Sunday morning my goals for this race were posted during the middle of my run. I was confident my training prepared me to come very close to my PR of 1:42:49, but didn’t toss sub 1:40 put the window either. As you can see above, I certainly did not come close to my PR and no where near that sub 1:40. I’m okay with that.
When I finished the race, I felt completely okay with my time. I still do. But I also had a lot of “I don’t want to train anymore” thoughts. I immediately said, “I got what I trained for,” and that was kind of what I felt for the back half of the race. After a few hours of thinking and looking back at my splits, I think I have a much better time in me and the course/weather got the best of me. That is partially training related (really thought I had those hills down) and also partially uncontrollable (weather), but paired together really did me in.
Overall the weekend in Pittsburgh was great. We enjoyed the expo briefly (I’m not a huge expo person), saw the botanical gardens, ate at a few restaurants and relaxed. Unfortunately, our motel was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t remember the location of the last Motel 6 we stayed at so I picked a different location and the beds were so different — hard, one pillow per person, and hardly any blankets. That sucked.
Race morning I was happy to see the forecast changed to less rain than it has leading up in the week. I drank some water with wild berry Nuun Energy and ate a Honey Stinger waffle on the drive to our parking lot. Once parked around 5:05am, we hung out for about twenty minutes before starting our walk to the start area.
Because it might rain, I wore the Bills hat I brought just to wear around the city and I’m so glad I did. I typically don’t run in regular baseball caps but it wasn’t too bad. It was kind of preferable! We took a slow walk towards the start and I noticed it was already a little warm. I had shorts, tank top, calf sleeves, a throwaway long sleeve and poncho but I would have been okay in just shorts and tank even in the dark of 5:30am. Not good.
I started to drink my UCAN and made my way into the start corrals; J headed back to the car to drop off some stuff. His plan was to see me at mile 4 and on the next bridge, which was about mile 4.75. I took my time drinking my fuel and went into the line for bathrooms a second time. I still hadn’t had my pre-race poop but truth be told, I think I’ve only pre-race pooped like twice, ever. It really doesn’t bother me most times. In fact, I don’t think I pre-race pooped before the Chicago Marathon either. I guess in that regard, I’m a lucky one.
I did some active warm-ups and ankling prior to finding my place in the corral, right behind the 3:30 marathon pacer. He came after I had found where I wanted to start (corral A is 8:00/mile pace and faster) but I felt okay where I was, not because I thought I’d run that quick but because there was plenty of room around me. After the anthems, I tossed my poncho and still felt very warm, sticky almost, from the humidity. I had already used my rescue inhaler three times at this point, both because of the weather and because I ran out of my steroid inhaler earlier in the week, so I was preparing mentally (I thought) for the race to suck.
When the race began, I immediately felt emotional and had to hold it together. You cannot cry before you even start your Garmin, Brittany! Who knows what that was about, but I kicked it right out.
Miles 1-3 (7:47, 7:49, 8:00)
I tried to settle into a good pace and run smart tangents right off the bat. The rain started literally as soon as the gun went off (or maybe it was a horn?) I was immediately thankful for my hat. As per usual, the first miles felt easy. I kept glancing at my watch and seeing 8s but when my miles ticked, I was pleasantly surprised. I grabbed Gatorade at the first water stop which isn’t something I normally would do but it was humid and I recalled last year’s bought of dehydration in the middle of the Buffalo Half Marathon and did not rant to trigger that!
Miles 4-6 (7:49, 7:52, 8:03)
I started to feel the humidity towards the end of mile 3 but told myself it was too early to bitch about the weather. I had some good training and I knew I could lock into 8s at least. I heard J at mile 4 but totally missed him among the crowd so I made a point to find him on the next bridge. He was a bright spot amidst the rain and hills that already felt taxing and that made me nervous. I knew I wouldn’t see him til the finish and I had a feeling I would need to see him before that.
I took three Honey Stinger Chews at mile 5 and ditched the wrapper with the rest. It was too much to fumble with while running and I only hoped I wouldn’t regret that decision. Given how my stomach felt chewing those that early in the race, I didn’t think I could stomach them later in the race anyways.
Miles 7-9 (8:11, 7:55, 8:26)
I started to fade. There were a couple hills that I really started to feel leading into this portion and I started to question everything. Surely my training was better than I was doing, right? A few girls passed me and they looked so relaxed. I was jealous. I was staring one in particular down wondering if it was somebody from Twitter and trying to figure out how I could tell. I actually considered running in front of her, turning around, and staring at her bib. Instead I just said her name and decided if she didn’t turn around maybe they’d think I was talking to somebody else… Good thing she turned around! We ran together briefly, she was talking it easy … But her easy pace was my race pace.
I knocked out that 7:55 after our chat but mentally I gave up on the PR. I even gave up on the 1:45. Looking back, I wish I didn’t. My legs were feeling sorry for themselves but I truly was not that far off PR pace after 8. If I could knock out a couple 7:4x, and then stay below 8, I’d be right there, but I wasn’t thinking like that. I started to think more along the lines of “hang on, don’t walk”.
Miles 10-12 (8:45, 8:51, 9:30)
These were some dark, ugly miles. I felt sorry for myself. Then I thought I deserved whatever happened because my training was sub par. I did not train for a 1:40 and it was silly to think I had a chance. Many times I wanted to walk but instead I just let myself go as slow as I needed to keep moving at running pace. Mile 10 was a slight uphill and I couldn’t even embrace the downhill into 11. My legs were toast and I was struggling with my breath, I thought I might need my inhaler which wound be a mid race first (typically I don’t even race with it!)
Just after mile 11 a group was handing out cups filled with beer. I glanced at my watch and confirmed what I already knew — I was nowhere near a PR. So I grabbed a beer. This has been a bucket list thing for me, as silly as it might sound. Anytime beer on the race course has been offered, I’ve been in the middle of a race I am running great, near a PR, or running to see what I’m at fitness-wise. At that moment I wasn’t doing any of that anymore and so I grabbed the cup and drank what tasted like college all over again. It was the best damn beer of my life. Honestly, it gave me just the boost I needed and didn’t even affect my stomach. Might this be the new race fuel? I slogged up that unforsaken hill in mile 12 and didn’t care how bad it hurt or how slow I went. I was just happy to finally check off that stupid little race bucket list item.
Mile 13 to the Finish (8:38, 7:06 pace)
That stretch to the finish was just another confirmation that I was absolutely done. I struggled to pick up my pace on a downhill that was visually so appealing. It should have felt easy to run, but everything was fatigued right down to my lungs. Then I felt like the finish was near but didn’t want to kick it in to soon in case I had to make a quick turn and see another 400m or something stupid. I had a few women near me I tried to out sprint, something I typically excel at, but nope, no gas in the tank. I saw 1:48 in the distance on the clock and made that my only goal — finish under 1:50!
After the race, I found J and we snagged a picture in front of a fountain before making our long walk to the car. Everyone was texting me with congratulations for making it under my goal — 1:50. As it turns out, my friends were texting each other trying to remember what my goal was and thought it was 1:50. It was sweet and appreciated with their tracking of me, but I had to break it to them… I wasn’t near my goal.
Now that I’ve had time to settle, I am so happy I’m not injured and really not to sore, just fatigued. Those hills really did a number on me despite all the runs at Chestnut Ridge! I have four weeks until Buffalo which includes two weekends totally away from home, so we will see what I feel after a brief recovery. I’m glad I didn’t push more because I feel like I can come back and have a solid effort at Buffalo still, even though at 3pm Sunday, I didn’t want to run double digits ever again.
I still have some time to decide if that’s what I want, but I think it is. I can get in two to three more weeks of training before another taper. After talking to some other people, I wasn’t just being a baby about the humidity, it was noticeable. I’m sure that had something to do with the way I felt (so salty.) Plus Buffalo is flat and I don’t have to deal with awful mattresses and loud neighbors, so maybe I can try again… If my mind will allow it!