We got into Detroit on Saturday afternoon and easily got checked into our hotel. The little guy was staying with my parents at their house, about 20 minutes from downtown. My friends met us at the hotel and we walked to the Expo for our packets and a little window shopping. This map of the course was posted on the wall, and I know I ran this thing, but WOW does that look like a long way!
We had dinner at a pizza place, figuring pizza is pretty standard and non-offensive to my system, and got back to our room before 8pm--plenty of time to get things ready for the morning. I laid out all my gear, as much as possible
and checked weather.com for one last race-day report.
Then I posed for a shot in my official race shirt (knowing I wouldn't wear it for the run) and got to bed before 9:30.
On Sunday we woke up to what had to be the most beautiful, perfect day for a race. It was clear, high-40s at the start, and climbed to the low-60s with a brilliant blue sky the whole time.
My friend Jillian and I had planned to run together (her first as well) and were in our corral just after 6:30am. It was dark out there! The H talked me out of running with a throw-away sweatshirt on, which was fine, but I wish I hadn't given up on the gloves I'd brought, too. My hands were chilly for at least 4 miles.
It took us about 20 minutes to cross the start line after the first waves went, which I expected. What we didn't expect was the huge bottleneck about 1.5-2 miles in, as we approached the Ambassador Bridge to get into Canada. It was packed; we were practically standing still. I saw people still trying to jog and jostle their way through, and just had to shake my head... there was no room, and really, what a waste of energy so early in the race! We probably could've finished a few minutes sooner if not for this slow-down, but whatever. Maybe something else would've gone wrong later anyway. The sunrise over downtown was a brilliant glowing orange. If we'd been going faster, I probably wouldn't have taken it in as much.
We stopped for a potty break at 4 miles once we got over the bridge and didn't have to wait long. The next few miles along the waterfront in Windsor were really beautiful and peaceful. Before too long, we were already at mile 7, and heading into the underwater tunnel back to Detroit. At first it felt nice to be out of the breezy cool morning, but it got hot FAST. I was so ready to be out of there! I did look down at one point and noticed an orange D-tag (the timing chip!) on the ground, which made me sad for whomever it belonged to. :(
Coming out of the tunnel at 8 miles, we saw our husbands. The H offered me a refilled Gatorade bottle (I brought my own since I hate the flavor they had on-course) but I didn't need it yet. The next thing I really remember is coming up to mile 12 and calling The H to let him know. He said he and the little guy were at the halfway point, and my mom and sisters were between 12 and 13. Watching for them helped pass the time; when I did see my mom, I grabbed a Gatorade refill and handed her my empty one. My sisters had a sign that said "Just Keep Swimming" which is something my running friends and I have used on long runs to lighten the mood. Fun!
Then I saw my son on The H's back at 13mi, and heard him yell, "Go Mommy! You racin' GWEAT!" It was very sweet. After the half-marathoners split from us, the course got very quiet. The next few miles, 14-17, were fairly lonely. The dramatic side of me used the word "desolate" in telling The H about it. I took some Tylenol at mile 16; the bottoms of my feet were really starting to ache. Jillian stopped for another bathroom break and I stretched while I waited for her. Then we went through a beautiful neighborhood, and at mile 17, I said "We have SINGLE DIGITS left, you know that?" It was a mental boost. Well, that and the jelly beans that some lovely man was handing out from his front lawn. I told Jill not to let her kids know that we'd just taken candy from a stranger.
At mile 19, I was surprised (and thrilled) to see another friend who drove 2 hours that morning to run the last 4 miles with me--but she joined us at 19 instead of 22, which was awesome. I was SO happy to see her. She took a pic of me with her phone and sent it to The H.
The two of them kept in contact from this point until the end of the race. Having her there was such a boost. I made it past 20 (my longest ever) still feeling strong. At mile 22, things started to catch up to me. The bottom of my left foot was burning (where I had some nasty blisters from my rainy race on September 18th) but not enough to stop and put another blister cover on it. A spectator was smoking a cigar, and the smell of that plus the smell of *beer* at the next fluid station was more than a little grody to me. I took my last Gu and kept on trucking.
Miles 23 through 26 is where I slammed into The Wall. I kept trying to use my mental games ("it's mind over matter, and the mind is going to win... no retreat, no surrender... you GOT this! just another girls' run...") but the negative thoughts were quickly outweighing the positive things I'd rehearsed. My friends were incredibly supportive, and thanks to their encouragement, I didn't walk (even up the HILLS at miles 25 and 26! how rude...) despite almost crying that I.couldn't.do.this.any.more.
But I did "do this." At 25 miles, I saw my mom (with the little guy on her shoulders--choke up time!) and sisters, with the Swimming sign plus another one that said, "MARATHON: OWNED!" I needed that. I don't know why I didn't turn on my iPod at this point (or before). I didn't use it at all during the race, which REALLY surprised me. An upbeat song would've been well-placed about now! My dad was a bit further up the road, with my brother-in-law, which was awesome because he had missed me at my half in May since he was looking for the wrong outfit. He looked so proud.
Just before 26 miles, another friend, who had finished in 3:33:35, joined our little crew and helped talk me through the last--no doubt hardest--part of the race. "I know it doesn't feel like it," he said, "but you really ARE almost there now. Just a right turn here, then a quick left, and you'll see it." Too bad that right turn was up a hill. A few swears left my lips at this point.
When we could see the finish, I told Jillian to just GO. She had a kick left, but I had zero in my tank. She grabbed my hand for a "good job" squeeze and took off. She had started to cry. My other friend dropped behind me a bit and took a 30-second video of me coming up to that blessed, so very far away, finish line.
I crossed the mat and heard "Kate, KATE!!!" and there was another friend--a race day volunteer--with the coolest medal ever. I raised my arms for my finish photo, tried to smile, and yelled "STEPHANIE!" She gave me my medal and a hug, and I wobbled off to find The H.
He hopped the barricade along the sidewalk and scooped me into a huge hug. Poor man was all choked up. I just kept saying "I'm done. I'm DONE. I never have to do this again!" Jillian had finished a few seconds ahead of me so we caught up with her easily and grabbed our Mylar "space blankets." We knew we had to keep walking, such as it was, so we hobbled to grab some food. I chowed a string cheese and some water.
The rest of my family met up with us not long after that, and I was handed a COFFEE!! My amazingly wonderful mom remembered that I adore coffee post-run, and she had a half-coffee, half-hot-chocolate with extra whipped cream waiting for me. Complete with straw, so I didn't have to worry about coordinating hand-to-mouth without dribbling. Sweet, huh? She also gave me a small yogurt that tasted really good.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed a Chinese restaurant called Wah-Hoo, and I posed for another victory picture.
I'm glad my first is behind me; it was a lot of work to get here. Another marathon is not out of the question, but I'm not in any kind of hurry for it. My feet need a chance to rest and recover from the beatings I've put them through four times a week since May, and I need to remember what it's like to sleep in on a Saturday! Hopefully a few of my friends decide to tackle their first 26.2 soon. I would be glad to return the support and encouragement they provided me; I know this wouldn't have been nearly as wild and fun of a ride as it was without them.