And I did not die, and I am not injured, and I came in under my goal of 5 hours - and I am very happy that I decided to rethink the 4:30 goal after the calf issues started. It let me enjoy the marathon a lot more.
Beforehand, I was feeling pretty much every emotion that a person can possibly feel, but the overarching emotion was TERROR. Plus, it was cold - good running weather, bad waiting weather. And yes, it really was 100+ degrees over labor day weekend and in the low 50's this morning!!! Yes, Ohio really does have weather that is THAT EFFED UP. Luckily, Mark was running the half, which started an hour later, so I could keep extra clothes on until the last minute and then give my clothes to him to put in our bag to check. Running Buddy Jene and I parted ways soon before the start, her to go line up with the 4:00 pacer, me to find the 4:45. I found the group and met Pacer Paul. We chatted for a few minutes, and then the national anthem started. Jene had said I was going to cry when the race started and I didn't think I was. We were both wrong, I guess - as soon as I heard the national anthem, I started SOBBING. Yep, a regular hot mess, I was. The B-1 fighter jet flyover was AMAZING. Then Pacer Paul said he had to go to the bathroom and said, "Here, first-timer, you get to hold the sign!" Umm, ok. I stood there and held the 4:45 sign. Then we moved closer to the start line. No Pacer Paul. The gun went off. ARE YOU SERIOUS??? I was terrified that I would be stuck trying to pace a group of people. I started asking if anyone knew if I was on a prank show or otherwise the victim of some horrible joke. Then, he showed up!!! I gladly passed the sign back to him pretty much as we took off running.
The pace group started out pretty slowly. I made a quick friend in Katie, who was running next to me, and we chatted for a while. We were joined soon by Greg, who was a fast runner (40-something 10k), but had never done a marathon. He had done a 30k a while back but hadn't really trained for this one and was looking to go slowly for the first 20. We stuck with the pace group through the first hill at mile 1.5. It was a doozy but also too early for it to really be a problem. I turned on my ipod for some extra oomph on the hill and was pleasantly surprised to remember that I had put the mortal kombat theme on for my first sign. Hearing "test your might.....MORTAL KOMBAT!" before the techno kicks in, while watching all those people run, was a pretty awesome moment.
After the hill, Pacer Paul told a joke - what do you call a male cat in love? CAT-sanova. As we groaned, he produced from somewhere a loooong typewritten list of jokes.
Soon after that, the three of us got ahead of the pace group. The little voice in the back of my head told me it wasn't a great idea, but I had made friends that I didn't want to leave, so I stuck with them. We met a girl named Heather, a 20 year old Air Force Reservist who hadn't trained much and said she'd run with us as long as she could. With that, we formed a little team. Live together, die alone! I called out and everyone laughed.
Most of the race is a blur, but here are the noteworthy things:
I think I listened to about 5 songs on my ipod, total. I turned it on at times if there was a lull in the conversation but never made it through a full song before something would happen or someone would start out again. My marathon playlist was 40 songs and I was afraid it would be too short!
The miles FLEW by for the first half of the race. I was always so shocked to see another one already. We kept about a 10:30 pace for a while. Again, I was really worried about that being too fast. That's how fast I ran my last 15 miler and I decided at the time that was too fast for marathon pace. So torn between sticking with my new friends and slowing down!!
Greg kept wanting to shoot out ahead of us. For a while, I would join him and then I realized that his 10:00 pace (sometimes in the 9's) was just not right. Then the three of us started sticking to our speed when he went faster. He kept telling us he needed us to slow him down. At one point I told him I was going to put a leash on him!
Somewhere around mile 7, I think, a group of people were standing outside base housing with FIG NEWTONS!!!! OMG, fig newtons are awesome. I sooo did not have enough saliva, though, and it took forever to eat it.
We all were walking at the hydration stations. There were a TON of them. I alternated between water and gatorade, but by mile 8, my stomach was feeling all kinds of funky. I had done shot bloks at miles 2.5 and 6 but I decided to hold off because I was getting gatorade. I got the strawberry banana gu they were passing out at mile 8 and decided to stash it for mile 9. Then mile 10. Then mile 11...and so on until 16. My stomach just did not want ANYTHING for a while besides water.
Miles 8-10 were awesome. Spectator support tends to be low since most of the race is on base and all the security stuff...but we ran off base into the town of Fairborn, which pretty much converted itself into a huge party zone for the occasion. Bands, TONS of spectators, a big line of kids to high-five, people banging on pots and pans in their front yard, cute little girls cheerleading, a guy with a mic calling out all our names....I smiled the whole time we ran through Fairborn. They even have their own site: www.mileten.com. We also sped way up in Fairborn. I was so sad to leave it.
As I was running into Fairborn, I heard my name and saw Running Buddy on her way out. She was running with the 4:00 group and looked great. I was soooo happy!! As I was headed out of Fairborn, I saw fellow blogger Christina and gave her a shout as well.
Katie's 11 year old daughter and 4 year old son were in Fairborn with huge "Go Mommy!" signs. She ran over to them and her 4 year old ran out and hugged her. Cutest thing EVER.
At one point, an older woman asked me if it was my first marathon. I said yes, and she responded that she had ran 202 marathons. HOLY CRAP. We all asked her a bunch of questions and found out she ran her first one at age 31, she was now 65, in her most productive year she ran 19 (including 10 in 13 weeks) and her resting heart rate is 40. She passed us and Heather said, "She's totally pwning us too!" (Yes, she said pwning!)
For a while, Greg and Heather got ahead of Katie and I and we stuck together for a while, but the other two did eventually slow down. At a water stop, Katie got behind us and the three of us slow-jogged as we waited for her to come back. She waved us on. I felt awful continuing on, but I had started running again and I was starting to get more to the place where I was feeling the burn and couldn't stop and start as easily, so we went on. This was about mile 11 or so.
At mile 13, I realized I had forgotten to take Aleve before the race. I had a small moment of panic, but I was surprised at how well I was doing without it. My calf hurt, no doubt, but it wasn't slowing me down.
I totally hit a 13.1 PR. Around mile 12, I thought I may. As we approached mile 13, the other two kept asking me about it. We crossed the 13.1 mat and my Garmin said 2:17. (As it turns out, my official 13.1 time was 2:17:27 - a 1:32 PR.) Greg kept congratulating me, but I was totally torn between "That's so awesome!" and "OH CRAP I'm going too fast!!"
That was the point where I let myself admit that I was starting to hurt and struggle a bit. The other two agreed.
Around mile 15, I started to feel the dreaded chafage. WTF? I NEVER chafe. I used to on occasion, back when I first started running and was 35 lbs heavier, but never lately. I had new shorts on, but they were tempos, and I've ran in tempos before. Didn't chafe when I wore short-ish shorts on my 20 mile run. But yup, definitely chafing, definitely owie, right where my shorts hit my thigh. I sucked it up and said if that was the worst thing I had to deal with, I'd be thrilled. And I didn't have to deal for long - the next hydration station had a marked medical tent. "Do you have vaseline???" I yelled, and they pointed to a guy standing by the road with an open jar of it. I have never been so happy to see vaseline in my whole entire life. I grabbed a glob, and in a super ladylike moment, proceeded to rub it on both inner thighs. "That's right, no chafing!" yelled a volunteer.
Near mile 16, all of a sudden this wave of hunger came over me. Extreme starvation hunger. I ate the strawberry banana gu and it tasted AMAZING. Grabbed two gatorades at the next station and felt better.
This was when I started to slow down. I delayed the wall as long as possible, but we had a stretch of running in the sun, which was now starting to get hot. I spotted my tattoo - what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger - and showed it off, trying to use it as motivatin. Around 18 I admitted that I was at that freaking wall. Our group decided to stay together. Conversation got forced. Someone asked what everyone likes to do besides running and it took me forever to think of an answer. Then I blurted out, "I really don't like running right now!" We were talking about our families and I was going to tell them about my nephew, but I couldn't remember how old he was. I tried to remember when he was born. I tried to remember how old he was when we got married. Then I thought we got married in 2009 and this was 2010 and I was fighting to remember the year. Oh, brain. It was going to die long before my legs were. I told Heather and Greg that they could speed up and leave me now. Greg turned around and looked me in the eye. "We're taking you with us!!!"
The two of them kept telling me that I was the pro, that I had trained, I had run further than either of them. WTF? Me, a marathon pro? I just laughed.
Somewhere after 18, Heather had to stop at a porta potty. Greg and I said we'd wait for her but she wouldn't have it, so we kept going. Greg's plan was to stick with the group until mile 21, and then he'd speed up for the last 5. I told him he could go slow with me if he wanted - I was into the 11 and change pace by that point - or I'd understand if he sped up, but THIS WAS MY PACE NOW. He stuck with me.
The hydration station near mile 19 had a rock and roll theme and a guy dressed as Elvis. "Welcome to station O, your rock and roll hydration station!!" Pretty funny.
Somewhere after that, a guy was on his hands and knees in the middle of the road. He was trying to straighten out one leg, which looked stuck in a bent position. He had a crowd of people around him and he was screaming these awful, blood-curdling screams of pain. I felt so bad for him.
Greg kept talking to me. He kept commenting on how I was PRing and how we didn't have far to go and asking me questions and I was pretty much just grunting at him. I saw someone on an online forum mention something about needing to suffer alone during a marathon. I was at that point and found myself wishing he would just run away, but knowing he was keeping me going, too. I didn't want to keep running until mile 21 but I did because he was with me and he had said that's what we were doing.
As we neared mile 21, I formulated a plan. There was a big hill. I was going to walk it. Then I was going to Gallowalk to the end. I decided I could be way proud of myself for running (other than water stops) 21 miles straight.Near that hill, I heard a "There she is!!" I turned and saw Pacer Paul and his group. I ran with them for a minute...then the hill. I left Greg with them and I walked it. I was at 21.15.
The hill was .4 miles long. I passed other people who were also walking, and managed to walk it at a brisk 13 and change. When I got to the top, I had my plan - run .2, walk .05, until the end. Break it down into nice quarter miles. I sadly watched the 4:45 group move on ahead. Running down the overpass went really well, and was exactly .2. It was then that my third toe on my right foot felt stabby. I was pretty sure I had ripped off that nail - I had lost the nail next to it during training. Well, it had been floppy and I had pulled it off entirely earlier in the week. I debated stopping to pull off my shoe to check, or better yet, stopping at the medical tent where they could check because I didn't think I could bend over and get my own shoe off, but I was afraid to stop. The run/walk ratio worked well for a bit - I was able to run faster and the walk breaks really helped. I didn't even feel like I NEEDED them when I got to one, but I felt better after that short walk. I inserted some longer walk breaks - at the hydration stations and up some smaller hills, because I was over running anything but the flattest ground.
At mile 23, I decided I missed having friends. I started talking to a guy who had stopped and doubled over for half a second. His name was Matt and he was a student at Purdue. I asked him if he cared if someone was running with him, remembering how annoyed I had been getting with conversation earlier. We ran together for a couple of minutes, but then he said he needed to walk again.
One of the latter hydration stations had an Austin Powers theme. A guy wearing a crushed velvet jacket told me I looked, "Groovy, baby!" I cracked up. I was walking a (small) hill later when I saw two little girls giving out high-fives. I ran to them and they both said, "You can do it!!" I soooo needed to hear that.
I walked A LOT during the last few miles. A lot. I hit mile 24 and thought I had three miles to go and it took way too long for me to get the math right, and even then, two miles seemed like way too far to run in one stretch. I brought back the intervals. I hit a downhill and FLEW down it. I was the only runner for a while. I hit a 9:18 pace. I felt invincible. That didn't last. I knew I could hit sub-5 without much running, heck, I could finish the thing walking, and it was really really hard to come up with reasons to run. I remembered feeling pretty similar last year at the half - the last few miles are the same. It didn't help that most of the marathoners were walking by that point, and we had joined up with the 3.5-4 hour half marathoners, so they were all walking too. Motivation hit an all-time low. Mark is at the finish line! Jene is at the finish line! Try to get to them faster!!
I was taking a walk break when I hit 25. Try as I might, I couldn't make myself run again. My brain wouldn't kick in. I tried picking a landmark, a time, to start running. Nope. Finally, my brain thought, "This is ridiculous" and my feet involuntarily ran again. Once they did, I wouldn't let them stop. I was in the last mile. I saw the big buildings on base and remembered how long the walk had been to the starting line this morning. A couple of fellow runners cheered me on. Holy crap, that was the longest mile ever. Only .4 to go! someone told me. .4 miles seemed like about 40. The base was full of annoying twists and turns. I was .3 miles away, according to my Garmin - and I saw someone I recognized. "202 marathons!!" I yelled and caught up to the 202 marathon woman. She smiled and told me I must have done some really good training. I almost started laughing as I thought of all the people online who told me there was no way I could run a marathon with the minimal training I'd done. "What? No! I didn't train well! I'm just stubborn!" She went on. "That's the mistake a lot of people make, they don't train enough and they go out too fast." I had probably done both. My Garmin chirped. Hmm, there's no 26 sign. Oh wait....it seemed to be .1 mile too far. Round the corner.....and there were the planes! There was the crowd! There was the finish! I ran as fast as I could....and looked down and saw a whopping 10:44 pace. Yep, I had killed my legs!
I thought I would cry, but I think that required too much energy and some actual hydration to make tears. My throat did get choked up, though, and I know I had a smile on my face. The smile faded a little as I scanned the crowd and saw no familiar faces....but then toward the end, there was Mark, on the other side of the fence, arms raised above his head. I smiled, raised my arms, and yelled out the first thing that popped into my head - "I F***ING DID IT!!!" Yes, yes I did, in front of everyone including small children. It just came out. I sprinted a few steps toward the finish line, remembered to raise my arms over my head, and got my medal. Then I remembered to turn off my Garmin, which read 2.39 in 4:53. After that....there were volunteers standing near the finish line with gatorade and POTATO CHIPS. OMG potato chips!!! Salt and carbs!!! I'm never hungry immediately after running, but I was starving. I shoveled potato chips into my face like I hadn't eaten in days.
Jene found me pretty easily after that. She had missed her goal by ten freaking seconds, which made me super sad!! She asked if I had found Mark yet, and I replied that I had seen him in the crowd but I hadn't found him since. Then I realized: he might have retrieved our bag. He had my flip flops!!! This may sound awful to anyone who has not run a marathon, but in that moment, I was more excited to see my flip flops than my husband.
He found me, sans bag. Said goodbye to Jene, and headed for the beer stand. OMG beer!!! I had two, thanks to Jene giving me her coupon. BEER IS SO AWESOME. For the record, they had miller lite and I usually only drink microbrews but it was SO GOOD. Then he picked up our bag. I had been avoiding sitting down for fear I'd never get up again, but I sat so I could peel off my socks and shoes and inspect my toes. I had a HUGE blister on one toe, wedged under previously popped blisters and callouses. Ouch. There was one on my nail-less toe, right where the nail would've been. I thanked myself profusely for yanking that nail off before the race. I had NOT ripped off the nail of the other toe; matter of fact, it looked fine but hurt like crazy. (I discovered later that I had a blister under the nail that was causing the pain.) I spotted Heather, who had finished a few minutes after me, and she said that Katie had caught up with her and kept her going to the end. Greg found me and said he had finished in 4:45:11.
Long walk back to the car, drive home, and SHOWER. SHOWERS ARE AWESOME. We compared battle scars. Nothing like a warmish shower to make you realize everything that hurts - blisters. Sunburn. Chafing. Both of my arms had chafed where they were rubbing against the seam on the armpit of my shirt. Luckily I hadn't realized it at all until after the race - the one arm HURT, though, and I had to walk with my arm held away from my body. My heart rate monitor chafed, which is why I hadn't been wearing it lately. We went out for pizza at a place with paper tablecloths and crayons, and I wrote "I JUST RAN A MARATHON, MOFOS!" on the table. A decorative sign behind our booth said, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"
My answer: run a freaking marathon. Official time: 4:53:18.
(Also, huge props to the huz, who PR'd his half by 21 minutes!)
Picture post to come soon!!!