So where did I last leave off?
Ahh yes. The start line.
The gun sounded and the race started, at exactly 7am (I love punctual races). It took us less than 30 seconds to cross the start line, and the crowd support was already amazing.
Something I really, really loved about this race was all of the crowd support. All along the route were people cheering, kids were holding signs for their parents, dogs had race shirts on, everyone had signs, bands were playing, people were blasting music, people in bathrobes were out to get the morning paper and cheering us on. It was awesome, and such a change from San Francisco races. I loved it! CIM – bravo for your crowd support!
But back to the running.
I had been warned by just about everyone and just about every publication that the course is flat (relative: the first half is all rollers), and fast and that it starts with a good 1/2 mile downhill, and not to go out too fast. I knew that going out too fast and getting too caught up in everything would be the end of me come mile 23, so Lexi and I reigned it in and kept it around 9:00-9:10 for the first half.
It was nice to be able to focus on the course, the spectators, the fact that we were RUNNING A MARATHON (!!!!) and conserve our energy. It started out freezing, and I was comfortable with my arm warmers/gloves for quite a while.
The first 7 miles flew by in such a blur that I don’t even remember them. I was so excited, so pumped, and reveling in the moment.
My parents were going to be at the finish along with the greatest friends ever that drove up from SF that morning to cheer us on. Boyfriend was going to hit a few different spots on the course with Lexi’s parents and we were to look for them at 7, 13 and then the finish.
Once we started approaching Mile 7, I started to get excited, and took off my arm-warmers to hand-off to boyfriend (yes! I was going to get to hang on to them!), but had my gloves tucked under my tank top shoulder strap because I had been putting them on/taking them off according to whether or not I was getting too warm or if my hands started turning a bit blue (which they were and also fully unfunctional by the time I finished. Woops).
Mile 7 came and went and we must have just missed them! Right around that time we had found the 3:55 pacer and stuck with him. Boyfriend said they saw the 3:55 pacer but there was (very obviously) a large group of runners surrounding him, so I have a feeling we just got lost in the pack. The same thing happened at the half-way point. At least we had the anticipation of seeing them to keep us going!
We decided that based upon how we felt, our half-marathon times, our training paces, and because why the hell not aim big, we were going to stick with the 3:55 pacer. That way even if we fell a bit behind, we’d still sub-4 as long as we had him in our sights.
Everyone had said that the marathon will fly by and I didn’t believe them for a second. A marathon fly by? Are you insane? How wrong I was. Between chatting with Lexi, taking in the sights and sounds of the course, and reveling in the fact that I was actually running a marathon, the miles ticked by and before we knew it we were at mile 10, and then crossing the half-way point.
We crossed the 13.1 point in ~1:58. As long as we crossed that point in under 2 hours, we were happy. The fact that I was still pumped up, optimistic, and had fresh legs made me ecstatic. The first half, we were trying to rein it in, and I really wanted to make sure we had enough in us to push for the finish for the second half. Mission accomplished.
Our first half splits looked like this:
I was so impressed and proud that we were able to keep our splits relatively consistent. We never really wavered more than ~20-30 seconds either way, and we had been perfectly on pace to hit out goal.
Starting the second half we started to countdown at every mile marker. Maybe it was a big premature, but it helped to keep our excitement up.
Something else that helped us play the mental game was to point out all of the signs, people and dogs (obviously, who do you think you’re dealing with here?) Among the highlights? A goat on a leash, Beethoven (a massive St. Bernard), an amazing high school drum line, an “Occupy CIM” sign, and a “Pain is temporary, Internet times are forever” sign. Touche, spectator, touche.
Right around the half-way point (Mile 11 I believe) we also turned on our music to keep us motivated, happy, and beat the mental lulls that I had a feeling would hit around Mile 15.
I’ll share my playlist (aka secret weapon – the Fabolous song) because I’m completely comfortable in my taste in music. But you’ve been warned. My playlist looks like it belongs to a high school sophomore. You’d think it would bother me. Instead it just makes me want to run. Fast. And also sing.
After turning on our music, we stayed up with the 3:55 pacer, and even got a few steps ahead of him for Mile 14-17. Physically and mentally we were still feeling great. I took a Gu at mile 6, 12, and 18 and took water at about half of the aid stations. I had struggled with feeling really hungry on a lot of my long runs and didn’t want that to happen mid-race.
Lexi flying through the marathon.
Mile 17 and 18 passed without a hitch, and at that point we knew the hard part would be setting in – the last 8 miles. We stuck together, and kept at it, shouting out each mile as we passed it and screaming like crazy when we hit 20. Our longest run was 21 miles, so I knew we could get there without a hitch. Right around 21, we finally saw boyfriend and Lexi’s parents and it was a HUGE pick-me-up. I was so happy!
Grinning like a fool at boyfriend.
Also around 21.5, Lexi had to break for the restroom, and I knew if I stopped running there, I wouldn’t be able to start up again. My legs had hit the soreness point and my quads felt as though I’d been squatting and lunging for hours. Nothing unbearable, but definitely starting to get sore. I told Lexi I would keep going and hold our pace, hoping we’d be able to finish together. (As it turns out we were exactly 3 minutes apart – she gunned it after stopping at the bathrooms!)
Mile 22 took me up and over a bridge that by SF standards wouldn’t even be considered a hill. At Mile 22 in a marathon it may as well have been Everest. At that point about half the people around me had stopped to walk, or slowed down considerably. I saw plenty of people limping, holding calves, standing still with hands on knees, and I truly felt for them. They had held on for this long and to stop at that point, the pain must have been unbearable.
I trekked on, telling myself to keep my times in the 8:4x range. I made it up and over the bridge faster than I thought I could and clocked Mile 22 and 23 in the 8:58 range. I knew by keeping my splits in the 8’s I could still get the Sub-4 time I was coveting.
Passing the 23 mile marker I told myself I had less than 30 minutes to run. Then I told my brain that Modern Family is only 30 minutes and you always complain about how fast that goes by, so just KEEP GOING. The mental battle truly started for me at Mile 23, but to come so far, and after holding on for that long, there was no way I was going to give up.
Willing myself forward.
I kept repeating “You are stronger than you think you are”, and if that didn’t do the trick “Just keep f$&!king running. You can DO THIS”… and quite honestly it kept me going.
Mile 24 was when my quads were getting really sore and starting to feel heavy, I was starving, and the miles seemed to be taking much longer. I told myself to get through this mile, and then I had a mile to run, less than 10 minutes (I ignored the .2 until I got there).
At that point I was passing people in a big way. I don’t pass people. Where I had this strong form and sudden consistent energy I do not know but I’m crediting it all to proper training/cross-training.
I can say with a lot of relief that I never experienced any intense pain, or even considered stopping or slowing down. I had dedicated the last 18 weeks of my life to this race and if I was going to run it, I was going to leave everything I had over those 26.2 miles. (Arm warmers included. 😦 I really liked those too.)
Mile 25 came and I was the happiest person on the planet. I was pushing as hard as I could and my pace was slowly creeping up into the 9:0X’s and while I knew I had some time banked, I also knew I couldn’t let it get any higher than 9:10, so I focused on keeping it below that and pushing with everything I had.
Ironically, as hard as I was pushing, Mile 24, 25 and 26 were all right at 9:09-9:10. With all of the effort I was exerting you would have thought I was running with the Elites those 3 miles.
As soon as I saw the 26 mile marker I lost all reason and gave it everything I had. When we turned the corner and saw the Women’s Chute I gunned it. I passed my friends Kendall, Ryan and Shaun with their signs, and their cheers and it propelled me forward as I left everything I had on that course.
You know I threw my hands up in victory as I passed that finish line with a big ol’ stupid grin on my face just as it turned to 3:57.
As I mentioned before, I then assaulted the Chocolate Milk man to give me as many cartons as he would. I inhaled one of them then set off to find our amazing cheer section, same grin still plastered on my face.
I had done it. Not only was I a marathoner (!!!!!!!!) but I had done it in less than 4 hours. I gave this race absolutely everything I had, and I have zero regrets. The last 18 weeks of training have been so, so worth it.
Will there be others? Never say never (coughNYCMcough), but for the time being, I’m looking forward to Pilates, getting faster, running the handful of halves I’m registered for in 2012, probably registering for more races, and running based on what I feel like doing – no training plan necessary.
I’m also looking forward to regaining functioning legs. Hoping that kicks in soon.
Thanks for the best debut marathon this girl could have hoped for CIM! 🙂