ING Miami Marathon: From a 3:45 to Just Finish.

I don’t know what happened. I spent 20 miles trying to push myself and analyze why my body wasn’t cooperating but am still baffled. It took every ounce of energy and willpower to just finish but I did. Three marathons completed.

Backing up a little…I was so excited for this race. I couldn’t wait to run 26.2 miles as a stronger  and more mature runner than I was almost three years ago. The long training runs and singular focus on running circled through my mind as I drove down to Miami on Saturday. I visualized myself crossing the finish line and enjoying hard work and dedication pay off.

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The expo was full of vendors and well organized. No issues (or lines) picking up my packet, bib, and t-shirt. I ended up buying The Stick, which has been on my wish list for years. For anybody that doesn’t know, The Stick helps you massage your muscles by rolling this semi-flexible rod with independent inch segments. You can roll over lightly or knead deeper and actually feel out trigger points. I enjoy getting massages but don’t have easy access ($$) on a regular basis so this seemed like a good solution.

The stick

After the expo, I headed to a friend’s house to catch up, get dinner, and get a good night’s rest. Thankfully I slept really well and race morning had finally arrived and I was out the door by 4:45 AM. An hour later, there I was in my corral surrounded by other runners who were dancing and talking among each other trying to ward off pre-race jitters. Unfortunately, the pace group I’d been hoping to run with was no where in sight (usually you can spot a stick with the goal time as a flag).

The predicted race start in the high 50’s was more like high 60’s creeping into the 70’s. I was already wiping off sweat due to the humidity before even running. Welcome to Miami…in January. Fireworks went off to signal the race start and 10-15 minutes later my corral was moving forward.

My goal pace was right around 8:35 min/mile but I was wanted to hold slightly under 8:30’s for the first few miles to help with extra time added from hills (aka: bridges) and slowing for water stops. The first 6 miles felt easy…right on track. This was going to be fun. Then, for some reason, my body started to struggle to hold 8:35 min/miles. Considering, I’d just run a 1:40 half marathon 2 weeks earlier, this was unexpected.

I held on for a few more miles and then the pace started to slow down and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. My stomach started to feel nauseous and my mind started to feel dizzy. My quadriceps and hamstring muscles felt tired. My piriformis in both gluteal regions started flare up. Apparently, I irritate this muscle by pronating while running and I irritate it further when stressed or by sitting/sleeping on really soft surfaces. Basically, I clench my butt when I’m stressed. No fun.  Especially because the piriformis muscle sits right on your sciatic nerve and when inflamed it can irritate that nerve causing a shooting pain down your leg.

piriformis-tps

At the half marathon point the runners separated. Half marathoners (basically everybody on the course) to the left and marathoners to the right. I contemplated for the previous 3 miles just calling it a day and veering to the left. I was miserable. Somehow my pace hadn’t dropped off too much by that point because my half time was around 1:53, close to my goal.

From there, it just got worse. My pace slowed significantly and mentally I just wanted to quit. I knew at this point I wasn’t touching 3:45 and if things continued to go this way I wasn’t going to break 4 hours. My plan went from a 20 minute PR to just finish. I decided it would be more disappointing to DNF (Did Not Finish) since I could technically keep running.

The marathon community was great. Whenever anybody would walk (like myself at a few points), somebody would cheer, clap, and smile at them to keep going. Within two seconds that person would usually pick it back up to a run.

Thankfully, the course was set up with an aid station at every half mile point which means every half mile you had something to look forward to (aid station or mile marker). Half mile by half mile, I pushed onward and eventually crossed the finish line somewhere under 4:20.  I’d be lying by saying I wasn’t disappointed in my time and race but it was a huge psychological accomplishment to finish despite my body falling apart. The next few hours my body continued to feel nauseous but eventually I felt human again.

There are no excuses just lessons and a promise to myself to try again. For now, triathlon season is calling my name.

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Lessons Learned

1. Training in Florida does not prepare you for the humidity in Miami. The ING Miami Marathon is a great race but I don’t suggest it for a PR marathon.

2. Training partners are motivating but put in a few long runs alone because you might be running by yourself on race day.

3. Stick to the training plan. By far, I’ve never put so much work into running so I should have at least ran a best time but there were still a few long runs that got cut short because “life got in the way”.

4. I need to cross train. I was running 5-6 days a week and next time it will be more like 4-5 days of actual running with more cycling and swimming. I thought it would help to focus on running but there were too many workouts on tired legs.

5. Accept every race isn’t going to be a great race. I spent 20 miles beating myself up for struggling through this marathon. I just couldn’t get into the mindset of “let’s just do this for fun” once I realized my body wasn’t cooperating.

6. Be proud of just finishing. After the race, a guy who’d ran the half came up to me with congratulations for finishing the full. He said he saw a lot of people walking around with the orange bibs (signifying full marathoner) with the blue medal (signifying finishing the half marathon). Thank you random guy for making me feel better.

Thanks to everybody for the support and good wishes! I slept 12 hours last night and feel so much better. Off to study more for the nursing boards. My future boss sent me really nice welcome card in the mail last week. Such a pleasant and sweet surprise. I can’t believe I start work next week! Yikes!

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17 Responses to ING Miami Marathon: From a 3:45 to Just Finish.

  1. That’s some serious mental toughness you’ve got finishing that race, especially with all that fatigue. And ugh, sciatic nerve pain. I hate my piriformis.

  2. Amy says:

    I’m sorry it didn’t go as planned-my first marathon a few months ago was a complete disappointment that i still haven’t recovered from. Not cross training was definitely one of my biggest mistakes that i won’t be repeating when i finally get to run my second marathon.

    • TriCourt says:

      Have you decided which marathon you want to do for your second one?

      • Amy says:

        Hahaha…i DID have a race chosen and a training plan all laid out for Oct 2012. I was also scheduled to do my first half ironman as well this summer, but my body had other plans-my husband and i just found out we are expecting a (surprise) baby #3! So all my plans will be postponed until 2013. I was upset at first, but Sister Madonna is over 80 and still attempting Ironman Canada (i watched her miss the bike cutoff by less than 30 seconds in August) so i’m sure putting off my plans for another year won’t affect me in the long run-i’ll get my dreams completed!

      • TriCourt says:

        What a great surprise! Congrats! You don’t want to finish a marathon while pregnant?! Wimp. Sister Madonna is pretty incredible and definitely keeps you in check with what the human body is capable of despite age. Have you read her book “The Grace to Race”? It’s really inspiring.

      • Amy says:

        I can’t seem to reply to your last reply-oh well.

        Thanks, and yes, i’m a complete wimp! I would be about a month postpartum in October-it would be the slowest marathon in history! Sister Madonna was signing copies of her book at IMC, but i forgot to go! I think i was drooling at the bikes in the bike lot and lost track of time. I have a friend who has a copy so i’m hoping to borrow it from her one of these days. I’m looking forward to reading about your triathlons this summer since i won’t be able to do any of my own 🙂

  3. Lauren says:

    I think it is harder to finish a race sometimes than to PR. Great job sticking it out…now go kick some triathlon ass and dont worry about the marathon distance until November 🙂

  4. Peter Blomgren says:

    Ugh, been there, done that… at The Marathon That Shall Never Be Mentioned Again. Sometimes, even though your preparation is right on, raceday is just a miserable painfest. Good job on pushing through and finishing, next time *will* be better.

    • TriCourt says:

      PB! You shouldn’t give that marathon more power by not naming it! Agreed, next time will be better. I sulked for a few hours, wrote this post, and I’m looking ahead.

  5. Courtney says:

    marathons are so, so hard. you can train your ass off but you still need a combo of factors to go right come race day. 26 miles is no joke. great job finishing and awesome reflections.

    • TriCourt says:

      Thanks for the reminder! I don’t run marathons often so I put a lot of pressure on this one. Congrats on the Hawaii marathon. That looked pretty incredible and what a fun time to actually enjoy with a friend.

  6. I had almost the exact same mental race with the miami half this weekend. It was CRAZY humid. Like running through a thick miserable cloud. Sigh, oh well. I was so happy when it was over!

  7. great job pushing through- you know i completely understand after my disaster in Houston (in which i happily took the DNF- i’d missed the turn for the 1/2). i put philly on my calendar and will let you know closer to registration if i’m in or not. i’ve got some issues going on myself right now that we’re trying to figure out- issues that weren’t present in training, just popped up race day. on to the next one… 🙂 congrats on your finish!!

  8. I heard that Miami was HOT and HUMID as crap. I just can’t deal with weather like that…..

    When I ran my first marathon in Nov 2011, I had to work super hard to explain to myself that it just wasn’t my day. I really struggled to come to terms with it, but then in the end I was proud of pushing through and finishing. It inspired me to sign up for my 2nd just a month later and I’m so glad that I did so that I could get the BQ that had been sneaking around the back of my head, but that I was too scared to admit that it was what I had really wanted.

    Anyway, so proud of you for pushing through it.

    And CONGRATS on being pregnant!!

    • TriCourt says:

      Thanks Katherine. I read your recap when you qualified for Boston…awesome race! Are you racing Boston this year? Looks like I’ll be checking out some more books on your list since you obviously have good book taste 🙂 I listen to a lot of books too while running.

  9. and PS I have read those other books that you mentioned by Atul Gwande, LOVE them, in fact I think better is on my list!

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