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Race Report: My first marathon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Caution: very long, sorry...

Rock N Roll Seattle Marathon, June 26th 2010
As we crossed the finish line of the Amica Seattle Half Marathon last November, two thoughts raced through my mind. The first was, “Omigosh, I’m dying!” The second thought was, “I HAVE to run a full marathon.” It seemed odd that I could be in so much pain and want to run even farther, but for some reason I was compelled to take on the challenge. And so the obsession began.

I have flat feet. One is pretty bad, the other is moderate. These feet have caused all sorts of issues in my body starting at the foot and ending at the hip. I also have arthritis in my feet. My doctor has gently tried to persuade me towards a more appropriate method of exercise, unfortunately I only like running. While training for the Half last year I developed bursitis in both hips, stemming from these mechanical issues in my feet. One month before the half I had to stop running. I was still pretty bad when the race rolled around but I decided to start it anyway and see how things went. Well, once I got going I didn’t want to be a quitter so I limped through the half. It took another month of rehab (and new custom orthotics) before I could attempt running again.

January 1st some of my wonderful friends and I started training for the Rock n Roll Marathon & Half Marathon in Seattle. We followed Jeff Galloway’s training plan, sticking to it quite religiously. We formed a little informal running club, which met weekly for the long runs. Things were moving along quite nicely until early May when I developed a shin splint on the bad leg. When I finally went to the doctor and he ruled out a stress fracture, I decided to treat it myself to save $40 a week PT. Maybe not the best idea I have ever had. Unfortunately even with tons of ice, massage, compression, elevation, yoga, and water jogging, I never healed! Couple that with my complete obsession with finishing the marathon and I was a wreck. I fell back on my training, water jogging during the week, and re-injuring the leg every long run on the weekends.

At last the exciting weekend came. My runner girls: Aundrea, Jer, Nita, Casey, KC, Kristin, Louie and I all shared two rooms at the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle. We closed out the Expo, grabbed some dinner and tried (and failed for the most part) to get some sleep that night.

4:00 am came VERY early. We nervously tried to dress and get some food down and make it to the shuttle by 5:30. When we got there the crowds were already pretty good. We stood in the potty lines 2 or 3 times, found our corral and then it was hurry up and wait time. I decided at the last minute to bring my little camera and so we wasted some time taking pics and video. When we finally crossed the start line it felt amazing. Lots of cheering. 

Right about mile 1 or so they had the big blow up Brooks running dude so we posed for some pictures and then pretty much split up. Kristin, Jer and Nita went off ahead a bit, and me, Aundrea, Casey and KC kept our pace a little slower. We were all using the Galloway interval method. My Garmin Forerunner has an interval setting that makes it really easy. Beep for walk, beep for run.

By about mile 3 Casey had to use a porta potty so I went on ahead of the group. I had never run a major long distance by myself so it was an interesting experience for me. I had obsessed about this run for so long it was actually kind of nice to really focus on the experience. I didn’t want to forget anything about that race, I wanted to absorb it all.
About mile 3 my lack of proper food caught up with me and I had to eat one of my powerbars, which threw my plan out of whack. At this point I didn’t have my IPod in, I was just listening to the bands that they had stationed every mile, the spectators cheering, and the cheerleaders.

Mile 5 I finally decided to put my music in, and it was about that time that I started to get emotional. I kept tearing up and getting weepy. I tried to find another marathoner to pace with, but there was mostly half-ers around me. Pink butt, race-walker, running skirt, tattoo girl, cute shoes, and orange shorts. These are the “names” that I assigned to people that I paced with until the marathoners split off to go over the bridge.

Miles 5-8 went pretty quickly. I was already starting to notice the hills that I never actually trained for. We went along the banks of Lake Washington which was very pretty and I took a couple pictures. About Mile 8 I was starting getting emotional again because I was anticipating seeing Dave and Lizzy at mile 9. They were stationed there with powerade, sport beans, water and energy bars to provide support for our group. I came around a corner, heard a band and saw my family all at the same time and started crying. Dave took a pic of me and Lizzy, replenished my fuel, gave me a hug and I was off again.

Shortly after that the course split off for the marathoners to go over the I-90 floating bridge and back again. The crowds had thinned out considerably at that point and I felt like I had a little breathing room. It was surreal running over the bridge. After a while I saw Jerri and Kristin headed back so I snapped a quick picture of them. The bridge seemed like it took a long time. I had had to go the bathroom for a while by then, but the lines were way too long to stop. I was kind of hoping that there would be a potty on the bridge but there wasn’t. At this point I was noticing that my garmin was quite a bit off of the course markers which was irritating.

After the bridge I looked up to see Kristin’s husband Chris sitting there tooting a horn which was a nice surprise. I THINK that it was this point that we went in a really, really long tunnel. It was just a bit too long if you ask me. Plus the music in there was way too loud. As we came out I finally saw some potties with no lines so I stopped. We wound back into downtown on I-90 and around mile 13 we were heading onto the overpass over I-5. I had a gel which I had picked up at mile 7 and it was gross. At the half marathon point I was starting to get nervous. My leg was KILLING me, and I wasn’t used to all these insufferable hills and I was starting to worry that I wouldn’t finish. We wound through town, heard a couple more bands, and headed onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct. There weren’t a lot of people around me, but there was one race walker that was getting on my nerves. It didn’t even look like she was trying to walk fast! But she WAS walking fast. Maybe I need to learn how to race walk.

We stayed on the viaduct for a while on the bottom level and then exited out into freer air. There were spectators lined up on parking garage walls which was interesting. At this point I could also see all those fast marathoners that were already on their way back. Crazy! Around mile 15 or so we hit another tunnel. This one wasn’t didn’t seem as long as the other one but it was still unnerving. After what seemed like a two mile hill I saw Lake Union on my right. I think we were close to the place that we had gotten lost before while looking for a gas station.  I was feeling tired but still plodding on. As I approached the Aurora bridge I saw Jerri running back. She is so fast. I love her. At this point I am still maintaining my same pace and was starting to pass people in my group. Soon after that I saw Kristin pass by. She had just seen her family and was glowing. I had a packet of beans and headed out on to the bridge. The view was great but it still seemed like I was going uphill forever!

I went out and back across the bridge and noticed a sign that said something about suicide help, which brought to mind some unpleasant bridge thoughts. Of course I kept going and made a decision to have some fuel at mile 20. Somewhere in that area I saw Aundrea and Casey. They were still together and going strong! Right about mile 20 I got some vanilla bean gu with caffeine and that seemed to help push me for the next few miles. I started drinking cytomax and water at every station at this point. I texted Dave at 20.5 and told him where I was. I tried to do the math to predict when I would be there but at this point my brain had stopped functioning. I saw Aundrea’s boyfriend Abel on a bike and was totally surprised since he looked just like a regular seattle guy out for a bike ride. I told him that they were back there but of course he already knew. The gu worked nicely and I felt decently good so I picked up the pace for a bit. My plan was to do the intervals until mile 23 and then run the rest straight.

About mile 21 or 22 I was approaching the dreaded battery street tunnel and I saw the sweeper cars behind the last marathoners on the other side. They were like 5 feet behind this poor woman and I wanted to jump across the barrier and give her a hug and the sweepers the finger. They should have given her some space!! I went through that yucky tunnel that smelled like a port a potty and ran by a woman with such beautiful skin I almost couldn’t resist telling her. However at Mile 21 of a marathon I wasn’t sure if she was in the mood for talking plus we were in that gross tunnel so I wisely kept my mouth shut.

After finally emerging from that tunnel we headed back out onto the Viaduct. The sun came out and I felt like I could run forever. I enjoyed the view of the sound and busted out a few lines to “me and bobby mcgee.” I wanted to get my camera out but for some reason it seemed like too much work.

Mile 23 approached and my original plan of skipping the intervals didn’t seem as good anymore. My second wind had was dying as I noticed that we were heading down a steep hill that I would have to go back up in a couple short miles. Jerri passed me at my mile 23 and her mile 25.5! She looked full of energy and that was something since she was on that horrible hill. I headed down and was really starting to get tired and had to dig deep. I was still passing some people slowly but surely and maintaining my pace. I saw Kristin go by and she was looking tired but focused. Those last few miles I was starting to get really tired and really anxious. I had stopped listening to the bands and was focusing on my music and my body.

I passed the last water station at mile 25 and put my IPod in my pack so I could really experience the last bit. Plus I needed all the mental focus I could get because we ended up going straight up that mean hill. I spoke to another runner but she didn’t answer. I can’t say I blame her. We were all dying. I ended up walking one extra minute on that dreaded hill, which was the only time I deviated from my intervals the whole race. Finally I reached the crest of the hill and headed back down for the last ½ mile or so which ended up actually feeling worse than the uphill part. I got to the point where I was seriously wondering if my knees would ever recover. They had never hurt that bad before in my life. There were lots of people cheering which always makes me smile.

We headed around a corner and cut through a small parking lot that we had parked at the night before at the expo and headed into the finishing chute. I was scanning everyone on the sidelines looking for my family and finally saw them right at the finish line. I crossed the finish line and things seemed a little confused for me because I was a slight bit disoriented. I got my medal, got a picture taken, someone put water in my hand and a bagel in my other hand, and I basically stood there like an idiot until Dave found me. I don’t think it took very long but I was pretty rummy.

I met up with my family and the Novys. Jerri had finished at 5:18 so she was further down the road to recovery and she instructed me to NOT sit down. Of course I did anyway, to see the damage to my feet. Not too bad, just some blisters. I asked Dave to text my son to tell him that I had finished and we made our way slowly over to the finishing chute to watch for our friends.

We saw the Serniottis and Kristin had just gotten her medal engraved with her time which was cool, but things were still blurry for me. I was starting to recover a little, the bagel and water helped. We hung out at the finish line for a while watching for our friends, and I called my parents to tell them I made it.

While at the chute we cheered for other runners who were finishing the marathon and that is when I got really emotional. Seeing the pain and emotion and pride on their faces made me cry like a baby and I felt so lucky to share in that moment with them and help cheer them on the last little bit. It was truly a special experience and it really meant a lot to me. I had not checked a bag or even thought to have Dave bring me some clothes so Jerri gave me a shirt to wear when I started to get cold. Thank you Jer!

We stayed there and waited for Aundrea and Casey to finish, and seeing them coming down the chute was an amazing feeling. I was so happy that everyone in our group was able to run and complete the race that they had trained for. Nita and KC ended up with PR’s for their halfs, and that is quite an accomplishment especially considering how hilly the course was!

At 4:00 we had a reservation at Rock Bottom for our whole group, so each runner and their families made their way over there slowly. I was starting to get really tired and they couldn’t seat us early so I had to keep walking which was probably better for my legs anyway! We had a fantastic dinner with our loved ones, got some more fun group pictures, and headed home.

Final Stats
1st goal (pre-injury) 5:30
2nd goal (post-injury) 6:00
Final time: 5:44
Intervals: 4:1
Average pace: 12:54
Elevation gain: 1,558
Total mileage on Garmin: 26.73
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow, what a post! I have a running a marathon on my list of things to do before I die, and I hope to do it a lot sooner than that. I walked one last September, but running one is going to be way different. I loved this summary of your day...I cried right along with you. You should be thrilled! I will be back to read this again and again. Rest up and get that leg back in working order. Good job!!!
    2830 days ago
    Congrats on a great run!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2855 days ago
    Loved reading about your first marathon- I hope I will be able to train for mine this year!
    2855 days ago
    Wow. You are a real trooper! :) Fantastic that you still made within your goal time too! :)

    Congratulations are definitely in order.
    2855 days ago
  • KIMH239
    Congratulations!!! What an accomplishment!

    I can't wait to do this myself!

    2855 days ago
  • LADYJ6942
    WOW!! What an adventure. Thank you for sharing and I wish you a speedy recovery with that leg.
    2855 days ago
  • JWOOD635
    Wow! You did such an amazing job! Keep it up!
    2855 days ago
    You are amazing Alison! I walked the full last year and had sweepers very close to us at one point. I know what you mean about wanting to hug people and give others the finger... LOL!

    You did it! You really did it... WooHoo!

    This is just the best post race blog I have ever read and it brings tears to my eyes... Hugs!

    Thanks for sharing your journey!
    2855 days ago
  • PAG2809
    Fantastic! This was my first marathon, too, but I was walking - came in just over 7 hours. I'm going back to halfs after this, but I'm proud of having finished a full, as I'm sure you are. You deserve to be very proud!
    2855 days ago
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