Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where did you come from, Cotton-eyed Joe? The Berlin Marathon race report

OK, I promise. PROMISE that after today, no more running talk. This is it!

Nerves were high at the Circus hotel Saturday night. Lots of marathon runners staying here! I ate dinner around 4 and just wandered around the neighborhood. I can't sleep on a full stomach, and I really wanted to sleep. I met up with C & J in their room downstairs early in the night to discuss details, then we all tried to go to bed at 10. TRIED. I got hungry at 10:30 and went across the street for a panini sandwich. Embarrassing and gluttonous, I sat in bed and just shoved it in my mouth. It was a pretty amazing sandwich, though. The hotel restaurant brags that Germany has the best bread in the world. That might not be an exaggeration. I read and tried to sleep. I slept for about 1.5 hours.

The next morning I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to eat the breakfast buffet. I eat a lot before marathons. Everyone says, OMG Sara, how can you eat that much before a race? I feel awful if I don't. My blood sugar gets all wierd and I feel light headed.

I've never run a marathon in only kms before. I had to have a strategy. Miles are second nature to me and I never have to write down my pace. I decided to tackle this 10 kms at a time. I would only look at my watch once an hour, which is crazy! I would run by effort only. Here is what I ATTEMPTED to do, by writing on my arm for crib notes:

Here I am the last time I felt normal, this morning!

Km 1 - 5. Feeling OK. Not great, but OK.

Km 8 - My old boss, Ellen is in town with HER friends, one who also ran today. She comes to every chicago marathon and is always in the same spot. I always spot her right away. She told me she'd me at km 8 and I was so happy to see her. Even for a split second, it gave me a little lift. We tried to meet for a drink the other day but we are staying on opposite sides of town and our schedules didn't jive.

km 9 or was it 11 - ran right past our hotel!

Km 10 - 20. Right on pace, but feeling awful. During a marathon, I never ever feel awful until mile 17. I started feeling awful much earlier today. My head got cloudy, I was coughing, I got goosebumps when I wasn't cold, I just felt off. Lots of fun signs like "lauf, Klaus, lauf!"

Km 20-30 Losing steam and slowing down. I had no idea where we were going. I tried to think, OK now I am on the madison bridge heading east to UIC. Now I am heading north to Pilsen. I passed the time by trying to figure out where I would be on my beloved Chicago course that I know so well. I started to think about an email that my friend Laura K sent me yesterday to pump me up. I pictured her there talking to me. I thought about my friend Elaine and how she attempts any race and never gives up. I thought about all of my close friends from various corners of my life. I saw guys that looked like people I knew in Chicago and had imaginary conversations with them. Oh hey! How are you! blah blah blah-f-ing blah! We actually ran over a HILL. There were supposed to be no HILLS here. Ran past some factories and over some bridges.

Km 30 - out of a speaker at a deafening volume, a familiar song. Back in 2004-ish, my friend Kathy and I went to Belgium and we were entertained by a group of sloppy drunk 50 year olds in Brugges singing along to a dance version of rednex "cotton eyed joe". We had to learn the song because it was so catchy and stupid, and I think one of us bought it. ONLY in northern Europe will you hear that at a marathon, being blared through speakers with ladies in oktoberfest outfits dancing along. I laughed. It perked me up and I sang along.

KM 30 - 40. this is where you do the classic DIG DEEP. Another really bad song appeared, this time in my head. "I think I can I think I can I think I can come and ride the train.. ride it.. come and ride the train it's the choo choo train.. if you feel like dancin! come on, it's up to you!" Yes, the mid-90s hit by the Quad Cities DJs! I can't control what comes into my brain during a marathon. What a bad song, I thought. OK then sing something else. Something a lot more acceptable. Where did you come from, cotton-eyed joe? da da da da long time ago! (synth-fiddle solo here). Yeah. km 30-40 were bad. My legs felt like lead. I was trying to amuse myself and not succeeding. I enjoyed seeing random people spot their friends and family in the crowd and hearing them all cheer and slap hands or hug. We ran past some old fancy houses. In and out of downtown again. I feel some blisters and chafing. Lots of coughing and sniffling.

km40-42 - not pretty. I imagined myself running up north Michigan avenue, waiting for the turn at Roosevelt. Until I saw Brandenburg gate. Then I was filled with that happy accomplishment and rush you get after a long race, a long internal battle. I did it! I love Germany! We really are enjoying the food, the people, the attractive men, everything about Berlin. It's a big thumbs up.

End result: 4:22. My goal was 4:10. PR is 4:19. Not bad for a sick girl!


Elizabeth Baxter said...

Sara! i'm so proud of you. even though you felt bad, you powered through it like a champ. it's probably worst case scenario that you had cotton eyed joe stuck in your head haha but congrats on your finish! Now time for a lot of beer and travel... enjoy!!

Trisha T said...

What an awesome post!! I already knew you finished...but it's so great to read what was going on in your head. I wish I could've been there to cheer you on or run those last kms with you. I am incredibly proud of you and can't wait to celebrate when you get back! Enjoy the rest of your adventure!!

Kate A said...

Schirmy, you amaze me. Have I ever told you you're my hero? And everything I wish I could be? This was seriously inspiring to read and I'm so proud of you for powering through! Enjoy the rest of your time, I want lots of good eurotrash stories! XOXO

Laura said...

Yes! You did an awesome job! How did you ever remember KM by KM what you did? What a memory! Aw, I am glad my email helped. You killed it even though you were sick. You showed Berlin Sara, good job! :)

Jenn said...

Best marathon so far! So much fun! Can't wait for our next destination marathon. Can't believe you did 4:22 while sick!