And we are off – sort of. Although I was only 20 meters from the start line where the transponder chip attached to my running shoe registers my start time, it took me 37 seconds to get there, more than the 23 seconds it took me to cross the mats at the Chicago marathon. So there you have it, the distinction between “gun” time and “chip time”.
Concerns going into the race; would my heart rate watch behave, would the hitherto unknown sports drink Ultima throw off my usual routine of marathon beverage consumption, would I be able to read my pace tattoos with my rapidly deteriorating middle-aged vision and would I experience foot cramps which I’ve had bouts of recently.
Following the advice of the three, 27 time-CIM-runners I took the significant downhill in the first mile very easy. I was relieved to see my heart rate register on my watch as the night before I realized that I had brought the more complicated watch of the two I own, the one that I don’t really know how to operate. I had frantically downloaded the manual and spent much time pressing this button and that, each press triggering a high-pitched beep, to my husband’s dismay as he quietly read. Together we were able to get the watch into a mode that would display both the heart rate and elapsed time.
I missed the one mile marker but was running around 8:25 pace at the two mile mark and it felt quite easy. I noticed some runners stop at porta potties and realized that I too, had to pee. Canadian masters legend Diane Palmason suggests that you should drink continually up until an hour before a marathon. And then, have another drink 10 minutes before the marathon. I had forgotten this and so I spent the next 8 miles in search of a porta potty with no line-up or a some sort of private spot a little forest or such. In spite of this slight discomfort the pace was very comfortable as I ran with my heart rate from 140-145. At this point I had no trouble keeping my heart rate under 145. What was interesting is that a few times my heart rate went down to 135 a lapse of concentration perhaps.
The weather was turning out to be perfect. I had tossed my hat at the one mile point and knew that it would not be long until I would feel the need to take off my vest. That would be a complicated maneuver as my race number was pinned to the front. But, first I had to find a pit stop. Shortly after mile ten we went by an industrial park which had a freestanding brick wall as part of the landscaping. I had no choice but to quickly and discreetly duck behind this makeshift porta potty. Ahem, well on the subject of TMI my husband overheard the following conversation on marathon day. A woman was explaining to her male companion how she had made a pit stop but that her muscles were very tight and she could only pee very slowly. The lack of modesty shown by long distance runners in discussing these matters has something in common with the intense physical rigours of childbirth and the willingness of participants to discuss the details thereof.
The logistics of removing my vest while running loomed. I relaxed into the race for a couple of miles and then tackled undoing the four safety pins holding the race bib in place and redoing these same pins to attach the race bib to my shorts. Then I removed the vest and tried unsuccessfully to tie it around my waist. There was not enough length to do this. So I put placed the vest around my waist and fastened the lower part of the zipper so it encircled me. Then I twisted and twirled the vest so that it fit snugly around my waist. You may ask would it not have been easier to just stop. Well, as I write this I wonder too.
I ran the rest of the race in my short,shorts and sports bra, a racing outfit that my son used to refer to as a bathing suit. Consider the embarrassment of teenager who has a mother who has raced down Yonge street in her bathing suit. Now that I’m closer to 60 than 50, I do not feel inclined to expose so much of my body and avoid this “bathing suit” look when at all possible. However, such were the weather conditions on this day and with all that training on the line, the seconds gained by cooler body temperature won out over vanity and dignity.
As for the race tattoos. I should have given more thought to their placement as they were virtually unreadable in spite of pulling my skin this way and that. Bottom line, print too small for middle-aged eyes. I should have stuck to my old method.
So the first half passed with much distraction. My time for those 13.1 miles / 21.1 km was 1:48:19. It felt great to be able to finally focus on the race. And as they say for the marathon, the race really begins at mile 20.