Monday, December 5, 2011

They don't call it a marathon because its's supposed to be hard.

I know its been a while since I've updated this. Since my last post, I've PR'd a 10k, PR'd a 5k and finished my marathon. People always tell me discouraging things like "I hate running, in time you will too" or "I did a marathon once and it sucked, you'll only have to do it once and then you'll see that its awful." So far these Debbie downers are WRONG. My marathon was this past Saturday and I hate to say that I'm hooked. I loved it. I typed up a little recap of my race. I have to say that your first marathon is a once in a lifetime experience and can probably make or break your relationship with distance running.

My first Marathon

I’ll skip the boring stuff about packet pick up (it was quick and easy and very well organized) and pre-race dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse with our running group (the food was mediocre but the company was great) and I’ll go straight to race morning.

Race day morning found me in good spirits. I was excited and the nervousness that had been present the entire week before was nowhere to be found. I knew I had this one in the bag. After getting dressed and eating our breakfast at the hotel, we arrived in downtown Memphis at 6:45 and headed straight to bag check. The 15mph wind blowing around and the 48* temps made for a chilly wait. Bag check was easy and efficient and we had plenty of time to relax before heading to the starting line. We met up again with our running group for a group picture and then we headed to the porta potties and the starting line. I said goodbye to Bobby at this point and wished him good luck. He headed to corral 2 with the sub 1:30 half finishers and I headed to corral 10 with the 4:30 marathon finishers. In the corral, it was cold but I knew once we started running and the sun came out from behind the clouds it was going to warm up fast. I ditched my jacket and decided to race in a tank top, shorts, arm warmers and gloves (the temp was about 50* and windy for our 8am start). 

When it was time for our corral to finally start everyone started to rush forward over the start. I tried to hang back knowing that our time didn’t start until we crossed over the actual timing device. After I crossed over the line, my race went as follows:

Miles 1-3: SLOW and steady. I maintained a 12 minute per mile pace. My 5k check in was 36:00! When I realized this I kind of panicked but then realized that I had 23 more miles to go, so slow was ok.

Miles 3-6: We came through Beale Street where everyone was cheering and it was hard not to get swept up in the energy. I turned up my headphones and went back into my zone. This was not the time to speed up. I hit the 10k mark around 1:11 something.

Miles 6-10: We came through the grounds of the St Jude’s hospital and were cheered on by patients and families. I felt the crowd around me start to surge forward with a sudden burst of energy. Everywhere I looked people were high fiving kids, raising their hands in the air, dancing and in my mind, wasting a hell of a lot of energy. I stayed to the middle of the road and ignored every kid and every band and every spectator trying to keep my mind on the race. This was not the time to expend energy. I did have the thought that these people probably think I’m a cold hearted monster but I have a marathon to run and that’s all that matters. After we passed through the hospital, I realized just how smart I was because people started stopping. They had been caught in the trap of getting into the crowd and forgetting about the race. I was smiling on the inside.

Miles 10-13: The half marathoners started dropping like flies. I spent a lot of time dodging them. I tried to encourage a few of them because around mile 11, its all downhill for them after that. Turns out, when someone is thinking about quitting a race, they really aren’t that friendly. I gave up on them and turned my headphones back on.  After the split from the half marathoners around mile 12.5, the course got a lot less crowded. The breathing room was nice. Bobby met me at the mile 13 water stop and loaded me back up on gels and took my extra clothes from me. It was nice to see him at this point but I wasted 3 minutes trying to get my gloves out of my spy belt and trying to get everything situated. This was mistake #1.

Miles 13-18: This stretch of the course sucked…big time. From mile 15-18 it was all uphill and the wind was in my face. This is also about the time that the sun decided to stop hiding behind the clouds and it began to warm up fast. I reminded myself that I still had a ways to go and tried to conserve my energy for the last part of the course. I saw Bobby again at mile 15 and stopped for my first bathroom break. I surprisingly only lost 30 seconds here which was nice. I focused on taking in fuel and getting up that incline.

Mile 18-21: An amazing thing happened here, I started passing people left and right. I got a second wind around mile 20 and was overjoyed to realize that I had not hit the wall. Bobby saw me again at mile 21 and he was a sight for sore eyes. I felt like I had been running forever. Another bathroom break at mile 20 lost me a few more minutes- I had considered just peeing on myself but thought that might not be a good idea. I was really not a fan of stopping at this point because I still had a sub 5 goal in mind.

Mile 22-24: I zoned out for these miles and there’s not much to report. I was running and passing tons of people who were hitting their wall. I did begin to feel the effects of the temperatures but pouring water on my head helped a lot.

Mile 24: My hamstrings were screaming. I stopped for yet another bathroom break and lost a few more minutes. It was at this time that I realized a sub 5 was out of the question. There was no way I could make up for all my lost time. Mile 24 was a 14 minute mile and the funniest part is that I thought I was “flying” through it- my pace felt so fast!! It was at this time that I ran into a man I’d like to call “Mr. Creepy.” I had made a general comment at the beginning of this mile that I had never been so happy to see a particular building in downtown because I knew that meant we were on the home stretch. He turned to me and said “I thought you were going to say you had never been so happy to see a handsome man like me.” Insert eye roll here. When I took a walk break, he proceeded to put his hand on my lower back and try to push me forward (WTF?). This actually gave me the fuel I needed to start running again.

Mile 25-26: I was running from Mr. Creepy. My garmin said I did 9:30 miles for my last two miles. I successfully kept him away from me until mile 26 when we had to turn to go up an on ramp. This was no ordinary on-ramp because I turned the corner to go to the finish and “FUCK” what was this? Whoever designed this course was sadistic. I began the slow ascent up this thing and Mr. Creepy caught up with me. He touched my lower back again and I lost it. “Don’t fucking touch me again or I’ll kick you in the balls so hard you’ll roll down this hill” I said to him. I could tell he was trying to think of something smart ass to say but thought better of it when he realized I was serious. He went on.

26-26.2: The end is near!!! I got up the hill and it was downhill into the baseball stadium from there. The downhill killed me more than the uphill at this point but I was still running. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and my hands in the air. I did it. My first marathon! My time was 5:06:50. I averaged an 11:43 minute per mile pace which for me nowdays is SLOW!!!

I’m disappointed in my time because I know I could have ran much faster. However, I had nothing to go off of and being conservative was my best strategy to ensure that I finished. Besides, it was so much fun to pass people in those last 10 miles who hit the wall that I’m not sure I ever really hit. I never had thoughts that I couldn’t do it, I never thought I didn’t want to do it again and best of all, I never shit my pants (I had a real fear of this).  The good news is I feel better after my first full marathon than I did after my half marathon so that does say something about my fitness improvement in a year. I’m looking forward to my upcoming 50k with the goal that I want to finish it in the same time that I did my full. This goal is VERY ambitious but its good to have goals.

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