Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sleeping Bear Marathon Recap

I know I promised a pre-race post, but I ended up getting sick with a sinus infection. Sick enough that I managed to binge-watch a whole season of BBC Robin Hood in three days. (If you can re-create this feat while both healthy and sober, I will give you my marathon medal.)
I guess I just missed the part in the original story where Brother Tuck was black.
Obviously, I didn't get in any of the pre-race prep I was hoping for. I did feel rested, but I also felt extremely stiff: even riding my bike to class got to be uncomfortable. And, of course, because it was a bacterial infection I had to start an antibiotic regime, aka all aboard the train to Upset Stomach City. The only silver lining in this cloud was I discovered the secret to not gaining any taper weight is to lose your appetite and barely eat. I was lucky enough to start feeling better two days before the trip.

Michael and I left for Empire on Saturday morning, just in time as people starting swarming into the parking lot for a color run. We missed most of the rain and had an uneventful drive. We went to the Empire Village Inn for lunch and to watch the start of the MSU game. The pizza was okay, but the restaurant did have a giant TV visible from the booths, so we didn't have to awkwardly sit at the bar with the locals.
If you pronounce his name so that it rhymes with squeeze, we can't be friends.
We stayed through the first half and then moved to the nearby beach. (It is not a part of the National Lakeshore, so it was still open, thankfully.) We borrowed Eager Feet Dad's beloved ancient classic radio to listen to the rest of the game.
Many judging looks were received.
It was surprisingly comfortable down by the water with a jacket. This trip made me really appreciate how nice having a statewide sports radio network is, but I have to say it takes a ton of focus to listen to George Blaha call a game. It's not that he's bad, quite the opposite, but he keeps his tone and volume so consistent that we usually had to do a double-take when a big play happened. (Honestly, he makes a one yard gain and a pick-six sound identical.) We laughed because the few other people on the beach seemed to think we were having a nice romantic day while we were actually freaking out about football the whole time.

After the game (which we magically won), we went for a quick two mile run around Empire. I finally lost some of the stiffness that had been building up all week. It was also helpful to really get a feel for the weather. It was in the low 60's and cloudy, so it felt cold on the beach, but the humidity was over 95%, so we found we were way too hot about two seconds after we actually started running. The weather prediction for Sunday was for similar conditions; if we hadn't run Saturday, I think we both would have bundled up way too much for the race.
Pictured: half the people at the marathon the next day.
We then went on an epic quest to find some ice cream in a semi-closed city. (The place Michael originally found was closed and had creepy smokers out front.) Because the Google Map directions to the hotel were hilariously unhelpful, we ended up in Glen Arbor on accident and found a place there that was still open. I had their special flavor - Pirate's Treasure (vanilla with caramel, Oreo pieces, and crushed M&Ms), while Michael had Raspberry Shortcake.
I then put on two jackets to keep warm while I ate it.
We then set out with the Google Maps app to find our hotel. Our printed directions neglected to mention that by Dorsey Road they really meant Welch Road, and the sign visible from the road just said "Motel" in giant letters, even though it was actually called the Maple Lane Resort. We did eventually make the proper turn and checked in. Our room was really spacious, except for the bathroom, where even I had barely enough room to turn around.

After unloading the car, we headed back into Empire for packet pick-up. It was extremely laid-back, and I think we waited less than a minute for our packets, even though there was only one line for marathon bibs. We ponied up some money for the pasta dinner too, though I was disappointed almost no one else was participating, so we didn't get to meet any other runners.
Seriously, all this was $8. Where was everyone eating instead? The soup kitchen?
Besides our shirts and bibs, we got the most adorable drawstring bags at packet pick-up. Inside were some Traverse City-made potato chips, as well as ads for Hammer Nutrition's coffee. (I'm choosing to not imagine what this must taste like. You know it's not coffee.)
I want to put that bear on most other things I own.
After dinner, we fell into the trap of watching "just one more quarter" of the OSU Northwestern game. Thank God we gave up after the 3rd; I would have died if we stayed up even later just to watch a heartbreaking loss. During the game, we kept checking if the rain was leaking into our room because it was so loud, when the sound was just actually being amplified by the window A/C. In either case, it was bizarre trying to sleep when it sounded like a torrential downpour was coming down on my head.

The next morning came early at 6 AM. We held out some hope as the rain had let up overnight, though we were mainly praying it didn't thunderstorm and cancel the race. We again made the quick drive to Empire and found the field commandeered for parking, perhaps after making an illegal turn to get there. (Honestly, I have no idea what the half-marathoners did. The field was mostly full when we left, and twice as many people signed up for the half than the full. Since they were almost all finished before us, I never found out.)

It was surreal walking to the start line and realizing I was actually about to run 26.2 miles after training for four months. It was strange passing the 26 mile marker and wondering how I would feel the next time I saw it. (Spoiler alert: awful.)
And sometimes my sport is my sport's punishment, too.

There were plenty of port-a-potties, and the race started exactly on time. We went through a small residential area for about a mile, followed by a dirt road, before we were on our way to Glen Arbor. I was bummed that very few leaves along the course had changed colors, especially since it's already started in East Lansing. It was still very scenic to run through the woods, and there was almost no traffic that early in the morning. We passed the dunes and got a glimpse of Lake Michigan before turning off.

After we passed the initial hills, my pace was in the low 10's, with a few sub-10's, through the half-marathon mark. The rain really picked up for awhile, and we were soaked early on, but it was humid enough to keep it comfortably warm. I did feel my left foot start to blister on the cambered roads, but there was nothing I could do. Traffic picked up in "downtown" Glen Arbor, which made me a little nervous. Lots of people were parked in the street (legally), so it was hard to move out of people's ways.

I did PR my half, and I started to get nervous about keeping my pace up the whole way back. After leaving Glen Arbor, there was a giant hill, and I really slowed at that point. Thankfully, another woman offered to run together for a few miles, and the conversation kept me distracted to about the 21 mile mark. She was still feeling good, and I lagged behind as we hit the hills again.

This is where everything really started to fly off the rails. I was way too overconfident in my time goal and had pushed too hard in the beginning. I didn't have much left for the final hills. I stopped during mile 22 to use the guard rail to stretch, and I nearly cried when I stopped because the cramps got much, much worse when I stopped moving. I honestly don't know if the stretching helped or made it worse.

The aid station shortly after that did have grapes, and they were the most delicious things ever. I literally contemplated stuffing the whole bowl into my cheeks and continuing on, except I didn't because I was so slow at this point, the volunteers could have caught me without much effort.

I was mostly glad at this point there were no spectators because I just needed to be angry on my own at the end. Marathons were stupid, and I was stupid for running one, and hills were stupid for being not flat, and the rain was stupid for destroying my feet, and civil engineers were stupid for making cambered roads. I nearly had a meltdown when volunteers had left a turn unmanned, and I nearly missed it. If I hadn't been glaring at the side of the road, hoping for the mile 24 marker to finally appear to take a walk break, I would have run past the small signs on the opposite side of the road. 
Those two miles were the hardest I've ever run. I just had nothing left and wanted to be done. I did a lot more walking at this point than I would've liked. 
1.2 miles of shuffling left!
I forced myself to run it in, with a very loose interpretation of "running". I was disappointed in how anti-climatic the finish was. I had to pass two social half-marathon walkers in the chute, and the music playing was soft oldies. The only person waiting to tell me good job was the volunteer giving out medals.

Time: 4:56:13

The medals weren't race-specific, but the lanyards were.
I was immediately freezing when I stopped running and took shelter in the pavillion. Michael went back to the car to get his shirt to exchange for a smaller size, so I had to wait awhile for him to come back with my jacket. I must've looked even worse than I felt, because random people kept coming up to me to offer me blankets. I finally figured out that a guy sitting off behind a counter would make hot cocoa, and I felt a lot better once I could get my core temperature back up.

I wandered over to see how awfully I had done in my age group when I saw the results get updated. In some crazy turn of events, three out of five people in my AG DNSed. Which meant, despite my late-race explosion, I still technically placed. (Two out of two, awwww yeah.)
But the awards are so amazing I don't even care.
Michael also placed second in his age group, though he had the distinction of actually beating other people to do so. We ate a little more food and got a quick finisher picture before waddling back to the car.
"I do what I want" is my hair's personal motto.
Obviously, this wasn't 100% the experience I was hoping for. It's now a couple days out and I finally feel a sort of "satisfied" runner's high. I'm proud of myself for finishing (even if I took my sweet time at the end), and I'm still excited for Mount Desert Island. But it's still crazy to know I'm really a marathoner now.

Though exactly zero people noticed my shirt the next day.
One state down, 49 to go!