Forgive me for complaining, but my first ever podium spot came after a pretty awful race.
The day had started full of rosy promise. It was cold and clear — ideal racing conditions — and I was feeling, fit, well tapered, and optimistic. Based on last year’s inaugural running of the race, I thought I had a chance at the podium. I angled up towards the front of the crowd. Next to me was a very serious looking woman, poised at the ready. Game on.
Soon after the horn blared, she was off. Better to keep her in my sights, I decided. She was moving well in the front pack amongst three other (male) runners. I trailed behind somewhat, but still well ahead of most. The distance between us didn’t grow much over the next twelve or so miles. I could always see her around a corner, a little up ahead. My pace, in the low seven-minute per mile range, felt just right. Comfortable and sustainable. There wasn’t a lot of vertical on the course (under 1500ft) and the footing was, for the most part, pretty good, so it felt more like a traditional road marathon than a true trail race.
Despite the chilly start, the forecast called for a blazing hot day. SoCal is not known for its abundant tree cover, so I knew the heat would soon bear down upon us. At the twelve mile mark, with the temperature rising, it was time to fuel up. A gel and some water. I’ve never been one to take on much fuel and have an amazingly weak gut in faster paced races. Shortly afterwards, a familiar feeling came upon me: intense nausea, my stomach in a tight knot. The aid station at the turnaround only had water since it was in a remote location. I knew I needed my go-to lifesaver in times like these, Coke, and it was nowhere to be had. Since it was an out and back, I put on my best “racing strong and easy” face as I passed by the ladies trailing behind me. None of them was close, but the way I was feeling I wasn’t sure how long that would last.
Slowly, but surely, my pace dropped off. I felt awful. I wish I was one of those people who knows how to make themselves throw up to feel better, but I’m not. The misery continued for the next six or so miles, during which time I could take on no additional fuel for fear of making matters worse. I finally picked up a Coke at the next AS, but the damage was done and there was no getting out of this hole. Afraid to fuel up anymore, I continued the race on only a couple of small cups of Coke and water. A couple of guys I had passed earlier passed me back, but thankfully, none of the ladies.
It was a race of two halves. One in which I ran to my potential and felt amazing, in second or third place overall most of the time, the other a miserable, lonely, just-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other sufferfest. I came in at 3:35:16, good enough to beat last year’s winning time, but nowhere near the 3:08 finish of the women’s winner — who, it should be noted, also won the race outright. Respect.
My husband and my boys were there to cheer me at the finish, which is always a treat, and my older son even sprinted me to the line. (He beat me, the little stinker!). Also, I won stuff! How cool is that?? Nothing quite like a first-time podium spot, a trophy (actually, a cool wooden plaque) and a bag full of goodies to make a bad race feel pretty darn good after all.
Afterwards, we went to Stone Brewing Company, conveniently located near the race. The food and the beer were delicious, but my stomach was still seriously pissed off at me so sadly I couldn’t enjoy much of it. Ah, marathons. One day I will overcome.