December 2, 2007

Marathon, the second

Approximately 12 minutes faster than last time. Not bad. I missed my goal of 4:00 by about 5 minutes, but it's close enough that I'm proud. Now, I'm sore. Tired. And finding it very difficult to motivate for the work I should do before Monday morning.

One of the partners I work for used to be an amazing runner (think sub-4 minute miles). Now, his knees are shot. Monday mornings, he stops by to live vicariously through my long runs. Last Friday evening, he told me he'd like something I'm working on by Monday AM. I told him, okay, but it's gonna be late Sunday at the earliest, this weekend is my marathon.

Oh, I forgot. Good luck. Don't worry about it. Monday by early afternoon is fine.

At the time, I thought, no it's not. Because then I won't have Monday AM to do my other work. But now, when I'm sore and tired and relaxed like only an 18-week build up to a successful and whole-body-brutalizing workout can make you, I think I'm gonna take him up on it.

Instead, I'll spend some time fixing the details of the story in my memory so I can recount it properly for him. I'll deal with the work that won't get done tomorrow night. Not tonight. The night after a marathon is for lounging and moving slow.

So, if the best part about last marathon (besides just finishing it) was the fun of imagining conversations with my friends and family, the best part about this marathon was seeing family and friends over the weekend and having them come out to support me. In addition to the marathon, I baked Christmas cookies with my niece, mom and sister, and my brother, neice, mom, step-dad, E and I went out for a pre-race meal of mexican food (mmm...pre-race soup, chips, and lots of water, I swear by it).

I spent Saturday morning racing the Amtrak towards my hometown with E2 after we missed our train (long story), which we finally caught in Martinez. I only managed to do 1 hour of work on the train instead of the planned for 3. I think that may be a theme for this weekend. She came along to run some errands, to see her family, and to support me by running the last 6 miles with me (which, it turned out, I desperately needed). We even stayed with her parents and E2's mom woke at 6 AM to drive me to the start, which was so close to their house that you could hear the starting announcements.

A minute or so after the start, I saw B (who finished in a speedy 3:45!) and ran the first mile with her, as we caught up and wished each other well. Due to the ridiculous pace she planned to keep, I had to slow, but I was too motivated by the crowds and after a few miles figured I could just tuck into the 3:50 pace group. [NOTE: WHEN THEY SAY THAT GOING OUT TOO HARD IS A GOOD WAY TO ENSURE YOU WILL HIT THE WALL, THEY ARE NOT KIDDING].

Unlike my first marathon, which was a very focused, personal, solitary activity, I was fairly unfocused for the first part of this race. I let the crowds, my fellow runners, the music, and the scenery distract me. I smiled quite a bit.

I crossed the half marathon clock and realized I was going much too fast. In fact, if I didn't slow down, I was going to beat E2 to the 20 mile marker where she was supposedly going to meet me to help out with the last 6. So, I finally started to slow as I should have much earlier.

Around mile 15, I started counting off the miles. 5 miles 'til E2. 4 miles 'til E2. 3 miles... and then, she was there, at the intersection, just as she said she would be. Unfortunately, I was just ahead of the 4:00 group a little faster than I said I would be, but I was exhausted, and there were 6 miles to go.

I told her, "You keep up with them (the 4 hour pace group), and I'll keep up with you." That worked for a couple of miles. But then, I really hit the wall. Despite the gu and gu H20, despite the sliced and peeled oranges, and despite the crowd support, I had to walk. I sat for a minute and removed my sweat pants (which, surprisingly, I was happy to leave on for the first 22 miles or so -- it was *cold*).

And then, I relied on E2's will to pull me the next 3 miles or so. She laughed and told jokes and entertained me. She felt guilty when spectators yelled, "looking good ladies!" She yelled to the folks in the bar who were partying and cheering us on. She pointed out amusing things, like the runner who yelled at the guy who was smoking on the corner.

And finally, around mile 25, I found some energy of my own. Good thing too, since E2 had to peel off at the end. I passed B and B2 near mile 26, she was covered in her mylar blanket but had come back out to the course to cheer me on. I turned the corner before the finish and E and my sister were there, just a foot or two away yelling and taking my picture. Just after crossing the finish, E2 smiled from the side, saying, "I almost missed you, but I made it." And then, my mom was there too!

Ordinarily, running is something I do to stay sane. To keep healthy. Something I do entirely for myself unless I'm supporting a friend in their runs. But today, it was something I got to do while supported by those I love. It was a wonderful feeling.

And next time, I'm gonna be true to my goal pace from the start.

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