Ugh. Three (well four by the time you're reading this, thank you auto-post feature) days later and all I can still say is Ugh. Sunday was the Pittsburgh half-marathon, which I'd been training for for months. This was the first race that I had a time goal in mind for (ideally, 2:00; secondary goal was 2:10) and I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to run 9 minute miles. I'd done a lot more speed work than I ever had before, and managed to get all my long runs in according to schedule. My bum knee wasn't bothering me, and I just felt strong.
Friday I went to the expo to pick up my bib number and race swag and also signed up for the 2:00 pace team. Sidenote, I thought signing up for the pace team would be a lot more official, but it consisted of a man writing "2:00" on a bib that I was supposed to put on my back and instructing me "You'll look for Andy on Sunday morning. He's ruggedly handsome." Super, thanks for the instructions.
Saturday consisted of a lot of hydration and pasta eating. Before I knew it, 4:45 a.m. Sunday rolled around and it was time to start getting ready. Now all week long there were weather warnings that Sunday was going to bring thunderstorms, and on Friday afternoon the marathon sent out an email instructing us what to do in the event of lightening (spoiler alert: look for shelter). So I was estactic to wake up and see no precipitation. Until I opened the front door. And was hit with a wall of humidity. At this point I figured some showers would be nice to bring the relative temps down, and kept my fingers crossed that a nice mist would be coming our way.
My friend Katrina walked over to my apartment and then we set out on our walk to the start line (about 1.5 miles away). Along the way we met up with my parents and sister, who had ventured out for moral support (and held all our gear during the race...gracias!). One quick stop at the Porta-Potties and it was time to line up...I found the 2:00 pace group and Katrina set up with the 2:10 pace group, and we made plans to meet up at the finish line.
The first three to four miles were AMAZING. I was running right alongside the pace group, I didn't feel like I was pushing myself too much, and I got to see the fam, who high-fived me as I ran by. Around mile three it started to POUR (I swear to God, I will never have "ideal" conditions for a distance run...it will always be horrific, ark-inducing weather conditions), which really wasn't worth complaining over, because I don't mind running in the rain, and it was helping to cool things down.
Then mile four(ish) came. I don't know what the hell happened. I've never had stomach issues during a race or a long training run, and out of nowhere I started to feel queasy. The minute I saw porta-potties I knew I was going to throw up. So I hopped on over to the porta-potties, puked, and emerged to fall back in with the 16,000 other runners. As luck would have it, I managed to see Katrina and fell in time with her. At this point, I wasn't really that worried about puking, I figured it was nerves and I would be able to run just fine from then on. I ran with Katrina for about a mile and a half (during which we passed the first medical aid station on the course, where they were handing out what appeared to be popsicle sticks of treats....um, no they were handing out Vaseline that was swabbed onto tongue depressors. I don't want to talk about how close I came to grabbing one and eating it. I'm sure that really would have settled my stomach.).
At roughly the halfway point my whole body started to cramp up. Again, never happened to me during a race or long run before, and I knew it was going to be a long day. I felt like I had no energy and was running soo slow. I had been walking through all the water stops and sipping water, but I could tell my body was just already done. At mile 8 we were running over a bridge and I started to get dizzy, at which point I seriously contemplated laying down and just letting the medical team cart me to the finish line. I was so over the pouring rain, the humidity, and my body's complete revolt of any physical activity I was attempting. I've never wanted to quit a race before, not even when I was at mile 22 of the marathon and my knee locked out and I realized I was going to half to walk/half jog the last 4 miles in hurricane force winds. Instead I started trying to play the mind games of "ok just over this bridge and then you're fine" and "just a little further down the road and then you can turn left and you're almost done."
After I made it over the bridge in one piece, my stomach revolted again. This time, there were no porta-potties around and I dodged off the course to stealthily puke in a bush where the medical team wouldn't see me and pull me off the course for dehydration (they were on high alert all day due to the crappy conditions). This was mile 9. I still had four miles to go and had already puked twice and was down to a jog thanks to the full body cramps taking over.
I honestly don't remember a lot of the last four miles...I was just trying to get to the finish line without puking again. Nothing was allowing me to run hard, not the crowd support, not the playlist on my ipod, not the thought of "ooo you get to be out of the rain when you cross the finish line!", NOTHING. I have never felt so physically and mentally drained in my life. By the time I crossed the finish line I couldn't even bring myself to look at the clock...I just wanted to grab my medal and a tin foil sheet and find my parents.
I eventually did look up my time (2:19) and considering that includes two puking stops and a dizzy spell, it's really not bad. But I know I could have run harder and had a legitimate shot at breaking 2 hours. This race (in addition to being all around god awful) also has convinced me to put the kibosh on training for longer distances for a bit. I was seriously considering signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon in DC in the fall, but now I think I want to just go back to running for pure enjoyment, not "ok I have to run seven miles today and I need to leave work at this time, practice extreme hydration all day, charge the ipod and change and stretch as soon as I get home to ensure it happens." I just feel burnt out from training and I think this summer I'm going to do a few 5ks and maybe a 10k or two. In short, I need to get back to running til I'm fun. That hasn't happened for a long while and I'm excited to get back to that place.