I guess I’ve mulled this over and put it off long enough, so it’s time to recap Albany.
I went into the marathon after taking 2 1/2 weeks totally off of running due to pain. My last run that I tried prior to Albany was supposed to be a 5 mile run, and I made it about 2 1/2 before having to bail out due to the pain in my hip and calf. During those last few runs, I had also had some inner knee/upper shin pain, but it was secondary to the calf and hip pain, so I really hadn’t paid it any attention. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have even tried the Albany marathon, but after training for essentially 6 months since I went straight from half training and continued into full training, I wasn’t about to throw it all away. Call it stupidity or stubbornness or a little of both, but I wasn’t backing out, and even now, knowing what happened, I know that I should have, but I can still tell you that I wouldn’t have.
Dani picked me up on Friday around 2:30PM. We picked up Bonnie after that, and we all headed down to Albany. When we arrived, we headed straight to the expo to grab our packets. Dani got injured early on in training, and wisely decided to take time off and not try Albany, so she was just along on this trip to cheer a few of us on. Bonnie had just decided to run the half and signed up within the past week. We all got in and out of the expo with our packets in less than 15 minutes or so. It was well organized and easy to get in and out of.
After the expo, we headed to our hotel that was about 15 minutes away to quickly check in to our room prior to meeting our group for dinner at Villa Gargano. You’d think that the Italian restaurants in town would know that this race happens every year, and they would anticipate the influx of runners coming to their restaurants for pasta, but I guess it slipped their minds. We had figured we’d have to wait a bit to get seated, so one of us had arrived early to put our name in for a table. The wait was longer than they said, but no more than I had expected on a Friday night in a small town with thousands of extra people. After we were seated, we were hoping the food would be fairly quick. The dining room didn’t seat many, so you wouldn’t think the kitchen would be crazy busy, but I guess it was due to the take out orders. I have to say, the service was pretty bad. Three of us ordered chicken parmigiano which was supposed to come with pasta. We were all missing the pasta. 😦 I’m not sure how you plate that and leave off the pasta which was supposed to be underneath, but it is what it is, so we asked for the pasta, and they brought it out on the side. We kind of needed the pasta since that was why we came to an Italian restaurant the night before our marathon. Other items were also forgotten as well, but the food tasted GREAT! So, if you visit, just make sure you have plenty of patience. 😉
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, prepped for the morning, and hit the hay. Saturday morning, we all met downstairs at 5:30AM and headed to the race. A friend from our running club was set up at the start line with his RV, and he made a fire for us and allowed us to use his facilities, no porta-potties needed, SCORE!
As race time approached, we all went our own way as we lined up. There were no official waves or corrals since there were only about 2000 runners total, but they had pace groups, so everyone lined up close to the pace for which they were shooting. All my training runs had me on target to finish around 4:40-4:45 prior to getting hurt, and I like to start slower and build, so I figured the 5 hour group would probably be around the pace I needed to start, 11:3o-ish per mile.
At 7AM, the gun fired. Off we went, 26.2 miles to go. My calves and hips were tight immediately, and I started faster than I should, so I slowed up a bit hoping my hips and calves would loosen up. Other than those two things, I felt pretty good. No pain really, so I was hoping things were going to go my way. Around mile 5, my calves finally loosened up, and there was no pain. Hallelujah! My hips were still tight, but no pain. At this point, the tightness in my hips had me concerned even though they weren’t hurting. They were definitely tighter than they had ever been in the past, but I continued, and I started picking up the pace since my calves had loosened up.
I felt good for about the next 3 miles. Around mile 9 or 10, I started feeling more tightness in my hips, and a little bit of the knee pain that I had felt several weeks back. That same knee pain that hadn’t ever really been an issue because it was always secondary to the calf and hip pain. At this point, I really didn’t think much of that pain. I was more concerned about the tightness in my hips that wasn’t loosening up and seemed to be getting worse. At this point, I decided to ease back up on the pace some, and see if that helped. It was time to throw the thoughts about the negative splits I can usually manage out the window, and just I’d just shoot for consistency. An 11:30 pace would bring me in around the 5 hour mark.
Little did I know, this was the start of my decline. I was able to hold onto that pace for about 4 miles before the knee pain started bugging me more, and I slowly started falling off pace. “No problem,” I told myself. I knew things might no go completely smooth considering the last few weeks. We’ll just shoot for a 12 mm. Michelle & Jennifer were shooting for 5:30, so maybe I’ll get to finish it out with them.
By mile 15, the knee pain was the ONLY pain on my mind, and my pace fell even more. I’m sure my hips were still tight, but I really don’t remember because I was in a mental battle at this point with myself about whether this was really a bad pain or if I was just being a wuss since my knee had not been the issue in training. I tried to pick the pace back up to a 12mm, and that lasted briefly, but by mile 18, all hope of maintaining that was gone. At this point, I was pissed off. 6 months of training down the drain is what I kept thinking, and I still had 8 miles to go.
For miles 18-21, I tried to change up the ratio and walk more with shorter stints of running hoping that I could finish by still running a little. At this point, I was making around a 15-17mm, and I was wondering when I’d see Michelle & Jennifer knowing now that I couldn’t finish with them. I no longer looked forward to seeing them, not because I wasn’t happy for them, but because I knew they were the 5:30 group which meant I was headed towards 6 hours. Around mile 18, I had started calculating my finish time knowing I couldn’t do more than a 15 minute mile, and realistically, knowing that I would be closer to a 17-18 minute mile considering the pain I was in and it was getting worse. Being mentally defeated, the quickest way to calculate time was to round it to 20mm, so as I reached the 20 mile mark, I knew I had about 2 hours still to go. This was a VERY dark place for me, and I really wanted to sit down and quit. One mile at a time is what my motto became.
I believe it was mile 22(honestly I don’t remember) when Jennifer and Michelle finally passed me. They said hey and asked if I was ok. I said yes, and off they went. I broke down at this point in tears. I have a high tolerance for pain, so the tears weren’t due to the pain. They were due to anger. Anger because this wasn’t how I wanted to remember my first marathon. I wanted to enjoy it, but I was also too angry to give up and just say I’d try again. All that training wasn’t going to be thrown away. “Suck it up & keep moving” kept repeating over and over in my head. Finishing is better than giving in even if it’s not a fun memory, and there’s always next time. Around this point is when I started thinking about doing another marathon because I wasn’t going to have a marathon defeat me like this for my permanent memory of what one is like. I think I was madder than I had been in years, and yet, there was nothing I could do about it to make myself feel better…..except FINISH! If I finish, then it didn’t totally defeat me….yeah, I wasn’t really buying that. I was still going to feel totally defeated, but finishing is still something.
Around mile 23, a golf cart of some sort that I guess was with the race also passed me. The driver looked over, but I barely made eye contact and looked away quickly, so he kept going. THANK YOU GOD! I seriously think if he’d have asked me if I was ok, then I’d have broken down in tears again, and I probably would have taken a ride if offered. Smiling at the cheering volunteers was difficult at this point, but I really didn’t want ANY of them asking if I was ok, so I did my best to grin and try to avoid limping too much in front of them. It wasn’t going to take much for me to say no and give up. This battle continued over the next 3 miles. I remember looking at the curb and thinking about sitting down several times, but I knew I wouldn’t get back up. Just one step in front of the other. Continual forward progress. You’ve made it this far, what’s another 3 miles!?!?!?
As I approached the last section heading to the finish line, I saw my friends. I honestly can’t tell you which ones were all there. I know Dani was because she gave me a hug and walked next to me for a few minutes as I broke down in tears AGAIN! I know I heard some strange guy yelling my name & cheering for me. I realized it was Jeneen’s husband Jesse as I got closer, and after I crossed the finish line, I got hugs from Diane and Jeneen as well. All my running buddies know I hate hugs, but that day, hugs were allowed and appreciated.
As soon as I was done, we headed to the car. Dani offered to go get it & pick me up, but I was just ready to get to it & head to the hotel for a shower, so I slowly walked with her & Bonnie. Bonnie handed me a goodie bag from Christine that had several goodies in it. I never got to see her after the race, but I appreciated her sweet thoughtfulness.
We arrived at the hotel in about 10-15 minutes, and that was all it took for my knee to totally tighten up. As I stepped out of the car, the pain was so bad that I really wished that I had crutches. Kevin was in the lobby of the hotel and gave me another hug and caused more tears. I’m not one to cry in front of family, much less in front of running buddies, and there were lots of tears that day that just couldn’t be stopped which was another thing that was making me mad. I hobbled on up to the hotel room with Dani, and Bonnie walked in about 2 minutes later. Bonnie asked if I wanted to shower first, and by this point, I was in too much pain to even want to walk much less stand in a shower, so I told her to go ahead, and that they were just going to have to deal with me because I was waiting until I got home, so I could take a bath & not be in a hurry. Plus, by this point, I was no longer sweaty since I had walked the last several miles.
My knee still hurts 2 weeks later. I’ll give you that update in a later blog.
My Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/453508478