My plan morphed into Try to Finish in Around or Under Four Hours/ Don’t Kill Yourself Before The Race. I was feeling pretty low and couldn’t think of a good reason why I was getting slower instead of faster. Heck, I would have been happy with a plateau, but this increasing slowness was almost more than I could bear. I was the only person I know who hated “Slumdog Millionaire.” I had done a track workout the day that I saw it. Coincidence? Maybe not. Meanwhile I decided a 10k might be the ultimate confidence boost just before the big race. Perhaps all those slow times were a fluke after all. Not so. The 10k sucked and I decided I wasn’t sure if I should even run the marathon.
My new plan was Figure Out What’s Wrong With Me, Hopefully I am Just Anemic. No dice there, unfortunately. The doc said my bloodwork was normal. The new improved version of the plan was See Chinese Medicine Doctor as Last Ditch Effort and Hopefully Use Ancient Remedy to Run Very Fast Even Though Training Pretty Much Sucked. The Chinese practitioner suggested I may have a fungus and that the best way to get rid of it would be to starve it. Unfortunately the fungus and I like a lot of the same foods. I was instructed to give up sugar, dairy, caffeine (!?!?), yeast, and anything fermented (ie soy products, alcohol, vinegar). I was told “It’s only for a week.” It was a damn long week. I will say however, I felt more energetic than I have in a long time after only a few days of the new diet. It only took a few minutes to ruin it however. When I decided the fungus was officially dead I went on a sweets binge. I don’t recommend this.
As soon as I start to feel kind of zippy again, just the week before the race, my lower back and hamstrings tightened up. Just reaching down to scratch my ankle was excruciating. My new plan was Reduce Pain to Manageable Level. I saw Josh, my massage therapist. He helped quite a bit.
By the time I got to Huntington Beach the plan was Negative Split and Forget About How Long it Takes. I wasn’t nervous, excited or anything. I admit it. I like drama, so I mourned my lack of emotion a little bit. I wanted to feel something but I just didn’t. In any case I was staying with an old friend and enjoying the warm sunny California weather, so how bad could it be… I had the game plan all worked out in my mind. I was going to run really really slow and relaxed, let people pass me (fat people, old people, people with one leg, all kinds of people), confident that I would pass them later. As it happened, an old lady in Crocs (yes I said Crocs) ended up passing me within the first eight miles or so…
I arrived at the start line at 6:46 or so. The race started at 6:50. That was not ideal but there was more traffic than we anticipated. At the last minute, I saw the 4:00 pace group and I had an idea “I can go with them for the first half and then negative split!” Meanwhile my fastest marathon yet was 3:55 and I was nowhere near the shape I was in when I did that. Why I felt so unreasonably optimistic, I don’t know. I got going with the four hour people and felt pretty good and relaxed, clicking of 8:50-9:00 miles for a while. Within a couple of miles I fell in with a couple of people who were really nice and fun. I was really enjoying chit-chatting with them (they were annoyed about Croc Lady passing us too) even though I had a sinking feeling I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace. By the 11th mile or so I had to go to the bathroom. I bid my new friends farewell, knowing I would never catch up to them again. I took care of business and then got back to work. I got in a comfortable zone and just kept moving forward. Everything was fine until about the 17th or 18th mile and then I got really tired. One thing that helped me though was when I imagined what it would feel like if this were an ironman. It would actually be great to be feeling as good as I did at that point in the run. So I knew it could be a LOT worse. By the 20th mile I was miserable but I expected it. My quads were tightening up and I couldn’t tell if it was a hydration thing or a fatigue thing. The 4:10 pace group passed me. Then the 4:20 pace group passed me. Dang it. These were all the people I was supposed to have passed earlier. I felt bad for my poor plan, totally ignored. I just felt bad in general. But then I got to the 25th mile mark and this lady I had been running with intermittently and I started talking and I got a burst of energy and sprinted to the finish. It wasn’t really a sprint, actually (my split for that mile was 10:00). It felt like it though. At exactly mile 26 I felt a blister pop in my left pinky toe. I was thankful it waited that long to explode because it really hurt. Then finally just a little .2 to go and I was through the finish in 4:20 and relieved to be DONE.