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A NOT SO EASY Marathon in the Big Easy

Well THAT marathon did not go as expected…. I am still not sure what happened but I was convinced that this was going to be my best race yet. I put the training for this New Orleans race at the top of all of my race categories in my database: Most Long Runs By Marathon (12); Most Strength Training Sessions By Marathon (30) and Greatest Increase in Weights Lifted; Most Mileage (in 10 weeks prior to a marathon) (420), Most Consecutive Weeks of 50+ Weekly Mileage (5), etc. I thought I was going to crush this race. I even got the most sleep during the week prior to a marathon (averaging 7 hours, 21 minutes) although I was travelling so I consider that pretty good! I thought I had lined up everything so that the execution of this race would go flawlessly, but that’s NOT what actually happened. As we walked a mile to the start line from our hotel, it was chilly out and when the sun rose, it felt nice. However, there were no clouds in the sky this morning and I was a little worried that the full sun could be a problem later on, but I have to work with the weather I am given! However, I was happy to be in a warm climate because I am sick of winter. There were so many people at the start line and we were SUPPOSED to be in our CORRECT corrals however I noticed people in corral 13 starting in my corral #6. It was annoying as I had to weave around the slow pokes who couldn’t follow directions at the beginning of the race but by the end of the first mile, I was around most of them and my pace was still a very good 8:20 according to my watch. I felt pretty good overall. My left hamstring always feels “weird” now (most of the time), but it didn’t stop me from running. I crossed the 5K mark just after 26 minutes so I knew that was slower than my Myrtle Beach and Hartford Marathon times. I knew I was off by 1-1:30 minutes. I thought to myself that I am NOT achieving my personal best at this checkpoint but I was ok with it. I thought I could make up the time later when my strength training kicks in later in the race. (LOL, right). The first part of the course was a mixture of sun and shade and I definitely was enjoying the shady parts already and it was only 8-8:30 in the morning! I reached the 10K mark at 54:29 which again isn’t my best time and I could see that it was getting further from my best time, but I was OK with it at the time. However, it is true that I was asking myself already “Is it just not your day? Are you not able to “fly” like other races? I felt like I was running well but I didn’t have the ‘IT’ factor that I do on days when I am racing and I never really felt like I was “on fire”. I like that “on fire” feeling. You know, when you feel like your body is on automatic pilot and it is self-propelled and you almost can’t control it? Yeah, that feeling. Well, I wasn’t feeling that so far on this race day and it bothered me a little bit. I was hoping that I would get into the groove and find it but I never found it. That was disappointing to me for sure. However, I was still running decently and I was enjoying the run through the French Quarter and seeing all of the sites in downtown New Orleans. I was taking many mental pictures since there was no way I was taking my phone out to snap a few actual photos. I reached the 10 mile point in 1:29:56 which is still very decent. My personal best in a marathon for the 10M point is 1:27:31 so I really was not that far off and I thought it is ok, just try to run a negative split. If I can get to 20M at 3 hours or so, I’m still on pace with my Hartford Marathon checkpoint times. I saw Pat and Stephanie at mile 11 and I told him how thirsty I was. I kept drinking the whole time at every stop but it was more than usual. I wanted to chug everything to drink but I knew I couldn’t. I usually don’t get THAT thirsty until mile 15 or so in other races, but this particular race, I was thirsty from the start. Even though I had hydrated well all week prior. I couldn’t understand it. I reached the half marathon point in just under 2 hours (by 13 seconds!). My goal is to always run a sub-2 half in a marathon and phew I just made it! However as soon as I crossed the 13.1 timing mat, there was a huge ass hill that goes over some river. I thought that hill is freaking MEAN! But at least it was AFTER the 13.1M checkpoint. The kicker was that hill and the REST of the marathon course was in full sun. It really got difficult. I ran by the river and the golf courses and I was just praying that I didn’t see any alligators. I had my hat pulled so far down on my head to keep the sun away from my eyes that it was blocking my vision and coupled with my blasting music, I thought I better pay attention to any hungry creatures sneaking up on me from the right. I might look like a good snack to them!!! Maybe that would make me run like hell?!? I don’t know. I continued running as best I could and I knew I was still off my personal best pace, so I became a little disappointed in that but I kept doing the math in my head to see if I could make up the time somehow. For miles 14-20 or so, I just kept running and doing all the things I usually do. If anything, I tried to stay the course and keep consistent so that once I got to 20 miles, I could really assess what I realistically could do for a marathon time. I reached 20 miles at 3:11:52 which I knew was 8 minutes off my best pace of 3:03 at Hartford and I knew that it already took me 54 minutes and change to run 6.2 miles at the beginning of the race and if I could repeat that pace NOW, I could finish the race in 4:05 if I’m lucky. I tried to pick up the pace. Those miles near the lakeshore contained quite a few hills/overpasses and with the full sun, it was getting tough. I kept recalculating in my mind….can I do it still? I would have to really pick it up. I got to the 22 mile mark and I felt my left hamstring cramp up (like in Hartford) and I took in some more salt (and had been doing throughout the race). I continued to be thirsty as can be and I was feeling desperate to intake more water and Gatorade. I felt like I needed it but it’s just hard because you don’t want to overdo it but my body was telling me to do it. I would not have made it if I didn’t drink. It was at the 22M point when my hamstring cramped up that I said to myself, just finish the race. Don’t try to race the rest of it. I thought about how I have another race at the end of April and I want to be able to do that and feel good. I accepted then that today wasn’t my day and although I was disappointed, I was ok and it is still a big accomplishment to run a full marathon without stopping. I saw a guy barfing his guts up at the medical tent at mile 24 and I felt bad for him but I was also glad that I wasn’t barfing. I didn’t have “IT” this particular race day but I wasn’t sick. I just felt drained. I am not truly sure why because I did everything I usually do….. was it the hot New Orleans sun and 70+ degrees when I was only used to running in 30-40 degree temperatures? Maybe. Even a woman from Atlanta told Pat that SHE thought it was hot!! I did everything else the same, and that to me, was my only environmental factor. Usually when it is warm, I do not run as well (if I am not used to the heat). I don’t know. I am still happy I finished the race and even though my time stunk for me, I checked another state off the list! But I have to admit it kind of feels like going to the Super Bowl and not winning. Getting a personal best is the “winning” feeling. I knew that as I was running the marathon, it was my chance to do it. It takes so much to get to the marathon that I didn’t want to squander that opportunity, but I did the best I could that day with what I was given. I decided that I didn’t want to have a pulled hamstring and be sidelined for my next race. I decided to just enjoy the journey and feel good about getting another race under my belt and learn from this experience.

POST RACE: Even though I walked 3 miles after the race, I still had big blood blisters on the side of my foot near my big toe joint and my toenails are still messed up even though I applied Vaseline and wore compression socks. I am sore as a bugger (more so than other recent races) and my left hamstring is more sore than the other leg. So I am just resting and taking it easy with the hope of recovering well and easing back into running in 4 days or so. The time between this race and the next one is not long, so I might peak back up to 40 miles but that’s it. It’s really just going to be a time of maintaining fitness and treating my body right and not doing too much.

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