It’s been a bit of a routine for me to post a race recap the Monday after a race. This recap is coming 11 days after. The goal heading into this race was one last sub 3:00 marathon attempt to cement my place in the Boston Marathon. I know for a fact now, that a sub 3:00 would have done just that. As you have probably guessed or already know, that did not happen. The question is, what DID happen?
Erie is known for being a flat, fast course, on the last weekend before Boston registration opens up. It’s a race that runners flock to in search of that BQ, just like I did. This year, 43% of all finishers would get that BQ.
Erie is situated on the south shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania. The race is a double loop through a state park that provides lots of shade and as mentioned earlier, very flat terrain. This year, runners were very fortunate in that we got a much cooler weekend where temperatures were in the 50’s F with minimal humidity. As I write this, we are above 90F with it feeling well into triple digits with the humidity. Suffice it to say, we were fortunate.
About 2000 runners start this race with no starting corrals. Pace bunnies are in place to help people position themselves. There are also aid stations at every mile which helps keep runners hydrated or take those bathroom breaks if needed. Overall, I found this race to be well organized, very scenic and, taking your result out of it, a positive experience for runners.
My weekend was very typical. I made sure I got lots of rest the day before. I had a good carb loading meal for dinner and was in bed early. The morning of the race, I followed my typical routine of waking up 3 hours before race, then having a bagel with peanut butter and banana, as well as drinking a decent amount of water. I make sure I am done eating and hydrating 2 hours before the race.
I have tried to think of something I did differently, but everything was pretty much the same. I had a last minute bathroom stop before the race started and was ready to go. I made my way over to start and pushed my way as close to the front as possible, knowing that my goal time would put me well within the top 100.
As the gun went off, I decided to take it a bit easy until it thinned out a bit. I should mention that I decided to use mile splits for this race instead of km’s so I could make sure I was lined up with the mile markers. If I was behind, I would know I would need to make up that time. I knew my times and splits in miles for this race and felt this would work out fine.
By the time I hit mile 2, I was having some strong discomfort in my gut. I didn’t know if I needed to use the porta potty or not, but it just kept getting worse so I decided I would stop real quick and see if that would help, knowing I still had plenty of time to make up any lost time. Unfortunately, it didn’t help and eventually some cramps would start to set in.
I kept battling whether or not I needed to use a porta potty. I ended up using one 3 times in the first 10 miles. Cramps were intensifying, so I backed off a bit and that seemed to help. I figured this would eventually pass and I could pick up the pace. The race was such a struggle for me early on. I felt like I had been out there forever, but when I saw the 10k clock, I thought, “already?” Even though I was already way off my pace, that seemed to come up quick.
Finally, at mile 10, I finally felt like the porta-potty stop was helpful, but by that time, my dreams of a sub 3:00 were done. I dealt with those stomach/gut issues from mile 2 to 12. So much of that time was very discouraging and I figured I would hit the halfway point, take my DNF and go home.
This was such a battle for me. Part of me felt like I was justified in just calling it a day. Another part of me felt like it was just quitting just because things weren’t going my way, even though I have the ability to finish this race, it just might not be the time or goal I wanted.
Around mile 12 I was starting to feel a little better physically, but was completely demoralized by the experience. It was at that point I passed an aid station that was pumping music. The song “Believer” by Imagine Dragons was playing. This past January I took my son to a hockey game where they played that song with a video clip for the team as they came out on the ice. Every time he hears that song he says it’s the hockey song and wants me to turn it up. It’s a key memory for him, of a father/son bonding moment, and hearing that song made me think of him.
All these thoughts of quitting and calling it a day, thinking of my son and what I would say to him, even if he didn’t fully understand what I was talking about, it brought some tears to my eyes. In that moment I wanted to stop and call him. I wanted to let him know that I wasn’t going to give up just because it was hard. I wanted to tell him that’s not something we do. I wanted him to be proud of me. I decided I was going to try and finish this thing
As passed through the first loop, I was feeling a bit better, but I knew my race was over. I decided to ditch my handheld, as I thought that wasn’t helping my stomach issues. I would rely on water and the GU gels I have been so used to in the past. I also decided I was going to try and negative split this thing. The first half was so bad that I thought it shouldn’t be too difficult to finish strong now that I was feeling better.
The first 4-5 miles of the back half went pretty well. I wasn’t hitting marathon pace, but I was running fast enough to keep my time respectable. Eventually though, everything started to fail me. I was slowing. Calves, hamstrings and other muscles started cramping up. My ankles felt particularly sore.
I couldn’t do it. I stopped to walk multiple times. Thoughts of quitting would pop up again a few times, but not nearly as tempting as it was in the first half. I was finishing this thing. At mile 21, I was walking and I saw a friend of mine who I knew was trying to break 3:30. She was just in behind the 3:25 pace group and I thought, “I should try and go with her, so that if she starts to slow in the last miles, maybe I can help encourage her.” I started running again but just could not keep up.
The last 4 miles were a struggle. I walked, I trotted, I did whatever I could to just keep moving, but it was not going well. It was here I saw another familiar face from Instagram. We had never met before the race. I saw her at the half way point and she recognized me and started cheering super loud for me even though she was well aware of my goal and could probably tell how far off I was. At this point, she was running with a friend that was trying to get BQ time as well. She slowed a little to try and get me to come with them. I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. That did help in that I didn’t stop anymore again after that, but she stuck with her friend which was good because I wasn’t able to keep up.
I couldn’t believe my time as I approached the finish. The slowest marathon I have ever run was one week after I raced in Ottawa when I paced the Youngstown marathon as the 3:35 pacer. This marathon would be slower. The clock read 3:37:5x when I crossed. Honestly, I didn’t even care what the official time was. It took a week or so before I would even look it up online. It was just such a demoralizing race for me that I didn’t care and didn’t want to know. The finish line pictures capture just how unimpressed I am with my performance and how “done” I really was.
After I finished, I just found a quiet spot to sulk and try and process what the heck just happened. I wish something terrible, like a significant injury or something like that had taken place. At least then I would’ve had some answers. To this day, I still don’t.
For the next week, I wrestled with whether or not I should even register for Boston. I have raced 5 marathons, 3 of which have been disastrous including this one. I feel more like I’ve been lucky twice rather than that I’m a strong runner. It made me feel undeserving of the opportunity to run Boston even though my time will probably get me in. I would be taking a spot away from someone who is deserving and I know how much it means to people.
I guess some races there are no answers for. I am committed to Detroit as an ambassador for that race. However, I know there is a break coming after that. It’s time to sit and reassess some things. Looking forward to that rest.