Wake up at 5:30am race day after an expected restless sleep. Fortunately my clothing, timing chip, bib, band-aids, are laid out and ready to go. Have an orange and some oatmeal at around 6am. Leah keeps me focused and gives me pep talks.
Literally yesterday just getting over a brutal cold that lingered over the last two weeks of tapering. Hardly any running. Missed the last couple of longer runs (which would've probably given me a strong warning to take my ITB issue more seriously. I knew I was tensing up in the last 32k and had to walk the last bit of the next 23k but hoped with a couple weeks of taper time, a couple solid massages and increased stretching it would've settled down).
Absolutely beautiful morning, one of the best we've had all spring. If I wasn't running we would've been out finding a patio to have a coffee on for sure.
Get to the race by about 6:30am and run into Mathew shivering near the Canucks Store. A few of us had decided to meet up there at Abbott & Pacific. Do a bit of light stretching and jog an easy block to warm up. Andy shows up in a whirlwind of excitement and energy. Kevin shows up calm and focused.
Don't have to stand around and chat too long before everyone starts making their way to the starting positions. We move up, Andy, Mathew, Kevin and myself, towards the 3:40-3:45 pace bunny staging area, saying our good lucks to other club members along the way. A quick gel before we get rolling. Lots of excitement in the crowd. Premier pumps up the crowd before a canned-music Oh Canada! and before you know it we're off!
Feeling good to start heading out of the gate, setting my watch as I cross the mat. (Turns out I forget to mark the splits anyway and only rarely look at it). Start off with Andy and Kevin a little quick but we soon settle into a 5:00 pace. I start to feel tightness in my hip early on, around 6k, but hope I'll be able to run it out.
We see the first runners coming back toward us on the out and back along Fourth. Amazing how effortless they make it look. By 10k, at about 50 min, there's no getting around it, my knee is tightening up. This is going to be a long day.
Kevin R., a friend I run with regularly and who inspired me to start running early on, cheers me on from the sidelines both out and back and gets a great action photo of me too. (thanks!)
Shortly after 10k I fall back and let Kevin and Andy carry on ahead (no choice really). Left knee and hips have declared their intentions. No need to push it now. Just keep steady and try and stay as loose as possible. Big parts of the route are a blur. I recall a video van driving along the viaduct (hopefully not capturing my grimaces) as we head towards Prior Street.
Turn at Campbell… Gel station… jazz band… on to Cordova. I recall thinking that this was the section where we were absolutely soaked to the bone and cold on our last 32k run (the same 32k where my ITB first started acting up during training… hmmm?)
By the entrance to Stanley Park I start to see pace groups going past. There goes 3:40. Try and keep up for a couple blocks and a walk break but the tightness is getting intense. I find if I stand up really straight and tense my abs a bit it takes some of the pressure off my hip and knee, allowing me to run through (mostly) to the halfway point.
Half way. Holy crap, really? I have no idea what my split time is. As soon as the knee seized I decided the only goal for the day now is to finish. With any luck, upright.
(Funny thing I found was, other than the first 10 and last 8, I hardly got going fast or long enough to breath hard or even break a sweat).
Take a break by the small bridge on Pipeline Road to try and stretch out. Limp along a little farther up the hill. Listen to light conversations, “I'm running for my kids” “I'm running for my Dad…” Down the hill, around the overpass onto Lagoon Drive. Stop again. Stretch again. Walk lengthy portions. I can hear the music in the distance at English Bay and it gives me a boost to run a little further. Run. Walk. Run. Calling it running is a stretch, more like a hobble but at least I'm moving. I don't remember much of this section, other than walking in the nice weather and thinking, “Man, it's going take forever to get to that finish line at this rate.” Keep moving.
Lots of cheering stations along the route. I manage to grimace a smile of thanks where I can but inside I feel frustrated at my predicament. The section leading up to the Burrard Street bridge seems to take forever but the cheering on the corner gives me another kick. Up the bridge… whee! Just have to get to the top and then it's downhill. Turns out downhill actually feels a little worse than uphill. Walk. Run. Walk. Cheering station at the bottom of the bridge gives another hit of energy.
Kevin R. said he might meet me somewhere along the final loop near Whyte Street so I start focusing on that. I'm now running way behind the time I told him I might be there but only another 7km's or so to meet up. Gotta keep going, he's expecting me.
I hear my name shouted somewhere close to Kits Pool and look to see the Boston Crew off to my left cheering everyone on. Brings a smile and another necessary shot of adrenaline. Here's where I start to see some of my clinic comrades coming back towards me and I give big shout-outs where possible.
Somewhere around this time, 30k-ish, I'm able to start “running” again. I think my hips are so tight now that it takes the pressure off my knee (or maybe it just distracts me to focus on new pains?).
Point Grey Road is part of a route I run regularly with Kevin R. No problem. Try and convince myself it's just an easy Sunday 10k, just heading to Granville Island for a coffee. Turn the corner at Alma onto W. 4th and see the 32km marker. Only 10k to go! (I've heard the first 32km is the warm-up and the last 10km is a race. Tell my hips that, please!)
Last 10km. I can do this! I've run this route and this distance how many times?
Day is definitely starting to warm up but I'm not moving fast enough to feel overheated. Hit the turnaround point at Jericho and another water station. Heading down towards Highbury and then back on to Point Grey Road. “This is just an easy Sunday run. This is just an easy Sunday run.”
Attempt to distract myself by singing classic Van Halen tunes that had been running through my head the last couple of days for some reason... “well my baby, she don't want me around, says she's tired of watching me fall down…I think that your headed for a whole lotta trouble...”
36km marker. Only 8km to go! Amazing how far 8km's can seem. Cornwall to Arbutus… the final loop before the bridge. Kevin R. is waiting on the corner with his running gear on… cool! “Can I run with you for a bit?” “Absolutely! Please!”
This is just the kick in the pants I need to get me through the last few kms. After running together for years I tend to naturally fall into his pace and it helps me to pick it up a bit.
39km marker… heading on to the bridge. Lots of cheering along the way. Kev gives pep talks “Just about to the top! Only 4 more banners… 3 more banners…” Great sign at the top filled with Chuck Norris quotes… “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”… (yep, I was going slow enough to read the fine print).
Down Burrard Street bridge to Pacific… the final push! Grab a cup of water to splash on my face. Around the corner. Kev veers off the course while he can and there are just meters to go. Lots of crowd cheering. I look around to see if I can spot Leah in the crowd… no luck… focus on the finish. 42km marker! …and finish line! (4:22)
Dave is waiting at the finish wishing everyone congrats (after a stellar 2:45 himself). I get my medal and somehow inadvertently sneak through the fence instead of walking further on to the end of the finishing area. (Ah well, gets me to the food and water quicker).
I'd like to say the finish was a grand, ecstatic exhaustion but really the whole day was a long, grinding battle of attrition fighting against my injury. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, especially upon retrospect. It was a beautiful day and a first marathon experience that I won't soon forget.