SUSAN MEYERS - Space Coast Marathon - 11.27.2011
Before Space Coast marathon, it had been a little more than 2 years since my last full marathon, Hartford in October 2009. To say *that* race didn’t go well would be an understatement. On top of that, this would be my first race since breaking my arm (yes, my ARM) during a training run. However, I had followed my training program to a “tee.” NO workouts were skipped and any rearranging of my training schedule was done in consultation with Nicole. So, while I was nervous about the race, I was also somewhat confident.
Mary, Lucy, Lanell, and I headed to the east coast on Saturday morning. After a short “adventure” (that’s what my kids and I call it when we get lost), we finally arrived at Kennedy Space Center for packet pick-up. Nicole and Sandi arrived at just the same time, so we explored the expo together, got our packets, took some pictures, etc. The expo was on the small side, but they had some decent merchandise. Running Zone, a running store in Melbourne, is pretty much the organizer of the race, so their booth had a TON of stuff. Our official race shirt was a short-sleeve tech tee, so I grabbed a long-sleeve, as well as a new vest to replace the super big parachute I had been wearing. (Side note: Make sure to order a women’s race shirt when available. Mine fits great.) There was another vendor with some fun, inspirational shirts and jewelry. I grabbed 13.1 and 26.2 charms to go on my Pandora bracelet. After a bit more shopping, we headed to lunch.
Lunch was at Seafood Atlantic with Nicole’s family. GREAT little restaurant with super fresh seafood. I had a grouper sandwich that was delicious.
After that, Sandi, Nicole, Lanell, and I decided to drive the course. The course is basically a figure 8. You run 6.5 miles out and back, cross through adorable downtown Cocoa Beach for a different 6.5 mile out and back. Personally, I LOVE courses like this. They are very easy to segment. (In my mind, I tell myself that I only have to run 6.5 miles. Then, I tell myself the same thing at the turn-around. Then, again. Then, one more time.) Also, with these courses, you know what to expect on the way back. If there’s a big uphill on the way out, you know there is a big downhill on the way back. Another good thing is that you can note physical markers (buildings, signs, etc.) to watch for on the way back. The course is really quite beautiful. You can see the water for the entire length of it. It is a little hillier than I expected, but it’s not terrible. They advertise it as fast and flat; it appears that east coast flat is different from west coast flat. After the loops, the finish is in an adorable square right in downtown Cocoa.
After getting the lay of the land, we headed to our hotel to freshen up for dinner at, where else, Carabba’s. I ate my usual penne franco with grilled chicken in hopes that my stomach would cooperate for the race. Hmph. After a yummy dinner, it was back to the hotel to lay out my “Racing Susan” and foam roll. We hit the hay pretty early because the race started at 6:15.
I actually slept pretty well. I think Lanell and I woke up around 4:15. We dressed and met the others in the lobby for Nicole to chauffer us to the start. They did have shuttles, but since we had a driver….
After we got there, I drank a bottle of water and ate a banana and ½ a bagel with peanut butter. Again, nothing different for fear of upsetting the ol’ tum-tum.
After checking our dry clothes and hanging out for a bit, we headed to the start line. The ½ and full started together, but the full turned off pretty quickly. Lanell and I said our good byes to the half-ers and lined up between the 9:00 and 9:30 pacers. Before we knew it, the countdown had started and we blasted off.
It’s a fairly small race, so I never really felt crowded. The first 5-6 miles, I felt great. My pace hovered right at 9:00 or just below. I knew this was a little faster than I wanted to be, so I kept trying to rein myself in. It was warm. Really warm. BUT, around mile 2, a light rain started. I loathe running in the rain, but this actually felt really good. Sadly, it stopped. And, when it stopped, it cleared up. And when it cleared up, the clouds went away. And the sun came out. And it was like a FREAKING OVEN.
Aid stations were every 1-1.5 mile, and I was walking through them to make sure I got enough fluid, given that the temp was rising. Initially, I alternated water and Gatorade at the aid stations. As it got warmer, I was taking a Gatorade and 2 waters (1 to dilute the Gatorade, 1 to drink). Every 30 minutes, I was taking a Power Gel and a salt tab. In training, I was using gels and salt tabs in the same way, but drinking waaaay less Gatorade.
I hit the turn around right below where I thought my pace should be and felt good. I did slow a little bit on the way back, but was glad. I was getting back to goal pace. As I got into downtown before heading out on my 2nd loop, I started looking for Nicole. Anyone who’s ever raced knows how important seeing your people can be. It’s such a boost when you get those cheers and high fives. I got to mile 14, and I hadn’t seen her. I was kinda sad, thinking she had headed to the finish line to see Sandi. Then, I saw Sandi still running. Then, suddenly, there was Nicole. Then, just a few seconds later, my friend Melissa Muller. Seeing them gave me a great boost, and I pushed on.
During the 2nd loop, it felt like the aid stations were spaced further apart. In fact, I saw Mary and Lucy right before the first one and asked them where the h*** it was. (Mary quickly told me, “This SUCKS and I’m never doing it again.”
At some point, my stomach started feeling full. I’m not sure when that happened. I didn’t want to take the gels, and I didn’t want to drink. I knew, though, that I had to or….
I got to the turn-around at mile 20 right on pace and feeling ok. I mean, I’d already run 20 miles, so I’d be lying if I said I felt great. I used my “6.5 more miles” trick and my mind said, “OK,” not “Hell No!” Then, around 21, the wheels fell off….
My belly started aching. I started to walk for a bit. I tried running again. My legs and my head said, “Let’s do this!” My belly said, “Screw you, legs and head.”
At about 21.75, I tried to throw up, thinking that would help. No luck. Then, at mile 22, I did. Projectile vomit. Water and Gatorade. Awesome. You haven’t lived until you’ve done that.
I think I started to cry because this was exactly the same point that exactly the same thing happened in Hartford. I kept thinking, “how can this be happening AGAIN?” Rather than quit, I continued to walk, mainly because I figured it was the fastest way to the finish. At some point, a spectator gave me a bottle of water, which I nursed for the next 4 miles. One spectator offered me a beer, which I declined. He gave me a coke instead, which was awesome.
The other runners were interesting. Several of them gave me knowing, sympathetic looks and told me they’d been there before. Others encouraged me to run. Still others told me “just finish. Even if you walk it in, you finish.” Perhaps one of the most difficult things was seeing runners that I had passed pass me.
Finally, just before mile 26, I saw Nicole and Sandi. To the best of my recollection, Nicole said, “What the HELL are you doing?!” And I said (screamed), “I’ve been walking and PUKING for 4 freakin’ miles!!!” They walked with me for a bit until we reached the finish area. At that point, I REFUSED to walk anymore. So, with legs, head and heart saying, “GO!” and belly saying “NO FREAKING WAY!” I ran the last 0.1 mile. I crossed the line running in 4:48. Not a PR. Nowhere near what I wanted to do. But, by golly, I did finish when it would have been reallllly easy to quit. The medal was awesome! A rocket surrounded by the number 40 because it was the race’s 40th anniversary.
We waited around for a few more minutes before going back to the hotel to shower and head back to the Ranch. Thank goodness we requested late check-out….. I was covered in salt—my arms, the creases of my eyelids, my forehead. Lanell and I took ice baths and hot showers. Then, we headed home.
In retrospect, I’m not 100% sure what went wrong. I *think* I had waaaay too much sugar in my belly, between the power gels and the Gatorade. Being the fool that I am, I decided to get back on the horse right away, rather than cower for another couple of years. I registered for the Melbourne Marathon on February 5. This time, I will rely strictly on water and salt tabs and hope for better luck…
I guess the moral of the story is that, sometimes, you can do all the right things—proper training, nutrition, hydration, and tapering—and still not achieve your goal. Bill Rodgers once said, “The marathon can humble you,” and, boy, is he right. So, I’ll chalk this up as a learning (and humbling) experience and wait to get that elusive PR, knowing it will be that much sweeter when it comes.