Custom Search

Monday, February 29, 2016

RnR New Orleans 2016 - or, "Reacquainting oneself with the wall."

Well, I did it! I ran my first marathon back after all my endless injuries and surgeries.
I have mixed feelings about the race. I'm happy - or at least content - with the time, given all the barriers to completing this race at all (averaging 30mpw in marathon training does not a good marathon make!). I was so thrilled to actually complete a marathon at all that I was nearly giddy for the 4.2 seconds in which I felt remotely normal today.
But I hit the wall and that's never fun. I really struggled through the part of the course that is full sun on the lakefront - always a challenging portion. I just didn't have the necessary long runs and mileage to pull through it intact.
I ran what, for me, is a really consistent race, wall and all.

My plan going in was to run 7:35's (about 3:20 pace) throughout, but to start it out a little slow. I basically did that, except that I picked up the pace a little too much in the middle and paid for it later. So here's my race rundown:
Pre-race: Last night David and I ended our packed Saturday with two birthday parties. They were both scheduled for 7pm, so we planned to go to one from 7 to 8 and the other from 8:30 to 9. However, the birthday boy was an hour late to his own party #1, so both parties got pushed back. We didn't get home until 11:30 and I spent the whole night standing! BAD! Plus, my pre-race dinner looked like this: glass of wine, birthday cake at 8:40 pm, birthday cake at 9:30 pm, terrible beer. Regardless, I was up at 5:30, and after coffee and about 1/2 a cup of plain white rice, I was ready to go. Getting to the start was smooth as can be, and in no time I was in the corral, where I ran into one of my favorite bloggers (who is having a break-out year) - Audrey! She was in town for a girls weekend/race weekend! But she is in better shape than I, so I shooed her to the front before the gun went off.
Miles 1-3: I really tried to start slowly, and I did. I was far enough back to avoid getting swept up into a faster group. St. Charles Ave was beautiful, the weather was great, and I was loving running! But I knew that the heat was coming. It was way too warm for that early!
Middle miles: I saw friends at mile 4.5 (who had a camera!) and picked up the pace a little. By the time I was cognizant of that, it was mile 8, and I was glancing at the distance to start planning my gu's. I realized I'd been slowly speeding up, and I backed off a tad, but examination of my Garmin reveals that I ran ~7:25's consistently from mile 6 - 16.
It's still shady! The weather is lovely! I am happy! 
So, the gel situation. I messed this up big time. The course offered something called Glukos that I'd never heard of, and I simply assumed that all gels are alike.
NO. Glukos cannot really even be called a gel. It's a liquid. I grabbed one at mile 8, ripped it open, and - fluid spilled out all over my arm. The packets are really large and the "gel" is just semi-viscous water. But the worst part? The worst part I didn't discover until I got home and indignantly went to the company's website (like I should have pre-race!). Each packet has just 60 calories and only 20mg of sodium. A Gu has 100 calories and 60mg of sodium. Because I planned two gels that I brought, plus two Glukos on course, I was seriously shorting myself on calories and sodium - especially since I spilled half my first Glukos.
Marconi and lakefront - miles 16 through 21: The wheels starting coming off early. At mile 16, I was starting to feel a little disoriented, and I felt my pace slow. A gel helped, and that told me that I was behind on calories - and probably sodium, since my face was crusted with sweat. Then we hit the lake. Man, did I ever struggle. It was burning hot. The sun was strong, there is no shade, it was windy, and my blood pressure was plummeting. People were walking, and I SO wanted to join them. To stay focused, I'd pick a person ahead of me and fix them in my sites: except that they kept dropping and walking! Gah! It was a death march!
That is some burning sun and some serious marathon shuffle.
A friend took this one on the lakefront.

And then the hallucinations started. My sodium was perilously low, and I started seeing things. First I kept thinking cars were driving toward me (on the closed course!), then I thought I saw a pack of fast bikers zipping through the runners, then I thought everyone was running towards me - I could see their facial features and everything - but it was the backs of people in front of me! I was losing it!
Miles 22 - finish: I was so happy to get off the lake and onto Wisner Boulevard. We had a brisk headwind, and I LOVED it. It was so cooling after getting burnt up on the lake. Plus, shade! But I knew I needed some sodium - licking my own sweat wasn't cutting it. Thank goodness, a medical tent had salt packets, and I practically ate the paper, I ate it so fast. I believe that this is where I saw reader/local powerhouse runner Allison, who took a great pic, but I have no idea. I was out of it.
On second thought, that is definitely on Marconi, but I can't be bothered to move the picture now that it's here. 
Once I got some salt, my vision and thoughts started clearing, but I was in full wall mode. I couldn't pick up the pace for the life of me. Finally we neared the finish!
Right at mile 26 were the Power Milers! An awesome group of fast guys who also lead Varsity's speedwork! Drew shouted at me, "Grace! Catch that guy!" and of course, I had to do it, even though I moaned, "Guys! Don't do this to me!" I found enough energy to break 7:00 for the last 0.2 miles.
I crossed the line and made a beeline for the pretzels. More salt!
Post-race: Post-race (and post-race thoughts) and recovery gets its own post. This post is long enough!


  1. I'm cracking up at your caption on the picture I sent you. I saw you right after mile 16, and you definitely looked like you weren't enjoying life. I'm sure it only got worse, as once you get past the gym on Marconi, you can wave bye bye to any sort of shade.

    Damn, I could kick myself because I actually thought about bringing some pretzels in case people needed extra salt. That might have helped you. And it would have made my 12 year-old feel more useful because he thought our race signs were stupid, and he was embarrassed to hold one. Handing our pretzels though? He would have been all over it.

    What kind of gels do you normally use? I worked with an elite runner/dietician once who was sponsored by PowerBar, and she recommended that I use their gels because they have MEGA sodium in them-- 200 mg! That being said, they are a bit more runny than your typical GU gels, so you will probably still have the problem of it spilling all over you.

    The PowerMilers are such badasses.

    Despite the crappy pre-race dinner, excessive standing, late night, and sweat-fest on the course, you still did a fantastic job. I think if you continue to stay healthy and consistent with your training, you'll be able to eventually get back to where you were. You are still young!

  2. You are a beast! To keep that pace going low sodium hallucinations and all. So impressed with your time.
    I started tracking you late in the race, and when I went for my Sunday run, I kept thinking Go Grace Go! I was sending you lots of happy thoughts.
    I can't wait to see what your next training cycle looks like.

  3. Wow, you ran such a strong race. That's so impressive considering all that your body has been through. The hallucinations sound scary, though... yikes.

  4. Woo-hoo, I knew it was going to be a sub-3:20! I think I saw you a couple times on the U-turn sections and tried to yell hello. I struggled a lot with the heat, and there were way more hills than I was expecting after mile 16. I went out too fast and finished about 13 minutes slower than my A goal (and more than 30 minutes off a PR), but I had a fun race and an awesome weekend in your lovely city! Loved the museum so much, and that meant I did the same thing -- on my feet all of Saturday, but so worth it. I tried the liquid gu stuff at the expo and my friend called my attention to the calories so I made the plan then to skip both liquid gu stations and just carried my own. I didn't think I could manage real liquid gu on the course, I need at least some gel-like consistency to avoid spilling, and only 1 of the 3 flavors tasted tolerable at the expo. Hydrate well today, get some good sleep, and hope your legs loosen up and heal nicely! Congrats on an amazing race!

    1. you were smarter than me, then. And yes, I think I heard you - were you in pink? I was trying to see who was calling my name!

    2. Yep, that was me. It was a purplish tank with a wide pink stripe on it. Wish I'd had a chance to meet you in person, the weekend really flew by!

    3. Ah, sorry I couldn't meet you! But I know what those short trips are like. Thank you for the cheers! If I had been less out of it I would have cheered for you, too!

  5. Oh man, the gel/liquid thing stinks. I'm happy you got this race out of the way with a good result despite training mileage and partying the night away pre-race. Here's to even stronger races to come!

  6. That sounds like a really tough race. You did incredibly well taking all that into consideration. Hallucinations would have done me in.

  7. Eek, why oh why do marathons a) include long open exposed stretches and b) use products that are clearly not designed for, y'know, endurance races?? Sounds like you had a pretty good race under the circumstances! Well done!

  8. Congrats on a great and tough race! Gives me hope for a comeback with all these ongoing injuries. The heat sounds painful and those gel things - I'd be so confused.