Race Report: St. Jude Marathon

The short version:

It was hot.  I bonked.  5:13:44.

The long version:

I knew going into this weekend that the weather wasn’t going to be ideal for me, but I knew I had to just make the best of it.  I knew regardless of what went down, it was going to be a fun weekend.  I was spending it with a girl that I had gone to high school with.  She had signed up as a St. Jude Hero and had committed to a pretty high level of fundraising.  High enough that they supplied her hotel room, so she invited me to crash with her!  They put us up in the Double Tree RIGHT AT the start line.  Seriously, this is looking out our hotel window.

See that street just on the other side of that parking lot?  Yeah, that’s where the corrals lined up. PERFECT location.

Nicky’s goal was also 5 hours, so we planned to at least start together.  And then the day before the race, I got this text from a good friend of mine who was running the half.

A twosome just became a threesome!

Kelly’s been battling back spasms throughout the training cycle and didn’t know where she was going to come in time-wise.  She ran St. Jude as her first half in 2:07 last year but knew she couldn’t do that this year.  If she was going to have to run it slow, she figured she may as well run it slowly with two friends!

So anyway I got to Memphis about 4:00 on Friday.  We got all checked in and situated and walked a few blocks to the expo.  Zero line for packet pickup or T-shirts.  Awesome.  We poked around the expo for a few minutes and still had time to kill before we ate dinner.  Nicky had tickets for us to the Heroes pasta party and presentation, which didn’t start until 6:30.  Rather than stand in the crazy long line that was already forming to wait for them to open the doors, we walked to the Trolley Stop Bar across the street in the Marriott to have a drink while we waited.  When the time came, we headed back, got our food, and got seated just in time for the presentation to start.  Parts of that were kind of interesting.  Parts kind of boring.  Parts really depressing.  I wouldn’t go to another one.  Not because I don’t support them, because I do.  They’re a great facility doing a great thing.  It’s just that I go to these races for fun, and that was not my idea of a good time.  I played on Facebook through most of it.  By the time it was over, we were ready to head back to the hotel to get our stuff ready for the next morning and turn in.

Since the race didn’t start until 8 and since we were so close to the start line, we didn’t have to stress about getting up early.  We actually both woke up well before our alarms went off.  We were dressed, had eaten breakfast, and were heading down by 7:30.

Walking up from the back end of the corrals.

We didn’t have assigned corrals.  They had pace ranges posted on each corral sign and let you seed yourself.  After discussing it the night before while looking at the hour-by-hour forecast, we had decided to move ourselves up to corral 9 instead of in 10 with the 4:55 pacers.  The first few miles would be a good 10-15 degrees cooler than the last miles, so we thought we would be better off taking advantage of that while it lasted.  The plan was to run about an 11:00 min pace.  Not MUCH faster than the 11:27 we needed to come in under 5, but enough to hopefully give us a little cushion so that we could slow down when it got hot.  I texted Kelly and she agreed that sounded like a good plan to her too.

Me, Nicky, and Kelly.  And I’m embarrassed to admit how long I looked for that Sweaty Band before I remembered I put it around my neck so I wouldn’t forget where it was.

They started letting corrals go right at 8:00, and we crossed the start line 16:22 later.  I remember this because I paid close attention to the clock as I crossed the mat, because like a DUMBASS, I forgot to turn my watch on until the corral ahead of us was starting.  It didn’t find signal until we were almost at the one mile mark.  I waited until Kelly’s watch showed 1.00 to start mine so I would know that mine would always be exactly a mile behind.

We did pretty good at sticking to our 11:00 plan.

1 – 11:14  (Typical first-mile congestion.)
2 – 10:40
3 – 10:50
4 – 9:37    (That’s bullshit.  The buildings were messing with my satellite signal)
5 – 10:49
6 – 10:56
7 – 11:02
8 – 11:02
9 – 11:04

We had been walking through the water stops, but somehow we got separated during the one around mile 9.  That was the last time I saw Kelly.  She went on to finish the half in 2:22.  Not bad at all for not having halfway trained!

I was really starting to get hot, so it was around that time that I decided that it was time to start throwing some more walking in.  I started doing 0.9 mile run, 0.1 mile walk.  Plus walking through the water stations.  Even doing this, I caught back up to Nicky somewhere around mile 14.  When I stopped for my 0.1 mile walk, she said she was going to go on ahead again because she was planning to stop at the next portapotty.  That was the last time I saw her.  (She went on to finish in 5:00:17.  She didn’t wear a watch and didn’t realize how close she was to five hours.  She said if she had known, she would have been a little quicker in the portapotty, or maybe stopped for one less picture, or maybe would have refrained from posting a Facebook status that she was halfway through her first marathon!)

10 – 11:17
11 – 10:51
12 – 11:09
13 – 11:39  (Walked an extra few seconds at the halfway point to rearrange things in my SPIBelt that kept bouncing and driving me crazy.  I ended up just taking the damn thing off and holding it.  It’s NEVER bounced like that.  I don’t know what was different this time. )
14 – 11:03

Mile 15 is where things started to get pretty sketchy.

15 – 12:02
16 – 12:51
17 – 12:04

And then the wheels fell off.

18 – 13:04
19 – 12:01
20 – 11:44

It was somewhere around mile 18.5 that the 4:55 pace group caught up to me.  I tried.  I tried so hard to hang with them.  I just. didn’t. have it.  I stopped and walked and sobbed as they pulled away from me.  It was right then that I gave up any hope of 5 hours.  I was exhausted.  I was crusted over with a layer of salt.  My hands and fingers were hugely swollen.  I was sunburned.  I was fueling like crazy and drinking at LEAST one water and one Powerade at every single station.  But it must not have been enough because…

Then the muscle cramps started.  Both inner thighs, left hammie, and right shin.  The right hamstring was tight, but it never full-on cramped up.  The inner thighs were what had the most impact on my running.  After mile 20, I was pretty much running for a minute and then walking for however long it took me to walk the cramp out.  There were a couple of times that I was able to run for two or three minutes before the cramp took hold, but mostly I was fighting just to reach one minute.  That’s how the last 6 miles of this thing were run:  One minute at a time.  It made for a looooong 6.49 miles.

21 – 13:19
22 – 13:11
23 – 13:35
24 – 13:35
25 – 13:01
26 – 14:00
26.49 – 12:33

I finished in 5:13:44 and was (am) so, so, so very disappointed.  But I left all my tears on the course along with everything else.  I can be upset about the outcome, but I can’t be upset about my effort.  I know that I gave it every little bit of everything I had on that day.  I’m positively certain that had it been cooler, or even cloudy, I would have reached my goal.  I just did not stand a chance on a sunny, 71-degree day in December after being acclimated to much cooler temperatures.  This is not the scene that you expect to see on December 1st.

Clear blue sunny skies as seen from the infield of Autozone Park.

Eighteen weeks of training shot to shit on one unseasonably hot day, but whatcha gonna do?

After we grabbed our finish line goodies we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up.  We both tried to take a nap, but neither of us were successful.  Rather we just laid around and watched TV until we headed down for a delicious Thai meal.  Right after that we met back up with Kelly and her husband, Ben.  He ran a 3:52 marathon, by the way.  As awesome as that is, the heat and cramps got him, too.  He had trained for and was shooting for  a 3:30 finish.  Quad and hamstring cramps crippled him in the last miles.  We met in our hotel bar and stayed there until we were just all too sleepy to stay any longer.  That was by far the highlight of the weekend.  There’s absolutely nothing like drinks and laughter with old friends to make you forget about a crappy race.

Kelly, Ben and two of their other friends that I met that night.
Me.  Beer makes me laugh.  A lot.

Me, Kelly, and Nicky

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St. Jude Marathon Goals

This is only my second marathon, and the first one I’ve had a time goal for.  For #1 all I wanted to do was finish under the 5:30 cutoff.  I finished in 5:27:08.  I expect more from myself this time.  I have a very specific goal in mind, and that’s why I’ve been so nervous this week.  I’ve been stalking the weather like a mad woman because I know that temperature absolutely makes or breaks me. My ideal running temp is in the 35-45 degree range.  (It was 34 with a wind chill of 24 when I ran my awesome 8 last weekend.)  I have absolutely no hope of that being the case this weekend.  I actually started my weather stalking on Thanksgiving Day, the day that 12/1 showed up in the 10-day forecast.  It showed 58 and mostly cloudy.  I was pretty dang happy with that.  Then by Saturday they had changed it to 62 and partly cloudy.  I was less happy.  Today it’s up to 68 and partly cloudy, 51 at start, 65 by 1:00.  That’s entering scary territory there.  And not what I was hoping for when I signed up for a December marathon.

Anyway…

Goal A – Less than 4:56:33.
Goal B – Less than 5:00.
Those are the only two goals I will be happy with.  Period.  But still, just in case shit doesn’t go as I’m planning…  (This IS a marathon after all… we all know how much of a tricky bitch she can be.)  
C Goal – Less than 5:27:08.
That would give me a PR at least.  Anything more than that and I just may as well DNF as far as I’m concerned.

If anyone cares to check in on me, you can track me here.  I’m #1302.  If (when) things get rough, maybe just knowing that you all are watching will help me keep putting one foot in front of the other!