Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lower Potomac River Marathon - 3/8/09

It seems like a lifetime ago, but I ran this marathon in 2005, its inaugural year. That year, I was the 10th female out of 23 female finishers, with a finish time of 4:30:27. This year, my finish time was 5:42:46, placing me at 158 out of 159 total finishers. I finished just minutes before the official cut-off of 5:45. I was stressed the entire race! I still have my RR100 DNF looming over my head, and I couldn't stomach another DNF so soon. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more, coming close to tears during some portions of the race, constantly looking at my watch, re-evaluating, and trying to make the math work out in my favor. This was definitely not fun.

I saw my running buddies Larry (TX), Lauri (PA), and Tammy (VA). Even though Larry and Lauri had run the Greenway Trail Marathon in Damascus, MD the day before, I couldn't keep up with either one of them. Larry was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 for completing the most (105) marathons/ultramarathons in one year. If you're counting, you'll notice that he had to run some triples on a few weekends to accomplish that many in a year. He's a remarkable man and is as humble as they come. Lauri is a tough cookie as well. She completed 65 marathons/ultramarathons last year. She was in a car accident on Friday, wrenching her back, and had been on bed rest all week for a kidney infection, but she completed a double this weekend. Amazing woman! Tammy set a new PR last month at the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile. Although we started out running together (see photo above), she soon pulled away, posting a sub-5 hour finish.

Piney Point, MD is about a 2 hour drive from Baltimore. There's not much main highway between the two cities, so driving there from the airport took longer than it should have. This weekend, the clocks went back an hour for Daylight Savings Time, and being on the east coast, I lost an additional hour. Come morning, I was a little out of it, to say the least, lol.

Piney Point is a quaint, little town. The course is relatively flat. We did 3 different out-n-backs, 2 of which were pretty scenic. The last and longest out-n-back is along the local highway, which is not scenic at all. After my brief running stint with Tammy, I was pretty much alone for the remainder of the race. When I got to the last out-n-back, I suddenly saw a lady walking just ahead of me. I let her be my target and finally caught her. She was walking, but I knew that walk. I call it "dead (wo)man walking." She said her legs were bothering her and that she was dropping from the race. She was hoping that her husband would be at the next aid station to take her back to the start/finish. I felt bad for her and invited her to run with me, since I wasn't moving all that fast either. I would have enjoyed her company, but she told me to go on. She would not make it. I reluctantly left. I've had days like that. She had made up her mind, and there was no amount of coaxing on that day that would have changed it.

Maybe a mile or two from the turn around, I saw two ladies on the the other side of the highway. They looked like they were moving well, but at the next aid station I found out that they had also dropped from the race once they made it to the turn around. I was now in last place. I heard the "sag wagon" behind me before I saw the big, black truck of death. The driver asked if I was okay. "Oh, yes," I responded. "I'm just slow."

"Do you want to get into the truck?" he asked. Is he pulling me from the race? Impossible! Oh, no . . . I can't be pulled from the race. I try not to argue with the volunteers, because I know that they are only doing their jobs and looking out for us on the course. But I was determined not to be pulled from this race!

"Am I over cut-off?" He told me that I was way over cut-off for the last aid station that I had passed. I looked at my watch, doing the math, and then looked at him. I never stopped power-walking. I didn't want to give him any reason to force me into the truck. Think, girl, think!

"I have one hour and 20 minutes to finish the last 6 miles. If you let me go, I really think I can make it. Will that be okay?"

He looked at me, hesitating, it seemed, for far too long, and then he asked again, "Are you sure you're okay?" I assured him that I was. He then told me to enjoy the rest of my run. He was going to allow me to keep going! But he was also going to follow me into the finish . . . ugh! This is so nerve wracking! I was now motivated to actually run!

I ran hard, and by this time, it was freaking HOT! I was drinking a couple of cups of water at each aid station and sucking down Honey Stinger Gel and M&Ms every chance I got. I gave up on the Ultima Electrolyte Replacement Drink early in the race. I really do hate the taste of Ultima, and after a while, it just upsets my tummy. I prefer Gatorade or Powerade, but in absence of that, water and as much sugary foods as I could get would have to do.

I kept running and taking a couple of walking breaks here and there, but I was determined now to make the finish line cut-off. Lo and behold, I was actually catching up to another lady. She was doing the infamous walk that I talked about earlier. As I passed, neither one of us said a word, but inside, I wanted her to keep going. Neither one of us could afford to expend the energy, telling each other "you're looking good" when we both looked like a disaster waiting to happen, lol. Once I passed her, of course, I was no longer in last place, and best of all, the sag wagon was off my A$$!

About a half mile down the road, something did not feel right. I try not to look behind me in races, but I had to make sure that the lady that I had passed was still behind me. She was crossing the street, headed for the truck.

"Oh, no . . . don't get in the truck! Please . . . don't get in the truck!" Did I just say that out loud? It definitely sounded like my voice. I was losing it! Did she hear me? No, she could not have heard me, because she was now in the truck. Tears were building up in my eyes. I was again in last place, and I was afraid that the sag wagon would sweep me from the course. How many miles were left? How much time did I have?

The truck passed me, taking the lady that I had passed back to the start/finish. I ran some more. I could see a man in front of me, and I could see Lauri a good little ways in front of him. I couldn't catch Lauri, but I could catch the man if I put some fire under my feet. I finally caught up to him and asked if he could tell me how much time we had left. We were just passing Mile 22. I needed some assurance that we would make it. He confirmed that we had less than 55 minutes to run 4.2 miles. At this point, I really needed a whole hour, but I would just have to work with what I got. I told him we would make it, and I took off running. Push, girl, push!

When I saw the Mile 25 marker, I was spent. How much time did I have now? Dejected and panic-stricken, I saw Tammy approaching Lauri ahead of me. She had finished, was wearing her medal, and was coming back out onto the course to check up on us. She said something to Lauri, and then she came toward me. She walked and ran with me that last 1.2 miles. And she assured me, as I had tried to assure the guy directly behind me, "you're going to make it. The finish is just around the corner." Thank you, Tammy. That meant a lot to me.

I've decided that, until I can figure out how to get some "speed" back, I'm only doing marathons that have an early start or have at least a 6 hour cut-off. The Lower Potomac River Marathon is definitely off the list for now. This race was too stressful for me. It doesn't bother me to battle the course or my own insecurities, but it does bother me if I'm battling time.

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