I did a lot of things better than last time. I ran longer long runs during training. I had better gear. I made sure to adequately carbo-load. I rested and hydrated yesterday. I spent more time running in training. I got good sleep and didn't stress or worry about the race.
We got up this morning as planned, had my usual pre-race English muffin, got dressed, and caught a courtesy shuttle to the start line with my brother-in-law, who ran the marathon for the first time today. It was actually pretty cold this morning, which I thought would make for perfect race weather. I used the restroom before we left the hotel, but by the time we got through security I had to go again, so I got in the very long line. I had a nice conversation with some other runners waiting for the port-o-pottys. Half an hour later I rejoined my BIL in the last start corral and we worked our way up to the front.
Right away I noticed that there were a lot fewer people between us and the very end of the corral than there had been two years ago when start corrals weren't assigned and I got to pick my spot on race day. So right from the start things just didn't feel the same. Our wave started at 8am, and we actually crossed the start line at 8:24. It was still really cold at that point, which made deep breathing more difficult, especially at first.
Being so very close to the back of the pack made the race just feel different. There were fewer spectators for us, even at the beginning of the course, and there wasn't that feeling of getting caught up in the pack of runners. I was very much on pace for the first few miles. Kourt and my sister and my BIL's girlfriend were there to cheer us on right around the 1-mile mark. But by mile 3 I was already being tailed closely by the pace car.
I was still on pace at mile 5, but had to use the restroom again and desperately needed to deal with my runny nose and knew if I stopped, the pace car would pass me. Still, I'd have to stop at some point on the course and the port-o-potties at mile 5 didn't have a line of people so I stopped. When I got back on course the pace car was a couple of blocks ahead. I managed to catch up and pass it, but over the next few miles my pace started slipping. I don't know if it was the cold temperatures or if having the pace car on my heels was just too stressful, but I felt like I was pushing as hard as I could but still couldn't keep myself moving fast enough.
By mile 8 I was off pace by about 30 seconds per mile, and the pace car had passed me. I kept trying to catch up, but doing so took more effort than I knew I could maintain for another 16 miles. Soon the police car behind the pace car had passed me, then another, then trucks carrying orange cones. The aid stations were still handing out water and Gatorade, but they were breaking down tables and bagging trash when I passed. Every time an official vehicle passed me I got more frustrated. I watched my pace slow and by the time I got to mile 11 I knew I wouldn't be able to make up for the lost time, especially if they were going to continue breaking down aid stations. When I got to where our group was waiting just before mile 12, I'd decided to stop. Kourt walked with me until almost halfway, and I called it a day.
I don't know exactly why I couldn't do today what I'd done in training. Maybe it was the temperature, maybe I did something wrong in training, maybe things would have been different if I'd been in a different start corral. Or maybe today just wasn't a good day for me.
I'm a little bummed, but it is what it is. It's certainly not the end of my running career. My next goal is to conquer the half marathon. I hope to do a couple of half marathons in 2014 with the goals of a) running the whole race instead of using a walk/run strategy and b) running it in 2:45 or less. And in a couple of years I'll try the full again to redeem myself.