Monday, November 14, 2011

Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon Race Recap

I'd like to first start off as saying that this is a true and real account of my race and MY feelings.  It's true and it's raw and my emotions are just that-- my emotions.  I know running a marathon is a BIG deal and I am proud of myself for finishing 26.2 miles.  I REALLY am, but I am also disappointed and I'm allowed to be because it is my race am I am entitled to feel anyway I want about it!  Please understand, it is easy for me to see the accomplishment, but I am always hard on MYSELF.  Also please understand that I do not think any less of anyone because they finish slower than I.  I think everyone who crosses that finish line is a winner (including me) but I had certain expectations for MYSELF and I didn't meet them.  So please read, but don't judge.

So here goes (and yes this will be a LONG one)...

We stayed at a hotel less than a mile from the start.  Even so, I didn't want to have to walk to the start.  It turns out the shuttle wasn't working because there were too many road closures.  I could have called a cab to take me 0.8 miles, but decided to walk instead.  It didn't wind up taking too long or being too far and I'm sure it had no impact on my race.  I walked over with a group of people from our hotel and everyone was very nice.   One of the people even offered to take my picture.

I was very anxious leading up to the race, but every time I got overwhelmed with emotion I made myself say "relaxed and confident" and I really did feel better.  I knew going into the race that I could finish (I felt confident about that), but I put pressure on myself to do well and that is what had the nerves going inside me.  Nothing a little picture sesh couldn't cure.

Julie seemed incredibly relaxed and she helped keep me grounded.  I really did feel waaaay more relaxed than I have in past races, in part due to Julie, and also due to my relaxing "technique".   Nevertheless, when Julie took this picture she said it would be titled nervous/anxious Susan and I think she was right.

Like I said, I wasn't nervous about finishing.  I knew unless some catastrophic event occurred I would cross that finish line.  What I was nervous about was the goal I had set for myself.  I finished my first marathon in 4:58:20 and I first, and foremost wanted to do better than that, but I knew how well my training went and felt confident I could do much better!  My dream goal was to run a 4:30 but I knew that would only happen if it were perfect weather, perfect course, perfect everything.  My realistic goal was a 4:45 and I figured it would be a "breeze".  Ha! 

 4:30 and 4:45 Pacetats

We weren't at the start very long and got lined up right in our corals.  I had projected a 4:45 finishing time so I was in coral 18.  I knew it was going to be awhile before I made it across the starting mat.

Of course after waiting for almost 20 minutes at the start I had to pee.  I saw a porta potty and I told Julie I was going to go and we said our final goodbyes.

I peed without incident and actually lined up right back with my coral so I was VERY glad I went because it was definitely needed and I didn't have the stop for the rest of the race.

I crossed the start line before I knew it and I was off.  It was very crowded at the beginning and there were a lot of MUCH slower people in front of me.  I was so frustrated especially because their bibs indicated they should have started in much slower corals.  Regardless, it wasn't long until I settled into a comfortable pace.  My goal was to keep it at a 10:30 pace and see how I was feeling.  If I felt FANTASTIC I'd pick it up and shoot for a 4:30 finish.  If I didn't feel "it" then I'd back off and go for the 4:45.

I spent the first 1 to 2 miles looking for Bianca and Karla who I knew were there to cheer for Julie and I.  Bianca hadn't told me EXACTLY where they'd be, but I knew they'd be there somewhere in the beginning.  Turns out they were right at the Alamo and I missed them.  Not only did I miss them, but I also missed the Alamo.  I seriously have no recollection of running past there.  If they hadn't have seen Julie, I would have sworn they were in the wrong place, as I would have bet my life that the course didn't pass the Alamo.  Apparently, the course did pass them (and the Alamo), I just missed them and their awesome signs!!! How disappointing.

I texted Bianca and George at mile 3 and let them know where I was.  The course tracking seemed to be right on.  At that point, George let me know he and the kids were at mile 8 waiting to see me.  So I broke my race down to just 5 more miles.  To be honest, those miles went by so quickly.  I was feeling so good and looking forward to seeing my family.  Sure enough at mile 8.37 there they were holding signs and cheering for mama.

At this point I was incredibly happy and feeling really good.  I had run, for first 8 miles, right around goal pace ranging from 10:33 at the fastest (mile 1) to 11:11 at the slowest (mile 5), but I was still right on for meeting my 4:45 goal (with a little room to spare).  The good thing was I felt like I could keep this pace all day long.  I wasn't pushing it too hard, I wasn't constantly thinking about things.  I was just listening to my body and cruising along.

Next up was finding Bianca and Karla again.  This time, however, they were going to jump in and run with me.  That's right!  Even though Bianca had just run a marathon one week ago she offered to jump in at mile 13 and run with me to the end.  I thought she was crazy, but I certainly wasn't going to turn her down.  So I broke my race down again.  Just 5 miles until I see Bianca and Karla and then with those two ladies by my side I could do anything.

My little surprise came a earlier than expected.  I saw Bianca and Karla at mile 10!  They couldn't get to mile 13 due to road closure so I got to see them 3 miles earlier.  Again, I'm not complaining.  I was feeling great at mile 10.  I was smiling and happy to see my friends and have some great company.

Miles 10 through 15 were my fastest.  I ran between 10:30 and 11:09 (mostly on the lower end) and I was still feeling really great.  I hit the half way point at 2:23:26.  I was off my goal pace by just a minute and 30 seconds and I felt like I could push hard to make it up.

At just about mile 15 we hit the out and back portion of the course.  At least this is the way I remember it (I could be wrong).  As we were heading out, we could see all the MUCH faster runners coming towards us.  I remember this is where things started to feel a little dreary on the course.  There was no crowd (probably because of all the road closures) and it got eerily quiet and lonely.  Luckily I had my friends, but if I hadn't I could see where I would have felt ALL ALONE.

Then at mile 16 I could feel myself slowing.  In light of the fact that I had no cushion to make my 4:45 goal I knew I had to pick it up.  Instead I had fallen steadily into an an 11:something pace and now it was my only comfortable.  I told Bianca I needed to try to ramp it up for a bit and then slow back down to try to make a 10:45 feel comfortable again.  If you're a runner then you know once you fall into a slower comfortable pace, it's really hard to pick it back up again.

The problem was I could NOT pick it up no matter how hard I tried.  The heat was getting to me and I was slowly fading.  Coming up on mile 18, I was hoping I would see George and the kids again.  Through several text communications (Bianca was texting for me) I realized we missed George on THREE separate occasions.  It was so hard for him to get to me with all the road closures and he missed us by about 500 yards all three times.  I wasn't mad, but I would have loved to see their faces.  George knows me better than anyone and hearing words from him would have meant a lot to me.  He let me know he'd DEFINITELY see me at the finish so I had that to look forward to.

Now at mile 19, and more than 5 minutes off my goal time, I realized I had to let my 4:45 dreams go.  I couldn't believe it was happening, but I wasn't too upset because I knew I'd still beat my Austin time.  All I had to do was keep up this pace and get there.  NO PROBLEM!

Well, the sun got hotter and I eventually shed my shirt.  I, Susan Tirch, being of sound mind took off my shirt DURING A MARATHON and wore nothing but skin tight capris and a sports bra.  IT WAS THAT HOT!   I remember looking down at my shadow and seeing my love handles jiggling, but knowing it was basically my only means of survival at this point.  Luckily for me (and you), there are NO pictures!!!!

I can't even begin to explain what I went through from miles 20 until the end.  I felt great with my breathing.  My breathing was under control, I didn't feel winded and I had plenty of gas in the tank.  My legs we sore, but not done and they still didn't feel heavy.  The problem was my feet.  I had a horrible pain in the top of my left foot right on the bone toward the ankle.  I think it caused me to change my stride and that got my feet all out of whack.  I could tell I was developing a blister because of it and BOTH ankles started to hurt.  The only way I can describe the pain in my feet is this (ladies you should be able to relate). I felt like I had on high heels for four hours while dancing.  Every part of my foot just ached. With each stride and pounding of my foot there was pain.  Even though this picture is taken right at the finish I'm pretty sure this is what my face looked like for miles 21 to 26.

Then it happened!  I WALKED!  I have never, in all my races, walked (except during one water stop where I got cut off during rock n roll Dallas).  I'm not trying to say there is anything wrong with walking.  I understand the whole walk/run concept and I fully support it, but FOR ME walking is not something I want to do.  To be quite honest walking felt worse.  It definitely, definitely helped with my feet because the pounding stopped, but it tightened up all my other muscles and really made it harder on my blister.  I didn't walk long maybe 30 seconds to a minute.  I probably did that 3 to 5 times (I can't even remember) and I also walked all the water stops from this point on (I think).

Miles 21 to 25 were the absolute worst, clocking anywhere form a 12:11 to a 14:10 for mile 25.  I think miles 21 to 25 were the worst physically, but also the worst mentally.  Every time I walked I welled up with tears feeling like I had given up on myself.  I spent the whole time I was walking beating myself up and fighting back tears.  Saying every encouraging word to myself to get my feet moving again.  Even with Bianca's and Karla's encouraging words I just felt defeated.  I slowly saw 4:45 drift away and with each passing step I realized I wouldn't even be able to clock in under the 5:00 mark.

I tried everything I could do for the last mile to try to recover any lost time.  Thinking if somehow, some way I could run a 10:00 mile I could make it in time.  My body just could NOT do it, no matter what I tried.  I'd surge for awhile, but then fall right back.

Soon we were approaching the 26 mile mark where George and the kids were waiting.  I had asked Nicholas to run to the finish with me and I hoped he would do it.  Bianca spotted them long before I did and she kept trying to point them out.  Finally I saw them and managed a BIG smile.  I finally got to see my family AND I was almost there.

I screamed at Nicholas as we ran by to come with me and it took some coercion, but he finally came.  I wanted him to hold my hand, but he kept resisting telling me I was sweaty and smelly.  THANKS KID.

The next little bit of the race was up hill but as soon as we made it to the top and turned the corner I could see the finish line.  I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a finish line in my life.  I didn't get emotional like I have finishing past races.  I was just glad to be finished crossing with my son who was very uncooperative I might add.  Not only did he not want to hold my hand, but he wouldn't run beside me, instead hiding behind me.  I found out later he didn't want the people looking at him or taking his picture. Whose kid is he?   We did cross the finish line eventually, in 5:02:49.

I have to say a BIG thank you to Bianca and Karla.  Having them by my side during the race was HUGE.  When things got dark and lonely emotionally I had them there to pick me up.  They both encouraged me the whole time and told me how great I was doing even though my pace kept getting slower and slower.  Most of all, neither of them laughed or threw up when I took my shirt off!  Thank you ladies for being GREAT friends to me.  I will never forget it.

When I crossed the finish line the biggest emotion I felt was relief.  I was neither happy nor sad.  I was just DONE!  You have to understand that I had trained for 24 weeks for this day and it just wasn't my day. I would like to think that if the temperatures were not in the 80s I could have done a lot better, but you don't get the luxury of choosing your weather on marathon day.   I do know that I did the absolute best I could on 11.13.2011.  I really did try my hardest and I never gave up on getting to the finish line.

For everyone who will tell me to be happy because I finished a marathon I say to you,  I am VERY happy.  I'm proud to have trained and run 26.2 miles.  I'm happy that I was strong enough mentally and physically to actually cross that finish line.  I think of all the people who can't run (even though they want to) and I'm thankful for just the opportunity.  I still think that it's ok to be disappointed.  The bottom line is, I set a goal and I didn't achieve it.  Do you think an Olympian is ever really 100% satisfied with Silver or Bronze?   Do you think a professional football player feels great losing the Super Bowl?  So yes, I am saddened and frustrated by my performance on Sunday, but I can see the big picture.

I'm a marathoner, a TWO TIME marathoner and no one can ever take that away from me.  The most important thing is, I'm here to run another day.

If anyone is still here reading, I will recap the events that happened after the marathon and Julie's finish tomorrow.   If I keep writing you'd surely all fall asleep and drool on your keyboards.


tracey smith said...

Very well put. Not to take away from how great you look in your pictures, but I have never seen you so sweaty! Goes to show just how hot of a day it was. Even sweaty, you are beautiful inside and out. Looking forward to hearing about your next goal!

Maria said...

Made me cry...

Congrats on your finish!


Kortni said...

Goodness... I hope it helped you by writing such an honest recap! It sounds like you gave it your all and you left it all on the course! Congrats!!! How is your foot?

Amanda Gray Mills said...

Congratulations on finishing your 2nd marathon! I think one of the hardest parts of the marathon is that you can train/train/train and still have ONE BAD DAY to put a buzz kill on the whole thing. I totally understand feeling disappointed, you don't have to feel bad for feeling bad. Recovery time and some well deserved rest now. Amanda

DiaryofaMadFatWoman said...

oh now i feel like a turd. i didn't mean to come across as judgmental or anything in my last comment - you have every right to be disappointed with your time... but you have still accomplished something so wonderful... just wanted to make sure you didn't lose sight of that is all.

David C said...

Susan, great read. I understand. You are a competitor. And as for see, we boys always think of our moms as lovely angels. They always look and smell nice. They even poop bars of Camay soap. So, just know that Nicholas' reaction probably will never change. You are HIS mom! Now go poop a bar of soar. We luvs ya.

G. said...

A FAR FAR cry fromthe Shop 'n Save days - nice job!!! xoxoxo G.

JulietteHarmon said...

I was crying while I read this (and I'm at work, not good). I love you so much and I do understand you are disappointed. The people that love you NEVER judge you.
Your blog was what you promised raw, emotioanl and wonderful. Thank you for sharing how you felt and still feel. I love all your photos- Geo takes amazing pictures! And your finisher photo is beautiful. You look strong and like a total bad axx!

Susan Tirch said...

OMG I don't feel like a turd! LOL! I just didn't want anyone to feel as though I was minimizing what I had done or looking down on those that do marathons slower than I. I know when people run a 3:30 and complain I just laugh and I wanted everyone to know I think the same of a 2:30 and a 7:30, but I had an expectation for ME! Ya know?

Joannie said...

I read this sitting on the edge of my seat and a tear rolling down my face. I totally understand how you felt. It all make sense. I'm proud of you for not giving up!! Keep up with good work.

robringer said...

I can totally understand your feelings about not meeting your goal, and you're right sometimes its just not your day...I guess that just means you have to go out and do the next marathon better! As a plus you now also have plenty more stuff to blog about...whats next? Ps. WAY TO GO 2 time marathon finisher! (thats more than I will ever finish...not because i can't but because I have no desire to run 26.2.)

Angeletta said...

Well written from the heart. Made me tear up. Good job Susan

Letty :)

Lisa said...

aww, such a great recap. Cracked me up about your son saying you are stinky. (my kids do that too!) Congratulations!

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