Monday, March 30, 2009

One Week Later: Marathon Reflections

6:20 A.M. Pasadena, California. Dark, cloudy, drizzling on and off; temperature somewhere in the 50’s, chilly and a little breezy. It is ten minutes before the gun goes off for the inaugural Pasadena Marathon (both full and half) to start at 6:30A.M.
4,487 people waiting under the glowing street lamps for the signal to start their 13 mile or 26 mile journey, depending on which they choose. For some of us, this will be our first full or half marathon. More seasoned runners are probably seeking to break a personal record and some will choose to walk and be happy with completion. Everyone has their own reasons for entering this race and they are as diverse as the entrants themselves.

Suddenly the drizzle becomes a downpour. We had been warned that it might rain, most were prepared for it in one way or another. Some wore raingear, or plastic trash bags, and then there were those who stood there in tank tops and shorts. Groans , laughter and cheering rose up from the crowd as the rain poured down . The announcer made a joke about how it never rains in Southern California. He did a good job trying to entertain a now freshly soaked crowd of participants who could not start running for another ten minutes. Five or so minutes later the downpour let up. At last we all counted down the final 10 seconds to the start, gun went off at 6:30 and we began to slog through the wet streets of Pasadena.

I have never run a marathon before, nor even attended one as a spectator. What impressed me most was the diversity of the people participating in this race. There were people doing the FULL marathon who I would have thought would have trouble walking around the block. That’s not being mean, just truthful, they were not in any way fit enough for this event…yet they were doing it. I think this a fine example of what people can achieve when we put our minds to it. I am impressed by the human spirit and its willingness to take on a challenge.

A Few Thoughts On Distance Running:

I finally felt it for myself, distance really makes a difference and of course if you choose to attempt to do more than walk and try to race the distance..this makes even more difference. To date, this is the hardest event I’ve entered. I have spent 9+ hours on an Adventure Race that started at 3AM on a very challenging course. I have run the Mount Baldy race 8.6 miles all uphill starting at 6,000 feet, ending at its 10,000 foot peak– a total of a 4,000 foot gain. I’ve run Mount Wilson as fast as I could, 8.6 miles(2,100 gain in the first 4.3 miles). I’ve run some of my fastest 5 and 10k distances this year and I am always challenged and exhausted at Crossfit training. All of these events are difficult, but this…26.2 miles was still the most difficult thing I have ever done….why?

The obvious answer is the distance, but what exactly is it about distance that is so hard? What it is for me is the stress placed on the body of doing the same action for such a long time. Sure, you can choose to walk and stretch, which I did at times, but you always work to get back to pace (if you are racing) and this ultimately is what got to me and slowed me down, especially by mile 19. The time spent on the legs and the number of steps you take, make running form a critical component . Think about it…every step you take, every WRONGLY placed step, magnified over many hours..thousands of steps.

Recap of my race:

Weather: personally loved it. Yeah, it was cold at the start with the downpour, but as soon as I started running I warmed up and felt really good. Dumped my old jacket by mile 2.
Met up with Jim Ward by mile 3ish. He suggested we could run together and help pace each other. I was concerned about my left leg issues and told him that I would like to run together, but that he may end up having to go ahead. Pacing with him was helpful and I think for him too. We were actually able to chat, which was good, because we both wanted to run a conservative first half. The time went so much faster having someone to run with.

We saw friends along the course..this was so much fun; took my mind off of the stress of running and it was so great receiving encouragement and giving it to others.
I wanted to hit the half way point no sooner than 2 hours and no later than 2:10..we hit it at 2: 04…nice. Running it any faster than 2 hours would’ve burned me out too soon. Jim seemed happy with this pace too. We kept going.

Mile 15ish, saw Shannon F. running up ahead of us on Raymond, heading North (uphill to Washington). We passed her, I made sure to give her a thumbs up, and we exchanged a few quick words of encouragement.

Mile 16..along Washington. My left leg started to tighten up from the hip down. I had to let Jim go on..I slowed to walk, stretch and drink. I knew I had to manage this or I wouldn’t finish. Shannon wasn’t far behind, she passed me and was close behind Jim.
The leg was well enough to keep going, but I knew I would have to slow to walking at times to manage it.

Mile 19..the suckfest really starts. Thankfully, Michael Keating was there to pace me in the last 7 miles. He had volunteered to do that for me and I had left extra Cytomax and a goo for him to bring to me at that point.

Michael was patient and listened to me grouse about my leg. He provided encouragement and again, the company was helpful in providing me a mental break from my discomfort. So..walks and jogs for the last 7 miles. Coming around Pasadena High School heading North on Sierra Madre Blvd., the rain clouds began to break a bit, the sun peeked out and the San Gabriel Mountains stood before me in all their stoic beauty. I made sure to look at them and take my eyes off of the painful road. I knew at that point I would finish, though slower than I had hoped, yet truly grateful for every step that I took towards the finish line.

Last mile mostly downhill. It didn’t feel like it was downhill, my legs were spent. Michael made sure to remind me to save enough energy to run through the finish line. I was wearing my SUA SPONTE shirt so I made sure I had enough to run through that finish line. As I ran towards the finish, total strangers were calling out, “great job”, “you did it!”. How nice! They threw out their hands to high-five me as I ran by. People I didn’t even know! Then there were my awesome friends… Dave and Joanne who waited in the cold for me to finish, as they were already done with their half marathon (thanks..I owe you guys) and Carol, Dave and Jane who all made a special trip just to see us all come in…Thanks so much!!! (Oh, and Jane brought us each a bottle of celebratory beer). Jim W and Shannon were there, they finished 4:20 and 4:21 consecutively and I came in at 4:38.

Was this hard?? YES very hard! Would I do it again..absolutely and I hope to be a little faster next time.

I thank God for my friends, the rain, the mountains and the ability to complete the event.

P.S. Something to remember for next time: Carry more of my own nutrition. I needed more Cytomax.


ReriVeritas said...

Go Hope! Hell yeah, it was hard, but the great thing is that no matter what, you finished.

You are a warrior, woman!

Joanne said...

Hey you did a great job! You were hurting and still came in with a good time. Congrats.

ReriVeritas said...

Hey Hope,
Thanks for the post about how hard I was being on myself. I hear you. Yeah, I know I needed some recovery, but it just took longer than I expected.

I did well this AM, so I feel I'm back!

And thanks so much for letting me know that I inspire others. That means a great deal to me! :O)

ReriVeritas said...

I just had to say thanks again for your love, support and encouragement.

You really are a gem of a person, a coach and a gift in my life that I treasure.

Thanks again for your kind words. I just reread them. You said what I really needed to be reminded of.

Keep up the good work, woman!

Trail Runner Con Dios said...

Nice job Hope!

alybee said...

Hey Hope...Loved your thoughts on the 26.2 miles. Glad that you conquered this goal.