When we left off last, Tara and I were starting our marathon journey down the canyon. We parted ways as we had different time and pace goals.
With the pre-race night I had, I had no clue what I could or would bring to this race. I expected the best, but was prepared for the worst. The temps were about 30 degrees, the air was crisp and cool and the sun was just starting to emerge through the canyon. We were running to the east, so the sun warmed our faces. I had on my cheetah running skirt to make me think I could run fast. I had asked for and gotten this skirt from Running Skirts for Christmas specifically for this race. I only wore it once during training to make sure it didn’t chafe in all the wrong places. It didn't. And no, I never soiled it.
Here was my strategy going into the race - it wasn’t rocket science: Run the first two miles 10-15 seconds slower than race pace (8:40). Pick it up after that and maintain between an 8:30 and 8:40 pace for the remainder of the race. I wore a pace band, and set it for a 3:45 marathon to give me some wiggle room.
I was good for the first mile and took it slow.
Mile 1: 8:49
Mile 2: 8:27 (well, I kind of broke my rule on this one).
Another marathon rule I had was to drink at every aid station, alternating sports drink (Heed during this race) and water or drinking both. I stuck to this for the entire race with the exception of miles 24 and 25 when I couldn’t have given a shit, I just wanted to get to the finish. I had decided I would take a Hammer gel every five miles.
Mile 3: 8:28
Mile 4: 8:21
The sun was starting to really shine through now. No one on the course was talking. It was extremely peaceful with only the sound of running shoes on pavement and the white water flowing in the river only feet from the road. I was completely and utterly in the present moment. I had decided to hold off on any music until at least the halfway point, and was very glad I did. There are so few moments in life when we are simply present. When we are not worried about much of anything, are not multi-tasking, are not distracted. We are just taking in what is before us. I did not know if I would make it 26.2 miles. I did not know if I would meet any of my goals. I did know I could put one foot in front of the other.
Mile 5: 8:19 – vanilla Hammer gel
Mile 6: 8:18
Mile 7: 8:22
At this point I decided to take advantage of the downhill and bank some time. I knew that these miles would be my fastest because once we got out of the canyon (about mile 17), it would flatten out and there would be some hills. I checked my pace band every mile and knew I was at least 2 minutes ahead of a 3:45 marathon. It was good to know I had a cushion if I needed to slow down later. I started to pass a girl and she said “Geez!” I asked her what was wrong and she said, “Well, if anyone passes me I look at their legs and if their legs are strong and toned like yours, I decide it’s okay for them to pass me.” Then she added, “But, I AM NOT GAY!” Her being gay was the last thing on my mind. Like I would worry about a lesbian hitting on me at this point anyway. She told me she was running her first marathon and wanted to break four hours. I told her she was WAY on track to do this. We would run together until about mile 18 when her husband jumped into the road blaring a trumpet. Made me totally crack up. I lost her. I hope she met her goal. I love runners.
Mile 8: 8:27
Mile 9: 8:22
You think about a lot of things while you run. Now I thought about Lucky and the fact that he would have his eye removed in the morning. I cried a bit. Lucky has the must stunning, big, beautiful brown eyes and it killed me to think one of them would be gone. I kept thinking about that quote that “the eyes are the window to the soul” and it broke my heart. I tried to file the sadness away, but sometimes it overtook me.
Mile 10: 8:17 – vanilla Hammer gel
Mile 11: 8:30
Mile 12: 8:11
I thought about the fact that I was nearing the halfway mark. I got such a mental boost when I thought I was coming up on mile 11, but it was really mile 12! At this point I knew Ken had started the half marathon and was on the same course. It gave me some comfort knowing he was close by. I hoped he was having a great race. What I didn't know was that he had blown out his calf at mile 3 and had to hobble the remaining 10 miles.
Mile 13: 8:07
Half marathon time: 1:49 – right on track for a BQ!
First marathon girl and I whooped and hollered as we passed the halfway point. There is something so mentally uplifting about knowing you are halfway. I had just congratulated myself for not having any poop emergencies when I had an unexpected squirt in the skort. It would be the only one for the race, but at the time I got a little freaked. It was so surprising I actually yelled out, “Shit!” And it was.
Mile 14: 8:04
Mile 15: 8:20 – Tried to take a chocolate Hammer. It was like tar. Threw it away after gagging
Mile 16: 8:32
As we came out of the canyon the sun was in full force. Mile 17 was the first point where we saw spectators. My only marathon experience was the Rock ‘n Roll Phoenix which had thousands of spectators and entertainment every step of the way. This was such a different experience. Seeing those people cheering me on as I cruised by was incredibly invigorating. I felt like I was flying.
Mile 17: 8:29
Mile 18: 8:06
I’m not a big Rod Stewart fan, but I have always loved the song Forever Young because of the message contained in the song. This was playing in my ear as I cruised by the spectators. May the good Lord be with you down every road you roam. May sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home. May you grow to be proud, dignified and true. And do unto others as you'd have done to you…
Mile 19: 8:19
Mile 20: 8:21 – banana Hammer gel
There was a big ass climb called Bagel Hill between miles 19 and 20. I saw an aid station at the top and was concentrating on that. I powered up the hill. I had given myself permission to grab a drink at the aid station and walk through, drinking, until the trash can several feet away. It was mentally good to know I could take 10 seconds rest walking at each aid station if need be.
At mile 20 I had a great boost when Jill appeared to cheer me on and run with me for a bit. She really lifted my spirits – told me all the things everyone wants to hear at mile 20: “You look great!”, “It’s all downhill from here.” “You’re almost there.” Thanks Jill, I needed that!
Mile 21: 8:20
Mile 22: 8:50
Mile 23: 8:38
At this point, I had to dig deep. Everything below my waist hurt. I started to feel sick. I knew it was only three miles to the finish, and I knew that I had trained for this very moment. Here is where my mental strength would need to take over my body. I expected this to come and when it came, I was prepared. I dissociated from my physical body in a sense. I told myself I was tough. I told myself that nothing would keep me from my goal. I reminded myself that I was running towards my mom, dad, husband and kids who were at the finish line. It was Mother's Day. I teared up. I knew at most I would only be running another 25-30 minutes. I knew I could do anything for that amount of time.
Mile 24: 9:08
Slowest mile of the race and most challenging. I clung onto two girls beside me who were going for a similar time goal. This was the point at which a volunteer was trying to balance three feet of stacked HEED cups and just happened to let them fall right in my path. I was not in the mood for this and had to hurdle them to avoid falling. Freaking A!!! I told myself I could slow down until mile 25. Then I agreed with myself I would pick it up for the rest of the race. Yes, I was talking to myself at this point.
Mile 25: 8:35
I knew I had done it. I knew I could walk the rest of the way (but I wouldn’t) and still make my goal. I started yelling “YES!” and a huge smile took over my face.
Mile 26: 8:29
I saw Ken, my biggest fan, at the 26 mile mark. I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life!! He yelled, “Go baby go. You’ve got this! Run to the finish!” I turned the corner and saw the FINISH line sign. It was SO close.
.2 mile: 8:10
I sped up, searching the crowd for my parents and kids. I saw them on the side lines and cheering me on. Sam took these photos:
I crossed the line and fell into my dad’s arms, sobbing. Then my mom’s. It came gushing out. The stress fracture, the missed marathon in November, the weeks of training, the love and support of family and friends, Lucky.
Final stats: 3:42:36/ 8:28 pace/ 8th out of 70th in age group
And…I shaved 21 minutes off of my one/only marathon time (4:03 - 17 months ago)
Then reality set in and in perfect Shut Up and Run style I started to feel sick:
I knew all those gels wanted to get out via the colon. I headed to the porta potty and some guy in line said, “Cheetah girl! You were really kickin it at the end.” I said, “…and I got my Boston qualifier.” He started screaming, “Cheetah girl is going to Boston!” I love runners.
I knew we had to make it home and make it home quick. I spent the afternoon in bed and on the toilet. Who cares? One of the best days ever. By 5pm I was up for a margarita.
And at 7:30 the next morning Lucky got his eye removed. He is fine. He still has one beautiful brown eye. He is one eyed and three legged. And he still has an erection.
Thanks for reading about my journey. Running is so much more than physical. It is about accomplishment, determination, discipline and success. It makes me a better person.