I would love to report I had a PR in PR – pouring rain. But alas it escaped me. I did run my third fastest marathon with an unofficial time of 5:30:12. For my seventh marathon in by far the most challenging conditions, I will take it with joy. I have run two marathons where both of my legs cramped up from calf to quad for the last thirteen miles – that was tough and I was much slower than today. But never have I run in a complete downpour with twenty mile per hour winds – until today.
The start had a steady rain and for the first mile we ran right into the wind. From miles two through five we were a bit shielded from the wind. I ran in a garbage bad to protect me more from the wind than rain. I knew I would get wet. By 1.7 miles I ditched the bag. The good thing about the day was the temperature – 58 degrees consistently so I didn’t need gloves. I wore a short sleeve shirt with shorts, a nylon vest, and arm warmers. One painful lesson – wear body glide under the elastic of the arm warmers. I chaffed terribly. At mile five two things happened. We turned into the wind again and then the consistent pouring rain turned into a torrential down pour. I am not exaggerating. By mile ten the rain returned to the steady pour. At an intersection around 10.5 we crossed a flooded intersection. The triathlete in me instinctively took over and I ran with high knees through the ankle deep water. I never thought open water swimming would help me in a marathon. So, even though I had on my Goretex trail shoes, water got in through the ankle and I was running in water filled shoes. Surprisingly, by the half marathon mark I was still on target for a PR.
The California International Marathon is billed as a net down hill race. Stress net – yes it does end up dropping 320 feet, but the first 16 miles are rolling hills. Climb 80, run down 100. Climb 150 run down 180. Over and over. By sixteen miles I was coming close to missing a PR. The rain finally reduced to a drizzle at that point, but I was spent. It was an exhausting experience and I still had ten miles to go. My hamstrings were screaming and I had not walked at all. At this point I decided to walk a minute each mile. That worked and at mile twenty a few good things happened. The rain stopped, the sun came out, and the local Caldwell Banker office had a huge “Hit the Wall” celebration. That gave me enough energy to get to mile twenty one. Then the extreme fatigue and pain hit. I kept running, but my pace was slowing and my heart rate wasn’t. At this point I just wanted to finish. I knew it wouldn’t be a PR, but I wanted to finish in 5:30. And that I did.
Along the hardest parts I had many of the self doubts marathon runners have. “I am never doing this again.” “I am not sure I will even do the Syracuse 70.3 in June.” “I am getting too old for this.” Now that I am a few hours past that (and in beautiful San Francisco as I write), I can not say with certainty that my doubts have passed. Yes, I am entertaining a marathon maybe next year, but far from committing. I love the half marathon and will continue running those distances. I love triathlon, but I need time to think on committing to 70.3 or, yikes, even 140.6. From February through today I have done a lot. I have run three half marathons, a five miler, a 10K, a ten miler, three sprint triathlons, a half iron triathlon, and a marathon. Eleven races in eleven months and a sprained ankle that kept me from racing in April. The rest of December will be my recovery month. I will continue to train, more swimming, but no serious hard workouts. I did have a sign today that may lead me to think my doubts will pass. I was in Union Square here in San Francisco texting a friend about my doubts. I turned around and saw this: