Monday, October 24, 2011

NWM 2011: Marathon Finish

Well, so there it is. My marathon finish.

It has taken a while to sink in, that I've accomplished that. It didn't feel that special at first-- it felt like a really hard, long run that my friends happened to be cheering at. But calling myself a marathoner, trolling through the results page to see that no one else from my hometown, no one else from my alma mater even competed in the (full marathon) race, seeing that I actually broke the top 25% of finishers... that makes it sink in. It's only my second race I've ever competed in, but I've got the bug.

4am wakeup to eat my pre-race food (bagel, PB, honey and Gatorade)

5:15am wakeup call for final preparations and to walk down to the start (0.8 mi away)

Back in the first half of the marathon, when I was all smiles and focus
My official Tiffany & Co. finisher's necklace
A bouquet from my sweet sister that was waiting on the doorstep of my apartment

The mood got dampened a bit the next day, but you know what? I was only ever doing this for myself and my own goals. He wasn't ever giving me pep talks or cheering me on. I went for runs with his friends while he slept. And I have the necklace to prove that I've accomplished my goal. It feels good.

I was out weeks 4-8 of my 16-week training plan with a strained hip flexor and bronchitis. I jumped back into the plan when every person I talked to and article I read told me to stop. I wanted it so badly, though I also felt like I was making too many excuses and wasn't pushing myself hard enough. I let almost every double-digit run slide, missing two twelves and a fourteen, and then doing 8-milers instead of 12, twelves instead of 16, and only one of the two 20s on my plan. But even if only for frugality's sake, I signed up for that race, so I was going to run it, damnit.

Miles 1-9 were great. Hills were just what I was anticipating, the scenery was beautiful, I stopped at every hydration station and ate every banana/orange slice/energy chew offered. Around mile 11.5, my piriformis started to hurt-- bad. I hadn't taped my right leg, so my foot was numb, burning, and tingling. Four of my friends were there, waiting, cheering, yelling, taking pictures... being their amazing, crazy selves. All I could do was turn on my iPod for a few songs (which I had decided to use on an emergency basis, since I wanted to get the most out of the experience), tighten my sweatshirt against my lower back to apply a little pressure and hope for the best, even though it was all I could think about... until mile 14.6, where two of my friends were standing on the sidewalk, waiting to join in. They had boundless enthusiasm, and all of a sudden we were clapping, singing (yelling), and half dancing to the Black Eyed Peas' "Pump It (Louder)", a Nike+ powersong at mile 16 or so-- even after the music was too distant to hear. I was too excited to have them there to actually care that I looked like a fool. With one guy running on each side of me, I kind of felt like I could tackle anything. It was amazing.

At mile 19, my housemate joined the three of us, and with 10k left, I was on track to make my goal time, a 4:30:00 marathon. But then I hit a wall--hard-- around mile 21. Nausea, anger, depletion of energy, dehydration... all of it. The "bitch zone" is a real thing. I stopped to walk 7 or so times not due to muscle ache, but nausea, and now wish I had obeyed the "puke and rally" sign we saw around mile 23, just before a hill that I didn't remember coming. I definitely wouldn't have been the only one. I resolved to run from mile 25 on, and that was pure adrenaline. The four of us pressed on, and they left me with a half mile to go for the finisher's chute. I turned on my iPod a second time to find the most adrenaline-pumping song on my carefully-crafted marathon playlist. It had turned off after two hours of pause, so it shuffled to something random. I wasn't even looking at it, just pressing the play button enough times to turn something on. (I kind of lost the capability for coherent thought around mile 22.) The song: "I get by with a little help from my friends", by the Beatles. The least adrenaline-pinching, but most appropriate song I could have ever picked. Needless to say, there were tears at the finish. And I'll be back for more.

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