May 2, 2012

Country Music Marathon, April 28, 2012

Well, I guess it's finally time to do this, Brutus. I've really been dreading writing down all of my feelings about this race because part of me feels so grateful to have finished marathon #4 in one piece, and the other part of me wishes I could go back in time and change things. Mainly the weather. Running is such an individual sport, so I know that some of you might hate me for complaining about this race and my time, just like I get annoyed by people who complain about their 3:30 marathon times. But I knew that I was capable of more and to not dig deep enough to find that little bit more of whatever it is I'm digging for is disappointing. So yes, I know that my time is totally fine, but I am not totally fine with it. You know? I'm going to just write the same sentence over and over until it comes out sounding normal. Nah, I think I'll end it there. You guys get it.

There is another part of me that wonders if I had pushed it would the outcome have been even worse. When I felt like throwing up, I slowed down. If I hadn't done that, maybe I would have ended up throwing up and in a worse spot than before. So there are also a lot of unknowns as to what would have happened if I pushed it harder. Those are the thoughts that help me feel OK with my performance and with not totally killing myself out there to shave a few minutes off my time.

So here are the official stats from the race:

Chip time: 4:06:42 (aka a 3-minute negative PR)
Overall: 744/3925
Women: 228/1800
Age group: 46/359

Expo. Let's start there. Downtown Nashville traffic was packed even more than usual. Luckily my nephew who was riding with me is a genius and suggested that I run in while he drove around the block a couple of slow times. 

I ran in, stood in line for my bib, picked up my t-shirt and swag bag, and entered the mega-crowded expo.

The t-shirts this year were so much better than last year. Like a million times better. They used the same lady shirts and sizes we got in Savannah, much better than the man shirt from last year, and I loved this year's design (hated last year's). It's actually a cool shirt that I will wear. Shirts: 5 out of 5. 

I'm glad that this year I wasn't trying to push a double stroller through that biz like last year. Sometimes I get these crazy, I'm-so-independent ideas that land me in the middle of giant crowds with a double stroller. Awesome tip: that's when you ask for a favor. Just getting myself through the crowds was hard enough. I wanted to find the Swiftwick booth because I wanted to meet them, and I heard on the Twitter that they would have some deals. 

So glad I did. Buy the Twelves, get the Zeros free. And these pink stripes are brand new. I looked online, and I didn't see them as of yesterday. They remind me of soccer socks, so of course, I love them for that. They also provide the exact same tan line you get from soccer games. Double yay. 

Getting to the start line. The day started off very similar to last year when I ran the half here, except that I woke up even earlier (3:45 a.m.) because I knew that traffic is a beast getting to LP Stadium to park for the shuttles. This year, I left and parked earlier, but unlike last year, the shuttle line was huge. Last year, I left my car and jumped right on a bus. This year, the shuttle line weaved through the parking lot for-freaking-ever. So if I do this race again, my first mission will be to find a kind soul to drop me off at the start line.

My husband left me a present in the car that I didn't see until AFTER the race. Doggone it!

By the time we got off the shuttle bus and found the shortest available port-o-potty line, it was already 6:30. The race was slated to start in 30 minutes, and the line, although the shortest one, was still huge. Luckily I made a friend on the bus, and we stood together the whole time, talking about all things running and gyms. She was supposed to find her friends in their corral and was worried they would think she had been murdered, and I just really urgently needed to do my business one last time. So both of us appreciated someone to talk to while we stood there instead of biting all of our fingernails off because of all of our nervous energy.

The national anthem started with still about twenty people ahead of us in line. If I had been in the safety of my corral, I would have really enjoyed that anthem. It was the most beautiful one I had heard at a race. Instead all I could focus on was the bathroom matter at hand. When the corrals started leaving, my new friend and I kept convincing each other that it was totally fine that our corral was leaving without us while 10 more people were still ahead of us in line. We decided that we would wait for each other to get off the pot, and we ran all the way up as close as we could to the starting line. At this point, I think they were about at corral 12. We were supposed to be in 6 and 7, so not too crazy behind our original start.

I barely even had time to start my watch, and we were running. I waved a quick goodbye and shouted a hasty good luck before the crowd swallowed both of us. I never saw her again, but I was so grateful to have someone with whom to spend those last nervous minutes before the race start.

Miles 1-11

Heaven. I loved every minute of these miles. Usually I give myself until mile 6 to start my music, but I didn't need at at all. The crowds were thick. We were running through parts of Nashville that I adore, and I just wanted to soak in all of the sights and sounds. At one point, there was a 7-piece acoustic band all sitting in lawn chairs in their front yard playing for us. It just seemed so Nashville, and I was eating all of it up.

There was also this cool running dragon. Cool but awkward to run with, right?

My times were what I hoped, some slower for uphills, some faster for downhills. Nothing felt too hard, and my heart rate monitor showed the same. Nice and steady in the 160s.

This is before I started falling apart.

Miles 12-20

Then it happened. We split from the half marathoners, and the conditions sucked after that. The fans thinned out. We lost our shade. At mile 16, they routed us to run by the finish line. Rude. The rest of the course was a series of out and backs, and it felt like we were constantly passing people going in the other direction. It was mentally tough to continually see people who were so far ahead of you, and it made the race feel even longer. 

This also seemed to coincide with the heat of the day amping up. Somewhere around mile 16, I started to feel nauseated. I had taken in a couple of gels, and I was drinking water or Gatorade at every stop, but I think it just wasn't keeping up with the sweat. This is the first race I've ever felt nauseated, so I had no idea what to do. Keep running through it? Slow down? Throw up? Stop?

I chose to slow down to keep the fluids in. It worked. I didn't throw up, but it didn't help my times obviously. And once I slowed down, it felt easier and easier to slow down more and more.

I finally saw my family at the end of mile 18, and I was so happy. They had just what I needed: water and hugs.

I gave them my I-can't-keep-going face.

And they ran with me to prove that I could. 

Miles 21-26.2

My Garmin had already died, which at the time seemed better than the bad news it kept giving me. Also, my right ear bud kept falling out, so music, which I normally am obsessed with having, felt like an annoying chore.

Then I had to watch for that guy's talon-like fingers.

Another important family stop: water and flowers for my hair. 

I ripped my Garmin off my arm and threw it to my husband. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore because I kept habitually checking a dead watch.

Around this point, I was tired and mentally weak. I wanted to stop running because I already knew this was turning into a pot of crap stew. If I was going to make it to the end, I had to change my mental strategy. I was walking some and running some, and I needed some people to motivate me to keep moving. It was weird because my legs weren't dead, but because I had slowed so much to keep from throwing up, I was having a hard time getting them moving again. I witnessed a lot of people who I thought were probably in the same place, hating this race. So I decided to find some people and strike up as many conversations as possible. Maybe I could spread some good vibes, and I was praying that I would get some in return. I desperately needed them!

In the future, I might start this strategy sooner because it really helped get me to the end.

The fam-damily waited for me at an out-and-back loop.

I couldn't stop because I was on the wrong side of the out and back. It was better to be on the back side of that loop than the out. 

Also I was trying to keep up with that bad chica. She was so dang strong.

During this leg, I would take a Gatorade and a water at every station. It hurt my stomach to try and push in that much fluid at once while racing, but I knew I needed it to make it to the finish without full blown heat stroke.

This is the best cheerleader of the whole race. She was everywhere, and I loved her smiling face. Also notice the out and back. We're at mile 25, and the right side is at mile 17. You see what I mean about how demoralizing those out and backs were! Seriously, they were gross.

When we got to the last mile, the crowds grew thick again, and I gained some energy and speed. I already told you guys about my Team Random Stranger partner who prodded me to the finish with his pep talks. Unfortunately, they cropped him out of my finish line picture, so I'll never remember his face. But he obviously really helped pump me up for the finish.

For such an awful feeling race, this is the most hilariously perfect finish line picture I have had to date. You would think I won the whole race with the excitement going on there.

They gave us cold wet washcloths at the end. Love.

 Good parts:

1. The first half had amazing crowd support.
2. They had Gatorade this year instead of Cytomax.
3. Shirts were much better this year.
4. Finish line still had lots of food when I got there.
5. Plenty of volunteers on the whole course.
6. Friendly fellow runners.

Bad parts:

1. The heat. It was in the 80s for the second half, and there was little to no shade at the end.
2. The out and backs were demoralizing, and running by the finish at mile 16 just really sucked.
3. Tiny crowd support in the second half.
4. Hills! The second half hills weren't as big, but they felt bigger than the ones in the first half because of the added heat.

I probably won't run this race again unless I go into it purely for fun, in which case I would just run the half, aka the super fun part. Part of me thinks I would like to run the full again to try and conquer it, but that part of me is stupid so I shall not heed its opinion.

Afterwards, I was really spaced out and feeling weird, definitely the after effects of the heat. I couldn't even answer my husband's direct questions about eating. I could manage shoulder shrugs and a few OKs, so I was really glad when we headed up to Kentucky to relax on the farm where my husband grew up.

 And sit in the grass to check out the sweat and salt rings.

Obviously, I didn't run hard enough because I still had energy to do this 100 times. This must have been after the heat-stroke lethargy lifted. 

The high jumps preceded the homemade shortcake with from-the-garden strawberries. Totally worth the drive.

And the next day on the way home, we all looked like this after about two minutes.

Except me because that would be dangerous to do while driving.