Well, it's over. The big race is dunzo. It kicked off last night and I'm happy to say I finished, but it was not a pretty. I'm still trying to process all of the emotions from the night, so my apologies if this is a bit jumbled.
It's funny, because in all of the photos I took pre-race, I look like an idiot. I'm grinning from ear to ear. I'm all geared up with this goofy look on my face and my chest all puffed up. At the time, I thought I looked confident. Now, I realize I look like a puffed-up peacock. A preening peacock. I was overconfident and I didn't respect the race, and in end, I paid for it. (ow, it hurts to write that sentence).
And I'm still trying to figure out what went wrong. I have run 12 miles before - twice, in fact - and at no point did I walk. The first time I did 12, it hurt, but I finished and I had a good time. My second 12 miler was great - I flew through everything, it was at night, and when I finished, I literally hopped in my car and drove home like nothing had happened. I'm still trying to figure out why 13.1 almost broke me. But more on that later; here are the details.
First, I have never seen the Strip so chaotic. By the time we arrived, Mandalay Bay was a giant madhouse of runners, some dressed conservatively in spandex and gear, others in full-on Elvis costumes and tutus. I'm still not sure what drives people to wear such random stuff (do they train in it??), but it was a circus - literally - in there. Wall-to-wall people and not a lot of room to stretch out.
Since the weather was so chilly, we tried to stay indoors for as long as possible. This was a mistake. It was actually fairly warm outside due to the crush of bodies, but just trying to get to our corral was a nightmare. Courtney, Andrea, Serena and I were literally crawling over the bushes at the Four Seasons to get the front faster, but the thousands of bodies heading south was too much for us. We ducked, wove, and pushed, and just barely got to Corral #4 (Courtney) and Corral #3 (me, Andrea and Serena) on time. The gun had no sooner gone off than I stepped on the back of Serena's shoe and she immediately attempted to go to the side of the road without being trampled to put it back on. Whoops.
The first few miles were okay. Aside from getting elbowed from runners passing me, I felt okay. Energy was good, hydration felt good, but my pace was crazy fast. I think I was more afraid of not being trampled, so I was trying to keep up at 9-minute pace. Not good. Strike 1.
Around mile 3-4, I realized the water stations were too infrequent for my liking. I'm used to controlling my hydration, but I didn't have my belt. I had checked it at the last minute since I thought it would weigh me down. Instead, I was forced to recall the course map in my head, and I couldn't remember where the next station was coming up. With my Gu ready to go at miles 3, 6, and 9, I started to panic since I'm used to taking water with Gu. Gu without water is disgusting.
And as I'm heading north on the Strip, I couldn't help but notice the place doesn't smell so good. Maybe it was the runners or just a bad day for this great city I live in, but ugh. Icky. It was a strange combination of sewage, fast food, and cigar smoke. I swear I thought I was pregnant or something because the combination of those odors turned my stomach quickly.
By miles 5-6, we started weaving through the streets of downtown and the crush of bodies, though widening, was starting to make me motion sick. I don't know how else to describe it, but since we were going in and out of streets, you could see the mass of humanity on the street in front of you, and then all of the runners behind you. It was incredibly unnerving and I felt like one of those Australian rats that mow through cornfields. We were just this giant, gelatenious mass of human bodies moving at an incredibly fast clip. If the smells hadn't turned my stomach, the wall of people started to mess with my senses. Strike 3.
And that right there, was my undoing. The whole race was completely overstimulating. From the lights on the strips to the people dressed like Santa Claus and Batman, I felt like my brain was going to explode. It was like running with a swarm of locusts around your face. Considering how much I hate crowds - to the point that I won't attend concerts and will only go to minimally attended festivals - this was like my worst nightmare come to life.
And now let's talk about poop.
So remember when I posted that blog entry about running and poop? I believe I said, "Running is all about pooping." Truer words have never been spoken. Because aside from the motion sickness of being in a crush of people while running 9-minute miles with not enough water and too much Gu, I hadn't had a chance to er, use the restroom that day. I worried it would be a problem, but since nothing had happened (despite my 4 cups of coffee and double shot of espresso earlier in the day), I chalked it up to "Oh well, what are you going to do now?" and called it a day.
Bad, bad, bad move.
Around mile 9, after enduring two miles of watching my feet fight with each other (the slant of the road was causing my left foot to kick into my right ankle repeatedly, and at one point, I yelled down at them, "STOP FIGHTING!"), my stomach made the strangest noise. Well, I didn't hear it, but based on the motion in the tummy, I'm guessing it was a loud grumble. I started scanning the crowd for the nearest port-a-potty, but nothing.
My stomach started to cramp and my lower back ached. The mental strain of "OMG am I going to poop in my pants in the middle of 44,000 people in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard?" became so overwhelming, I then felt nauseous. I made a beeline for the flowers in the middle of strip and almost ralphed, but instead, crashed into a little tiny Asian man, whom I'm fairly confident I ruined his marathon dreams since I totally bowled him over. The shock of the impact made me forget about puking and right then and there, I gave up.
I started walking.
I just couldn't do it anymore. Pooping, vomiting, fighting feet, and this ridiculously overstimulating run had won. My brain was on overdrive and I seriously considered finding the medic's tent. But I didn't. I just put one foot in front of the other, and hobbled towards finish line. I watched about 100 people dressed as Elvis pass me. I watched a naked man pass me. A bunch of women with Christmas lights strung around them passed me. And then a guy with a broken leg passed me and I'm pretty sure I swore loudly at that point.
By mile 10, I felt better but realized I had never walked before. My toenails were slamming into the fronts of my shoes and if pooping, vomiting and all the other stuff weren't enough, I now started to worry about losing toenails.
So I started running again. And I'm not going to lie, I totally wanted to pass the broken leg guy. I mean, come on! Am I that slow??
Are you starting to get a glimpse into the craziness that this was? For someone who enjoys running for its quiet, therapeutic value, this was like a nightmare. Everything was going wrong. Nothing was going to plan. Walking hurt; running hurt more. My time was all screwed up and I wasn't sure if I was hot, cold, dehydrated, or overhydrated. I was a mess.
I missed the marker for mile 11, making me feel this race was never going to end. At this point, the cramping in my lower back was starting to remind me of back labor before the epidural, and this made me strangely emotional. So I started crying. From pain, from humiliation, from exhaustion, and for the sad fact that this was only MILE 11 and I couldn't find the dude with the broken leg. There were people out there doing 26.2, and I was having a breakdown at flippin' 11. Sad. So sad, so disappointing.
By the time I finished, I didn't even look at my time. My only thought going across the finish line was, "OMG there are more people on the other side!" More people than I've ever seen before. All I wanted to do was find my friends or my husband, and I couldn't. It sounds strange to say it, but I've never felt this alone despite being in a crowd of thousands.
With the giant floodlights lighting up the parking lot, I dutifully wrapped myself in my Zappos foil blanket, accepted some water and pretzels, and cried. I just wanted to find Brian. I was bummed about my time, bummed about the race, and so over being in the crowd of faceless bodies.
And just as I was about to give up, I heard my name from the sidelines and low and behold, it was my husband. He wrapped me in a giant hug and let me sob on his shoulder for awhile. He was awfully nice, considering he was probably thinking, "...and you paid to do this to yourself" but he didn't say it. He was held me tight and told me he was proud of me.
What happened next was not pretty. I am not proud.
I tried to walk, but the pain in my lower back was too great. By now, I had broken into a cold sweat, which made me nauseous, which in turn, made me want to find medical help. But what was a medic going to do? I started triaging the questions in my mind, and when we got to the pooping one, what was I going to say? "I'm sorry, cute firefighter, but this is really all about pooping." Hell no. I still had a tiny shred of dignity after all of this.
After hanging my head in a garbage can inside Mandalay Bay, I forced my way into the women's restroom. People took one look at me and parted the line, I'm not joking. I think the look of terror and pain on my face said it all.
And in five minutes, I felt a whole lot better.
I'm convinced that I had been running with concentrated evil in my colon for the past 13.1 miles. Once expelled, the world seemed like a rosier, more friendly place. I only wish that foulness would have unleashed itself pre-race, but oh well. I'm glad I wasn't dying and that I didn't go to the medic's tent for pooping-related issues. The horror.
I heard this morning from Courtney that while she was able to hold it together after the race, hell broke loose for her once she got home. There were your usual bathroom issues, but when she went to sit in the bath, she started vomiting uncontrollably - while still in the bath.
That must have really sucked.
She felt better today, but we both had the same question: "WHY DID WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES?"
People say racing is addictive. I'm not so sure about that. I think it's a lot like Motherhood - people give you a lot of credit for your effort and post cheerful, encouraging messages on your Facebook page, but no one really talks about the ugly side of it. The vomit, the poop, the pain, and the exhaustion. And maybe runners tend to forget about the bad stuff after the race and just bask in the glow of the finish, but as for me, I tend to write stuff down. So I don't forget.
But who knows. Right now, it's less about wanting to run another race but more analyzing what I did wrong with this one. I essentially broke all the running rules - I started to fast, I didn't have enough to eat beforehand, I didn't focus. Is it worth trying to correct my mistakes with a do-over half marathon in the future? I don't know.
Time will tell.
The Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Marathon is officially over. I still have all 10 toenails, along with a giant bruise on my right ankle, a lot of soreness in my knees, and a deep sadness for what I did to that bathroom in Mandalay Bay. But I finished!