Windermere Marathon Race Report: Almost a DNF

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It was good to be home with my family

Was I overtrained? Yes.

Did I carb-load enough? No.

Did I peak too soon? Yes, for my PR in the Hurricane Half Marathon three weeks ago.

Was the course unexpectedly hilly? Yes.

Does that explain why it took me over 4 hours to run 26.2 miles? No.

Not exactly.

Why not? It was mental.

My inner psyche took a real beating and when things started to get tough on Sunday, I gave up. Gave in. Whatever.

I ran a race in more time than I’ve run 28 miles in training. I’m not going to re-visit my training for this race, because I think it was clear I was over-trained (two marathons and a PR’ed half-marathon too close to race day will do that to a gal). Nonetheless overtraining, along with not enough carbs the day before and some unexpected early hills does not explain why I couldn’t maintain my slowest training pace throughout the race.

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My race morning routine always includes a selfie! I felt good that morning, really!

The few days leading up to the race went well; I tapered, rested and thoroughly enjoyed my time with family in Spokane (also my birthplace). My last few runs went really well, and I felt like I should be able to PR on race morning. I even felt good the first few miles, but after the first hill, my quads were burning.

Just like normal.

Except that I couldn’t get around it. I remembered how my quads burned in my Yasso 800’s 10 days before the race. How they burned in my super easy 6 miles last Sunday. Decided they were a case of overtrained quads, and couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t even zone out and run, like I might in a long run.

At mile 10, my quads still burning, I knew the race was over. I almost quit right then.

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That’s the smile of a runner who’s happy just to have finished.

If my uncle had been at the halfway point, as we’d planned, I would have quit. Luckily, I didn’t see him until mile 18. I ran the straight and downhill portions of the race, and walked the uphill parts from mile 16 on. By mile 18, I knew that a DNF would affect me even more negatively than this failed race would, so I committed to stick with it for 8.2 more miles.

And I did.

In the photos from the finish I’m smiling because I’m done. No injuries. No mental scars I won’t get over.

I never hit a “groove.” With the first hill, I decided I couldn’t do it, that a BQ wasn’t possible. I focused on my quads, and then my shins, and then my glutes, which I thought were telling me that this was too hard. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, mile after mile after mile. My confidence in my training, running, and myself was missing.

It was a good day. A good day for a race. It just wasn’t my day.

Ultrarunner, yoga teacher, academic, and feminist. I write about ultrarunning, feminism, and the intersection of running and life.

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22 comments

  1. I am so sorry to hear this. I’ve been there in races like that and it is very painful (more so mentally than physically). Recover well and move on. And congratulations on the finish – it may not have been a BQ, but I know you had to work hard to get to that finish line.

    1. It was a rough day, and I’m glad it’s over – but I’m taking a week (or maybe a month) off and then focusing on a healthier and more realistic training plan for a fall race.

  2. Sorry your race didn’t go well. I think that’s the challenge with the Marathon, it’s either your day or it’s not and what determines that is sometimes a mystery. Good effort though and you still have the awesome half PR

  3. Amanda was spot on with her comment. It is either your day or not. There are so many variables that go into a marathon, with some in your control and some out of your control. I have only run four marathons, but with each one, I learn more about the race and about myself. The frustrating thing about marathon’s is the ability to PR, or get the time you want. There is so much hard work that goes into race day, unlike shorter distance races. You will PR and you will BQ. Only you will be able to figure out the perfect marathon and training “cocktail” that will get you there. I feel your frustration and disappointment. Heal and recover and fine tune your training. Above all else, you accomplished something that the huge majority of people have not. Be proud of your race no matter what the time. I was not happy with one marathon I have run (landed in the ER after the race due to severe dehydration), but I still display my medal proudly:)!

    1. You should display that medal proudly and there is no “only” about 4 marathons! Thanks for your comments and I hope I’ve learned what I need to from this race!

  4. I always say that marathons are heartbreakers because you never really know what will happen on race day. I think that Windermere broke my heart enough that I have no intentions of tackling the distance for a long time. I felt good going into the Barker water station and then it all went downhill from there with 16 miles left. I struggled a little down the Appleway stretch (just after the gravel road) because of the head wind, but I didn’t fall too much off of my pace. I told Cameron at the Barket exit I wanted him to take me home, but he said he wouldn’t let me quit. In a way I am glad he was my voice of reason. I would have been so mad at myself today if I didn’t finish. I am really glad that I got a chance to meet you IRL though! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I know! I told my uncle the same thing – that even with the horrible race it was an awesome weekend!

      I look forward to more races with you!

  5. I think we all have this happen to us, eventually. I know it happened to me, in Akron, for the 2004 race. Many of the things you mentioned happened to me- I was overtrained, I didn’t have enough carbs in me, and it just wasn’t my day. I also didn’t expect the ragweed pollen to trigger my asthma the way it did, and I ended up walking up many of the hills after mile 16, wheezing if I got too ambitous. I almost quit, and reasoned that many may take that option.

    BUT- here’s the BUT- even though I was ticked for a good week, I think I learned the most about running from from that experience. A lot can happen in 26.2 miles, and one has to roll with it. I learned what not to do for the next time, too (I took a bit of an inventory). And, I tested myself in a much more honest way than I would have otherwise, and I came out stronger than I thought I would be. Even though I was pretty beaten down that day, mentally and physically, I didn’t stop. You didn’t, either. But, those thoughts come in time.

    As it turned out, I made some changes, and attained a BQ the following fall, finishing in the time that I had hoped for before things got ugly and Akron. And yes, that race (a much flatter one- Milwaukee) happened to be exactly a year later, to the day.

    Hang in there, and take heart. It will be better next time, I am sure!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I’m completely inspired by your story (and to keep on training). I hope I learn what I need to so the next race is a succes!

  6. Oh man. What a bummer! I’ve been there. I know how it feels when a race just isn’t going your way and I also know how hard it can be to finish a bummer race out. Good for you for being tough!

    The good news, at least in my opinion, is that you’ve done everything you’ve done with your running with sub-optimal training. I believe that with a more balanced training plan you will be able to knock a BQ out of the park in the fall. When you’re ready I’d love to discuss what’s next for your training with you. Recover well and enjoy your down time!

  7. I’m sorry it didn’t turnout as planned. BUT…you defeated YOUR mental demons and finished. Most can’t understand that kind of willpower. Learn, grow and move on!

    (That was my race on Saturday too….race report is on my blog if you want to read a sob fest :)).

    1. I just read your recap (my iPad wont let me comment on blogger sites or I would have commented there). You are one tough lady! I love that you met my running hero! Rest your ankle up, and lets run another race together when you’re feeling up to it!

  8. I’m sorry that the race didn’t go as planned. I think that the mental aspect of the marathon is the hardest piece to master. Best of luck to you as you recover and figure out what’s next.