|Ready for race day!|
|My "down on my luck" in my hobo-chic outfit!|
(Oh the irony…)
|Yes I'm wearing a wool coat at the start...|
Photo courtesy of my Dad
Miles 7-14: We crossed the river at around miler 7.5 or so and the remaining stretch until mile 14 was spent on mostly flat ground (with some rolling hills) winding by the river. It was peaceful and serene. I remember noticing leaves falling and hearing the thud of feet all around me. The fall foliage was magnified by the river and some beautiful homes. My only complaint about this section of the course was the crowds. I constantly felt boxed in, probably due to being with the pace group and this made the water stops difficult to navigate. I told myself over and over to stay calm and not get worked up. This mostly worked...
I fell into a very dark place during this section of the course, which was abnormal for me. Somewhere around mile 8 or 9, I got very down and started to doubt myself. A few miles later, I was able to dig myself out of this hole but I never felt "right" again, mentally speaking. It's worth noting that up until mile 12 or 13, I was still under 4:00 pace and slowly banking a few seconds against this pace every mile. And with the exception of the hills, the pace felt comfortable and at times, even a bit slow. I also noticed that I started to blow through fuel way quicker than normal during this stretch and was very conscious of how thirsty I felt. This was clearly an omen of things to come.
|Adam took this gem!|
A little while later, Mom and Dad were on the right side of the course just over the bridge. I waved and could barely muster a smile. I told Mom I needed her and she jumped in to run with me. At this point, the plan was for her to run a few miles with me and get me to mile 19 or 20.
Miles 18-21: At around mile 18.5 or so, the unthinkable happened. I got cold. Not just cold, a kind of cold that couldn't be ignored and one that was mentally debilitating. It was a scary cold. I was already struggling to regain control of my race from a pace standpoint and this was the last straw. I don't exactly remember what I told Mom other than I was cold and scared and might need medical help. A minute or two later, she grabbed a sweatshirt that was on the side of the road, clearly discarded by another runner. I put it on and noticed it said "Old Dominion University" on it, which happens to be a University near where I live. What luck! This sweatshirt would save me! She also asked every police officer we saw if there was a medical tent. No one knew. She asked other runners. No one knew. Finally, a guy who was standing next to a police officer told us he thought there was medical a mile up the road. Mom asked if I could make it there and I nodded that I could. Away we went!
We never found any semblance of a medical tent or medical crew on the course. Luckily, I warmed up a mile after getting my (savior) sweatshirt and was able to regain a bit of control over my race. I felt pretty crappy but I kept telling myself simply to finish. Every step hurt and was truly a battle. I swear, miles 17-19 felt like they lasted for hours.
Once we hit mile 20, we were back in a beautiful residential section of town that was mostly flat. There was a split clock and I noticed that we hit mile 20 at 3:12, which was only 7 minutes over my 20 mile split estimate for my sub-4:00 attempt. Not bad, actually. This gave me a little mental boost and it was at this moment, that I decided I would still PR. I told Mom that I wanted to finish and PR and she said she would carry me if she had to. She also told me she was running in to the finish with me. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. I needed a running partner more than I needed air at this point...or at least that's what my brain was telling me.
|My new race outfit! Mom is just out of the photo to my right.|
We also passed by some great spectators and a fun little area where a group had set up a bunch of Christmas blow-ups and were blasting Christmas music. "Santa Claus is coming to town" happened to be playing as we approached and Mom and I laughed about how much we love Santa! It's crazy but it kept me going.
Miles 25-Finish: Somewhere in here, another major obstacle occurred. My right knee exploded with pain...I can think of no other way to describe it. The pain was pronounced and felt like my knee was on fire. It was like nothing I had experienced as my left knee is usually the problematic one. I kept thinking it would go away but it got worse. Eventually I found myself limping as I ran and I had to stop to walk to regain my gait and composure. The downhill to the finish was pure agony on my achy knee but I was determined to make it to the finish without stopping again. Mom told me she would see me in to make sure I got into the Medical tent but would move off to the side so I could have my own finish line moment. I got pretty teary as I told her how much I appreciated her running TEN MILES with me (after her 8k earlier in the morning), knowing full well that I would likely not be poised to cross the finish line without her. I cannot remember feeling more relief after crossing a finish line...relief that the hell of the marathon was over, relief that I could stop running, relief that even though I didn't meet my goal, I still PR'ed (by 13 minutes with final time of 4:18.01) after months of hard work.
Bart Yasso was cheering in the runners at the bottom of the hill just past the finish line. I waved as I walked by but was too tired to really talk to him. I had one thing on my mind - getting warm in the medical tent. I collected my medal and a very sweet volunteer directed me to the medical tent. I spent about 20 minutes with a warm blanket wrapped around me and ice on my knees. I took off my arm warmers, realizing they were soaking wet with sweat...and potentially a culprit for getting so cold on the bridge. Mom and I made our way out of the tent and I wanted to say hi to Bart so we got a quick photo and he gave me a big hug after I told him this was the hardest race of my life. He is so awesome!
The post-race festivities were excellent! I collected my bag from bag check and promptly stripped off my wet shirt and sweatshirt and threw on a dry shirt and jacket and Dad offered me his coat. I put on a fleece headband and was finally feeling a little warmer. I was eager to get some food at this point. The options included bagels, bananas, and pizza. I handed Adam my banana and housed a slice of cheese pizza from Papa Johns. I'm fairly confident it was the best piece of pizza I've ever had. I didn't hang around long and regrettably didn't feel like taking any finisher photos. I think it was a combination of feeling disappointed in my race and wearing an awkward oversized coat that wasn't even mine, although that would have matched the tone of my race day.
As a coworker reminded me yesterday, not all marathons will be good ones and "you aren't really a marathoner until you have that really, really hard race and prove to yourself that crossing the finish line means more than a time." I couldn't have said it better myself. "…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the season of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…" Let's end this race story there, shall we?
From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate the support throughout this training cycle and race day.
P.S. I'll be sharing more race-specific info in another post…this one had to capture my emotions.