Thursday, November 24, 2011

My First Ever Marathon Race Report!

I wasn’t going to write a “Philadelphia Marathon Race Report” but I think when I get old one day it might be nice to look back on it and re-live the painful experience! So here goes.

Many of you didn’t know I was going to run a marathon. In fact nobody knew I was planning on running a full marathon other than The Boss and my coach (and a few smarty pants who got suspicious and checked the participant list). I kept it a secret; not even my poor ol’ parents knew what I was up to. I really did this for only one reason; because I am one very self critical person and if you have read any of my race reports you’d know I really really love competition. Competition is in my blood and I have one hell of a family legacy to keep up with. I have been extremely fortunate to have competed at the levels that I have and I wouldn’t go back and change a thing, however, there comes a point where a person experiences “burn out”. I think I have said here before that I was a very active and competitive athlete since a pretty young age (ahem, I traveled to my first out of province squash tournament in 4th grade! the racquet was as big as me!), and have never really stopped since. I left home after high school on a full NCAA Division I soccer scholarship, after four years of intense training and being under the microscope of all of your teammates and teammate’s parents (it’s a great thing to receive a sports scholarship, but god forbid you have a bad game), continued onto semi-pro, and then finally landed on the triathlon scene. I always expect a lot out of myself, and this year for the “Parsons-Maker” household was no exception. I was planning our wedding ANNNND somehow thought that I really really wanted to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas! Oh how I soooo very badly wanted to qualify for that race. I put my entire being into training for the Ironman 70.3 Boise in hopes to grab a top 2 age group placement and slot into the Worlds. My whole life this spring was training and wedding planning only. I’m not even sure why my sister still hangs out with me because I know that I was probably NOT a barrel of fun this past spring. Anyways if you don’t know how that race turned out you can click here and read the report, but in short I came 3rd in my age group and did NOT receive a slot to the Championships (there were only 2 slot available for my age group). It was after that experience that I knew there was something wrong. There I was standing on an Ironman podium holding my very own M-Dot trophy, smiling, yet I was still harboring this deep feeling of failure.

So a long story short, after a much much needed break (our honeymoon) I realized what many of you are probably thinking right now: “This girl is Bat Sh*t Crazy”!  It’s time to start really really enjoying my accomplishments for myself rather than for any other reason out there. So that (albeit rather long winded) is in short why I trained “incognito”  all fall for my first marathon. I knew that I was training just for me, and thus, I had one of the best race experiences of my life this past weekend!


The nerves started to tingle a little as I walked through the expo’s grand entrance! All of those nights running mile repeats, Yasso 800’s, and Long-Long runs, were going to culminate tomorrow morning!

P1010041A nervous smile as The Boss takes my picture with my very own Marathon bib! It’s funny, I have been to a bazillion packet pickups over the past 3 years of triathlon, but I have actually only really raced 2 open running races before! Other races that I have entered have just been with friends and not really paying any attention to the time.

Also… I swear I had filled in the option for “preferred name”… I think someone called me Bertha at one point Sad smile


Since my parents did know I was going to Philadelphia to cheer on Ray they of course sent a “good luck Ray” e-mail earlier in day, I waited until after packet pickup to reply. At this point I was actually feeling pretty bad about having not told them. I’m a really bad secret keeper when it comes to my mom and I had to actually lie to her at one point about my training and why I would be going for a random 22 mile run. I think I told her I was just vanity training and that I was trying not to get fat “post wedding”… I’m not sure if she really ever believed that. Anyways, my conscience couldn’t take it anymore so technically I never did tell my parents what I was up to, I simply just sent them the above picture with a “I love you” and “I attached a really cool picture from today”.


Morning of 5:30am pictures! Otherwise known as “what was I thinking” photos! Lucky for me, race morning was going according to plan! We found optimal parking, a short line to the porta potties, and the temperatures were perrrfect! Now it was just time to calm down, warm up, go to the bathroom one more time for good measure, and run a great race!


Time to hand in the clothing drop bag, give the Boss a smooch, and find my corral.

You can see that I have one of those nifty “pace bracelets” on my right wrist. The race pace that is there is for a 3:10:00 marathon. With all of my training we actually hoped for me to come in somewhere between a 3:07:00- 3:10:59! Everything in my training was going outrageously well all fall, and I was on target for a very successful race. I will note that I don’t believe anyone can go through a marathon training regiment flawlessly, so I will note that for the last 2 months I was in the A.R.T. doctor’s office at least once a week. I had a really really angry calve muscle and a “fairly” inflamed IT band (all on the same leg), ANNNND if you’re reading this as a referral from DCRainmaker blog then you know that we have traveled pretty much every single week/weekend since September! This is not an ideal calendar for training nor for recovery! I should slip in here a “Sorry” and “Thank you” to my coach for making it all work!!

I will also say, that although others thought I was a crazy woman, I actually really really enjoyed my weekly Thursday night 12x 1 mile repeats at faster than race pace workouts! You have to do the hard work to make for a great race!

race pc

Some of you who already know the finishing time might be reading and doing the math. I was about 10-13 minutes off of the race goal. How did the race go so long wrong? Well, for one, my race started off with me having a minor heart attack! As my corral is making it’s way to the starting mat I cleared the warm-up off of my Garmin and was ready to press start button right as I crossed the timing mat. Only problem there was, my Garmin did NOT start. In fact my Garmin did not want to do anything; not start, lap, scroll, turn off, the damn thing wouldn’t even give me a beep! Sooooo now what do I do? 26.2 miles is a long way to run without knowing your mile splits/paces and heart rates. I couldn’t very well go back to the starting line and ask someone for a “do-over”. At this point I am screaming at the irony that my husband is the Garmin “know it all” and I hardly pay any attention to his “In-Depth Reviews” and have absolutely no frigging idea how to get this damn watch to do anything! Oh yeah and did I mention… I have already crossed the timing mat and am running like crazy with the rest of the pack! So picture me running wildly with both hands bracing (as I referred to it at the time) this Piece of SH*T, pressing all buttons at the same time and praying to the running gods someone will take mercy on me and get my running crutch to start working again! Sure enough, I found out that if you try every combination of buttons together at the same time and hold them down for long enough you will eventually confuse your Garmin into shutting off! I really really hope everyone can appreciate that technology fowl ups happen in our household too, and while I wasn’t laughing at the very moment that this was all happening, I was smirking at the ridiculousness of the event around mile 6-7.

So while I very well can’t blame Garmin for my lost 13 minutes of time, I thought you might appreciate that tidbit!

So then, what did happen?

Well, I hope that everyone reading this knows the “Rules of Racing”, and basically there is really only one main, cardinal rule to race day: DO NOT DO ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!!! That includes everything from what you eat for breakfast, gels your are taking in, running shoes, clothing, race gear, etc. I don’t care if it’s as simple as what aftershave or sunblock you use, DON’T make any changes on race day!! Now technically I was not in violation of this rule. See I had been running and high intensity training in my Spibelt (a running belt that allows you to stuff things into a small pocket) for the last few months. I had worn it and figured out just the right tightness and position on my hips to make it unnoticeable. The only thing was that for the marathon I would need to carry more gel packs than I was used to, so I figured I would just wear two spibelts (double the fun!).

Like I said “DON’T do anything different on race day!”

Mile 9 comes along and I start to get this incredibly painful cramp right in my hip/butt area.hip

The wonderful gluteus area that is circled above in yellow is precisely the area that began to HATE me. At this point I am only at mile 9, so for those of you doing some more math you are realizing that I still have 17 miles left. This is not an ideal time to start hurting. Besides, I run 9 miles for the fun of it (sick, I know) there is no way on the green earth I should be experiencing issues at mile 9 and certainly not with my hip!

So at this point I am absolutely convinced this is 100% mental and not possibly a physical pain, I keep running.

Mile 13 comes along and at this point 2 of the guys I’ve been randomly running with are thanking me for letting them use me as their pace keeper (even more ironically they noticed my Garmin early on and asked if they could hang out!) and they were bailing because they were sane enough to register for the Half Marathon. At this point the pain in my hip is so intense I had to stop. I stopped and stretched, thumbed through the muscle, and seriously seriously contemplated going to the medical tent. Then I proceeded to curse myself for thinking of DNF-ing and decided to keep running. The cramp had slightly subsided and was tolerable to run on. The most frustrating thing was that everything else in my body was feeling 110%

Once I started again and did some quick math I knew I was fine, I still had plenty of time in the bank, my heart rates were perfect (186-188 with an absolute limiter of 190bpm), and with the exception of this random hip thing I was golden!

I was golden until about 1.5-2 miles later when the hip totally seized up again!!! WTF??? It is becoming intolerable again and I think something is tearing. So I stopped, stretched, thumbed through the muscle… this is actually an extremely hard muscle stretch while you are standing up and with a high heart rate.

I’m still golden. I’m not going to break open a 3:07:00 anymore but as long as I get back on pace I can still hit 3:09 or so. So I start running again. And the hip starts again.

The only thing that actually keep me running was that it was more painful to walk than to run!

As you can see the race pretty much went in the wash, rinse, and repeat cycle after mile 13. Stop, Stretch, Run. Stop, Stretch, Run.

The only thing that sucks more than having to stop every 10-15 minutes and watching 30-40 seconds get added to your time, is having to restart running. I’m sure many of you know that when you’re running long distances it’s fine, just keep moving forward. Stopping however is dangerous! Once the legs have felt the stopping sensation they are not too sure why you would want to start again… especially once they’ve just thrown down 22 unappreciated miles!

race pic

Now as you can see, the crowds have started to catch me.

At mile 23 I just down right stopped and started walking… at that point the balloons for the 3:20:00 pace group passed me. My exact words were this (and excuse me) “Oh, F*ck That” and of course, I started running again in attempt to catch up and stay with them. If there are any Canadians reading, please picture my “running” as more of a tribute to the Terry Fox trot! Anything to keep the weight off of this randomly painful hip….WHY HAS MY HIP BETRAYED ME??? Was my hip jealous all of the time and attention that my calves and IT band were getting?

Slowly the 3:20:00 pack started to put distance between us. And before I knew it I was coming up on mile 25. At my current pace I probably wouldn’t have a prayer of breaking 3:20:00… I guess once you’ve stopped 3-4 times for 45+ seconds each along with a painful fade your extra time adds up quickly.

And then, at mile 25, there he was… my night in shining armor (I know that that sounds extremely extremely cheesy to you right now, but the feeling of relief to see him standing next to the 25mile timer clock was over whelming) to run me into the finish. I actually converted what was a 8:20ish m/mile into an almost sub 7:00m/mile for the last mile-point-two. The ability to switch gears just because he was there with me was kinda crazy (I could have used him a mile earlier). I am so tired at this point that my brain is kind of mushy and I ask the Boss “How did you do???” his simple reply was, “I haven’t finished the race yet; I came back for you”. I think at this point I am more emotional than when he proposed, and I knew the only way I could show him my gratitude was to just keep running as fast as my little chops would go!

Having absolutely no idea what my total race time was so far (remembering my Garmin-Fail earlier on) and I had somehow convinced myself there was still hope for sub 3:20:00… Ruuuuuun. We seriously charged down that last mile taking the finishers chute by storm. There was no words to describe how happy I was to get to share that last 7 minutes with my Hubby, even though I ran the first 25 miles on my own, he seriously made my race what it was and was absolutely the only reason why I didn’t actually walk/hop/limp the last mile of the race.

3:20:26 … I think it’s kinda cool to have the “26” seconds on the end of the race time. I am very proud of that time, and even though I was over a mile off of where I would have liked to have finished, I truly embraced the experience and finished a pretty happy camper!


And just so you know… the minute I took off the Spibelts (yes, the two of them) my hip cramp and incredible hip agony immediately dissipated. NEVER NEVER change anything on race day :)  I have learned my lesson, and I’ll get ‘em next time!


Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my long winded explanation of why I trained and raced in secret and how I almost blew it with a rookie mistake!!

Happy Thanks Giving!


Tami said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

i am so glad you wrote this report up, way to stick with it and for Ray to wait for you...

what type of hair wrap/hat are you wearing?

Kel said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Congrats on finishing your first, I've been there doing my first one thinking why on earth am I doing this, as for the rookie mistakes (if it makes you feel any better) I got the brilliant idea that eating some spicy noodles this year the night before a big race was a good idea, my stomach begged to differ the next day. That is still a phenomenol time though for your first time out.

Diana said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I loved your report! I had read Ray's report, but it was awesome reading about his coming to meet you from your point of view.
What school did you go to where you played soccer?

Jirnsum said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great report! Sorry to hear you had issues, but to still run 3:20 with that: awesome! And: I still choke up when I see my wife and daughter cheering me on at the finish of a Big M. Every time ;)

coach dion said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Lovely post, I sorry you had problems, but I bet The Boss is pleased you did, because I think you would have caught him earlier and kicked his butt...

So are you going to do another one?

Sue said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post! You and the Boss are adorable.

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I didn't know your blog ... now I follow it :)

great post and great marathon ... :)

Dr. D said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Ok I have to admit that I follow DCRainmaker's blog!
Great report and whilst you did not make your goal, you achieved a personal best that you will smash in Boston (I know you qualified).

Like you I am a tough competitor but running marathons has thought me the value of patience and enjoying the whole experience!
Train hard and have fun doing so. Every race is a learning event.

Recovery well and enjoy the festive season ahead. Well done.

Victoria said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Way to finish despite the hip pain. It's rough when you have something like that happen so early in the race - I had my left calf cramp up from miles 7-14 of a marathon. Not. Fun.

TKanz said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

So entertaining! Glad the "pressure pot" was too much for you and you did decide to write the race report. Congrats on really digging deep and not DNF-ing. Great Job!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

"I ask the Boss “How did you do???” his simple reply was, “I haven’t finished the race yet; I came back for you”."

That is so sweet!

Sorry about the hip pain. It's hard to ignore the "don't do anything different advice." My mistake during my first marathon was to drink gatorade, even though I'd not done so during training...which led to a 5-8 minute time loss in the portapotties around mile 18. Granted, I run a lot slower than you, but even us snails care about lost time. ;)

Congrats for finishing and having a great time nevertheless!

Steven Knapp said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great job! Thanks for sharing!

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