It was mile 18, and I could have sworn I saw buzzards circling.
Uh…do they have buzzards in Rhode Island? Maybe they were seagulls. In my mind, though, they were prescient scavenger-birds, just waiting for my poor body to collapse on the shoulder of the barren road so they could start picking me apart.
But that was mile 18.
This is a race recap, so let’s start form the beginning, because it wasn’t always so gruesome. [And to make this a little more fun, I’m going to throw in some fitting lyrics from songs that were on my iPod. Guess them correctly and you could win an OMG Prize*!]
Gathered around the whitewashed sandwich board with a big “S” painted on it, everyone was chatting. The starting line of yesterday’s Gansett Marathon felt like a bunch of runner-friends getting ready for a relaxed long run on a beautiful summer morning. Then suddenly someone shouted “GO” and we were off.
Name That Tune #1: I can go forever like an old-fashioned country mouse.
Miles 1-6: 7:47, 7:40, 7:39, 7:29, 7:44, 7:50
The first few miles of a marathon always feel easy, but damn…this felt EASY. Yes, I knew I was going out too fast. I kept telling myself to slow down, but I was tucked in to a nice little pack of women (which, incidentally, included at least three other bloggers – Karen, Celia, and Sarah). Behind the pack was…well, it looked like nothing. Pace be damned. I wasn’t quite ready to be running all alone, and hey – maybe I did have a 3:25 in me? You never know unless you try.
Name That Tune #2: Got a whole six pack on ice but I’m ridin’ on the hottest wheels.
Miles 7-12: 7:48, 7:40, 7:52, 7:59, 7:56, 7:57
I was running on borrowed time…both figuratively and literally.
The pack began to thin and eventually spread into a loose string of runners. Gansett is a two-loop course: the first 16-mile loop cuts wide around the far end with a couple of little lollipop turns, while the second 10-mile loop cuts across those, but otherwise follows the first loop step for step. This is relevant because when you’re at mile 9, you’re also seeing the mile marker for, say, mile 21.
And let me tell you: when you’re going up a long, gradual, exposed incline at mile 10-12 and you’re constantly being reminded that this is also going to be miles 22-24, well…that kind of sucks.
Anyway. I was still feeling good, but starting to wonder if the wheels were going to come off at some point. I hadn’t trained hard enough to be running this well. It seemed too good to be true.
Name That Tune #3: He summoned all of his strength in the climb. It suffered all of his strength in the fall.
Miles 13-18: 7:49, 7:58, 8:10, 8:15, 8:45, 8:56
I came through the half around 1:42. That’s a full six minutes faster than I ran the Tobacco Road Half a couple of weeks ago – and two minutes faster than I came through the half mark at CIM last December. On pace for a 3:24. I still sort of believed I might be able to make that happen.
And then I hit THE WALL. I know, it’s cliche. But I did. At mile 16. Which is way too early to find yourself slamming into an invisible net of pain and suffering. Hello, lack of mileage. I quickly went from feeling strong and upbeat to being totally pissed off.
Name That Tune #4: Your misery and hate will kill us all. So paint it black and take it back…
Miles 18-26: Pace unknown
I was running along the water, starting the second loop. Well…running, and some walking. My legs were toast; I’d burned them out on the first half, having taken a gamble on being in better shape than I thought I was. It was a bet that I’d lost. It was over.
So I decided to shut down my Garmin and just enjoy running along this picturesque New England beach. I tried to bring it full circle. That calm feeling I’d had at the start, of just being out for a nice long run on a beautiful day…couldn’t I recapture that now?
I won’t pretend I didn’t spend much of the hour that followed wishing the whole thing were over, but at least I wasn’t berating myself with every step. I don’t know what kind of pace I was running (and, ahem, walking through the water stations) but it was definitely slow. I was just going for the finish at that point.
Official finish time: 3:42:47
Which isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things, but is certainly slow enough to make me think twice about my training this spring (and plans for the rest of the summer/fall…)
GOOD LUCK, Boston runners!
*OMG CONTEST: One entry per current answer, don’t google it unless you’re a cheater but the OMG PRIZE is awesome, trust me. You can even make up answers and I’ll accept them as long as they’re entertaining.