A dose of over confidence and a below average course led to a 4:23:16 finish of the Cox Providence Rhode race.
This feeling of over-confidence set in early in March when I set a new PR at the Hyannis half Marathon. It was also from the fact that my heart rate was consistently below 55 until mid-April. I was also discounting all the injuries that I was recovering from. I was discounting them because extended rest was helping me with the healing process. I was feeling good going into this race.
In the month of March, I was regularly able to sprint and sustain an above average pace for an extended period of time. I had also found a solution for my sweat induced cramping which typically affected me around the 23rd mile. I was also more experienced running a marathon. All the variables were stacking up very well for me. My confidence was very high.
Cox Providence Rhode race markets itself as a relatively flat marathon. Technically, they are correct as the hills balance themselves out since every uphill has an equal downhill. These hills also strike a runner early in the race and then again during the end of the race.
Cox Providence Rhode race was set to start at 7:30am on May 4th.
On May 4th, I got up at 4:45am. My heartbeat was 64. It had been trending up recently since I had not been running in the weeks leading up to the marathon. 64 is the highest heartbeat I had seen in a while. This was not a good sign.
I made myself two big pancakes. I finished them quickly. I was on the road at 5:20. I entered Providence area at around 6:30. I parked my car and walked to the Rhode Island Convention Center for the expo to get my Bib. It turned out that this race had more people registered to run than the race officials had predicted. They gave me a generic Bib instead of the official Cox Providence Blue color Bib The race official even recommended marking my BIB to indicate that I was running a full marathon.
I was pretty disappointed with the expo already and just said "no" to him. The expo was not organized well as it was not easy to figure out where every thing was. Since I came late to the expo, they also ran out of GU Roctane. So I settled with regular GU.
The starting area was well organized and the usual crowds of runners were around me. I love this part of the race. The energy at this time of the race is at a very different level. People are oozing with energy and everyone wants to exhaust themselves. Everyone wants to take him or herself to the next level. Every one knows what is ahead of them. Every one knows that in less than 5 hours; they are going to be drained out of energy, both physically and mentally. But soon after that exhaustion, their body and mind would feel a type of calm that was undescribable.. I was looking forward to the same.
I quickly went for a warm up run. I jogged a half a mile to get my legs ready for the run. Per advise from my physical therapist, I had not run for more than 2 weeks. This rest was to let my hamstring muscles and piriformis muscle recover from its injuries.
During this warm up, my hamstring muscles played nicely with me but my piriformis muscle started acting up. It was tight. This was not a good sign. I decided to give it a shot anyways with the hope that it would loosen up during the race.
I joined the crowd again at around 7:25am. The official photographers were busy taking pictures while the race director was doing a great job of keeping the runners excited. We had to wait for security to give us the "clear" signal.
I was in a calm state of mind and ready for the mayhem that was about to ensue. The crowd was gathering up. The crowd seemed to be made up of friends and family members of the runners. I was looking at the curiosity on their faces and listening to my "100 miles" playlist which started off nicely.
The race started at around 7:40am. My legs were in it and my mind was in it. I started out with an 8:28 pace and I was feeling good. My piriformis was tight but I was hopeful. There were cameramen at almost every mile in the beginning of the race and were snapping up pictures. This is the first marathon that I have participated in, where we were going to get all our pictures for free. This was a nice perk.
The first few miles of the race were nice as we were running closer to the Providence downtown area but it quickly became a route full of pot-holes, turns, hill-climbs, down-hills, run down neighborhoods and a lot of car traffic around us. It didn't feel like a medium-big size marathon. It felt like a small marathon in a city that did not understand what running is all about.
At around the 8th mile, we were running in what felt like suburbs of Providence. In all of my previous marathons, whenever we ran through a suburban neighborhood, I enjoyed the crowd, which usually made up of kids high-fiving or adults that were enjoying the race and supporting the runners. In this marathon, I rarely saw any one outside of their house. Every one was either at work or at Church. I felt as if no one was outside to support the runners. There were volunteers, friends or family members of the runners scattered around the race path with usual signs. No one else in Providence seemed to know that his or her city is hosting a marathon.
At around the 10 mile, I started feeling tired and my piriformis muscle started to get tighter. I took a salt capsule and opened up a GU packet. Within 15 minutes, I was good again. But I knew that I was in trouble. This is when I realized that I was not ready to run this marathon. During my training, I had run several steep hills and the last long run was a hilly 17 miles. But that was more than 3 weeks ago. I had not run in the weeks leading up to this marathon and my body quickly forgot how to run long distances.
This race became a test of mental toughness and not physical preparedness. My body was giving up fast after 10 miles and I knew that I was going to run this race from experience and mental strength.
Miles 15-21 is run on a bike path. Some parts of the bike path go through high-wind areas. There were times, when I had trouble running as I was being swept off my feet while running through it. The wind was always against me and never in my favor.
I was not enjoying this race.
The bike path ends with non-stop hills that don't end until the last mile. I was already very tired and physically exhausted. My mind was running this race. Those hills did not do me any favor. The hill at the 23rd mile was the worst of them all. It was a very steep 50 feet climb and the sun was directly on me. That hill took away any energy I had remaining from my body. After this hill. I couldn't wait for the next aid stop. As soon as I reached it, I started gulping down Gatorade to get my energy level back up.
I was now at the 26th mile and had 0.2 miles to go. I kept running and looking for the finish area. I made my final turn and saw the finish area lined up with the crowd. At that moment, I put everything on the line and used any remaining energy to cross the finish line. I could feel my legs cramping but the cramping was not strong enough to stop me from crossing the finish line. As soon I crossed the finish line, I had trouble stopping, as my legs were hurting. I somehow came to a stop and went for my medal.
This medal has special meaning to me. I have run 5 races before this marathon. In each of my previous marathon, I did not need to use my mental energy until the last few miles. This was the first marathon, where I ran more than 16 miles by countering my physical exhaustion with mental strength. This mental strength was a combination of my experience as a runner and the rigor that I have used in my training.
I am now running every day until my next race which is an Ultra marathon on May 27th. My goal is keep my energy level high and heartbeat at its lowest. I am getting nervous as I get closer to this Ultra marathon but I think this nervous energy is going to help me prepare for this next race. This nervous energy will not let me get over-confident.