Running a marathon is tough. I had heard that many times from Jen and other marathon runners but I never really knew what they meant. Looking at this statement now it reminds me of another conversation I used to have with a friend of mine; we would be talking about the stock market and then the conversation would inevitably go something like this:
Him: “You’ve never been through a Bear market right”?
Him (smiling): “You will, you will”
Me: “It can’t be all that bad”
Him (still smiling): “You’ll see”
Then I would combine the appropriate facial expression with the appropriate verbal response to try to show that I understood what he was talking about and could relate to it somehow.
Looking back at all of Jen’s marathon stories I now realize that I did a lot of combining a facial expression with a verbal response such as Wow, or Ooohhhhh, or Man, or just a facial expression that said Yikes. I was doing this to try to relay that I knew what she was talking about and could relate to it – turns out I had no clue what she was talking about and would never understand it until now.
Overall this was a great experience from beginning to end. Training with Jen was a lot of fun and running the race with her was even better. If it wasn’t for her I doubt I would have ever even started running longer distances. It all began with me agreeing to run with her on longer runs so she had some company for a while. I would run 10 or 11 miles with her then wait while she ran a few more. This worked out great because I was getting some exercise and also getting out of the list of chores she used to leave me when she would go running and I would stay home. Eventually I started thinking I could run a half marathon and after completing a couple of those I thought there was no way I would ever consider running a marathon. But, you know, you watch your wife and thousands of other people finish a few marathons and you start to think, maybe, just maybe.
After three months of training, a PR half marathon, and some really strong training runs, I felt ready. The week before the race I was worrying about my side cramps and sore calf muscle and I started to let those things get in my head. Little did I know, those would turn out to be the least of my problems.
Friday evening I got home from work with my stomach feeling sort of off and my body starting to ache. I laid on the couch for a while then ate some dinner but by the time I finished eating I felt horrible and had to go lay down in bed. My stomach really started hurting and my body was really achy and sore. I was getting hot and cold and by 10ish I knew I was going to throw up. I thought about trying to fight it but eventually gave up and by 11:00 my stomach was empty. I spent the rest of the night feeling like hell and trying to get what little sleep I could. I thought I was going to have to stay home and miss the race.
Saturday I woke up feeling a bit better but still not that good. I was able to eat most of a bagel and have some coffee before we headed out to the airport to catch our plane. Once we arrived in Sacramento I was ready to get back in bed and try to rest some more. My stomach was still very unsettled and I was now starting to get a headache which just made it worse. For lunch I had some room service chicken noodle soup (same for dinner) and Jen went out and got me a juice, some Tylenol, and also picked up my race bag at the expo. Once she got back to the room she spent the rest of the afternoon and evening taking care of me and trying to get me to eat and drink as much as I could. I tried to fight her every step of the way on this but looking back the calories I was able to force down likely saved me from a complete bonk the next day.
I woke up Saturday night around 11:00 and could tell that I was feeling much better and every time I woke up after that I was thankful to still be feeling ok.
Sunday morning I was out of bed at 4:00 and was able to drink my coffee and eat my breakfast without feeling crappy. We got our clothes on, met up with Aron, and headed down to the busses to be taken to the starting line. We were on the second bus which got us to the start at around 5:40. The driver parked the bus and told us we could stay on it to keep warm which was awesome. We got off for a few minutes to hit up the port-o-johns then got back on until 6:20. We hit up the johns a couple more times then threw our sweats bags in the truck and headed to the start line. (Side note: there was this poor kid standing up in the sweats truck yelling “Please pile your bags on the ground” over and over. While he was doing this people were throwing their bags into the truck and they were whizzing by this poor kid’s head while he was yelling. I kept wondering if I was going to see him get hit in the face with a bag, fall backwards, and get buried in the swarm of bags that was flying into the truck.)
The race was, well it was a race. This was the first race I have actually run with someone so in a sense it was much like a training run, only we were running much faster and with a lot more people. We ran the first few miles faster than the next few which were faster than the next few and so on. By mile 16 I knew I was going to have to walk but we were still pretty much on pace and I wanted to keep going with Jen so she could get her goal. I could tell she was going through a bit of a rough patch brought on by the well known Gu+hill ≠ good breathing equation. I stuck it out till mile 19.5 where I told her that I was going to walk at mile 20 but she should keep going and do her best. I gave her a last drink of the water I was carrying then stopped to walk.
At first my plan was to walk for 30 seconds then start running again but before I knew it 45 seconds had gone by. I then decided that two minutes was a much better time frame for walking so I drank some more water and finished my Gu. My stomach had been feeling funny all day so I was forcing the Gu down and wasn’t enjoying it or looking forward to it like I did in training runs. I was able to get down a total of four and I’m sure they helped me out even though I didn’t enjoy them.
I started running again after my two minute break and made it to mile 22 where another walk break was mandated by my brain. I saw people trying to walk fast during their walk breaks but I decided that a nice slow saunter was much more to my liking. I walked for a minute then started picking up forward momentum to get back to a running pace. Every time I started back up I felt like I was pulling a shopping cart full of cinder blocks. After each quarter mile I felt like someone was throwing in an additional cinder block just for good measure.
Next up was mile 23 and I was really looking forward to walking again when who should appear but my cute little wife and her big smile. She said that she started feeling like crap after we split up and had slowly fell off the pace so she decided that finishing with me was more important that trying to grit it out for a BQ. I was sooooooooooo glad to see her. I had been alone in a no man’s land for the last three miles and seeing her gave me a bit more energy to finish out the race. We took a couple more walk breaks and around mile 24 Aron caught up to us. The three of us ran the next mile and a half together and split up when Jen and I took our last walk break in the last mile.
I crossed the finish line, got my space blanket, had my chip removed, and was given my finishers medal. After the race we headed back to our hotel to shower and pack up since we had a noon check out time – the shower was great because not only was I very sweaty but I was really cold. After that we met up with Aron and her family as well as Maritza and her friend Tara for some post-race food and drinks.
Overall it was a great experience and one that I think I will do again. With my triathlon schedule the next reasonable time for me would be Spring 2010 so we’ll see how everything works out.
Here are a few random tidbits that didn’t get into the main body of the report and I really don’t feel like going back to re-write and add them:
I had a toenail cut into a toe in like the first mile, but the end of the race my whole toe-box was saturated in blood.
I saw a guy dressed up as Tigger cheering on the runners.
The crowds were awesome – I’ve never run a race with crowds like this.
I am very thankful that I was even able to run the race after being so sick.
Putting my sweatshirt on the sweats truck was an excellent idea – I was very happy to have it after the race.
Something that made me laugh was when I saw a group of people with a “Dienetics” sign standing in front of a scientology church handing out oranges. I thought it was funny that they were handing out “little slices of Scientology”.
Bumping into other runners in the airport was pretty cool; especially when Jen would tell them it was my first marathon.
I think that instead of having a DJ every mile for the last six miles they should just have a continuous string of speakers so there is never a moment without music.
Shout spray does indeed work on blood stains, even in shoes.
Checking into hotel on Saturday, feeling awful
A pic Aron's family took during the race. It was cold and foggy (perfect) the whole time.
After the race:At the restaurant: