tough days

Hamilton Marathon Race Report

It’s taken me a while to put my thoughts down on paper because this race was one of the most emotional and difficult I’ve ever attempted, and it took a while for everything to sink in.

The pre-race report is here.

Standing at the start line alongside so many other future marathoners, I was filled with anticipation for a good race and a solid undertone of apprehension about at distance I had never run before.  Forty two (point two!) kilometers and many tears later, I would be a marathoner!  I thought back to 13 years ago, when I remember watching the Sydney Olympics and wondering how in the world anyone could run 10km without stopping; I never would have imagined I would attempt a marathon.

Way too much energy...but I LOVE my neon pink compression socks!

Way too much energy…but I LOVE my neon pink compression socks!

With nearly perfect weather and gorgeous views for the first 10km, I almost managed to forget that for some reason my toes were numb and my hip was supposed to be hurting by 8k.  To my complete surprise, my pirformis syndrome didn’t flare up until everything else hurt worse – and by then I was in too much pain to care.

I held a nice steady pace around 5:10 for the first 10k, but it didn’t feel as smooth as the first 8km of Scotiabank Half two weeks ago.  I followed my race and nutrition plan perfectly, at 10k I added a little push and for a solid 8km I was floating through the course: meditation has nothing on how I felt on Sunday morning.  It was magical.

It took me about 19km to realize that I wasn’t having a good day.  Not that I was having a bad day exactly…but I knew I shouldn’t be starting to hurt 2km before the halfway point. I hit 21k within 1:49, and the triumph of beating my half marathon PB by three minutes (note: this was a BAD IDEA) was overshadowed by an overwhelming urge to walk the 21k aid station. That is, until I realized that walking hurt more than running (what’s with that?).  Running it is, I guess.

Everything between 21 and 29 kilometers is a blur; the breeze picked up and turned into a cold headwind, I wasn’t able to take advantage of the downhill between kilometers 21 and 22 because my legs hurt too much, and I was incredibly disappointed to be passed by the 3:45 pace bunny running down the parkway.  Did those runners have to make it seem so damn easy? Couldn’t they see I was in PAIN??  I was keeping a decent pace around 5:30 but it hurt like hell, and my first tears came as I was running up the off-ramp to the 29k aid station.  Fortunately I had a backup consolation pack of gummies, and they were the best thing I’d ever tasted.  Moment salvaged.

We hopped onto a section of trail to get over the QEW (hopped being a figurative, not literal term, because nobody is “hopping” anywhere 29km into a marathon), and I even managed to pop a smile and victory pose for the photographer across the bridge – I honestly don’t know where that energy came from. A second wind caught me as I ran down through the crowds surrounding the 30km mark, realizing that I was only 10 minutes behind my goal pace and getting a little teary and emotional as I ran by Dad and Brenda who were cheering and snapping pictures.  My legs were hurting, but I only had 12km to go!

My energy lasted until 32km, where the real race started to unfold (or should I say, unravel?). The first real tears came as the 4:00 pace bunny passed me, and I just couldn’t bring myself to run anymore so I walked and cried until I got to the 33km marker.  Little did I know, this would be close to the last running I would do in this race, and covering the last 7km would be the toughest finish I’ve ever done.

At 35km, as I turned back towards the finish line, my legs stopped cooperating.  A brief attempt to run…jog…shuffle meant I nearly collapsed, and I resigned my self to walk the remainder of the race in tears – and I literally sobbed for the next hour and a half as I limped my way to the end.  Low blood sugar, pain and a profound sense of frustration and disappointment were the highlights of my walk to the finish, and while I appreciated the cheering and attempts to motivate me as the kilometer markers grew further and further apart, I felt like kicking everyone who said “come on, dig deep and run it in!!” – with their happy smiles and legs that still work.

I almost quit at 40.5km.  I hate walking from the elevator to my car in the parking garage, let alone the last 7km of what was supposed to be a race, and WHERE THE HELL was the 41km marker?  Shouldn’t it be here by now? But I didn’t just complete 40.5km to give up now.  No matter what, I finish.

Although I walked almost until the last meter, at 4:41:20 I jogged across that finish line in tears.

The Numbers

Chip time – 4:41:20
Average pace – 6:49
Age group placing – 32/43
Overall placing – 852/985

The Aftermath

My sense of disappointment took several days to dissipate, and for that time I was so embarrassed with my finish that I didn’t even tell people I’d run a marathon.  Of course they caught on as soon as they saw me walk or attempt stairs (which was actually pretty hilarious if you’re not the one wincing), but I needed to spend some time internally processing my feelings.  I’m still feeling a little sensitive about it, but realized that overcoming an incredibly difficult finish and actually completing the distance is a success.  Having big goals means failing sometimes, but that it’s just an opportunity to do better next time.

Also, some things just came together perfectly:

  • I didn’t have to deal with any specific pain or injuries during the race, not even blisters or chafing anywhere.
  • Compression socks are the most incredible thing ever because nothing hurt below my knees (thank you EC3D for having amazing socks)!
  • My nutrition was almost perfect, although I ended up with extra gels and wouldn’t carry as much next time.
  • I ran the race perfectly, I just wasn’t quite ready for 42.2km; ten weeks ago I had never run more than 21.1km, and with 7 weeks of training I ran and finished a marathon. Now I know what I have to do for the next one, and 30+km is no longer the daunting distance it used to be.

Finishing the toughest, longest and most emotional race I’ve ever done gave me the confidence of knowing what I have to do after I get off the bike on July 27, 2014, and if it gets me to a better Ironman finish it was worth the tears.  I can’t wait to do it again next year!