Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Let's Do Back-to-Back Marathons" -- Great Idea, Thomas!

Yup, this was my brother's idea. I was worried about not being ready for the HALF-marathon next weekend, and then Thomas came up with the idea of doing the New Hampshire Marathon on Saturday and the Maine Marathon on Sunday. While of course I knew this was not strictly a good idea, from a physical well-being point-of-view, I also thought it was probably possible. Even though I haven't run much since Pikes Peak, I WAS in marathon shape then, 5 weeks ago, and I HAVE been biking and/or swimming every day, even if I've barely been running. I couldn't resist the thought of knocking off 2 states for the cost of one plane fare, and also splitting costs with Thomas for hotel and car. (Completing marathons in 50 states is not an inexpensive goal.) What the heck! I was kind of curious anyway to see what would happen if... I mean, seriously! The way I feel after a regular marathon, when I feel like I've been hit by a truck for a couple of days afterwards, running a second marathon immediately would be unthinkable! So I had to see how much of that was in my head and how much was real.

For two weeks coming up to the marathons, the bottoms of both my feet were hurting right around the metatarsals, in a way that made me think I was on the verge of stress fractures in both of them. This is my most-familiar injury and it's always October when I get them, so I was due. But then again, I already had plane tickets and non-refundable race fees, so I figured I should at least be able to hobble through the first marathon and score one medal and one more state. If I couldn't do the second one, oh well. This would be a good time to get a stress fracture; I need time to clean up the yard and get Sunny ready for a November with obedience trials every weekend anyway. I was gimping around from the time I got on the plane in Tucson till I hobbled to the start line in the tiny town of Bristol, New Hampshire on Saturday.

The New Hampshire Marathon is a small, small-town marathon with a few hundred runners. About a third of these runners were also doing Maine the next day. There were huge numbers of Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters. The race course went out from Bristol and looped around Newfound Lake. I knew nothing at all about the course other than that it went around a lake. I never even looked at the website and actually thought the race was in Manchester, where we flew in, and didn't find out it was in Bristol till I met Thomas in the Chicago airport. I also forgot both GU and my waist pack at home. Luckily I got some GU from Thomas, who, unlike me, prepared for this trip. I stuffed the GU in my sports bra since I had no waist pack.

I had been looking forward to fall foliage, but the leaves are still a couple weeks off-peak. Nevertheless, this was definitely a scenic course. I was not happy with the weather, though. Rain was predicted and, sure enough, the rain started at the start line. It didn't let up for the entire race, not once. This wasn't the worst kind of rain, though. It was a gentle drizzle and actually complemented the fog hanging over the lake and the orangey-red trees quite nicely. With temps in the low 60's and no wind, it was actually pretty perfect. I knew from my first step that my feet were going to be okay and I was, for sure, at least going to get through this first marathon. So I implemented my Plan B (Plan A, limp through the course at 6-hour pace, having been rendered unnecessary by my absence of foot pain) -- I wanted to run it slow, somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 pace, so that I would have some left for the following day. I remember how I felt at the end of the 5-hour New Orleans Marathon I ran with Kris -- like I could have turned around at the finish and run the whole course again, or, the following day, like I hadn't run a marathon at all.

That wasn't quite what happened; I ran a little faster (9:50 pace) because my feet didn't hurt and it was pretty and most of the way I could run on a soft cushion of pine needles on the dirt shoulder. This really is a beautiful course if you like small-town New England, which I don't. There were a fair number of hills but nothing too difficult, just enough that I would describe the course as "hilly". I talked to a lot of people along the way and all of them were on their 30th marathon or more. Some of them were also planning on doing Maine the following day. They talked about back-to-back marathons like they were no big deal. Maybe they weren't. I finished in 4:22 and the rain was really coming down hard by then. Also, the wind had picked up, making it cold. Thomas was standing at the finish, having finished in 3:37. He was freezing but otherwise feeling good. I was moderately sore, which meant I should have gone easier. There was none of that "Whee, I could do this again!" feeling I had had in New Orleans.

We had a 3-hour drive to Portland, which gave me plenty of time to stiffen up nicely in the car. We found a running shop in Portland and replaced the GU I borrowed from Thomas. I thought about buying a waste pack but decided no since I have like four of them at home. Stuffing GU in my bra had worked okay; it just chafed a tiny bit, no big deal. We picked up our numbers at the Expo and then went to dinner. While we were at dinner, Thomas got an email from the Maine Marathon saying we had to wear our race numbers turned sideways because of some problem with reading the fancy new chips on the back of the bib. I never got that email; still haven't. At first I thought it might be a joke, but then later on that information went up on the website so I decided it wasn't.

Back in the hotel, I put K-tape on both my feet. The tops of my feet were actually swollen and worse-off than the previously painful metatarsals. Once I had the K-tape on, I tried to put on compression socks but couldn't get them on without pulling the K-tape off. I gave up on compression socks and just put regular socks on instead. Once I had the regular socks on, I remembered I was going to put a Band-Aid on that little, tiny blister on my fourth toe. But it seemed too hard to fight with the socks and K-tape again, so I decided I didn't need the Band-Aid. I went to sleep by 9:00 after enough Vitamin I to kill a horse. I woke up at 2:30, wide-awake and listening to rain pound on the roof. I mentally went over every sore spot on my body. There were lots of them. Not really sore, no; not Pikes Peak or Seattle or Missoula sore, or sore like I had been hit by a truck or beaten with hammers, but sore enough that I really didn't want to do another marathon in a few hours.

We were up at 6:00. On the news, the weatherman said cheerfully, "It's going to be wet ALL DAY, folks! Better save your outside activities for tomorrow! Unless you're running the Maine Marathon, of course!" Then the news cut to a shot of a reporter standing at the Maine Marathon start line in pouring rain. Behind him you could see the flags blowing straight out on their poles. "Windy, too!" the reporter said. "It's going to be a chilly day for these folks!" Then they interviewed some runner dude who said how much he loved running in the rain and how at least it wouldn't be too hot. Shut up, Mr. Sunshine, I thought, and stopped watching after they showed a radar map with the Portland area dark green and staying that way all day long.

At least we got to wait in a gymnasium in the University of Southern Maine till the very last minute. I walked to the start line shivering on legs that felt like they already had 20 miles in them. That feeling is fine when it comes at Mile 20, not so much when it comes at Mile 1. The cannon went off and the 20-mile feeling in my legs did not go away at Mile 1, or Mile 2. Or ever, really. I ran that entire marathon on legs that were so dead I couldn't feel them. Though I could also blame that on the cold. It was 48, windy, and pouring at the start. It was 55, windy, and pouring at the finish. It didn't rain from Mile 15 to Mile 17. That was nice. But then the rain came back again, harder, like it was trying to make up for its brief absence.

This course goes, I think, along the coast. It's an out-and-back. They say it is pretty and scenic but I could tell you only that the road was black asphalt with a white line. I grimly ticked off miles and idly entertained thoughts of quitting even though I knew I wouldn't. I'm too cheap to pay for another flight out to Maine and plus, I don't ever want to come back anyway. Who needs a cold, rainy state like Maine? Not me! I can't wait to be done with New England, forever! Make that the whole East Coast!

The course was pretty flat, only a few hills. We never got above 100 feet of elevation. The aid stations were numerous and very good. I kept running on my dead legs and told myself that when I got to the half, I could walk. That was a lie, but there are lots of lies I told myself to get through this marathon -- "You love running in the rain," "You didn't run a marathon yesterday," "The white line gives you magical powers of speed and endurance if you run on it," "That tiny blister and tiny chafe from yesterday are not turning into a huge, painful blister and huge, painful chafe," "It wasn't a mistake to forego bandaging the blister," "That is not your K-tape loosened by the rain and formed into a big, uncomfortable ball stuck between your first and second toes and causing another huge, painful blister." Et cetera.  They were lies but they worked. I got to the half in 2:07, believe it or not, my exact same half-time from the previous marathon. "Great," I thought, and prepared to fall apart in the second half. You can't possibly feel this bad and keep running.

Except that I did! Somehow, I did. I actually would have beat my time from the previous marathon by many minutes instead of one minute except that I bonked at Mile 23. One second I had energy, the next I had none. I mean NONE. So little that I had to stop walking to dig out my last GU and open it. It took too much energy to move and get my GU at the same time. Once I took it, after 5 minutes of shuffling I was able to jog again, and then run, sort of. When I saw the finishers chute I saw the time was 4:20:40, so hauled ass to get under 4:21 and beat my 4:22 from yesterday. I did it. I am pretty pleased with myself for that. I mean, true, those are pretty crappy times, but these two marathons were all about quantity, not quality. I actually think it's pretty cool to get almost the exact same times. I couldn't have done that if I tried! (Thomas finished with a 3:33, 4 minutes better than yesterday.)

So I got my two medals, but boy did it hurt. Time will tell whether I have any permanent injury. I am still mystified as to what happened to that metatarsal pain that has been dogging me for two weeks. I am seriously entertaining the theory that it is a mechanism of my subconscious brain, trying to convince me not to do stupid athletic things. This has happened before, too many times for it to be a coincidence. I can tell you, though, that I am in twice as much pain today as ever before. That feeling I said was absent last night -- the feeling of being hit by a truck/beaten with hammers over every inch of my body -- is here in full force now. Stepping off a down curb makes me scream. Turning over in bed is agony. Let's not even talk about stairs. Deep breaths hurt! I also have an oozing, raw open sore where I had the GU's stashed, where my cleavage would be if I had any. Bad idea. And my blistered toe is so disgusting it is barely recognizable as a toe. It looks more like a piece of sushi or something. And I have never seen a blister as big or purple/red as the one left behind when I finally extracted the wet, wrinkled ball of K-tape from my other sock. But it's worth it! Right? I guess so. I checked off 2 more states -- # 15 and 16 -- and got my medals, and now have 2 days of being a tourist to look forward to. Well, I would be looking forward to it if I liked New England, but I already told you I don't. Nevertheless, 2 days off work is ALWAYS a good thing.

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