It has now been a week since the marathon, and I am shocked with how my perspective has changed. As I walked away from all the buzz and excitement of the finishing area, feeling deflated, depressed, and….well, devastated, I did not think I would ever feel happy about my 2:49 finish after I was so convinced that I was going to break 2:40. I have never been more confident I was going to achieve something in my life, but at the end of the day I did not listen to the one piece of advice I had been told by every person who has completed a marathon; respect the distance. I know that makes me sound like a complete brat, and most people would kill to run 2:49, but I hope you know that I am just very hard on myself and I am not a spoilt brat….I hope….you tell me?
I respected the distance in the the most obvious ways: intending to run negative, taking it conservatively the first half and slowly working it down: I knew it would hurt: and I knew that my body was going to take a battering. I also respected it when it came to the training. I really dedicated myself, doing everything I could to prepare. In fact, some of my friends suggested I took it a little too serious, and now I can honestly say I agree. I was obsessive about trying to control everything, and I honestly think my lack of flexibility was part of the problem.
I am not 100% sure of what happened, probably never will be, but I have allowed a week to analyze and speculate, and now it is time to move on. Take these lessons and move forward, smarter, and more determined towards the next one (which unfortunately will probably not be until Chicago in October).
I am having a blood test on Tuesday to make sure that I did not do any permanent damage internally, and I have been trying to take good care of my body this week, making sure I gain some weight, as I was borderline too thin. I know my friends and family definitely think so.
After talking with one of my good friends who is a sports medicine doctor (and has saved my running career many times), and another who is an athletic trainer, we have come to the conclusion (well as sure as you can be) that I went into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the race. The bagel, banana, animal crackers, and gels did not provide me with enough complex carbohydrates to get me through. I also think I did not eat as much in the days before as I should have. You hear about how people worry about gaining weight in the days leading up to the race as they are eating so much, but I was not really eating much more than usual.
The combination of not enough fuel before the race, and consuming nothing but simple sugars meant that my insulin levels were too high for my body to be able to use the sugar….therefore I crashed within one mile of taking my final gel. My doctor was amazed that I was able to finish, and the symptoms I showed, along with what the medics found, made hypoglycemia the most likely cause. I wasn’t running hard enough or far enough out of my comfort zone to actually hit the wall that early, and I would not have run how I did had that been the cause.
Side note: my doc also said that I was lucky I stopped with my overdosing of ibuprofen when I did, or I was at a serious risk of kidney failure in the race due to the stress my body was already under…..scary!
The other problem was that after removing my fuel belt at mile 12, all I had to drink was one sip of water at 14, and the two sips of Gatorade at mile 22. Definitely not enough, and this is where my stubbornness of not wanting to “waste time” slowing down to drink came back to bite me…..hard.
Okay, so what can be taken from this?
- RESPECT THE DISTANCE!
- There are so many ways this could be applied. 26 miles is a long way, and you are putting your body under so much stress, that you need to be prepared that your body is going to resist in one way or another.
- Stock up on complex carbohydrates in the days leading up to, and the day of the race. This means lots of slow burning foods such as oatmeal, whole grains, cereal, and bread. You need to eat a lot more than you think. You are burning around 3000-4000 calories during the marathon, if you only give it 500 the morning of, how can you expect your body to sustain itself? This may mean you feel a little more full than you want to on the start line, but I assure you it is better than what I went through!
- Drink water/sports drinks at every aid station. Even if you have to slow your pace, or run out of your way, consuming enough liquid from the start is CRITICAL to successful completion of the marathon to prevent severe dehydration. It also means that your body is able to continue to regulate temperature to prevent other issues.
- Be prepared for something to go wrong. As I mentioned, I was overly confident that everything was going to go exactly how I wanted it to, but the marathon does not work like that. Something WILL go wrong, you just have to be prepared how to handle it. Think of what you would do in a variety of situations; see yourself successfully making it through the challenge to continue on your path. I have been told by many experienced marathoners that sometimes you can feel bad in the middle, but you just have to suffer through that mile and not let it affect you mentally till you come out the other side of the rough patch.
- Do NOT take ibuprofen anywhere close to the race. It is better to have a little pain, than risk your kidneys failing!
- Try not to make any sudden movements. This is what really messes your body up. The more consistent you are able to be, the less likely your body is to go into some kind of shock.
The cheering and support I received coming down Kelly drive will stay with me forever. I genuinely do not think I would have managed it had those people not been there, so THANK YOU to anyone reading who was out there on the sidelines, or out there on the course going through the same pains as me. I only hope I can become half the person that you are. You have no idea how much that means to someone who is struggling that bad.
As an elite athlete people often think everything always goes right and life is easy, but I hope my experience showed that it doesn’t, and we make the same mistakes as everyone else, and even with all the training, pay for it in the same way as everyone else. Thank you to each and every one of you. If I can support you in your future endeavors, please tell me about what you have coming up and I would love to repay the favor or give advice.
The marathon is a race unlike any other, it gives you the biggest highs, and the lowest lows, but it teaches us all something, not just about running but life in general…..life is a roller coaster, there will be ups and downs, but the most important part is to enjoy the ride. 🙂
Have you ever beaten yourself up unnecessarily from a bad performance? How did you learn to let go?