Sunday, December 2, 2012

NOT a Race Report

Mile-by-mile race reports don't do it for me. They're kind of like birth stories. I'll be honest -- I'm not sure I've ever read an entire birth story. Even my own. (Except for this one. My friend Natalie has a birth story to top them all.)

(I can call her "my friend" now because, as you'll see below, I actually met her face-to-face instead of just stalking her via the Internet.)

The other problem with a mile-by-mile race report is it would require A) remembering each mile and B) a watch to have documented my time along the route. I don't have either.

What I do have is a list of lessons I learned.**

Have a watch.
I felt all zen-like running without a watch. When the woman standing beside me at the start exclaimed, "What?! You're trying to qualify for Boston and you don't even have a watch?!" I panicked for a second.

I left my watch in a hotel room a couple of weeks ago, and my call to the front desk manager yielded no results. So I decided to wing it and use Map My Run. I've used the app successfully since losing my watch, but it was a gigantic mistake trying to use it Saturday. Either the satellite kept shifting or the mile markers were way off because the Map My Run lady didn't jive with the race clocks along the course.

Major head games from the start. Eventually I turned it all off.

Have you ever tried to run a marathon without having any idea of your pace? I don't recommend it. The poor girl I was quizzing at mile 10 probably wouldn't recommend it either: "Um, excuse me? What's your pace? What corral did you start in? What's your finish goal? Half or full?" Bless her heart. She finally pointed me back to her husband.

Nix the phone while running.
Genius, I thought. Have my phone equipped with music and Map My Run. Listen to my NPR podcasts to ease me into the race, then listen to music Amanda uploaded to keep me going, then listen to the "California Love" station on Pandora to bring it home. It would be my first time running a race with headphones. Genius.

Except that Ryan chose the exact moment I was shuffling over the starting line to call. Then text. Then text again. (He was in NC while I ran the race in Memphis.)

If you've ever tried to navigate the start of a race with thousands of other people, you know it's chaotic. It's intense, exciting, and takes concentration.

It wasn't a time for me to try to text and run, that's for sure.

Then an hour into the race, my phone rang. My uncle called. Then Ryan texted me again. Every time someone called or texted it stopped my music. And made me dizzy.

Next time I'll use the iPod.

The kids can spectate when they're older.
He's fine now, but my dad had a bit of a health scare before the race. I had no idea until after I crossed the finish line. My mother and sister still brought the kids to the race and stayed the whole time. They were at mile 13 and the finish line, which was wonderful. They were great cheerleaders.

Juggling three kids downtown for four hours wouldn't have been easy under ideal circumstances. As it was, my sister says it was the most traumatic day of her life. And she's not the dramatic one in the family. Maybe if Ryan were there it would work, but with three, we'll probably just wait until they're older and/or able to run it themselves.

Wear a fuel belt.
I've never worn a fuel belt (with bottles for fluid) during a race, but I will next time. I just can't master the drinking-from-a-cup-while-running thing. The little containers in my fuel belt have a specialized top for the Drinking Challenged.

Embrace the lonely.
I flew solo for this race's start. It was kind of nice -- I didn't have to wait on anyone or worry about anyone else's comfort (or bowels). I left the house when I was ready and navigated the pre-race stuff easily and efficiently. I was ready to go in the corral without too much or too little time before the gun.

Port-a-johns as far as the eye can see.

Be open to surprises.
Natalie was running her first half-marathon, and I got to meet her after a few years of following each other's blogs. It was brief but awesome.

At mile 18.5 I ran by an apartment building and heard my name. Standing on the sidewalk was a very, very dear friend that I hadn't seen in ten years. He hugged me, and it literally put a bounce in my step for the next two miles -- enough to bound right over The Wall and allow me to send a happy text to Ryan to make up for text-yelling at him earlier. Seeing Jeremy was incredible.

Beale St.

Ditch the expectations. Again and again and again.
It is demoralizing to start out with a pace group and see it fade away in the distance. Then to see the next pace group pass and fade. Then the next. It hurts.

But I got over it. At some point I decided to run the pace that felt good. (Of course, I didn't know what pace that actually was.) It happened to be much slower than I've run before. This was my slowest marathon.

But it felt better than two others I've run at a faster pace. My must-have goal was to finish without sobbing in pain and defeat. I met that goal.

I haven't kept a record of all my finishing times, so last night I looked them up in the race archives.

Chicago Marathon 10/9/2005
St. Jude Marathon 12/2/2006
Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon 5/2/2010
St. Jude Marathon 12/1/2012

So, I didn't qualify for Boston. It's the third time I've been convinced it was possible, and it's the third time I've missed the mark in a big way.

There's always next year. After all, I joined a gym. Now I have to run faster.

I sense a Spring marathon coming on. Carmel, IN, anyone?

**These are my lessons and not intended to be advice. Every race there's a huge list of lessons, yet every race is getting harder. Either my time gets exponentially slower with each child or there are way too many lessons to learn.

***Just for fun, I looked up my first half marathon time, which is what gave me this racing fever thing. It took digging because I didn't even remember the year! Come to find out, it was the year we got married -- and the inaugural race for the St. Jude Marathon and Half in 2002. I ran just about the same pace Saturday as I did that first race.

There were 96 women in my age group for that race. This year there were 255 in that same age group for the half. Impressive.


  1. You amaze me. Great job - I'm so proud of you! I know you'll be doing it again and will be even better. LOVE that we got to have lunch together. SAD that I didn't get someone to take our picture (Helen? Daniel? That would have been so entertaining!). Love you!

    1. I so enjoyed lunch. It made my heart sing to see you guys. I wish I could hear you play this Christmas season!

  2. Alright, I should have commented a LOOOOONG time ago. Alright, maybe just last week but I read it on my iPad and hate typing on that stupid thing. And this is the first time that I've sat down at the actual computer and remembered, "Oh yeah! I forgot to comment on Michelle's blog." I'm terrible sorry!

    First, thanks for the shout out. I feel a little special making it on your blog. =) Second it was AWESOME to finally meet you even if it was just in passing as I took my slow self back to the non-awesome runners corral. Just kidding.

    I love your race recap and agree with so much of it. I *HAVE* to have my Garmin now when I run. I try not to obsessively look at it, but just having it has become like a part of me. One training run I accidently bumped it and paused it and I remember how crushed I was when I looked down and it didn't have information. And I am with you on the fuel belt. I am drinking while running impaired too. I just can't get the hang of it. So I think next half I do I'm just going to run with the belt, even though I'm closing the lid all the way impaired and end up sloshing a ton of water down my back side. At least I'll be able to refill it at a water station if I loose too much water and need a refill.

    I'm sorry you didn't qualify for Boston but if it makes any difference I'm super impressed with your time and your distance. I can't believe you ran 26.2 miles! You are Super Woman! After we hugged my friends asked who that was, and I said quite proudly, "Oh that's my friend. She's running the full today." And they were all impressed, especially with you corral pace. You rock my socks off.

    Oh and next time have your family hang out with mine for extra kid care help. =)

  3. I can't believe you were texting during your marathon. Ha ha. I also feel a dear kinship to a fellow night-sewist and training for a marathon while juggling three kids. I'm always trying to balance those two competing activities. Sewing into the night long enough to accomplish something but leaving enough to make a training run in the morning. Congrats. 26.2 miles is amazing no matter what your expectations. I always hope that one day I'll qualify but I've never actually said it because I don't want to make it a thing.

    1. Aurelie! I've been so excited by your comments! Another sewing mama of three who runs marathons!

      Sometimes I feel foolish lamenting the late-night sewing/early-morning training dilemma. Now I know at least one other person gets it!


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