Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marathon Mamas

My bestie coming in on the last tenth of a mile. I'm totally jealous of those quads!

Finally, a post about the marathon! It's been about a week and a half since I embarked on my biggest physical challenge to date. I would absolutely say that it competes with labor and delivery for physical and mental strength and endurance required.

Just like labor, I was excited until it was just about to start. Lesley and I drove the course the night before and  I thought 'What the f#%! was I thinking?! I can't run a marathon! That's a long, long, long way to run! Wait! Didn't Phidippides die when he finished?!' My friend and fearless training partner was quick to remind me that this had, indeed, been my idea so there was nobody to blame but moi.

I carefully laid out my outfit, number pinned to the shirt that Pam had sent from the Y team in Worcester, and was in bed by 9:00. I slept terribly as, I've heard, does everyone, but I woke up feeling ready to go. I was so nervous I couldn't even eat half a bagel with almond butter, but I did manage to force down a cup of coffee so that I could do 'my business' before heading out. Three times. Quite frankly, not being able to go was one of my biggest concerns.

I'd made the conservative time goal of 6.5 hours, thinking I'd be able to come in under that without a problem. Initially, I had the goal of a sub-six marathon, but looking at my longer training runs that just wasn't realistic for where I was; All of the projections were 6:09, 6:14, etc. Coming in under six and-a-half (did I just say six and-a-half hours of running?!) seemed very possible.

J dropped me off at the start line, snapped a sweet photo (only showing it here because of the lovely background) and I waved him off. We were fortunate to have rented a beach house that was on the course, so we'd be passing the fam just into mile two for a quick snap of photos and a chance to toss off our long-sleeved layer. With temps projected to be at a low of 55 and a high of 64, it was going to be the perfect running weather. I opted to take the early start, which I love, because you have the chance to run with the fasties if only for a moment when they catch up to you an hour later.

Before I knew it, they were doing a count-down for the start and we were off! It was already feeling a little warmer than I thought it would, and I was breaking a sweat about half-mile in. Mr. Garmin/Pam told me I was keeping a great not-too-slow, not-too-fast beginning pace of 11:50-12:20/miles. I rounded the corner to our house and saw my husband and kids, Lesley and her husband and kids all cheering me on; click, click, toss, and I was down to tech-tee and tank.

We wound our way back to the start for the first three miles through the Nye Beach neighborhoods and the hilliest part of the course was behind me, excepting the one hill that you hit in mile 5 and than again in mile 26. I felt really good as I cruised through the starting line and saw the hundreds gathered to start at the regular time, and the awesome ones who are just 'warming up' by running up and down the hill that leads the course to the waterfront so that we could start our out and back along the bay.

I caught up to an older gentleman and wasn't sure if he was warming up or running the course so I said my usual 'Great job!' then added 'unless you're just warming up, then good luck.' He laughed and said, 'no, no I am not just warming up.' I said I wasn't sure since there were so many guys out there wasting what I consider precious energy at this point, and he just chuckled and said 'Those guys are a bunch of assholes'. That cemented my desire for an early start; these were my people.

 Cruising along the boardwalk in mile 4

I found a great rhythm much more quickly than I expected and the mile markers seemed to just appear out of nowhere for the first eight. I had made the goal to get to mile 5 before the leader caught up to me, and then to get to mile 13.1 before Lesley passed me, as our half-times are about an hour apart. I was well into the seventh mile when the leader passed, which was a crazy thing to see because they are running faster than I could do the 400, and I was already turned around and heading back in mile 15 before Lesley gave me a high-five with a smile. She looked so great, and all of a sudden I felt a little teary; We're really doing this!
Still thinking I had this thing nailed at mile 10...over a third down, what could go wrong?!

When I reached the aid station at 13.1, I had made it in 3:02, which is a great first half for me, and I thought as I trucked away 'Yes! Only 49% to go!' This was a far cry from what I thought I'd be feeling, which was 'Holy s@*$! I'm only half-way!!!' So I thought I had it in the bag. My 6.5 hours seemed like such a cushy, no worries time goal. And I was still having fun. 

Yes, the man in the Marathon Maniacs singlet started an hour behind me. These were the people that it was awesome to have running and passing you because it helped keep the momentum instead of feeling like you're out there forever, alone.  Yep, still smiling.

When Lesley passed me again just after the water station that served us at 13.1 on the way out (I love out and backs!) I looked at my watch and told her that I was still on target and should be in at about 6:20, so look out for me! (said with a smile and still feeling great).

Somewhere around mile 21, I started to feel maybe not quite awesome anymore. The large blisters that had formed on the balls of my feet were really starting to bother me (I always get blisters on the long run, but they're forming into callouses, so it's all good). It was easier on the blisters to run than it was to walk, but mentally, I was wanting to walk more and more at this point. 

In mile 23, I took a stride and felt a burn in the ball of my foot followed by a warm gush of fluid, and then sweet relief. Well, that took care of that blister, now on to the next. On the way out, the highway had been shaded by large trees along the water, but the shifting sun had other plans for us on the way back. I just kept thinking how much hotter it felt than I thought 64 degrees would. I was taking 2-3 waters and 2 gatorades at each aid station and still felt thirsty within a quarter mile after leaving it (and zero urge to pee out said fluids); I was just done. 

There was a floating aid station bringing water and orange slices to the people that looked particularly pathetic. When the angel of mercy handed me my citrus-y goodness and asked how I was doing, I felt my throat constrict and my eyes well with tears and I choked out 'I just want to be done.' Awesome. Now that the waterworks had started, I found myself choking up at random intervals, and just kept reminding myself to pull it together and just put one foot in front of the other. My 6.5 hour goal was slipping away, but I just couldn't go any faster.

I walked more than I ran for those last five miles, though I didn't walk any full miles.

Then it happened. The orange mile markers painted on the side of the road read 25.0. Okay, pull it together. One. More. Mile. But it could have been one hundred more miles, because I was tired! Pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down. Then I started going a little faster because 'the faster you run, the faster it's done,' (thank you Captain Obvious) and I stepped over the 26.0 marker and knew that the last .2 would be downhill bliss. The thought that flew through my mind was 'please don't let me fall, please don't let me fall' because that would be a sweet tumble down a hill to the finish. Falling is fine when you're fast and you've laid it all out there, not so cool when you're just edging in under the seven hour mark. 'Please don't let me fall!'

I saw a sign that had the letters to form my name, then realized that the voice behind it was attached to my sister-in-law. I saw all my family, and then I saw the glorious FINISH line. J jogged over to take my picture, but I was not slowing down. This beyotch was almost over and I was not stopping!
 The last blissful tenth of a mile!

Lesley and her family had already made their way back to the house, so we got in our cars and followed. It was perfect timing because we got to the house just as the bath was vacated, and that was the most blissful ice bath, EVER. Hands down. Did I mention that it wasn't 64 degrees, but EIGHTY four when I finished?!

I tried several blister band-aids over the next couple of days and found one thing...nothing actually stays on me, but it does stick to the sensitive skin and leave a sticky residue so that the skin sticks to my shoes. No more blister bandaids for me! 
Toasting to our accomplishment with Tru Cellars Blanc de Blanc Sparkling wine (with a generous helping of chlorinated water from our splashing cherubs).

I have to say that the misery amnesia from a marathon must be much shorter than that of childbirth, because by that night I was already saying 'Next time, I'll do x differently...'

When I got home and had the postmortem with Pam, I realized that part of my weird feelings about the experience were that I didn't really feel like I could claim that I've 'run' a marathon since so much of that last five-eight miles was spent walking. But now that I've had a week to get over myself and have run my first post-marathon two-miler (almost as anxiety producing as my first post-baby #2), I'm just happy I finished. I have a time to beat, and I know what to expect. I'm not injured. I was walking the next day, and I'm still happy and alive to tell the tale.

As Dr. Seuss said, I've got brains in my head and shoes on my feet. Oh, the places I will go!


  1. Sara, with tears in my eyes your story inspires and I'm so proud of you! Don't you dare think that you 'didn't run a marathon b/c you walked a bit' You did it girl, no matter how or what, you trained, you walked you ran your feet crossed a start line and a finish line in the same day and completed 26.2 miles. For that will always be an accomplishment and a check off the ole bucket list! You are brave, you are strong, you are woman!
    My 1/2 is set for the 25th but prospects of even walking are not so great. I'd rather be strong and healthy for the next run than nursing a perpetual injury. I can't wait for pain free running. Till then, I think of you and feel excited every time I strap on those sneaks. Good for you! Congrats and enjoy thinking about your next adventure!

  2. Sara what an amazing story. I admit that I teared up too! So proud of your accomplishment.

  3. There are very few things I can remember reading lately that moved me to tears. I am SO incredibly happy for you--you are awesome!