My First Marathon: 8th Annual Christiana Care Delaware Marathon

I have included the dates I wrote everything. I am going to present it all in one large post.  Here it goes:

5/12/2011
I am a few days away from my first marathon.  At this very moment, I am just ready to get it over with. I have no worries about the race.  I will finish.  In fact, let it be known that I will finish the race or die first.  My target time is 3 hours 20 minutes.  I have no doubt I will complete the time, solely because I am mentally far tougher than I was a few months ago. And I will continue to get stronger mentally.  I wish I could run the marathon tomorrow.

5/14 - Morning
In a little over 24 hours from now, I will have completed my first marathon.  That’s right, finished it.  Very encouraging.  

One of the best parts about running a marathon, well, running in general is that I get to eat lots of carbs. I am eating my day-before-the-race breakfast at this little place in Downtown Wilmington called Libby’s - it is an old, delicious, southern-food diner.

I ate eggs, pancakes, turkey sausage, and hash browns.  Perfect.  One of those meals where I could go home and pass out afterward for the rest of the day.  

5/14 - Evening
Just ate some veggie pizza. Nowhere on the level of even the worst NYC pizza, but such is life.

5/15
It is 4:15am on marathon morning. I have been up since 3:30am.  I am pumped, ready to go.  I can’t wait until 7am.  By 10:30am, I will have solidified my status as a runner.  

Running is a way of life.  Race mornings are among my favorite.  Obscenely early wake ups, careful pre-race preparation, warming up, and eventually the start.  Once you start racing, each step is a reflection of the all of the work you put in.  It wont be easy.  In fact, it will probably be quite painful. But I will complete it.

5/16
Yesterday, I ran in the Delaware Marathon.  Physically, I pushed myself harder than I ever have for any activity.  My feet burned. My legs cramped. My body was in total pain.  And I received the three worst letters in running: DNF.

What happened:  At mile 23 my muscles cramped so much that I could not move.  I failed my mission. I went to the hospital for dehydration. DNF.

How do I feel?
Physically, I feel like hell.  Every muscle in my body hurts. It hurts to walk. It hurts to sit. My left foot feels broken, but only time will tell. I had some abnormalities from my blood work, and I will go to a doctor just to make sure I’m ok.

Mentally.  That is a tough one.  I am devastated I did not finish.  From miles 18-23 my feet burned and my legs cramped.  I was running through more pain that I have ever experienced in my life.  I wish I could more eloquently describe it. I wash pushing my body harder and faster than I have had before, and the only thing getting me through was the sheer determination to finish. That’s it.

Now the positive news.  I can’t wait to do this again.  I am itching to get out there and run.  Even if I know that next marathon I will end up in the hospital again, and feel twice as bad as I do now, I will cross that finish line.

A special shout out:
I ran the whole marathon until DNF with a great man named Jack Ryle.  Funny how running you can make friends.  Your company was appreciated, and you helped me get through as far as I did.  Also Jack’s friend Andy.  I don’t know who you are, but someday I hope we meet again.  That you so much for hanging out with me until the paramedics came.  I really, really appreciate it.

5/22 - One Week Anniversary 
Today marks one week of recovery from the marathon. I have done some very light jogging, biking and lifting since the race ended a week ago.  I am still in a lot of pain, particularly my left hip and left foot, but it gets better by the day.  At the same time last week, I was being transported to a hospital.

I have had a lot of time to think since the race.  It eats me up that I failed.  I keep replaying what I would have done differently, and there’s not much I would have changed about that day.

I am ready race again.  By the time the next race happens (I’m thinking Yonkers Marathon in September) I will be a fit machine, and a better hydrated one.  I will be training all summer with a hydration pack.  I am going to run fewer days a week and focus on lifting and spinning classes. Maybe I’ll spring for a bike, but I haven’t decided yet. 

All the hard training for the race was essential, but the rest of my body got weak.  My upper body strength is not what it used to be. I want to do a few various runs during the week and at least 18 miles every weekend. Seems like a reasonable plan.  Well, even if it’s not you can’t stop me.  See you in the park. 

5/22 - On Tapering
For my first Marathon, I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate marathon training plan.  Part of the plan recommends a 20 miler 3 weeks before the marathon, followed by a 12 miler two weeks before and an 8 miler the weekend before. More importantly, your mileage leading up to the marathon is significantly reduced. 

As you know, I did not finish my first marathon. But that was due to dehydration.  The plan itself was good.  Despite my pain, running was the 23 miles was not particularly difficult from a fitness standpoint.  It hurt like hell, but I have little doubt I would have made it three more miles if I were properly hydrated.

The three weeks of tapering was the most difficult part. You feel like you are losing your fitness, and their came a point where I didn’t care about running anymore.  It became a burden.  I loved the long runs – I don’t know what it is about them, but they were great.  But the waiting, the countdown, the weeks of rest instead of pushing yourself – those were the worst.  Dehydration aside, I was completely prepared for the race physically.

I do think I will taper only two weeks next time. Three weeks was too many.