The 3:35 pacer took it out quick, and instead of being in front of the group, I felt like I was working hard just to hang with them. A few minutes into the race I developed a side-stitch and a sloshing ocean-belly that continued to nag me for the first few miles. I was already doubting myself due to the extra week of taper, and this did nothing to help my confidence.
Nope, still wasn't finding my groove. Even though I was holding a steady pace and making progress on pulling away from the 3:35 group, I was severely doubting my ability to keep it up for another 20+ miles.
One of my failures in previous marathons was my fueling strategy…..as in, I didn’t have one. This time around, the plan was to start taking in carbs early and often. I took my gloves off to get my first dose of Shot Bloks out of my pocket, and dropped the left glove in the process. I didn’t want to stop and go back to pick it up, so I just let it go. Then I tossed the remaining glove. Big mistake.
I could no longer ignore my bladder and the fact that I really had to use the bathroom again. And by “bathroom”, I mean a large tree to cop a squat behind. The marathon will make you redefine your sense of pride in every way.
My hands were completely frozen stiff. Cursing about the time I was losing, I struggled to pull my tights back up. I ended up tying the drawstrings in a big knot since my fingers couldn’t manage a bow. Exasperated, I shoved my iPod down the back of my pants because clipping it to my waistband required more dexterity than my Captain Hook hands could provide.
Miles 12-13: I popped a couple more Shot Blocks and had a cup of Powerade at the next aid station. I came through the 13.1 mark around 1:44 and change. I figured it was over at that point, I was barely hanging on to 3:30 pace and was only halfway finished. I grabbed a pack of GU the volunteers were handing out, and gulped it down.
It was like someone flipped a switch. There’s no other way to explain it, the sudden burst of energy was so dramatic. I finally felt warm and loose. Maybe it was the sugar hitting my bloodstream? The rising temps? The adrenaline rush knowing I was over the half-way point? Whatever it was, the pace suddenly began to feel easy and I had a renewed sense of confidence.
In a huge race like the NYC Marathon, the only thing mere mortals like myself race against is the clock. In a sea of thousands of runners, it doesn’t really matter to me what anyone else is doing.
However, being that this was a smaller race, there was incentive to pass other runners. I began targeting the ponytails off in the distance, and challenged myself to reel them in. I was also high-fiving spectators, cheering for the lead runners who were coming back in the other direction, and smiling for the cameras….
The miles clicked by, and I felt like I was on top of the world.
Seeing this marker is always exhilarating. No matter what, even if you have to hobble, you know you’re going to finish once you see that marker.
Up until Mile 20, it’s a balancing act of pushing the pace but keeping enough in reserve to finish. With 6 miles to go, there's no little voice telling you to hold back anymore. It’s time to let it all hang out and give it everything you’ve got.
After freezing in the beginning of the race, now it was getting HOT. There was no more tree cover, and the sun beat down on us. I broke out the last gel from under my hat, and gagged on the first mouthful. Despite taking in Powerade at every aid station after Mile 10, I was SO thirsty and it felt like a glob of glue in my mouth. Blech.
“Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” was the mantra on repeat in my head. I was hot, tired, and my lower back ached, but I never hit "the wall" the way I remember in previous marathons. I was almost done!
The last .2:
Instant gratification. They posted the results as soon as they came in.
Now I can give up running…well, at least for a few days :)