Monday, May 7, 2007

My first marathon!

" Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the aching in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and a little voice inside you that yells "can't". But you dont listen, you just push harder and then you hear a voice whisper "can" and you realize the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are."

That is one of my favorite quotes, and one that I thought of often during the race on Sunday.

Dan, Courtney and I pulled into Lincoln a little after 3 on Saturday, and went right to packet pick up. They have the expo set up in one of the smaller ballrooms at the Embassy Suites downtown, so it was really crowded and none of us felt like messing with all the people, so we just got through the line as quickly as possible. Then we checked into the hotel, and drove the course. The first 13 miles is a loop that starts on campus next to the football stadium, then heads south through some neighborhoods before you jump on the trail that runs along Highway 2 and head west for a few miles. Then it turns back north through some more neighborhoods before you end up back in downtown. Just past mile 12, the half marathoners make a right and head to the finish, while the full marathoners head north for a loop around the statium, then the course heads east for an out and back stretch to Holmes Lake. I remembered the first half from last year, and the second half didnt seem like it would be too bad either. After we drove the course, we headed back to campus for the pre-race pasta dinner. We knew thunderstorms were in the forecast, and the first one rolled into Lincoln just as we were finishing eating. It POURED for about 20 minutes, then let up a bit for us to drive back to the hotel. It had rained so much in such a short period of time that the storm sewers weren't able to handle it all, and a lot of the streets were flooded. A car was stalled in the river that had been Cornhusker Highway, and we shamelessly leaned out the window to take pictures as we drove by on the raised median. I bet the people stranded in the car loved that. When we got back to the hotel, we discovered that the parking lot was now underwater as well, so we found one of the few dry parking spaces and claimed it.

I think we all went to sleep around 9 or 9:30, then Dan and I woke up at about 2am to the sound of another torrential downpour. He went out to the parking lot to make sure my car hadn't floated away, and luckilly the sewers had been able to catch up and now everything was draining properly. I went back to sleep sure that the rain would have ended by morning. Wrong! When the alarm went off at 5, it was STILL pouring. Dan went outside to check the temp, and came back in to report that the rain was actually blowing sideways. Fantastic. Courtney made the comment that all we could do is laugh, and she was right. I had two options; laugh or cry. Running my first marathon in conditions that were less than ideal, to put it mildly, wasnt my first choice, but what was I going to do about it?? I had to run it regardless of what the weather was doing. Suprisingly, I wasnt nervous at all. In part because I knew I was properly trained thanks to Runners Edge, and in part because the weather conditions were pretty hilarious. By the time we got down to campus, the rain had let up a bit so that it was now manageable. We had picked up some garbage bags at the store the night before, and we were all glad to have something to cover us. The temp was perfect, in the low 50's. I tried to find the sign for the 12:00/mile pace group, but I couldnt, so we just got into the crowd somewhere behind the 9:00/mile people. Once the cannon went off, it took us about 5 minutes to make it to the starting line, and then we were off.

Dan runs quite a bit faster than me, so he took off right away. Courtney and I ran together for the first mile, and it was nice to have the company. We hit the one mile mark in 12:45, a perfect warm up mile for me. I didnt really feel like taking my one minute walk break, but I knew I'd appreciate it later on, so I told Courtney to just go and I'd see her at the finish. After she took off, I put on my headphones and settled into my comfortable pace for the long haul. The first song that came up on my ipod was "Jump" by Van Halen, which was a great way to kick it off. I read a girl's race report from IMFL last year, and she said that the cannon went off during this song, so I always picture myself standing on the beach at the start line when I hear it. I kept with my pace, not minding that people were passing me, because I knew that most of them were doing the half. I was feeling good and just enjoying the scenery as I reminisced about my years living in Lincoln. I also gave myself a pat on the back every time I passed a landmark that I remembered from the half last year. I had been undertrained and started hurting pretty early, so it was nice to still be feeling good as I passed places where I had been struggling at the same time last year. At the 10K mark, we turned on the trail to head west. It had stopped raining at some point and I just now noticed, so I ripped off my trash bag, glad to be free of it. I had been pretty much staying with this group of 4 girls who would walk for about a quarter mile, then run really fast for about 20 yards, then walk again. On the streets, I just thought it was silly, but on the trail, it got downright annoying. They would fly past me, then start walking 4 across, taking up the entire trail. So those of us running had to go into the grass to get around them. Then they would fly past me again, and we'd repeat the whole process. This lasted the entire 2.5 miles or so that we were on the trail. Someone needs to teach them proper running etiquette, i.e., dont take up the whole trail when you are walking and you know people need to get around you.

As we got back on the streets to head north, I was still feeling really strong. I had been taking water and gatorade at all of the aid stations, and had eaten a GU and some pretzles along the way. When I was getting closer to downtown, I started looking forward to looping back around the stadium because I was hoping that Dan and Courtney would be there waiting for me since I'd be coming by only a block from the finish line before I headed out towards Holmes Lake, and I knew that they were probably both already done with the half. At the turn off for the half marathoners, there was a guy standing there with a bullhorn shouring "half marathon to the right! Full marathon straight!" A little part of me wished I could have turned right, but I was also excited to be one of the people going straight. Once I was out of the half marathon crowd, I was pretty much alone except for a few people just ahead of me. I took a look over my shoulder for the first time, and saw that there were a couple of other people heading into the full marathon route as well. At the half way point I took another GU and some water, and checked my watch. 2:41! 15 minutes faster than last year! I was right on track to finish in 5:30, which is what I had estimated. If I had only been doing the half, I knew that I definitely could have pushed myself harder and probably shaved another 15 minutes off my time. We turned back south towards the finish area, and Dan and Courtney came running out cheering for me, and Courtney was jogging along taking my picture. It was a nice boost to see them! I refused to look to my right as we went past the finish area, I didnt even want to see it. Now I'd retrace the first mile of the race, then turn east. The early finishers of the full marathon were heading back in, and I started daydreaming about what it would be like to be that fast.

Once I turned onto K Street, it was pretty much a constant stream of people heading in the opposite direction. One thing I was suprised about was how many guys I saw with bloody nipples! Obviously the rain didnt help with the chafing, but you'd think after running as much as they obviously had, they would have learned to use bandaids for protection. And then with the wet conditions, they all had blood just streaked down their shirts. I felt bad for them, and was thanful that I didnt have to worry about that problem. Courtney later told me that she saw a guy at the finish with the same problem.....except a little further south. Ouch! I was still feeling really strong up until about mile 15, and then the fatigue set in. But I knew I had to stay positive, so I started shouting encouragement to the folks headed in the opposite direction just to keep my mind off how tired I was getting. Courtney had stuck a little note of encouragement in my pocket earlier to read when I started hurting, so I pulled it out to get a little boost. My stomach started feeling a little upset at this point, not like I needed to use the bathroom, but like I might need to throw up at some point. GU's definitely did not sound good to me, and the aid stations on this part of the course had oranges, so I made use of those and my pretzels. My stomach still didnt calm down, but it didnt get any worse either. It had been breezy up to this point, but at about mile 16, the wind REALLY kicked in, and I was headed straight into it. Instead of getting frustrated, i thought about how nice it would be to have that tailwind on the way back.

By mile 18 I was feeling really worn out, my hips were getting really tight, and my feet were hurting. I have a problem with blistering on the bottoms of my little toes, so at Tobi's suggestion, I have been putting a cotton ball between my pinky and 4th toe, and taping around my toes to hold it. That has pretty much prevented any blisters. Well, my shoes and socks had gotten soaked in the first half of the race, so the tape hadnt held and now it was all mashed up and not doing its job. So I could feel the blisters starting to form. It also felt like I had sand in my socks. I could see the entrance to the Holmes Lake Park, and there was an aid station there where I gladly took a cup of water and drank as much as I could. Once I turned into the park, I hit the much dreaded "wall". I had it in my mind that mile 19 was right inside the park, but it wasnt. Once I realized that I still couldnt see that mile marker, I got so discouraged. I was tired, sore, my feet were on fire, and I just wanted to be done. I started to cry, but when I did that, I couldn't breathe, so I made myself calm down. "An Ironman wouldn't cry, buck up and get it done!" So I pulled out the disposable camera I was carrying and took a picture of the lake that was now past it's banks to distract myself. I kept running as much as I could, but by now I was pretty much walking as much as I was running. The course headed out of the park up 70th Street a quarter mile or so to the turn around at mile 20. I was so happy to see that turn around! Now I really could pretend that it was just another Saturday long run, because I knew I could always make it back from the turn around, and I only had 6 miles to go. By the time I got back out of the park, I had to finally pee for the first time, so I was glad to see a couple of port a johns. I wanted to stay in there and just sit for an hour I was so tired, but after all, it WAS a port a john, and getting out of there as quickly as possible was a better option. I was on a slight downhill to mile 22, which I ran most of, and then I just couldnt go any more. I had to walk, and it felt like I was never going to finish. I hated running, and doing a marathon seemed like the stupidest idea I have ever had. No way in hell was I going to do this again, and I really didnt want to do IMFL. But I knew I couldnt quit, I hadnt come this far to give up. Plus, I remembered reading on the Runners Edge brochure that 99% of the participants that make it to the starting line of a marathon finish. I didnt want to be a statistic!

When I crossed 48th Street, I think it was, I saw a couple of people on the corner cheering, and it wasnt until I got right up to them that I realized it was Courtney and Dan. I was still in a sour mood and pissed that I was having to walk so much, so I didnt really say anything to them. Then an idiot driver came into the lane that was marked off for the marathon route, and if I had the energy, I probably would have pounded on her hood. But I just threw my arms up and pointed to the cones to say "whats wrong with you?? Are you blind??", and kept walking. Dan and Courtney drove ahead and stopped and got out again, which was nice to have the support, but I was just so tired and so ready to to be done, that all I could say was "I feel like I'm going to throw up". I made it to the aid station at mile 23, which was suprisingly still well stocked. I took some Gatorade and a cup of ice. The lady working it was so cheerful I couldnt help but smile when she said "only 3 miles to go honey! You can do it!" Yeah, "only" 3 miles. That seemed like a long way. I walked most of the way between mile 22 and mile 25, and ended up walking with a couple of other guys for a while. I had been running alone for so long, it was nice to have some company. It felt like I had sand between my big toe and second toe and it really hurt, but I didnt want to stop and take my shoe off.

Once I saw the mile 25 marker I got a sudden burst of energy and was determined to run the rest of the way. So I said good luck to the two guys and took off. After a couple of blocks I turned back onto 16th Street and I almost started crying out of sheer joy because I could see the campus and I knew I was almost done. The cops had started tearing down the course so I had been on the sidewalk for a little bit, but the cones were still up here so I jumped back into the street. It started raining again, and there were still big puddles, and some guy in a truck came whizzing by an intersection and totally soaked me. I was too focused on finishing to even be irritated. A block from the turn onto Vine, it was all down hill and I was going as fast as my legs could carry me. They felt like spaghetti and my toes felt like they were going to fall off, but I didnt care. I turned left onto Vine, and there was the finish line. They had taken down the banner, but I could still see it. By some miracle, I still had enough gas left in the tank to kick it in a little more. I was going to finish!!! I had planned on taking a picture of the mile 26 marker, but I didnt want to stop. I saw Dan and Courtney and my parents all yelling for me, and the people that were left still working the finish area were yelling for me as well. I crossed the finish line and was DONE!!! I finished a marathon!! I was too tired to talk or cry so I just put my hands on my knees and tried to catch my breath. They brought me my finishers medal and rose, and one of the ladies went off to get my finishers t-shirt. I had requested a Coke at the end, and either Dan or Courtney handed one to me, though I dont remember which one it was. I couldnt believe I was done! It was so surreal! My time ended up being a little over 6 hours (6:08 or so, I think, I havent checked the official results yet), which was about 40 minutes over what I had estimated. Yeah, it would have been nice to have a faster time, but that can come later. I'm just happy to have one under my belt. I limped inside the Colliseum to get my bag and take a shower. Courtney had gotten me a card and a "26.2" sticker for my car window. Yeah! I think I earned it :)

When I came up from showering and went to get a massage, I was told that I was too late, they had already started tearing down the massage tables. What?! They said they only stayed until 1:00, so basically, anyone who took 6 hours or more didn't get a massage. I understand they cant stay there all day, but seriously, I think I deserved one just as much as the people that finished in 3 hours. Plus, I had been looking forward to that massage for the last few miles. Oh well. We had lunch at Old Chicago with my parents and then headed back to KC. By the time I was in the car, I was already planning to come back next year to improve my time.

Things to do differently for next time. It would be nice to have more 20+ mile runs under my belt. I only had one 20 mile run, and I wish I could have had at least one more, plus a 22 miler. It's like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get. My first 10 mile training run was hell, now 10 miles is a piece of cake. So I think I could have benefited from a couple more really long runs. I also need to find some alternate fueling options. GU just was not going to work for me in the second half, and it would have been nice to have something other than pretzels to fall back on. Other than that, it was perfect! I cant wait to get back out there and start training again! My feet are a little banged up, and I'm pretty sore, but no more than after any other long run. What I had thought was sand between my big toe and second toe turned out to be a blister that had torn open, so it was just a patch of raw skin. No wonder it hurt so much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I ran the Honolulu Marathon in 2007and it rained like crazy all morning. I had a big black garbage bag on and have done the garbage bag thing in the past, but this was the first time I started getting soapy bubbles all over my arms, GPS and IPOD...I smelled wonderful, but almost wrecked my IPOD and GPS---Lesson Learned use bags that do not have soap and scent added to them. I think the rain stopped around mile 13 for me. One thing I love...the added weather challenges--I mentally use it to my advantage! Just like hills...I tell myself I LOVE THEM...everyone else HATES them...I'm going to eat them up! :) Well, I'm not that much of a toughy...When it comes to running long distances--there's a lot of mental headgames one must play to keep going! :) I'm sure you can relate.
I read once that-- "Running marathons and Triathlons is like constantly hitting your head with a hammer it keeps hurting until you stop!"
Good Luck KC Tri Chick.
Best Wishes,