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This is gonna be a long one, folks, so bear with me. TL/DR: The race was cancelled at the four hour mark and I didn’t finish. You can also read my “just the facts” BibRave review minus all of my emotional baggage by clicking here.
I hit up the Sports and Fitness Expo on Friday around 4pm, and it was quite busy Still, though, getting my packet and t-shirt was very easy. Lots of local vendors and anything you could possibly need to purchase last minute–Body Glide, Gu’s, Shot Blocs, socks etc. Volunteers were encouraging runners to hydrate well, because conditions were expected to be very hot and humid. RunVermont had actually been very communicative all week regarding race day conditions, and had added extra aid stations, ice stations, misting stations, and encouraged residents of Burlington to pitch in and spray runners with hoses and sprinklers. I wandered around the expo for a while, but the only purchase I made was a #FueledbyDonuts tank top from the Montclair Bread Company.
After that I had a ladies’ night at Outback with some girlfriends for a much-needed drinks and chat session, and then I went home and chilled out for a while before an early bedtime. Saturday morning I had my shakeout run and yoga session with Athleta, then spent the day getting all of my gear together, and sitting on my butt. I was in bed, lights out by 9:45.
I woke up on my own at 5:10 am, then proceeded to just lay in bed until my alarm went off at 5:30. I had my bagel with cream cheese, plus 16 oz of watered down Gatorade. I proceeded to sip more water while I got ready, then got in the car at 7 am to find parking downtown. I parked at the corner of King Street and St. Paul, because that lot is my personal favorite lot, and because parking is free on Sundays, I didn’t have to worry about feeding the meters.
I walked slowly over to the start area in Battery Park, checked my bag, and used a porta-potty. I met up with my dad about 15 minutes before the start, chatted, took some pictures, and then got into the corral with the 5 hour pace group. Temps were already in the 70’s at 8 am, and we already had yellow flag (moderate health risk) conditions. We had been told that if conditions reached black flag (extreme health risk), the race would be cancelled.
I spent the first 3 miles grinning like an idiot. I was taking my time, focusing on not going out too fast, and just trying to enjoy my first marathon. The crowd support through the downtown area is insane. Thousands of spectators cheering, ringing cowbells, waving signs, and just being so encouraging. After the first loop through downtown, we headed out onto the Beltline.
I had been warned in advance that this stretch is the toughest part of the marathon, and it’s absolutely true. It’s a long out and back on a closed highway, totally exposed to the sun. It was on the Beltline, at around mile 5.5, that I had to start using run/walk intervals, and where I started to realize that this was going to be a hell of a lot harder than I thought. There was an aid station at mile 5.5ish that was already struggling to keep up with the demand for water and Gatorade. There weren’t any cups ready to go, so runners were having to stop and wait. There was also a sign indicating red flag (high health risk) conditions. I plugged along, trying not to push too hard, and finally made it to the turnaround and headed back. By the time I reached the aid station again (mile 6.5ish), they were completely out of water and Gatorade. Completely. Out. Thankfully, I had my OrangeMud VP with Nuun in the bottle, but not everyone had brought their own hydration, and people were NOT happy.
Finally, the Beltline ended and we ran back through downtown. My dad was waiting to take pictures and cheer me on, and I thought that surely I must be out of the woods now that the Beltline was over. WRONG! My strugglebus was just starting to rev its engine. The heat was already getting to me, and I felt awful. I couldn’t keep up with my 10:1 intervals, and just started walking whenever I felt like it. I had a huge group of my Lyric Theatre friends cheering on Pine Street (mile 9ish), which was a great boost, but I was already doubting my ability to finish. It was so damn hot and I felt sick. Ben was waiting for me at the end of Pine Street, and I told him how shitty I was feeling. He encouraged me to keep going, but not to do anything that was going to end up with me hurt or sick.
A half mile or so later, I ran into my friend Erik on his motorcycle. He was ferrying around a course photographer, so I stopped for a hug and a little encouragement. I was barely running, and seriously considering quitting at the halfway point. We were running through a nice residential area, and people were spraying us with hoses, which was SO NICE. I got an orange slice and some pretzels, which really helped me feel a bit better, and I don’t even like oranges. I made it through the halfway point at Oakledge Park, and decided that come hell or high water, I was finishing this damn marathon.
I was walking at least as much as I was running, but I was still moving, and that was all I cared about. I made it back to Pine Street, passed my friends again, and just focused on moving as much as I could. Mile 15 is the “Assault on Battery,” Vermont’s own Heartbreak Hill. Some friends were there, plus my dad and sister, who brought water for me to refill my OM bottle, and Ben was there too. I power-walked up the hill, and then continued alternating running and walking as much as I could out North Ave.
At around mile 17, I turned into a neighborhood called Lakewood Estates, and can I just tell you that this neighborhood is magical? Almost every house had some kind of unofficial support–hoses, sprinklers, music, ice, water, even a few live bands. There were all kinds of people giving out high fives and shouting encouragement. It was amazing, and I started to feel better. The sun had gone behind some clouds, and I was sure that I was going to finish.
I got back out onto North Ave for a bit, then turned down Leddy Ave, walking and running as much as I could. There were volunteers handing out potato chips, pretzels, and orange slices, so I grabbed some chips and an orange slice for some salt and natural sugar, and then all of a sudden there was a guy on a bullhorn. “I just received word that the race has been cancelled due to extreme conditions. Please proceed to the next official aid station for instructions.” I was in shock. Surely this was a mistake. A bad joke. Not reality.
I ran down the hill into the Leddy Park parking lot and there was a volunteer at the aid station confirming what I’d heard. Extreme conditions. Race cancelled. No more timing. No more water stations. We won’t stop you from finishing, but we highly discourage it. Busses are coming to take you to the finish. Everyone gets a medal. I just stood there dumbly. I texted my dad and sister–yeah, they’d heard. I texted Ben, my mom, Coach Suz, Team Can-Am… I was in a daze. Coach Suz asked if I was going to continue, and I honestly thought about it, but knew there was no way I could finish without more water stations. And suddenly, I was mad. The volunteer who was announcing that the race was over was kind of a dick, to be honest. No apologies. No sympathy. Just trying to get people to stop. I know it was for everyone’s good, but I think that particular volunteer handled it poorly. He was yelling that water was “shut off,” even though there was a table full of water right behind him. Another volunteer saw me standing there, and asked if I wanted some ice. He gave me a full cup of ice and I stood there chewing on it and just trying to process what was happening.
We had to walk about a 1/2 mile back up to North Ave to catch the shuttle buses, and then the final indignity was that the bus I was on dropped us off at least a half mile from the finish area, and we didn’t receive any instructions about where to go to get our medals. Meanwhile race volunteers had told my family that I would be dropped off over at the Echo Center, almost a mile away from where I was actually dropped off. Apparently, because I was on the first bus, they hadn’t figured things out yet. I hobbled to the waterfront, and the finish line was still open, right there. People were still cheering and runners were still crossing the finish line and I just felt so numb.
I found my family and got my medal and left the area as soon as I could. I was pretty much in shock until I started to write this recap on Monday. And then I just burst into tears while typing this up because I can’t fucking believe this happened. I have also heard from numerous people that what I was told was misinformation–there were still water stations, chip times were still being recorded (even though “official” results would not be honored), and the finish line stayed open. So it seems that I could have continued, but I just gave up. Apparently lots of runners finished after the race was “cancelled.” They finished in spite of the course being “closed” and in spite of the conditions. And I feel like a failure.
So now I don’t really know what’s next. On the one hand, I feel sort of like I’m “supposed” to run out and find a redemption race because otherwise all of this training was just a waste of time. But on the other hand, I don’t know if I can put myself through this again. I had to fight for every single step on Sunday, and who’s to say that the next marathon will have better conditions? It’s summer. Any race day between now and October could end up with high temps and misery. And there’s also the financial aspect. Signing up for another marathon is gonna cost probably at least $100, plus travel and accommodations, and I really can’t afford that right now. I’ve talked about it with Coach Suz some, but I still don’t know.
Needless to say, this is not the recap I had hoped to write, and this race was not the experience I’d hoped for. I still kind of feel like I’m in shock.. I feel like I’m some stupid, overly emotional crybaby because I’m letting this get to me so much. I’m tired of thinking about it. Tired of trying to analyze it. Tired of talking about it.
How do you pick yourself up after a terrible, horrible, no good very bad race?