Monday, May 18, 2009

How I Survived the Windermere Marathon

So, I'm not the brightest person when it comes to pre-race planning. I've gone to races completely unprepared, like not reading up on the course before hand, or not even knowing the start time until the night before the race. I've packed for major races in the wee hours of the night in a panic, praying I wouldn't (and sometimes that I would) miss my flight out in the early morning.

I'm not sure why I am this way. Part of the reason, for sure, is that I am very busy with work during the week and I just don't have time for the mental and physical planning for races. Part too, I think, is that I have one of those irritating personalities that is often "late" for things. Everything gets done in that last minute, like I always think that my commute somewhere will take 5 minutes less than it actually does (even if I've made the same commute a hundred times).

Perhaps that's arrogance, or perhaps impulsiveness. Maybe there's even a psycho-babble BS component of not wanting to put in too much preparation ... only to fail at whatever it is I am going to attempt. Hmm. Maybe it's all of that. Or maybe it really is because I am fairly consumed by my work during the week and by the time I have the mental and physical relief to prepare, I just do the best I can.

So, I registered for the Inaugural Windermere Marathon, not passing up the opportunity to run a new race right here in my town. Tim registered later. We decided to just run and "have a good race" - whatever that means. In my previous post, I was trying to analyze what "a good race" meant to me, and I decided that I would run hard, but not too hard, and have fun and not be too sore the next day.

Truly, I don't really know how to pace myself at marathons. Hence, my last post on How do you run a marathon?

So, Eric - the "Master of Marathons Who Runs With Joy" - responded in jest (like he's NEVER been known to do) :) and he says:

"As far at the marathon goes I think you should run as fast as you possibly can for as many miles possible. Then when the wheels blow off in all directions do a death march to the finish! That describes many of my first marathons. They taught me to respect the distance."

And I think that sounds good. I'd like to blow up during a race. Cool. I've never done that before.

So, Tim and I decide the night before to do a sauna session. We made a point to drink so as not to get too dehydrated. Well... 60 minutes later at 145 degrees, we were completely dehydrated...but well rested and feeling good. ...Yes, it was my idea. I'll take the blame. Why would I suggest getting dehydrated before a race? Well, I was only thinking as far as my nose and not about the next day. I guess you could say I just wasn't thinking. In any case, it was nice and relaxing AND it completely depleted our bodies before the morning's race.

So, at the start, I talked to Michelle and met her friend, Margaret. I also saw Lori Burrato, a mighty fast winner-of-marathons toward the front of the line. Always a pleasant person and a fine athlete who's overcome some injuries, I wished her well in the race, pegging her for the women's win.

I started at a slightly faster speed than I usually do. I had no idea how fast it was. It was mildly uncomfortable. I could hear my breathing and my feet. That bothered me, so I turned on my music. The mile markers suggested I was under an 8-minute mile pace. I made a mental note and decided to keep on until I crashed, knowing I would eventually because I just don't run that fast. It was an experiment. Eric suggested it! I was intrigued, so went with it, again, fully aware of what I was doing and the potential (likely) consequences. I liked it.

So, I ran sub-8's for about 10 miles. Then, I grew weary. The mile markers were off on the course, so I really can't say what my true splits were, but that doesn't matter. What mattered was that about 20 people passed me over the next 5 miles. On one hand, it bothered me. On the other, I couldn't care less. But every time I felt like I was slowing, I did my best to suck it up and push harder.

So, I was the ONLY runner out there carrying a water bottle. I cannot drink Heed, which is what was on the course; it makes me sick. So, I brought my own Gatorade and figured I'll drink water from the aid stations when that was done. A little insurance for me. Well, it was warm out, our hottest day of the year so far. I rationed the Gatorade as much as I could, but gosh darn, I was thirsty! I started drinking water from the tables. It is something I've yet to master. I tried to learn how to do it by watching the runners in front of me grab a cup on the fly and drink it down and toss the cup a few yards away. Invariably, I'd slow WAY down, grab a cup, cinch it, and try to pour it in my mouth - while running! - and I would lose most of it down my chin or it would just splatter to the ground (which felt great on my legs in the heat). And then, I would struggle mightily with throwing down the cup. I looked for garbage cans, which were non-existent. I looked for the usual ultra boxes for trash set just yards from the aid station. Those were non-existent too. So, I'd throw down my cup and feet so guilty and afraid that Earth's karma would come back to get me for it. Hm.

So, anyway, I couldn't get in enough fluids. I was so thirsty. I opened my water bottle to get any last dribble of fluid from the crevices. This all started around mile 10. Usually I can get through a marathon distance on one water bottle. But this was a warm day AND well, some numskull thought an hour in the sauna the night before wasn't a bad idea..

And then there was the problem of calories. For this distance, I like a gel or similar every 45 minutes. I carried 2 with me, one in each Moeben Sleeve. I did not carry a pack, as the marathon promised Hammer gels and "other goodies" at numerous aid stations along the course, starting at around the 7 mile mark. Well, there was none. As I'd come into the aid station, instead of saying "thank you all for being here. May I have water please," I said, "Gels? You got gels?" "NO? Where are they? Next station?" "You don't know?" Oy. I was crashing hard. I can't run without fuel. I did get a gel at one of the last aid stations, but at that present time, I had no idea if there were going to be any calories (other than in the Heed drink) on the course.

I did have about 5 jelly beans in holder in my bottle. I started rationing those - one per mile. I was getting pissy. I don't like to get pissy; I like to run happy. That's much more fun, really. So, I cranked up my music and tuned it all out. I started feeling better despite near complete depletion. I even picked up the pace and nobody passed me for a long time. I wondered if I had gone off course....

Then up ahead at about mile 18 or so, I see the impossible. It's Tim. He's struggling. He steps off the course and bends stiffly to loosen his lace. I ask if he's ok. He says fine, and I tell him I'm going to run on. He gives a smile and reassurance. Poor guy. I knew by his gait that he was struggling. He's a fast runner, can easily pull off a 3:15 time. But not today, no. That dang sauna!

I got a little better at the water cup maneuvers and I stopped looking for garbage cans and just tossed my carnage to the ground for the volunteers to pick up (that's just wrong but perfectly acceptable in a marathon). I played my "Just Wait" song by the Blues Travelers over and over and I pushed on.

I started reeling runners in and passing them. I just didn't let my pace wane. I passed a few women too, those that had passed me back after the 10-mile mark. Then, I finally caught up to this one woman who had solidly passed me earlier looking totally in control and strong. I could see she was struggling a bit. This was the only time I talked to anyone on the course. As I was passing, I said, "Come on, let's run this in together." She said, "My quads are trashed." I said, "And my foot's totally numb," (which is was). And she mustered up some good energy from somewhere and we ran together. I didn't slow down. In fact, I pushed the pace. We ran from about mile 21 this way. And when we passed the SECOND Mile 23 mile marker, she could only spit out a "That's wrong!" comment. "Yes, it's wrong," I responded, too tired to make any more words.

We ran on together. Up and over the Gonzaga bridge. It felt like a big hill. Would she run I with me I wondered? Sure she did! And down too on trashed quads! I knew I was running with someone I could be friends with! And then she says through pants, "The woman ahead of us was struggling..." Hm, I think. I don't really care. I'm only trying to stay graceful on my tired legs as I'm now running through the final 2 miles in Riverside Park around hundreds of people out for a stroll in the park and who have NO IDEA that there is a marathon finish line just ahead...or that we have run 24 miles so far to that point. So, I just say, "Oh."

And then, I see her ahead. She's still moving. Not as fast as when she passed me way back when, but she's angry and determined. So, I kept running, assessing if I had enough to pick up the pace that much to catch up to her. After a bit, I decided I did. So, I did. And my new tough friend, though she fell back just a bit, stayed right with me.

Yes, we passed her. No, it wasn't "in the shoot." It was a a bit before that (check out our finish line times. :))

3:36 was my finish time. My my new through-the-wall running buddy was right behind me. Whew! What fun! We shook each other's hands and congratulated each other and thanked each other. And it turns out, it is her FIRST marathon! Wow! What a phenomenal push from one determined lady!

But, as with any race, there is no pomp and circumstance. You just finish, get your medal and limp away. Well, first I went straight to the water table. I ended up drinking 8 glasses of water! OMG, I was so thirsty! Dang sauna!

Tim came in shortly after me and he too was quite dehydrated and spent.

We sat in the sun a bit, watching people, and we couldn't help but laugh at the poor guy with the white t-shirt and huge bloody circles from his nipple chafing. We drank some broth, which tasted fabulous, drank some more water, and meandered back to the car. We drove into Coeur d'Alene and got us a Bowl of Soul and some lunch and enjoyed the rest of the gorgeous day. We even did some biking on our Beach Cruisers.

So, that's it. I don't think I have ever written a marathon race report. This is the first.

I was sore yesterday, and still feel a bit today. But tonight I signed up for the Coeur d'Alene Marathon, which is next weekend. I can't pass on the opportunity to get in a good long run on the roads so close to home. And I do, after all, have to start training for the Spartathlon, which is my ultimate race this year. I'll be taking the Cd'A thon a little easier for sure. No pacing experiements. No sauna the night before. And no headphones. The Windermere Marathon is my last road race with headphones (I don't wear them when I am on the trails). They are not allowed at the Spartathlon, so I'd better get used to hearing my breathing and feet.

It was definitely work but also fun. I'm looking forward to the next one.


Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Great fun! Except for being dehydrated, I bet you would have done even better. (Apparently it makes a big difference in blood viscosity and performance). I would be thrilled with that time right now, but know that's not going to happen (eight min miles are no longer easy).

I remember my first marathon very fondly. I had no idea what I was doing and started out way slower than necessary, then after a few miles started accelerating with every mile up through 20, and then just held on to the finish. It was so fun, and I got to soundly chick my training partner who usually left me in the dust. In general, running by feel is more fun than running to a preplanned pace.

Good luck with your next one!


AnthonyP said...

Holy smokes. Great write-up Lisa.

Spokane Al said...

You do use some interesting pre-race tactics with the sauna.

Congratulations on a terrific race.

It sounds like the race organizers have a few logistical issues to sort out before next year's race.

Backofpack said...

Well, lesson learned. Never, never, EVER, take advice from Eric! I could have saved you some trauma on that one. He's too funny!

I blew up too, but don't have the sauna to blame. In fact, I'm not allowed in saunas or hot tubs - they are too much for my heart. So the only thing I can blame is the heat, which I always struggle with. I just didn't expect it to be so warm. I carried a water bottle too, and filled it at every aid station, so I was really sucking it down. I ate one clif bar, bite by bite, through out the race, a couple of animal crackers and a V8 at mile 18. (It's my new yummy thing for the late miles - tastes so salty good!)

I ran CD'A a couple years ago, struggled with the heat there too - I guess your side of the mountains is too warm for me. Oh, well. Have a great run along the lake!

SteveQ said...

Being properly hydrated before starting the marathon is key; I have done several without drinking any water at all during the race itself. Unless the temperature's unusually high, you can survive a few hours of minor dehydration and run well, if uncomfortably.

My first marathon? I was 15 years old and didn't know how long the race was. Went out with the leaders! Still finished in 3:20. Speed makes up for stupidity sometimes.

Journey to a Centum said...

Great job Lisa! Remember me whenever you need advice on running. I'm full of it! Some of it's even good!

Thank you for a great race report. Hope you recover well after spending time in the dehydrator and then running hard for a few miles. Sorry to hear that for whatever reason the gu wasn't out on the course.

I've got serious bling envy after looking at Michelle's finishers’ medal. The spinny middle piece is cool. Nice shirts too!

JeffO said...

Way to gut it out!
As for cups, bottles, and drinking, I take the lid off my bottle and hold it with the same hand holding the open bottle as I approach aid stations. I slow down but don't stop running, grab a cup, pour it in, grab another, pour it in. I've done marathons where I run solid from start to finish.
This only works if the aid stations have enough volunteers strung out holding cups. (Gotta love those volunteers!)

King Arthur said...

Never Ever take advice from Eric.

I like the pre-dehydration strategy. That could be useful for those long hot summer races.

olga said...

I think it was a great tactic for Sparta:) And a wonderful end of run with that woman! I was going to say something (in previous post) in order of: the only way you don't make a goal is if you are not having fun or you're helping someone. Well, yup. I think you met your goal, by my definition.

Lisa B said...

Thanks for the comments here.

I know all too well about how to screw up hydration but just wasn't thinking this time. I think I just wasn't "respecting the marathon distance."

The race organization was good. A first time marathon will always have room for improvement and I bet the next one will solve some of the little gliches we had this year. I was actually quite pleased with the race and will definitely run it again. And yes, the medal is groovy! Even beats the Disney Mickey Mouse ears medal.

Great training for Sparta, yes.

And didn't I tell y'all...Eric is now my COACH! Love it! :)

Dallas said...

Lisa thanks for supporting your home town marathon. My sincere apologies for the gel and mile marker issues. I've personally recruited a new chair for water and aid stations and I can assure you that year 2 will be flawless! Look forward to more gel along the course plus fruit and other sustenance in the late stages of the race...and those trash cans for the water cups! We learned lots of great lessons and are already working to make 2010 even bigger and better.

Laura H said...

Nice job! Does Eric get to go to Greece with you and coach you through the whole thing? That's a really scary thought! ;p

Have fun next weekend and enjoy the rhythm of your breathing.


Excellent race, and race report. And a fabulous time!! The pre-race sauna is pretty funny. Almost as bad as the odd bottle of wine my husband and I have had the night before to "relax". Seemed like a good idea at the time...but not so good the next day. Its nice to see you finish looking forward to the next one!

Lisa B said...

Thanks, Dallas. The race went very well. It's a lot of work to pull something together of this magnitude, especially a point-to-point run. That's for sure. THANK YOU for your sponsorship and work!

Heck, even when Tim and I put out the mile markers on the Yakima course, we received some double and even triple numbers, so we had to check and double-check to make sure we didn't use two in a row. I was so nervous we'd screw it up. ...and that's just the mile markers! There is always stuff to learn from the previous year. That's how it is each year with my medical coverage at races. It's always getting better!

There's so much that goes on and so many volunteers, and none of our fun would happen if not for you and them. So thank you. All the other stuff will surely come together and the 2010 race will top this already fabulous inaugural marathon.

PS - The medals were a huge hit!

Bob - said...

well that was another great re-cap Miss Speedy... love the determined push and how that lady was pulled along and hung on all the way to the end.... and who says Marathons aren't mental... (hence my quads are trashed and then blocks it out and finishes it strong)

SO Coool !

Spartaaaaaaaaaaa :-)

Bret said...

Marathon Girl...that should be the new title of your blog. Ha! That was a great post. Had me laughing good. I like doing marathons but they are so different from Trail races. The throwing the cups on the ground...its so true. On a marathon course you see gel pack trash one cares. Awesome time at 3:36, next up is Boston!

Oh and Tim got "chicked"? Make sure you rub it in too...just a little bit.