Sunday, May 31, 2009

Edinburgh Day 3 - The Big Day

I woke up this morning to find that my hotel was serving breakfast an hour and a half ahead of schedule to accommodate the runners staying here. This was a relief, since I did not have the foresight to purchase any food last night and there are no stores/cafes in the immediate vicinity that would serve as viable alternatives for pre-race fueling.

I spice up my white toast and instant coffee breakfast by engaging the man next to me in conversation. He's running his 79th marathon today. My guess is that he's in his 30's. He's hoping for a personal best today, which means he'll have to beat the 3:17 marathon he ran in December. He tells me that he runs a marathon 'every other weekend or so'. I elect not to tell him that todays run will effectively double my total mileage for the month of May. Instead, I smile sheepishly and tell him that this is my first.

Staging started almost an hour before the race was set to begin. Plenty of time for my anxiety to build. 3 potty stops. Not good for the hydration. I looked around for the Hoopers, but the crowd was too big. I eventually found a staging spot next to a handful of soldiers that were dressed in full army fatigues. Cotton shirts. Long pants. Leather boots. Like that wasn't not hard enough, they were carrying full packs. The guy next to me let me pick his pack up. 60lbs! That blew all anxiety out of my mind. No matter what kind of pain or suffering I would experience on this run, it could be worse.

It took a long time for 14,000 people to run through the start line. I was staged somewhere near the back, based on my estimated finish time. It was a good 15 minutes before I was up at the start, by which time I had to go to the bathroom again. Clearly there were many others that hadn't bothered to make the trip back to the port-a-potties, as the bushes were lined with anxious runners for several miles after the start line.

I found the first six miles tough as I tried to set my own pace, which was faster than everyone around me. I didn't want to be the jerk that was zig zagging between people at the start, only to be passed by the same people as I limped through the last miles of the race. I just wanted to find a rhythm and bang off the easy miles. The rhythm came around mile 6, when I passed a military crew running while carrying a person on a stretcher. They were counting out their strides at various intervals. 1---2---3---4--- That stayed in my head for the next 3.5 hours.

The first water station was empty by the time that I arrived. This sort of thing happens to back-of-the-packers in bike races, so I wasn't shocked. I decided that I would drink and eat at every opportunity, just to be sure. This turned out to be a good strategy when, later, there was a draught between miles 14 and 21.5. No water, no energy drink, no gels.

Now, I hate to dwell on this, but I have to say that it had a significant impact on my mental state for a significant stretch of the race. The first empty station on this stretch was manageable. The second was an irritation. The third was when I began to panic. Would there be any water at the next one? How about for the rest of the race? Nobody knew! Surely if there were water left somewhere, they would have restocked these water stations. People were picking up nearly empty bottles from the side of the road just to get a little sip of hydration.

Eventually we hit a frenzy of water/lucozade stations around mile 21.5. I bet I drank 4 bottles in a row; like that would somehow compensate for the hydration and fuel deficit. My pace by this time was slow, but I was still running. I thought for sure I'd be walking the last third. I hadn't expect that I would make it this far without a blister or a limp. I had a strange pain up the side of my knee that would occur randomly. It started in the first quarter of the race and would occasionally remind me to temper my pace, but it never amounted to anything serious.

I crossed the finish line after 4:36:50 of running. I was surprised not to experience that overwhelming emotional rush of joy that often accompanies a big effort. It's possible that the 8 mile draught dried out my tear ducts. More likely, its because I ran at a conservative pace. Yes, it was a lot of running and it was very hard, but I didn't make myself suffer. If you promise not to tell anyone...I think that maybe I actually found it kind of fun. Or maybe I'm just really, really happy that I didn't hurt myself.
I met up with the Hoopers after the race. Emma, Peter, Rick and Ione, all had tremendous performances, and Erin caught everyone crossing the finish line! Emma chronicled it all in her race report.

After the race, we took a bus tour of the Edinburgh suburbs before going back for dinner. I thought it was a bit strange (I was really hungry and just wanted to shower) but it was so nice of the Hoopers to include me in another family dinner that I just went along with it. It was worth it - pizza, beer and good company.

Thanks Emma, for suggesting this crazy race, and thanks Hoopers, for the warm and generous hospitality.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think that maybe I actually found it kind of fun." ha! I knew it!

Congrats on a very solid debut marathon Tori...

June 23, 2009 at 5:14:00 PM MDT  

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