Twenty-Six Miles through a Lake, Part I

Marathons are run come hell or high water.  Well, I got the latter.

The forecast I posted ten days prior of partly cloudly and 62 never happened.  The very next day the forecast changed to 50% chance of showers and only went up from there.  Even the night before the race, when the local weather man forecasted the rain to start an hour after the race start—even that delay didn’t happen.

This was my first race in the northwest and fate had decided it was going to be a quintessential experience, climate and all.  When we got to the lobby and looked out the front doors my heart sank.  Sheets of rain were dancing across the street.  A curtain of water was pouring over the awning.  We huddled under our one umbrella and went out into the downpour. 

As we walked the ten blocks to staging area, more and more runners joined the trek.  Some were carrying umbrellas, others wearing ponchos—several pragmatic ones were wearing garbage bags.  I thought the garbage bag was a good idea: the jacket I was wearing was no match for the elements, one minute out from under the umbrella and I’d be soaked.

A block away from the starting area we ducked out of the crowd and into a covered area in front of a building.  It was still very dark, the rain and clouds prevented any light.  I went through my stretches while I was still mostly dry and had the space.  I started eating an apple, but knew that I probably didn’t have quite enough food inside of me.  For the previous 72 hours I had been a nervous wreck between staying up late to pack, squeezing a ten hour work day into seven, taking a transcontinental flight, all mixed with the anxiety that comes with a Marathon.  And when I get stressed, I don’t eat—my stomach just locks up, to the point that the day before I had to force myself to eat lunch and dinner because I just didn’t have an appetite.

Even while eating the apple, I could feel my body saying “I don’t want this.”  Getting down two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches earlier that morning was already a major effort.  But I forced myself to eat as much as possible of the apple as you can see here in the moments before I entered the starting corrals:

Note: when I said “human baggage” I actually meant the people accompanying the runners (like Wifey was accompanying me) not their actual personal effects.

It doesn’t come out so well in the video but I was mentally stuck between “I don’t want to run in the rain,” “I don’t want to be on camera,” “where is the nearest port-o-potty,” and “how much more of this apple can I take?”  The surroundings were equally discordant: runners trying to stay dry under ledges, a giant crowd of runners trying to get through one gate in the fence, marshals calling out directions, humming generators from the flood lights, the faint smell of port-o-potties.

I kissed my videographer goodbye and wiggled into the mob.

Once past the security fence I went immediately to the port-o-potty lines.  Geez, there are never enough of these.  Right before my turn to go in I decided to go for quick 30 second jog around an empty area of the start.  When I hopped back in line I was ready to, um, go.

After the pitch black port-o-potty there was about 10 minutes left before the start of the race.  I went over to my starting corral.  Not sure how, but somehow I was placed in the second corral just behind the elites/really fast people.  I found a dry spot off to the side under a tree and waited. 

At this point the rain had gone from downpour to drizzle to almost gone back to drizzle.  I just accepted the fact that I was going to have to run in the rain for this race and that I would be very wet.  I thought of the previous times that I had run in the rain and nothing bad happened then—I was just running wet.  And then I realized: I left my water bottle with Wifey.  I had meant to grab it when I grabbed the apple, but didn’t.  I scanned the crowd near the fence to spot her umbrella, but no luck.  And with only minutes before the start I couldn’t step out and find her.

I hadn’t run a race without a water bottle in years.  And I had run all my other Marathons with a water bottle.  Funny, it was going to be my wettest race ever, but my first without a water bottle.

As they sounded the wheelchair start I went over my basic game plan: get down to an 8:24 pace as quickly as possible and then hold it for as long as possible.  That pace would get me a 3:40 finish.  I also remembered to turn on my Garmin.

After the horn sounded for the runner start I figured that all the corrals would be released at once.  But when my corral (B) shifted to where corral A was they held us back.  Not only had they corralled runners according to pace, but they were spacing apart the corral releases by about a minute.  Something I think was very smart.

In the seconds before they released my corral I looked at my Garmin, it still hadn’t registered a GPS signal.  Uh oh.  It was taking longer than it should to get the signal, probably because of the weather and tall buildings surrounding the start.  So I assumed I would have some choppy splits for the first couple miles: one more atypical thing to juggle during this race. 

And then they counted down for our start:

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