Monday, November 18, 2013
One of my goals for this year/running season is to run more than one marathon. Run, not race. This hasnít been the greatest of training seasons, but all I have to do is run.
Yesterdayís Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon was to be marathon #2 of the season. It was an epic fail on many levels, and yet something of an accomplishment. This was also my first completely unsupported marathon: no one to drive me there, no one to meet me along the way and swap snacks for unwanted clothing, no one to meet me at the finish line, and of most concern to me, no one to drive me back home.
Iíd chosen San Antonio because itís a short 3 hour drive from home and I have a dear friend I can stay with. She met me at the finish of my first marathon, but I knew not to expect that this time, and I was OK with it. San Antonio also had a new course that looked interesting.
On the morning of the race, I drove to the AT&T Center to park and catch the shuttle to the start/finish of the marathon. We had to show our bags to get on the bus, and were greeted by dogs at the other end. I didnít mind the security.
With plenty of time, I started to walk around to warm up. Since theyíve put the start and finish in essentially the same spot, the support level was much better. In one parking area at the start they had plenty of portapotties, as well as water, fruit and bagels. If you ventured over to the next parking lot, you found the finish area, with even more portapotties with no lines!
I turned on my Garmin (which Iíd charged on Thursday) only to find out I had a low battery. Within 5 minutes it shut itself off. OK, one electronic crutch disabled! Since this was a training run not a race, I figured that could work to my advantage as I couldnít glance at my pace even if I wanted to. At least I still had my Gymboss.
We started about 10 minutes late, and in my far corral, I started 40 minutes later. The mini-marathoners (5k) were among all of us, and while that would have been an issue if I wanted to sprint, I just ran patiently with the hordes.
The first 7-8 miles took us to the zoo where we encountered some hills. We then ran through Trinity University which was great fun. The students were out in large numbers, and were arranged by fraternities and sororities and by class. The freshman towards the front, then you saw the sophomores, juniors, seniors and finally the alumni! More hills but with all the cheering it was very energizing.
I took my first gel at mile 7, and it instantly affected my head. I thought my scalp would lift off and I got dizzy. I soldiered on and that eased off about a mile later, but it was clear I couldnít continue with the gels. The crowd support was great, and I had the opportunity to grab some candy and pretzels every now and then. The support crew also handed out salt packets, and had misters or sprinklers by mid morning. Many of the spectators along the way also held out sprinklers for us to run through.
Around mile 11 we split off from the half-marathoners, and continued toward the mission area. I remembered that as a long stretch from my first marathon, and it still felt long. What made it worse at that point was the temperature. Spectators were sparse, but still very encouraging. No one called me granny this year.
I passed mile 17 really feeling the heat and feeling discouraged. I knew part of it was not having any fuel Ė I wasnít going to risk another gel. Mostly it was the heat. I kept going and suddenly saw mile 20. Something was wrong. As I ran on, I realized that though Iíd been following other runners, weíd somehow missed a turnoff Ė did I say the route wasnít well marked and there werenít always support crew to direct the way? What to do? Do I turn back, find the turn-off and do the loop I missed?
I decided it was a training run, it was unbelievably hot, and I didnít need to suffer the extra 2.5 miles Iíd missed. At that point weíd reached the Mission Reach area which consisted of a 5 mile trail along the San Antonio River. The trail wound down to river level, then back up, down again, back up, for 5 very long miles. There was absolutely no breeze. Everyone around me and for miles ahead was walking, not even attempting to run. Any supporters along the way were huddled under bridges so they would have shade.
As I continued running, my heart rate shot up Ė I didnít have my HR monitor, but I know the feeling well enough. Knowing I had to change things, I tried to reset my Gymboss intervals, and managed to completely mess it up. I didnít want to stop to try to figure it out, so decided Iíd just lost crutch #2. Now I was operating by feel. Iíd run a little bit, my heart rate would climb a lot, and Iíd walk again for a long time. At about mile 23 I became very worried because I could feel my heart rate climbing instantly when I tried to run, so I opted to walk for a couple of miles. It was either that or ask for a ride to the finish line, and believe me I thought about it Ė first time ever Iíve thought of giving up.
Walking hurts much more than running does, at least at mile 23. Iíd never realized before how different walking and running feel Ė I guess one engages different muscles. Running actually felt great, but my heart rate kept me from doing much of that.
Once we emerged from the trail, I was able to resume running a bit. I even managed to run it in the last .2 miles. Once I finished, I went to gear-check to retrieve my bag, and I headed for the shuttle. By the time I got to my car at 2pm, it was in the low 90s. Iím sure the temps along the trail had to be that high.
As I drove to my friendís house, all I could think was that I was canceling the next two marathons I had planned, and I would never run another marathon. When I got there, I told her about my misadventures. When she told me I could have lied to her, I started to laugh. It would never occur to me not to tell like it was!
So Iím back in town, after a treacherous morning drive in the fog. Iím not feeling as bad about the experience, and not feeling as negative about the marathon distance. Come to think of it, the only two miserable marathons Iíve run have been San Antonio, albeit for different reasons. At least the first one was a complete marathon, and I was exultant at the end. This last one wasnít even a marathon, but it was a heck of a training run. Weíll see.