Time: 4:22:30 [RESULTS]
Medal: Hell yes.
I feel that it is necessary to mention that the photo above means absolutely nothing without something to give you an accurate sense of scale. Something like my entire head. So behold, in all its 3.3lbs of neck-breaking glory, the Texas marathon medal, as modelled by myself:
I guess everything really is bigger in Texas.
Ridiculous medal aside, this race was not all happiness and glory. In fact, quite the opposite. I had a restless night, and awoke to some serious stomach cramping (again – I had been plagued by tummy troubles for a few days). After the early morning drive to Kingwood for registration, I offloaded my belongings onto my parents to gain a little respite in the porta loo, somewhat grateful that the sun had yet to rise, as nobody would be able to see my face if they had the misfortune of entering the cubicle after me. The UNFLUSHING cubicle, might I add. I have no idea if this is normal for US races, but the UK porta loos all have a sort of flush mechanism. I appreciate it more now.
After evacuating all of my breakfast and any fluids I had tried to take in, I met my parents, grabbed everything I needed for the race, and told them to aim to pick me up about 4.5 hours after the start. Then I walked over to the growing crowd of runners and made casual chit chat with some of the locals (and not so locals – I met a guy with parents from Aberdeen!), trying to ignore how crappy (ha ha ha) I felt.
At 7:45 the race medal was unveiled. Not normally a fan of seeing what the medal will look like until the finish, I genuinely feel I have to attribute feasting my eyes on this magnificent specimen to helping me finish the race. Several times I almost talked myself into dropping down to the half, especially since there was no hope of getting a PB (in my mind) feeling the way I did, but I knew I’d be annoyed at myself for giving up.
After the national anthem and a welcome from the super friendly race organizers, Steve and Paula Boone, the marathoners set off at 8am (followed by the half marathoners at 8:15). The course consists of four 6.55 mile loops on greenbelts in Kingwood, and although there were a couple of nice sections by lakes (during which I could watch herons flying low for snacks), the majority reminded me a lot of running along the Deeside railway line in Aberdeen – not very inspiring after the first mile of running between trees and other plants.
I completed the first loop in 1:02:08 and wanting to quit. My breathing was heavy, my heart rate was high, and although my legs felt great, I was fatigued and out of fuel. Bonking after 5 miles is not a great feeling. Still, with a race cut-off of ‘sundown’, I thought at the very worst, I could walk the damn thing.
Lap 2 was a bit slower at 1:04:10, and just before I finished the lap, I ran past Raquel, who I met after she got in touch after reading my blog, and we stopped for a photo together. I won’t lie, I was relieved for the short rest!
I had set myself the arbitrary goal of getting to the halfway point before I allowed myself to listen to music. About a mile before the turnaround, however, I pushed this back to 15 miles. Then the next water station (every 1.5 miles or so, and thankfully all stocked with porta loos). Until, before I knew it, I had completed lap 3 (in 1:07:40 – body slowly failing), and decided to ‘treat myself’ to some tunes I had downloaded during the previously mentioned restless night.
Lap 4 was sheer agony. I wanted to walk the entire thing. I wanted to stop. I wanted to be in a soundproof toilet. After necking my body weight in Powerade at the aid stations in an attempt to put any kind of fuel into my body, I was sloshing around so much that at first I was getting annoyed at the person behind me for having such a loud bottle of water. Until I realized there was nobody there. And the sound was coming from inside me. It must have made a slight difference though, because, despite more frequent walk breaks, my pace when I was running was pretty much constantly 9:30/mile. I staggered to the end of the 4th lap in 1:09:38 to cheers of “Come on Rachel!”, only to realize my parents had arrived early and were both taking (numerous, it would seem) photos. I was so, so happy to finish in under 4:30, and my second fastest marathon to date (fine – out of 4).
Crossing the finish line, I was handed (and nearly floored by) my medal, and given a squeezy elephant with my finisher’s number on it. While the official results say I was 83rd, I got handed the squeezy elephant for 82nd place, but since my chip time is faster (marginally) than the guy in 82nd place, I feel no guilt in sticking with it.
There was also post race pizza, cookies, soda, and all sorts, but after a stretch and a few minutes to just stay still, all I could manage was half a slice of cheese pizza and a small cup of sprite.
While this wasn’t the race I wanted it to be, it did reiterate to me how important it is to get proper fuel for longer distances. With ultras on the horizon, fuelling is something everyone says makes or breaks your race, so I’m definitely keen to start practicing with different foods on my longer runs now. However, as much as I do believe that getting enough calories down my throat is important, it’s good to know that I can claw through 26.2 miles on next to nothing, even if it was less than pleasant.
It’s also good to know that I have 26 miles clocked up for 2014 already. And that tomorrow is a rest day.