Monday, October 27, 2008

The big weekend finally arrived! We decided to take a road trip down to Virginia to visit the hubby's sister and family (we would be staying with them in VA and commute into DC each day for the expo). It was a really long but fairly scenic car ride from Toronto to Virginia. The leaves are still turning down there and it was a beautiful sunny fall day luckily.

We had a great time at the 3-day expo. It was great to finally meet a lot of our east coast customers and running skirts fans. For those of you that haven't been yet, the Marine Corps Marathon Expo is gi-normous. You could easily spend a whole day or at least 4 hours walking around all the armory checking out all the latest running products, foods, drinks and gadgets. We were so busy, I didn't have a chance to walk the whole floor, but I did manage to make it by the Lara bar booth to scoop a few of the new flavor samples (yum!) and pick up a cute red white & blue long sleeve race shirt, hat and warm up jacket. There were marines everywhere! Working, running and volunteering. It was great to get to meet a few of them and hear about their lives, where they came from and where they are stationed, etc. I made a point to thank every one of them for their services.

After 3 long 12 hour days at the expo I commenced my normal pre-race ritual, salmon & rice dinner with veggies, ice bath & warm shower and stretching. My dogs were definitely barking after day 3 (most of our expos are 2 days). I tried to keep up a postive mental attitude and do a little visualization when I though of it. I think I kept getting interrupted by the hubby or baby before I actually visualized my finish!

I told myself as I put my weary aching bones to bed that I was NOT going to do the usual pre-marathon freak out and not sleep. As soon as I lay down, the nerves kicked in. If you've ever run a marathon - you know the feeling..your stomach starts doing flip flops and no matter what you do, you cannot relax and fall asleep! Throw in a baby that wakes up 2-3 times a night when hes not in his own bed and voila.....2-2.5 hours of pre race sleep. Par for the course for me. The alarm clock went off at 4:15 a.m. I quickly showered stretched and put on my camo running skirt and brooks racers. I threw my wave riders into my race bag just in case I made a game time decision change. (This would be my first marathon distance race in the lighter racers.) I've already done 3 half marathons in them so I figured I could pull it off. The less weight I have to carry the whole 26.2 the better. I woke up the hubby and baby bear and off we went to the city. We were meeting Val and a few of her police co-workers at the Hyatt Capitol Hill and then planned to take the Metro to the Runners Village at the start.

We arrived promptly at 6:00 a.m. (ok val, so it was 6:03) and then headed down to the Metro subway. By the time we got through the crowd in the Metro and checked our race bags & hit the porta potties, we had just enough time to weed our way to the start line. Val and I made our way up the 2nd corral for the 3 hour ish marathon finish time. The next thing I knew the gun went off and so did we. My race plan was to stay on pace for a 3:05 for the first half and then pick it up on the back half if I felt strong. The race started right off with some rolling hills and then more hills and then more. Wow - I had always heard the MCM was a great first time course, etc. etc. and didn't look into it too much. But, there is some elevation in the first half. I don't mind the uphill too much as it was accompanied by equal downhill segments. I was cruising along just under my goal pace - around 6:45-6:50 per mile.

I saw the hubby and baby at mile 10.5 as planned and was feeling great. We had perfect running weather - cool and sunny! I reminded myself that I needed to stay on pace and slowed down a bit. I crossed the halfway point in 1:29 something and was elated at how effortless it was feeling. I was relaxed and not feeling exerted at all. The goal of a 3:05 now seemed a sure thing and there was a glimmer of hope at even breaking 3 hours. All I had to do was hold on to my pace. The hubby was at mile 16 also, but I didn't see him. I was trying to stay relaxed and concentrate and didn't hear him yelling my name unfortunately.
(val at mile 10.5)

Mile 16 is when the wheels started to come off the bus. I felt a slight twinge in my right inner thigh and remember thinking - hmmm - that's new. I though about stopping to stretch but decided against it. I managed to ignore it until mile 18 when suddenly both of my hamstrings seized up on me. I yelled out in pain and stopped & bent over to stretch them out. When I bent over to stretch the hamstrings out quickly, my quads seized and then went the calves. I was jumping around trying to stretch one part, then was a very bad predicament. I loosened myself slightly up and plodded along thinking - ok, I must need some more electrolytes. I also remember that I was feeling thirsty, which I've never felt before on a run when I have been hydrating ( I hit all the water stops as usual). At the next water stop I took both water and powerade and stretched some more and then forced myself to go another mile without stopping. Even after the water, another roctane gu and some power ade, the pain was getting worse. If you've ever had a charlie horse in a muscle you have felt this pain - only it was both hamstrings, both calves and both quads all at once. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I felt so good and so strong! Then wham! I was a hobbling, moaning blob of gu. I realized at mile 18-19 that my visions of a sub 3 hour marathon were now history, I was still confident I would make it in by my goal of 3:05 or so. HA! The hits just kept on coming. I would stretch a bit, then walk for 30 steps and then slowly pick it up to a jog again, but after about 20 steps the legs would cramp up again and I would have to stop in my tracks, bend over and stretch again. This ugly cycle was repeated all the way to the finish line.

I was that guy - you know the one - the guy who is screaming out in pain and hobbling or standing stiff legged along the sidelines of a race. I always thought - oh, that poor guy - he must not have trained properly. Yep - I was that guy - talk about humbling! I remember at mile 24 thinking "how the heck am I going to make it 2 more miles like this?". At one point somewhere between mile 24-26, I remember that I had to walk dowhill backwards with my legs spread apart to keep from falling over. With all my mucsles cramped up I couldn't bend my knees and I had to wobble down the hill in reverse. I would laugh at myself, turn around and try again only to make it two steps and then there would be a stabbing dagger in the back of both of my knees, calves and hamstrings and I'd have to stop and turn around and put it in reverse again. I think I even scared some of those tough as nails marines on the sidelines.

I also remember at one point standing bent over at the waist stretching my legs trying to get them to release a bit so that my knees would once again bend enough to start walking and jogging again, some guy who passed by had the nerve to yell "suck it up"! Oh, that really got me going....I started jogging and yelling in pain and anger got me going for about 10 strides until I was stricken stiff legged again. By now the only thing I could think about was crossing the darn finish line in one piece. I was afraid I would have to stop and get my first DNF and at the same time I was scared of how much worse the pain was going to get. I don't recall seeing any medics or I would have asked them for help - at least to stretch out a bit so that I could move better. I also knew the hubby would be really worried too since he expected me in sometime around 3-3:05, I remember the 3:10 pace group passing by at one point when I was bent over stretching. Unfortunately their words of encouragement did nothing for the uncooperative legs. I was overwhelmed by the realization that things weren't going to get better at this point. I just had to get to the finish one way or another. This is when the walking, stretching, standing, jogging cycle began. My last two miles took me about 22 minutes! Somewhere around mile 25 one of my old fleet feet team mates from Sacramento passed by me and yelled "Hi Cindy!". I was relieved to see a familiar face...for a second...I yelled to her "I started cramping up really bad..." and then she was gone. (As I went through my own post-race mile by mile replay of what went wrong, it dawned on me that this friend was the very same girl my running partner and I hooked arms with and ran her in - overheated, dehydrated and all - to the Boston finish line with us so that we could cross the line together as a team. Hmmph!
(photo of cramped legs at finish line stretch - note the behind the knee/calf/hammy area - ouch!)

As I walked my way to the final stretch of the last mile, I could hear the roar of the crowd and still couldn't get my legs to cooperate. I was still doing the walk, jog, stretch routine. I jogged halfway up the last hill to the finish line (what a cruel cruel joke on this course) and saw my sister in law holding my little baby in the stands. I waved to him and he reached out to me with both of his chubby little hands as if he was saying "come and get me mommy - I'm over here! Why are you running away?". I smiled and waved again & mustered up one last stretch of an attempt to jog across the finish line - and then it was over! 3:20 something was my final time - I will post my splits when I reconnect with my garmin - they are pretty funny.

All in all it was a beautiful day and a challenging course, but a very well organized marathon event. When I reunited with my hubby at the finish - he was worried that I had suffered an injury or perhaps even something worse. As he embraced me and I recounted to him my demise after mile 18, he said "oh, you must have been so upset, were you crying?" I chuckled and said - "no, why would I be crying?" I thought to myself, at least I have my legs to hurt and cramp up. There were so many amputees and wounded soldiers that were participating or volunteering at the race, it was very moving. I remember passing by a girl pushing her boyfriend or husband in what appeared to be a jog stroller from behind. As I passed her I realized that he was another amputee. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank God for these soldiers who are out there laying it all on the lines for us all!

(post 26.2 cerveza)

After a talk with my coach on Monday, we concluded that the 3 day expo work on my feet 12+ hours each day and being under hydrated and lacking electrolytes, surely the cause of the cramping. Lesson learned, all the training in the world won't help if you don't take care of your body in the days leading up to the marathon. I won't try to PR a race again after such a long week of travel and time on the feet.

(much needed ice bath...questionable toenail casualty on left foot)
Here are my splits: 6:57, 6:52, 6:32, 6:28, 6:41, 6:50, 7:08, 6:37, 6:49, 6:40, 6:51, 6:49, 6:50, 6:57, 6:58, 6:57, 7:05, 7:10, 7:12, 7:27, 7:43, 7:58, 8:10, 9:50, 11:06, 12:51.

Next up, NYC Marathon with Christy next weekend - yikes!


Kirsten said...

Oh, Cindy...I feel your pain. Literally. I ran my first marathon (in a skirt, of course) 4 weeks ago on Sunday. I was really running conservatively for this first one. Plugging along at a comfy pace. A 4:30 was easily in reach--my best friend (our PRs are nearly identical and my training was far better) ran sub 4:30 and felt great.

Your account of your cramping is nearly verbatim my experience. Felt fantastic until mile 16, where I started having funny stiff twinges in my right calf...sort of spasms, but no pain. Gradually they became more frequent. At almost exactly 20.5 I had a cramp grab my right groin and calf as I was going around a corner. I nearly fell. I couldn't slow down, I had to come to a complete stop.

I then spend the remaining 6 miles in this awful run/walk/stretch cycle. Like you, I would stop to stretch one muscle group, then others would seize-up. So frustrating. I never hit a hit me!

I was drinking Gatorade Tiger...Milwaukee had the Gatorade Endurance on the course, but I was afraid to try it until the very end. I wasn't able to locate it nearby for training--next year I am ordering it by mail, if need be. I will also be popping S-Caps or Endurolytes capsules like candy...maybe eating some Pringles, too. Salt is GOOD.

You can read my race report here:

I must say, it makes me feel a bit vindicated to know that even a seasoned, fast marathoner can be felled by evil cramps and that it's not just something newbies suffer with. Next time around we'll beat the cramps, right!


Alisa said...

I gotta say, a 3:20 is still dang good! Sorry about the cramps though...what a bummer. At my last half marathon (which I ran in my running skirt BTW and got tons of compliments) I cramped up at the finish line. Luckily I was done running for the day!

MCM is on my list of races to check out. Sounds like the expo was pretty extensive.

Are you guys planning to be at either the RnR Arizona marathon in January or RnR San Diego in May? I'll be at both and would love to stop by your booth if you're there.

Glorybelle said...

Cindy, I promise to come back and read this report! I know you have that sub 3 in you. You've been training like so well. Okay, I'll be back. Just wanted to say hi. I just read your sis' report on her BQ. :)

Glorybelle said...

Okay I want you to know I have felt that kind of charlie horse cramping before at the CIM in 2003. I seriously would have DNF'd if my brother wasn't there to literally put his hand on my back and push me forward from mile 18 to the finish line. I was on track for a a sub 3:30 or so and I ended up coming in at 3:57. It was UGLY. Beyond ugly. I was in so much pain, all I wanted to do was stop and hitch a ride to the finish. I think I actually got into a fight with my brother about it!

At least you know why it happened. :) I have no doubt that you'll hit that sub 3 with proper rest, hydration and nutrition in the week leading up to your goal marathon. Which leads me to ask... which one are you doing next? :)