Carmel Marathon (PW and a Two Year Comeback in the Making)

This last Saturday, I ran the Carmel Marathon. It was a PW or close to that, but it also marked my return to marathons a my comeback after a rough year and a half.

The Two Year Saga

Carmel was the race I was training for in 2019-2020 and my first canceled race due to Covid. The race was nice enough to defer the runners to its 2021 race. However, after I hurt my knee (not running related) and my dad got severely ill, I decided to defer the 2021 race to this year. As fate would have it, my dad passed away during the race and I am glad I wasn't out there running when I got the news.

The rest of 2021 did not get any better. In July, I had an almost-fall on my bike and hurt my glute/SI joint. I had months of PT and massage therapy, and the pain went away for the most part but it wrecked my marathon training for both Chicago and Monumental in October and November, respectively. I deferred Chicago and continued training for Monumental, but the long runs were sporadic as I was still dealing with the glute pain and I had to run/walk many of my runs to prevent exacerbating the SI joint. On marathon day, I had a run/walk strategy that would hopefully take me to the finish line. Then at mile 4.5 I tore my calf. My first words were ouch, followed by SERIOUSLY? I couldn't believe my luck. DNFing after waiting to run a marathon for almost two years. SMH.

As luck would have it, we decided to purchase a new house and packing, moving, etc. cut a lot of my available time to run.  I am thankful the moving process was long because when I got back to training, my calf was completely healed. However, I was mentally drained by the time we moved to the new house and I had no treadmill for close to two months so my training got cut off severely, especially since we got a ton of high wind days, where my lungs prefer to stay indoors so they don't get congested.

Finally, my TM was up and running and I was able to put some good training runs without having to take a break due to my asthma. My SI joint/glute issue also surfaced any time I did back to back runs outside, or for no reason at all, so my training goal was to train around that. Since full runs outside exacerbated the problem, I divided my runs between run/walks outside, full runs on the treadmill, and run/walks with my husband at a slower pace than mine. I did most of my runs between 12:30mm-12:40mm and most of my runs with my husband at 13mm to 13:30mm and I felt that not only helped with my endurance but also prepared me for the slow marathon that was to come. Contrary to last year, I was able to run a 16, an 18 and a 20 miler on the TM, fully running and they all went great (in fact, I didn't have a bad long run which is not typical of my training), and felt much more prepared for the marathon than last year.

I had signed up for several races back in December when I was having issues with motivation, but in the end I only ran one race during this training cycle (my trail quarter marathon) where I broke my goal and had a course PR by more than 20+ minutes. My run/walking strategy worked well during that race so I knew I could put that same strategy into action during the marathon.

Then, came April 3, the weekend before the race. This was the first anniversary of my dad's passing. The anxiety I had about it was through the roof; I couldn't sleep, and when I did I had nightmares about my dad. The week of the race was more of the same. I basically only slept 1-2 hours the night before the race.

Race Day

I had tried to keep my lungs as healthy as they could be by not running into any wind higher than 25mph. This is the point where my lungs handle the run but then get congested and I have to take time off because of the asthma. So of course, nature decided to bring me a very windy day. Temps were perfect, IMO, 30s for the whole race, windchills in the 20s. It would sleet/snow in the morning but by 7am it was supposed to stop. Well, it didn't.

I got to the race start at 7am (it had an 8am start) and I got to our running club tent soon thereafter. I was parked less than 0.20 from the start and right behind the tent so the walk post marathon was going to be a short one. I ate my standard marathon breakfast (two Krispy Kreme donuts and a Mtn Dew) and relaxed with my running friends. I wasn't too nervous about the race, even though I had slept nothing the night before. Mentally, contrary to the last two marathons, I was ready. We would find out how ready I would be physically.

Around 30 minutes from the start, it starts sleeting horribly. Fortunately, it stopped before the start of the race and we thought that would be all the sleet that we would see. Oh, we were so naive.

The race started promptly with the 5K and 10K runners starting first, followed by the HM and marathon at the same time. We headed to a slight uphill and made a turn. By Mile 4 I felt like I was a bit warm (deciding on what to wear for a possibly rainy/windy/snowy day was hard) so I made my first mistake by removing my neck tube that would protect my mouth from the wind so I could breathe. Until Mile 6-7 I didn't realize it was because we were running with the wind to our backs so when we made a turn the wind slammed me from the side. I still didn't put my neck tube back, which thinking about it now it was a mistake. Once we turned towards the sidewind, I never felt warm again as the rest of the race was against the wind for the most part.

Miles 1-10

These miles were part of my first strategy of run/walking at 0:30/0:30 and taking it easy. The miles went by very fast and I felt great. At Mile 5 or 6 my left inner thigh and groin started hurting. This area has never bothered me before so I was a bit surprised. I continued with my strategy but slowed down a bit until the pain went away 2 miles later. It bugged me once more later in the race but I still don't know what was bothering it since it does not hurt me now.

Did I mention the sleet had stopped? Well, at mile 5 it started again.

Miles 11-13

Once I hit 10 miles I was to decide if I wanted to keep that run/walk strategy or get up to my next one of 1/0:30. I did Miles 11-13 at that new run/walk strategy but I noticed I was running slower than the first 3 miles. I should've switched back to 0:30/0:30 by Mile 12 but I stuck to it until the halfway point to see if it got better. It didn't.

One of the few things I didn't like about this race is that you run with the HMers until they finish. You run the same route that the marathoners run at Mile 25-26 to finish so we saw some of the sub-3 marathoners running past us and then ran with the HMers happily finishing. We veered to the left and started our second part of the course and straight into the 25mph+ headwinds. More sleet on and off these miles.

Miles 14-24

The following 10 miles were completely into a headwind (if not 100%, I'd say 80-90% of it). We were heading North all the way until we hit the Monon trail back to the finish.

I wasn't tired, I wasn't struggling, but my pace kept slipping. I had to stop a couple of times at water stations because of the route they didn't have a lot of trash cans and I didn't want to leave a water cup in the middle of the Monon trail, etc. I also stopped a couple of times to fix my sock (my eternal issue) since my foot kept falling asleep. It was annoying for the most part. But I did notice that both my run pace and my walk pace was slipping. I was now into the 13mm and that was before the stops. I felt like I was running fine but the pace kept slowing. I was running against the wind but I didn't think it would slow me this much. 

I didn't let the slowing bother me since I had practiced for it. I ran a 4+ hour 20 miler, something I've never done since I started running marathons. Mentally I was prepared for the slow moving, but these miles were hard. I was coughing, I was stopping, I was walking a bit more after Mile 22. This is when I realized I had not covered my mouth to run against the wind, which helped me during the Winter. The damage was done but I covered it then anyway to prevent it from getting worse (I am still coughing and congested today).

At this point, I didn't want to stop anymore to fix my sock so my foot was asleep most of the time. I didn't want to stop anymore because I didn't want to be the last runner (I wasn't, but I didn't know that). There were people ahead of me that I ran through these last 10 miles (even with my stopping, I stayed with them and passed several). We were all commenting on the sleet on and off the race, the brutal wind, but now as we headed to the Monon, the wind was at our backs again.

At Mile 20, my Garmin said it only had 10% of the battery, even though it was at 100% at the start. WTF.

Miles 24 to Finish

At this point, I kept my run/walking strategy but both the walks and the runs were slow. I walked a bit more at this point. In fact, I walk most of Mile 23 to try to breathe better. The wind had won.

I head into the Mile 26 marker and the Garmin was still going. Then I look at the chute and look at my Garmin to check my time and the battery had drained. I head to the chute and finish with my slowest marathon time: 6:15. I felt great at this point. I was disappointed because I had a small goal of breaking 6 hours for this race and to get as close to 5:30 as possible but I was just ecstatic that I finished. It had been a while since I've run a marathon (almost 3 years by the time of this race). I had been thrown a lot of curves, the loss of one of my cats, followed by the sudden illness and passing of my dad, followed by three bad injuries (non-running related). I felt old and decrepit in 2021, lol. So crossing the finish line was a most needed thing.

Marathon #52 is done. FINALLY.


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