I have learned a lot about running & racing from Spark blogs. When you read that no race will be like your first marathon; they're right. When they say to start slow; they're right.
My first marathon experience was magical. And I really did soak it in. But how can you tell something is so special while you're living it? Part of me thought marathon #2 would be just as incredible.
And it was. And it wasn't. I woke up Sunday and had a strange feeling. It just didn't feel like race morning. Maybe it's because I was at home and it kinda seemed like any other day.
Staying warm in the metrodome
DH and I were in different corrals so we waited until the last minute to kiss & say goodbye. He turned left to join corral 1 and I went right to #2. It was packed and I was looking around for pacers, but they were already singing the National Anthem and everything just went so quickly. Maybe my first mistake was not lining up in a good spot. My original plan was to start with the 4:15 pacer, but then I found out I wasn't even placed in the same corral as them! Yes, I could've moved myself back to #3. Yes, I could've made sure I was in the very back of #2. I didn't do either of those things. Can you see where this is going?
The first mile is through downtown and the crowd is amazing and you can breathe in the excitement. I was freezing cold and was saying to myself: slow warm-up, slow warm-up. I promised myself that I wouldn't obsessively check my Garmin, I'd only look when it vibrated with mile splits. So I was really happy with mile 1 at 9:28.
Keep calm, enjoy this gorgeous Fall morning. Rain had been predicted all week and the sun was out. Leaves have just started to change. You could not ask for better running weather. I was still a little cold, but warming up. Mile 2 is 8:33. Too fast. I was telling myself to slow down and really thought I was. And then the next few miles are: 8:25, 8:31, and 8:34.
No, no, no. Stick to the plan! Screw the plan! I feel great! The crowds are amazing and now I'm by the lakes and omg! I'm running the flippin Twin Cities Marathon! Something I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember. I was smiling and so happy. And mile 6 is 8:35. crap.
I can't explain it. I knew what I was doing wrong. I knew this course. I knew the back half was much tougher. I knew I was going to pay for this. A spectator yelled something about the 3:45s and I look ahead and see I am right with that pace group. And this teeny part of me thinks: you can do this! you can keep up with them! That is the dark side of my positive, yes-you-can attitude. Over confidence.
Mile 7 is 8:40 and my friend jumps in. "I'm going too fast," is the first thing I say and she says, "OK, let's slow down." So we do. Oh, wait. No we don't. Mile 8 and 9 are 8:36 and 8:34. We're chatting and she's telling me how great I look and sound. No heavy breathing, my heart rate is fine. I really did think I was reigning it in at this point. And then mile 10 is 8:28. And Tara says, "You feel like you're slowing down. Listen to your body, not your watch." And she jumps out to run back to her car and meet me at the finish.
This piece of advice stuck with me "No matter how good you feel on the River Road miles 15-19, do not pick it. There is a lot of race left." At the half, I made a bathroom stop because I knew that would force me to stop and break this crazy pace. I went into a porta and it had some weird lock that I obviously didn't close because some guy opens the door and I happily wave "Hello!" with my pants off. whoops! It happens.
I was happy when I saw the bathroom break mile was 9:58. I got myself into a better rhythm and knew we were approaching River Road, my familiar territory. Mile 15 was 8:54 and I saw my brother and his wife and their kids. I jumped off the path and stretched in front of my 1 year old nephew and said, "Teddy! This is hard!" and everyone laughed. Then my sister in-law jumped back in with me for a bit. Again, I was told how good I looked and that I was talking easily. I still felt good, but my legs were starting to feel the distance. She reminded me to keep my shoulders loose and to use my arms on the hills. "You know these hills! We run these hills!" and she sent me off with such a good feeling.
There are not words for how loved and supported I felt. I am clearly obsessed with mileage and paces, but I also run for the joy. And the way it makes me feel and for the relationships it has helped me develop. My running family is strong and so full of love. Seeing my big brother, the one that I competed with in that 5K three years ago, seeing him cheer for me, just that visual memory, makes me cry. And his wife, Jen, running along with me in her cute puffer vest for those blocks, will always be a highlight of this race.
It's a tough feeling when you've run 15 miles and you're tired and your legs are sore and you still have 11 MILES to go. Oh, and this is where the serious hills start. Damn you River Road! Miles 16 and 17 were 9:16 and 9:18. Right where I wanted to be. I told myself I'd keep this pace and then pick it when we got onto Summit. But then there were those hills again. At the top of the Franklin Bridge I looked in both directions. My favorite view of the Mississippi River. I said my prayer of thanks for health. I am running a marathon.
And it hurts. Of course it hurts! It's a marathon! My dad has told me that mile 20 is the halfway point of a marathon. So when it started to mist at 19, I felt OK. but when the rain hit at 20 and my legs were so sore and tired, I started to really worry. I looked at my watch and I was right under 3 hours. 10K left. All I have to do is run 10 minute miles. I will meet my sub 4 goal.
I run Summit Avenue every Tuesday morning with my running group. I thought this would help me. I figured I'd have some type of muscle memory. Or at least some mental edge. But here's the problem, we don't run Summit after 21 miles. After 21 miles, I hurt so bad.
I could feel the surge of the 4 hour pace group pushing behind me. I really gave it my all and stuck with them as long as I could. The crowds were incredible and I put on a fake smile. The rain picked up and my shoes were soaked. The crowds started to thin. But then I saw my work friends and some hugs perked me up.
This picture does not show how beautiful the mansions on Summit are or the Fall leaves or how many people really were there. I dug in and reminded myself of good form. But it was so so hard at this point. I went out too fast and I was paying dearly for that rookie mistake. And then at about 23.5 I got a side crippling cramp like I have never experienced.
I wanted to walk, but knew that would just mean it would take me longer to get to the finish. Tara saw me and I couldn't even look at her. I was trying so hard not to cry. I knew I was barely moving forward and I just said, "really bad side cramp." She asked when and I said, "right now." I can hear her telling me "You can do anything for 2 miles. oh honey. You can do anything for 2 miles." And I really didn't know if I could.
I jogged on. I heard my other SIL and waved, but didn't go hug her because I was still so focused on forward movement and trying not to cry. But then I saw my whole family way on the other side of the street. Most of them had run the 10 miler earlier in the day and weren't sure if they were going to come back. With all the rain, I assumed they were at home. I made a complete 90 degree turn and ran straight to them. My younger brother was screaming "Mile 25! Mile 25! You've got this!" When I hugged my sister I just started to sob and said "I can't do this." over and over again.
And then I saw my dad laugh. Not in a mean way. In a "I know how much she hurts" way and that made me laugh. With a little push from my sister, I managed to get going again. I knew the sub 4 was out the window. And that was disappointing. But then I saw the capitol and the huge American flag that marks mile 26 and the finish line. I saw another group of friends and ran to high 5 them and smiled like I felt great. I said "ow ow ow" the whole way down the hill after the Cathedral.
And I soaked in the cheers in the finisher's chute. I threw my arms up and pretended I felt great for the cameras. And then I made the longest walk of my life to get a medal and some food. Holy world of pain.
I found DH and sat down next to him and put my head on his chest and cried. I wanted that 3:59 so badly. I was frustrated with myself for running such a stupid race. He let me have a 10 second pity party and then gave me the good news. My phone had died, but his hadn't so he had my official time. 4:03:05 PR!! By 1 minute and 11 seconds
That cute guy? He ran a 3:22!!!
And how can you be disappointed in a PR?! I'm really not. I'm just emotionally spent. It's the marathon. It takes a lot out of you.
I am very sore and proud of myself. It felt good to add this to that:
We spent the day at my parent's house and on the way home we stopped at a gas station. I wanted Gatorade and Hot Tamales :) The check out guy was singing happily to himself and asked asked how I was doing. I thought about not saying anything, but because of his happy attitude I was honest. "I'm good. I ran the marathon this morning." And he went crazy cheering for me in this little gas station. "you WHAT?! That's so awesome!" And I love that that is one of my memories of the day.
Yep, I missed by time goal by a few minutes. But I still placed in the top 1/3 and that was a goal too.
1102 out of 3928 Females (top 28%)
206 out of 721 age group (top 29%)
I'm sure there will be people out there that think I care too much about times. But we're all different and this is what motivates me.
And I am very happy. I ran a marathon.