Some time around this point Cindy and I ran up against racing commandments 7 & 8: Thou shalt take from the end of the water line and Thou shalt not throw your cups on the ground.
At the water stops you will either find people standing in a line holding cups out, or cups lined up along a table ledge ready to grab. Especially, if you are a less experienced runner and take a little extra time to grab a cup, grab the very last cup on the far end. This way you do not slow down the line and make other runners wait behind you to get water. If you grab the farthest cup, you leave all the cups behind you available for the runners behind you also.
At every water stop there were multiple trash cans lined up after the stop so you could toss your cups when you were done. It is very important not to throw your cups on the road. If they are wax cups, it makes the road slick and runners can fall when they hit a waxy spot. If they are of the plastic variety they can also be slipped on.
At this particular stop there were TWO rows of trash cans down the middle of the course. So when the lady in front of us threw her cup on the ground Cindy exclaimed, “Hey, you’re not some hot shit elite runner that can throw your cup on the ground!”
I clipped back, “You’re right, if she was a hot shit runner she’d be able to make it in the trash can!”
The rain was getting heavier as we went and the air was getting colder. It took me a long time to realize the reason I was tiring out so much faster on this run than any of the training runs. First, it was a damn hilly course! Second, the cold sucks up your energy. When you are chilled, your body has to work harder to keep your core temp where it needs to be. Which zaps energy.
The cold has another sinister effect: it makes your muscles cramp.
Each step was getting more and more painful. Cindy looked over at me once and said, “You look like you’re in pain!”
I replied, “I am!”
There were TNT coaches strung along the whole course. There were from teams all over america (and Canada). Their job was to watch the runners and help anyone who asked for help or looked like they needed it.
After mile 16 I noticed the coaches started to run up to me and ask, “How you doing? How you doing?” They didn’t give Cindy the time of day. They could tell she was hanging strong. :)
I had this unreasonable fear that a coach would try to pull me off the course. Stupid I know. But every time I saw a coach up ahead, I’d smile and try to say something ‘happy’ to them so they wouldn’t think I was hurting.
Coaches will not pull you off the course because you are in pain. Pain if often a part of endurance sports and I already knew this. I expected to have to manage pain on the marathon. I was just really hoping not to have to deal with it until well after the 20 mile mark.
By mile 19 I knew I was going to have to ditch our 9:1 run:walk ratio for a lot more walking. It was time to have ‘the talk’ with Cindy.
Cindy my running partner is a much stronger runner than me. She runs a lot faster. Yet each training run we were both at she always ran with me at my pace. I never understood why she’d run with me when she could clear the courses so much faster. I didn’t mind at all. I always loved to run with her. My only concern was that she might not ‘ditch’ me in the marathon if we got to the point where she needed to.
In endurance sports, there comes a point where you and your partner have to split and finish the course separately. The only two times you wouldn’t do this is 1) if you made a pact to finish together or 2) if you can tell your partner will not make it in alive unless you drag them in. In that #2: “you never leave a [wo]man behind!!!!”
Cindy and I made no such pact. But since she had never left me during training I was worried she wouldn’t take off here either. I was convinced she needed to. She was tired and sore too. But she was in much better shape than I was. I knew she could go much faster and get off her feet sooner.
Racing Commandment #9: Know when to ‘stick’ or ‘Kick’
She had never ran a race before. To my knowledge she had no endurance sport experience before taking on the marathon training. Also, I don’t think she knew how much experience with endurance sports I’ve had. I had completed a century ride and several metrics and halves. I knew what I had to do to make it to the finish line. But I didn’t know if she was as confident in my ability. Besides, it was obvious I was in a lot of pain now.
“Cindy,” I said just as we passed mile 19, “We need to have a frank discussion.”
“Ok, let’s have a frank discussion,” Cindy replied.
“I can tell I’m going to have to walk a lot more coming up. If I were you, I’d ditch me. You can get in much faster than I can.”
“I know you’re fine. But I am making it in. I have no doubt.”
“I know you’re making it in.” She said.
“I’m finishing even if you have to go on. I don’t want you to hang back with me because you’re afraid I won’t finish if you go on without me.”
“Oh I know you’re finishing this!” Cindy said this with so much conviction it took me back for a second.
“Good. So promise me you’ll take off when you need to because I’m going to have to start walking more.”
“I’m fine,” she said, “If I want to take off I will. But for now I’m fine like this.”
“Ok. As long as you promise me.” I was going to be pissed if she didn’t ditch me when she should.
That conversation ended at mile 19.5.
At the rest stop at mile 20 Cindy turned to me and said, “Ok, I’m taking off. See you at the finish!”
We gave each other a hug and off she went. I was so proud of her! I really was worried she wouldn’t leave me behind and miss her chance to run HER race. Now I could run MY race too. I couldn’t wait to find out when she came in.
But here at mile 20, I had to figure out what my race was going to look like from here on out.