Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Race Report: 2009 Triple Lakes Marathon

Well, I did it! My first marathon, the Triple Lakes Trail Race, is in the books! It's still a little hard to believe, eventhough I'm living through continuing, though subsiding, aches and pains.

I left home about 5:30 Saturday morning, and watched the nearly full moon set as I drove west towards Greensboro, North Carolina. I got there about 6:50, and learned that the race director had decided to let the early bird marathoners start at 7:00, rather than 7:15 (as published on the website). I had to hustle to get myself together at the start, but was happy to get the show on the road. I'm glad I got to see both Wendy (fellow Raleigh Galloway Group runner and social networking friend) and Amy (a coworker at Duke) before the start, as I didn't see them again on the trail.

The first mile plus was on pavement, but the rest of the course was on single-track trail. It was a very pretty course, taking in Greensboro's Watershed Trails, through the woods and around Lake Brandt. The course itself had a fair number of roots, rocks, holes, etc., enough that it took a fair amount of concentration to keep upright. I didn't do a very good job of that early on, falling three times in the first six miles of the course! Two falls were around mile 4, the other around mile 6. I walked it in after the second fall, and took advantage of first aid supplies at the next three aid stations. I decided that as long as I could walk on my bum knee without any pain below the skin surface, I'd try to keep going. It got to the point where I broke the race up into smaller goals. When concentrating on each mile ("Do the mile you're in!") got too tedious, I would shoot for the next aid station. I'd tell myself I could decide whether or not to stop for good at the next aid station. At the aid stations, I got more liquids and food, and where needed, I got extra water to clean out my knee wound, as well as antibiotic ointment. I decided to pass on the gauze and tape offer, for fear that the tape would restrict my movement.

The aid stations got better stocked as the day progressed--unusual, huh? (Most aid stations tend to run out of things for us back-of-the-packers.) There were more food choices, as well as gu gels, at the later stops. The last stop had some defizzed Coke, which was amazingly refreshing (partly because of the caffeine)! In addition to the extra nourishment, I got more chatty with the aid station volunteers as the day wore on, because I was out there on the trail for stretches all alone. Usually I savor running/walking time to myself, but I got pretty bored and lonely out there on the wooded trails.

As the miles wore on, I began to feel blisters form on my right foot. By then, it was hard to know which leg to favor, since my left knee was the injured one. I gritted my teeth and chugged on.

With a mile or so left to go, George showed up on the trail, and was a welcome sight! He had run with the Galloway group in Raleigh Saturday morning, and his mom (another saint!) brought him to Greensboro so he could drive me back home in my car! He came bearing an extra water bottle, and was great company for the end of the race! He told me that former coworker Gina and her husband Steve had stopped by to try to visit with me at the finish while I was still on the course. (What a shame that I missed them!) What a delightful surprise to find that Wendy (fellow Galloway runner) had stuck around to see me finish my first marathon! She finished about three hours ahead of me, so it was quite sweet of her to stay, considering her drive home.

It was such a relief to cross the finish line! I wasn't as emotional as I thought I'd be, just incredibly relieved to be at the end of the path. I ended up finishing in 10:55:43, a disappointing time and last place marathon finish, but I'm sooo glad I finished the distance. It would not have been a shame to stop early, but I do feel pretty satisfied to have logged the distance I said I would. This was a major athletic feat for me, no matter what the time.

[I learned afterward that my official time at the race was logged at 9:55:43, because I was rushed at the beginning and didn't realize that I needed to let a race official know I was starting early. NOW that makes sense, but I just didn't think about it at the time (nerves?), and nobody mentioned it! Also, the race director had decided not to bother with timing chips and mats.]

On the way home, George ordered me a tomato and mushroom pizza, and had it delivered as I took my ice bath. The 9:15 PM pizza meal was my first meal of the day (I'd had a banana with almond butter for "breakfast," and then the race course foods for the rest of the day), and it was the best pizza in the world right then!
I spent the day after the marathon resting, drinking liquids, soaking in the tub, and eating in bits and pieces. I also went to the CVS Minute Clinic for suggestions for my blisters and my knee. (I felt kinda like a wimp for going, but I was so uncomfortable!) The lady I saw just suggested soaking my blisters in Epsom salts and using detergent to scrub the dirt out of the knee I fell on (three times!). Soaking in a warm bath felt good, but the knee scrubbing fell short of a fun time.

Things I learned about myself by doing the Triple Lakes Race:

1) I can do 26.2 miles in one day. And I'm certain I can do it faster than I did last Saturday.

2) "The Wall" can happen earlier than Mile 20. For me, it happened after the second fall at Mile 4 in this particular race. The last 22 miles, they were very long. I hope that the "The Wall" will be MUCH later down the road for my next marathon.

3) I need to come up with a list of more things to think about when I'm running long mileage. I depleted my "alone time" topic reserves during this marathon, and that surprised me. (I usually exercise and run alone, except on Saturdays with the Galloway group).

4) I did pretty well last week with nutrition the week before the marathon. My gauge is that I utilized the two available porta-potties (only two, can you believe it?!), but didn't have to hold "it" uncomfortably for any of the race.

5) I ran out of water/Gatorade once on the trail, but made it to the next stop okay. Otherwise, I did a decent job of drinking and rationing my water/Gatorade between stops, which were usually about 4 miles apart.

6) Saying mantras on the trail helped a lot, but I had to change them up every so often. Being by myself for long stretches allowed me to say them outloud at times, which helped. The word "finish" factored in more than once. Popular ones for me were:
*Do the mile you're in.
*Got-ta fin-ish

7) I have friends who care about me, and are happy that I've tackled this marathon thing. Their support before and at the end of the marathon (and since) have been heartwarming. I also got a good bit of encouragement from other runners along the trail, a number of whom asked me how my knee was doing.

8) I found a lot of extra determination on the trails, and what a pleasant surprise that was! Sometimes my feet were on automatic pilot, but I almost threw in the towel a couple of times. I'm glad that something deep down pushed me to keep going.

9) My blisters and bum knee have hurt worse than my muscles since the race, and I'm not as tired now, a couple of days out, as I was after my 18-mile training run. I can tell I put my body through some trauma on Saturday, but acute injuries aside, I don't feel as bad overall as I expected. I'm still getting to bed early, but I feel like I'm healing.

10) I'm not as fond of trail runs, especially single-track trails, as I'd hoped. I'm too new of a distance runner to be tackling challenging single-track trail runs, and the run/walk in the woods was less enjoyable than I expected. (I assumed the course would be a sufficient distraction.) Maybe it was the falling-down stuff that make it kinda miserable, but I'm not in a hurry to do another trail run like that. I'd signed up for another trail run, the Medoc 10-Miler in Hollister on October 17, and had an order in for a new book on trail running that's coming out in January 2010. I'm bailing on the 10-mile trail race in favor of training near home, and I've cancelled the book order. Training time is too precious (and so is new book money!), and I need to focus on getting ready for the Outer Banks Marathon early in November.
11) I have a lot of admiration for all the runners who finished in front of me, including my Raleigh Galloway Training Group friend Wendy, who walked a course PR by over 40 minutes on Saturday! I also have a lot of gratitude for the volunteers who talked with me at aid stations and checked up on me in the last miles, as well as for the race director, who allowed me to finish about three hours past the posted time limit for the marathon.
So, three days after Marathon #1, these are my thoughts. I'm certain I'll continue to process the experience for a while. Corny as it sounds, I do feel like my life's changed because of my first marathon adventure. It'll be interesting to see how my running changes because of it.


Steph said...

Leslie, how wonderful of you to share this experience and all you've learned. Thank you. And blessed be. Steph

Skylar Masey said...

Super huge CONGRATS on having the mettle and mental fortitude to finish Lesley! I can't believe that you kept on after those falls, especially with the knee pain/injury.

You're an inspiration to us all, novice and seasoned runners alike. The time doesn't matter...you FINISHED your 1st marathon. And that in itself is kudos enough.

So glad that you had friends there to share in the triumph! I know with this race under your belt you will do better in the Outer Banks race. Each long distance is a learning experience about how far you can go, and now you've answered those fearful questions of how you'll do, if you'll finish, and whether you can persevere. When you doubt yourself, remember getting up after that fall, brushing yourself off, talking to those aid workers, and pushing on.

Remember that racing is partly physical and mostly mental. You have the determination to do great things, and like I said many people are inspired by your decision to run!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your finish. The Triple Lakes Trail Run is very tough!

Ruthie said...

woooooowhooooo! Wow.. what an inspiration!
I am so pumped for you! You did it!!!!


I am so sorry you fell.. but so amazed that you didn't let it get to you.. you set out to finish and you did!
I can't to hear what is next for you!

Its going to be awesome to find out cause girlfriend you have proven you can do ANYTHING you set your mind too!!!!!!!


Susan Mo said...

I knew you could do it!! I think your take on the wall is interesting. Provided I have only done 2 training runs over 20 miles, I think the wall moves. I know it hit it at about 18 miles the other day, yet I don't feel like I hit it at all for the 20 miler.

The alone time thoughts are so hard!! I had trouble during the Shamrock half marathon. I kept reliving parts of the book I had finished the day before the race. I hope I read a good book before Philly!

Yep, I say mantras all the time. I think my personal favorite is "Keep moving forward".

I am not fond of trail runs either. I think the fact that you did it as a first marathon makes it an even bigger accomplishment.

I tried my first "ice" bath this week. Eric told us it did not need to be icy, just 20 degrees lower than bpdy temperature. I do think it made me feel better. I also use compression sleeves on my calves after a big run and they really help me.

Congratulations again, Lesley, I am so happy for you and so proud of you!!

PS - Hope you sent your race report to the Galloway website.

Wendy (getnthinr) said...

Leslie, as I've said before, I couldn't have gone home without seeing you finish. What an accomplishment! You'll think it is funny that I fear the Umstead trails you do almost daily, but I love Triple Lakes -- maybe because it is hard and I know I have really done something when I finish. Who knows what twisted logic we marathoners live by?? Marathoning is all about finding out what works for you, what appeals to you, and what motivates you, so I am glad you got to try Triple Lakes before you swore off trails for a while. I'll see you on the Outer Banks, where we get to try our luck there. Heal quickly -- and again, congratulations, MARATHONER!


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