I did it! I’m a marathoner!
If anyone was keeping score, I haven’t posted a blog update since… oh, well, June. Life started happening and then, oddly enough, I got strangely superstitious. For what it’s worth, I do have a crazy-long training update post that has just been sitting in my drafts. Initially I had been adding to it with every long run, but because I’ve been having computer/picture issues, I hadn’t posted it. To recap: summer involved a lot of travel, with humid long runs in Florida and Washington, DC and nice scenic long runs in Cape Cod, New Hampshire, and along the Boston Harbor.
Ultimately, I started to get paranoid, thinking “you’ve been training for so long and no injuries yet, what if you post an update and then finally “bam! You’re injured!” So I decided to be crazy and just keep quiet until the marathon. My 20 mile long run had been great, but since then my knees and ankles had been feeling achey and I decided to run with no time goal, and just focus on finishing and being as strong as I could. Time goals would be saved for future marathons (that is, if I decided I’d want to run another after this one!)
And so, on to the recap.
My mom’s side of the family lives in Horseheads, so we set off on Friday afternoon and were at my aunt’s house in time for pizza and wings for dinner. I’d been good and not drinking that week, but I cheated and had some wine. After dinner, we headed to my sister’s, where we were staying.
Saturday was my aunt’s annual chili party, which is a pretty big shin dig, full of delicious dips, tons of growlers filled with local craft beers, and 6 kinds of chili. In other words, it was nothing but torture for me because I couldn’t partake in any of it. I basically spent the day looking as pathetic as this dog:
Instead, after picking up my race stuff at the expo, I stocked up on my own food from Wegman’s to take to the party – a beef on weck sandwich for lunch, chips, salsa, cheese, and veggies to snack on, and pasta with chicken for dinner. Let me tell you something about the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. They have a lot of breweries. Delicious breweries at that. So this was a hard day. But I prevailed, with lots of seltzer and nuun.
As for the expo, I was impressed. This was the first year it was at the Corning Museum of Glass, and I’d heard that the past years weren’t all that great because it was at the local YMCA and they had few vendors. This one was much better – lots of vendors and music and energy. I picked up a sampler of brownies (which were AMAZING) and a Wineglass marathon Adidas jacket that was on sale for $45. It was obviously from another year, but there was no date on it and it was a much better price than the new $75 Asics one.
Anyway, after the chili party, we were back at my sister’s and in bed shortly after 8, and I slept pretty well.
I was up at 4 am, ready to get down to business (pun intended – I wanted to make sure I went before the race). I got ready, had a cliff bar, coffee, beat juice and nuun, and then we were on our way to the bus pick up. The bus system was pretty smooth – we got there a little after 6 and I got right on a bus, which brought me to the race start.
Now would be a good time to tell you that when we went to the car in the morning, it was completely frosted over and we had to scrape/turn the defroster on for a few minutes. So, it was COLD.
Luckily, the race start has a huge heated garage that runners were allowed to wait in, but with all of the runners at the mercy of the bus system, that meant everyone was there early and there were way too many people there. I got a seat and sat, waiting for a while, then I had to brave the elements to wait in line for the port a potties (which took about 10 minutes and was torture).
Finally, it was time to line up. The sun was coming out, and between that and the body heat from everyone huddled together, it wasn’t that bad. I was still wearing my throwaway sweatshirt, and decided I’d keep wearing it until I felt warm enough to chuck it while running.
The start was just a little delayed, but finally we were off!
My body was feeling good and I felt well-rested, so I started off much too fast. After the first mile I got rid of my sweatshirt and was feeling good.
The first few miles were pretty crowded, and people were basically running packed together, but everyone was moving at a good pace and seemed to have lined up with the pace they needed to be in. This was the first race I’ve run where I either haven’t had to pass people who were in the way or been passed by speedier runners in the back.
By mile 4/5 people had spread out a little more, and things were more peaceful.
This being my first marathon, I had no idea what to expect in terms of how quickly/slowly the race would go by. The first 4 miles flew by, and felt like I had only run a mile. I took this as a good sign and kept going. Each mile continued to fly by, right up through the first 10. As a result, I went out too fast, and I was hovering between 9:10 and 9:30 for a good portion of those miles.
I saw my family for the first time at the second spectator spot (around mile 9.5) and I was still feeling great. After seeing them, I put on my headphones and started listening to my playlist.
My right knee started hurting at mile 13, so I slowed down and started running a 9:50/10 minute pace. Seeing my family again around the halfway mark was a nice boost.
By this point, as I was climbing higher into the double digits, I kept thinking to myself “ok, the wall could happen at any minute, but I will not allow myself to walk/slow down until mile 17 or 18.” As mile by mile went by, my right leg and lower back started to hurt more and more, but my mind, lungs, and energy continued to feel incredible.
Between miles 18-19, I started to feel pain in my right hamstring, right above my knee, which was completely new for me and slowed me down a lot. I saw my family again at mile 20. I slowed down, told them my leg was hurting, got a kiss from my husband, and my uncle ran for a few minutes with me. I told him that energy-wise, I felt great and what I really needed was to cut off my body from the waist down and exchange it with a fresh body. After we parted ways, I took a walking break, and this was when things got tough. Between miles 20-25 I alternated running and walking, and as a result my pace climbed into the 12 minute mile range.
Knowing that a 4:20-4:30 finish was slipping away from me, I tried to relax and just stay comfortable enough that I could still do the “run” part of my “run/walk”. Finally by mile 25, I decided to run the entire last mile until the finish. It helped that “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” the Otis Redding song I walked down the aisle to at our wedding, was playing. Soon enough I was running over the bridge before Market Street, with people screaming “You’re almost there! Just turn the corner and you’ll see the finish line!”
I kept thinking to myself “My husband is at the finish. My husband is at the finish.” Of course, I was also thinking about food, too.
When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I burst into tears but quickly realized that breathing while crying made me feel like I was hyperventilating, so I stifled it. I took off my headphones and let the screaming crowd carry me across. Of course, all of the spectators made me start crying again. Finally, I was across the finish line, where I really burst into tears (so hard to breathe!) I got my medal and went to hug my family over the barrier. Then I told them “I’m hungry!” and went in the direction of food. I scarfed down a chocolate chip cookie while waiting for the people in the Wegman’s tent to serve me some chicken noodle soup. Then I headed straight for the pizza, which I ate within a minute.
One of the things I’d been excited about when I signed up for the race was knowing there was pizza and soup at the finish, but I really didn’t think I’d want it. At most races, I can only stomach certain things immediately following a race, but I was FAMISHED. I started the race feeling a little hungry, and about halfway through the race my motivation focused on 3 things: 1) husband 2) medal and 3) FOOD. I started daydreaming about all of the things I would eat when I was finished. This was definitely a first for me.
I met my family on the other side of the barrier and fell into my husband’s arms, crying even more. I figured I’d cry, but I had no idea I would be THAT emotional. Although I didn’t have the fastest time (4:45:52), I felt an enormous wave of relief and happiness at my accomplishment.
As for fueling during the run, I think I did a great job. I carried a water bottle with some Gu, Cliff Shots, and Shot Blocks, and was glad I brought all three kinds because I never got tired of having to only eat one thing. When I passed the Gu stations, I grabbed some more. I took the gels/blocks at miles 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, and 23. I drank lots of water and refilled my bottle at the water stops whenever it got low, and drank Gatorade when they offered it (which was every other water stop). Everything about this worked well for me, and my stomach felt great.
The other thing I was surprised about was I never hit “the wall,” at least in the way I imagined it. Each and every mile felt like it flew by. I didn’t think about the race in terms of blocks of miles, and found it worked to just focus on each mile. Even with my leg hurting, it felt like it was all over in the blink of an eye.
We went back to my sister’s, said goodbye to my family, showered, packed up, and my husband and I were off for the long drive home. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting in a car for 6 hours. The first stop was Applebee’s, where I got steak, mashed potatoes, and a beer. And despite the fact that Applebee’s is pretty crappy and the beer was a Sam Adams (which has no flavor to me) it was one of the most fortifying meals I’d had in a while and I left feeling incredible.
The ride home wasn’t too bad. I had a lot of leg room and snacks and water, not to mention compression socks and beautiful scenery.
We stopped for pizza once we hit the Mass Turnpike. At the rest stop, I walked up feeling sore, ordered pizza, brought it to the table, and then when I stood up to go to the bathroom my leg gave out on me. I think it was stemming from my right hip, so I had to walk like a peg-legged pirate with my husband helping me to the bathroom and back to the car.
We got home around 10:30 and were in bed by 11 and I fell instantly to sleep.
I took today off from work, so the big plans are 1) eat the chili I saved for myself from the party, 2) drink the champagne and 3) Halloween movies!
And with that, I bid you adieu.
And oh yeah, I’m totally doing another marathon. This time, I think a big city is calling my name.