Race Recap: Fun 4th Freedom Run 10k

As part of my training for the Marine Corps Marathon, my plan had me running 8 miles this past Saturday. There was also a race in Greensboro and I thought, no better way to spend my miles than at my first Greensboro Race!

My friend Tyna, from Winston-Salem came over to run it with me as she is also training for the MCM.

We started the morning off at 7:15am with a 2 mile run before the race so we could get all 8 miles in for the day.

I’ve never split up a long run during training like this, but since it’s early on and a special event, I thought it’d be worth it. The weather was perfect during the warm-up and we had a pretty easy route around downtown Greensboro. We finished within 20 minutes of the race starting.

After our 2 miles we met up with another runner friend of ours, Erin. We had some confusion before the race as to where we were meeting, but we found each other in plenty of time before the start.

I will say that since this is one of the smallest races I’d participated in over the past 2+ years, the starting line was a little confusing. Runners were corralled behind the starting line in no particular order so if we weren’t paying attention we would have ended up pretty close to the front. We started somewhere towards the middle of the pack though and we were comfortable there.

Starting Line:


(photo source – On the Mark Sports)

Up until the week of the race I had been planning on taking it easy and just running for the fun of it. Once race week came I (of course) started to flirt with the idea to run for time. With the heat and humidity that crept up as the morning wore on though, I knew at the starting line I wasn’t going to be racing. It’s too early on in marathon training to go all out and risk injury, especially after my first week just wrapping up. The race was supposed to count as my long run anyway, so I was fine going at a comfortable pace.

The course was beautiful and I got to see areas of Greensboro that I didn’t even know existed. Course Map


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It was a hilly one! It was pretty much half shaded and half in the sun and thankfully some generous homeowners along the course set up sprinklers for runners to run through.

There were lots of water stations along the way, some of which I drank and some of which I poured down my back. The volunteers were amazing, calling out times at each mile marker, cheering and using noise makers for support, along with manning the water stations along the entire course.

The run went well despite the hot and humid conditions, but I was a little bummed that I couldn’t run for time. There is no way I could have run at my usual 10k training pace that morning. I went into the race a little hungry and under-hydrated, too. The last 0.2 miles though, the course flattened out and I picked up speed towards the finish line. I finished strong with a time of 54:38, an average of 8:49 min/mile (official results from the race website). I placed 10th out of my age group…but I have no idea how many runners were in my age group. hah

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Waving to Brandon, about to cross the finish
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Tyna finishing!!

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After we were across the finish line we waited for Erin to cross and dug into the post-race snacks; bananas, oranges, bagels, bread, Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, Gatorade and water. I had half a banana, some orange slices, a quarter of a bagel, and washed it down with some Gatorade + water. It was a good spread!

The best part was the misting tents they had set up!


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Not quite like that but it gives you an idea. We stood under those a bit after we finished refueling then went to see our posted results. Can I put one of these on my “training plan wish list” for use after my long runs? No? No takers? Meh, there’s always Christmas.

I would definitely consider doing this race again. It was so nice to wake up in my own bed on race day and in combination with the packet pick-up, crowd/volunteer support, entertainment/announcers, post-race spread, and fast turn around on post race results, it was a great first Greensboro race experience.

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Did you race this weekend? Are you racing on the 4th?

 

Race Recap: 2012 NYC Half Marathon

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This post has taken me a long time to begin writing because I really have no idea where to begin.

What an amazing experience.

An experience I will never forget.

My parents and I arrived at LaGuardia around the same time Friday evening (after both having a 90 minute delay due to fog in NYC from both Louisville and Greensboro). We split a taxi to the hotel and then found a local pub a few blocks from our hotel for a very late (10pm) dinner!

If you know me, you know I’m pretty anal about the amount of sleep I get each night, especially before races. I’ve read that the most important night for a good night’s sleep isn’t the night before the race, but 2 nights before the race.

I slept like crap that night. Then spent the entire day Saturday being a tourist in NYC.

First up for the day was the expo.

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Love this!

I got my bib #, race goodies, checked out all the vendors, and I even scored a free pair of Tommy Copper compression sleeves thanks to #runchat! (Fun Fact: go to that link and my marathon picture is one in the banner!) I put those babies on after I got back to the hotel and before we set off on our day adventures.

I’m so glad I had them because we were gone a long time and did a lot of traveling by foot. Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park, Wall Street/Lower Manhattan; there’s just so much to see!

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I kept dwelling on how much walking I did that day and I was pretty anxious about it by the time we got back to the hotel at 6pm. What if I couldn’t run well the next day? What if my hip starts to bother me prematurely?

Run-cations (vacations with/for a race) aren’t like your normal vacay’s. I was in my hotel by 6pm both nights prior to the race. Sorry in advance to anyone wanting to go on a run-cation with me; it’s just the name of the game.

Saturday evening I did about 90 minutes of stretching + foam rolling + full compression socks vs. just sleeves + icing my hip flexor and outside left hip.

Did I mention that a week prior to the race, I had some bursitis flare up in my right hip? That’s the healthy hip by the way. So after my sucky run last Monday, I took the rest of the week off. I was sporting a pretty awesome, perfectly circular bruise on the outside of my hip, too.

So, on Saturday night I slept even worse than Friday night. I think I got TOPS 3 hours of sleep. I couldn’t stop worrying about my hip. Plus I could hear the set up for the race going on the street outside our window.

I kept thinking, “What if I do well tomorrow but them I’m back to square one with an injury on Monday? What if I can’t even run the whole thing? How am I going to get to the start of the race.. the subway station is closed.” (It wasn’t really closed, just the one we were supposed to use was closed.)

Type-A, worry wart, personality, classically kicking in the night before the race. I can’t say I slept very well the night before my first marathon, either. At the time, I blamed it on a too-soft pillow, but now I’m thinking it’s really just me.

The alarm went off at 5am Sunday morning and I got dressed and tried to eat something. I brought a lot of food from home but nothing sounded good. I tried to eat my banana and PB packet with a mini bagel, but I only got the banana down with a little bit of PB and half the mini bagel.

I’m an eater, people. I like to eat. This is so out of character for me, even before a race. Before the marathon I had oatmeal, 2 waffles with PB, coffee, and water. Granted, I had a lot more time to digest that meal before the start of the marathon but still, I usually don’t have a problem getting food into me.

My parents, little brother (who’s actually not little, he’s 21), and I headed out the door on time at 6am…just when the sound system was cranking up outside of our window! Did I mention our hotel was right at the finish line of the race?

6am start
Sorry for the iPhone poor picture quality and dirty window..

We caught the subway with other runners and a mere 25 minutes later, we were on our way from the subway station to Central Park!

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It was a cold morning, about 45 degrees, but I had my long running tights on and a dri-fit Brooks long sleeve shirt, so I was ok, especially high-tailing it to the park which was about a 10 minute walk after the subway.

When we got there I found my corral quickly and easily. It was so organized!

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Mini-runner

Thankfully I didn’t have to check a bag since all I had was my phone and jacket which I gave to my parents. In each corral, they had about 15 port-o-potty’s set up so people could be in their corral by 7am (which is when they closed) and still be able to use the bathroom. Genius. Thank you NYRR.

My stomach was a knot of nerves. I don’t know if it was because I was running NYC and I was so excited or the fact that I was unsure of how the race was going to go. Most likely, it was the latter.

I was more nervous for this race than my first full marathon.

After I said goodbye to my family and that I’d see them at the finish line, I went deeper into my corral and finished warming up, just like my training runs.

I wasn’t excited. I hadn’t felt excitement about this race but twice. Once when I applied to the race in December and again when I found out I was accepted. Sad, isn’t it? Why did I place so much value on this race? Wasn’t running what I loved to do?

I didn’t want to fail. What exactly my definition of failing was at that time, I don’t know. Was failing having to stop and walk? Not beating my last race time? Having hip pain?  I knew no matter what, I wouldn’t be letting anyone down if I “failed,” but myself. My family, Brandon, friends, even PT gave me all the confidence I needed. I just wasn’t so sure myself.

I heard the announcers introduce the elite athletes, Kara Goucher (!!!), Desiree Davilla, and Meb Keflezighi, part of our USA Olympic team.

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Kara Goucher! The best runner ever, in my opinion Smile

THEN I got excited. THEN everything changed. I was going to be racing on the same course as so many of my idols. They were paving the way for us, so to speak. It put it in perspective that I really have nothing to lose at this race. The elites are beginning their training for the summer games with this race, and $100,000 is on the line!

Suddenly, I realized that no matter what happened, I’d never have that kind of pressure and I need to remember why I signed up for this race in the first place. To do what I love in a pretty spectacular city.

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I gun went off and although I was in the 8,000’s out of 15,000+ runners, it still took me over 10 minutes to get to the starting line. Then I was off!!

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I knew the first part of course was going to be hilly. No big deal since I train on hills everyday, right? Well…I’ve never run 6 hilly miles at sub 8:30min/miles then went for 7.1 flat miles. You’d think it’d be easy but those hills were pretty demanding early on.

I was making pretty good time through the park, I kept glancing down at my Garmin and saw sub 8:30 miles (minus mile 5 – holy hill!), right on track.

This wouldn’t normally be my goal pace but since finishing PT and running the routes I’ve been running, I’ve been flying! I guess that saying about coming back stronger off an injury is true. I decided to take advantage of it and see what I could do on race day. I didn’t let myself down!

My 5k (3.1miles) split was 26:04 and 10k (6.2miles) split was 52:28, respectively.

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They aren’t really that impressive. However, considering those were both in the park, both during the hilly portion I was happy with it. And holy cow batman, look at my splits!

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Remember mile 5? Huge hill, seemingly lasted forever. Obviously I was being fairly cautious the first mile, too.

Basically, my splits were all over the place through Central Park.

Mile 4, I took 2 power bar energy chews and gulped down some Gatorade.

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I was seriously going to die later in the race if I didn’t have anything early on. (ok maybe that’s being overdramatic) That “breakfast” I had was a joke.

I will say that with more races, I’m getting better at not sloshing water and Gatorade up my nose at the aid stations. My first half marathon last year ended up with me covered in a sticky film of Gatorade that missed my mouth.

Mmm I love inhaling neon green drank.

I would say I improved that skill at just the right time considering I really needed it this race.

As I left mile 6 we also left Central Park. This was the part of the course I’d been waiting for. Yeah it was flat and I could make up some time, but this was the part where I was running towards Times Square.

Fun Fact: Did you know they only close Times Square twice a year? Once is the NYC Half (NOPE! Not even for the marathon!) and second is New Years Eve!

7th Avenue was wiiiiide open.

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The fog was eerie settling in just over the tall buildings and it kind of felt like I was racing through a snow globe. 

I will never forget running through that wide open street with all the billboards flashing. I got goose bumps the closer I got to Times Square, it was so surreal.

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When I glanced down at my watch as I turned to exit Times Square and run toward the west side highway here’s what it read:

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RUNNER’S HIGH!

My mom got to see me run through Times Square and turn onto 42nd street since she was standing on a bleacher thing, but my dad and brother missed me, street side. My mom said my eyes were so big like I was in awe of everything happening around me. I was!

Mile 7 was exiting the park, 8 was up 7th Ave and through Times Square, and mile 9 was 42nd street and the beginning of the west side highway. I really had to settle into a steady pace at 9. It was a straight shot from mile 9-13 and then then final 0.1 to the finish.

At mile 9 I knew I needed more energy so 2 more power bar energy chews it was, followed by Gatorade.

The rest of the time on the highway I was focused on staying on pace and trying not to focus on how heavy my legs felt. They were certainly fatigued.

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I did an okay job of pacing during miles 9-12, but then things got a little screwy.

We ran past the World Trade Center and at mile 12 entered the Battery Park Tunnel. I wasn’t expecting that but was actually pretty relieved to get out of the wind. It wasn’t terribly windy, just enough to notice the relief once we entered the tunnel. It was also pretty neat to hear runners cheering and getting excited that we were almost to the finish. Such energy and motivation!

However, running in a tunnel doesn’t have good satellite reception, if you were wondering.

I once glanced down at my watch and I was no longer gaining distance and my pace was over an hour/mile. Sweet.

I tried to stay on pace as best I could by staying with the people a little further ahead of me. It was the last mile, after all, gotta push it.

Coming out of the tunnel I was greeted with a hill – SURPRISE! – and then saw the sign for 800 meters to go. I was so happy to see that sign.

I sped up what I could and passed the 200 meters to go sign, turned the corner and could see the finish line.

I sprinted (Or what felt like sprinting.. I never really think I sprint at the end of races, I just feel like I am. Must be psychological. hah) towards the finish line with so many people lining the sides of the street and cheering for their runner.

Here are some good shots my family got from the hotel room since that’s where we decided to meet afterwards.

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Look I was on the jumbotron!

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I FINISHED! I was so excited! I felt so much relief and I couldn’t wait to see what my official time was. Homeboy next to me looks pretty pumped that he’s finished, too!

Official finisher’s picture:
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It took about 20 minutes to get my official picture taken, get my medal, aluminum cape, and goody bag, but I finally made it out of the finishers chute and met my family back up at the hotel since I knew it’d be a mess trying to find them afterwards.

Here are my Garmin splits:
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1:50:26?! That’s a new PR! My last half marathon PR was 1:56:47! I can’t believe the improvement.

I checked my official time and it was actually 1:50:23 with an average of 8:26 min/mile! Even better!!

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My official rank was 1,428 out of 7,880 women and 4,832 out of 15,336 total finishers. I am pleased!

Here are a few more stats:

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The elite runners had a great race, too!

Top 2 finishers, (Kim) Smith from New Zealand and Dado from Ethiopia, respectively, heading down 7th Avenue.

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Kara leading the line of women out of Central Park down 7th Avenue.

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Strong is the new skinny.

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Can you believe she just had her first baby 17 months ago at age 32?

Kara got 3rd place (1:09:12), Dado got first (1:08:35), and Kim earned 2nd place (1:08:43).

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Here’s the link to the 2 hour live broadcast. You can see the elite’s highlighted, more of the course, and how graceful Kara runs as she finishes with a race against the clock and still taking time to wave to fans cheering her on.  What class.

All while being a pretty funny mom to a pretty cute kid named Colt!


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After I got cleaned up we went to lunch where I celebrated with a mimosa and lobster ravioli!

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Cheers to a great race and believing I could do it, even though I had some serious doubts these past 3 months.

Cheers to the proudest medal I’ve ever earned and a race I will never forget!

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How did your last race go?!

Mistletoe 5k and Half Marathon

Holiday cheer is spreading into the running community as Saturday I participated in the Mistletoe 5k. I was originally planning on running the half marathon but I got sidelined.

Saturday began early with a 6:15am wake up call. I stayed with my friend, Tyna, the night before so I didn’t have to drive over to Winston-Salem by myself early. That extra 45 minutes of rest was much appreciated!

Our friend Jenna, who just moved to Durham, NC this week, also participated in the race with us! We got there early to register Jenna for the 5k and there was SUCH a long line for packet pick-up/race day registration.

Because we have superior time management skills, we grabbed this photo op as we waited in line for 35+ minutes.

The race organizers said last year they had around 2,700 participants and this year there were over 4,000 runners signed up! What a huge accomplishment by the organization and so much money raised to fight childhood obesity. YAY!

So after Jenna got signed up we made our way to the half marathon starting line. Tyna was ready to run!

The gun went off and they began the 13.1 mile run through Winston-Salem.

It was apparently a hilly course and they even got to run up to Wake Forest University’s campus.

After we saw Tyna off, Jenna and I made our way down to the 5k starting line.

There were so many families, kids, and people of all ages at the starting line. It was awesome to see how active the community is here.

Our 5k began and we were off!

Well, sort of. Let me back up.

I signed up for the race just 4 days beforehand, a record of cutting it close for me. I wasn’t sure if I would be running or walking the race because of my hip, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be running. Thursday (2 days before the race) I tried to run 3 miles in hopes of me being able to run the 5k. I’ve been on a 2 week running hiatus for a painful hip. At my sports medicine doctor appointment a few weeks ago, he said I should try to run a few days before the race and see where I stand. I didn’t get very far.

The run felt awesome but I could only run 1 mile until my hip started hurting. I was trying not to get my hopes up because for the first ¾ mi I felt back to normal, so excited, endorphins pumping, I was back to doing what I love.

After the ¾ mi, I started to feel pain in my left hip. I wanted to see how far I could go because I wasn’t sure if I was being over cautious and just imagining the pain because I was so worried about it, or if it was physically there. It was definitely there and after a mile I had to stop. So that pretty much determined my “race” on Saturday. No running for me.

Back to the race.

I planned on walking the whole 5k. Jenna walked with me for about a mile of the race, maybe more, then ran to the finish. I kept walking and saw a completely different race than I normally see.

I saw 70 year olds running, I saw groups of middle-aged women walking and running, I saw kids running with their parents, I saw kids running with an organization called “Girls on the Run” and for most of them it was their first race ever. So exciting to watch them.

I finished in 46 minutes with little hip pain during the walk. As I was coming in for the finish I felt a little embarrassed with all the runners flying past me, but I had to remember why I was in this situation to begin with. I also didn’t want to push myself to run when I knew it would be doing me more harm than good. Still, my pride took a little hit.

I guess more accurately stated, the experience was pretty humbling. Exactly 1 month ago I ran a full marathon and today, I’d do just about anything to run a 5k pain-free. It really made me reevaluate my road to recovery.

I met up with Jenna after crossing the finish and we went to the food tents. They had the best spread of treats I’ve ever seen at a race! They had the usual bananas, peanut butter, water, sports drink, but they also had these pre-made PB&J graham cracker sandwiches that were pretty yummy.

Yes, I realize this is elementary school food and highly processed. I can’t deny PB&J though, seriously so addicting.

The best part of all was that Panera catered! There was a variety of breads to choose from and they even had cups of warm chicken noodle soup. Perfect since it was maybe 45 degrees outside.

After we enjoyed our warm cups of soup we tried to find our car so we could go meet Tyna at mile 10 to cheer her on. Unfortunately, we misplaced the car so we ended up missing her. We decided just to stay down at the finish and see her there instead.

Jenna waited between mile 12 and 13 so she could run the last leg with Tyna. I stayed closer to the finish line and waited for her there with her boyfriend’s brother and girlfriend who drove up from Charlotte just to cheer her on!

We saw her coming around the bend and cheered for her as she began her sprint towards the finish line.

She finished under 2 hours which was her goal (and AWESOME!), so although it was a hilly course, Tyna was super happy with what she had accomplished..and with only 4 weeks of training! Talk about determination!

(Photo courtesy of Tyna)

After the race we went to Foothills Brewery in downtown Winston-Salem and grabbed a celebratory beer and some lunch. It was a great way to end an exciting morning and a perfect place to warm up!

Next year, I definitely want to run this race. The organization of the race was well done, it’s a local race (no traveling or hotels required!), and it’s benefitting a great cause.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

(Photo courtesy of Tyna)

Did you participate in any holiday races this weekend or have one coming up?

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon 2011 Race Recap

If you didn’t see my post about the day prior to the marathon, you can read it here.

I’M A MARATHONER!

26.2 miles of sweat, tears, port-a-potty’s, Gu, energy chews, water, Cytomax, wishing, laughing,  praying, cursing, and having the time of my life.

The day started off with an early alarm at 4:30am. I was already awake from excitement and I laid there trying to decide if I should get up a couple minutes early, or give my legs another couple of minutes of rest in bed. I waited until 4:30 and hopped up to start one of the best days of my life.

I laid out my clothes the night before so I was sure to have everything I needed.

I had no problem finding my clothes in the semi-dark room since B was still asleep (who can still be sleeping on such an exciting day?!) Since I’ve confessed my love for running in neon, I would be easy to spot for friends and family on the sidelines and in pictures.

After I showered and dressed I had my pre-run ritual breakfast of 2 Ego waffles (not wheat – no fiber on long run days!) with peanut butter and a banana. I also had a half cup of coffee since we had 3 hours until the race started and I wanted to get things..moving.

Everyone was awake and ready to go by 5:20 so we (literally) ran to the 5:30am shuttle stop thinking we might miss it. We definitely didn’t miss it. We ended up getting there right on time with no bus in sight. We waited..

And waited..

And waited.

Did I mention it was 40 degrees with strong winds?

Finally, a little after 6:00am, one stinking shuttle showed up with hundreds of people from Tybee Island waiting to be taken to the start line. Poor planning on Rock ‘n’ Roll’s behalf, they knew how many shuttle tickets they sold.

After we finally got on the bus and what felt like we were trying to get off the sinking Titanic by the way everyone was shoving, we were on our way to the starting line.

Up until this point I was so stressed about the bus I forgot about being nervous about the race or anything of that nature. Now that we were finally on the bus, I was starting to get nervous and excited. It was about a 30 minute drive to the starting line so I had plenty of time to talk to family and get pumped with all the other runners.

We finally arrived and it was time for one last bathroom stop. We waited outside in the freezing cold for a port-a-potty for 20 minutes, then found refuge in a nice hotel lobby that had coffee, Gatorade, heat and it was amazing.

We stayed there until 7:20ish then made our way to the starting line!

We were in corral #12 so we walked from #25 all the way up. The race organizers were hyping up the crowd, the National Anthem was sung, there was rock and roll music blasting – it was so full of energy! I was bursting with excitement as we waited in our corral for the first corral to be released at 7:30am.

The gun when off and I knew we had about 10 minutes so I kept my warm clothes on until just before we were released. Brr was that a cold wait!

It was finally our turn and we were off. At 7:44am I crossed the starting line. See ya in a few hours.

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The first 2 miles were COLD. I wished I had gloves several times but I made it through just fine. A lot of runners had gloves and were ditching them on the course when they didn’t need them anymore. *Note to self*

The first few miles were through a poorer area of Savannah but it was pretty incredible. The residents were out on their porches, sitting in their vans, and standing on the sidewalks in their pajamas cheering us on and shouting encouraging words. So nice and very welcoming of us runners taking over their neighborhoods.

Where’s Waldo? We made it to the 5k (3.1 miles) mile marker!

After the first 3-4 miles we were entering some historic neighborhoods of Savannah which were nice. I followed the advice from Hal Higdon’s “Marathon” book that I read during training to walk through the water stations. This way I avoided getting drenched in water and sports drink while running that should otherwise be making it into my body.  This worked out really well throughout the entire race.

I should mention that around mile 5 I decided I had to pee. There were water or Cytomax stations every other mile and at every other station I would drink. More on that later..

At mile 5 Brandon had some foot pain, so he teared off and finished the rest of his half marathon by himself. I am so proud of him! It was so hard leaving him but he knew I had a goal to reach. The next race we run together we will stay together!

On we went. I specifically remember miles 7-8 well because of the outpouring support of spectators. There were SO many people on the sidelines of these miles. This was probably awesome for the half marathoners because they were already over half way there! It was so nice to see them cheering everyone on and I kept saying to Michael and Dawn, “What’s our pace? Don’t get excited and run too fast!” I was definitely taking it all in though and was pretty excited myself. 🙂

Around mile 8 was the first Gu station. I had my iFitness belt that I purchased 2 weeks ago full of Power Bar Energy Chews but I still wanted to get down some Gu. I grabbed a Vanilla Bean and got half of it down along with a cup of water and off I went.

Miles 9-11 were through more historic neighborhoods, very pretty and the neighbors were out supporting runners.

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There was one house with a fire pit, camping chairs, food, and mimosa’s as they were wrapped in blankets on the sidewalks cheering us on. I was kind of jealous, but then I got over it.

Mile 11 is when the half marathoners and the full marathons said their goodbyes. The marathoners went left and the half marathoners went right. Then we were in the middle of nowhere.

We started up the on ramp to a highway.

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I wish I were kidding.

There was no crowd support on this highway, there was no shade, there were no water stations, and it was SO. WINDY.  I felt like I was getting blown all over the road, my left ear was burning from the sun, and there was nothing exciting to look at.

Believe it or not, there was something positive that I saw on this stretch. As we were running mile 11 or 12, we saw the FIRST PLACE male running past mile 24 on the other side of the highway. Holy inspiration. I saw the motorcade approaching with the motorcycles and lights flashing in all their glory. As they turned the corner, there he was; I got so excited I screamed, “You’re going to win!!!” I was so happy I got to see that. Probably the closest I’ll ever come to first place in a race but it was seriously one of the most inspirational moments I’d seen in person.

After we crossed paths with Mr. First Place, we were approaching the exit ramp and we were back on a normal running surface. We soon crossed the 13.1 half marathon mile marker. Half Way There.

I remember running on a street with a waterway and a really nice boat. I remember running by some nice parks. Everything was still green so that was good to look at. Mostly though, I kept thinking of when I was going to pee, if I would make it to a port-a-potty, when I was going to take another Gu, and I was mentally preparing myself for miles 18+.

I honestly do not like taking Gu’s. I dreaded it for the next 3 miles of the race. Finally it was time. I got about 2 slurps out of it, threw it on the ground and reached for my chews. I knew that much Gu wasn’t going to be enough. While I was fighting with my fuel belt, I fell behind my running buddies, so I had to play catch up once I finished chomping and drinking. I got back to them a few paces in front of me and we were back on pace at mile 15.

Remember how I said I had to pee back at mile 5? Since then I’d been drinking sports drink, water, Gu, energy chews, pounding the ground, and at least 1.5 hours had passed. My stomach was starting to hurt from needing to pee. I kept looking for port-a-potty’s but there was nothing in sight. Until we turned a corner and there were 4 of them bunched up. I had my eye on the end one and thought how awesome it would be if that panel flipped to green and the door opened just as I was upon it. The racing gods heard me because that’s exactly what happened. 30 seconds later I was back on the course feeling 100% better.

Apparently during my 30 second pee, my running buddies sped up (not intentionally) and put me a good distance behind them. It took about 5 minutes for me to catch up to them since there was no way I was wasting my glycogen (energy) to catch up only to crash at the end. I know how this works..

I did catch up with them and then we were in mile 19. Legs were getting heavy now, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before in training, so I knew I was fine.

Mile 20. Michael had said he was having some kind of pain while I was catching up to them, so he had to slow his pace. Dawn and I were running together and we both put on our headphones and were in our own world.

I kept my pace because I knew I still had 6.2 uncharted miles to cover. I’d never run more than 20 miles, I had no idea what was going to happen but I was going to do it.

Dawn went ahead of me and we were all 3 alone now. What began as 3 ended up as everyone on their own. Running is the epitome of an individual sport. I was feeling tired and my hips/knees were hurting but overall I still felt great, I knew there was still something left in me, I knew I could do this.

Then I saw the on ramp. We were back at the blasted highway.

Here we are, Mile 21. Running farther than I’d ever run before.

I knew it was a good sign that we were back on the highway because that meant we were close to finishing. But since we were only on mile 21, I knew we had at least 3 miles on it since I saw the first place runner at mile 24.

During mile 21 it was just me and the road, I finally got to reflect on everything I had done over the past 18 weeks. I thought about how 18 weeks was just for marathon training, but that in the months prior, I built the base upon which I would begin marathon training. I ran my first half marathon in April and I remembered how great that felt.

Then the beginning of the most powerful mental struggle I’ve had with myself began.

Mile 22 was when it got t-o-u-g-h. It was getting harder and harder to pick my legs up. My muscles and joints were really starting to yell at me. The winds were picking up and I later learned that we were running into a 15-25 mph headwind (wind at our face) for almost 30 minutes.

All I could think about was how much I was wishing it were over. I wanted to cross that finish line NOW and I wanted to see Brandon. I let a few tears drop but told myself this wasn’t the time or place to get weak. This is was my time to shine.

I had a little talk with myself, “This is what you trained for. You knew this would be tough. If marathons were easy everyone would do it. You’re stronger than this. One step at a time. Think about this mile, get through just this mile.” I thought inspirational thoughts. I said inspirational words, then I shook my head, picked my chin up, and carried on.

A couple minutes later, I saw a girl about my age that I had spotted from back in mile 2. I had told my running buddies then that we should stick with her because it looks like she’d done this a few times. (I don’t know if this is true but it sounded good.) We lost her throughout the race but there she was, trotting up next to me during this painful mile.

She started to pass me, but I wanted to stay with her remembering my initial thought, so I found the strength to lift my legs a little higher and a litter faster. We were hanging around each other and at some point our pace fell into line and we started running with each other. We never talked, we never decided to do this out loud, but for the next 2 miles we had an unspoken understanding that we were going to get through these miles together.

Once we passed mile marker 24 there was a water station which I got water at, ate an energy chew or two and kept on running. The girl was behind me and I never saw her again, but I’m glad she came when she did and we got to run those 2 miles together.

Back on my own, I saw the exit ramp and we were back on the streets of Savannah. We passed the 40k mile marker and I had no idea how long that was (there was no way I could have attempted mental math at this point!) I asked some guy next to me if that was mile marker 25 and he said he had no idea but that it was coming up soon if it wasn’t it.

I trudged on still keeping below a 10 minute mile pace. Finally, I saw more and more spectators starting to fill in. I passed mile 25 and made the decision to race the last 1.2 miles.

Magic happened.

Spectators were cheering.  Coaches were coming to meet their trainee’s to run the last mile with them. Runners became walkers. People were crying. I ran my heart out. I ran as fast as I could.

I was in my zone, focused on the tenths of miles ahead waiting for the finish line to come into view. I thought I was delirious because I heard someone screaming my name, “Go  Beth!!” Emily and Will came to mile 25/26 to cheer me on the last bit I had to run. I was so surprised I slowed down almost to a stop to say hi.. but then I remembered I was racing. I told them I’d talk to them later and sprinted off.

Thanks Emily!

I definitely don’t look as graceful as I feel in that picture..

Less than a half mile to go now. And then there was a hill.

Race organizers have a sick sense of humor to put a hill at mile 26. I cursed at it.

Thankfully I had plenty of hills during training, so I tackled it just like the ones I tackled before. I saw mile marker 26 and it was on.

I flipped the switch and if I thought I was sprinting before, I was flying now. Taking seconds off my time, I passed walkers, other runners, and screaming spectators.

I saw a photographer at the finish line and smiled for one of the proudest moments of my life.

I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.

I smashed my time goal of under 4 hours and 30 minutes with a final time of 4 hours 8 minutes 45 seconds. My average pace was 9 minutes 30 seconds per mile, for 26.2 miles.

I am a marathoner.

I saw Dawn waiting for me, just 17 seconds ahead of me. We smiled at each other and then the pain of what we just did started to set in. The adrenaline was wearing off, our blood was re-circulating from our leg muscles back to our other organs. It hurt.

We saw our husbands and they started to walk toward the end of the finisher’s chute to meet us. We saw other family and friends from our spectator group smiling and waving and congratulating us. They said we looked delirious walking around the “secure zone.” I pretty much felt delirious. It hurt, but it felt so good.

I received my medal, hung it around my neck, and started to get teary-eyed. The amount of accomplishment I felt far surpassed any amount of pain I was feeling. I was so happy and proud of myself for pushing through, for setting this goal, for finishing, and being able to walk through that chute.

We snapped our official finisher’s pictures and headed off for much needed food.

They had mini bagels, fruit cups, water, bananas, and Cytomax (like Gatorade). I grabbed the water, Cytomax, banana, and mini bagel then made my way out to meet Brandon. He gave me the best hug ever and congratulated me. He had run the half marathon so I was pretty proud of him myself. What a great day we had!

After that I saw Emily and Will ride up on their bikes. I was again, surprised to see them I almost started to cry all over again. They had flowers for me and we got to catch up a little bit. It was so nice to see them again!

We met up with the rest of our crew and found a nice grassy area in the sun. We talked about our races, ate, drank, and took it all in with a headliner band Rock and Roll put on in the background. It was the perfect ending to a perfect first race.

Marathoners!

The best team ever!

Congratulations if you’re still reading this; that takes dedication, too.

After we headed back to the condo and got cleaned up, we went back into downtown for a celebratory dinner complete with champagne..

…then limped our way back to the car.

CHEERS!

(I’ll follow up with recovery in another post; I figured that was enough reading for this one!)