The short story is I finished. No PR, just a slow, painful reminder of why full marathons on consecutive weekends are a bad idea :(
The long version is that I managed to stay healthy, even though it meant wearing a blue surgical mask at work on Friday when I was in a meeting with 40+ people, many of whom were sneezing or coughing.
I laid out my things and tried to relax. I was so exhausted that I slept for 12 hours on Friday night, then didn't do much on Saturday, exactly as I planned it.
Sunday morning my alarm was set for 5:15, but I was up before then. Once again I had ZERO desire for anything to eat or drink. I forced myself to eat a bowl of Chia seeds at home, and loaded up my pockets with food to nibble at the start.
I always park at WCCC. It's $10, but 25 steps from the finish line. The convenience of it is worth paying, even though I could have parked at the casino for free. If I did that, though, I would have to walk close to a mile by myself in the dark. Yeah, I'll pass.
At Chicago, the starting line was closed to spectators for security purposes. From a practical standpoint, though, I wish every big race would do that. There were so many people at the start of the Free Press that moving was just about impossible. I was in the "I" start corral, but there was NO room to move outside the corrals, so I hopped in at the nearest gate, which was "F." I tried to move back toward I, so I could start the same time as a reasonable pace group, but I couldn't get anywhere close. The corrals were super crowded and I had no room to breathe, much less stretch or do starting line yoga.
I turned on my watch at 6:55, and she immediately flashed "low battery." Nooooooooo!!!!!! I had charged her after Chicago. Gah!!!!!! I panicked for about 3 seconds, then got over it. If I used the gps, she would lose all charge in a few miles, so I used her as a regular watch, to have a slight way to monitor my time. I didn't know my pace, but I would know my total elapsed time.
It took twelve minutes to cross the start line. The sun started rising when I approached the bridge. The weather had been cold and raining on Saturday and Monday, so we definitely caught a break with good weather!!!!!!
At the start I was wearing a light blue windbreaker I had bought at the church thrift shop for $0.50. It was a little baggy and I was marginally concerned Border Patrol would have issue with that. Yet, I was also wearing a tiny waist carrier, and I didn't want to be stopped for that either. Damned if I did, damned if I didn't. I was cold so I kept the jacket, but made sure my number was prominently displayed, and passed by the CBP officers without any issue.
I saw Kelly around mile 10 and she looked great!!! I admitted I was hurting, but I was still running a decent pace. At mile 12+ someone nudged my shoulder and said "Look who it is!" "Indy" and his girlfriend caught up with me. They were doing the half, so we all ran together to the split. They both offered me their watches for the second half so I could pace myself.
My half split was 2:23ish, which is right about normal. Unfortunately it all fell apart in the next 3 miles, and I didn't hit 16 miles until 3:00. I knew I wasn't going to PR, but if I'm going to miss it, I'd rather know it early, as opposed to the situation I had in Toledo 2012, when I was at mile 24 before I realized it wasn't going to happen.
So whatever. No PR this time. I read in Runner's World to set three goals for every race:
good - the goal you can hit no matter what (finish)
great - a goal you should be able to hit with a little work (beat an acquaintance "Ironman")
awesome - the ideal goal you can hit when all the stars are aligned and you have the run of your life (PR).
With this approach, no race is ever a "failure."
Belle Isle is brutal because it's late in the race and largely isolated. Approaching the Bridge off the island, I saw a man I've seen at almost every race I've done. I finally asked him what's his name. "Mad Dog," he said. Detroit was his 268th marathon, and he had just done the Indianapolis marathon the day before. I said I've seen him at Toledo, Cincinnati and the Martian, that I keep seeing him and Sanjay. "Oh yeah," he said, "I know Sanjay." MadDog is doing both of the Indiana races I am, so I'll surely see him again.
Running is a really small world. I knew several people running at the Free Press. Nita, Stephanie and Jeff would be among the fast runners, and unless I saw them at the start, I wouldn't see them at all. Kelly, "Indy" and "Ironman" were more my pace and in the middle of 27,000 runners, I saw every one of them!
After I chatted with MadDog, I was running on the bridge and saw "Ironman," so I ran alongside him. "Hey there, cupcake," I said. We chatted a bit then I ran on. I wanted to beat him, because I know I can. Nothing against him, but he's someone I know that I can beat. He's somehow become a tangible marker I should be able to beat.
Ran on some more. Running along Larned, the Renaissance Center looked nice so I took a picture. After I got home, I noticed the porta potties and the cup trash on the side. Oops :)
I finished. It hurt. My pinky blister came back at mile 17, despite duct taping it. I passed a woman in the last 0.2, and had the run been ten feet longer, I would have passed a man.
The food after was pretty standard - bananas, protein bars, chocolate milk. There is a group of high school aged boys who volunteer every year and I think they're an ROTC program or a military school, because they wear some sort of uniform and address everyone as sir or ma'am. Very polite, very helpful.
The finish chute never ever ended. I just wanted to sit down!!!!!! It was COLD with the wind so I was shivering and had trouble walking on my blisters. I needed to take off my shoes, bundle up and stop moving for a minute!
Thankfully once I passed Bill, he kept walking along the barricade until he found me, then gave me his jacket, even though I was soaking wet with sweat. Indy and his girlfriend were still downtown and they met us within minutes of me finishing. I assume they had been tracking me, because otherwise, how could they have been right at the finish, right when I was done? I have pics with everyone, but I'll respect their privacy and leave them off my blog :)
Bill took my #12 picture again as we walked to my car, but oops! I can't count! After taking the photo, he realized immediately I had the wrong number, so we tried again.
On the drive home, a homeless teenager was sitting next to the freeway ramp, begging for food and money. The car in front of me had a 26.2 sticker in the window, and the driver rolled down the window and gave the girl all the post-race food. He gave her so much she could barely hold it all. That was awesome!
I always thought Detroit was my favorite marathon. It was my first, so it'll always have a special place in my heart, but after Chicago, it really felt like a junior varsity race. It was good, but nowhere near the organization of Chicago. I realize very few races offer the crowd support of Chicago, but they had a lot of other features that I thought were far superior.
For example, the expo actually had people I wanted to see and meet, and it was arranged in rows so I could go wherever I wanted, without having to follow the serpentine pattern past every exhibitor. Obv if I wanted to look at their stuff, I would, but I just want to get my number and get out. Every year the Free Press asks for feedback and suggestions, and every year I ask for packet pickup at any New Balance store in the metro Detroit area. When registering, you would have to decide to pick up at the designated store or at the expo, and once you decided, you can't change your mind. It makes so much sense to me, but they continue to ignore my suggestion.
Something else that really bugged me was their refusal to exchange shirt sizes. The shirt in 2010 and 2012 ran small, so I ordered an extra large. The sleeves were too short, but the width of the sleeves, and of the shirt itself were really good. Obviously I ordered the same size this year, but it's yet another shirt that would fit Hagrid with room to spare. I immediately asked for an exchange, but they weren't doing it. Is it really that hard? Order 5 or 10 extra of every shirt, then have a rotating exchange. I understand I was there on Friday and the expo was open again on Saturday, but at any give race, 5-10% of the registered runners never show up to get their stuff, so there were certainly extra shirts at the expo. Now I have to hope the extras wind up somewhere and drive all over the metro area to chase down a shirt that fits me, not a 400-pound woman.
I'll do it again next year because it's so close, but there are a few changes they could make that would be so easy and make it tons more user-friendly.
Rather than end on a negative tone though, he's the best sign of the day. It wasn't even a sign, but a message on a man's back: "My doctor said I'd never run again. My God said 'Have faith in me.'"