Monday, October 17, 2005

Boston, baby!

I did it! I ran the Columbus Marathon in a time that qualifies me for the Boston Marathon (good for both 2006 and 2007 races, though I may only do the latter)! Finishing time: 3:43:13.

And man, am I feeling it today! Joy, elation, and a sense of accomplishment, yes – but also sore thighs and some really gross injuries to my feet which I will detail in the “War Wounds” section below, so that the squeamish among you can carefully avoid reading about it!

The Stats
For those of you who like sports stats, here are some of the details. For those of you who don’t, you can skip this section and go to the interesting human interest stuff below. I tried to finish in 3:40:00, so I ran with the 3:40 pace group, and I did a pretty good job of keeping on that pace (8:24/mile) until mile 22. By then, though, I’d actually fallen behind the pace group (it started at hilly mile 18, where I fell to the back of our pack) – who were going a little faster than goal pace, it seems – but I could still see them about 100 yards or so ahead of me. I think I lost sight of them completely at mile 23. That’s when I really slowed down. The last four and 2/10th miles I ran 9:10, 9:13, 9:14, and 11:21 (that last bit was 1.2 miles at a 9:28/mile pace). But since I usually slow down to a 10:00+ pace in those last bits, even this was quite an accomplishment!

I have to admit part of the reason for my slow-down in the last four miles – aside from the lactic acid build-up in my quads – was that I realized I didn’t have to work quite so hard to get my qualifying time and damn, it hurt to work hard, so I dialed it back a notch or two. But I didn’t mean to slow down quite that much. That happened because I lost my pacing pack and often found myself behind people who were going much slower that I realized at first. It’s really damn hard to pace yourself without the heart monitors and long experience that the pace group leaders have. I’m terrible at it, especially when I’m tired and every pace feels like work. I should’ve known by my easy breathing, though, that I was going too slow. But hey, I still qualified for Boston! Click here to find out more about qualifying times, btw.

And here are some more of my numbers, for the stats geeks among you:
Split times:
Mile 10 – 1:23:17 (8:20 average pace)
Mile 13.1 – 1:49:35 (8:22 average pace)
Mile 20 – 2:47:46 (8:23 average pace)
Mile 22 – 3:04:14 (8:22 average pace)
Finish (26.2) – 3:43:13 (8:31 average pace)

A couple of highlights:

Mile 3 pace: 7:45
(Um, pacer guys, what the hell were you trying to do to us?! To be fair, though this was mostly down hill and it was the only time they were that far off. They claim the mile was marked short, but I have my doubts.)

Mile 22 pace: 8:09
(Wow – I was running all by myself and yet I still willed myself to run at that pace! Through the 22nd mile, no less! Of course, that may be why I got a little pooped right after that.)

The Interesting Stuff

Running in a Goofy Gaggle
I really enjoyed running with the pace group, despite the fact that we were packed in kind of tight – which meant knocking elbows and having to watch our footing so that we didn’t trip people – because the guys leading it were so entertaining that I almost didn’t even notice I was running until I fell behind them at mile 18. One guy, Dan, was especially high-spirited. In the Bexley neighborhood – a very posh, old area with gorgeous houses and tall, old shade trees – he taunted the rather silent crowds. While he wasn’t very cutting to their faces – he simply said things like “Surely you can do better than that!” – to us he said, “Perhaps they should’ve sent out the servants to cheer,” to which I added (because I was still talking and running right with the pacers at that point): “At least they could jingle their Mercedes keys.” But this was all set-up for later, when we ran through a hipper, younger, less waspy neighborhood – but probably still very expensive – where he ran over to the crowd and called out: “Bexley cheered louder than you guys!” That, of course, got an enormous round of cheering and clapping and general noise making. I guess even watching a marathon can be competitive in some towns! Anyway, the energy this guy had – I should mention that he was also carrying a stick with balloons attached through the whole race! – was unbelievable. Here I was struggling to set a PR (personal record) and for him this was an easy run. (I think he’s usually a 2:30:00 runner!) Because of these guys, I really didn’t even notice that I was working hard until I fell behind late in the race. So the whole effect was like an easy training run followed by a hard race.

Goofiness all My Own
At the very end of the race, as I crossed the finish line, I tried to give a nice action pose for the finish line photographers and also just express how damn elated I was at my finishing time. (Even my “gun” time was under 3:45 – it was around 3:44:18, I think.) So I threw my hands up in the air, shouted “Yes!” while I grinned triumphantly, and threw my head back a little. That last move was a mistake because the wind caught my hat and pulled it off my head. So in the actually picture I’ll probably be frantically grabbing for my hat with a look of surprise on my face. Add to that a detail I’m saving for the “War Wounds” section below and you’ve got one mess of a finisher’s photo. Oh well. I’ll cherish it forever.

Cowboys and Cheerleaders
OK, this isn’t about the marathon itself, but about the crowds in the downtown hotels and restaurants. Apparently there was a rodeo in town at the same time, and perhaps a cheerleading convention or competition, because I kept seeing hordes of people in cowboy hats and quite a few girls in cheerleading costumes, and I believe it’s still too early for Halloween costumes. It was kind of a weird sight, as if somebody was staging a satire of Americana or operating a weird niche dating service.

War Propaganda
As if the cowboys and cheerleaders weren’t enough, there was a very visible military contingent at the marathon itself – mostly Reserve forces, I think. I first saw them at the race registration booths at the “Health and Fitness Expo” (i.e., a running-related merchandise market which most races hold so that the corporate sponsors can sell their wares). My first thought was, “Um, don’t you guys have better things to do with your time? I thought our armed forces were stretched terribly thin.” My second thought was, “Man, how did you luck out?” And then, once inside the Expo itself, I saw, among the booths selling close-out shoes and gear, recruiting booths for each of the Reserve divisions of the armed forces. And each one had posters that featured their personnel doing something that required running. *Shudder.* I’ve done five marathons now and this is the first time I’ve seen the armed services recruiting at them. Sign o’ the times, I guess.

And they were all over the race. A military band serenaded us at the half-way point (which I liked, because I like brass bands in general) and more camouflage-appareled volunteers handed out water and Gatorade at the aid stations. And before the start of the race, we were saluted by a C-130 plane which flew over head parallel to the lined-up racers, and then back again across its first path in a “T” formation. It’s just a transport plane, so for the military tech geeks among you, it’s not all that sexy, but I liked its old-timey look with the propellers and big body. But aside from my initial, pleasurable reaction – I grew up in a plane-obsessed family and I like planes, especially old and cool-looking ones (Dad and I used to go to air shows when I was a kid) – I also thought, “Man, they’re really pushing the recruitment propaganda buttons, aren’t they?” And I think the Air Force Reserves were especially numerous at the event because, if I’m not mistaken, the USAF takes older recruits, and the vast majority of marathoners are 30 and up. Again: *Shudder*.

The plane salute also freaked me out because on the second run around – the one perpendicular to the street of our course – the perspective from our point of view made it seem like the plane was going to hit a tall building. I think the hotdog pilot was trying to show off what even a giant transport plane can do in terms of maneuverability, but that’s not a sight – even the illusion of such – that one really wants to see ever again. Creepy. Well, I guess it got that last bit of adrenaline going for the race. Sheesh.

War Wounds
Now, if you really want creepy and gross, read this section. If you’re squeamish, skip it. Really. It gets disgusting.

First of all, about that finisher’s photo. Chafing is every runner’s menace. Most men have to guard against nipple chafing – with various petroleum jelly products, band aids, and pasties – and women have to look out for their inner thighs. I also have problems with my bra band, even with sports bras that claim that they are chafe-free. For that area and for my thighs I use old fashioned and cheap Vaseline jelly, despite the fact that it stains my clothes. (I really couldn’t care less how I look when I’m running.) But for this race I decided early on to wear the tight-fitting shorts, the kind that look like bicycle shorts without the padding. I tested them in my 20-mile and 22-mile training runs and they did what I thought they’d do: they prevented chafing without the messiness of Vaseline or the need for reapplication. But some time during the race they must have ridden up above the danger zone, because I chafed. Oh boy did I chafe. I chafed like I’ve never chafed before, ripping off skin from each inner thigh in large patches. Only, the thing is, I didn’t even notice. I was so focused – or else so tripping on endorphins – that it wasn’t until I was done with the race and wandering around the post-race rest area, eating bananas and bagels and drinking Gatorade, that I happened to look down and realized that my thighs and the bottom of my shorts were a blood-stained messed. This means that in my finisher’s photo, not only will I probably be grabbing my windblown hat, but my thighs will be a visibly bloody mess. Lovely.

Anyway, a nice EMT patched me up so I could walk the 10 blocks back to my hotel without pain. Well, sort of….There was still the case of what happened to my right foot, in particular, my right little toe. Around Mile 15 or so, I felt some friction from that area, as if the toenail was rubbing against my shoe. Shit, I thought, another black toe on that foot. (I already have one.) Black toe occurs when a blood blister forms under a toenail bed. The toenail turns black and eventually falls off. In my case, a new one usually starts to grow in before the old one is gone. Anyway, it’s a common runner ailment and not a big deal, but it sure is ugly. Anyway, after awhile the annoyance abated and I forgot all about it. Again, I think the endorphins were doing their job because on the walk home from the race I was having a helluva time putting weight on that foot. When I got back and took my shoe off, I discovered why: my entire right little toe’s tip was one giant blood blister, top and bottom, under and around the nail. Ewwwwwww!

I had to drive home with it that way because I didn’t have the stuff I needed to take of it (remind me to bring a first aid kit next time I do an away race!). All I can say about that (and of behalf of my leg muscles as well) is thank god for cruise control.

Once home, I took care of lancing and draining it. Man, you should’ve seen the blood squirt! Ewwwwww! But now it’s fee of all swelling and I can put weight on it again. But it sure ain’t purty. The skin where it was blistered is, of course, all loose and baggy. And worse, the entire nail slides around all loose right with the skin it’s connected to. The Boyfriend said it looked like a rotten tomato. Yech! It’s like my little toe is its own circus freak: Behold the Rotten Tomato Toe! Lord only knows what it’ll look like once it’s all healed, or how well that nail will grow back. I may have to face the wrath of pedicurists for the rest of my life – you know, the “shame on you” look they give you when they think your toes have been abused or neglected.

On that note, I’m glad open-toe shoe season is over for a good long while in these parts! Running season, on the other hand, never ends, and tomorrow I’ll probably try to go out for an easy 3-mile jog.

Boston here I come!


Ancrene Wiseass said...

Good for you! I checked your time at the site yesterday and thought it looked like it might qualify you, but I wasn't quite sure.

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks, AW!

Beanie said...

Major CONGRATS to you! I talk about your race here!

Dr. Virago said...

Cool! Now maybe I'll get more runners (other than my brother and a couple of friends) to read the running posts so I won't be boring the vast majority of my readers! :)

Thanks, Yvonne!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Congrats...enjoyed reading your race report and even the great detail you it really a marathon if you don't describe the aches, pains, and yeah - war wounds!

Oh and I was referred from the Runorama:) Keep runnin'!

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks, Uptown Girl! And good luck in the MarineCorp Marathon on the 30th! Run like the wind!

Anonymous said...

Congrats - that's awesome! The Boston Marathon is tons of fun. Um, at least, from the point of view of a spectator, which is all I will ever be. ;-) We had a close family friend who ran it for years in the late 70s/80s. We used to stand along the route and cheer for him and give him Skor bars (his favored marathon fuel).

As for the war wounds - ouch! eesh! ugh! I think all women can sympathize with you on the chafing issue (unless, I suppose, one is so skinny that one's thighs never touch, in which case I don't want to talk to one anyway ;-D). And the blood blister! Eek. Black toe is bad enough (a runner friend of mine wears socks with his birks all the way through the summer regardless of heat, b/c he has beatup runner's toes. Luckily for him, he can pull it off). Hope that you're healing well!

Anonymous said...

As someone who knows you in trw I am very proud of you. But after reading the running blog I think you should do Connemara next. I'll definitely come watch! LF

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks New Kid and LF!

Mmmm... Skor bars. But while running I prefer things that go down without chewing, like Gu and other gels. Gross in any context other than running, but handy.

And Connemara...hmmm. Yes, actually, I'm thinking maybe all future marathons should be all about the destination instead of setting PRs and qualifying times. Then maybe I won't get all keyed up before hand and Boyfriend can go with me and actually enjoy my company. (LF, you remember what a cranky nervous wreck I am before a marathon!)

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks, Coach! :) (I just had to say that.) Now, it's okay that I juggle an academic career and intense recreation, right?