Sunday, November 2, 2014

On the Run: Detroit Free Press Marathon 2014

Marathon #4 is, as they say, in the books.  It wasn't pretty.  It wasn't easy.  It was downright painful.  But it's done.  I gritted it out and finished.  Everyone said I looked good in the final miles and strong when I crossed the finish line, even though I felt like I was shuffling and dragging my right leg down the road behind me.  

I finished in 3:08:48, just over a minute off my PR at Boston earlier this year.  I beat last year's Freep time by 6 minutes, placing 15th woman and winning my age group.  So I was jumping for joy, right?  Cheering and celebrating?  I should have been but at first all I could focus on was the fact that I didn't run the race I set out to run.  Well, and the fact that my leg was so sore I couldn't walk, let alone jump!

Here's how things went down:

My initial race goal was 3:05, back in the summer when I was going to start training.  My hamstring injury led to a delayed training start by 2 weeks and the whole plan was highly modified (both pace and distance).  I adjusted my goal time to 3:10 and was okay with that.  Then after doing well at Brooksie Way I thought maybe I could do better than 3:10.  Maybe I could do 3:05 after all.  I talked to Justin from RUNdetroit and he helped come up with this race-day plan:

I needed to stick with the 3:10 pace group until exiting the tunnel at mile 8.  At that point I could pick up the pace.  It seemed smart and manageable.  I met up with the pace group before the start, pledging to stay with them.  And I did.  For one mile.  What was I thinking??  I'll tell you what I was thinking.  I was thinking that I wouldn't be able to pull off the plan after all.  Maybe I better run faster at the beginning in case I couldn't speed up at the end.  Smart marathon running?  I think not.  You can probably guess where this race is headed.

By the time I hit Canada I was already regretting my decision to split from the pace group.   My pace was way off and I knew I was running too fast.  I should have adjusted but I kept on going.  I had my friend and fellow RUNdetroit'er Arni to run alongside so maybe I wanted the company.  We stuck together for all the Canadian miles, through the tunnel, and exited together.  This was probably my favorite moment from the race!  As we were running back into the US, I had The White Stripes "Blue Orchid" playing in my ears and we were greeted by a huge cheering crowd.  A man announced my name and bib number over the loudspeaker.  Talk about a rush!  

Photo credit: Brian Wolski

Photo credit: Stephanie Smith

Within about a minute of exiting the tunnel I caught up to the 3:05 pace group.  WAY ahead of schedule!  I was so excited to catch them but knew I was in trouble.  I felt comfortable running with them at their 7:04 pace for a little while and then suddenly it didn't feel so easy.  My Garmin was reading out a 6:50ish pace and I started to panic.  I couldn't maintain that!  After the tunnel I'm not sure how accurate that was but once it's in your head it's in your legs.  I started to slip back in Mexicantown.  I slipped further back as we neared Corktown.  By the time we hit Michigan Avenue I don't think you'd ever know I'd been running with that pace group.  I lasted about 3 miles.

Photo credit: Stephanie Smith

I'm not sure exactly when the pain started (mile 1?) but definitely by mile 12 I was hurting a lot.  It started in my right hip and worked it's way into my hamstring, glute, IT band.  I would have been so happy to peel off and finish with the half marathoners!  Thankfully I got a boost with the RUNdetroit cheer station on Michigan Avenue, plus Sarah G when I made my turn with the other marathoners.  (She had long since finished her half.)

Photo credit: Brian Wolski
For anyone who's run the Detroit marathon, you know that much of the fun is in the 1st half.  After the first 13 miles, however, the runners spread out, the spectators are fewer and farther between.  Lafayette is a long lonely stretch, especially when you don't have anyone to run with.  And I didn't.  I ran solo down Lafayette and through Indian Village.  Maybe 10 runners altogether?  (Some I passed and some passed me.)  All I could think about was getting out of this race.  My leg was killing me.  What was I thinking running this marathon?  The 6 weeks off that my orthopedic suggested I take after this marathon - previously scoffed at by me - was looking more and more like a reality.  I remember a police officer smiling at shouting, "Yeah, Run Detroit!"  I soldiered on.

When I got to Jefferson a guy ran up alongside of me and said, "Looking good, Amanda!"  It was one of the guys from the 3:10 pace group.  He was clearly doing much better than I was as he motored right along past me.  Up ahead loomed my nemesis - Belle Isle.  Lafayette and Indian Village were bad, but this part is torture.  Mental torture.  More boring, even fewer spectators (except for the bridge, which isn't bad), and more wind to contend with.  The island takes a little bit of your soul each time you race on it.  On the bright side I saw a few friends on the bridge - both spectating and running - to make it all seem just a bit better.

According to my fist, I was supposed to be running sub-7:00's by now but my pace was slowly creeping into the 7:20's.  I was passed by 2 women.  I was desperately trying to run strong but I felt like I was losing ground with every step I took.  My right leg was killing me.  My calves now hurt.  My strategically-timed playlist helped a bit with The Four Tops Reach Out (I'll Be There) playing in my ears as I ran toward the Ren Cen.  I was so happy to get off that island, down Jefferson, and onto the Riverwalk.  Not much left!

The Riverwalk was beautiful.  I felt like I was home again.  That helped cheer me up, especially when I saw my friend Emily from Rock CF.  She always gives me a good laugh!  I actually saw quite a few friends in the final few miles to give me encouragement.  My friend Stephanie took this photo on Atwater near the Dequindre Cut.  

Photo credit: Stephanie Smith
In the last mile I closed in on a woman and tried to chase her down.  Even though I didn't beat her, I'm thankful she was there to give me that final push at the end when I wanted to joy-jog it across the finish line.

Photo credit: Brian Wolski
After it was over I talked to a few people who had just finished.  I love the post-marathon excitement with everyone finishing their race and reaching their goals!  Runners are the greatest!

I limped back to the RUNdetroit VIP area, which was an amazing addition this year to the marathon experience.  RUNdetroit partnered with Saucony to provide a warming tent, private port-a-potties, and gear check to Flight Club members or customers who bought Saucony products before the marathon.  After the race there were free snacks and massages.  It was amazing!  

I was slightly delirious as I dragged myself up onto the massage table.  The therapists helped me roll over and worked on me for a good 20 minutes.  I wanted to cry, everything hurt so much!  But seeing Brian and looking around the tent at all my friends who had run the half marathon made it all seem ok.  

Brian and I stuck around for about an hour or so, sharing race stories and celebrating with all the other runners who'd run amazing races, before heading back to the car.  The city was so alive, between the marathon and Lions tailgaters.  As painful as running the marathon was, I don't regret doing it.  

I guess you can say marathon #4 was a little like Detroit itself - a bit gritty, desolate and lonely in places.  But also great areas that feel like home to me.  Most important were the people along the way.  And although it may not be easy, it gets a little better each year.

Photo credit: Brian Wolski



vanilla chia pudding, banana (pre-race)
2 vanilla CLIF Shots (miles 12 and 20)

Riptide / Vance Joy
Dangerous / Big Data
Gotta Get Away / The Black Keys
Chop and Change / The Black Keys
We're All in This Together / Sam Roberts Band
Losing California / Sloan
Lazaretto / Jack White
The Walker / Fitz & The Tantrums
You've Got Time / Regina Spektor
Water Fountain / tUnE-yArDs
Fell in Love with a Girl / The White Stripes
Best Friend / Foster the People
Move Like You Stole It / ZZ Ward
I'm Shakin' / Jack White
We Found Love / Rihanna
Tennis Ball (Prescribing Tristen) / Pure
Bitter Rivals / Sleigh Bells
Blue Orchid / The White Stripes
Runaway Baby / Bruno Mars
Ain't Messin 'Round / Gary Clark Jr.
Chop and Change / The Black Keys
After the Disco / Broken Bells
Shake it Off / Taylor Swift
The Innocent / Mayer Hawthorne
Locked Out of Heaven / Bruno Mars
Digital Witness / St. Vincent
What Makes You Beautiful / One Direction
Violent Shiver / Benjamin Booker
Mallie Chan / Otto Vector
Second Chance / Peter Bjorn & John
Everything / Nine Inch Nails
Nowhere to Run / Martha & the Vandellas
Fever / The Black Keys
Alex Chilton / The Replacements
Radio / Raphael Saadiq
Bulletproof / La Roux
Rearviewmirror/ Pearl Jam
Detroit Rock City / KISS
Don't Let Go / Weezer
Man / Neko Case
Lucid Dreams / Franz Ferdinand
C'mon C'mon / The Von Bondies
Mind Your Manners / Pearl Jam
Big Girls You Are Beautiful / Mika
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces / Ben Folds Five
Sixteen Saltines / Jack White
Reach Out (I'll Be There) / The Four Tops
Eye of the Tiger / Survivor
Discipline / Nine Inch Nails
Don't Stop (Color on the Walls) / Foster the People
Possibilities / Weezer
Get in My Way / Robin Thicke
50 Ways to Say Goodbye / Train
Anklebiters / Paramore
Blood for Poppies / Garbage
Brave / Sara Bareilles
Lose Yourself / Eminem

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