Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Lesson in Hubris

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where it promises . . . From All's Well that Ends Well. Shakespeare, of course.

Yeah. I don't think it is any coincidence that my pre race picture is front of the Parthenon. Athena I am not. And you know. I really should learn to be more attentive. Clearly, if I was an ancient Greek I might have been able to read all the signs that Fortuna was laying out for me. Right, there I go mixing up my mythology. Really, what do you expect?

Okay. Holy crap.

I never knew I could have such a disappointing marathon-- especially one that I felt as well, if not better, prepared for than any other. As Lala would tell me that is what you get for having expectations. To say the least, the marathon is always a humbling experience. And I have to admit that I am beginning to feel like I have set myself upon a Sisyphean task in my attempts to break 3:30. So after Country Music Marathon I say to the marathon I am so sorry. Please forgive my trespasses.

Yet even in my disappointment I still walked (literally) away with one of the best times I've had in a marathon and one of my funnest weekends in recent memory.

The story of the race was a surprise for me: GI issues. I have no idea if I had Carmella's stomach bug or it was just the combination Espresso Love Gu/Accelerade or what. I have to say in my last 2 marathons I did have a bit of stomach trouble but for some reason I really didn't make the connection to the GU. I typically don't use GU for my long training runs but rather just Gatorade or Cliff shots or Luna Moons. But I do use the Gu on the bike and I don't have problems with it there. Whatever the cause of my tummy troubles really doesn't matter. All I can do is avoid using the GU in future marathons.

Okay, wait, for those that do not care for my ridiculously long winded exposition here is the breakdown:
4:00:18 finish (chiptime)
4:02:13 (clock)
10k: 47:49
10 mile: 1:20:40
1/2: Not sure but I think around 1:46
20 mile: 2:53:31
Average pace: 9:10
Gender Place: 339/1910
Overall Place: 1226/4373
I am not sure if the times are my chip or the clock--if that makes sense. But looking at those I didn't go out as fast as I had thought--unless they are chip time. Make sense?

Okay, now, for the long exposition:

Thursday was the day where I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off: doing the carpool gig, getting the house clean, folding piles of laundry, doing payroll, sneaking a run in, cleaning my house, packing kids and myself and in general tying up loose ends. Fell into bed utterly exhausted and thinking running a marathon was going to piece a cake by comparison. Again with that darn hubris.

Friday I dropped the kids at school and then came home and squeezed in a run. Fishstick picked me up at 11 and we headed towards Nashville. She won't admit it but she was a little cranky. But seeing how I am the mother of two young children cranky really doesn't phase me.

I am a terrible navigator but some how we made it to Nashville and the expo. We were both suffering from low blood sugar and were beyond thrilled at the power bar appetizers being served at the expo booths. We sampled everything. I also got some Hot Tamales at the candy stand outside the expo. I have a thing for sugar.

Before leaving the expo I remembered my camera. Look, Stick brought her hair:

While we waited for Chris outside I snapped pictures of this guy and his little Yorkie in a pink leather jacket. I must apologize for not snapping a picture of the woman with a fauxhawk in denim overalls, a pink and white striped long sleeved shirt (from the Gap type shirt), converse high tops and jewelry. I was so stunned to see someone in overalls as what was clearly a well thought out ensemble over the age of 3. It wasn't like she had been painting/working. No this was definitely an outfit with forethought behind it. I even told Chris about her but he didn't believe me.

So yeah, it should be noted that Nashville has some prime people watching and if Stick and I hadn't been looking so hard to recognize Chris we totally would have had a blast with the "That's your boyfriend and you love him" game. Really, go sit on any street corner in Nashville and you will have hours of free entertainment. And Nashville, I mean that as a compliment.

Chris finally showed up after having to listen to Stick say "Is that him?" ad nauseum. All worries of the potential awkwardness were quickly expelled. Sure it has been 15 years but Chris is still Chris and I am still Nat and what made us gel and have fun at 18 is still there.

Chris marched us around downtown til we found somewhere to eat. He patiently answered my persistent question of "Will I be running here?" as if it actually mattered. Because after all was said and run I don't remember any where that I ran. Like, some how, I missed seeing this: Giant metal sculpture of naked frolicking people? Nope, didn't see it at all. Apparently it was at mile 3. Guess I better rethink that "attention to details" in the skills section of my resume.

After a fast lunch we headed to Chris and Jay's amazingly perfect house. I am so jealous of how clean and decorated their house is. Usually, when I go to other people's houses, I always think what I would do differently or how I could make it look better. Just ask Lala. I made her rearrange her furniture last week because I found the living room set up unnerving. But I didn't have to think that at all for Chris and Jay's house. I didn't have to move anything around. They have done quite right by their house. But if I am being completely honest I was a little worried that they let someone as messy as me (think bull in a china shop) into their perfect little house. No worries though. I managed not to break anything the whole time I was there. And thank you Chris or wait, probably Jay-- for the vase of fresh Calla Lilies in the bedroom. Nice touch.

After hanging out, getting all my gear and outfit set for the next day and an outfit change ( I brought lots of outfits. Packing light? Not my thing.) we headed to Chris and Jay's restaurant Germantown Cafe. Absolutely fanfreakingtabulous! Go. Tell Chris I sent you. He will be nice to you. Really, Chris is nice to everyone. He just likes to pretend in his head that he isn't. He had Fishstick all scared of him.

At dinner I got to meet Charlie. It was a real treat after corresponding comments with Charlie on my blog for the last 2 years. I also got to meet Preston. We three talked marathon and pace strategy at the bar. Charlie and I agreed to run together and that I would shoot for sub 3:37 or really a 3:30. We discussed going out slow and picking up the pace.

We parted after our delicious dinner and agreed to meet at my corral--2-- in the morning.

Chris got us home in perfect time, I set like 5 alarm clocks, instructed Fishstick that we were not going to snuggle and before 10 pm I was on my way to dreamland(which was really 11 pm Atlanta time). Sometimes before midnight my cell rang. It was Ryan. He was turkey hunting but was calling me because Meme, my sister-in-law, had called to tell him that Carmella was throwing up. Not sure what I could solve but I was worried that it was something very serious. So I called Meme. Carmella was indeed sick but was fine. The only reason she had called was because Carmella had asked for "the medicine" and Meme didn't know what that was. I explained that Carmella has not had a stomach bug since she was 3 and therefore probably just assumed that like for a cold or allergies there was surely some magic medicine that her Mommy would be giving her.

So then I had to call everyone else in my family and tell them that all was okay with Carmella and to NOT call me back. I think I finally fell back asleep around 1 am--only to do the usual wake up and pee every 45 minutes. Very. Annoying. Needless to say I sure got Fishstick back for snuggling on me last summer at my sister's engagement party. I am guessing that we two shall never share a bed together again. I am sure this comes as somewhat of a disappointment to both our husbands.

At 4:10 Steph texted me good luck. My alarm was set for 4:20. Whatever. It wasn't like I was sleeping. So I got up, noted that it was raining and turned on the coffee and had breakfast. I hopped in the shower and shaved and stretched and then drank some water. At 5:45 am we left. In the car, between asking "Am I going to be running here?" I said the Baby Jesus prayer. I said the Baby Jesus before ING the month before and everything I prayed for was realized and things I left out were also realized. I tried really hard to cover all the bases this time: no rain, good weather, no calf, foot, hip, or hamstring pain, no finish line snafu's, let Fishstick run a great race etc. Unfortunately for me I left GI issues out. And just so you know if you do the Baby Jesus prayer you must be very specific and know that whatever you don't pray for you run the risk of suffering it during the race. Some might say it is the Devil but I think it is God having a good old chuckle at my expense. Eh, I'm sure I deserve it.

Chris dropped us off at the Parthenon and Fishstick and I ran down towards it with our Dollar Store umbrellas.

After a potty break we parted ways to go to our corrals. I was in 2, Stick in 19. There were 32! corrals. The race is massive. The start would have been much better if there hadn't been a constant drizzle. But I had my umbrella. Other people in my corral huddled under a tree, in garbage bags no less:
It was still early so I went and waited in line for another potty break. I didn't time it right because I still had 15 minutes when I came out. I found Charlie under the tree by my corral and we chatted. I decided I needed to try to go again but potty line was out--that would make me late for the start. As I talked to Charlie I looked out into the grove of trees over his shoulder and at every tree I saw a man talking to a horse. And then I as looked over to the edges of the grove I saw --and I use this term loosely--ladies popping a squat. And once again my dollar umbrella proved an invaluable investment. Off to the grove I went and shielded myself beside a bush and behing my umbrella giving new meaning to Rhianna's Under My Umbrella.

I felt perfect as I jogged up the hill to Charlie and we seeded ourselves in the corral. I tried to give my umbrella to a volunteer in a poncho but she looked at me like I was nuts. I was like lady, you are the one that is crazy looking in the garbage bag. Apparently elegance was not her thing.

Charlie insisted that we be front and center. I didn't think this was such a good idea and asked those around us what their pace was: "6:45", "7:10". Ugh, Charlie, I want to do an 8 minute pace. He just smiled and said Oh we'll be fine. I explained that the goal was sub 3:37:27 and that is a sub 8:19 mile. Sigh. It was time to start and I resigned myself to a fast first mile.

After a thwarted start we were off. That first mile is always yucky and I expect nothing from it. At the mile marker we determined we were about 7:15 pace. Waayyyyy too fast. So we reigned it in and nothing was too terrible but I was already hot. Very hot. By the third mile sweat was dripping in my eyes.

I stayed with the pace but I was worried about it. I had wanted to start out very slow--like I do all my runs and gradually pick up the pace. Trent, the race director from the Flying Monkey marathon had emailed me an elevation chart. I had studied it. There is about a 200 ft incline over the first 4 miles. He also warned me about 2 significant hills later in the race. To me the first 4 miles looked worse. I knew I could handle the later hills so long as I didn't blow up in the first 4.

However after mile 4--like always--I was feeling pretty good and was optimistic. Right before mile 6 I had my Espresso Love Gu. My fueling strategy was Gu at 6, start munching Luna Moons at mile 11. Acclerade (which I have never used) at every aid station and water when necessary. For the last 10k Iwould drink my handheld 20oz bottle of Powerade. This is what I do in training except I don't always do that first GU. In fact I usually just sip a sports drink and have Luna Moons in the middle and refill my water bottle for the last 5-10k. It isn't like I never use GU's --I have but I haven't been using them in the past few months so much. I save them for the bike.

Anyway, around 7 miles I could still feel that GU just sitting there. My legs were starting to feel heavy and my breathing seemed weird. I just didn't feel right. And I was waffling between hot and cold now. I told myself that in every marathon you will have good patches and bad patches. I assured myself that this was a bad patch and as soon as my GU digested I'd be golden.

I don't remember much about what happened where in these early miles. I know Charlie and I chatted and I had my headphones on and would sing to him (I know he loved it!) when a good song came on. I remember cheering on the leaders when they passed on an out and back section and then I remember cheering for the other runners when we passed them on the out/back. Only I was very confused. There were several points it seemed in the marathon where you would pass those going out or back and I would think I would still have that to run on. A few times Charlie reminded me that we had already run there. And that made me happy because most often the other way (that we'd already run) looked up hill.

At mile 11 I couldn't take it anymore. I had to walk. The Gu was like a lead weight in my stomach and I thought I was going to throw up. It felt like 20lbs was sitting on my chest. We only walked a minute and then ran on. I kept thinking that this was just a rough patch and things would get better. Around this time I started getting the upper GI cramps. I don't know if it was actually my stomach or my muscles around my stomach or my diaphragm but my upper torso would seize up. I must have run half doubled over because the middle of my back and my flank was the only sore part of my body after the race. Wednesday is the first day I didn't have soreness in my torso. My legs, however, have felt totally fresh.

After the half point I had to stop and walk every 5-10 minutes until the spasms would stop. I took a picture--I think around mile 14--when it was really sucking. I think the 3:30 pace group (who had started behind us) had just passed us. I was determined to stay positive so I made Charlie stop so we could take a picture of it sucking:

After this point I just resigned myself to the walking and running when I felt better. I did still hold out hope that in the final 10k Charlie and I could try to run a 10k PR. I know, total crazy talk.

I would make Charlie run everytime we saw a photographer so there would be no evidence of the walking. However Chris caught us with one just as I stopped to walk for a minute--it is on his blog. Around 16 miles I started getting side stitches. I use to get those all the time--like years ago--and I have a little trick to fix them: Blow out and bend at the waist. As you lean forward hold the stitch. Now inhale as you come up and slowly release the stitch as you exhale. Repeat as necessary. And I had to repeat. A lot.

Around mile 20 my lungs felt very heavy and I was getting chills. I hadn't been able to drink anything for awhile. I kept trying but mostly would swish it around in my mouth and spit it out. I told Charlie that my stomach was in purgatory because it still felt full. After the 3:45 pace group passed us I knew all my goals were gone and I only had that "D" goal left: to finish. Around this time we saw 2 porto potties. We ducked in. I hoped for something to come out one end or the other but only managed a little trickle of urine. Not good but not unheard of in a race/long run for me either.

I have to say Charlie was very encouraging and I totally would have been sitting on the course crying if I hadn't had him there to rally me. I felt terrible that I had ruined his race but was forever grateful that he hadn't desserted me despite my encouraging him to do so. Not to mention him being there forced me to be more positive and happy than I otherwise would have been. I figured since he was sticking it out with me I was going to try and be the best dead weight I could be. So very sorry Charlie that I sucked so much. I really hope you have a super fantastic race this weekend! It will make me feel so much better if you do. No pressure though.

At mile 22/23 I thought for a moment I was going to pass out. Everything went dark and I saw stars and wavered a bit. Charlie asked me if I wanted to sit down but I said no. I felt that if I sat down ultimately it would make me feel worse and I would have to quit. All a long I had been telling him that I was going to finish.And I had clung to the fact that finishing, no matter what, always makes me happy. No way was I going to quit with less than 4 miles to go. No. Way. If I ever have to quit it better be way before mile 20.

So we walked. Slowly. My lungs felt tight and I briefly wondered if maybe it wasn't my stomach but asthma. I don't know. Apparently you can sometimes have GI issues with exercise induced ashtma but it has been so long since I had a real asthma attack so I really have no idea. I wasn't coughing so much like I had when I have had one and while I was mucousy it wasn't that bad--so I dismissed the notiion. However, ever since my run Sunday morning I have been having noticable wheezing and shortness of breath and have resorted to using my inhaler several times a day I wonder. Looking back I now wonder if maybe asthma wasn't the problem all a long. Ugh. Who knows. I just don't want it to happen again.

Anyway, right after that there were girls giving out candy and I really wanted it--Charlie had been having snacks but I couldn't handle real food. But I love candy. I took a piece of bubble gum and instantly felt like I was going to throw up so I had to spit it out. I felt a little better and we were able to start jogging. Around this time we came upon Preston.

He was struggling and we encouraged him to hang with us. I told him I was having a terrible race but we were going to finish. I said we are going to walk a bit and when we get to the top of this little hill we will start running. He said he thought he could do it. We then came upon Monique from Selma, AL. She too was having a bad race. I told her to hang with us.

At the top of the hill we all started running. We ran until the next aid station which was I think the start of mile 24. I got seized with cramps again and had to walk. Preston and Charlie stopped and walked too. Monique ran on. I was able to start back up and I might be wrong but I think we ran the rest of the way. I think we passed Monique but I can't be sure.

During this time Charlie offered to carry my water bottle. My shoulders and back were killing me and I hated to let him do it but so glad when he inisited and just grabbed it. He said in disbelief "This is pretty much full." I groaned that I hadn't been able to drink it. Nothing is more annoying than having to run carrying a bottle of poswerade for 25 miles that you can't even drink. Whoa, wait. Just like Tantalus. The part about the water and the fruit. Not the part about chopping up, boiling and making a feast out of his kid to appease Zeus. Definitely not that part. But if Beau doens't go to bed . . .


Anway, I turned on my ipod on again and focused on the music and tried to stay positive. It was getting hot and I was again waffling between chills and being hot. My stomach felt like it was in my throat and I could feel my left calf muscle trying to start an argument.

After we passed the 25 mile marker we started to pick up the pace. The closer we got to the finish the harder I ran. I have never felt so terrible in my life but I just kept thinking less than one minute and I will be done.

I was so happy to cross the finishline and didn't care what my time was but was just relieved to be done.

After crossing the finish line Charlie, Preston and I made our way through the maze. We had our picture made together. I had to sit down as I was now seized by the lower intestional cramps. They passed momentarily (but they kept coming back) and we made our way over to the New Balance tent. Between cramping I would stretch and text Chris and Stick to my whereabouts. Charlie left to go retrieve his gear bag and that was the last I saw of him. Once Chris and Stick found me we left and walked, I think, another 26.2 to where Chris had parked his car. He is so lucky that my digestive system was moving at a snail's pace or things could have gotten very ugly. As it was it was good that I walked so much right after the race.

Once back to Chris's I showered, recovered and ever so slowly dressed myself. It took me like 4 times the amount of time it usually takes because I had to sit and rest while my stomach issues resolved themselves. I managed to--finally!-- drink some water and Powerade and felt almost back to 100% by the time we left and went to 3 Crow Bar.

And then good times began. And since unlike Vegas apparently in Nashvegas everything gets videotaped and Youtubed I will just put up the pictures. Chris and Stick have already written what happened.
Preston and his wife:
Chris and Jay:
Fishstick and the I Dream of Weenie sign that we giggled and acted ridiculous about.
Post race refueling (I did eat a sandwich first. But beer tasted better.)

Fishstick with the camera. Me trying to get attention.

And being ignored.

Me and Stick

Me and Chris walking, er, stumbling home.

Stick pretending to be passed out on someone's front lawn.

Stick posing on someone's front lawn

Jay and his fish.
Chris and his new love. Chris and Jay took Stick and I to shop for art. Very beautiful painting. I call dibs on it when you die--or tire of it.

Fishstick . . . I don't know.

We came upon this fence walking home. And even though it clearly says "tomatoes" I thought it was those ghosts from Pacman. So I was pretending to be what else? Ms. Pacman.

Oh my goodness. What a fun weekend. Thank you so much Chris and Jay for putting up with Stick and I. And Charlie and Preston it was great to meet you. And Nashville? This bitch will be back. For redemption. Kisses.


  1. Genius, as I knew the recap would be (Sisyphus, really???)... As I expected, good things come to those who wait, and wait, and wait...

    The Calla lilies were all me. Why do you think it took me so long to meet up with you. One can't stop at the florist, buy three arrangements, get home, set them up, change, and walk/jog two miles in a short period of time!

    People!, the Rhianna joke, all mine!!!

    Finally, inspired by your post, I have posted a tribute on my blog.

    Hugs to Nat and Stick for a great weekend! (and to me for drinking the promised 15...)

  2. Genius? Yeah, no--too many typos. It is so hard to edit once you put in the html with the pictures.

    Thanks for the flowers and sorry for not giving you credit for that or the Rhianna joke--I couldn't remember if it was you or stick that said it.

    And yes, CHEERS to you for drinking MORE than the 15 beers :)

  3. Awesome recap! Sorry that your race didn't go as you wanted, but kudos for finishing when a lot of people would have just DNF'd. Gels are notorious for being difficult to digest without 8-12 ounces of water following them immediately. I also slow down for a couple of minutes following a gel, to let me HR get down some when it's hitting my stomach it's easier to digest.

  4. You posted such a comprehensive race report I felt like I was actually there! Sorry to hear that you had GI issues, I can emphasize as I also had a tough Boston Marathon with Montezuma revenge, but I didn't suffer nearly as much as you. I resigned to the fact that this wasn't going to be my day and relaxed and had fun...again, apparently not as much fun as you! Well, I find these disappointing races a motivating factor since I now wish to redeem myself and get a PR at the next Las Vegas Marathon.

  5. Wonderful Report!
    Wonderful Pictures!
    Wonderful Time!

    Stop Apologizing!

    You know I offered to take your bottle way before and took it from you and carried it before the potty break and also around the lake...then at mile 25 you actually asked me to carry it. :)

    I think our first walk break was after the half way point when you wanted to take the you went pretty far with the issues you were having.

    I remember seeing a lot on the run but don't remember that statue either.

    It was so wonderful meeting you and running with you.


  6. Wow, I am impressed--a Shakespeare quote and references to Sisyphus AND Tantalus!

    I know you're disappointed, but wow, what an incredibly gutty (sorry...) performance. I did CMM in '06 and had the worst race of my life. I vowed never to go back but perhaps you're right...maybe I should get my redemption too.

    I'm glad you turned it around and had a great rest of the weekend!

  7. Huh! Maybe it was the asthma. It stands to reason that your GI tract would need oxygen to function and I'll bet that gets diverted when you are running.

    And, I call 2nd dibs on the picture. Lovely. : )