Let me tell you about my week. After last Saturday's run, I had another flair up of the chest cold. So, I was officially panicking trying to get rid of it. I slept as much as possible and took my meds and stayed hydrated, but nothing was working. On Wednesday, I had to make a decision: Go on my last weekly run and risk having the cold get worse, or skip it and risk leaving my body unprepared to run. Because it was so cold, and I was still coughing so much, I opted to skip it.
Also on Wednesday, Hans' and my former college roommates, Jackie and Dan, flew in from Wisconsin and Missouri (respectively). They came out to VA for two reasons. 1) Because we were long-overdue for a visit, and 2) Because they wanted to cheer me on. I love my roomies!
Thursday and Friday were spent showing them around town, eating carbs, and having a grand time. On Thursday night, we all went to a pasta dinner hosted by the marathon training team where we heard Bart Yasso, from Runner's World give a talk, and on Friday I had a private pasta dinner for close friends and family. The support was wonderful.
This morning, the day of the race, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. (and multiple times before then) to get ready for the run. I got dressed, had breakfast, used the facilities, and headed out the door. I was at the race start by 7:00 a.m., and after using the facilities again, I found my race corral. Luckily, I also found one of my running buddies, so I was happy. At 8:00 a.m. the race started, and we were off!
I first saw Hans, Jackie, Dan, and my dad at the 1/2 mile mark. This was definitely a planned sighting since Hans works right near there. They had t-shirts that said, "Go, Val, Go!" and I smiled. I handed him my sweatshirt, gloves, and headband since I didn't need the cold weather gear anymore, and I continued running.
Usually the first few miles for me are kind of slow going because I'm still warming up, so I wasn't too worried about how hard it seemed. When I had reached mile 6, though, and was still struggling I thought, "Oh no!" Apparently having a chest cold and taking essentially 2 weeks off from running right before a marathon is a bad thing. Who knew? I immediately started my own mantra of "You can do this. You can do this. Just keep going. You can do this." I also took my first gel.
Thankfully, I finally hit a groove and got really comfortable for the next 6 miles. At mile 11, I saw my crew again, and this time they showed me the backs of their shirts which read, "You Smell Bad!" I cracked up over this little joke of ours (and the truth of it seeing as no one smells good after running 11 miles), grabbed some replacement water bottles for my fuel belt and continued on. I would see them a couple more times before the end. About 1/2 a mile later I hit a mini-wall. I took some more gel a little earlier than planned, and continued on. At mile 13.1 (the half way point), I saw my mom. She was jumping and cheering, and I ran over to give her a hug and pet her dogs. When she asked, "How are you feeling?" I responded with "Tired. But OK" and I continued on.
At mile 15 or 16 I hit a serious wall. There was a bit of a hill, and I finally made the decision to walk a little ways. I wasn't feeling well (a little nauseous and shaky) and I wanted to finish before I got sick or passed out, so I walked. I walked up the hill and continued on. As we crossed the James River for the second time, I had to walk a little more, but I continued on.
This entire time, I had noticed some Galloway Runners. I would pass them, then they would pass me, then I would pass them. Galloway Runners have a method where they will run for an allotted time and then walk for an allotted time so they can get through a race at a decent pace without killing themselves. There's was 7 minutes running, 1 minute walking. Finally, I asked if they'd mind if I joined them. These ladies were wonderful running buddies. At this point in the race, they weren't quite following their structure, but I was OK with that. I needed the companionship. We ran and walked and ran and walked.
Around mile 20, I saw my best friend, Jessica. She was a sight for sore eyes (and legs, and arms, and hair). I gave her a big hug, almost broke down into tears, and continued on. At mile 23, I saw I saw my neighbors with their 3 year old son and their 3 week old son. I wasn't sure that they would make it with the newborn, so I was thrilled to see them. I ran over to see them, and tickle the 3 year old. He of course, asked to be picked up, and how could I say no? It was painful, but I lifted him up, gave him a hug, and set him back down. I continued on my way.
I was close to the end, and I knew I could make it. I ran and walked and ran and walked and ran and walked. Finally, 1/2 a mile from the finish, I picked up the pace. I RAN.
Luckily, the finish is at the bottom of a very steep hill, so the last .2 miles was all down hill. I looked at my watch and I was running 8:30 miles. Considering that mile earlier I was struggling to do 15 minute miles, this was an accomplishment. I saw the finish. I was closer to the line. I gave it all I got. As I crossed the finish line, my arms shot out in victory. I was officially a marathoner. I AM OFFICIALLY A MARATHONER!!!! My time was 5:11:42, a little longer than I'd hoped for, but I don't care!
And then the real pain set in. Every part that ached and that I had tried and kind of succeeded in ignoring, started to hurt. I had to find my people, and I hated moving. Luckily, one of the event volunteers had a cell phone and was gracious enough to let me use it, so I located my friends and family fairly quickly. I wanted to drop to the ground, but Dad made me stay upright to keep from cramping or getting sick. However, he also then had me lay out and did a wonderful job of stretching me. Thanks, Dad!
So, now I'm done. Oh, and according to my Garmin I actually ran 26.33 miles. Does that make me an Ultra-marathoner? :P I can tell you now, this will not be my last marathon. It was painful, but I'm thrilled I did it, and I will do it again. Yay me!!!