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The marathon that wasn't

Monday, November 18, 2013

One of my goals for this year/running season is to run more than one marathon. Run, not race. This hasn’t been the greatest of training seasons, but all I have to do is run.

Yesterday’s 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.

I’d chosen San Antonio because it’s 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 didn’t mind the security.

With plenty of time, I started to walk around to warm up. Since they’ve 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 I’d 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 couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 – I wasn’t 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 I’d been following other runners, we’d somehow missed a turnoff – did I say the route wasn’t well marked and there weren’t 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 didn’t need to suffer the extra 2.5 miles I’d missed. At that point we’d 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 – I didn’t 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 didn’t want to stop to try to figure it out, so decided I’d just lost crutch #2. Now I was operating by feel. I’d run a little bit, my heart rate would climb a lot, and I’d 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 – first time ever I’ve thought of giving up.

Walking hurts much more than running does, at least at mile 23. I’d never realized before how different walking and running feel – 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. I’m sure the temps along the trail had to be that high.

As I drove to my friend’s 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 I’m back in town, after a treacherous morning drive in the fog. I’m 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 I’ve 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 wasn’t even a marathon, but it was a heck of a training run. We’ll see.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Good job anyway. I have to say, glad I am not the only one to have a race and miss part of the course. My half marathon recently, I think I missed .2 miles of the course, hence receiving no finish time at first. They did give me one when I commented, but in reviewing the course while I waited for a time, I think I missed a part of it. I am a walker and we were lapped by the front runners in a twice around course. But the two times around were slightly different to give the total distance. Oh, and walking verses running. I did my almost half marathon in 3 hours and 4 minutes and I want to speed that up a bit and don't think I can do it walking, so trying to add some running to my walk. That is so hard. My right calf muscle has been objecting big time each time I do the jogging intervals. But I think it is finally getting better now.
    1518 days ago
  • MIRAGE727
    This year I ran two Halfs in pain due to injury. I'm running them again in 2014 to claim triumph for the pain I endured and the glory of running injury free. I realized what I could do in adverse conditions on the run.
    When I watched the Kona Ironman World Championships and saw these "Ironmen" finish, I took that, kept it, and used it for the motivation to champion all my future races!

    I saw what you huddled this morning!

    Dee, you've proven your resolve to finish! This blog adds to my motivation to conquer anything that's thrown at me! Look back on this as what you are capable of and get ready to rock your next race. "In the deed, the glory!"
    1531 days ago
    I'm a little late with my congratulations on your great "training run" but they are heartfelt, nonetheless! Of course, you probably did make the whole thing up... emoticon
    1548 days ago
    I can't believe the temperatures you ended up having to deal with . You. Did a great job . The fueling seems to be tough for you

    Great job
    1551 days ago
    Wow! That was HOT!

    Congratulations on doing everything you did....I'm impressed!
    1552 days ago
    I can't tell you how many times I've said, "This is the last triathlon / half marathon I'm doing...or...."I will never go the next distance"....only to continue this abuse! LOL! These races make us tough and we seem to learn something new about ourselves with each one. Sounds like a success to me! Congratulations! :D
    1552 days ago
  • JLITT62
    Not all runs are good. Not all races, either.

    And I still can't imagine running a marathon. I really can't.

    And yes, walking & running DO use different muscles . . . I was surprised at feeling sore after walking Vegas last yr.
    1552 days ago
    What a mess! You're still my hero!
    1552 days ago
    Michael Wardian, who won this marathon also found it tough. It was a warm one. In a week or so when you think about how you pushed through the difficulties of the day this time around, you probably won't have those doubts about running the next marathon on your schedule.
    1552 days ago
    yuck — what a rotten day! and how brave (or is the word crazy) you are to have kept going. a marathon at 90 degrees! really massive impressed at your endurance! i really like my dried fruit (pineapple mainly), but jelly beans are good too. emoticon
    1552 days ago
    I might have entitled this one as hot as hades - it was really hot and that's probably threw your game off. Running up fred hartman was brutal. I'm surprised the run wasn't well marked for you.

    Glad you made it and now you've got a new memory of San Antonio now.
    1552 days ago
    You did better than I would have done. Yesterday was very hot and humid here.
    I got to volunteer at the La Porte Half Marathon. Many of the later people had lots of problems. Once the temperature went up it was obviously very difficult for most of them.
    You have to be in pretty good shape, mentally and physically, to complete that marathon with so many challenges.
    Hope your recovery goes well.
    Don't give up on future marathons based on this event.
    Not sure if you know Shawn Wade, Houston's former Olympian, but if he doesn't feel like he has it that day, he stops. He's either going to have a great day or he won't take part. Maybe there's something to learn there.

    1552 days ago
    You did great!!! You listened to your body and took stock of the situation and adjusted accordingly.. I hope I do as well when I do the Edinburgh Marathon next year.

    I'm learning to take each run as a run, my last two half's have been disasters for different reasons and I've felt incredibly demoralised in recent weeks because of them. Reading this has made me see that we all can experience hard runs, but we can trust in ourselves and the training we do to make the best of each run, and you still completed it, despite the obstacles and electronic malfunctions.

    Tomorrow I am going back out on a run and will get myself back on my plan for the Edinburgh Marathon.

    All the best and well done :-)
    1553 days ago
    Wow! You did great under the circumstances. That sounded so hot. I vacationed on the Riverwalk last February. It is a beautiful area.

    I had my Runkeeper not start at the beginning of my last HM. I kept thinking " don't worry about it, just run". But, the nagging feeling and panic started to emerge (no music, how far am I?, how fast am I running) circulated around and around my head. I couldn't shut it off! So, mile two I was running while getting it to turn on! Of course it slowed me down - and the problem? Earphones weren't plugged in all the way!

    It was so mental!!

    When is your next one? emoticon
    1553 days ago
    Congratulations on all of the little successes in there too. I know a little of how you feel. Completed my first half marathon yesterday but ended up walking about half of it b/c my run buddy was hurt. We still crossed the finish line, but it did not feel as successful. Keep your chin up! You still DID IT!!
    1553 days ago
    It sounded way too hot. I'm so glad you were able to push through and finish.
    1553 days ago
    Wow, heat will maximize effort in a hurry. Don't let heat discourage you. Do find better conditions. Do take care, and don't be hard on yourself for this one. You finished under difficult conditions.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1553 days ago
    WOW! What an experience! I have thought about doing the San Antonio run a couple times but have always found others to do. Your story plus a couple others I have heard make me glad that I chose to go for running in Tulsa this year instead of San Antonio. Get some rest and recover!
    1553 days ago
    Oh my goodness - glad you are okay! And glad you could laugh a little about it all! emoticon
    1553 days ago
    ouch... such issues! Have gels done that to you before?
    1553 days ago
    Running in heat can be dangerous and you were smart to listen to your body.

    Take care of yourself, rest, recover and come back stronger.
    1553 days ago
    Wow! Quite a run! It sounds like you will need a solid recovery after that one!
    1553 days ago
    That was more a psychological battle experience than a physical fitness one. What a lot of challenges and you overcame them all and finished.
    Were the gels different ones than you used on your long slow distance training runs?

    No major aches and pains today (from the Galloway Daily thread), that is super, shows your consistent training and the awesomeness of the JG method.

    emoticon emoticon
    1553 days ago
    Oh man, what a sucky run! My hat is off to you for finishing it out--'soldiering on' is an excellent phrase. I have a friend who always says to wait a few days before making rash decisions--like not running any more marathons in your case, because it sounds like you enjoy the running and it would be awful to stop something you love to do. emoticon I wonder what's up with the gel though?
    1553 days ago
    I am glad you listened to your body and did what you had to do. It was still a hell of a run, even if it was 'just' a training run. Congratulations for persevering.
    1553 days ago
    I cannot even fathom running or walking that distance in that kind of heat. Congrats on finishing, and staying smart along the way!
    1553 days ago
    It got up to 90 here, too, and I thought about you all day. You should never judge your running based on conditions like these. I think you did very well -- much better than I would have because heat is one thing I just don't deal with well, especially coupled with humidity.

    I'm sorry to hear about the gel issues. If you can tolerate candy, that may be what you need to rely on (lots of it, of course, for this distance).
    1553 days ago
  • DEE797
    Good for you in continuing even though your electronics gave out and it didnt go entirely as planned. . emoticon
    1553 days ago
    1553 days ago
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