You know that saying "The hay is in the barn"? Well, that's what I should've been saying to myself while I was driving down to Indianapolis yesterday, and I would've been saying it if it was true. There was some hay in the barn, but only enough to last until about January of a Michigan winter, or not quite halfway through. I could blame class, or The Crud I had back in August, or the absence of a running group to inspire me, but I'm not going to blame anything except myself and my seeming inability to prioritize training for any event at all.
This was my 28th marathon and 22nd state. Almost halfway done! It was also my first marathon in over a year. My last one was Lehigh in September of last year. How does a year go by without me doing any marathons? I don't know, but that really can't happen again, not if I actually want to finish 50 States and beat Thomas. Whoops, how did that get in there? Anyway, I picked this one for proximity and value. I think Indiana is a boring state and Indianapolis is a boring city, and my impression of racing in Indiana is limited to that night when I did one loop with Kamran while he was doing his 100-miler. Wet and cold and a little boring is what I remember of that course. Well, this one was a little wet and a little cold and a lot boring. I did not have the impression that this would be an exciting race, but I thought it would be an okay one. I mean, it has generally good reviews and I like changing leaves as much as the next person. I should've known, though, when I got halfway through the the YouTube course video and had to turn it off because I got bored watching it, that this would not be a great course for me.
Let me say that it would not be boring for a lot of people. Midwestern or Northeastern transplants who have moved to the Southwest and miss fall terribly every year would probably love this race. It's nothing but gently rolling hills and green grass and so, so many glorious leaves. I feel like we ran in showers of leaves the whole time. The weather is a roll of the dice this time of year -- on Friday it was 70 and sunny, and tomorrow it's going to be 40's and rainy, but today it was right around 50 and overcast with a few sprinkles basically the whole day, pretty much perfect marathon weather. For people who don't need any changing scenery, or any crowd support, or any glimpses of the actual city, this would be a great race!
Packet pickup was super easy, and the Expo, the race start, pretty much every single lodging option anyone could want, and pretty much every single restaurant option anyone could want were all located right next to each other in about a 5-mile radius. Oh, and everything was right off the freeway too. That was nice. The race start wasn't till 8:30 although the website said everyone needed to be there by 7:30. Paranoid because of last year's parking disaster at Lehigh, I was there at 6:45. (NOTE: According to marathonguide.com reviews, Lehigh's logistics problems were all fixed this year, very good news since it was a great marathon except for those things.) There was virtually unlimited parking. I sat in my car and read for a while. I didn't get out of the car until 8:00, taking a guess at how much time I would need to stand in the Portajohn line before the race started.
My blood has definitely thickened since coming to Michigan. I was wearing shorts and T-shirt in 50 degrees and was a little on the chilly side, but not shivering while I stood in line. I was in line with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs, but I was incognito because I was wearing my SAR shirt instead of my Maniacs shirt. I listened to them discuss the race they had just done (Prairie Fire in Kansas) and the one they were doing next (Route 66 in Tulsa, two weeks from now). It was getting closer and closer to 8:30 and people kept jumping out of line because they didn't want to miss the start. The Marathon Maniacs and I were unconcerned; after this many marathons I do not care if I'm on the start line when the gun goes off. That's what chip timing is for, and I would much rather not have Portajohn time deducted from my chip time if I can get it in before the race starts. Today, though, so many people left the line that I was ducking under the rope for my corral at 8:30 exactly -- perfect!
The race takes place in and around Fort Harrison. I really hope that runners who live by this park know how lucky they are to have such a nice place to run! It is full of trails, both paved and dirt, and has a nice mix of hills and flat. The only problem was that I just didn't want to be there.
I had briefly enjoyed the atmosphere at the start line and was thinking how much I had missed races and runners and how I really needed to stop making excuses and start getting to know the running community out here… and then the race started and all I could think was that I didn't feel like doing this and couldn't I just go home? I felt like this all the way from Mile 1 to about Mile 5. Things got a little better after Mile 5, and I was feeling okay until about Mile 12. In this race, the half marathon course is the same as the first 13 miles of the marathon course, and the half marathon turns left and splits off just past Mile 12 to go back to the finish line. Just knowing that most of these people were going to get to be done, while I still had 13 more miles to go, made me depressed. Right past the point where the half marathoners split off, there was a guy holding a sign that read: "Pussies, make a left, badasses, straight ahead." To the guy with the sign: You, sir, are an asshole… and also hilarious. I laughed for almost a quarter mile, and hated the half marathoners a little less for being almost done. (Let me explain: a half-marathon is no small accomplishment; NO race is, not even a 5k. Every time I do a half, I reach the end wondering how I ever do twice that distance. I would never call anyone a pussy for doing any distance of race, and I don't think of myself as a badass for doing a marathon when I have friends who do 100-milers. It's just a little marathon black humor, if you ask me, and I for one appreciated it very much, and am pretty sure I still would've thought it was funny if I was running the half.)
The second half was pretty much one long -- really long -- out and back. It was at first mildly depressing, and then extremely depressing, to see the people coming back when the turnaround was nowhere in sight. It only took me a couple of miles to start feeling like I had had an acceptable first half and now if I wanted to walk I was just going to go ahead. Nothing was really hurting -- I mean, of course, nothing specific was hurting in an injury way, not that nothing at all was hurting. Everything was kind of hurting -- my knees, my internal organs, even a faint pain from my IT band, which hasn't even twinged in years -- but nothing outside of the usual pains. There was no reason why I couldn't keep running except for a strong desire not to. Out and backs are my least favorite things on a marathon course. I don't mind the "back" part, but the "out" part is pure torture. It's bad when they're a mile or two long but five miles sapped whatever spirit I had left completely. This one took place almost entirely on a road called Fall Creek Parkway, with the "out" portion being on the road and the "back" portion being on the gorgeous bike path. There were big, beautiful houses all along the route and not a spectator in sight, more cause for depression. The last worst thing was the headwind. Yes, it was causing the leaves to swirl down from the trees in a nonstop shower of red and yellow, but it was still a headwind. A chilly rain fell every now and then for a few minutes at a time. I wanted to be done with this, so badly! I contemplated all kinds of things -- thumbing a ride back, hiding in the bushes for several minutes, pulling off my tag, getting to the finish line and claiming it fell off somewhere -- but of course I didn't do them because I wanted the stupid medal and I wanted to do 50 States.
Finally I got to the turnaround at Mile 19.5. After that I was finally, finally able to sort-of run. A slow shuffling jog, really, but I will count it as a run. I did this off and on until I got to the last two miles, which were all uphill, and then I said forget it. I was tired and cranky and cold and my stomach and knees both hurt and just NO. No running. The 4:30 pacer jogged past me with less than a mile to go and said, "Come on! 4:30! You can do it!" And I totally could have done it -- I had like 16 minutes left -- but I just shook my head at her. Nope. So she kept going. I walked almost the entire last two miles although I did manage to jog the last tenth of a mile. Painfully. I finished with one of my worst times ever, 4:32.
I wonder if I'm ever going to care if I run fast again or not? I don't really have any running friends out here, so it's not like I'll feel embarrassed about a lousy time. People out here just think it's cool that I finished a marathon at all. I also think that if I really want to finish 50 States, I am going to have to start doing a few more marathons, including probably a few back-to-backs, and in order to save my body I feel like I will have to do them slowly. And also I don't have any way to really know what effect the amount of walking at my job -- at least 6-8 miles per day on most days -- has on my running abilities. Add to that the fact that I don't have any running group friends to push me -- I miss you, WOG!! -- and it looks like I might just be slow forever.
I am up at 3:00 a.m. with sore legs but wide awake and in a sort of post-race funk that has nothing to do with my lousy time and more to do with the fact that I don't know when my next marathon will be. I am thinking about maybe doing the Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia in two weeks --it's one I can drive to, and with as slow as I was in this marathon, I could probably have enough recovery time to finish another one (though probably not with a better time). We'll see.