For a variety of reasons I wasn't looking forward to this marathon; it wasn't just that running in Alaska took the wind out of Milwaukee's sails, although that was true (early goal fulfillment, even if the course ended up being short - I still did it, and really, how could WI compete with Alaska?). It wasn't just burnout, although I do think I was a little bit burned out on distance. It wasn't just that my husband and kids decided to ditch me for a baseball game either, although that didn't help. It wasn't just that I wasn't sure if my goals were attainable or that my running hasn't been where it was last year. It was more like everything at once and I just didn't have any excitement for it...I looked forward to it being over, but not necessarily doing it. Which was unfortunate.
But time marches forward and the day of packet pickup arrived before I knew it...Saturday at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee. Kind of a pain to park but otherwise fine, got my packet and ugly shirt (seriously, my husband calls it a scuba diver cut...something really weird and square on the women's cuts, unfortunately), bought a couple gels, and that was that. I set up my to-go bag and outfit (skirt and tank for running in, sweatshirt and diy arm sleeves for waiting at the startline) and went to bed.
Sunday rolled around and 4am wakeup alarm went off...I was out the door by 4:30 and on my way to Milwaukee. After almost an hour and a half and two bathroom stops (...marathon hydration has consequences, man), I arrived at the Italian Community Center to catch the shuttle to the start line. Fortunately parking was way easier that morning and in a weird bit of coincidence I ended up sitting right next to a few ladies from my running group (MRTT Lake and McHenry chapter). I should have been chatting but race day jitters weren't there and I ended up drifting during the shuttle ride. When I woke up we were at the high school where the race started, and even got to use real bathrooms! I dropped my gear check bag on the UPS truck they had for that purpose, and took my place in the startline.
Too early for smiles, apparently.
Fortunately for me, since it was a chilly wait, the race started promptly at 7:30. I stripped off my sweatshirt expecting to never see it again but held on to my arm warmers until the aid station at mile 4 - the cold felt nice but I was definitely not used to running in it. I tried to settle in but I was not enjoying myself, it felt like a little rolling uphill was just around the corner and there never seemed to be a downhill to make up for it. My pace wasn't suffering - I kept up solid 10:45s, slow enough to feel easy but solid enough to hit my a-goal (sub 4:50). But I was definitely annoyed.
Of course, I wasn't too annoyed to be amused by all the dudes jumping off course to water the trees. Lol! Must be nice to be a guy, portopotty lines didn't look so friendly on course - there were 2-3 at each aid station but there were almost always lines. It was still amazing to see so many guys peeing though, because they were not even slightly discreet for most of them...and one dude peed on some poor person's recycling bin. I mean...what?!
Anyway, that sadly wasn't enough to distract me for long and the miles kind of dragged. I took my first gel at mile 5, and picked up a second when they gave them out around mile 8 or so. (I had my own with me but they happened to be giving out the brand I use, so I snagged it and stuck it in my spi belt. It was apparently not my day and I snagged it in the zipper, rupturing it, but didn't realize til after the race. Oh well.)
I saw some spectators from my running group just before mile 10, but my brain was so fried from just grinding through miles that I think I barely acknowledged them. Shame on me because spectating is hard work and it was awesome of them to be out there...mentally, I just wasn't there. I took my second gel here, and kept going. It's a testament to my mental state at the time that I was already thinking about walk breaks, 10 miles into a marathon. Derp! I told myself firmly I hadn't spent all summer training for this to walk not even halfway, and promised to reconsider at mile 15 but not a .01 of a mile sooner. And on I went
The halfway point hit at 2:20. Physically I felt fine - strong - nothing sore, no trouble breathing or with my heartrate. I was happy to hit the halfway point. I figured the back half, if Alaska was anything to guage by, would by about 2:25 which put me on track for a 4:45 marathon which was well within my goal range (sub 5) and very safely within the a-goal too (sub 4:50). This cheered me up and for the first time all race I actually was glad to be out running. The little rolling uphills were still annoying but I was still clicking along at a decent pace.
Not the best picture but I still felt good!
And then at mile 15 I hit a minor disaster....let's just say that mother nature plays a mean trick on women and it isn't bad enough we can't pee easily like the dudes, and it necessitated a 3 minute portopotty stop. D'oh. But I took my third gel afterwards and on I went. Despite the stop things were looking up, and I was pretty cheerful - only 11 miles to go and that felt a-okay to me. I picked up a second gel around mile 19 (I had brought four of my own, but they were giving out the flavor I use!) and on I plugged.
I took my fourth and last gel at mile 20 and was feeling pretty good - 10k to go, and I didn't feel like I did at mile 19 of Alaska. Better fueling must be helping, right? I was slowing down but I was still within the 2:25 area I expected to run for the backhalf and still running. I was getting sore - my quads felt the rolling hills and I added a short walk break at the top of every mile to avoid cramping. In retrospect I wonder if I should have done them more frequently while I felt good to preserve it, but I did feel good. At mile 22 my chapter leader from MRTT, who was spectating, even jumped out on course to slap me 5. Whoo!
My photography was better in Alaska, but still smiling!
And actually, I felt good until mile 23 and then it felt like the wheels fell off the bus. It didn't matter how fast or slow I ran - my heartrate at that point refused to come down long enough for me to run more than a couple minutes at a time. I started walking every 3/4 of a mile, then every half mile. At mile 25 I resorted to walking .05 every .2 miles. I was so annoyed but my heart was pounding and it made me feel short of breath, which is exactly what happened in Alaska but at mile 19 there. That lends credence to this being a fueling issue since I fueled better at Milwaukee than Alaska, and got four more miles before I came apart. But on the other hand this never happens in training, where I fuel less, and why do I feel short of breath with not enough cals? Is that a normal reaction?
Either way, I eventually crossed the finish line with an official time of 4:48:04, which beats my adjust Alaska time of 4:55 and is 3:11 more than my actual time of 4:44:53 for the 25.24 there. If I hadn't had my uh...girl issues...I would have been within a few seconds of Alaska, which is pretty neat for running an extra mile. Altogether, the marathon went well and I more than hit my A goal and came dang close, all things considered, to my pie-in-the-sky-not-a-chance goal of 4:45.
And best of all, it's done.