I registered for the Route 66 Marathon back in March. There were several races between then and race day (including that 12-hour Ultra), and a few odd-ball injuries. I had long-been contemplating working with a coach, so I hooked up with Coach Suz and we got to work in late August.
Fast forward to the race weekend.
My friend, Barb, and I loaded up and hit the road around noon on Friday, and arrived in Tulsa just before 8:00PM. Thankfully, it worked out for my friend, Traci (from RUN? Are you in? ) to pick up our bibs from the expo so we didn't have to worry about that detail.
First up was the 5K on Saturday morning. We were anticipating decent weather, but the temps were a bit cooler than what had been forecast. We had plenty of sunshine, though, so it was bearable.
Anyways, the route took us through some of the streets of downtown Tulsa. It was cold at the start line, but I felt fine once we were moving. Despite the constant weaving, my pace was pretty consistent. Per Suz, I was to run the 5k "easy" and not even think about "racing" it. Mission accomplished...29:03.
|Even the 5K had a decent-sized piece of hardware
|Yes, we found a selfie-appropriate landmark...
|can you say, "Brrrrr...."
|Hanging out, ready for some dynamic exercise warm-ups
|Ready to go!
I didn't know how much time I'd lost, but wasn't worried when I saw the 4:30 pacer up ahead. I had 24 miles ahead of me, so I figured I could catch back up with the 4:15 group. I knew I had to just continue on easily (about a 10-minute pace) and eventually I'd find them. Except, I was starting to notice a little wonkiness with my left hip, kind of in the groin area. It had felt a little weird the past week or so, but not bothersome when running....but there it was.... acting up on the race course.
Back on the course, I passed the 4:30 group. I was not going fast, but trying to keep a steady pace. I knew the 4:15 group couldn't be too far ahead of me that early in the race. Onward. Easy does it. I kept telling myself the hip thing would work out the kinks in a few miles, and I'd probably be able to get some Biofreeze or pain meds at one of the aid stations.
The course was beautiful, taking us through residential neighborhoods. There were many historic houses, and constant rolling hills along the route. There were aid stations almost every mile-to-mile and half, all of which had ample water and Gatorade...I still wasn't seeing any first aid supplies, though. By the time I made it to the 7-mile mark, I had to pull over for another potty stop.
When I came out, there was the 4:30 pace group...again. Since my hip was still feeling funky, I decided to hang with them for awhile, then I wouldn't have to concentrate so much on my pace by myself. Maybe after several miles at that easy pace, I'd be able to conserve some energy for the second half of the race, right? By then, the hip/groin would feel better and I'd be able to just let go and run.
Except the hip/groin kept hurting. It wasn't gut-wrenching, but it was nonstop. Every step with my left foot reminded me that I was not in complete comfort. I kept taking periodic deep breaths and tried to relax. Maybe there would be a substantial first aid station at the halfway point...if I could persevere that long, I'd be fine.
It was just before the 12-mile mark that we crossed under a bridge with an historic Route 66 sign. I decided to pullover for a quick photo op...only I couldn't get my phone to pop out of the pocket on my fuel belt. Not sure how much time I lost on that "short" pit stop, but I got my selfie.
We wished each other well, and I turned off with the other marathoners. A mile or so after the split-off, the route headed due south....on a long stretch, straight into a fierce head wind. I still had not seen any first aid stations, nor had I noticed any such medical supplies at the numerous water/Gatorade stands. Suddenly, I had the crazy idea of just turning around and back-tracking to the 13.1 finish line. By this time, I was having serious doubt as to whether I'd be able to actually finish the marathon. I was barely past the half way point, and the hip was not feeling any better.
A short while later, I spotted the 4:30 group and was able to catch back up with them. I decided to (again) try to hang with them for a few miles, then (maybe) progressively up my pace and (hopefully) find the 4:15 group. I still held on to the hope I'd find an aid station with more than just water or Gatorade, so I pressed on.
It was finally near the 16-mile mark that I decided to walk for a bit. The constant hills were not giving my hip any relief. Thankfully, most of the hills were fairly short and not many were steep, but there was very little flat terrain in between any of them. Also, I continued to entertain the idea of turning around (and seeking out the long-passed 13.1 finish line).....but I also kept reminding myself how much I'd regret it. I think it was finally near the 18-mile mark that I reached an impasse; I decided to just keep going. There still was a slight chance I could get my PR, but the 4:15 (and 4:20) were pretty much out of the picture.
Throughout the course, there was constant crowd support, though. There also were numerous police officers keeping the intersections clear of traffic. Many of the neighborhoods had "block parties" with people dressed in costume, handing out jello shots and various other beverages of choice. Thankfully, all of the spectators were wonderful and really helped keep me distracted from my frustrating situation.
By the time I made it to 20 miles, I had lost the 4:30 group. I can't even remember when the last time was that I saw them.There were a lot of people walking in those final miles. Despite my aches and pains, I never felt like I had hit "the Wall." I was able to run at a decent pace, but had to keep taking walk breaks because of my hip.
Within the final mile, there is the Center of the Universe detour. It's a unique little Route 66 feature....you can do the extra (out and back).3 mile detour, and in doing so you not only earn bragging rights to having run the "world's shortest ultra," but you also receive a commemorative coin as a keepsake.
|Center of the Universe detour...and the coin
|pics from MarathonFOTO
|It's always dangerous sitting after a marathon...getting back up is not a guarantee
|These numbers don't lie....
I didn't even look at my results printout until a couple days post-finish line. It shows my 20-mile split as being 3:30...which indicates I actually wasn't too far off pace at that point (and there had already been some walking by then). The final 10K (and detour) took me well over an hour (like 1:20) to complete...hence the finish time. If it was any other day, I probably could have finished the remaining 10K in less than an hour.
*The Route 66 course was tough, and so was my training. Had I not put in the blood, sweat, and tears in preparation, I would have had to walk a lot more...or possibly taken a DNF.
*This was the toughest race I have ever done. I knew the course would be hilly, and I expected some wind. The hip/groin thing is what blindsided me, though. As mentioned, I had noticed a little something going on with my hip, but I didn't think it was an issue because I didn't have any discomfort on any of my runs during my taper (but none of those runs were on hills or for extensive distances).
*I felt ready, and did not approach the start line "over confidant." I sincerely believe it wasn't just the hills, or the wind, or the wonky hip...but a combination of all three (mainly the hip, though) that messed up my performance.
*Despite my challenging circumstances, I still enjoyed the race. It was a top-notch event with awesome crowd support, a huge expo, plenty of aid stations, and near-perfect traffic control. My only complaint is the lack of first aid supplies on the course. There were a few medical personnel along the route, but none of them had the usual items I see along race courses of this magnitude (bandages, Biofreeze, pain meds, petroleum jelly, etc.).
*I am at peace with everything, finally. Honestly, I am ever-so-thankful for the ability to not only run...but to run races of this distance. Although I respect the marathon for what it is, I am not afraid of running 26.2 (or more) miles. And, I'm already registered for another in 2017.
*I would rather run a tough course, and have a few struggles along the way. Anyone can run an "easy" course (and some purposely choose such a course in hopes of a BQ or a PR), but the tough courses are the ones that show us what we're really made of.
I'm linking up with Marcia and Erika and Patty for Tuesdays on the Run, I'm also linking up with Deb for the Wednesday Word (and the word is endorphins...which I think were present at Route 66, but I was not consciously aware of them), and I am also linking up with Suzie and Debbie and Rachel and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner. I invite you to take a look at all of these awesome blogs, as well as all the linked blogs...there's a wealth of expertise and information!