One of the main reasons I write a blog is to journalize things that I want to remember. This week’s marathon, my first one, was definitely a significant event in my life so indulge me while I break up this recap of the experience into multiple posts to record every detail that I can remember.
"No road is too long for him who advances slowly and does not hurry, and no attainment is beyond reach with patience." - Jean de La Bruyère
We last left off when I was at Mile 13. Actually, it was more like I was just about to start Mile 13. I was at the aid station, where I stopped for a minute or so to drink some water, stretch a little and ask them how long the loop was. The loop I'm referring to was in the Las Galinas Sanitation District. The portion that we were at was a gated off bird sanctuary. I was told it was a 2 mile loop and we'd exit at that same starting point.
So off I went, pass the gate and into this area that I thought was going to be really awesome. I was wrong. I have titled this area of the race, "The Land of Desolation."
The terrain was trail; i.e., gravel. All gravel. And lots of dry tall weeds. It was dry, arid, and deserted. There was no one in front of me or behind me. I was alone, just me and the bugs that kept flying around. Running on the gravel really hurt. My quads were starting it hurt, and the instability made it worse. It made my feet start to hurt as well. But beyond that, the fact that I was completely alone got to me mentally. If it wasn't for the orange arrows, I would not have known where to go. No volunteers out there. This is where I started to fall apart.
About a mile into this area my left calf started to hurt. I panicked. In m 5 yrs of running, and 1.5 years of racing, I've never experienced cramping (just a side stitch once or twice). I knew it was because I was dehydrated, so I drank more Cytomax. I tried to stop and stretch but I felt my body start to stiffen so I had to keep moving. I dropped into a walk / run.
After what seemed like forever, I came out of the loop and back at the aid station. There I drank about 4 cups of water and heed. I had been afraid of drinking heed because I'd never had it before and didn't know how my stomach would react, but now that I was cramping, I knew I didn't have enough Cytomax to last me for the last 11 miles (the loop was 2 miles).
I continued on. Being back on the road was a little easier. For Miles 15-17 I ran/walk. I could run for a little bit before my left calf cramped up again. So that's what I did. I tried to run through the downhills and flat portions and walk up the hills. It was along this area (again by the side of the freeway) that I met Loan.
Loan was a Daily Mile friend. We'd corresponded quite a bit about this race so it was great to meet her out there on the course. We walked/ran together for a bit. Then I cramped up again so she went on ahead of me. I also met 2 other girls, Helen and Courtney. They were suffering like me. Helen was dying from hunger and heat, and Courtney was cramping in her knees and hips. It was her first marathon too, and like me, was done after "The Land of Desolation." For the few miles we ran/walked with each other and took turns passing it each.
For me, it became a game of, "just run to that next light pole, stop sign, tree. That's how I pulled myself along. My goal became to make it to the aid station at Mile 19 because they had orange slices. The 3 of us got there at about the same time, along with the 5:00 hour pacer. I ate about 4 slices of oranges, had about 3 cups of fluids and then continued on.
I met up with the 5:00 hr pacer. He was running alone and also really tired. The pacers were supposed to be in teams and split the course with a partner. His partner never showed so he had to run the whole thing. We pushed me along until we got to gravel again. My feet hurt so bad, I couldn't make myself run on it. But he coached me through it. He told me, "We have 1 hour to make the 5-hour mark and 7 miles to go." Can we do it?" I told him, "No. That would mean less than a 10-minute mile and I would be challenged to do that on a good day." He had to make the time so I told him to go on ahead, which he did.
I continued on with the walk/run method. When I got to the end of this gravel portion, I came out to a hotel parking lot which sort of looked familiar. No one was there to direct us. At this point, the 4-hour mark, all volunteer course directors had left. We were essentially abandoned out there. There were all these cones and orange tags out there so I just followed it along. And then I found myself back at the Mile 19 aid station again. I had run in a circle. I panicked and broke into tears. I asked the old man playing the guitar there where I was supposed to go. He had no clue. The 6:00 hour pace group rolled around. I cried, "I cannot run this mile again." Well the 5:00 pacer had done the same thing as me. He took me by the arm and said, "Let's go, we'll figure this out." We back tracked our route until we found the orange arrows. We got back on track, crossing a bridge and more parking lots. He asked me if I was okay and I said yes, then sent him on his way.
I walked back through the back yards (more gravel), came upon another aid station, drank more and then continued on an uphill. I was back in the residential area. As I noted, all the cones were removed, the roads were completely open. I had to walk/run on the side walks. This area was more or less flat. Someone who worked with the race came by on a moped and asked me if I was "Naomi." I said yes and he goes, "Your friend is waiting for you." I just looked at him waiting for what else he had to say. He didn't say anything else so I just said, "Well tell her I'm trying to get there as fast as I can." I asked him where she was and he said, "2 more rest stops." And then drove off.
(I should mention that at this point my iPhone was about to die so I turned it off. I had my iPod shuffle on, but wasn't even listening to the music anymore).
Eventually came around to where the bikers were. At this point, there were no sidewalks so I walked on the side in the brush. This is also where Helen, Courtney and I met up again and decided to stay with each other for the rest of the way.
We came upon the Mile 22 rest stop where one lady remained manning. But wait. As I got closer, I realized it was my friend Tina! She was there to support me and had nothing to do with the race. I asked her what she was doing. She said when she drove up the volunteers asked her if she would just take over. She said, "Ummm, okay" and the volunteers all left. Yup, how's that for you?
She filled us up with fluids and gels. I had also run out of GU so I took a few Hammer gels with me. As we started to move on, someone called my name. It was Yvette. She was really worried about me so she had someone bring her to find us.
So from Mile 22 on it was me, Courtney and Yvette (Helen felt like she could still push forward so we sent her on her way). Also, from this point on, it was all uphill. Yes, the last 4 miles were rolling hills, but mostly uphill. I couldn't run/walk at this point. Both calves were now severely cramping. Every time I tried to run, my calf muscles would contract into the tightest knots. So we walked. We walked the last 4 torturous miles.
I've always said that walking is harder than running and it is. Its harder on the feet. My feet swelled and was in so much pain. But we just put our head and pushed. My goal for this first marathon was to finish. I had no time goals. So while I was dying to just stop, I was not going have a DNF.
I had joked that I needed to beat Valerie Bertinelli's time at Boston, but she kicked my butt. Blew on by me. And you know what, I didn't even care. All I cared about was finishing. Another 6:00 pacer met up with us and the 4 of us continued on. I was sure we were the last ones on the course. I kept updating the group with our pace (from my Garmin). I knew that if we kept up our walking pace of a 16ish min/mile, we'd come in under 6 hours.
We passed by the 25 Mile marker and I remembered what I had thought about when I saw it the first time out. Then the moped guy came out again and told us that the Finish was just around a few bends. He told us, "just follow the cones."
Well it was a good thing Yvette was with us because the Finish Line was completely different from the Start Line. It was through this small gate, down a trail hill. If she wasn't with us (having run the 10K), we would have had no idea where it was.
Yvette ran ahead to she could take photos of us coming across the line. Once we entered the gates, I looked at the pacer, and Courtney and said, "Let's go." So we ran as much as we could all the way down. It was trail and gravel, and hurt like hell, but I kept going. My calves were tightening and contracting, but I knew I had less than 385 yards to go.
As we ran along the beach, people who were out enjoying the day stood up to clap and cheer us on. The ONLY crowd support we ever had, but I so appreciated them. Soon we entered the Finish chute (which was on grass). I pushed and pushed and finally, FINALLY crossed the Finish Line.
The official clock read 6:02 but I do not believe that for a second. With how hokey this race turned out, I honestly don't know how they got that time. There were no sensors at the start or anywhere along the course. The only sensor I saw was at the Finish Line. My Garmin said 5:51:02 and that's what I'm going with. Of the 77 marathoners, I finished 76. Its the lowest I've ever finished in any race. And you know what? It doesn't even bother me.
Some of the experienced marathoners who ran this course told me that it was a really, really tough course, even for them. So I'm proud that I was able to finish it on my first time out. I finished, that's all that matters.
Check out the elevation at the end of the course:
In tomorrow's post, I'll recap my recovery process.