Monday, September 21, 2009

BQ?

I started writing this post this morning and just deleted everything I had written. It was just too boring and pointless. Let me set the scene for you very briefly and then dig into the meat of the matter..

Trip to Berlin went fine, snag was that SuperSal's luggage went missing so she had to get new racekit at the expo (she had her running shoes on during the journey as per previous advice from me apparently - the wisdom comes and goes and is, in any case, forgotten by me). Berlin was warm and congested, hotel fine, pasta dinner slow to come but delicious, glass of red wine seemed to allow me to sleep much better than before London (ie I slept this time).

Sunday morning, bright, warm and early, we headed to the start which was a 20 minute walk from our hotel through a beautiful park. The start area was fairly well organised, and though I had been seeded in a pen ahead of Sally (don't understand why as she is faster than I am) I was able to drop down into hers. The gun went off at 9am and about 9 minutes later we crossed the start mats. Within about 100 metres I felt one of the soft insoles, which I had tucked into my shorts, drop out. The right one. The one that I felt I might need. I couldn't go back for it though and so we carried on. The course was incredibly congested. It's a big race - 44000 entrants - and, unlike London, there is only one starting area. For the first 10 miles or so Sally and I were weaving and dodging to stay on pace. And the first 10 miles sped past pretty quickly. Right from the get-go we went out at a pace I would describe as "comfortably hard". Had a salt tab after 30 mins, my first gel (Hammer Espresso) at 1 hour. We passed the half marathon mark at 1:48, still well on target for a 3:40 finish. And then - I don't know. All through the first half of the race thoughts like "I'm not enjoying this" had been popping into my mind and I was trying to pop them. Then by mile 14 I noticed that I was feeling really nauseous, cold and shivery despite the fact that the temps were really warming up - it must have been around 23 / 24 degrees Celcius by now. I pulled over for a second and tried to be sick. No go. I told Sally who pep talked me. By 16 I told her that I felt my wheels were coming off. More pep talk. And then at mile 17 I saw a medical tent and made the snap decision to head in. Sally was shocked but by the time she registered I had gone off. I went in and said to the two women there "I am so cold. What is the matter with me?" They were completely unhelpful, said they had no idea and handed me a paper blanket. I sat down on a chair for a minute and then, all of a sudden (it was a day of impulse decisions, clearly) I thought no - this is not going to be a DNF. I said goodbye to the Boston Qualifier but I knew that, one way or the other, I could finish this thing. And so I got out of my chair and got back on the road, with my blanket around me. I ran with the blanket for another mile or so until I felt better and all of a sudden I felt okay again. I walked for a minute every mile, then walked in between as well. I got to the 40K mark and walked, got to the 41K mark and then - all of a sudden - I saw the finish and realised that if I pegged it I might just be able to run in under 3:45:59 - the cut-off. So I pegged it - and I did. 3:45:46 according to the chip time that has been emailed to friends and family... I walked through the finish chute not knowing whether to laugh or to cry - I thought I had probably BQ'ed but I also had the worst race I've ever had. Very strange. As I walked out towards the exit - I had made no plans to meet with Sally or her husband as we had never planned not to finish together and I had left no luggage - I suddenly collapsed to the ground with calf cramps. It was like I had been shot in the calves and hurt like hell. Various runners who were lying on the grass around me resting after the race came to my rescue and as I lay on my back on the ground. 2 men very kindly stretched and pulled my feet until I could get up again. Not the most glamorous of positions to find yourself in but by that stage I was totally beyond caring. They helped me up and I thanked them and just carried on walking. I really can't describe how I felt - I wasn't happy or sad, just relieved that it was over. I picked up my free alcoholfree beer (hmmm - not what I would have asked for but it was fluid) and just ambled back to my hotel where I freed my luggage from storage and could finally contact Sally to tell her I was okay and at the hotel.

Again - I'll spare you the details of the blow-by-blow - showered, changed, airport, flight, airport, McDonalds, flight, drive, home. Where my husband was waiting, super excited as he was confident that I had Boston qualified (he'd gone straight onto the BAA website and checked for the times and seen the 59 seconds grace period note). Bad night's sleep - adrenalin finally kicking in? - and here I am on the day after. My legs are sore, my back is chafed from the one insole I did run round the course with (what was I thinking?) but otherwise, I'm intact..

So how do I think about this race? Was it a success? I went out to Boston qualify - a goal that seemed utterly unachievable 9 months ago and, bearing in mind that the results are not yet official, it looks like I have. Or was it a failure? I lost the plot. Something went wrong physically - nausea is not an unusual feeling but I had it very early on in the race, straight after having my gels (which I've used all summer). I may have had heatstroke - the shivering and goosebumps was very strange. Though again, I've run in far warmer conditions. But more than anything else, I wasn't feeling. Normally when I run a race I am just full of it. Annoyingly so. Grinning, positive, driven - all these things. In London I relentlessly pushed a pace I had not run before and carried this on right up until I absolutely could no longer do it. Here I gave up. I was feeling quite blah for the first bit, hanging on mentally for the next few miles and then I just gave up. I thoughts things like "I don't ever want to run again". And yet. And yet I also got up off my chair at the medical tent. And got myself back in there. Looking at my pace on the Garmin, that slow mile with the medical stop was followed by an 8:19 mile. Pace wise I didn't really slow down until mile 23 when I started running plus 9 minute miles. Did I go out too fast? I think so. Sally was gunning for 3:35, I was gunning for 3:40. I should have let her go. However, had I not swooshed through the first half so quickly, I would not have slipped under the 3:45:59 mark. And then - I wish I could have found whatever I found at the 41K mark just a bit sooner. That last half mile was run at an 8:04 pace..

Or was it just a case of a bad day? I've had those in training, but never in races. Will it happen again? I guess if I keep racing, probably it will. At some point.

More to the point - what now? I have submitted my application to the BAA. But the Berlin results, so far, are classed as inofficial and according to the kind lady at the SCC Real Berlin office I spoke to this morning it will be another week or two before they are confirmed as official. I can't really imagine my time changing - the time I have is a chip time recorded on their website and on all the status updates. But I only have 13 seconds to play with so I'm not celebrating yet..

I wish that I had been able to qualify more conclusively. If I had a 3:43 in the bag I wouldn't be so worried. I also wish I had run a better, more consistent race. On the other hand - who knows what will happen? I may not run this fast again, for whatever reason. If I get a place in Boston, I think I will take it.

Finally - do I run Bizz Johnson, for which I'm registered, in 20 days? Why would I run it? To get rid of this awful feeling that I somehow failed. To run 26.2 fairly consistent miles. To run a good race. Perhaps - to Boston qualify more conclusively. On the other hand - what if I have another bad day? What if I run a worse race?

You can sense where I'm at. All over the place. Not sure where to go or what to do. Send me some wisdom peeps - I know you have your thoughts and opinions and I would like to have them.

And finally finally - thank you all of you who sent me texts, emails and messages of support, commiseration and congratulation. You are incredible. Truly.

25 comments:

MarathonChris said...

Congrats on your BQ! Sorry I have been absent lately from Blogland....but your race report is fantastic...it gets right to the point - no fluff.

It is amazing you finished so well in spite of how you felt and the crowded start. You are amazing!!!

As for the other race - don't run it out of "guilt" that somehow you didn't run Berlin so well. Run it, perhaps, to enjoy it now that you have the BQ in the bag. Just a thought!

Paige said...

Wow Petra, good job! Am v. impressed and glad can keep up with you - have not seen you in so long :( Am looking in my TCM books trying to figure you out - come to uni for a full sesh and I can ask the profs!

nylisa said...

Tough race days are hard to handle as is, so I can imagine the gamut of feelings that came over you on this day. But here you are, and you made it! The very fact that you pulled yourself out of that chair goes to show you that you have it in you no matter what! Congratulations once again! Will be cheering you on for Boston!

marty said...

1. Your preparation was very good and you describe what seem to be fever-like symptoms, i.e. shivers/nauseous etc
2. You sat down at one point, but still managed to get yourself back out there
3.Your pre-race goal was to qualify for Boston. Despite 1 and 2 above, you did it.
4. Don't decide on whether or not to run Bizz Johnson. Gte some rest and some clarity around what you have just achieved.
5. The situation is actually quite good. Sometimes bad races teach us more about ourselves than the easy ones. You will be stronger for this.
6. See you in Boston :)

jen said...

Congratulations Petra on a hard-fought BQ.

I personally couldn't run two marathons so close together but many people do it. I say save your legs for Boston.

You did great out there this weekend. Rest up and recovery and enjoy your accomplishment. :) I'm so proud of you!

ShirleyPerly said...

CONGRATULATIONS, Petra!!!

I know it's not the way you wanted (does sound like you experienced some heat exhaustion symptoms) but you hung in there, finished the race and still met your BQ goal. Truly incredible!

Most large race results are not official for a short period of time in order to allow those who had timing issues to get them straightened out. Do not worry. You have BQ'd.

And as for Bizz, I would say if you've already signed up for it and are making the trip to California anyway, plan on running it purely for fun and to celebrate your BQ. I find esp. after a tough race that I need to run another one soon to rejuvenate my mind and spirit, to regain confidence and love for running. And Bizz sounds like the perfect place to do it with the beautiful forest and softer trail surface. Of course, the overarching factor should be how you feel by race day. So take care and do what you can to recover fast.

Susan said...

All over the place indeed!

I think it was just a bad day, and LOTS of US folks regrettably have them on race day.

I think if you get the confirmation that you're going to Beantown, you should bag the Bizz. Rest up - you deserve it.

Jim said...

Congratulations! Despite all the negative things that popped up you overcame them for your BQ. One of my favorite quotes is, "you have to make the mind run the body." You did that and "WON".

Great race report!

I attempt my BQ in 3 weeks. Hope to see you there!

fanatix said...

Congrats on finishing!

I'm in no position to give out advice, so I won't, but I can say that I'm amazed at how you push yourself. You are a true inspiration.

Maddy said...

Congratulations! You have BQed.

I'm so proud of you! You accomplished your goal!

As far as Bizz Johnson... If you're going to be in California anyway (which you are) and you're already registered (which you are) why not cruise through it for fun.

Celebrate your Berlin race and run Bizz.

jeanne said...

can we please pause for JUST A MOMENT and take stock of what you did yesterday???

WOMAN, YOU BQ'D!!! While having a crap race...and WALKING!!!!!

HOLY HOLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bizz? whatever! who cares?!!

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! take some time and revel!!!!

Road Warrior said...

Well, I know Boston has qualifying times, but I'm reasonably sure the race officials don't need it to be pretty for it to count. Who cares how you got there... the simple point is that you got there.

I see the CA marathon as a celebration of the amazing feat you accomplished. Enjoy the distance, don't go too crazy, and have fun w/ the people you're with. You didn't get to celebrate the Berlin marathon, so this will be a good race to celebrate--a victory lap!

EndorphinBuzz said...

Congrats on the BQ! You sure know how to finish a race :) Maybe whatever hit you is related to the quick travel?

I would run the other race since you already registered but feel free to take it easy and enjoy it. The way I understand a BQ is that it is valid for a period of time regardless of how bad you do in subsequent races, so your Berlin BQ should get you into Boston regardless of what happens next!

aron said...

congrats on the BQ!!! no matter how you look at it you still got there and thats the most important :) you did NOT give up, you are amazing!!!

I think if you are going to run Bizz just run for FUN... I ran SD 4 weeks after Eugene (which I felt was my worse race ever) and SD was my PW by a lot, but I totally gained back the love of the marathon by just running it with no expectations and helping out my friends. Be careful though, it does take a toll on your body.

CONGRATS again, you are amazing :)

Irish Blue said...

I think you know you've arrived as a runner when you can perform well at your absolute worst. Sounds like you've arrived to me.

Congrats on the BQ! If you decide to run the Bizz, I agree with the others, make it a celebration...no pressure...running just for the pure joy of it is good therapy. It will help you remember why you run at all.

Michael B said...

now this is just how crazy we runners are. you accomplished everything you went into berlin to do...but you're not happy about it because of a whole list of little glitches! petra...pat yourself on the back, celebrate, stop beating yourself up. you were GRAND! looking forward to further adventures.

Tara said...

Petra your race reports always give me goosebumps!!!!! CONGRATS! you fought hard and you did it!!! I sometimes this PR and especially a BQ are so much better when you fight hard and it doesn't go exactly as planned. If all races went smoothly and as planned I don't think we'd keep coming back for more :)

In terms of doing another marathon so close together I say take your time and just let this one soak in a bit before you make a decision.

CONGRATS again! Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks :)

Drusy said...

Wow, highs and lows.... Amazing that you BQ'd in the race you felt you failed in... isnt it ironic? (break into song here...) I think you've probably had a chance to reflect now and are probably feeling better about your performance. You've got to be feeling proud of your determination to keep at the race after seeking the medical tent. You've my admiration, but I hope you skive off the marathon and join us for a little 10k WWFOR!

peter said...

I think you have qualified for Boston, by a hairsbreadth. That's totally efficient although nervewracking, well done! Congrats, Petra!

Marathon Maritza said...

This is long overdue, since I have already emailed with you but it bears saying again.......CONGRATULATIONS!

I think Aron made a most excellent point. You did NOT give up. Those are the threads that you're made of, sister!

Emily said...

Hi there! Just responding to your comment - thanks so much! I am going to post on the wedding and upcoming race (yow!) very soon. I had so much fun with all of our mutual bloggers. I have to admit I've been a bad blog reader lately with all of the "stuff" happening lately so I need to catch up on your life!

Emily said...

Ok, wow on your 13 second BQ - i can't wait to hear when it becomes OFFICIAL!!!

lizzie lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lizzie lee said...

If you get a place in Boston, YOU TAKE IT.... You have no reason to feel like a failure. Petra... Don't be harsh to yourself...

My sincere congratulations. Focus on your BQ and on overcoming the obstacles at the beginning of the race.... Just think on how close a DNF was and still you got your BQ. That requires courage my friend.

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