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Reflections on Marathon #4

April 14, 2018



Marathon: Go! St. Louis Marathon

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Date: April 8, 2018

Finish Time: 4:48:27 

Marathon Mantra: I started with the mantra of "Celebrate." I developed this because I have to do 240 boring heel drops every day to keep my Achilles and feet healthy. So I try to celebrate (a little mental "Yahoo") every time I finish them. With the marathon predicted to be freezing and maybe snowing (which didn't happen), I thought I could celebrate each mile marker.


That didn't really work out for me mentally, so I spent most of the race trying to keep myself entertained. I chose a spot to honor each of my strength-class instructors. The steep hill at the beginning was for Nick, because he always makes us run outside when it is freezing. The long, sustained hill that went on-and-on was for Maggie because she makes us do longer sets than the other instructors. The hill kept going and going. Finally I gave my finish sprint to Kathy. She is in charge of the classes and I give her credit for my increasing strength.


As I left school of Friday, I passed one of my former students - the ever adorable Mariah. I took a selfie with her to lift my spirits as I confronted a weekend with a freezing marathon. I thought about her cute face and fun spirit as a I ran. It made my heart feel great!


Review of the Marathon: I think overall this marathon was good, but it really had the long, won't-go-away winter working against it. It was cold and windy. Really, though, it was not as miserable cold as I anticipated. I even ditched my hat around mile 5. More demoralizing to me was the grey sky, bare trees, and lack of vegetation. It's just not visually appealing. Nature is part of what I love about running and I need spring!


The race started downtown at the bottom of a neat cobblestone road alongside the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful sunrise. We ran across the river into Illinois and then back passing the Old Courthouse (where the original Dred Scott case was heard). We then ran by Busch Stadium and headed to the Budweiser Factory.


From there we continued to Forest Park. I visited this park last year Easter weekend and it was very pretty. During the race, however, it was grey and brown like everything else. I did get to see my friends - Ken and Melissa - which was great! They were so kind to find me again on the course to give me food, because I was starving!! 


From Forest Park, we ran back through the Grove, a quaint village and my favorite part of the course. At this point, I caught up to a runner dressed as a gorilla. That provided some entertainment for a few miles. Finally we wove back through the city, down some hills (yeah) and finished along the river below the arch.



I was shocked at my final time - 4:48:27. Last October I ran a marathon in Chattanooga and really thought I would have a great time. I spent all summer getting stronger, pounding miles, and eating healthy. I had major stomach issues and it was a disaster. I was so disappointed and concluded that I just couldn't be much faster than five hours no matter how hard I worked.


With only three weeks since my last marathon, I had no time goal for this race. I thought about 5:15 would be nice. When I started calculating what my time would be if I finished with 12-minute miles, I was shocked. I didn't feel very good during the race. I was cold, which makes me feel stiff (and grumpy). I was starving (who know why). I started my run-walk cycle between miles 14 and 15, which is way earlier than normal. My GPS watch really helps, because I can still average a decent pace even with some walking. The last couple of miles, I developed a walk-sprint pattern. I was shocked that with all of that my time was my best since October 2014.


One complaint I have is that after the race they moved packet pick-up. I walked to the original location to learn that they just moved the remaining bags. It wasn't far, but it was extra walking (after 26.2 miles). Then they gave me round-about directions to where my ride was waiting (back where I just left the original packet pick-up). This is not a big deal, but was irritating after running so far (and being cold). 

The State of My Body: This was the best my left hip has felt in any marathon this year. Yeah!! My last training run was the first time my left hamstring has not hurt while running since September!! Hallelujah! I really think the hamstring pain is related to hip issues. The only thing I changed was adding once strength movement with very low resistance. So either a miracle or that did the trick. I don't care which.


A big shout out to heel drops (and cortisone) - my feet continue to feel great. I had a little bit of toe cramping, but that's normal marathon running not injury. I also had my normal blisters which only bother me if I hit a turn or pothole just right. 


My knees have been sore at the end of every race this year. For a couple of days, it feels like I fell straight on my knees and bruised them. This fades and they do not hurt the rest of the month. I am adding one exercise to maybe help increase my quad strength and am taking one out that research shows might be aggravating my knees. 


As I said, I was so hungry during this race. I thought I had eaten enough the day before the race, but obviously did not. I started eating my honey packs (my favorite race fuel) at mile 9!!! That is so super early. Sadly, my pack of fruit snacks fell into the porta-potty. Luckily, my friends brought me my choice of a Luna Bar or SlimFast. I drank the SlimFast during during my walk cycles the next few miles. I then started eating my Sport Beans (with caffeine - the only caffeine I ever consume) and was good to go.


My right hip (my "bad" hip) was very sore after this race. Sitting or lying was miserable. Yep, I can run, but I can sit (#that'smylife)! I had to sleep with an ice pack to fall asleep that night and throughout the week. I find this pain just irritating. It hurts - sometimes it's excruciating - but it's my normal pain and I know I can work through it. It's been annoying this week when I work out (and when I sit down). I have to alter more and take it easy more. I work hard to not waste energy being frustrated and just plow on doing what I can and being thankful that that involves marathon running!

Lesson Learned: I did a great job during this marathon running my own race. I never let being passe by other runners get to me. At the beginning, I kept slowing down to stay around a 10:30 pace. The second half, I stuck to the walk-run cycle that was working so well. I didn't beat myself up for starting the cycle way earlier than normal. 


One lesson that marathon running continually teaches me is to take things one step at a time. Even though I didn't feel my best and I knew it would be a rough day, I knew one step, one mile at a time I would get to the finish line. 

Final Takeaway: One question I take away from this race is the relative importance of joy verses achievement. I was so excited with my time. I was truly proud to tell people that I finished in 4:48! On the other hand, I enjoyed the Georgia Marathon so much more. It was sunny, warm and spring was blooming. I felt stronger in Georgia. I finished this race asking myself if I would prefer to have a race like Georgia even if I was slower. I honestly don't know. It is very gratifying to get faster after all my hard work. Gratification is pleasurable. My run through Atlanta was a lovely trip. I feel that I have a mental map of various neighborhoods, parks, and historic landmarks. It's like Atlanta is my friend that I know intimately. Both gratification and a pleasurable run are great in their own way. I don't know which is better.

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