I had planned on writing this post on Saturday, right after the race, but I was too tired. Then I thought I'd write it Sunday, but the day got away. Now it's Thursday, and I'm FINALLY getting around to it. How did it go? Let me just put it this way:
HURRAY!!! YAHOO!!! YIPPEE!!!
My goal was to finish in under 5 hours. That was it. I mean, I had a minor goal of finishing in 4:30:00, but that was quite lofty. Previously my fastest time was 5:11:00. That was even when all of my training runs had pointed to me finishing in 4:50:00 or less, so I was really nervous. When race day came I was excited and nervous, and I wasn't certain as to what would come.
I met up with my running buddy prior to the race and we agreed to stick together as long as we could, but we weren't holding each other back. Luckily the weather was beautiful, and I was feeling as great as ever. Running with her was great. She and I trained for our first marathon together, and we've been running together ever since. Finding a great running buddy is difficult. For shorter runs it's fairly easy, but the longer runs are the ones that get you. A good running buddy will talk about topics that interest you, but they'll also know how much to talk and how loud to talk. During a long, hard run a buddy who talks too much or too loudly or simply about things you don't want to talk about can be painful, so it was quite nice to have someone I was so comfortable with.
Through those first few miles, life was easy. Hans and the gang missed me at the first stop (we passed sooner than they'd anticipated), but we were able to hand off jackets and what not around mile 5, even though we arrived slightly earlier than they'd expected. We saw them again at mile 10 where I high-fived Anna and kept running. Stopping wasn't an option. At the half way point, a stop I normally don't see them at since they're trying to catch me further ahead, I first saw my best friend, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Andrew, along with everyone else. I stopped to give them all hugs and hold Anna for a moment before I continued on. I still felt great.
Around mile 16, we ran into another running friend of ours (he'd finished the Half and had come to cheer us on). He ran with us and encouraged us on for a little while. For the most part, we stuck together until mile 16 / 17. At that point, I was feeling great and she was starting to struggle (she ran another marathon 3 weeks prior), so she walked a bit while I forged ahead. I saw Jess & Andrew, Jackie, Dan, and Dad at Mile 20. Hans was with Anna who was asleep in the car. And then the pain set in.
Oh boy did the pain set in. I found out later that, in filling up my fuel bottles the night before, Hans had filled them with only water instead of a coconut water mixture. He's always filled them perfectly in the past, so I'm not sure what happened this time (some sort of miscommunication), but by mile 20 my electrolytes and everything was off. My left quad started to cramp first due to the angle and slope of the road, and as I tried to alleviate that everything else started hurting. I hadn't walked for the first 20 miles, but I was walking a lot now.
Just before mile 23 I started running next to another girl who was chatty. Usually I'd love the opportunity to forget my pain and chat, but I hurt too much. I just wanted to look at her and say, "Would you please SHUT UP!?" It was her first marathon, she was from western VA, she wished she and her friends had made shirts, yadda yadda yadda. I didn't care. I was just about to start walking or run faster to avoid her when I heard a voice call my name. I looked back and I saw MY RUNNING BUDDY!! I'm not sure how I sounded when I said her name, but in my mind it was like seeing a long lost friend after being separated over 20 years. Oh the joy!!!
She was running faster than I was at the time, but she was also enjoying long walk breaks. I could run with her. I could let her talk and not respond, she knew to not ask questions. Around mile 25 or so, we saw our other running buddy again. He was going to take us to the finish (or as close as possible). I stopped to tie my shoe in anticipation of the huge downhill before the finish.
I was worried about how I'd feel running down that hill. My legs hurt so bad, and I was worried they wouldn't support me as I raced downward, but I didn't need to worry. That down hill was an utter blessing. I let myself free fall towards the finish. My feet simply followed my body as I got faster and faster. I past person after person after person, each just one blur after the next. And then, I crossed the finish line.
I saw Hans and Anna and Jackie and Dan and Dad. They were all there, cheering for me. I stopped my watch. How close had I come to my goal?
I beat my previous record by 36 minutes. I didn't necessarily hit 4:30:00, but at least that second number was still a 3. I was pleased as punch.
I stretched out afterwards and then joined my running buddies on the grass. The one thing I'm still working on is immediate recovery. I was fine later that day, but at that very moment I felt sick. I couldn't eat, I was cold, and I just wanted to lie down. Hans got me home and showered and fed, and after a couple of restful hours (reading, sleeping, etc) I was good to go. We enjoyed Chicago pizza (Hans had it shipped in special) and pie, and Jessica joined in the celebrations. All in all, it was a great race.
I have a lot more to talk about it for post-marathon, but I'll leave this for now. I'm perfectly happy.