My runs in the week leading up to this race left me feeling more discouraged than they should have. As per my watch (now old watch) I had trouble hitting my paces which were only 1-3km long. It was frustrating and left me questioning how I would perform during the race. If you’ve read any of my other recent posts, you know I was having some watch issues. Maybe it was the taper crazies or maybe I just got fed up, but that week, I bought myself a new watch because I couldn’t wrap my mind around running a marathon with a watch that doesn’t track distance accurately.
I went into this race with my primary intention being to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I also thought I would finish in about 3:28, not entirely sure where I got that number from, but for a while during the race I thought it was going to happen. Spoiler alert: I didn’t finish in 3:28, but I did BQ (!). If you just wanted the punchline then that’s that, but if you’re really interested in the nitty gritty details of my experience running my second 42.2 sit back relax and grab a coffee, cause that’s a lot of km to recap.
Jo and I wove our way through the start-line, seeding ourselves appropriately between the 3:25 and 3:35 pacer. Then, she took off weaving to the left not wanting our races to impact each other. The anthem finished, and off we went. It was a brisk morning, but the sun was out promising ideal conditions. I told myself not to start out too fast. My average pace for the first 5km was 4:54/km.
At km 6 the air filled with a sweet, smoky smell, pot, which caused a few laughs and comments from fellow runners. It was strong! For km 6-10 my pace increased a bit to 4:50/km and that continued from km 11-15 as well. I found myself with the 3:25 pacer for quarter or so of the race. From 16-20 I dropped a bit to 4:56, my stomach began to feel very full of water and bloated. I began to wonder whether I should stop to use a port-o-potty. I have never done this during a race, but during the final few km before the half-way point, I knew I couldn’t wait another 13 miles/21 km. As soon as I crossed the half-way timing mat, I darted into the port-o-potty, only wasting about 30 seconds. The second thing that happened at this point was, I became aware of my legs starting to feel tired. I had expected that to happen a bit later on, but it was more a mental than physical struggle I suppose.
Km 22-25 I felt better and averaged 4:55/km. I kept thinking, the race doesn’t start until 30km, and began counting down. The closer I got to the 30km mark, the more I wondered how I would feel when I got there. From 26-30 km I slowed a bit to 4:59/km. I did not enjoy the parts of the course along the river, and there was a lot of time spent there, not only was it monotonous, there was GPS interference and my pace would bounce around sometimes telling me I was running close to 6:00/km (which is hard to see), I knew I wasn’t and was thankful for keeping my KM pace notifications on, but it still annoyed me and brought my morale down a bit.
Km 31-35 were pretty brutal my pace plummeted to 5:13/km, it wasn’t fun. At some point in there I began counting down until the end of the race. There weren’t too many runners around nor spectators and I think it really would have helped if there were at this point. I heard heavy steps behind me and a man in an orange t-shirt said, “3:30, let’s go”. I was feeling pretty down at this point and mustered a “yeah”, but let him go on without me. I also knew, I could do a 3:30-31 even with this glacial pace, so long as I didn’t slow beyond 5:20, the perk of being able to do quick math even in that state. I am not sure if this constitutes “giving up” or if I really couldn’t have gone faster (in the moment I definitely would have said I couldn’t go faster). I also think that since my goal was to BQ and I knew I was on pace for that, maybe I didn’t need to try and force myself to run faster that day.
Km 36-40 were still pretty slow, 5:11/km but I did end up passing orange shirt in this stretch. In the last 5km I ended up with 2 ladies who had lined up beside me at the start, they were playing music out of a cell-phone and reasoning that they could still hit 3:30, one even suggested they run/walk. No way was I doing that, so I carried on past them alone, as strong as I could. Finally, I was back in town, finished running along the mentally draining river. The crowd support returned, the finish line was quickly approaching, and I started to feel better. After a final boost from EVRC (East Van Run Crew), I rounded the bend for my half-lap of Hayward Field to the finish. Km 41 was 5:15 and 42 was 5:02 and that little “sprint” to the finish line was 4:45/km. Official time 3:31:06.
There are a few things I took away from this race:
- This was only my second ever marathon and my expectations were probably too high.
- I ran 4 minutes faster than my first marathon, and that is great.
- I got a BQ (which was my A goal).
- I ran for 3:31 with no music (and it wasn’t bad).
- My legs didn’t feel like they were being ripped apart the day/week after, and I recovered so fast.
- Maybe I started out too fast?
- The marathon will likely always be a humbling race.
As soon as I crossed the line I felt faint, then I got my medal, some photos, my bag of goodies and some water and started to feel better. I had no idea where Jo was since I had not seen here since the start. I later found out we were only a minute apart during the first half of the race and she also had no idea where I was either. That is, until sometime in the last quarter where she saw one of my empty Endurance Tap gels on the ground and deducted that I must have passed that point already. We sat on the fake grass for a bit, put our names on the massage list and headed over to the Ninkasi tent for a hard-earned beer.
Sometime in the hour that followed, I started to plan my next marathon.