One week ago today, I was in Miami to run my first marathon in four years. I had been training since October for this race, with a goal of 3:48 minutes, one minute per mile faster than my last marathon. In those four months, I logged 561 miles, ran 20 miles four times, and put many of those miles in during freezing temperatures. I had experienced several new personal records (ran a 22:50 5k, a 48:41 10k, and a 1:49 half marathon), and was incredibly happy with how my training had progressed.
We were scheduled to leave for Miami on Friday afternoon. On Thursday afternoon, I was busily wrapping up work tasks when I started to get stomach cramps. I shook it off for as long as I could, but as the evening progressed, I felt worse and worse. I have a tendency to become anxious if I feel an illness coming on, so I tried to remain positive and went to bed early to “shake it off.” Unfortunately, twenty minutes later I was huddled over the toilet in my bathroom, where I remained for the next eight hours. Ugh. I’ll spare you all the details, but it was a sleepless night that left me feeling pretty wiped out.
Nonetheless, I was determined to be well enough to race on Sunday. I still had two days! After an uneventful trip to Miami, I was feeling a lot better but still couldn’t eat much. Saturday was a warm, sunny day, and I finally had an appetite again! My husband and I took a walk around our hotel, which was right by the start and finish area for the race, and started to acclimate to the humidity. I was starting to get excited…in less than 24 hours we’d be done!
Saturday night we had a light dinner (my appetite was pretty small still), and spent the rest of the evening prepping all our gear and nutrition for Sunday morning. The race started pretty early – 6am eastern – in order to beat the heat and sun, so we got to bed by 9pm.
The alarm went off at 3am – enough time to eat, digest, stretch, and feel awake and alert enough to run our best! I was feeling much better that day, but watching the weather reports made me a bit nervous: warm, high of 82, and 93% humidity. Quite the change from the Polar Vortex we’d escaped from! Leaving the hotel and joining the 25,000 other runners in the dark was a surreal experience, but the music was blasting and I began my last minute ritual: pee, pray, stretch, and pee again. 🙂
The race started and my first song came on: My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark by Fallout Boy. I was feeling great, and after the only hill on the course, I was cruising in the dark, right on pace, along palm-lined streets with a light breeze. It was warm and humid already, but the breeze and darkness were a perfect compliment.
Normally during a marathon distance race, I eat an energy supplement every five miles and take liquids every four, alternating water and the energy beverage they have on the course. However, I found myself needing to take in liquids every other mile for the first six, and once the sun came up, I started really struggling with the sweetness of my energy chews and the sweetness of the Gatorade. By mile 8, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t stand to eat even one more of my energy chews, and I was having to take in a lot more liquid than I normally would.
At this point I knew I had a decision to make. Feeling the way I felt, there was no way I would reach the time goal I had set for myself. There were a few possibilities: I could walk/run or slow my pace way down to complete the marathon, or I could try and push through to complete the half. Weighing how terrible my stomach felt, I figured there was also a slight possibility that I might not even be able to complete the course and would end up having to drop out somewhere between 13 and 26 miles. Therefore, I decided to just do my best and complete the half in a somewhat respectable time. I saw my sister at mile 11, and updated her on my situation. I ended up having to walk a bit, but finished the half in 2:05.
After the race, I ran in to two people I knew who were both planning on running the marathon and stopped halfway through. That made me feel a bit better, but overall I was very conflicted. I had put in so much effort training for this race, and now it was over. I know how I felt, and that being sick likely had something to do with my race day results, but I was frustrated that after all that, I just had a sub-par half marathon to show for it.
The rest of the trip was fun – the sun was warm, the company was fantastic, and the views were just as therapeutic as my post-race massage. However, I felt like I couldn’t close the chapter on this experience properly. At the advice of my husband, I took a few days to reflect and decide what I wanted to do about it.
After much thought and reflection, I realized that I needed to re-frame how I felt and what I remembered from this experience. If all I took away from it was that I didn’t reach the goal I had, then I missed out on an opportunity to learn and grow for the future. Therefore, here is what I’ve learned from this experience:
1. I’m not well-suited to run in hot, humid temperatures
2. I need to switch my nutrition strategy back to gels or something unsweetened. The energy chews have now failed me twice in long, hot races.
3. There are some things that will always be out of your control. I can’t control illnesses, certain injuries, and the weather.
4. Not meeting your goal does not mean you failed the entire thing. I still put in the miles, I still gave it my best shot, and I still completed something.
I’m going to take some time off from running and try some new activities, like Barre and yoga. The next few months are going to be busy ones at Tri 4 Schools, and this will allow me to focus more on making sure our new after-school program and Spring events go well. Then, down the road, I will sign up for another marathon, and I will eventually reach my goal of 3:48. I turn 30 next month, meaning I’ve got a lot of good years of running ahead of me.
Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this journey. Onward and upward!