The marathon has finally defeated me. I trained as hard as I could (with a full-time job), the course was flat, and the weather was decent. However, I still ended up with knee pain during the race. I ended up planning well for it: since I expected it to happen, I went out a bit harder at the beginning. That ended up allowing me to get a PR even though I walked a lot of the last 6 miles. But, let me start from the beginning:
I got up at 5am so I could eat a Honey Stinger snack bar that I grabbed at the expo. I took my time, got ready, and jogged over until I hit the crowd. My wave started at 8:35am and I got there around 7am. I hung out near the 4:45 pacer with a friend of mine, getting pumped up. I ended up starting near the 4:20 pace group. I wanted to hit a reasonable pace, but also wanted to push hard enough to guarantee myself a PR even if my knees started hurting late in the race. I posted decent times for my 5K, 10K, and half. Just a little over two years ago, that 5K pace would've been a PR for me and the half time is better than 3 of my other halves. My overall pace through mile 15 was a 10 min/mile pace. I started slowing down a bit (got a little tired, go figure). Somewhere around mile 17, I knew I was definitely going to finish and definitely finish under my previous time of 5:55. I kept up decently until my knee started hurting around mile 19-20. At that point, I had to start walking a lot. Usually, when I started running, my knee would hurt even more and I had to stop again. It was a little demoralizing because I'd have people try to encourage me, but the problem was that I couldn't run more without seriously injuring myself. I managed to save up enough energy and push through the pain to run the last 200m across the finish line. It felt great to finish, but I immediately knew that I was never going to do that again.
I finished in 4:59, 11105/21476 (top 52%) women, 1974/3587 (top 56%) in my division, and 26,777/44,257 (top 61%) overall. My knees hurt and I may or may not have a stress fracture in my ankle.
Since it's been a few days since the race, I've been thinking a lot about what I could've done to make it better. I think I would have to be unemployed or working part-time and training almost full-time. My best halves have happened when I've been running longer in training. Running longer than a marathon in training is pretty impossible given my current schedule. Plus, I love racing! I'm going to go back to doing shorter races, probably a bunch of halves, maybe a few longer trail runs. It was a good experience, but I think it is not for me... at least not right now.