|Before the Marathon|
It turns out that I was right to be concerned about the affect of the heat on this weekend's marathon, and not even Speedy Bunny could save me from it. I started the marathon as planned, starting out slightly faster than I did in the Mercedes Marathon while still conserving. No amount of conservation could change the outcome, however, and that was a HOT and SLOW finish.
Here's the story:
Shannon, Jason and I were a tad last minute getting to the start line. Jason hadn't signed up yet since he wasn't sure what he wanted to do, and Shannon and I were considering a last minute bathroom stop, but with only 5 minutes before the start, we had to hustle to get there. As we jogged to the start, I tried to pin on my Gu packets, pricking my thumb in the process. Shannon and Jason helped me and just as the last one was pinned, the start of the race was sounded.
I wished Shannon a big good luck and we took off. The group of runners was small, and it wasn't long before we were spread out along the road. A few minutes into the race, I saw Jason coming back for me.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Give me your hand." He responded. I complied and he took it and kissed it three times. "Forgot to give you those." he said before running off. I think I smiled for the next few miles.
A guy I dubbed "Bandanna Boy" ran along side me for a bit and we chatted. He went to high school with Shannon and her twin sister, and we talked about first marathons, races in the south, and ultra running until he took a bathroom break and I never saw him again. I was disappointed because the constant conversation kept my mind from focusing on the steadily increasing heat.
I felt pretty good and held the pace I wanted for the entire first half. The course was completely rural and absolutely beautiful. There were some rolling hills, but nothing too challenging, and it wasn't long before I started catching runners who were already suffering in the heat. Since the race was so small, and last year's winning female finished in 3:51, I thought it might be possible for me to win. So every time I saw a female, I went for her.
Around mile 14 I caught up to Jason. He was jogging slowly, waiting for me. He said his heart wasn't in it and he'd rather run with me. I was thrilled to have him. I was beginning to feel my legs slow and as badly as I did not want them to, I had to consider the day. It was still getting warmer and there was very little shade.
Despite my growing discomfort in the heat, Jason and I had a really good time. We caught up to as many runners as we could see, and when I began to drop pace he encouraged me. I began to get chills around mile 17 and by mile 20 I was miserable and discouraged. And maybe sad too. This hot marathon would not only be the last in my season, but it signaled the end of the cool running temps as well. I was sad to see the days of flying down the road at whatever pace my legs could handle come to an end. For me, the summer is about surviving and keeping a base.
"I hate feeling like this at mile 20," I said to Jason. "This is the place I try to avoid in every race and yet here I am!"
He said it would be okay and that I was no allowed to be discouraged or beat myself up over this one. He reminded me that I have always wilted in the heat and it was just one of those things. So I took his advice and tried to gut through the rest of it as best I could.
We talked about all kinds of things, and when I needed a walk break (which became more frequent as the miles wore on), we would link pinkies and try to enjoy the scenery around us. A few people caught us, but not very many, and I realized everyone was suffering in the heat. I worried about Shannon and prepared to tell her that this was not how all marathons were and that a cooler marathon would be much easier. Turns out, she did not need my speech as she was doing just fine!
The last 6 miles seemed like an eternity, but we eventually got there. I was SO glad to stop running. I completed the marathon in 4:16. I was disappointed by this, having hoped I'd reached a certain level of toughness where I would not exceed 4 hours but...the heat had me beat and I could not fight it. I was covered in salt, more so than I had ever noticed before. My legs looked as if I'd jumped into the ocean and then rolled around in the sand.
|Shannon, myself and Jason after the marathon|
We waited on Shannon and it wasn't long before she came around the corner to the finish line, completing her first marathon in 4:25. I was so impressed! She looked great and her whole family had come out to cheer for her. We walked into the gym together to get some much needed water, and there we learned that I had won first place in my age group and Jason had won second in his. (Once we got home, we learned that Shannon had won third place in her marathon as well, but results had not shown this yet). The winning female had crossed the finish line in 3:47...which made me feel like I could have given her a run for her money on a cooler day but...she may have had more in her as well had the elements been kinder.
At the end of the day, I looked back on a great time despite the heat. I had met some wonderful people in Shannon's family, had a great time with Jason along the way, managed to be the toughest 31-34 year old out there, and I had a wicked tan along with my first marathon trophy to show for it.
Sometimes that has to be enough.