Sunday, April 03, 2011

You Have to Believe in the Publix GA Marathon

Who didn't go see Xanadu for their 9th birthday?

Go ahead and click the link. You know you want to.

So, I've only ever done one marathon and I was not running it to beat any time goal - I just wanted to finish. I have trained for the Georgia Marathon four times now and finally (FINALLY!) with mucho help from Doug, I did not injure myself and got to the start line this year.

On race morning, we drove Jamie downtown and met up with Natalie, who had graciously volunteered to run with me.

Because Natalie is crazy.

She and Doug had the ridiculous idea that I could break 4 hours in this race. Keeping in mind that my one and only marathon time to date was over 4 hours and 40 minutes. They based this theory on the fact that McMillan's magic running pace calculator says I can run 3:26 if I were fully trained.

Which I am not.

So, anyway, they decided I could do it and I secretly wanted to be able to do it so I went along with the joke. But inside, I harbored both a tiny flickering flame of hope and the nearly empty glass of pessimism (realism?) water ready to dash upon it.

I wigged out about the race and made my tummy sick worrying about it. Then, one day while I was driving home from work, I had an "aha!" moment. Sure, Doug had been telling me this for weeks, but sometimes (all the time), I am hard-headed and have to work it out myself. I asked myself what would be the worst thing that could happen in the race. Performing a walking tour of the porto-potties and taking 7 hours to finish? Well, I've done that and it's really not so bad. And if I only walk the last three miles, that is really not bad at all. It's still a PR.
And that little tiny flame just might light the way to a breakthrough performance.


It is interesting that what makes some people seem great or attractive or talented is that they commit to the performance or finish the drill or give it their all. Lady Gaga isn't worried about looking stupid. Singers aren't worried about someone hearing them sing. So, going all-in was the plan. No reservations. No holding back to make sure I didn't blow up.

So anyway, back to the story. On race morning Doug drove Jamie and me to the race site. I realized in the car that I had forgotten my hand-bottle of water. The one I always run with and had carefully filled and put in the fridge the night before. The one with four GUs in the front pocket for my nutrition.


I texted this (in letters instead of symbols) to Natalie. She was unfazed, so I made up my mind to be unfazed too. No taking it as an omen. I had packed more than enough extra GU, even after sharing with everyone. I could carry my plastic water bottle. No problem. Deep breath.
We met up with Natalie and Brent and all of our other buddies. I distributed GUs to all requestors (plain and blueberry-pomegranate Roctane for Natalie, strawberry-banana for Brent and chocolate and pineapple Roctane for Jamie).

We performed the obligatory line-standing and potty-visiting. Natalie was the fastest and had to wait for the rest of us pokey puppies.

Then, we skipped to our corral and danced to the fun tunes with the folks standing near us.

I tried to turn on my very-carefully-crafted-just-longer-than-4-hour running mix, but alas, the i-pod was dead. Almost bad omen #2. Very disappointed that I would not get to hear "Superfreak" or "Sickbed of Cuchulainn" or Prince on my run, I tucked the headphones in the back of my shirt and put it out of my mind. I have run plenty of long runs without music and if all else failed I could always hum "Tom's Diner" which always works to calm me down. No problem. Deep breath.

Here is the start! Whee!

Just after the start, my Garmin said it was full and I had to quickly delete all of the bike history as I was running, which is not as easy as you'd think. Whew! Crisis #3 averted! Lisa zipped up to us and posed for a quick Brooks Babes photo before she was gone in a flash.

The start was chaos and I kept trying to speed up because I knew we had to bank time in the beginning. Natalie had to tell me to slow down, that we were going too fast. That was not a good sign. I was scattered because of the Garmin and the headphones and the crowds.

We made it to North Avenue and met up with a nice guy named Kevin, who decided he would run with us. We had lots of fun discussing the relative merits of padding in jogbras and other similarly inappropriate topics.

Kevin is in the Army and was running his second marathon in a very short time. Here, we are flexing for Natalie, because we are buff like that. OK, I'm really just sucking my tummy in because my shirt kept showing it, but I told Kevin to flex and he obliged.

We met up with the 4:00 pace group at some point and ran with them for most of the race. They were a nice bunch and Matthew, the guy who ran 20 miles in the mud and rain to pace a total stranger at the GUTS Reactor Run was one of the group leaders. It gave me some comfort to run with them, even if I forgot that they had started behind us. As you can see, the rollers had begun already.

What you don't know is that running with Natalie is always fun. She is the life of the party. Even if you are feeling like crap or having a bad day or your GI is acting up, she sings, makes up distracting games or generally acts silly. And, she takes photos and meets everyone. Just before this photo, she tried to explain a very complicated punch-buggy game to us to distract us from the fact that the hills had begun. Like a couple of drunks, Kevin and I could not follow the logic of the game other than that it did not involve actual punching. Then, Natalie zipped ahead for a potty stop and (apparently) photos with Santa.

I got some water and continued forward progress. Except that this was the aid station dedicated to the Amanda Riley Foundation. Amanda died of cancer at age 17 and her foundation works for children's cancer research. At the end of the aid station there was a poster with photos of her running a race a year before her death. It made me cry. When Natalie came back, she thought something terrible had happened. No, just too sad. And mile 18-ness.

Just after this, I think - it could have been before this, we turned into the hills of Druid Hills. The plan was to continue progress on the uphills and recover/pick up time on the downhills. Natalie reminded me of this, but my legs were already on fire and every downhill step hurt. I told her to go ahead. I did not feel like this until mile 22 of the Kiawah marathon, so it was very upsetting for it to happen so early in this race. So, Natalie went ahead to challenge the hills and I plugged along with (behind) the 4:00 group. Kevin had dropped off before Decatur so I was on my own. This required a small pity party but I gave myself a stern lecture and worked it out.

In Piedmont Park, John, Desiree and Kim were a happy oasis. I knew they had ibuprophen and had planned to stop, but just didn't do it. Stupid, I could have gotten some water here and may have not needed to walk up North Avenue later. Dumb mistake #3? #4? Who is counting?

I was worried about the GI and walked just in that last bit. Once I hit Marietta Street, I knew I was home free so I turned up the pace. It hurt less! I realized I had less than 2 miles to go. No need to conserve anything for any additional hills because Marietta Street is more of a grinder than a hill. Why not see if I could turn it up more? I could! My cardio was still OK. It was just my legs that hurt so I turned it up even more and sprinted to the finish. YAY!

I just missed 4 hours. My chip time was 4:00:55.

It is OK, though, that I missed the "magic number" because I had a fabulous race. It was a complete breakthrough for me. I think I am prouder of this finish than of the first marathon because I didn't play it safe (and I'm a safety girl). I committed to the race and now we know I can run a marathon for time and not be dead at the end and not tour the porto-potties. Yes!

What else could I do if I really tried? If I really gave it my all?

Here we are after some water and food.

So, at several points during the race, I thought to myself "this sucks - I'm never running this fast again" and "Kirk was right - getting fitter doesn't make it hurt less, you just get faster."

But you know what? Those thoughts passed (usually after I had some GU - low fuel makes me very negative) and after the race was over, I found myself making plans for next year and hoping that we would get the great 2-for-1 deal so that we would HAVE to sign up again. And 'lo, Doug has already signed us up for 2012 so there you go. Publix Georgia Marathon, I'll be back to run with Doug and Natalie and all of my other friends next year. : )

If you want the gory race details, here is my BT race report.


Jim said...

Great race for not really training and it sounded more like a party at points. Sub 4 is around the corner

Kate said...

Woot! It sounded like a great race despite all the little pitfalls.