Short story: Ran my second marathon yesterday. Beat my previous time by quite a bit. Felt strong the whole time. Truly enjoyed the experience. Finished in 3:56:43.
Saturday's forecast kept changing in the days (and hours) leading up to the race. By the time we woke up, not-so-bright and early at 4am, chance of showers was 50-60%. And sure enough, it was raining. I was extra careful with my SportWax application to prevent chafing.
I made my breakfast: peanut butter and Nutella (hey, it's race day) on local wheat bread with a banana and a familiar flavor of Gatorade. I ate half in my room (4:45am) and half once we got to the start (5:45am).
We found our friends, The H gave me a good luck smooch (he was running the 10K--6.2 miles--at 7:30am), and we were off after the national anthem played.
My running partner Amy and I settled into a comfortable pace, albeit a little fast for how much we still had ahead of us. It took us a few miles to scale back to where we wanted to be for the first 18-20 miles.
Miles 1-5 went by very quickly. She looked at me at one point, around Mile 2, and said, "Did we start already?!" :p We were right on pace once we hit Mile 4, and feeling strong.
Miles 6-10 felt much longer. I had a pretty long stop in here, when I couldn't get my Gu unpinned from my shorts. The pin was stuck, then the Gu wouldn't come off the pin, and once I got it loose, I couldn't open the packet! A sweet race volunteer helped me get it open, but I wasted a lot of time there. Hate that.
Around Mile 10 I told Amy I was planning a bathroom stop at the halfway point. Somewhere in here we started seeing runners from the half marathon passing us the opposite direction. That put some pep in my step, and I unknowingly sped up. Amy helped reel me in by keeping a steady pace, though I was naturally starting to stay a few steps in front of her.
Mile 13, the turnaround point, came and went without a pitstop because the potties were too far off-course. I passed Amy when I turned, and told her I'd hit the next one hoping it wasn't crowded. And that was the last I saw of her until the finish line... On my way to that next aid station, I pushed my pace a bit (Garmin says 8:38), thinking I'd be able earn a few extra seconds and still come out with the average I wanted.
Mile 14-15ish, post-potty stop... I had a rock in my left shoe, but it wasn't worth stopping for. I was hoping Amy would catch up and we could finish together. She was nowhere to be seen, so I grabbed a water and kept on trucking, thinking she must've passed me, although I didn't see her hat ahead of me.
At the next two water stations, I looked for her everywhere, even running a few steps backwards here and there in case she hadn't passed me when I was using the bathroom.
Mile 17, single digits to go. Enjoyed "leap frogging" with several of the same runners/groups as we each stopped and started at the various water stops. Encouraged a first-timer who had the misfortune of running with a know-it-all who would.not.stop.blabbing about "it's just another long run, stay loose, don't waste your energy..." I'd have pushed him off course if he was running with me.
Mile 18, still feeling strong. I hadn't seen Amy in at least 5 miles. One of my worst race-day fears was coming true; not only was I running without music (my iPod was severely unreliable during training and I didn't want to carry it with me in case it decided to bonk again) but now I was also running alone. During training I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up my planned race pace without Amy there; now I had to figure it out. Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I'd been fearing. Actually, I grinned like an idiot for much of the race! I was having FUN. During a MARATHON. That's messed up, right? :)
Mile 20, some jerky volunteer was saying "Last hill! You're almost there!" First, it wasn't. Second, we weren't. I told him if he was wrong about the hill, I'd come back and punch him. (Note to The H: I guess that was my long-run rage of the day!) I wasn't too upset, since I had run this part of the course before, AND I was expecting to see my friend Heather within the next mile! Trying to talk the hot spot on the bottom of my left foot into *not* becoming a blister. My water breaks were becoming a little longer. Just over an hour remaining for the last 6.2mi if I wanted to make my goal of coming in under four hours.
Mile 21, coming up to a big spectator area... looking for Heather... hearing so much shouting around me, starting to get disoriented and a little claustrophobic... It was crowded, I was almost through the tunnel of people... THERE SHE WAS!! I hollered a little and waved, and she squealed at me, then jumped onto the course next to me. She asked if I needed anything, how I was feeling, and said I looked strong. It was so nice to see a familiar face! I asked if she'd seen Amy, but no such luck. That must mean she was behind me... but how much? I was getting worried that her knee, which had given her fits a few weeks ago and caused a DNF (did not finish) at another race, was acting up.
Mile 22, are we really only four miles out? And was my pace really hovering in the low-8s?! I had Heather read the Garmin for me just in case my eyes were playing tricks. She runs a bit slower than I do on average, and while she was nervous about being "too fresh" for me when we met up, she now said she was worried about holding me back because I was running so freaking strong. Woot!!
Miles 23-25, still feeling good... hips starting to ache. Conversation becoming shorter--single words rather than phrases. Heather gave me a Gu somewhere in here, which was great. I think this is part of the reason I didn't hit The Wall like I did at this point in Detroit. (Throughout the race I ended up eating ten Clif Shot Bloks and four different kinds of Gu--espresso, chocolate, vanilla, and plain.) Right quad seized up a little, but I beat on it with a fist to release the knot, and I didn't even have to stop to stretch. Whew.
Mile 25.7, starting to approach the finish chute. I could see orange cones blocking off traffic and larger groups of spectators lining the way. I told Heather THANK YOU and asked that she run back and find Amy, and please give her my apologies for ditching her. :(
Mile 26, I saw some friends who had already finished! They hollered and cheered. Still feeling strong. Annoyed at the lady in jeans and a polo who was pacing some guy in front of me; I almost told her to haul ass and get out of the way. Lucky for them, they put on some serious speed and pulled away just as I started my finish kick.
Mile 26.1, I heard The H yell my name and saw my father-in-law just outside the high school track where the finish line was. Time to put on a smile and push whatever speed I had left. The H's dad has his camera around his neck--under his jacket. As I ran by, he said, "Hey come back here!" :p The Garmin read 7:55. WHAT the heck?! Go with it...I'm on the track...see the FINISH banner...smile...lift arms...DONE!
Mile 26.2 (my Garmin read 26.4) I was handed a medal and a bottle of water, and slloowwwly set off to get some food. They didn't have the space blankets I was *so* looking forward to. Once I wasn't moving as fast, I got pretty cold. The only thing that sounded good was orange slices. It was raining again, and pretty breezy. Grabbed a bag of Sun Chips and some pretzels and started looking for The H and the rest of my crew. The little guy ran to greet me across the infield, and had fun examining my medal. And eating my chips.
After hanging around until my lips turned the color of my shorts (OK, not quite that bad), we headed back to our hotel for lunch, showers, and naps. As much as everyone seems to think I should be ravenously hungry, I really didn't eat more than a normal amount throughout the day. Even my dinner, after a touch of post-run ickiness settled, was only two pieces of wild mushroom pizza and some antipasto salad at Pangea's Pizza. Oh, and a locally-made root beer. Mmmm bubbles. The H suggested ice cream, but really, I was content with a decaf mocha and big bottle of water.
Oh, and quite content in my 40-minute PR and very first sub-4-hour marathon finish. :)
Today I'm sore, but mobile. Three hours in the car didn't do me any favors, but I've continued to rehydrate, and took some Ibuprofen. As sick as it is, I've already started thinking about #3... no solid plans yet (The H would have a coronary), but I know I'm not done with the beast that is The Marathon...