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Friday, March 9, 2012

What went wrong? RnR New Orleans 2012 recap

It's hard to recap a race that's simultaneously a PR and your worst race ever.

This was a terrible day to run as the weather was miserable. It was a beautiful day.
I was sick with a sinus infection that I'd had for 6 weeks. I was on the last day of antibiotics and pretty much turned the corner earlier in the week.
The record crowds led to a crazy packed course and we ran out of water at mile 8. The race did start out crowded, but not unbearably so, and the course was well-staffed with fantastic volunteers.
My old knee injury reared its ugly head. Except for lack of training, my body felt fine.
This was my first marathon, and I didn't know what to expect. What is this, number 11 for me?
My Garmin/ipod died; my ponytail came out; I wore the wrong socks; my shoe came untied. Well, my shoe did come untied.

The real story? Pretty simple. I went out too fast, I freaked about the slow Lakefront area late in the race, and I used all my energy up on the first 13. The only thing I can blame is the runner. Moi.

Sunday morning David dropped me at the start area. I started at the very back of a crowded corral one, since two was so jammed I could not even squish in. I did not expect to see so many people up front, but of course most were running the half. This kept the course pretty crowded for at least ten miles. I started with a group of Varsity runners, and I stupidly stayed with them at the beginning. They are all faster than I am, and all but one were running the half. I had no Garmin reception in the crowd, and the fast start threw my pacing.

Mile 1: 6:36. What?! I doubted my Garmin was accurate, since it had been so off at the start, but this still scared me.
Mile 2: 7:00. I knew I should slow down and I dropped behind the Varsity group. It was loud and crowded. I got stuck in a "pack" I couldn't escape from as we headed down St. Charles Ave. I wanted to drop back a little but there were many people behind me.
Miles 3,4,5: 6:57, 6:55, 6:56. Weaving. Maneuvering. Cursing myself every time the mile beeped. I was struggling with my pacing. We turned at mile 4 and I saw David, who took my best race picture ever. I gave him thumbs-down: I already knew I'd botched this race.
Mile 6, 7, 8: 6:57, 6:59, 6:55. Back up St. Charles. Sun was coming out - I was already warming up. Pack thinned a little but I still seemed trapped in a large group. To get out of it I could either speed up or slow down. I should have slowed down!
Mile 9: 7:01, mile 10: 6:53: Through the French Quarter. Feeling fatigued at this point. "Slow down!" I screamed at myself. But I kept thinking, "If I slow down, I'll never make it up later. The Lakefront will be so tough". This was in the back of my mind the whole race. I simply can't trust myself to negative split. I'm always afraid I'll crash no matter what pace I run the first part at, so I start too fast to build a cushion. FYI a cushion has only worked for me once: at the Louisiana Marathon I started fast and hit the wall and still made my time goal. Other than that - never!
Mile 11: 6:58. Onto Esplanade. A little shade. I hoped the halfers would split onto the other half of the divided road here: nope. One of the runners was one of those loud-breathers: grunting puffing, moaning, gagging, spitting, snorting. humphing. I prayed he was a half marathoner: I could NOT shake him from right behind my shoulder and he was driving me berserk.
The guy scratching his head is the loud-breather. If you recognize him,  please tell him to breathe more quietly.
Mile 12: 7:06. As I neared a water table, a man suddenly cut in front and across me, then stopped dead in his tracks. To avoid hitting him I veered right and got body-checked into the Gatorade table. It sloshed all over the place. I said something mean. Oops. Sorry.
Mile 13: 7:05: Finally the half marathoners split off and there was suddenly lots of room. The loud-breather did not. He stuck with me. I hit the half in 130:47. This shook me. My half marathon PR from December is 1:30:26. At this point I knew I was toast. Suddenly I wanted those last 13 miles back. Why was I running under 7's?! I should have been well over that. I was filled with regret and assessed my condition. I was hot, fatigued, and feeling a little low on fuel. My face was crusted with salt. My kidneys felt bruised. I realized I needed to hit the Gatorade and water big time or risk dehydration. I resigned myself to suffer for the second half and miss my goal.
Miles 14, 15, and 16: 7:08 7:07, 7:11. Straight up Marconi Drive, into the wind, full sun. I was hot and tired and I knew all I could look forward to was a long loop on the hot, windy lake. The last half of the course is a "T" up Marconi Drive with a loop on Lakeshore Drive. I was already starting to get into the panic mode that hits in the last miles before you hit the wall. I overtook a woman right before the lake. She was working hard. I didn't even care that I passed her.
My shoe came untied at mile 16 and I had to stop and retie. I was so frustrated that I didn't think to retie the other shoe, too; I felt it get progressively looser all the way until the finish.
Mile 17: 7:09. I turned onto the lake. Headwind. I grabbed some gels at the Gu stop. I started counting ladies at the turn around. I was tenth.
Miles 18, 19, 20: 7:05 7:03 7:09. Nice tailwind - but I knew this meant I'd turn back into the headwind for the last part of the lake loop. I knew this would be extremely hard for me. The sun was strong here, and finally, oh finally, I passed the loud-breather. Now THAT made me happy! I actually passed a good number of men on the lake: maybe ten?
Miles 21 and 22: 7:18 7:27*. Turn around. Back into the headwind. Struggling. I felt my form deteriorating and regretted skipping the gym for a month and a half. My lack of core strength was painfully apparent. I can hardly describe these miles: this wasn't hitting the wall, this was just total exhaustion. I had nothing left. I was ready to quit, but a little part of me knew I was tenth, and I really wanted to be top ten in a hometown race. I forced my legs to move. A friend running her first marathon saw me around this point (she rocked a 3:31!) and told me later that my exhausted appearance actually encouraged her: it reminded her that a marathon is supposed to be hard!
 Miles 23, 24, 25: 7:19, 7:26*, 7:19. My mile splits were depressing me. I couldn't even do the math at this point, but I knew I wouldn't make 3:05. I wanted to give up, but a blue sports bra in front of me seemed to be getting closer. I caught her right at the mile 25 marker. She said something super encouraging, like, "Go for it, girl" and I immediately knew she wasn't actually trying. Turns out she is a professional triathlete for Zoot an this was just a long run for her. Figures!
This picture is funny because you can see David behind me trying to get a picture, too! 
Mile 26.2: 7:25*, 7:00. Nothing left. Just nothing. No burst, no push, no energy. I was not happy to cross the finish. I was just tired. I was mad at myself because I knew I'd messed that up. What if I'd hit the sunny, windy area with lots of energy left? Could I have picked up my pace or at least held on? What if I'd had confidence in my strength late in the race and held back at first? Would I have been faster, or just happier?
Unfortunately, I have to leave that as what-ifs. But I think it's time to try a negative split race. I don't ever want to end a race feeling that disappointed or that tired!
*Looking back, if I had just cut these miles down to 7's, I would have made my goal. Inspiration to hang on at the end of tough races in the future! 
So where am I now? I have Publix marathon in about a week, a race I plan on using as a hilly long run for Boston, and then I have Boston. I have no idea how to run Boston. Any thoughts?


  1. Wow--you fought really hard for your PR! I've had those races and they are such a sufferfest. If nothing else, you will be more cautious next time.

    So what are your Boston goals?

  2. Do you have time to just run a practice 26.2 on your own and intentionally do negative splits? Maybe it would be easier if you're not running a real race to give yourself permission to give it a try?

    1. That's a goof idea! But I'd hate to run 26 miles on my own...maybe 20, lol. I'm so lazy about the long run.

  3. Damn girl. Seriously, you really pulled through on this one. Hope you're recovering well. I wish I had advice on Boston... maybe in a few years I'll be back here asking you on how to run it!!!

  4. Step one....start running...there is no step too

    that is for any how i met your mother fans out there

    LOL...kinda funny right?

  5. Sounds like a really tough race. You take some really awesome race pictures for how fast you are going!

  6. It really is a sinking feeling around mile 14 or so knowing that the next 10ish miles are going to be a SLOG. After running RnRAZ believe me... I KNOW.

    I've never had the kidney bruise issue. But, I have had the "oh shit, my tounge feels like sandpaper" feeling which is about as bad.

    You said yourself that holding on a few seconds here and there in those last miles would have got you there. Don't focus on the should haves or would haves, instead focus on what you can do to change them!

  7. this was a character building race. and a freaking pr!!! don't be so critical :)

    i'm curious what bruised kidneys feel like.

    1. Flank pain, like if you twist or touch the area it feels bruised. Sometime after a long run do you feel like your back is kind of sore? It might be kidneys.

  8. Well you did really well, even if you did not do as good as you wanted! I know that for me I run so much worse when it's hot or humid, so probably you will just do better in Boston because of the weather! As for negative splits, I am not good at that either. Sometimes you just gotta give it gas when you have gas to give!

  9. Gracie~~~ I felt your frustration!! Ok, I know you asked for Boston advice and here is my own two cents for what it's worth. Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a coach and I have not run Boston yet so I don't know how "helpful" this will be. I tend to pace conservatively and negative split so here is my thought process... If it were me, and I were trying to break 3:05 (and hopefully this will be me someday!), I would shoot for running low 7"s. 7:01, 7:02, 7:03. As fresh and tapered that you may feel, make yourself hold it in! A few 6:58's or 6:55's sprinkled in might be ok but I would generally try to hit a low 7. Then once you hit the last 5-10K, depending on your energy level, I would kick it in strong. You are so talented and I KNOW you have a sub 3:05 in you now and honestly I think a sub 3:00 is just around the corner too... I hope that doesn't sound too coachy. :-)

  10. I just came across your blog from runninghood, I love it! and here I am reading through all your posts and I'm so glad I found this one! I just had a terribly mental marathon last week and all but quit because I wasn't going to hit my goal time- I have another one next weekend and I'm going to keep this recap in the back of my mind to dig deep and work hard because it will be hard. I'm the same way about negative splits- they care me because I think no matter how fast or slow I go in the beginning, I'm going to feel the same in the end, so I might as well ''bank" time in the beginning. Doesn't really work;) anyway, I've enjoyed reading and looking forward to following along:)