First off, let me just say…don’t wear an ill-fitting bandana to a marathon, even if it’s your favorite to wear while training at home and you’ve considered it “lucky” simply because it got you through many an Insanity workout and long run. It will simply make for unflattering photos at the finish line, and the photos are usually unflattering enough all on their own. No need to aid in that area.
Secondly, let me just say…I freakin’ loved the Pittsburgh Marathon! I loved the course (varying hills and scenery), the energy of the city (hands down, the BEST crowds of any distance race I’ve run), and the company of two beautiful ladies to giggle and chat with made the first 20 miles fly by.
It was those last 6.2 that really did me in.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. From a runner’s perspective, here is my overall review.
Expo: Loved it. All the vendors I’ve come to look forward to were present in addition to ones I had not seen before (my favorite? The Flip Belt. Bought it. Used it. Love it. Get your own: http://www.flipbelt.com/). Packet pickup was well organized; the staff was friendly and helpful. The swag was fairly impressive and kept us better fed than the monetized fridge at the hotel.
Marathon: The race itself was just as well organized from start to finish. There were more than enough aid and fluid stations and portapotty lines were never so long that I wanted to cry from the pain of holding in my urine. The route was lined with highly energetic cheerleaders of all sorts, which says a lot about the city itself and the promotion of the event. I’d love to run this course again in the future.
Medal: Best one I have. Seriously hefty and big; better for bragging. I believe only the Disney medals I long to obtain will top it.
Now…for the actual story of my run…
Well, I learned a few valuable lessons that I will carry with me, the first being the aforementioned bandana. Others include:
1. Don’t stay up till 2:30 am the night prior to travelling 6 hours which leads to exhaustion the day prior to the race. Rest the two days leading up to the race and keep eating/sleeping patterns steady.
2. Maintain your training. I petered out sooner, I believe, because I was overconfident in my energy levels and did not use the walk/run program I’d been using all along. I did take a few walking breaks during those first 20 miles, but not many and not in any pre-determined intervals. I wanted to run with the girls; I felt great those first 20. But it caught up with me in a major way. Which leads me to…
3. Don’t underestimate Epstein-Barr, even if B12 has your energy soaring pre-race. It’s still there, lurking. This goes hand-in-hand with the above lesson. I overestimated my body’s capabilities and overtaxed a system that wasn’t ready. I am still feeling the effects pretty strongly two days later (still immensely glad for the experience as overall, it was an incredibly positive one!) and having trouble recouping my lost energy. I felt my body go into serious shut-down mode around mile 22 or 23 (at that point, I was focused on the finish line and not puking). Luckily for me, Hubby was waiting just after mile 25 and finished the race beside me, on the street as long as he could and on the sidewalk when he had to. He couldn’t have known that I’d been wishing for him alongside me for the last few miles and seeing his proud smile at the finish line was part of what kept my legs pumpin’, but there he was, doing exactly what I most needed him to do. So I made it. I even sprinted that last stretch once the finish line was in sight. And then I held in the tears I wanted to cry because I just don’t do that sort of thing in public.
But the emotions were high in those last five miles. I felt the shutdown of my body and knew I’d screwed up; I also knew there was no going back and I hadn’t just run 20 miles to quit. I was frustrated by my body’s betrayal and by my own cockiness that led me to this point. (I firmly believe that if I had just stuck with the interval training, I would’ve felt and performed far better, but my big ol’ ego got in my way once again.)
I was emotional because I had worn a Boston tee to honor those runners and cheerleaders from just three weeks ago, and they were in the back of my mind every time I inwardly complained that my feet were burning or my legs were sore. Because I was still using my feet and my legs; I was still running. I knew there was no way I would miss that finish line, if only because I was capable of it, no matter how slow I may have been.
I was sad that I had chosen to come without the kids, though Hubby and I had a blast on our own and needed the time away. At that moment, I desperately wanted my Werewolf there to cheer me on and flash his encouraging smile as he has ever since I started this “fitness thing.” I have no better cheerleader than that boy and no one else is quite as impressed with my accomplishments. Seeing other kids made me miss him even more, and I knew he’d be wanting to wear my medal when he saw it (I was right, although it was too heavy for him to wear for long).
I crossed the finish line in a daze, my only thought in that exact moment being, “Don’t hurl in front of the cameras.” I was successful. BooYAH.
By the time I made my way out of the finishers’ corral and into the open arms of Hubby, I was done for. When he lifted me off my hot feet in a celebratory hug, I was hoping pretty hard that he planned on carrying me for the rest of the day. Alas, I was forced to move of my own volition as we reunited with my fellow racers, Megan and Laura, so we three salty, sweaty gals could commiserate, congratulate, and (at least for me) deteriorate. We hugged; we posed; we stretched slightly and unenthusiastically. We kept repeating, “We did it! It was great!” And both of those statements were completely true.
We did run 26.2 freakin’ miles. And it really was great! I don’t recall any of us saying it out loud, but another true statement would be: We are AWESOME.
I still feel awesome, inside. My quads have gone from screaming to whimpering over the past three days. My energy has dipped to pre-diagnosis levels. My allergies (which also threw a wrench into my speedy plans on Sunday) are wreaking havoc on my upper body. But I still have my medal. I still have my knowledge that I really desperately wanted to give up.
Maybe it was because of that lucky bandana, after all…