So, yeah . . . I disappeared during my taper. Honestly, I just wasn’t excited for this race. After a frustrating training cycle and feeling like total crap for a lot of my runs, I wasn’t even sure I’d finish. I got the OK from my doc to run the race, with the caveat that I would stop if I needed to. Since I’ve done that once before, I knew I had it in me to assess the situation and make a smart decision if it came to that. Spoiler: it didn’t.
I had considered not running at all or switching to the half, but I thought I’d give the full a shot and see how it went. In any case, I’d get to see a lot of Vancouver, which was pretty stunning.
I had quite the crowd show up for me–my parents came from Michigan and my cousin and her husband from Seattle–so the weekend was going to be fun regardless of how the race went.
Everyone was asking me a lot of questions about the race–how many runners, what’s the course like, how are you getting to the start, etc.–things I can usually answer. This time? I hadn’t done much research at all. I figured I’d just show up and hope for the best. Well.
The race didn’t start until 8:30, so I had plenty of time in the morning to eat a bagel and lounge around in the world’s largest throwaway sweats.
I had checked out the elevation profile before the race and read a few course reviews, and it sounded like the course was pretty flat and fast. Still, I knew that from about the 5K to the 10K, there was going to be a bit of a climb. I started out at a comfortable pace–7:50 for the first mile–and then settled in for the next 4 miles around 7:15 pace. There were some good downhills, and while I probably took them a little too fast, I wanted to grab any speed I could early on since I figured I’d be a lot slower at the end. Not the best racing strategy, maybe, but I didn’t really care (best attitude EVER).
Then came mile 6 and the longest, evilest (totally a word) hill in the history of hills. About 3/4 mile of climbing, and while I knew a climb was coming, I did NOT expect that. There were TONS of spectators all along the hill, though, and that helped a lot. I also saw my family for the first time, which gave me a boost. Please note, my enthusiasm is for them, most certainly not for the hill or the race at this point. Mile 6 was over a minute slower at 8:20, which was A-ok with me.
After the hill, I tried to keep my momentum while recovering, and I was grateful for some flat road and shade. There were a few more hills in the next 2 miles, but nothing crazy, especially not by comparison. I took my first gu somewhere in there, not because I wanted one, but because it was time. Fueling during races is always kind of weird for me because I want water with my gu, but I never know exactly where the water stations will be. This course was along some winding roads, so sometimes you’d round a bend and the water station would be RIGHTTHERE. It worked out fine, and I was grateful for the MANY water and Ultima (Canadian Gatorade?) stations throughout. I took in water, Ultima, or both, at every station.
It was surprisingly warm and sunny–low 50s at the start–and as the race went on and the sun got higher in the sky, it got HOT. Well, maybe not hot for a normal person, but hot for a person who has been running for several hours. My legs felt mostly loose and not too tired, but I wasn’t necessarily enjoying myself.
It was around mile 9 or so that I thought, “Hey, this isn’t a PR race. I could just slow way down, relax, and not push it.” And then a girl ran by me with a tank that said, “Challenge by Choice” on the back, and dammit, it reminded me that I chose to train, chose to travel, and chose to race. I chose this challenge, and regardless of how I was feeling about it in the moment (stupid challenge!), I knew I was going to give it my best shot.
Thoughts of phoning it in faded to the background, and it showed in my pace! I had dropped down to 8ish minute miles after the big hill, but I did sub-8’s for the next 7 miles or so. Certainly no consistency to those paces (7:22-7:58, yeesh), but I did push myself. Forced down another gu around mile 12 or 13 as sort of an afterthought. I didn’t feel great, but I also didn’t feel awful, so I settled in and tried to enjoy it. The fact that the scenery was breathtaking didn’t hurt. We were running along the water until about mile 15, and it was mountains and sea and forest and gorgeousness. But also: HOT.
For me, heat means trouble breathing. I had used my inhaler before the race, but it got harder to breathe as the race went on. Having fewer clothes on always makes it easier, so I took off my tank around mile 16 or so. This isn’t something I usually do in races, but I felt like breathing was more important than vanity, so that happened. Unfortunately, when the shirt came off, so did the cover to one of my earbuds. Not vital to the race, but annoying. I felt a little better, but I still couldn’t get enough air.
Then I grabbed some water at the next aid station, and almost immediately threw up. Pleasant bile churning. It was a super fun time.
Adding to the fun, my left foot started to give me some trouble. Every 1/4 mile or so, it felt broken when I stepped on it. Yep. It still feels a little numb when I press or step on that spot now, but the pain during the race was really impressive. Much cursing. Many swears. But if I could get through a race with a blister that would ultimately put me in the hospital for a week, I could certainly get through a possibly broken toe. I didn’t say I was smart.
I saw my family again around mile 18 or so, where I grabbed my inhaler. Using it helped. I also dumped off my tank with them, which was soaked in sweat, so I’m sure they appreciated that. But with my tank came my number and my tracker. I didn’t really think that one through. Oops.
The last 10K+ ran along the outside of Stanley Park right beside the water. Again, gorgeous. But at this point, I just wanted to be done. My knees were really sore, which I’ve run through before, but it wasn’t fun. I stopped for a few seconds to rub out my IT bands, which helped a little. My breathing had recovered a bit by then, so that was a relief, physically and mentally. I kept thinking of what my coach had tweeted to me the night before: stay strong, be confident.
My paces were hovering around 8:30 and dipped down to 8:45-9 for the last couple of miles. I knew I couldn’t push any harder, though, so I kept my focus on finishing in 3:35, staying strong, and being confident.
I had also realized that I would officially DNF if I didn’t get my shirt/tracker/number back from my family. For the last mile, I tried to spot them in the crowd. I finally did see them about 100 meters from the finish, but they had left my shirt in the car. Sad. And–totally understandable.
Official or not, marathon #3 is in the books. I’ve spent the last few days turning it over in my head, and right now, all I want to do is rest and not think about running for a very long time. I’m sure I’ll want to run again at some point, but I’m going to wait until that happens and not force it. I’m already registered for Marine Corps Marathon this fall, but I can always defer or transfer my bib if I don’t feel up to training again in a few months.