I have to admit, this race recap has been difficult to start. How do I put this experience into words? This race meant so much to me. This was the culmination of 8 marathon training cycles, 1 DNF, 2 deferrals, 1 stomach flu, 3 walk of shames, 1 woulda coulda shoulda, 1 shattered dream, 1 80+ degree day, and 6 years of perseverance, during which time my family moved 1000+ miles, TWICE. I learned a lot about people, about myself, and looking back, it was all worth it. It all led to this. one. day.
On race morning, I woke up calm, but as the time neared for us to leave the house, nerves hit. I started shaking a little bit and I wanted to cry really bad, but I held it back. I think. My husband and kids work a race aid station, so we left the house at 5 am. I drove myself to the race finish, crying all the way. Wailing. It was U.G.L.Y. Andy picked me up, and we went to the aid station, which lucky for me, is at the race start. It was cold and windy. Hmmm, I was hoping it wasn’t TOO cold, which is something I didn’t think I’d have to think about. I sat in the truck a bit as they unloaded the aid station stuff, and I decided to go for a very short jog to see how the old legs were feeling. I probably went just short of a quarter mile, and I felt good. So I jumped back in the truck where it was warm, and had my snack. I told a lot of people my husband was at the aid station at mile 2.5 (that part of the course is one big circle so you start and loop around to where we were in the truck) and 14.5, so some brought their bottles and extra supplies to leave there, and a few jumped in the truck with me. That was nice to have company as the minutes flew by. I’m bummed we didn’t get a picture! I realized I needed to head to the bathroom again, which was basically next to the truck, so I tensely waited in line, again as the minutes flew. I did NOT want to be in the jon when the national anthem was playing. NOT THIS TIME. Thankfully, our line moved fairly fast, and it was time to head to the start to fine the 3:40 pace group.
My nerves quelled by this time, and my focus started to shift to the task at hand. I had also realized that I had my directions messed up. The wind was from the north at probably a good 10 mph, so I thought we would have a head wind for a few miles at the beginning and in the middle. I was wrong – we would only have it a few miles at the beginning, and several of the other miles would be protected. I was very happy to realize it and my race could go even better than I planned! Yay for getting it wrong!!!
I found the pace group, made a little small talk, and got my music ready. I don’t know what kind of time warp we were in, but I swear, it was the fastest ten minutes EVER. Thankfully, the race started on time, and we were ready to go. I crossed the start about a minute after the gun went off.
Here we go. It was crowded, I couldn’t hear my music (I even checked to be sure it was on), and I ran on the sidewalk instead of the street. I passed many people who shouldn’t have been in front of me, and soon, my Garmin beeped one mile. Fifteen seconds later, I came upon Mile 1 at 9:00. Wow. Ok, that was a tad slow and my Garmin was reading fast. Hey, no big, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I knew my coach would be happy I didn’t blow the first mile at an 8:00 pace. Save the legs, save the legs.
We ran the next mile with the wind, and I picked up a little from that first slow mile. I warmed up, so I took off the Sheddable Shell and carried it with me. I dodged the drainage grates in the street, something I was used to because I run that loop all year long, and I wondered what the out-of-towners thought. Mile 2 approached, and my Garmin was consistent with the early beep like at mile 1. Ok, 8:09. That’s a tad fast, but we were with the wind and my breathing didn’t increase, so good sign. Half a mile later, I passed my kids and Andy working to hand out water and Gatorade, and I threw my balled-up Sheddable Shell coat, hoping someone would grab it before it blew away. Thankfully, my son saw it and picked it up.
We ran off the island and the sun was coming up, but thankfully, it was cloudy. The weather was shaping up to be perfect for me. I saw the pacer fly by and say something about making up time. I knew I did not want to increase my pace to a sub 8:00 mile, so I stayed back, trying to keep them in sight. This was also where my pace bracelet came in perfectly. At each mile marker, starting at 3, I looked at my time and where I should be on the bracelet – I knew I was behind from that first slow mile, but I knew I had time to make it up, if things went my way. Mile 3 was at 8:02, faster than it should have been, but I felt like it was effortless.
Mile 1: 9:00, Mile 2: 8:09, Mile 3: 8:02, Mile 4: 8:00, Mile 5: 8:19
Ah, nutrition and hydration, those other controllable variables. I carried my first Gu (orange Rocktane) with me and had an 8 oz bottle of Rocket Fuel nicely clipped to my shorts. I actually remembered to drink, and my goal was to have this 8 oz done within 1 hour. I was a little behind, so I made sure to drink big sips each time. The miles were going by at a great pace, and I was following my plan. I realized at mile 5.5 that I needed to eat. I wasn’t hungry, but I knew I needed the fuel, so I tore into my Gu and got it down, finishing it with the last of my Rocket Fuel. Done. I was going to supplement with water at the aid stations in the next section of the race. But I didn’t expect to have to pee. Oh man, I have to pee, and it’s mile 8. I had just caught up with the pace group at this time, happily following them and letting their pace dictate my pace. I saw a few people I knew with the pacer, which was really cool and I saw TONS of people along the course I knew. That’s the beauty of a home town race! Built in support. When I found myself going at a pace under my goal pace, I tried to pull back. It was way to early to bank time.
Instead of saying “Hello” or “Hey all” or just “How are you feeling?”, the first thing I said to the pacer was, “I have to pee.”. How friendly of me. I knew I needed to take the chance and go, and at that point, I was close to my 3:39 goal pace, making up for that slower first mile. The next two aid stations had port-a-jons, but they were full, so I kept going. Finally a few miles later at mile 10-11, I found an empty stall, fumbled around, almost losing my iPod, and quickly peed. I came out and immediately looked for the pace group, happy to see they were still in sight. At this point, my Garmin was .12 miles off the mile markers, part of which was due to tangents, part of which was my Garmin.
Mile 6: 8:13, Mile 7: 8:06, Mile 8: 8:13, Mile 9: 8:18, Mile 10: 8:15, Mile 11 (the bathroom mile): 8:56
At this point in the race, we run through a private neighborhood full of curving roads that seem to go. on. for. ever. I knew the half marathoners split off close to the exit, and it seemed like 17 miles instead of maybe 5. FINALLY, I saw the split, and we were herded through some gates and out of the neighborhood, where we headed back to the beach loop. I was feeling good, keeping in mind that the race hadn’t even really begun, remembering how many times I had done well up to mile 18-20. But something in me know I had fight, I had something different this time. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t breathing heavily. I saw a bunch of people I knew at the aid station, whether they were helping, waiting for their relay team members, or spectating. Lori, I won’t ever forget you saying, “Well, there she is.” when you saw me. You made me feel so important at that point. Lynda, I remember seeing you and how happy you were to see me too. Those are the little bits I remember, the faces, the smiles, the people yelling my name, not knowing if they knew me or called it from my bib. Whatever it was, it was magical, as I was in a groove and feeling invincible. Maybe it was the Rocket Fuel.
Mile 12: 8:05, Mile 13: 8:10, Mile 14: 8:02, Mile 15: 8:21, Mile 16: 8:19
During the beach loop, I would pass Andy and the kids at mile 14.5 or so. I had a little bag of goodies to take and a new bottle of Rocket Fuel. When I approached, I thought of all the things I wanted to tell him. I was on pace, I was kicking it, I felt great, I was gonna kick this thing’s ass, I was gonna do it, this was my race. I saw my son standing guard looking for me, so I waved my arms out so he knew I saw him and that it was me. He took off towards Andy, who was standing there ready to give me my goodies. So instead of saying all these cool, awesome things, I garbled out something like “I fight, me fight” but it probably sounded more like, “ughing fite ughime”. I have no idea why my voice was messed up, but it was messed up. After I got my supplies from Andy, I picked up some Gatorade from one of my Epic runners volunteering that morning, and I was on my way.
Yes, the guy in the picture is wearing a sheet. He’s from the Latin Club at a local high school. They were awesome.
Ah, right then, the song my coach picked out for me came on. “Bulletproof”. I teared up at little, then got my crap together again. I certainly felt bulletproof at that point. It was perfect.
As I was leaving the loop, I saw my friend, Gary, coming onto the loop. The conversation went the same as with Andy, “ughemefightumrtph”. No idea what that was. Anyway, we waved, which was communicated in a much more eloquent way by a simple “wave”, and I was headed off the beach. Gu #3 was consumed, and I passed the busy aid station again and headed to the new part of the course, instead of the neighborhood abyss it was before this year. Right in here, I caught up with the pace group again and hung behind for a bit. I was feeling GOOD, and barring any sudden injury, I knew I had a BQ coming. I wanted to start kicking it, but held off. I had 10 miles to go. Anything can happen, so I played it safe.
That “waiting” lasted one mile. When we headed to the cross city trail, I passed the pacer, and I started running, paying little attention to pace, just feel. I was in a groove, and I felt amazing. Rocket Fuel. I saw some of the first place men (HOLY CRAP) only a few miles from the finish. I kept drinking my Rocket Fuel and hydration along the course, but I wasn’t concerned with dehydrating at this point, so I know I didn’t drink as much as my plan stated. As we approached UNCW, a part of the course I’d run a hundred bazillion times before, I was on autopilot. I wasn’t paying attention to my watch, only the times at the mile markers. When I saw the markers come into view, I looked at my bracelet and said the corresponding time out loud, or rather something like “pshimph”. Sometimes I wouldn’t remember it by the time I actually got to the marker, so I’d just repeat it. I was gaining time. I think I was nearly 90 seconds to 2 minutes ahead of 3:39 at this point. The mile distance, according to my watch and the mile markers was getting longer – my watch was reading slow this time, probably due to the trees.
A light rain started about this time (I think). It was really light, so it was ok. Ha, little did I know. We made our way to the center of campus to the circle and headed back. The circle was small on the map, so when we ran around it for real, I remember thinking it was ridiculously large and I hated every second of it. In prep for the race, I knew I would KNOW when I left campus, if this race was going to be a good ending, or another chapter in the BQ attempt saga. As I left campus, I knew I had it. I kept gaining more time. I was getting it done.
Mile 17: 8:10, Mile 18: 8:20, Mile 19: 8:12, Mile 20: 8:04, Mile 21: 8:28 (I think this is where Garmin made up some distance because at each mile BEEP, the distance to the mile marker kept getting shorter.)
Since the course was an out and back, I saw many of my runner friends out there. I hope I at least said “hello” or waved to them, but by this time, I was getting tired, even though I felt amazing. I know that when I had to turn or go up a “hill”, I grunted and moaned with the effort. It was embarrassing, but hey, gotta do what you gotta do, right?
Mile 22: 8:14, Mile 23: 8:18
As I headed off the cross city trail and across Eastwood Road, it was time to try and go faster. It was time to go, it was time to kick it. We headed into a neighborhood. Then. Then it happened. And I’m SO thankful for ME, it happened here and not even one half mile before. The bottom dropped out and it started to POUR. Oh. My. Goodness. This wasn’t your typical rain. This was rain where I could feel a drop hit my toe through my shoe and sock. This was a drenching downpour. And it was cold. Holy crap, was my race doomed? I didn’t even know where I was with pace, I didn’t know how many miles I had left.
It was relentless. I was soaked, my shoes were full, my earphones weren’t working well since they had gotten wet. My glasses, tucked nicely below my cap, were spotted with tiny drops of rain and they started fogging up. I tried to clean them off on my soaked shirt. Yeah, that didn’t work.
Mile 24: 8:29, Mile 25: 8:32
I knew some friends were going to be around half a mile out. WHERE WERE THEY? Corner after corner and turn after turn, we kept going. A mile left, half a mile, no friends, but plenty of puddles. I didn’t look at my time, I was just getting to the finish. Splashing through the puddles, finally, I saw I was getting close. I saw my sister, YAY, my sister came out and was cheering for me. I threw my glasses at her, saw Captain America, and made eye contact with Wendy, missing a bunch of other friends out there with her.
Mile 26: 8:21
FINISH FAST. FINISH WITH GLORY. FINISH WITH A SMILE.
I got my marathon. The time on the finish line clock said 3:37 and something. Holy crap. 3:37. I did it. I ran my best race. I collapsed with tears at the finish, making some wonder if I was injured or sick, to which I replied, “WHFFPHDMFBSOTNIAUAULIFIED FIPFHSH”. Translated: “It’s a happy cry! I qualified for Boston! I did it!”
I hugged my sister, babbled out some more stuff, and didn’t even know what to do with myself. I was cold and tired. But I was electric. I was so happy. It was pouring. I needed to get warm. I needed two more hands. What was I going to do, food tent, husband, kids, rain, cold, dry clothes, where was I, coach, need to see coach. I ran into the food tent to find Coach Kristen. No, she just left. I wandered around, chatted with people (I sounded like a heavy smoker), then headed back out to talk to my sister and find my husband. When I saw him, we hugged and I was finally able to tell him that I did it, we did it. He took the kids into another tent, and after saying bye and thanks to my sister, I went to find my car. I was so turned around and didn’t know where I was. I actually asked someone to tell me where my car was. I got my dry clothes bag and headed to the tent where my family was. I started SHAKING and hyperventilating for some reason, so I just leaned over and remembered to breathe. I could breathe. Finally. I could breathe again.
I did it. I didn’t even know the time I had, but I did it. Need to find coach. Ah, coach found me. We jumped (I think that’s what that was), hugged, and we celebrated. I texted my parents, “I don’t think we can afford to come visit next summer because WE GOIN’ TO BOSTON!!!” Nice, aren’t I?
I saw a few more friends (Melissa) and fellow finishers, and although I was warm, I didn’t know what to do besides wander around the food tent. I wish I had a rain jacket so I could watch the other finishers. Damn. It was time to go home, and I was super bummed it was raining, because this post-marathon party is fun. After I got home, took a twelve hour shower, and ate a little, my husband looked up the results and found that I had crushed my goal and finished my marathon in 3:36:38. I even got 2nd in my age group. Oh, the tears flowed again. I did it. Finally. And I get to go back to Boston.
So if my experience can teach anyone anything, LEARN from your mistakes. Be ok with making mistakes. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow. But learn from them. And don’t give up on your dream. Go for it. Don’t give up. If you KNOW you have something within you, do it. Go for it. As for me, I’m running Boston…and beyond.