Saturday, February 25, 2012

Austin Marathon Race Report (Yes, the one in firefighting gear!)

By the time I hit 12 miles, each step hurt.

About two weeks before the race, the woman who was going to pace me had a stress fracture in her foot and had to start taking it easy, but it left me without a pacer for the race.  So I posted on and (both are really great triathlon websites) that I was looking for a person who could throw down a marathon in two weeks.  Dave answered that he could - he had just finished Rocky Racoon (the 50 miler!).

Ten days before the marathon, I stepped off a curb during a training run and sprained my ankle, there was also question of a stress fracture, but I wasn't going to be the woman who almost ran a marathon in firefighting gear.  There had been too much press by that time.  So I went on with training, limped for a few days (almost got busted a few times, lol!) and focused on being hydrated and ready for race day.  By the time race day came, my blisters still hadn't healed from the Bandera race!

The nice thing about wearing firefighting gear during the race was that while everyone else was cold at the starting line, I was pretty comfortable.  Erica (my training buddy) and I went to the north steps of the capitol building to put stuff down and wait to meet Dave.

Erica went to find water, Dave found me, and we got ready to go.  By the time we got set, it was almost time to go.  My husband, Gabe, found us just in time to wish us well before we sang the National Anthem and the race started.

It took almost twenty minutes to get to the starting line.  I spent quite a bit of that time explaining why I was wearing gear to people around me.  I had lined up near the back so I wouldn't trip anyone passing me, and it seemed to have been a good idea.

10 miles down, not hurting yet
The first several miles weren't too bad.  Good pace, still cool enough outside to be comfortable, muscles still fairly fresh.  Euphoric would be a good word for it.  It still hadn't set in that I was actually doing this.  During training, I purposely hadn't thought about the race.  I hadn't gotten on the scale to find out how much the gear actually weighs, and I avoided looking at a course map on purpose.  I focused on one training day at a time.  If you've been following my blog, you know that I went out and did a 50k trail race in early January.  Even that was training in preparation for what I expected in Austin.  I did that race to raise my pain tolerance.  And it did.  Recently, one of my favorite triathletes, Chrissie Wellington, said in an interview: "Remember that training is about learning to hurt."  Truthfully, the whole interview is goosebump raising in how it applies to Sunday for me.  One thing I know for sure.  There is usually a point where any race hurts so much that I think "I don't want to do this anymore."  Sunday, I never hit that point.  I must have trained past it.

I never knew when I was going to see family or friends.  The first few times it happened, it came as a complete surprise.  Gabe, his mom, and one of our friends would suddenly show up, cheer, and move on to the next spot after I passed him.  Gabe ran along side me a few times asking how I was doing, and at one point, I had to tell him to stop asking me questions!  Next it was Megan. She's become a fast friend since we meet a few weeks ago.  She'd show up, cheer, and bike to the next spot.  I don't think Gabe or Megan ever wound up at the same spot.  Megan took most of the pictures.

24 miles.  Smile?  Or teeth gritted...
About two hours in is where it started getting rough.  We had to stop to refill my nutrition bottle, and during that few minutes, muscles stiffened up.  Joints got sore.  Running slower than my usual pace almost always hurts more, and it certainly was then.  It was hurting Dave, too.  Dave ran a 3:38 In his last marathon, and now we're on pace for two hours longer.  By the time we hit 12 miles, it hurt.

My back was stiff, my feet were sore, my ankle was killing me where I'd sprained it, the muscles that pull my legs forward from the pelvic area were sore.  Halfway through, I think I started seeing spots, and I got a little bit nauseated.  I upped the water intake, got some more calories in, and dumped some water over my head to cool off.  Some of the worst came later from stabbing pains in my knee, and then it started hurting just to breath from supporting the air tank. 

But anytime I saw a spectator or volunteer, I put a smile on my face.  This race wasn't about me, it was about raising money for a scholarship.  And there are people that deal with more than I, for longer than I.   There were several runners wearing "in honor of" or "in memory of" signs during the race.  I think my burden was much less to bear.  And as I said in a recent blog post, my journey on Sunday was not the hardest.

Some of the other racers had some pretty funny comments.  I heard "You should have put helium in that tank!" Quite a few people actually suggested that.  Several suggested water.  My favorite, though, was the suggestion that I should have filled it with beer.  Another continuing theme was that I did have to tell several people that I wasn't a  fire man,  but a fire woman.  That usually elicited a few laughs from spectators and runners around me. People asked if I'd lost a bet, or if I was in training and hoped to be a firefighter someday.  When I told them that I was in my 13th year being a career firefighter, they usually were surprised.  I spent a lot of time high-fiving kids (of ALL ages-even the 50 and 60 year old ones!).  Lots of people took pictures.  If I saw them, I'd wave and smile for them.  At one point, I saw someone hold up traffic with his phone out the window taking video or a picture.  At that point, I turned to Dave and told him that I just became a traffic hazard!

The whole race, I'd been counting down miles.  "25 to go, 24 to go..."  When we got the last mile, I was waiting for that last hill. Everyone dreads it.
Dave looked over and asked, "You like Star Wars?"
"Yeah," I said.
"This isn't the hill you're looking at," He said, waving his hand.

I cracked up.  But by then, the finisher's chute was in sight.  Dave looked over again and asked if I'd sped up or if he did.  I told him it was me.  By then, I was ready to be done!  Pain forgotten, I crossed the finish line.  My favorite part was when my kids put the finisher's medal over my head.

Despite everything, I've hurt worse after other races.  The only difference is my back muscles hurt more after this than after others.  A trip to the doctor two days ago shows my sprain is actually still healing even though I haven't given it much of a chance, and there's no fracture, just a metatarsal head that isn't where it's supposed to be.

In retrospect, I'm pretty happy with the race.  I accomplished what I set out to do.  In less time than I set out to do it in.  It still seems like a dream-not really real.  But there are the pictures and the videos, and the memory that I still haven't reached my limits.

Race Day Gear:
Coat, with liner
Pants, with liner
A pair of old leather out of service firefighting gloves
Traditional helmet (my current issued helmet for firefighting)
Tank and pack, MSA, out of service and used for training
Sneakers - Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 in pink of course!
Nathan Elite 1 hydration pack with custom Infinit Marathon Mix
Garmin 910xt with HRM, Foot Pod   Garmin Data Available HERE
Out of a twisted sense of humor, my shirt said "If you see me collapse, pause my Garmin"

By the numbers:
Gear weight: No idea, I still refuse to get on a scale
Total distance: 26.42 miles
Average pace: 12:55 minutes/mile
Total time 5:41:16

1 comment:

  1. Another written blog-not to mention incredible mother, wife, and friend. Truly blessed to have you as my inspiration.