Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Detroit Free Press Marathon 2014 race report

You might have seen this already, but here it is again, just in case. =)

Marathon No. 6 is in the books. It wasn't anything spectacular, and I was far from a new personal record, but ultimately it was a good time. And running 26.2 is always an accomplishment, no matter how long it takes you.

The excitement started at packet pick-up Friday afternoon. I got down there pretty early and drove around downtown for WAY too long trying to find a stupid parking spot. Walking there, I passed the 26 mile marker painted on the street and immediately got goosebumps. The expo was huge and there were a million things I wanted to buy, but I stuck to picking up my packet and buying only a bunch of Gu and Sport Beans.

Saturday was pretty quiet. I loaded up on carbs and tried to rest and relax my legs for most of the day. I got to bed at a decent hour and didn't toss and turn too much. The alarm went off at 5:15, which was plenty of time to get up, get dressed, choke down some breakfast and coffee, and have my husband drive me as close to the starting line as he could get about 20 minutes before the start gun. (Living nearby sure has its advantages on race day.)

I started walking toward my corral, putting on my hat, gloves and Garmin at the same time. Then I realized my Garmin wasn't beeping on. F---! I had charged it fully the night before, so why wasn't it working?!?!? I tried again. No beeping. I frantically started trying to remember how to do a hard start. Whatever combination I pressed worked and I heard it beep to life. Yes! Then I heard another beep -- the "batteries low" beep. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I had charged this thing all night long! I began to panic, shutting it off and on over and over again. No luck. The charge had not held. I had no idea how long I would have with pace feedback. I was going to have to run this by feel.

I tried to let myself get caught up in the excitement of the starting line. I planted myself between the 4:20 and 4:15 pace groups, hoping to stay somewhere in between. Some gal was jumping up and down to stay warm, and landed on the edge of my shoes. "I am NOT going to DNF this race because some dumb b---- broke my foot at the starting line," I thought, and moved away. We quieted down for the invocation and the singing of both national anthems -- since we run through Canada, we get both, and pretty much every Detroiter knows the Canadian anthem because of hockey. Then they blared Eminem's "Lose Yourself," to a cheering crowd. The countdown for the first wave started, and finally, we were off.
Around and around the city we go.
I ended up crossing the start line about 12 minutes after the first gun, and broke into a trot. I find it very hard to keep a steady pace for the first mile, as you're dodging slower people, jumping over discarded sweatshirts and gloves, and getting into a groove. My Garmin beeped for the first mile -- OK! We plodded toward the bridge to Canada and I took another glimpse at my wrist. Nothing. I had gotten less than two miles of info. Ugh! I couldn't see the pace groups anymore, so I tried to settle into something sustainable.

Losing use of my Garmin also tested my fueling strategy. I typically drink every two miles and eat a Gu or handful of Sport Beans and drink every four miles. Without the steady beeping, and not knowing at first what I was looking for in a mile marker, I switched to a strategy of Gatorade every aid station, fuel and Gatorade every other.

We crossed over the bridge into Canada just as the sun was rising. It was gorgeous! It's worth doing this race just for this moment. Some trucks honked at us, and the border patrol officers were making jokes and giving high-fives once we officially crossed. The crowd support in Windsor is always great. I saw my favorite sign of the race here: something like, "Runners only have to put in 90% effort in Canada." I laughed about this for the rest of the race. Around downtown we go and before I knew it I was in the tunnel, heading back to the States.

I tried not to think about that I was actually running under the Detroit River and just kept my head down and ran. It was pretty hot in there -- I ended up taking off my hat, and never put it back on. Before I knew it we passed over the border, marked with the countries' flags, and were heading back up into the fresh air. There was a good crowd and lots of cheering, which was nice. We headed out to Mexicantown, Corktown, and back into downtown. The half runners split off, and all I could think was, "Wow, I have to do this again!" Still, the first half felt like it flew by.

The second half of this race is where runners have to dig in, even more so than other races, I think. We run for a few miles on a straightaway, without much to break it up. I was starting to realize that my pace was unsustainable for too much longer, but I knew that my husband was at a friend's house cheering, just before the mile 18 marker. I told myself I could take a walk break to talk to him and then I would reassess. Sure enough, I spotted him and asked him to walk with me for a little. I ranted about my Garmin (and practically threw it at him) and how I was starting to falter. He also forgot my sunglasses, so I was mad about that for the next few miles. After a quick kiss, I was off again heading toward the bridge to the city's island park.

I walked up the incline, and that was about when the wheels fell off. I just could not get back into a groove. I alternated walking and jogging, stopping to stretch a few times. Ugh -- this wasn't good. I felt nauseated and just couldn't get my legs to move. Jog, walk, stop to stretch, repeat. It was cold and windy on the island, and there were lots of us death marching. I started taking only water at the aid stations. I thought about throwing in the towel and just walking the rest of the way. But I kept on, and after about three miles around the eastern half of the island, I felt a little better. A couple more walk/jog intervals and I knew I'd be able to shuffle it in for the rest of the way.

Mile 23 and we turned onto the Riverwalk, one of my regular running routes. Mile 24 and we passed a cheer station with beer, and the smell almost made me barf. Mile 25 and we approached one of the final turns to head back into downtown. My current power song, "Bulletproof" by La Roux, came on my iPod. I turned it up and picked up the pace a bit. I listed to the song twice and then turned off the music. I wanted to hear every cheer. One last turn -- where the 26th mile marker I had seen Friday was painted on the road -- and the finish line was ahead. I ran and ran. And then I was under the finish line! It had been tough, but I had done it again. Yes!

A kind volunteer confirmed that I was finished and that I could stop running. I'm pretty sure he was evaluating my mental state -- ha! He gave me my medal and I shuffled down the line, immediately starting to hurt. I chugged a bottle of water but still didn't feel like eating anything. I found my husband shortly afterward and after a sweaty hug and a few pictures, I shuffled to the car. By this time, my muscles were starting to tighten up and I needed his arm for support. Thank goodness for his car's seat warmers. Since I didn't have my Garmin at the race, I didn't know what my finish time was, but in the car I was able to look up my result. I was pleasantly surprised to see a 4:28:54. I had squeaked in under 4:30.

It was a quick drive home (again, an advantage to living close by) and then started the age-old question: Shower, eat or nap first? I went for a long, hot shower first, then a giant plate of pumpkin-spiced pancakes, and then a nap. The rest of the day was spent eating cookies, pizza and cheese and doing squat.

It wasn't the race I envisioned, but even when I had curve balls thrown at me, I pushed on and got it done. And I have my sixth marathon medal to show for it. Not too shabby.