First off, I had to get this thing off my chest before writing my race summary. Now that I have, I can give you the down and dirty.
One: I finished! Goal accomplished. My official time was 4:57:48 and you can see all the results here.
Two: I came in within my projected time zone (between 4:30 and 5:00) so that is another success!
Three: This was the worst race of my life (physically).
Jenn and I had mapped out our race strategy fairly well. The course starts with a gentle downhill followed by a flat portion which continues to the 10k mark where the real hills begin. Fortunately the “real hills” on this course aren’t that bad, at least not from our perspective. Training in Atlanta involves lots of hill climbs. Our strategy was to stick together, going slow until the hills picked up and then I expected that we would diverge as I’m a better hill climber than Jenn is.
10k mark passed, check. Hills done, check. Everything seems to be in order when sneakily, around mile nine or ten, things seem to not so much be in order anymore. I start to have more pain in the hips and thighs as I run. My walk breaks start to hurt(!?). I start to take more than 60 second walk breaks every five minutes. My pace slows from my projected 10:30 per mile to 11:00 and slower and things really start to hurt.
I was in dire straits from mile 18 onward and it was only the fact that I was not going to drop out of this god-damned marathon (yes, that’s what I was using as a mantra) that kept me going. I had thoughts that if things got worse I would be unable to complete the race. My muscles would just give in.
I wasn’t entirely at the end of my rope. At mile 22 or so I started doing the math to see if I was going to break the five-hour mark. I figured that I was on target but that it was going to be really really really close so I tried picking it up just a bit. Then at Mile 25 during my walk break I had numb fingers and toes and I was staggering around like a drunkard carrying an anvil so I slowed down a bit. Mile 26 and I had nothing left for the final leg to the finish, just get there and get done.
I received a winners necklace (in a Tiffany’s box) from a man in a tuxedo, but I can’t remember what he looked like. I was staggering at this point and had to go lie down. Which hurt as much as standing up (not fair!). As a complicating factor, the temperature was about 65 and the wind was blowing in off the ocean which meant as soon as I stopped running, the race to hypothermia began. I told Jenn that I was wrecked and that we had to get to the buses for our clothes, and then get the hell back to the hotel.
Impressions: The race was well-organized. There were plenty of water stops and support for the runners. Each mile was marked clearly with time boards so I got all my mile splits. The race results are fancy and cool. The Expo was bit boring, but they were space-constrained (in the middle of Union Square) and my desires for race expos are for more vendors and less fun stuff. I was impressed with the way they handled the bag drop, although they should explain the details of the system in the race instructions. It’s not that complicated but it gets VERY complicated if you’re trying to figure it out before lining up. I’m not sure why I had so much difficulty with this race because while I hadn’t trained as well as I wanted to, I had trained sufficiently to avoid a near breakdown like I had.
My final impression: I’ll never run this race again and I’ll discourage anyone else from doing it, too.
I won’t belabor the point that I made in this email. You can go read it there. However, Team in Training I think needs to take into account the effect that they had on me. I’m a practical, phlegmatic kind of person, but when I find myself looking at Team in Training t-shirts in the airport on the day after the race and having strong negative feelings, there’s a problem.
Jenn beat me by 3 and a half minutes, by the way. She caught up to me at a walk break around mile 24. She asked if I was ok (I wasn’t) and I told her to just run her own race. At the end of the walk break she took off at the speed of fast, and that just wasn’t fair. Love ya, honey!