Monday, December 3, 2012

Palm Beaches Marathon

This weekend I went down to Palm Beach for the Palm Beaches Marathon, my replacement marathon for NYC.  Despite the recent knee injury and a bit of running apathy of late, I was bound and determined to run a marathon before this season was over.  First and foremost, I have to give a huge THANK YOU to my friend Caroline, who really helped me out with the logistics and let me crash her annual Palm Beach race trip.

(C - I honestly can't thank you enough for making this fall marathon happen despite what seemed like an unending barrage of obstacles)

After spending Saturday morning boating on the Intercoastal, we went over to packet pickup, stopped by Publix for provisions, had a nice carb-loading dinner at the condo and got to bed at a reasonable hour.  On Sunday morning I woke up a bit before my 4:00 alarm, showered, had coffee and a powerbar, and was ready to go before our scheduled 5:15 departure.  We left a little ahead of schedule and got to the race with plenty of time to spare, which was great because I was freaking out enough and it helped that we had plenty of time for porta potty stops and a quick tour of the start-finish area before the 6:30 start.  At that time the weather was pleasant, and it was nice to not be freezing while waiting to run.

We lined up between the 3:25 and 3:30 pace groups, listened to the anthem, and off we went.  Bill was going to run the first part of the race with me until the half and full marathon split, and though at first I was worried that I lost him in the crowded start, I was soon assured that he had my six.  My knee was a little stiff for the first mile, but it loosened up and by the second mile it wasn't bothering me at all.  I took this as a good sign and hoped that the 4 days of rest before the marathon had done some good.  

The course went north for about 3 miles before turning around and going back toward the start, both right along the water.  We passed the 3:25 group just after the turnaround, and saw Ron and Caroline just behind us as we made our way south along the waterfront.  We kept pace in the low 7:40s while watching a lovely sunrise over the water, and I felt really comfortable.  There was a pretty strong crosswind, but it felt nice and I thought it was definitely better than battling stifling humidity.  After 6.5 we continued south past the start, staying along the water and dealing with the wind the whole time.  It started to get warm pretty quickly once the sun was up, and I worried that might be a problem as the race progressed.  The good news, though, was that my knee still felt fine.

I opened a Gu at mile 8, and ate it a bit at a time over each of the next 3 water stops.  I also drank water at each of the aid stations, which were a mile to a mile a half apart.  Bill turned around at mile 9 to finish the half, and I continued along, trying to keep my pace in the 7:40s.  Around mile 10, my knee stopped cooperating.  At that point it was more of an annoying ache than pain, but it kept getting worse.  I decided I would keep going and hope for the best, but after crossing the halfway point I needed to make a bathroom stop.  For some reason it felt worse after the brief stop, and I realized it was going to be a long way back.  We continued south until about mile 16, passing through some lovely neighborhoods with homes that I could only afford if I win Powerball one of these days.  As we approached the turnaround we could see the leaders heading back, and I realized that there were only 4 or 5 women ahead of me, despite the pit stop and the fact that my pace had slowed to around 8 minute miles.  

I tried to enjoy the scenery to take my mind off the worsening knee pain, but found myself just staring at the watch and thinking about how much farther I still had to go.  Shortly after the turn around, the 3:25 pace group passed me, and though they offered some words of encouragement as they went by, to me it was just a visual sign of my marathon goal getting out of sight.  That was depressing and I started to wonder if running through this pain was even worth it now that I knew I wouldn't hit my goal time or even PR.  By mile 18 the pain was bad enough that I could tell it was impacting my gait, and I decided that I should adjust my goal and just try to requalify for Boston - 3:35.  This seemed reasonable given the decent first half, but just after mile 20 the 3:35 pacer (who was by then running by himself) went by.  I guess I was obviously limping because he slowed down as he passed to ask if I needed a medical tent and offered to help get me a ride back to the finish.   Though I had been seriously considering this option, I told him that I thought I could make it and really wanted to finish, and he suggested trying some walk-jog intervals.  So I started to walk.  It helped a little, but even walking my knee still really hurt, and the thought of dropping out of the race was going through my mind on a loop. 

The miles went by soooo slowly.  Periodically I would start to jog, thinking even if it hurt more, at least it wouldn't hurt for as long.  But inevitably that made it worse and my little attempts at running were short-lived.  By then it was hot, even my back-up time goal was long gone, and I was pretty miserable.  There weren't many spectators on the course, and the few that I did see as well as the volunteers at the water stations were very cheerful, but their well-intentioned cheers ("Great job!" "Keep going!" "Looking good") almost seemed offensive.  One volunteer was sitting on a curb, and as I walked though the aid station drinking some water she said, "way to go, you look great!"  I think I actually laughed at that point and then told her that she wasn't a very good liar but I appreciated the effort.  I hope she didn't think I was being sarcastic, because I really meant it.  Another spectator was sitting on his lawn and told me I was the 16th woman.  Seriously?  This should have been a little encouraging, I think, but instead I just thought about how well I should be doing and that I would be finishing soon if I had not wussed out and slowed to a walk.

After mile 24 I knew I would at least complete the race, and took that mile to psych myself up to run the last mile.  So when I got to mile marker 25 I started to jog, and though it wasn't fast or pretty, I managed to make it to 26.  Shorty after that last mile marker, I could see the finish line and heard Caroline, Ron, and Bill cheering me on.  It's amazing what a little support from friends and the sight of the finish line can do!  That little boost was enough to help me pick up the pace for the last few meters, and I crossed the finish line in 3:48 and change - as Ron put it, a PW (personal worst).  

Based on the finish line photos, I think I might have a future in acting, because I certainly look a lot happier than I felt!  I was however, glad it was over, and tried to tell myself that finishing in itself was an accomplishment (sadly I still haven't convinced myself of that).

I would like to say that I was happy with my effort or learned something useful from the experience, but right now I can't say that is true.  It just feels like all of the marathon training efforts through the fall were for naught.  I've also decided to take a break from the marathon distance for a while, (though I am going to "run" Boston in April, I have no intentions of racing it) and my goal of running a sub-3:25 marathon will have to wait until at least 2014.  In the meantime, I am going to take a short break from running, until kicking of my half ironman training in January.  Hopefully by then the knee will be healed, and so will my spirits…

On a happier note... this marathon weekend was fun except for the running!  Good company, good food, lots of laughs, and the beach really help take the edge off a miserable race!

Thank you again, Caroline!

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