Yesterday, I ran the first half of the race in 1:33 and the second half of the race in 1:57. I don’t think I’ve ever blown up that much and finished. Actually, I’m positive I’ve never had such a terrible, painful race and not dropped out, because if it’s going that badly it’s usually for a reason.
The race started ok. I barely made the start, which wasn’t really my fault. I mean, I suppose it was my fault since I could have left earlier, but at 6:45 a.m. the shuttle bus from the drop-off point hadn’t reached the start yet, which was happening at 7 a.m. I made it though. I ran up the side of the corrals and jumped in at my spot and they said “3, 2, 1. The start of the California International Marathon!”
The first half went by. I ran 7:05s more or less. A couple 6:57 miles, a few 7:10 miles, but mostly right on pace. It was cold. So cold that my legs froze and I couldn’t feel my shorts, so I kept becoming convinced that I wasn’t wearing shorts and having to look down to check. At each aid station, the water that spilled on the ground had re-frozen into ice and everyone was slipping all over. Other than that, it was good. I felt good.
Around 12 or 13 miles, it wasn’t exactly easy anymore, but the pace was still there. I figured that’s ok; it’s not going to be easy forever.
Then, rather abruptly, around 14.5, it became excruciatingly painful. You know how after a marathon or a hard race, you can’t bend your legs or move or walk? That was how I suddenly felt with 12 more miles to run. My IT band felt like it was ripping out of the side of my left knee, my calves were knotted up, but mostly my quads were quivering with pain. It felt like my thigh bone was jamming into my hip and grinding on the top of my knee. It felt like everything was tearing every time I bent my knee or at my hip. What I’m saying is: it hurt, a lot.
Just keep going one mile at a time, right? Make it to 15 miles and then 16, etc. I was running 7:20s and then 7:30s at that point and fighting for it. There may have been hills there; I honestly have no idea. I kept going, but every step pain was shooting up my left leg. How was I possibly going to run 10 more miles? Around 18 or 19, I decided to stop to go to the bathroom. I’d had to go for like 10 miles — which is part of my whole stomach problems I need to figure out — but while I was running well I wasn’t going to stop. Now, though, as the 3:10 pace group was about to catch me, I thought maybe it could be a re-group. I’d go to the bathroom, stretch a second, and then start again, just 8 more miles.
It didn’t exactly work. TMI, etc, but when I sat down in the port-a-potty, my legs started shaking like crazy and wouldn’t stop. I never really got moving again after that. By the time I saw Steve a bit before 20 miles, I was 100% sure there was no way I could finish. I could barely walk and was shuffling 8:30s, how could I run six more miles? Why would I want to? The only reason I didn’t stop was because it was still like 30 degrees out. That is way too cold to wait for a bus after you DNF and Steve was on his bike, so I couldn’t get a ride. If he had the car, I would have definitely dropped out.
I don’t know exactly how I made it to the finish. It was one unbelievably painful step at a time. I went from 8:30s to 9:30s to 10:30s, I don’t even know. I don’t think I made it a single mile without stopping, thinking each time that maybe this time I could stretch my leg out and it’d stop hurting. It was so painful, pounding pain and every tendon, muscle, bone in my legs had already given up on me. I stopped trying to run and just tried to move forward. With 2 or 3 miles left, you hit the main area of Sacramento and are crossing these streets that are numbered. The race ends at 8th St. We were at 57th. At that point, it was one block at a time, one step at a time. I’m pretty sure the last two miles took me 25 minutes.
I don’t know exactly what happened. It was complete muscle-skeletal, body failure. Aerobically, I was fine, which made the whole thing particularly infuriating and put me on the edge of tears that whole time. I knew that my foot has been injured and I knew that because of that I hadn’t necessarily been able to train as much as I needed, so I knew there was a possibility I wasn’t going to be able to run the 3:07 I wanted and that I’d blow up. But, I made my bet. I ran on pace and thought I’d hold onto it as best as possible and maybe I’d slow down some and end up running a 3:10 or 3:11 or something. And, it turned out, I didn’t have the muscular endurance for that. I’ve only been able to run over 15 miles twice this block and my body just didn’t have it I guess. I’m pretty sure if it had been a half-marathon, I’d have been able to PR. But, it wasn’t a half.
On the plus side, I did finish. Even slowing down that much, I still ran a 3:30? Which is ok I guess. (Yes, I get that would be great for some people. But, the 3:07 I was aiming for would also have been terrible for some people. So, other people’s expectations are kind of irrelevant.) And, I know now that I can finish. The last few miles, when I knew I’d make it eventually, I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to hurt at the end of Ironman, so if you can’t do this, how are you going to do that?’ So, there’s that.
And, now, I’m really fucked up. Not so shockingly, way way more screwed up than any other race I’ve ever done. Picking up my foot to get into the car requires actually grabbing my leg with my hands and picking it up. I don’t intend to do anything for a week or two. And, then, it’s time to figure out how to get some of these problems fixed.