Monday, December 13, 2010

Marathon or longer #20: Things I did that you should never do: A race report

2 days before the marathon I started coughing.  I had a headache.  And a stuffy nose.


4 days before this marathon I woke up with a sore, stuffy throat and a headache.  DAMMIT!  I took lots of OTCs and by the next day, the sore throat was gone, but the stuffiness remained, accompanied by chills and a generally shitty feeling, (I believe the genteel term is malaise.)

The day before, my nose was running clear stuff. Clear is good, right?  But then, the day of, I woke up with an aching chest, and when I coughed, it felt like I'd been stabbed in the sternum.  Shit.  I know this feeling, I had it back when I used to smoke: Bronchitis.

I can't say enough about the race organization.  The race sent buses to each of the associated hotels at 5 am that took us to the starting line.  There was also a parking area for everyone else and busses that took them to the start.  Our hotel opened up their hot breakfast bar at 4:30 am.  I had fried potatoes and, yes, I'll say it, bacon.  I don't normally eat bacon, but there it was, neatly cooked and drained, so what the heck.  I claim the salt drew me to it.

Very curious to see if DP reads this and comments on the bacon. Pretty sure she thinks this is magic food, and I've just supported her position.

I'd decided to just suck it up, and take 12-hour sudafed and then dayquil for the cough and ache to get me through the marathon.  Afterwards, I'd allow myself to succumb to whatever this is.  (Don't try this at home.  I'm reckless. I will not be responsible for anyone dumb enough to say, "well, Misty did it.")

The marathon start was cold, as all good marathons should be.  I donned a trashbag, but eventually found myself in a group of people huddled near the exhaust on a portable generator.  (Again: Don't try this at home.  Just because the carbon monoxid takes the edge off doesn't mean you should do it)

I was a bit worried at the beginning because I had forgotten to put on bodyglide, but it turned out okay.  Again.  Don't do this at home...

I seeded myself directly behind the 5:00 pacer, the slowest pacer they had.The first part is a short downhill, followed by a steep uphill.  Then some rollers before hitting the main road and a long gradual downhill.  The problem with running with a pacer, I discovered, is they're unwavering.  Even going up hills. so I fell into a habit of falling back uphill, then passing the pacer on downhills, but otherwise staying with the group.  Then, well, then I hit the quazi-nightmare Biosphere out and back at mile 10ish.

The biosphere out and back has a short downhill, followed by several steep uphills.  I had been well ahead of the pace group when hit turned into it, but while at the aid station pouring 6 1/4-filled cups into my bottle because there was no pitcher, they passed me, and I watched the pink "5:00" sign" disappear into the distance.  I never saw them again.

By the time I came out of the Biosphere out-and-back around mile 14, I was pretty demoralized.  My average pace had climbed from 11:08 to 11:45, and it was getting warm, and I tired and dizzy.  But I know that between miles 14 and 20 in any given marathon, I tend to lose my will.  I get angry.  I get sad.  Things hurt.  I get angry again.  Stupid hills. Stupid SUN!  After mile twenty, things get better.  I just have to hang in there.

To make matters worse, the Biosphere people handed out bottles of water, and ran out before I got there, so I twice came upon a scene in which volunteers were picking up half-drunk bottles of water, dumping them out, and putting the bottle in a bag. What. The Fuck.  Is that?

I was still in the throes of my "mile 14 to 20 now it's time to stop" so after turning back onto the main road I adjusted my pace by running 4 minutes and walking 1.  In doing that, I found that I could keep an overall pace of between 11:45 and 12:00. I revised my finishing goal to beating a 12 minute overall pace, hopefully breaking a 5:15.

The problem was that my legs were tired.  Maybe had something to do with that marathon-and-a-half last weekend. Dunno.  The dayquil was running out, and I started to cough, not often, and not hard, it was just one cough about every over mile or so, but when I coughed, the pain that shot through the center of my chest sent me reeling and I'd even stumble a little, exclaiming from the pain. I searched through my spi-belt: no more cough medicine.  

I ate a gel every half hour, and drank three long sips during each walk break. If I drink too much while running, I tend to cramp; If I drink too little, I start panting. I was starting to feel dizzy, and that was a bit concerning.  I figured that was related to whatever was going on in my windpipe. Or maybe it was the interaction between pseudofed and caffein.  Who knew.  What I did know was that the cough medicine had worn off.  *Cough* OW.  *Cough* OW.  

It got hotter.  Towards the end, there is a long uphill that is several miles long, and goes up in altitude about 300 feet, I think.  It's pretty damned disappointing, I'll tell you.  Then it flattens out a bit around mile 21 or 22.  By then my body had given up on trying to get me to quit, and i was feeling a little better, but tired.  My legs felt better.

about 2 miles from the finish, there is a 1/2 a mile or so, maybe not quite that long, steep climb.  I marveled at the people around me using the Galloway methond.  Throughout the race they stuck to it lock-step, regardless of where they were in the course.  I saw people running up hills and walking down hills, and I thought, whatever, buddy.  I hope it's working for you.

The very last 1/2 mile or so it *kind* of downhill, and then the finish line was flat.  In the last 4-5 miles I passed about 50 people walking, and was surprised at how good my legs felt.

I came into the finish at about 5:11 or 5:12; and holy cow I was happy about that. Breaking 5:15 was just a pipe dream.

I wanted some shade, and was worried about that cough. I went into the medical tent where there were alot of interns who were initially excited when I said "chest pain" and then seemed disappointed that nothing was really wrong with me.  I'd taken in about 9 gels.  I'd drank about 8 bottles of water.  I'd taken electrolytes.  My blood pressure was normal. They tried laying me down and tipping my feet up, but I started wheezing, so I sat up, and eventually left the tent.

I noticed a lot of people hobbling, leaning on friends and loved-ones, unable to go down the stairs without difficulty. I remember those days.  Sure, I could use a nap, and that damned cough was pretty annyoing, but my legs and feet were fine.  I went up and down the stairs with ease.  I guess this stuff gets easier after a while.

I took one of the free buses back to our hotel, and took a shower, and then I started coughing, and coughing up junk, and once I did that, my chest stopped hurting, but the people around me on the plane were not happy.  I lied and told them it was an "asthma" thing.

So there it is, a new PR. I'd like to thank my Coach, OTC drugs, fried potatoes and bacon.  I'm convinced that this is what got me to the finish line.  I also suspect that if I ran a race WITHOUT a bad cold, and without running 40 miles at marathon pace the week prior, I might be able to break 5 hours some day.  We'll see.

Remember. Don't try any of this at home.


  1. Congratulations on toughing it out while you were feeling lousy! I'd be one of those people limping and leaning after the half, let alone a full marathon. Let alone a full marathon a week after a full marathon after a half marathon. You're amazing. I hope I get near that point some day.

    Hope the malaise disappears quickly. If not, maybe you could cough a time or two on the coworker who attempted the running intervention.

  2. oh this brought tears to my eyes. My 2nd marathon (of 3) was done w/ OTC sinus remedies (bastard dr wouldn't give me antibiotics), painkillers, vomiting, crying and walking. But ran more than half of it, and I finished. Well done, and yay! on your PB!

  3. Impressive!!! I am battling a nasty head cold that included pressure so bad it felt like my eyes were being pushed out from behind. I needed a 14 mile run this weekend. What did I do? I managed to sweep the kitchen and do dishes Sunday afternoon, then had to go back to bed. I did think to myself - Misty's out running an f**kin Marathon and she's sick - you can run 14 miles. I then decided, that maybe if I'd had to register, paid to travel, then I would have forced myself. Otherwise, give me Sudafed and let me become one with the couch. Great job!!

  4. Congrats! Idk if I could have done it with Bronchitis!! and I wish it got easier with time for me you will still see me limp at the end of my long runs.

  5. what, you didn't know it was magic? I thought we had discussed this extensively. Expect more PRs in the future commensurate with further consumption of Bacon.

  6. Nice finish despite your condition! way to go!

  7. Anonymous8:35 PM

    Dang girlie....

    You're a total rock star!

  8. Way to tough it out! You are a running machine.

  9. Hot diggity dang. You are one crazy mo-fo about running aren't you. NO WAY am I running the bronchitis so you don't even have to warn me.

    I too always struggle from mile 14-20. Every. Single. Time. Then it gets better. You are the first person I've ever seen who has said the same. Now I feel validated.

  10. that's some serious dedication to a goal! Impressive job. Now listen to your body and let it heal.

  11. Congrats on a PR, especially under bad conditions (sick, coughing, tired)! Hope you don't regret pushing yourself when ill. Some people claim large doses of Vitamin D help with colds and flu.

    Most serious runners (not that you're not serious :)) don't try to race so often, and carefully train so as to be in best condition come race day. That fatigue from the previous race may have cost you a sub-5hr time. But it's good to hear you weren't beat up by the distance.

    Hope you feel better soon.



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