Well it was an interesting first marathon this past Sunday. Many of you visited my blog last week to read my nutrition plan. Today I will report on how well the plan worked and how I fared in general.
The Summary (the short version)
Event: Detroit Marathon - Sun, Oct 16th
Actual Weather: Cloudy, spitting rain, 50-55 degrees
Actual Start Time: 7:10am
Actual Pace: 8:58/mi
Actual Finish Time: 3:54:32
The Story (the long version)
It was quite the crazy weekend for me. My fiance and I drove from Chicago on Friday afternoon to go to his little brother's football game on Friday evening. After 3 hours of sitting in cold, pouring rain (but watching some good football I should I add), we then went back to his parent's house where we were staying that night. Since it was two nights before the race, I knew it was my important sleeping night. I went to bed early after some good stretching and rolling with "The Stick".
Unfortunately it was not a good night of sleep for me - likely some race nerves combined with a few other factors resulted in only short episodes of deep sleep. I was up by 6:30am and we were on our way to East Lansing by 7:15am. We arrived on campus around 8:30am - in time to do some tailgating before the big Michigan State University vs. University of Michigan football game. While the weather again threatened rain, it was actually quite sunny and VERY windy the entire game. All day I felt good - was being very careful to drink my water and enjoyed some nice apple cider at the tailgate as well (non-alcoholic of course). I was leery of eating anything with mayonnaise or anything for which I wasn't sure how long it had been sitting out for fear of food poisoning. We stopped by the tailgate after the game (an MSU win!) and I actually caught myself eating a crock-pot creation of which I suddenly realized might have been sitting unrefrigerated all day. Luckily I quickly got rid of that!
My food on Saturday was very carefully selected - nothing high fiber but a good variety of carb and protein. I wanted to make sure everything could be quickly and easily digested. Saturday night we stayed at my uncle's house in St. Clair Shores and had a delicious pasta dinner (my favorite pre-competition meal). I again stretched very well, used The Stick, took a shower, and relaxed. Sleep that night was slightly better than Friday, but not by much.
Sunday- Race Day!
Race morning came quickly - everyone was up by 5am with an anticipated departure time of 5:30am. Of course with 5 people, that was not achieved; we were on our way by 5:50am. As soon as my feet hit the floor at 5am, I began my pre-race fueling: 2 cups water, 2 entire white bagel thins with 1.5 Tbsp on each, and 2 bananas. You'll notice this was a slight change from my plan as there was no jelly to be found at my uncle's house. I had brought all of my breakfast food to assure I had what I needed. Pre-race nerves delayed my ability to eat the food as quickly as I would have hoped. But I was able to finish everything by around 6am. I also drank another cup of water in the car.
We arrived at the course finally around 6:15am. Slightly too close for comfort for me, but there was nothing we could do about it. I started last-minute race preparations (put on my fuel belt, final stretches, last bathroom stop, etc.), and to my horror realized that my IPod was dead. I still have no idea how that happened but using it during the race was no longer an option. At the time I was worried about how this would affect my mental game, but as it turns out I think not having the music actually helped me keep my pace a bit better.
After finally finding gear check (located very inconveniently far away from the start), my brother (also doing the race) and I found our way to our corral (Corral E). Unfortunately we were so late that we had to be creative actually getting into the corral. But, alas we made it. I took a few final gulps of water (remember I was wearing my fuel belt - holding four 6-oz bottles of water, 5 gels, a headband and knee brace just in case) and our wave went through the start I'd say around 7:10am.
I had been warned by multiple people not to start out too fast. I'm glad they scared this advice into me. I planted myself firmly between the 3:40 and 3:50 pacers. Unfortunately they didn't pace too well. I realized quick I would have to figure out my pace on my own. Mile 2.75 or so started us over the Ambassador Bridge which meant a very long slow incline and then a decline down the other side. I felt really good the entire first half of the race. I found I didn't need the water at mile 2.5. I took the gels at miles 3.5 and 6 but used my own water to supplement. At that point we were in Canada, which was fun.
I took water at mile 8.5 (about 4 oz.). My gel at mile 10.5 was delayed as we were in the tunnel somewhere around then. The tunnel (between Canada and the U.S.) was surprisingly uncomfortable for me - it was 15-20 degrees warmer than the outside air, humid, and crowded. I had to keep myself calm as I ran the I'm guessing mile or so through the tunnel. After a blast of cold air coming out of the tunnel back on U.S. ground, I calmed down and felt better. I took my gel then. At the halfway point I was still feeling really good. I realized early on that an 8:40 pace was probably too aggressive and had decided to back off and listen to my body in order to pace myself. Therefore, my pace in the early miles was around 9min, then dropped to 8:30, then leveled off around 8:45. Again - that was purely based on how I felt my body was dealing with whatever pace I was running at.
After the halfway point, I was nauseous. I realized I just could not do any more gels and would have to switch to Gatorade. I did not drop my fuel belt as I felt comfortable with it on and wanted to keep it just in case I needed anything I was carrying. Since I had been training with it for months, I didn't feel it was holding me back at all. Starting around mile 15 or so, I completely switched to Gatorade and from that point on took 3-4 ounces of Gatorade at every aid station. Keep in mind it was cold and slightly rainy. I am a light sweater to begin with, so I wasn't too worried about hydration - I was more worried about keeping my energy levels up. Keeping my energy up kept my mind positive and focused to keep on running.
At mile 18.5 I took Gatorade and was still feeling okay (that's me in the blue top). Mile 19 took us out onto an island for the next 3.5 or so miles. This was when things started to go south. I had been feeling really great and quite positive the entire race up to this point. By the time I got to mile 19 (a bit over 3 hours in or so), it was like all of the muscles in my legs started to turn against me. I can definitely say at that point I had a slight anxiety attack and wasn't sure I'd make it. This was where the sheer mental fight started. I began thinking to myself, "I just need to get off this island. Get off the island. Get off the island."
Mile 20. Mile 21. Mile 22. Exit from the island up ahead. Mile 22.5 - this is where my fiance had said he would be waiting to see if I needed support from him. He ran the Chicago marathon last week and knew how much it helped to have someone run miles 23-25 with him. As I approached him, he said "Do you want me to run with you?". All I could manage was to nod. He ran with me from mile 22.5 until just before mile 26. I admit I had to walk for about 45 seconds in mile 24 and about 30 seconds in mile 25 (during an uphill). For me I needed to mentally refocus and the walking helped me do that. Believe me when I say that walking did not help with the pain and in fact made it worse (I wouldn't recommend it). But it did help me re-group and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Mile 26. The finish I knew was just around the corner. I looked up and realized I'd have to do yet one more hill. The course was advertised as flat and fast but I would beg to differ on that. I used everything I had left to power up the hill, turn the corner and run to the finish line - about 300m ahead. At that point it was all sheer willpower. Physically I had nothing left.
I crossed the finish line in 3:54:32. Slightly higher than my original goal but still under four. I'm happy with that because I know I couldn't have gone any faster on that day. Looking back on the race and preparation, my nutrition was solid. I felt hydrated and energized before and during the race and had no cramping or GI issues (I attribute the nausea to anxiety). If I ever did another marathon the only thing I would change is implementing more cross training- specifically swimming - and being religious about lifting 2x/wk. I think doing those two things would have better prepared and protected my muscles for that 26.2 mile run.
After the race, I felt like I was in a daze. I slowly made my way to the food. I immediately drank an entire cup of Gatorade but could not fathom eating anything solid. I grabbed a bag full of food anyhow - knowing I would eat it eventually. I was so cold after I finished that I was shivering uncontrollably. My fiance got me a coffee and a hot chocolate (showcased in the picture below - that's my brother, James, on the right). I drank the hot chocolate and then was able to stomach chocolate milk and half of a muffin. After that, I slowly nibbled at more food until my appetite came back.
My favorite part of the day - the ice bath Sunday night. It took willpower to get in that ice bath, but that was easy after running 26.2 miles. Believe it or not, as I write this on Tuesday I remain only slightly sore and I know the ice bath, The Stick, my foam roller, and lots of stretching is the reason for that. I am grateful for the opportunity to run this marathon, as I know I now better understand the physical and nutritional demands of all you marathoners out there!