Shirt and Finisher's Medal
Well, I did it. I completed my second marathon, along with my good friend and running partner, Jen. If you aren't a runner, you may think doing a second one isn't as big a deal as the first (or you may just think I'm completely crazy for actually doing that again!). Well, the first marathon is pretty sweet, but if you are a competitive person like I am, the second one is even sweeter. The reason is that you run your first marathon just to finish. Well, o.k. I still had a goal time for the first one, but I still just wanted to finish. The second marathon (or any other distance) is all about getting a PR (personal record). There are lots of factors that go into getting that PR. First, the training, which is something we can totally control. We trained harder this time than last time, running faster overall, and running many more weekly miles and lots more long runs. The training was 6 months long. We knew we were better prepared and at a much higher fitness level than we were 2 years ago. Second, staying healthy and not getting injured. We train smart, but things can happen, so we have some control, but not total control. I actually ended up with a slight ankle injury about 3-4 weeks ago. I stayed off the ankle some but eventually started running on it, and it was touch and go. Then, I had a week at Disney World walking all day everyday, and that really helped. Praise God! Third, the last thing that can actually make or break a race -- weather. That is something we CANNOT control. We ended up with the most perfect weather! So, we were set up for a great race.
We went together to pick up our packets downtown on Saturday. It had been raining all night. It was a bit chilly and still cloudy with scattered thunderstorms. We drove around trying to find a parking spot so we wouldn't have to pay to park. We finally found one and walked in for our packets. We got our packets, exchanged our shirt sizes, and walked around the expo a little while looking at running apparel and tasting free samples of energy food and drinks. The race shirt is probably the best one I've ever gotten. It has the map of the course on the front with all these cute labels. VERY cool!
So, I'm sure you now want to know how I did and all the grueling details about the race. Well, my time at my first marathon was 4:27:44. Since I really wanted to stay under 4:30, I was happy, BUT I wasn't happy that I slowed down so much the second half of the race and that I wasn't able to stay with Jen. We really thought we could run it in 4:15. So, this time I wanted to make sure I didn't go out too fast so that I could maintain the pace for the whole race. I knew we had a LONG uphill climb starting at mile 9-10 and going to mile 19, then we'd get to go downhill to the finish. So, I knew we had to be careful not to push too hard on the uphill. We set our goal time at 4:15, but we thought 4:10 was in reach. So, we set out at a pace that would have us finish in 4:10. Our plan was to run with the pacers, but we couldn't find them at the start, so we just ran the pace we thought was right, according to my Garmin.
We got downtown about 1 hour before race time and got the BEST parking spot -- very close to the finish line. We had to walk a few blocks to the start, so we starting walking and found the port-o-potties before the lines got too long. Then, we found where we were supposed to start and got out of the wind. It was pretty chilly. While we were standing around, a guy that I used to work with 10 years ago was standing right next to us. What are the chances? I talked to him for a while, then it was finally time to actually line up. The National Anthem was sung, then they started us. It took us over 8 minutes to actually get to the start line, as there were 18,000 runners (most were running the half marathon). Only 1427 females ran the full marathon!
MILES 1-18 (the uphill climb):
We started out great, not too fast, considering there was some downhill. Then, we had a bit of a climb for 3 miles and slowed down just a tad. Then, we had 3 miles downhill where we made up some time. At that point, we came back toward downtown, and there were SO many spectators screaming and yelling and cheering. It was so awesome! The Livestrong Team was so great! Once we left the crowds, though, we were headed to the dreadful 10 mile climb. We had just reached the 1/3 mark (2/3 to go!), though, so that felt good! Shortly after our climb started, the half marathoners broke off. I was thinking, "Wow, they have less than 2.5 miles to go! Sure would be nice!" At that point, I still felt pretty good, as we were almost to mile 12 (almost halfway). I knew our families would be camped out around mile 18 or so. I also knew the downhill started at mile 19. That kept me going. I did pray several times because I'd feel a twinge in my ankle or my hip that I've been having issues with. It felt like it took forever to get to our families because it was all uphill. I thought we'd never get there! Jen was pulling ahead of me just slightly, but she is a tad stronger than me on the uphills, and I usually speed up on the downhills. I knew if I kept her in sight, I'd be able to catch her once we headed downhill.
Our Families Waiting to Cheer for Us!
We finally reached our families. We smiled for pictures as we ran by and gave high fives to the kids. Jen was probably 15 seconds in front of me. I thought I was never going to get to a downhill. We had literally been running uphill for 10 miles with very few flats or downhills. Finally, just past mile 19, I saw the downhill grade. It wasn't much, but it wasn't uphill!!! That was huge for me mentally. I knew from running my first marathon that the last 10K was the hardest part of the entire race. Not only are you physically tired and your legs are burning, but you are mentally tired, and it's really hard to stay in the race mentally.
Jen at Mile 18
Me at Mile 18
MILES 18-20 (seeing our family and starting downhill):
I have to be honest here. The marathon distance is not my best best distance. It is not my favorite race. For me, it is mostly mental. I knew I had to stay in the race mentally. At mile 18 or so, right before I got to the downhill, I was thinking, "Why am I doing this? This is NOT fun!" I knew that was not the right thing to be thinking. I knew if I caught up to Jen, we could lift each other up, and I'd just gain a little confidence. I felt like she wasn't slowing at all and I was. I walked at a water station and watched her run through it, so she gained on me even more. When I crossed the 20 mile timing mat, I was about 30 seconds behind her, which was the farthest I had fallen behind. So, I was determined not to let that gap get any bigger. I just tried to get into a groove and keep an even pace. I had to tell myself to stick to my heart rate and not listen to how much my legs hurt. I got into my music and just kept on going. One of my Christian songs came on, and I just let it take me through the next few minutes of running.
MILES 21-23 (the downhill, but very hard part):
Just before mile 21, I was gaining on Jen (because it was now downhill). Then, she started walking. I was in a groove, so I actually ran right past her! I didn't even turn to her because I knew she'd see me and start running. I knew my passing her would give her some motivation. I also knew she'd catch me and probably pass me. Good thing we are both competitive. I kept thinking, we've trained together and we started this thing together, so we're going to finish this thing together. Well, she did catch me pretty quickly, and we ran together for a bit. Then, I ended up having to walk, and she gained on me again. Then, we were both running about the same pace for a while, walking a bit at water stations, when she walked again when I didn't. This time, I ran up to her, and she looked back, and I said, "I'll walk with you." Believe me, I was ready to walk. She said, "Do you want to just run together to the end?" I nodded. That's all I had the energy to do.
I don't remember at what point that was, but I'm pretty sure it was right around mile 22-23. Up to that point, the miles seemed to pass slowly. At mile 21, I remember thinking 5 miles seemed like a lot more. At mile 23.5, the pacers we planned to run with passed us. We both looked at each other and shrugged. That was our super fast goal time, and they had just passed us with only 2.7 miles to go. I actually felt good about our race at that point. I knew we had slowed a bit, but not that much. We ran side by side, walking when we needed to for the next mile. When we got to the University of Texas campus, it was pretty flat. Jen seemed to be pushing hard, and I was really struggling. I couldn't catch my breath, but my HR monitor wasn't working right, so I couldn't tell what my HR was. I knew it was HIGH, though. She looked over at me and was worried. I told her I was o.k., but I really needed to walk. We only had 2 miles to go, and I hated to walk, but I really needed to! We walked a bit, then we started running again at a decent pace. I knew there was an uphill right before the finish line, so I was preparing for it. Once we hit mile 25, I kept telling myself, "just another 10 minutes of running--1 more mile". That was the longest mile ever!
Jen and me running up the last hill 500m before the finish line
(Can you see the forced smiles?)
THE HOME STRETCH:
We started up the hill, but we finally decided to walk. Our legs were just not going to take it. Then, we saw our families near the top of the hill. We decided to start running because they would be taking pictures of us. We smiled, but that's NOT how we felt (except that we knew we were almost to the end). They were 500m from the finish line. There were signs every 100m from there to the finish. That was the longest 500m I have ever run in my life. Jen pulled ahead slightly, and I just couldn't catch her, but I was SO happy with my race. I was so happy I didn't let the marathon distance beat me mentally like it did the first time. I didn't run even splits, but they were much more even than at my first marathon.
My final finish time was 4:11:40, 16 minutes and 4 seconds faster than my first marathon. Jen beat me by 6 seconds and picked up a 9 minute PR herself.
The finisher's medal
We were both SO happy with our time, but we were SO tired! We staggered through the finish chute picking up Gatorade, chips, bananas, and other stuff people handed to us. We were both so done mentally we couldn't think. I literally staggered over to get my medal. I kind of stared at the woman at first, wondering what she wanted with that medal she was holding. LOL! We went over and got our official finisher photo taken. We tried to stretch a bit, but we really just wanted to keep walking. We had to walk a LONG way to meet back up with our families, but we eventually made it and just collapsed on the grass to rest for a while.
Sitting on the Capitol Lawn
Now we're standing
Doing the Supergirl pose (and that's all the energy we had left)
All in all, it was an incredible race! After training for so long, it is nice to have a happy ending. I have to thank God for getting me through. There were times throughout the race where I just asked Him to carry me through, and He did. I knew I could not do it without Him. I have several verses I think of that get me through. I could also not do it without all the spectators who came out to cheer everyone on. Austin is such a great city like that. It was cold, but they were still out there cheering. One guy was doing back flips on a trampoline in his front yard, others were passing out Kleenex and Vaseline, others held clever funny signs and would move along the course so you'd see them multiple times, and others just called out your name (our names are on our race bibs). It is so cool to hear your name called out by someone you don't even know. I could also not do it without the support of my husband (thanks for taking the great pictures, honey) and my best running friend ever -- Jen!!!
Oh, and you're probably asking, "Are you going to run another marathon?" You'll have to ask me again once I can walk normally. ;) Right now, I don't think I ever want to do that again!
Linking up with Jen: