take. I felt like I had had too much sugar in my stomach despite only drinking water and eating my Lara Bar as I felt I needed the fuel. I have trained with Lara Bars all through the winter, so I can only assume that nerves and my fever played a huge part in the turmoil happening in my stomach. The salt tabs seemed to settle my stomach some as I continued running from mile to mile. Frank and I talked some about the people we saw dropping like flies. People were stopping and walking, or just flat out sitting on the side of the road. It was a scary thing. You never know if they are in need of serious medical help or if they truly just needed a break.
About mile 18, I somehow managed to kick a rock up into my shoe, and had to stop to take off my shoe and get it out. I hated to stop at all, but it gave me the opportunity to do a squat and stretch my back out to relax a bit. I continued to move forward, running the tangents, and listening to Frank talk. By this point, I was fearful to say much because of the possibility of spewing up anything left in my stomach, so I just nodded if he asked me anything. I knew at one point he was checking whether or not I was delirious because he asked me how many miles I had left. I correctly held up 8 fingers. Unbeknownst to me, Frank took a ton of pictures. I will post some on FB later. He got some good shots. It was cool to have my own running posse with me 🙂
As soon as we rounded the curb into Fort Story off Shore Drive, the wind hit hard. I kept trying to hide behind people bigger than me, but it wasn’t easy. A lot of people weren’t running straight lines, and were slowing down to accommodate the wind. I just pushed through because I didn’t want to stop. I know there is a slight incline going into Fort Story, but I didn’t really notice it today. I think I was too distracted by my stomach or the wind. I don’t think I got a good lighthouse photo today because this tall guy kept getting in front of me. Oh well.
With each mile ticking by, I kept thinking, “I am this much closer to being done. What’s worse: not finishing or walking?” I opted to keep running. Frank wanted me to pick it up as I hit 22 miles, and I didn’t feel it in me. I knew as I reached the 25 mile mark, I would push with whatever I had left, but I didn’t think I could for four. It’s crazy to me to make assumptions about fellow runners, but I felt like I could tell who had seriously trained, and who hadn’t. Again, I am making assumptions, but I felt like the closer I got to the finish line, the more people dropped back, and the more I pushed harder to get there. As I reached the cross streets in the 50s on Atlantic, I knew I was nearing the finish line, and I dug in. Screw my stomach upset. I was finishing this race no matter what. At this point, Frank was fussing at me to pick it up, and telling me the 4:30 pace group was behind me. I knew I wasn’t going to reach my goal of 4:15 today, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let the 4:30 pace group catch me either! I was planning on a PR despite the circumstances. I had home field advantage, I should be able to move it on this course!
As I rounded the curve from Atlantic towards the Boardwalk, the wind hit harder, but I just ducked my head, and kept digging. I counted down as the blocks went by til I saw the turn in to run on the boardwalk to the finish line. I quickened my pace, and dug in more. Frank yelled at me to pick a runner and pass them. I passed several. I wanted to be done. I wanted my stomach to stop it’s nonsense. I wanted to be under 4:30. I finished strong, and actually heard people yelling my name at the finish line. I finished the race in 4:28:10, which is an 11 minute and 13 second PR from the Richmond Marathon that I completed in November 2013. So despite all the nonsense with tapering and illness, I still rocked this race. And the best part about the finish line? Having one of my closest and dearest, best running buddies place my medal around my neck! I love you Sheila!
As much as my legs were cramping (Who’s doesn’t after running 26.2 miles?!), I was thrilled to see so many people I knew at the finish line. And yes, Coach, I will let go of the “Should have, could have, would have” because I know I did my best today with what I had, and I still PR’d! Thank you for being an amazing Coach! I couldn’t have done it without your guidance and the support and many shared miles of all my running buddies!
Now I am off to bed, sleepy, a bit sore, and most definitely sunburnt (yes, I earned my sock and capri pants tan lines today), but happy.
My 50th race, and my 3rd marathon is DONE! 26.2, I owned you today!
Live. LOVE. Run. Passionately!