I have so much to tell you guys...i'll try to pick out the high points, but let's be honest this was one of the best weekends of my life so it's gonna be hard. I won't blame you if you skip to all the pictures at the bottom.
Let's start with the expo:
I sat 5 feet from Kara Goucher. The Almost Runner and I bum-rushed the front row of seats after they cleared out from the Ryan Hall interview. If you haven't heard of Kara...she's kind of a big deal.
She also gave birth to the cutest baby 7 months ago:
And she was awesome enough to sign my Runner's World copy that she's on the cover of:
|Ummm totally on cloud 9|
Our hotel was close to the finish line where all the shuttle buses were so we hopped on a bus with what seemed like a bazillion other runners. Once we got to the race start line area we were pleasantly surprised with some bagels, cytomax, and muffins. Yayy for food before AND after races! I really like the Rock & Roll series. Almost everything ran really smoothly, considering the number of people that were there. I will only hate on them for one thing: TP. It is unacceptable for it to run out in every single port-a-potty!
Erin and I started out with the 2:15 half marathon pacer simply because we couldn't find the 4:30 pacer in the sea of people, but we knew they were close by. Erin and I stuck together for all of 45 seconds. She is ridiculously awesome and ended up finishing her first marathon 22nd out of 275 women aged 18-24 with a time of 3:55!! Feel free to leave her some serious props on my blog and I'll pass them along.
I was feeling really good for the first 7 miles, and then I started to get hot. I made sure to stop and drink water at every single water station. Throughout the race I saw several ambulances and even witnessed a runner have a seizure. Thankfully a policman was nearby to help her. It was super scary and I'm praying that she is okay.
At mile 11 the half-marathoners broke off and I lost my pacer. It was mentally really tough to know that they would all be done in 2 miles and I had 15 more to go. I knew the 4:30 full pacer would be coming up behind me soon so I took the opportunity to walk for a minute up a hill (this entire course was very hilly!!). The pacer soon caught up with me and I could only hang on with her for 2 minutes. It was kind of devastating, to be completely honest.
Mile 12 was a pit-stop at a porta-potty and a walk/jog mile. I crossed the half way mark in 2:20. Considering that I had done a few 17, 18, 20, and 23 mile runs and I did not expect that miles 13 and 14 would mentally be my toughest miles. Around mile 17 we came back from the suburbs to downtown and could see all the half-marathoners on the other side of the street about to cross their finish line. Talk about a kick in the crotch.
I'm not sure why, but I think I got kind of dellusional after this point because I really can't remember miles 18 or 19. I do remember pouring water on my head every single water stop and thanking God that I bought a hat at the expo to keep the sun out of my face. (I got a nasty sunburn even with waterproof spf30 on!) A few more pacer groups passed me and I realized I was going to need to completely stop focusing on time and switch to "just finish" mode. I kept telling myself "This is my day".
At mile 20 I had to start mind games. If I jogged 2 minutes I was allowed to walk one minute. This got me through the rest of the marathon. If I didn't have my watch I don't know if I could have finished it out. I definitely would have been out there on the course way longer than 5:14:57.
At no point was I alone on the course. There were always other marathoners around me as well as behind me and it was so encouraging to know that there were many others going through the struggles of 26 miles and if they could do it, so could I! Mile 22 started us into the golf course and around a small lake. It was scenic, but honestly I could have used some more crowd support during those miles. Thank goodness for that baller playlist I made.
At mile 24 I reduced my 2 minute/1 minute ratio to 1 minute jog/1 minute walk. My legs were heavy and it was just impossible to make them go as fast as I wanted. At mile 25 an older, overweight security guard must have seen my face and thought I needed a little encouragement because he legit just randomly joined the race from the sideline and ran beside me for a minute. It was kind of nice, but slightly creepy. I tried to smile at him in appreciation, but at this point I don't know if my face was even functioning.
The last .2 miles was a glorious downhill with loads of cheering fans that led right into the stadium of the Tennessee Titans. It's weird, but endorphins took over my body like a little green alien, just long enought to allow my legs to sprint to the finish line. I've never taken drugs, but I can imagine that's what being high feels like. Ha. The medic tent may or may not have forced me to sit down after crossing the finish line b/c I looked like I was on the verge of collapsing. Don't worry, a cold bottle of water and and an ice pack made me good as new.
This race re-cap may seem kind of negative, or like I was miserable, but that's only because I can't really find the appropriate words to describe to you how all that pain could never out-weigh the amazing feeling I had crossing the finish line. I had worked hard over the last 5 months to push my body to do something that it had never done before...something that I never could have imagined completing in my wildest dreams just a couple years ago. I am a marathoner. And I always will be.
I'm not dissing half marathoners at all (I think you all are amazing and I am one of you) but there's just something so powerful about being able to answer someone who asks you "Did you run the full or half today?" with the word "full". Dayumm, that feels good. What doesn't feel good is my back, calves, quads, hamstrings, triceps?, shoulders, abs, and toes. It was so easy to pick out all the runners limping around the airport on the way home. Haha. We are a crazy group. Stairs are currently evil to me. I live in a basement apartment so when I got home I basically just threw my suitcase down the flight of stairs.
And now, for your entertainment, let me present to you: Sam's atrocious/awesome race photos.
|Mile 16? Oh, goody! If you look real close you can still see a slight smile.|
|Dang it! I bet both my feet are off the ground in this picture! Those are rare and treasured pictures for me. The photographer should know not to crop my feet off!|
|Sprint to the finish. I have no idea how my face even gets like that.|
|Gravity + bad camera angle + cellulite = terrible combinatin.|
|Medic: You should sit down, you're kind of limping. Me: Well, yes, I just ran 26.2 miles. |
Ha. Just Kidding...In actuality I was really thankful to them for being out there all day and helping people...the water stop volunteers too!
|ah ha! I'm alive...and not crying!|
|Umm, I'm sorry is that my best friend or a Runner's World Magazine model?!? Erin totally rocked her first marathon.|
|Whoa there, Caitlin! Bustin out some awesome action shots on her first road race ever - a half marathon! Shout-out to her!|
|Couldn't be more happier than this moment.|
|Have you heard about my obsession with cowboy boots? Obviously, Nashville is the Holy Grail. I got $1,000 worth of boots for $400. Can you say bargain shopper?|
|I'm seriously impressed that I was still standing that night. We headed out to an awesome free Montgomery Gentry concert for all runners and then on to the country bars on Broadway!|
|Here's the real reason I ran the marathon: ribs, baked beans, potato salad, fried apples, and beer. Get in my belllyyyyy.|