This post was written on July 24, 2012, and has been backdated to the date of the marathon it describes.
This marathon was horrible. To sum it up: It was way too hot (low 90s, compared to the 40s that I'd been training in), leading them to cancel the race. I still finished, but I basically walked the second half and just tried not to die.
It was supposed to be perfect. I'd run a half marathon in April with a time of 1:43, and I hoped that I could do a full marathon in under 4 hours. I was consistently doing my long runs with 8-minute miles, surprising myself, and I was so stoked for this marathon. Until, until, until, my calf started hurting.
I'm not quite sure what triggered the calf issues. I think it was somewhere between my two twenty milers. And I'm not even quite sure what was wrong. Some days my peroneus longus was sore, so I did some stretches and self-massage. Some days, it was the soleus muscle. Other days it was the big, top calf muscle whose name is currently escaping me. Usually it didn't really hurt... but rather felt a little tight or tired. So I took it easy and rested a few days, then it was time to taper, and I hoped that it would get better during the 3 easy weeks.
But it didn't. Frantically, a few days before the marathon, I was trying to figure out what to do. I then discovered KT Tape, so I bought a roll two days before the marathon and did a calf application. Miraculously, my calf felt better immediately. I was saved. Hallelujah.
I thought everything would be jolly. My friend Jac was running this as his first marathon, and it was supposed to be joyous. They even had a free pasta dinner—what was not to love?
The run itself didn't start out too bad. It was in the 70s by 6 in the morning, which wasn't horrible but was a little warmer than I'd been accustomed to. (What horrible fate that Wisconsin would treat us to a whole spring of sub-50 temperatures and then turn up the heat on race day.) I started out running 9ish-minute miles, but by the half marathon I was pooped (I think I hit it around 2:10). I must have been around Mile 14 or 15 when I started hearing people say they'd canceled the race.
At the water stops, they told us to stop running and that shuttles would come to pick us up. But I kept seeing a few people trickle onward, so I joined them. I was going to finish. I chatted with a few people, one of them being a guy who must have been in his 50s or 60s who was running races every week. He'd just come from Fargo, ND, the previous day (driving) and was running this marathon on just two hours of sleep. The next week, he'd be running the Comrades Marathon (50-miler) in South Africa. Incredible.
I kept on going, mostly walking but sometimes trying to shuffle. It was incredibly difficult. Amazing how much the heat affects the body. I was going so slow, yet I felt so drained. I just couldn't get myself to go faster. And then I got suggestions of a headache and somehow I got swimmer's ear (???), so I couldn't hear out of my right ear. Is that really a sign of dehydration? Anyway, I buckled down and drank Gatorade and ice water at every water station. Then I started feeling sick and bloated from all that horrible Gatorade.
I have to say, the volunteers were amazing. Though the race had been canceled, they all stuck around and were super supportive. They checked in with me to make sure I was okay before letting me go on, not pushing me to stop and take a shuttle if I didn't want to. Oh, and the folks of Green Bay... Thank you! I'll never forget all the sprinklers and pretzels and orange slices and cups of water. So supportive!
At some point I remembered Jac, so I texted him to see what was up. Turns out he didn't stop either, but he was making WAY better time than me. I think he ended up finishing in 4:11, which was about an hour faster than I managed. I like to think it was because he'd just spent a week in New Orleans, but it could simply be that he is a better athlete :).
Around Mile 24 it started getting real. It was tough. My mom and little sister found me (they'd run the half marathon and finished ages prior) and brought me a bottle of Gatorade that I didn't even end up drinking, but the support was great.
By the time I made it back to Lambeau, it was desolate. There were a few fellow runners near the parking lot who congratulated me on not giving in to the cancellation, which was fun. When I crossed the finish line, there was almost no one else there. Maybe a dozen people. They'd taken down the clock and all the decorations... there was barely even a finish line there.
I was so distraught by my horrible time that I didn't even want my free beer (!) or brat at the end of the thing. I also felt bad because Jac's family couldn't wait for me—they had to check out of their hotel and make it back to Milwaukee for their flight—so I felt like I'd let them down. I was wondering whether I could ever really improve as a marathoner and whether I should really keep running. It was a really demoralizing experience. I just felt horrible that entire day. Blah.