I didn’t really have very many expectations going into the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon other than to run with a really great friend and to finish. My training took a bit of a dip a couple months before, most likely due to burn-out and I was fine with using this as a training run for the San Francisco Marathon, which was three-weeks away. Being competitive with myself, I would try to keep a 10 min. pace and see if I could PR by a couple minutes but I wasn’t overly anticipating it happening.
I was going to run the course with my coach and dear friend, Lori. She was hoping to get me to PR around 4:20 which I had registered as my “expected finishing” time. So at the start, we set out with a 9-10 min. pace, which I was comfortable with. We traded general conversation and Lori was excited about the opportunity to “get me”to 4:20. Her energy got me going and we breezed through the first 5 or so miles.
Just as I was letting her know that I didn’t get the opportunity to meet up with some facebook friends at the expo or before the race, a streak of red, white and blue flew by us. I recognized her as Larissa (facebook and twitter friend), from her photos and her Moeben sponsored running outfit was an immediate give-away. She was running the half as we traded general chit-chat and she showed off her amazing 26.2/wing tattoo before she continued on. It was great to see her running strong after a recent injury had sidelined her.
As the miles continued on toward the 13.1 marker, the course was really nice. Some hills, but nothing terribly over-whelming. I was running in an “older” pair of shoes that I recently used on my last two ultra marathons. My original running pair of shoes that I had planned to run in, fell apart, so these were all I had. I debated buying a new pair, but with less than 5 days until race day, I didn’t want to risk running in a brand new pair. (this decision may have been good or bad… what do they say about hindsight?) Around the half-way point, I noticed that my right knee wasn’t feeling “normal.”Something was off and I knew that my older shoes, didn’t have the support I was hoping they still had.
While we were running across the floating Lake Washington Bridge on an out-and-back stretch, I saw Dana, a fellow blogger and facebook friend. She is currently running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to help raise money/awareness for South African orphans with AIDS. We recognized each other and traded smiles and waves. She told me I was “looking good” which sticks in my memory because at that time, I was starting to really get concerned with my “uncomfortable” knee. But it put some pep in my step and we kept moving.
For the next 5 or so miles, I could tell that I was slightly slowing down, but still keeping pace for a 4:20 finish. As we reached the 30km (18.6 mi) we were at 3:07:29. Lori was going to do it. She was going to pull me to an amazing PR. I tried to keep my head in the game, knowing a lot can happen the last 7.5 miles. But if I could keep our 10 min pace, we would come in around 4:20.
As we reached the mile 20 marker we were around 3:20-21. It really started to creep in my mind that if we stayed on pace, 4:20 was an extreme possibility. Also, if we slowed down to 11 min. miles, a PR was still up for grabs. My PR is currently 4:29, if I could shave off a few minutes feeling under-trained, it would be an amazing accomplishment. My knee was still bothering me and I could feel my legs getting tight (under-trained much?). I stayed steady with my salt intake and just continued moving the legs. To this point we were talking a 30 sec to 1 min walk break at each mile marker, consistent with our training. As I took our normal walk break at mile 21, it would be the last time I was able to move efficiently.
After we took that walk break, my IT on my right knee jumped out and said “no more!” My walk turned into a limp of excruciating pain. I knew that my hopes and dreams of a PR were done. I had run an amazing 21 miles on beat up shoes and under-trained. It took us 3.5 hours to run 21 miles, but it would take us an hour and 15 plus min. to make it through the final 5 miles. As I started to try to run after that walk break, it must have looked like Frankenstein trying to run. I had a horrible limp, but as it started to warm up I was able to get into a decent stride. Every time, I took a break to walk, it was an ordeal to get back into a slow jog. It felt better to keep it moving than it did to walk, so I would try to slow way down, but keep a nice forward motion. At one point, as I tried to walk and stretch it out, I screamed out: “it hurts so bad!” (or something along those lines) and the people around me had a chuckle. Not the kind of laugh as in they were “laughing at my pain,” but the general acknowledgment of understanding that marathons are not easy.
As Lori, stayed with me and helped get me through the last 5 miles, it reassured me that she is a gift to everyone that knows her. An amazing person that gives endlessly. She knew I was toast, but kept my spirits high and I was glad to not be out there alone. As we made it through the last couple miles, I think delirium started to sink in. I started singing REM’s “Losing my Religion”out of nowhere and it must have been tough for those around me considering I only know a couple lines. We ran most of the last mile eager to be finished, grabbed hands as we crossed the finish line and I like to think that we were both happy to be done.
Being so close to a 4:20 finish and coming no where near it is obviously disappointing. But as the title says, it was a “pleasant” disappointment. I can’t believe I had a shot at it to begin with. I was thrilled to run a strong 21 miles. It gives me amazing confidence for the SF marathon in three weeks (if i can recover from this ITB). My final analysis is the lack of support in my shoes was the cause for the IT issues. When I got back to the hotel, the bottom of my right foot was significantly more “rough” and callused than my left which leads me to believe, I had no support on that shoe. My last two runs in those shoes were ultra marathon in Feb. and April. The reason I was able to run those two without injury is because I was on softer trails. The majority of this course was on rock-solid freeways. They never stood a chance. What did I say about hind-sight? But who knows, new shoes may have blistered the hell out of my feet… or I may have smashed the US marathon course record.
Either way, I was happy and pleasantly disappointed. Plus, when you can relax in the sun with a new shiny medal and Starbucks (from Pike Place), it’s a good day.