THE RACE AND MENTAL BATTLE
As our corral reached the starting line, Angela and I told each other good luck one last time, and we were off. I was immediately having to slow myself down, so I eased to the right hand side of the road to get out of the middle of the crowd. This is typically where I find myself anyway in longer races because I don’t like to get caught up in the pace of the crowd since I prefer to start slower and pick up the pace later. The middle also always seems to be faster than what the corral seeding would suggest unless you move to the edge, so off to the right side of the road is where I usually settle in for the first few miles.
Mile 1 wound through the Warehouse District of NOLA and the road had a camber to it that seemed to be aggravating my IT band immediately, so I started questioning within that first mile what I was planning on doing, and if I should make the decision then to ditch the full and just go ahead and try for a PR in the half (yes, this actually ran through my head). Then, I wondered if it was just my mind trying to convince me that my IT band was bugging me, and maybe I was just having flashbacks to Albany and was SCARED of a repeat of that misery (I really think this was my problem). Soon, the crowd thinned out enough that I could move back towards the center of the road where the road leveled slightly. My attempt to keep my run around a 10 minute mile wasn’t working. It seemed to be creeping closer to a 9:30 mm, so I finally just went with it because that was where my pace felt comfortable (not really a recommended method for marathons, but then again, neither is any of this) and my heart rate was where I thought it needed to be for the first part of the race (z1/low z2).
Around the end of mile 1, we came out on St. Charles Ave for what would be the next 6 1/2 miles of an out and back portion. St. Charles Ave is a street divided by trolley tracks and grass in the middle island. The road is at a camber from the center island to the right edge of the road. Now, I couldn’t get to a level section. For about the next mile, this messed with my head, until I noticed people running on the hard packed, level dirt in the middle of the trolley tracks. Maybe it was all mental, but as soon as I moved to the trolley tracks, my IT band started feeling better. I kept an eye out for the 5K and 10K timing mats and made sure I moved to the road as I approached them, and I finally took my first water cup and added an ounce of Osmo at the 3 mile mark even though I didn’t really want to since I’d already stopped in the first 2 miles at a gas station to use the bathroom (gas stations and stores are quicker than porta potty lines, just sayin’). I essentially ran on the trolley tracks’ packed dirt for the next 6 miles until we moved off St Charles Ave. I realized at that point (mile 8ish) I hadn’t drank anything other than that 1 cup of water. Time to start thinking!
As soon as we were off St. Charles, I started noticing the IT band again, and I started hearing Coach Chuck ( http://www.peakracingteam.com ) in my head telling me to run smart. That was the last advice he’d PM’d me at 5:55AM that morning. Over the next 4 miles, Coach Chuck and I had a really long (surprisingly not one sided) conversation. I was getting lectured a lot about my lack of hydration, but it didn’t seem to help. It wasn’t hot, and I already felt the need to pee again, so I didn’t want to hydrate (not the best logic). I did grab one more cup and added Osmo around mile 9 or 10, so I was up to maybe 6 ounces. That’s better than I usually do for a half Chuck, so you should be happy! He was also reminding me that I had a big season ahead, and I didn’t need to get my training derailed at the beginning of tri season. That one kept playing over and over in my head. Risk injury for a marathon, or go into this tri season healthy? Listen to your body. Around mile 10 just after we passed Cafe Du Monde (YUMMY!), we passed the open air market, and I caught a glimpse of a bathroom sign, so I ducked in the restroom there (score #2, no porta potty & no line!). The next couple of miles seemed like some of the longest in my mind. I was still debating what I should do. If I did go for it and hurt myself, then what was going to be Chuck’s response? How ticked off was I going to be at myself? Was I going to end up walking 10 miles again? If I’m going to run the full, I want it to be a good run, not that I just finished. I want to finish feeling good, not miserable. I still don’t even count Albany, and I’m still ticked at myself for doing it.
ARRGGHHHH!!!!! There’s the split! Just after mile 12, the cones and signs appeared. I could go straight and be done, or I could turn left and commit.
I stopped to dig out my phone, snap a photo, and post to Facebook since I knew I had friends
stalking tracking me. I simply posted the photo with the comment “choices?” With a deep breath, I turned left and headed for the full, and literally, as soon as the course completely split, I started considering turning around and going back. Two ladies did turn back. I’m not sure if they misunderstood the split or why, but they were turning around. I briefly though about joining them, but I continued.
This was another little out and back section, and it was starting to heat up a tad. This is when Chuck really started reminding me about hydration. You’ve pretty much sucked at it the first half, and now you’ve committed to the full, it’s time to HYDRATE! I grabbed another cup of water somewhere along this portion, and I caught a glimpse of Angela as she was coming back in on the other side of the road around mile 14. She gave me a quick shout out and said something to the effect of “you went for it!” I think I just shrugged and threw my arms out to the side saying, “we’ll see.” I was around mile 13 and still unsure of how intelligent my decision was. As I approached the 14 mile marker, I decided to stop at this point, take another photo and update my
At this point, I was committed, no turning back, and now my running buddies were definitely watching. They’d seen what I went through at Albany. They knew I wanted this, and now I’d made the decision to go for it. It could all fall apart with the lack of road miles I’d put in, or the lack of road miles and lack of pounding the pavement could actually work for me. They know I like to run negative splits, and I felt pretty good at this point. The IT band was noticeable, but I had decided it wasn’t any worse than normal, and it wasn’t getting worse as the race went on. I almost felt a little too good at this point. It actually crossed my mind to ditch the run/walk, and to see if I could get close to a sub-2 on the second half of the marathon. That’d be a HUGE negative split, and it was actually very enticing to try it, BUT there was that little thing about running smart and wanting to stay injury free and the lack of miles that quickly squashed that thought, so I decided to just pick up the pace some, but keep it comfortable, and keep the run/walk. A negative split marathon was definitely in my mind and sights though. I’d ran the first half in 2:20ish which was very conservative. I felt good, and I wanted to finish strong. I started thinking about the numbers, and figured I might be able to swing under 4:40, maybe 4:35.
The next several miles went around the city park and out by Lake Pontchatrain. Around mile 19, a lady looking at her watch weaved over to her right and cut me off. I had to take an odd step, and my knee felt like it almost buckled under me. I had a couple of off steps immediately after it, refocused on my form, pulled it together, and I was fine, but it made me acutely aware of my IT band again though. As I approached mile 20, I realized I had already made it 4 miles farther running than at Albany, and I was still feeling really good. “Just a 10K left! That’s a short run for us, right?” I probably should have kept my upbeat thoughts to myself because I’m pretty sure the people around me were not as excited about having only 6 miles left as I was. No one responded, but I got a little more pep in my step knowing it was that close. Now, I needed to take in some fuel since I hadn’t the entire race, and I was approaching 3 1/2 hours, but my stomach had started gurgling a little bit, so I decided to forgo the Gu and Ucan, and I decided on the Justin’s Maple Almond Nut Butter since it was real food, and I thought it had the best chance of settling on my stomach well. Almost immediately after taking it, my stomach seemed to settle some, and I grabbed some more water and used the last of my Osmo. Between mile 20 & 21 was the final turn around! I just had to run back over the 2 small hills I’d just came over, then it should be a straight shot into the park.
Mile marker 23, and we were at the park. A marathon maniac that had been running next to me on and off for the last few miles said, “3 miles left, we run that everyday.” I had to giggle after the lack of response I got earlier from the 10k remark. We chatted for a second, then I had a walk break. This was about the time that I finally realized that I might actually be able to come in under 4:30, but my IT band was also starting to bug me more, and this WASN’T my mind playing tricks on me. I decided I’d maintain the pace, and in the last mile, I’d skip my walk breaks if the IT band was holding up. Mile 24, I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and water and mixed the two, and that was the last time I took any fluids.
As I approached mile marker 25, I checked my watch, and I knew I was on target that if I skipped the walk break, I could break 4:30, but if I did walk, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it or not because I had paused my watch earlier for a potty stop, so I wasn’t sure of how off it was. Either way, it had been a great marathon, I had a PR of much better than I had anticipated, I had overall negative splits, and I felt really good going into the last mile as far as endurance. I decided to take the walk break since my IT band was hurting and I was starting to favor that leg as I approached the end of the 5 minutes. As soon as I walked a bit, the pain would ease, and I started back at the :45 second mark instead of 1 minute.
The finish line was just around the corner, so I picked my pace up some and finished strong like I wanted. It was a good day, and my official time was 4:30:17, not under 4:30, but no disappointments here. I have an exciting season of tri racing ahead, and I’m glad to get this monkey off my back.