January 14, 2016

Looking at 26.2 Miles

Flashback to 2003:

In January 2003, I decided that I wanted to run a full marathon, mainly to cross it off my bucket list. I had started running in 1998, and had done tons of 5ks and one half marathon up to that point.  I don't remember races being all that readily available back then----now it seems that there is a half marathon every month or so in San Diego, but back then, races were few and far between.  Most of my runs weren't training runs, training for a race---they were simply runs done for the exercise, the stress release, and the joy of running.

So by the time 2003 rolled around, I had been running for about 5 years, with only one half marathon under my belt.  I wanted the challenge of a marathon.  I decided on Rock 'n' Roll San Diego----mainly because it was practically the only one around. In fact, back in 2003, San Diego was the only Rock 'n' Roll race in the country! They didn't expand to the huge corporation they are today until a few years later.  And they didn't even have a half marathon option!  Only a full.  Yes, times have changed.  Today there are Rock 'n' Roll events in most major cities, most with both half and full options.  These days many are offering a 5k and/or 10k option as well.

In 2003, it was the dark ages of running, at least for me.  It's hard to believe, because 2003 was not that long ago, but back then there was no social media.  No Facebook.  No Twitter. No Daily Mile. No Instagram. And I don't think really any blogs---at least, not that I knew of. I'm sure there were some discussion forums, but it really wasn't the way it was today.  I had no other friends that ran.  None.  Today, I know a gazillion runners, friends in real life and friends I've met online.  Back then----I was the only runner I knew.

I bought one of the Hal Higdon books on how to train for a marathon, and followed his plan. I had no kids back then (I got pregnant with D a month after the race) so I had plenty of time to run after work and on weekends.  One of my favorite routes was around Balboa Park.  I lived in Hillcrest at the time, and mapped out a 4 mile loop from my house that would take me through the park, past the zoo, etc. I liked it because it had some good people watching, and there was also a bathroom in the park a the halfway point. On long runs, I would do the loop 4, 5 times, often leaving an extra bottle of Gatorade in the bushes by my house for me to refill my bottles.

Back then, there were no Garmins or GPS watches. I had to guesstimate my mileage, and use an actual watch to keep track of time, and then calculate my pace.  There were no iPods.  For music, I carried a walkman (with cassette tapes) or a discman (very cumbersome).  I seem to remember that we had Gu,  or some sort of gel---but I'm positive there weren't that many choices. Not like today. I didn't know about salt. I didn't know about the Jeff Galloway run-walk method. I didn't know really anything, except that I was going to run this thing.

Race day ended up being---excuse my language---a clusterfuck.  I walked the mile from my house to the start line, and was so excited to finally be there.  But I didn't pace myself correctly. I went out too fast, and burnt out really quickly.  Additionally, I overhydrated. It was very hot outside and I drank way too much liquid.  This resulted in me having seven bathroom stops (average stop was at least 5 minutes, with all the line waiting before I even got to go). And of course, after each stop it was hard to start moving again.  At mile 20, I hit the proverbial wall.  I think all the overhydration messed with my body...I felt woozy and not good. I ended up walking most of the last 6.2 miles.  And I when I say walk, I mean shuffle. I vividly remember hot spots on my feet, the pain of the latter part of the run.  It was awful. I finished in well over 7 hours (I believe 7:20 or so)....of course that included over 30 minutes of bathroom stops, but still, I could have done better. I was projecting a 6:15 time (at the time, my one-and-only half marathon was 3:05).
Although I finished, and got my medal, and an official finisher's certificate, I never felt proud of it. I never really talked about the race, I never felt like I could put a 26.2 sticker on my car, and I didn't sign up for another race. In fact, I was so disgusted by running after that race that I virtually stopped running. It wasn't until 2009 that I began to run again.  In the time from the race, mid-2003, until 2009, I only ran sporadically. I was busy with two kids, including one who was in the hospital a lot.  I ran sometimes to burn off stress, and in fact had a jogging stroller I'd use sometimes. But during that time period, I definitely didn't call myself a runner.

Most importantly, I vowed to never, EVER, run a full marathon again.  And while I eventually did come back to running, and in fact love it more than ever and it's now a part of my identity, who I am, not just what I do, and have incorporated triathlon---I have stuck to that.  To date, I have run 26 (I think) half marathons, not counting the 3 half marathons that came at the end of each of my half-Ironmans.  But I never wanted to do a full marathon again, and kept to that promise.

Flash forward to this past summer.

I was doing a lot of biking in preparation for Vineman 70.3 and Pedal the Cause. Most of my rides were with friends, but one day I was biking alone, giving me too much time to think. And I started to think about the possibility of running a full.  After all, I reasoned, if I really want to do a full Ironman in 2020, it would be great to have a more positive marathon experience under my belt.  I decided I didn't want to travel for the race, which left a choice between the two fulls in San Diego---Rock 'n' Roll or Carlsbad. I decided on Carlsbad, which is in January, vs Rock 'n' Roll which is June, due to the heat (although as 2020 gets closer, it may be a good idea for me to run one in the heat for training for Ironman Texas).  I knew in January it could rain, especially with an El Nino year, but I'd rather have rain than heat.  When I got back from my bike ride, I discussed the idea with my husband, and by that evening I was signed up.

I had buyer's remorse almost instantly.

But I knew I could do it.  If my body didn't hold up in training, I could always drop to the half. However,  I'm a better runner than I was in 2003. A smarter runner.  This time is different. I have my friend Steve, who designed yet another training plan for me.  It's not as heavy as other run plans, but it's perfect for ME, as I injure easily and he knows that.  I have a great run/walk ratio that will start me out slow and increase over the race. I have a PLAN to execute, for pace, fuel and hydration. I will have a friend running with me for company, my friend Mihael.  I know about salt intake, and will take it throughout my run to avoid the over-hydration that happened to me.  I have used my Garmin 920xt and my iPod to get me through training.  I have talked about this with dozens of friends, both in real life and online, and have had some great runs with friends as well. I'm not alone this time. I have support, I have knowledge. I can do this.

The race is this weekend. It looks like the weather will be gorgeous, and I'm thankful.

I have goals, which I'll boldy put here:

My "A" goal:  to finish in under 5:50.  This is a stretch. I finished my longest training run, 20 miles, in 4:24, which did NOT include 3 bathroom stops.  This goal assumes no more than 3 bathroom stops, and with minimal waiting at each.  Plus, it assumes I can do the last 6.2 at a decent pace.  After my 20 miles, I could not have imagined doing another step, let alone 10k.

My "B" goal:  to finish in under 5:59.  This one seems more reachable for me.

My "C" goal:  to finish in 6 hours or more, but with a smile on my face, and uninjured.

I'm not going to lie--I'd love to see a 5 in the front of my finishing time. I'm capable of it.  But even if it's over 6 hours, and it very could be, that's ok---it'll still be a PR.  And regardless of my time, I know that on race day I'll do the best job I can do. If it's 5:45, great. If the best I can do on race day is 6:15, or even more, with race day conditions, and what my body can do, that's ok too. I won't beat myself up about it.  The number one thing I want is a good experience, finishing time aside, to be able to draw strength from on future races.

Wish me luck!


  1. Sugar.... I am SO excited for you! Our running journey has so many similarities and I wish for you what I had in my second marathon - a finish with a huge smile on your face. I'll be cheering you on all day!!

  2. Good Luck Sugar-GO SMASH IT!!! :-)


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