Saturday, October 14, 2017

Another Heart Break {Berlin Marathon: Race Recap}...


Race morning started like any other. Early. The night before I'd implemented my usual multi-alarm system to ensure I didn't oversleep...

But between race nerves and an early night I was up well before that...

We were staying at a hotel that was filled with runners and had a free breakfast option so once everyone was ready we grabbed a quick bite to eat...
(↑↑breakfast of champions↑↑)

And then took some "before we head into the cold wet weather" pictures in the hotel lobby...
(↑↑Me with my parents and Kai↑↑)

Berlin has an amazing transportation system (which is only one of the really great things about the city) so it didn't take us long to get to the station closest to the start corrals. As we were walking towards the entrance to the corrals runners were all around... 

The excitement in the air was starting to get palpable and I was starting to get more nervous. The moment I would take on my third Marathon Major was here! And in a city so beautiful and rich with culture... it was an unbelievable feeling.

On the way we saw remnants of the Wall so I stopped and took a few pics...

And then we continued on our journey. It was a pretty decent walk to the start. Runners who opted for gear check eventually went in one direction and others (like me) who opted for the poncho were sent in a different direction. And then there was more walking.

And still a bit more walking.

Until we finally made it to the start...

That's where I parted ways with my parents and Kai... 

And went to Corral H (after a quick visit to the porta potty)...

The Corrals had screens so we could see the elite athletes at the beginning of their attempt to break some records...

Which made the wait for the Corrals to start tolerable. Plus, someone left their blanket behind so I took advantage of that and sat down while we waited... 

Finally we started and I have to say the excitement reminded me of how I felt in Chicago. It was pretty incredible. I was able to catch a glimpse of my mom and Kai in the Grand Stand cheering area at the start, which added to my excitement as well. 

My strategy for the race was to stick to the right side of the course, get beyond the crowd at the start, and then start my intervals. I figured that I would start to slow down during the second half of the race so I wanted to run the first half under 3 hours. I already knew the points where my family was going to try to be along the course (we mapped it out the day before) and I was prepared to run the first 7K without seeing them. So I decided to take in the sites...

After the 5K mark (and first water station) we runners had to carefully maneuver through the increasingly wet streets...

I continued to take pictures along the course (which I'll post throughout) but for the life of me I can't remember where along the course most of them were taken. When I saw a nice building or something that looked like it would be "symbolic" of Berlin I just stepped off to the side and snapped a pic. Normally I try and remember the mile marker (or I guess in this case the Km marker) so that I can explain more about what that aspect of the course was like; but this time I really don't have that reference (sorry guys) so a few of the pics may be out of sync.

I do remember that just beyond the 7K mark I started to feel some blisters popping up, but it wasn't horrible. Yet. That's also the point where I saw my parents and Kai for the first time since I started...

While I was able to take off my gloves at that point, it was still too cold to take off my long sleeve running top... but too hot to need full sleeve coverage. I tried to keep the sleeves 3/4 way up but between the rain and sweat the top was soaked and I was only partially successful in finding the right balance. Oh well, that was, as I would soon find out, the least of my worries along the course.

I left my first family meet up and continued on. I wasn't going to see them again until just around the 21K mark so I had some more time to distract myself with taking pictures along the route. I was paying close attention to my pace because I knew I would be cutting it close toward the latter part of the race, but so far my pace was ok. I was on target to finish well before the cut off and even though my blisters were getting worse, I wasn't in any significant pain. 

Somewhere between 7K (or the start) and 21K (and maybe a little bit beyond that) I took these...

I (briefly) contemplated researching what these buildings are and confirming where along the course they exist but then I thought "Well, suppose someone reading the blog gets curious by not knowing and uses that curiosity as the platform to enter the Berlin Marathon, train hard for it, save up enough money, and go to run Berlin to find out for themselves? I wouldn't want to take that away from them would I?" I decided I didn't and therefore no additional research and confirmation was done (you're welcome).

After a while seeing the city was less and less thrilling as my fatigue got more and more intense. My blisters were getting much worse and my legs were getting really tired. I distracted myself by counting down the Km markers until it was time to see my family. My Mom took pictures while Kai searched for my MaxFreeze spray (which I applied quickly before moving on) and my Dad sang...

Then I was off for another long stretch of running before the final family meet up. I was already really tired by this point. Gradually my legs felt like they were on fire and my pace really started to slow. And then there was Mile 21. 

Sigh. I don't even know where to start... At Mile 21 my left knee felt like it was going to explode. I don't know what I did. I don't know if I landed wrong. I don't remember a sudden sharp pain. I don't remember feeling something pull. I do remember that I could no longer land on it without pain, I realized I still had 7K to go, and when I tried to reach my Mom and Kai on their phones I could not get through.

I was in pain and I was in trouble. So I messaged my twin sister...

By the time I got to my parents and Kai I had slowed down so much that I was in serious danger of not making the cutoff. They didn't have Advil but they had my MaxFreeze spray so I soaked my knee in as much of it as possible...

And then, while I anxiously checked my pace, I made my way under the arch that was deflating as rapidly as my Berlin dreams were...

My Dad suggested that I take the spray with me so Kai graciously ran after me so I could carry it in case I needed it later on (since I wasn't going to see them again until after I finished). I took the spray and kept on going and tried not to cry. I knew crying would lead to me gasping for air and I was already out of breath. My lungs couldn't handle any additional work so I really tried to stay calm. But I cried for a bit anyway. 

The trek from 35K to 40K was the longest 5K of my life. It seemed like it would never end and I spent most of it walking with my MaxFreeze in hand...

Eventually I saw the Brandenburg Gate and I knew the end was near. I was in so much pain that I couldn't even muster up the energy to smile (or open my eyes)...

And then once I passed Brandenburg I realized that the end was not quite as "near" as I had hoped. I still had another Km or so to go...

Shortly after MarathonFoto took that picture I looked at my watch and saw that I had passed the finish time I wanted. I was devastated. It took everything out of me not to break down in tears again. I was running as much as I could to make it to the finish in as little time as possible but I knew that the finish would be bittersweet. Once I was done, I called Sanya in tears again for the second marathon in a row. 

Why do I do this to myself?

It's a question that I asked myself repeatedly during those last miles of the course. I'm pretty sure that question popped up during my training as well. And I continued to ask it for several days after the race. 

I finished and I was really happy about that...
...but it wasn't the finish that I wanted so my heart was still a little broken in the end. 

Although I didn't meet my goal for Berlin, this race is definitely one worth doing. It was a beautiful course! The crowd support was awesome!! And the city is so incredible!!! It's a Bucket List marathon for sure! And whether or not you want to do the World Marathon Majors, Berlin is a "must do" event.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reloading...

I took a full two weeks off after the Berlin Marathon. I didn't even go to the gym so it was the epitome of a "break" from training. I haven't posted my recap yet (I'm working on it) so I won't go into all the details of my need for a full 2 weeks off... but let's just say that it was well needed and I enjoyed my period of rest.

This week is the start of something new...

I'm restarting training this week (so far I've only done one 2 mile run but I'm supposed to run again tomorrow) and easing my way back into full training mode. I've cancelled some of the races I had on the calendar for the rest of the year (i.e. 2 half marathons deferred to next year). And I registered for a shorter race (Hot Chocolate 15K in December) so that I can continue to train but keep my mileage low for now. I'm still running Ragnar (next month) and I was supposed to have low mileage for that race also but we are missing a runner so I may have to pick up a 4th leg that's about 9 miles long. So right now I'm just focusing on getting everything ready for Ragnar (training and otherwise) and then I'll concentrate on my 15K. One race at a time right?

The big news from the past two weeks is that I didn't get in to the London Marathon lottery (which isn't a surprise but still ever so slightly disappointing) so I decided to take advantage of a relatively quiet Spring running calendar and register for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May... 
I know a few fellow runners in Pittsburgh so I'm excited about the trip and I'm hoping that doing a Spring marathon next (instead of another Fall one) will turn around my current increasing marathon finish time streak. 

In other news, I received new wall art today...

I spent some time rearranging my medal wall to show case my marathon majors a bit more...

Just three more Majors to go!!!

How much time off do you take after a marathon/half?

Do you prefer Spring or Fall races?

What do you treat yourself to after a major race? (I buy "wall art")