I did the marathon!
I visited the dr earlier in the week, and he confirmed there was no stress fracture. He basically told me even if there was one, he'd suggest running the marathon and then resting afterwards. So, the next night I did a 30 min practice run, very slowly (though after today my definition of VERY slowly may have changed) with tighter shoes, and had no pain. So, we all decided that the race was a go with no running in the meantime.
So, Saturday I did the appropriate carbo-loading (home made pasta yum!) and went to bed early, terrified of what to expect. My longest run had been mid march, my 2nd longest run was early april, and the last 3 weekends in april I failed to do the assigned distances, and hadn't run mid week. Not looking good, really, but I figured I did my 22 miler in March after skipping a few runs, so it should be ok?
I could barely eat in the morning, but I forced a half almond butter bagel down and skipped my banana (maybe that was a bad idea) and drank some water pre start. I was nervous about being hydrated enough, but I had to pee 2x before the race even started (and we only got there 45 min early) so I figured it was probably ok.
Eventually, we were off! Heidi and I settled into a comfortable pace, somewhere between 9:30-10:00 miles and were just jogging it out, looking around. We saw the crazy marathoner that Tracy met in the Wisconsin marathon on Saturday, who was also running our race, so we stopped to say hi, and then went on our way. The first few miles were fine with no pain. The first 6-7 miles were on the same road, and it was rolling hills, which was more hills than I had been led to believe were on this course. The worst part of this realization was that this road also corresponded to miles 21- the end, so we had to do it in reverse at the end of the run. Luckily, in the maze of miles 8-20 I temporarily forgot about that!
Around mile 8 or so, we ended up in a much more scenic area with a bike path which we did a large portion of the run on. We caught a group doing a VERY consistent 9:30 pace and hung with them for quite a while. The 'leader' of this group is training for an ultra in vibram five fingers, and was using this as a training run. She had a handful of marathon maniacs in her entourage (from what i understand the marathon maniacs do a lot of marathons in different places in short time periods and have a bit of a club). The pace felt great, and we were perfectly content aiming to stay with her for a 4:10 finish. We crossed the halfway point at 2:03, and were in great shape. Then we lost them at a slow water station, and by mile 16 it went a bit downhill.
I had started aching and asked heidi, is it normal to start marathon shuffling at mile 16?! I stopped to tie my shoe because my foot was starting to bother me a little, and heidi was having some IT band pain. She was walking it off, and said to go ahead, and I figured I'd be dropping back soon enough so I had better stay moving. So, we split off at this point and each did the hardest miles of the race alone. I felt bad that we couldn't continue together, but I think it was for the better. It is so difficult to try to maintain the same pace as someone else when you are both struggling, so I think we were better off doing our own races at this point.
I continued on, and every mile became slower and slower. It was the polar opposite from how the first 16 miles went and I was amazed at how long my splits were compared to how much effort I felt like I was exerting. Different muscles were starting to bother me, but I chugged along slowly. Some of the aid stations were out of cups, so I drank a few sips from whole gallons. I met a girl wearing a ram racing hat who was from IL! The run was quite nice in here, but it was getting really tough. I allowed myself a walk break at mile 20. After that, I bribed myself by saying that I could walk when it was X:X5 minutes, and I walked a little at 3:35. When it hit 3:45, I felt good so I kept going until the next uphill, and I ended up compromising to walk the water breaks and the scary looking uphills. (As I had been warned, even not very steep uphills are much scarier when you are in the 20+ miles!).
Around mile 23, my calves started getting really tight- charley horse style. I wasn't prepared for this or expecting this, so I tried to stretch them as I ran. We had to go up a very steep incline to a highway overpass, which was narrow and single file. I was passing people though, until I needed to stop to stretch the calves out. I continued onward and passed mile 25. Shortly after I stopped to stretch again and a kind spectator offered me a banana, which I gladly took, to hopefully ease the cramping.
It may have been too late, because around 25.4 or so, I had to stop again, and this time both calves seized up such that nothing I could do would stop it. I crumbled to the ground, let out a wail of pain (I am not proud of this!) and two guys, who I have been referring to as my guardian angels, came up to me and asked if I twisted something or if it was cramping. I replied cramping, and I don't know what to do, and they said good, get up you need to keep walking. They told me I was probably dehydrated and one guy ran to get me some water from a nearby pub. The other guy helped me walk along, joking that he had a date to the marathon. I told them both they could continue on, but they said they'd rather help a newbie, and that they had each done 20+ marathons and weren't concerned about their times. Shortly after this Heidi caught up to us, exclaiming "nobody walks mile 25!" (this is a joke- a technician in my lab volunteers at mile 11 of Boston and loves to shout that out to the runners). I was so happy to see her, and excited that we would ultimately finish the marathon together. The four of us run/walked to the end, with a band of police motorcycles right behind us that must have been escorting some sort of service man. Heidi and I ran ahead at the end, and my calves started cramping again and I couldn't quite catch her and finished 2 seconds behind her! Final time: 4:28:05!
After the race, we walked it off, got water and pizza and beer and relaxed. I thanked my guardian angels many times. I am not quite sure what would have happened if they didn't come by right then and I am so thankful for that. They really helped me achieve this goal. Who knew that a solo sport like marathon could really wind up being a team effort. I hope I can pay it forward to someone in a race some day.
Heidi and I spent a lot of time this afternoon discussing how insane marathons really are. No matter how well you train there are always things that come up. For example, I thought I would be sidelined by my foot injury, which turned out fine, and my calves nearly kept me from finishing. Also, the distance is just so long, and most people haven't run a full marathon before they do the marathon, so it's so hard to predict how much your body can handle. I don't know what I was thinking setting my initial "conservative" goal at 4 hours! Of course, I did have a very sporadic training month in April. Despite the fact that I didn't skip any bike or swim workouts, it is not the same in preparation for the pounding on your feet and how that affects all of the muscles in your legs. I am sure that played a role in the earlier onset of pain. My 22 mile training run felt a lot better than that part of this race!
Regardless of the time, the pain, and the mental barriers that had to be overcome in this race, I am super proud of my accomplishment! Earlier in the week I was considering pulling out, but I pushed through and made it to the end in one piece! I took an ice bath and I am hoping that walking won't be TOO painful tomorrow, but I know it'll be a war wound to be proud of! I am so happy to say that I have completed my first marathon!!!