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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

26.2 // marathon recap!

I guess I need to put my thoughts to "paper" about my marathon experience.

Wow - those were some four hours.  Twenty-six miles.  Some of them felt like a blur.  Others, well, felt like forever.  It was honestly the most physically and mentally challenging thing I've done...and yes, that includes natural childbirth.

I've had many mixed reactions to the marathon goal I set back in January.  Some people flat-out didn't care.  "A marathon?  Ugh.  No interest in ever doing something like that." Statements like that were usually accompanied by a look like I was completely nuts.  I tried to ignore the haters.

Others were much more supportive towards me, despite their lack of "running enthusiasm," cheering me on throughout my training with hugs and support and interest.

I get it.  It's not for everyone.

I trained for this marathon the best that I could, considering I have two tiny kiddos at home.  I worked out during the week, cross-training and trying to sneak in shorter runs here and there, including Fartleks on the treadmill.  I did my long runs Saturday mornings, pretty consistently, adding mileage each week, with the occasional cut-back week, or skipped week due to illness.

I did not follow a real training plan, which probably hurt me a little.  But hindsight is always 20/20, and while I could go on and on about what I would have done differently, that won't change the outcome.

I still ran the marathon.  I accomplished that goal.  I ran it and never stopped once.  Not even to walk briefly.   I pushed through when my hips were aching, my feet hurt, my legs felt like rocks that I was dragging across pavement, the sun beating down on me, half blinding me despite my hat.

So there were obviously physical challenges to push through, particularly since I was dehydrated from the get-go due to drinking too much alcohol a few nights before, and my feet ached before I even started from wearing heels all day Saturday at the Kentucky Derby.  I could say I regret those things, but my friends and I had such a memorable and fun weekend together, I really can't say I would go back and change things, despite it probably affecting my finish time at Sunday's race.

Another challenge : I had been training with the fitness app on my iPod tracking my pace and my mileage, and I found out on race day, mid-race, that it doesn't track properly.  Basically when I was at only mile 22 it was saying I had finished the 26.2.  So I really don't know if I had ever run more than 20 miles in my training, even though I thought I had gotten up to 23.  Yikes.  Clearly I need a Garmin.

Despite these physical pitfalls, I kept reminding myself that running a marathon is largely a mental game.  "So my feet hurt going in and I am probably overly tired and dehydrated.  So what?  I can do this.  My body can do this.  I will do this.  I will finish this race, because I don't give up."  That is what I kept repeating to myself.

I knew I would finish, but I also knew I would not finish under four hours as I had hoped, so that was a little disheartening.  I saw the 3:50 pace group blow past me early on.  Then, at about mile 24 I saw the 4:00 group zip past.  I didn't have enough energy left to try to sprint and keep up with them at that point.  So I had to kind of put that past me and just try to finish as strongly as I could.

Just finish, Greta.  That is what is important.

I honestly ran the first half pretty easily.  The famed hills of this race course were actually my favorite part.  Sure, they were hard, but some of the views and the downhill at the end was well worth it.  I personally thought the flat stretches were the hardest for me, mentally.

Another surprise?  How emotional I got mid-race.  I had read about other marathoners shedding tears while running, and I definitely did my fair share.  These were happy, elated tears - not sad ones!  An inspiring song would come on my iPod and I would get goosebumps and get choked up.   I'd see little kids about the age of Cormac and Finola on the sidelines, and I'd go give their little outstretched hands high fives as I ran by, and of course my eyes would well up, missing my littles and imagining them there watching me.  Sometimes even a kind word of encouragement near the end from a volunteer handing me water sent me reeling with emotions.

The best moment was at mile 23, which was kind of my mental milestone.  Every long run when I would get to only 3 miles left, I would think : I can run three miles, no matter what.  During the marathon was no exception.  I rejoiced when I got to that point.  Plus, my favorite song on my race playlist came on, my anthem for this race, Soul on Fire by Third Day, and I got this crazy runner's high and probably looked like an idiot grinning and starting to speed up at that point.

Of course, then I hit a wall at mile 24, and struggled through that mile as well as 25.  Ugh.

When I saw the mile marker for 26, I knew I was there and could continue without walking.  I was fairing okay mentally, my breathing was fine and I'd managed not to get any cramps/side-aches.  My lower body was feeling rough, though.  My glutes, hips, hammies, feet...pretty much EVERYTHING felt like it was ready to quit on me at any minute.

When the large white banner marking boldly exclaiming FINISH came into view I inwardly cheered and basically focused on getting there without tripping (as I am known to do) or passing out.  I tried to keep a normal expression on my face, one that would not scream out what pain I was in.   I blocked out the large crowds on both sides of me, cheering on the finishers.  I just had to get across that line.

My friends Beth and Kristina were waiting with huge smiles and one of those foil "blankets."  They pointed to a lady handing out pink ribboned medals.


Post-race was rough for about a half an hour.  I felt like if I stopped walking my legs would give out.  But then I got extremely nauseous and dizzy and absolutely had to sit down.  There were lots of snack options and people handing out water and Gatorade.  I managed to grab a water bottle and some oatmeal raisin cookies and hobble to a curb, where I could barely manage to sit down, and force myself to eat and drink.  I did not feel hungry.  I felt like I was about to collapse.

Finally I rallied enough to get up from the curb and walk with my friends to the port-a-potties.  Surprisingly, unlike the two half marathons I ran last year, I had no bowel distress after this race.  I must have finally figured out my fueling - yay!

OR...I didn't eat enough?  Because after using the bathroom I then felt extremely dizzy, as though I would pass out at any moment.   My friends were really patient because I basically just veered off our path to the gear buses, plopped down in the dirt, and started to breath with my head between my knees.   I thought at any moment I would vomit.  It honestly felt similar to "transitioning" phase of labor.   Fortunately the breathing and sitting helped, and the forcing myself to keep drinking my water, even though I didn't want to eat or drink anything.

After that the nausea subsided and we were able to walk to the nearby restaurant where a couple of my friends (and biggest supporters!) were there waiting for us with a table outside.

The beer I ordered tasted magnificent.

I am so glad these ladies were there to share in the experience of my first marathon - and their second half marathons!  Both finished and did AWESOME!  (Roomie Reunion Weekend recap to come!)

Oh, and my finishing time was 4:03.  Three minutes over my goal.  Doh.

I guess that means I'll have to run another. :)