Posted by: runawaynotes | December 11, 2012

I am a marathoner!

Well, it has finally happened! After 2 months of physical therapy, 22 weeks of training, buckets of sweat, and three pairs of running shoes I can finally call myself a marathoner. And all it took was 5 hours 34 minutes and 11 seconds 🙂

Even though it’s been a couple of days now since I have crossed that finish line, it still feels surreal, probably because up until the very start of the race I didn’t know if I was going to make it. The entire week leading up to the race I was driving myself crazy with worry. The weather forecast was all over the place (will it be humid? will it be hot? will it be rainy? will it be windy? – you really just couldn’t tell). My right knee (the one that I injured last year) was starting to give me trouble again, probably because my IT band and my hamstring were super tight. In addition to pre-running jitters, work was also super stressful, so I’ve been literally feeling sick to my stomach for days. I would say that on a scale of 1 to 10, my “butt kicking” attitude has been at about 3.5, which is highly unusual for me.

The day before the race made my attitude drop even lower. My friend (who was running the half) and I decided that we didn’t want to mess with traffic/parking/road closures the morning of the race, so we would stay at the hotel in downtown Dallas the night before (that turned out to be a great idea because there was an accident the morning of the race that left one of the major highways completely shut down). We made it to Dallas on Saturday, around noon, had awesome brunch at the Mad Hatter Cafe (if you are local, I highly recommend that place – the French toast is to die for), and then went to the expo to pick up our bibs. I normally get super excited and energized at the health and fitness expo. You get to meet your old running buddies that you might not have seen in a while, you get to check out the promos for the upcoming races (OMG – I LOVE the new medal design for the Cowtown marathon!), you can buy discounted running gear, and of course there are the BUMPER STICKERS! How can you forget about the bumper stickers?! I remember spending at least 15-20 minutes each time I went to a pre-race expo browsing through the bumper stickers trying to figure out which one I would finally put on my car after I crossed that finish line. Well, this Saturday I could barely stand to look at them. I knew I really wanted to buy one, but at the same time I couldn’t imagine having to look at it if I couldn’t finish the race.

This was an entirely new thing for me – not knowing if I would even be able to finish. I have never had to drop out of the race before. I’ve done some races injured, and I’ve had to walk some of them, but I never had any doubts that one way or the other I would be crossing that finish line. Well, it’s pretty hard to walk 26.2 miles. That thought was stuck firmly in the back of my mind. When we walked up to the DRC table so that my friend could get a pace band for her half marathon, I asked Vishal, who was handing out the pace bands, if he had one for “I’m just trying to finish” pace. He said “Sure”, and then he picked up a band, flipped it around, wrote on the back of it “Don’t let the cop car pass you”, and handed me the band. I nodded and took it – that was as good of a goal as I could hope to accomplish.

We continued browsing through the running swag and saw a really cool 26.2 chrome car decal that had a silhouette of a girl with a ponytail cut into it. My friend looked at it and said: “I think this should be part of your Christmas gift this year”. I shook off the feeling of sick dread that has been with me all day and said “Sure”, so she got me the decal. Of course, a few minutes after that purchase, my knee started hurting so much that I couldn’t stay on my feet anymore (and we’ve only been there for about an hour). “Well, that’s just freakin’ fantastic” I thought to myself as I hobbled off to our hotel room.

After unpacking my bags and laying out my outfit on the chair, I gave my mom a call. My mom is not a runner, and she was always highly skeptical about this whole marathon thing. She never tried to discourage me along the way, but I knew she would have been a lot happier if I had picked a much safer hobby than long distance running. She wished me luck and told me that she was hoping to catch a glimpse of me on TV tomorrow. I said that it would probably be pretty tough with a huge crowd that we were expecting, but hopefully she should get regular email updates from the runner tracking service when I crossed each checkpoint. I am really glad she didn’t ask me if I still thought it was a good idea to race because my answer would have been a firm “Hell, no!” After that phone call I went to grab some dinner with my friends at the restaurant downstairs. Then we went back to our hotel room and proceeded to watch uplifting and inspirational marathon movies like “Spirit of the marathon” and “Run, fatboy, run” 🙂

Although everyone tells you that you don’t get good sleep the night before a big race, I was out like a light by 9:30 pm and I woke up fully rested 10 minutes before my alarm clock went off at 6 am. I got dressed, grabbed some breakfast, had another quick chat on the phone with my mom, and then my husband and I headed downstairs to meet with our friends. Although the hotel lobby was pretty crowded, my friends had no trouble spotting me. Why? Probably because of my running outfit.

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Is that a hot pink sparkly tutu, you ask? Why, yes it is!

We made it to the start line, found our corral, said goodbye to significant others, and joined the crowd. Soon enough we were able to spot quite a few people that we knew from training/previous races/etc. So, the last hour before the start of the race flew by. The only uncomfortable thought that kept creeping up in my mind every now and then was “Holy cow, it’s humid!” When the start horn sounded, we expected it (based on last year’s experience) to take a while for us to actually get to the start line, but we were there in less than 10 minutes, and the race was on.

The first few miles were pretty easy (as they almost always are). We did the first one at 11 min pace, and then tried to keep it around 10:30 for the next 7 miles or so (up until the split for the half marathoners, where I was going to say goodbye to my friend and continue the journey on my own). After about half an hour, my t-shirt was already soaked with sweat. I saw a couple of guys running in capes made out of Crown Royal purple bags and shuddered – not a great choice of a running costume. At least my tutu was light and airy. I was very glad that I decided to run with a handheld water bottle. The water stops were insanely crowded. We didn’t even attempt to try to grab some cold water until about mile 5. Even though I was not hungry, I kept grabbing a handful of electrolyte beans every 3 miles or so and popping them in my mouth. I’ve read too many articles that included words “hyponatremia” and “hallucinations” in the same sentence. I was determined not partake in that experience, and I could almost visualize the sodium level in my body dropping from all the sweating, so I kept chowing down on the beans. On the upside, my right knee was not giving me any trouble whatsoever. Either my regular stretching and yoga finally did the trick, or the brace was doing its magic – I wasn’t sure which it was, but I was sure glad it worked.

When my friend and I finally split up at the half marathon turnaround point, I got teary-eyed. All of the sudden, I felt really alone. Plus, I was jealous that she only had about 5.5 miles left to go, whereas I had about 19 more miles. I knew I couldn’t let myself go down that road – thinking about the number of miles left to go inevitably leads to thinking about the number of hours left to go, and that’s just depressing when you realise you still have another 4 hours ahead of you. So, I shook off that thought and continued on. My next mental goal was to get to the lake. I don’t remember much about getting there though. We were running through various neighborhoods. There were crowds of people everywhere cheering us on. I remember seeing an ambulance pick up one of the runners (couldn’t tell if it was a guy or a girl, and what exactly happened). I also remember there was another girl in the tutu who just randomly started doing cartwheels in the middle of the race, and I was wondering how she still had the energy. I was also thinking that my tutu looked way better than hers 🙂 To prove that assertion, I’ve gotten quite a few “Love the tutu!” comments, and every time I heard that I smiled and waved. After a couple more miles hearing became a problem because my ears started to pop. I looked at my Garmin and my heart rate was at 180 (my normal racing heart rate is around 160). In addition, I started to get that feeling in my right side like I had a stitch coming on, so I decided to take it down a notch and breathe deeply. Of course, by then we were climbing up the hill on Mockingbird, so “taking it down a notch” meant slowing down to a crawl. Whatever. I didn’t care. I was almost at the lake.

Running around the White Rock lake was a pretty surreal experience. I knew this lake like the back of my hand. Every single one of my group training runs has started and ended there. So, on one hand the familiar territory was reassuring, but on the other hand I knew exactly how far I had to go till I reached the next mile marker. Considering the fact that by that point my pace had dropped to 14 min/mile, that was pretty depressing. Even though humidity has blessedly decreased a little, the sun finally broke through the clouds, and I felt like an ant under the magnifying glass. I was so tired. I walked every water stop, and I didn’t care. Every now and then, I would glance at my wrist band and read “Don’t let the cop car pass you”, then I would glance back, see all the people behind me and nod to myself. I was still on track to meet my goal. Even when I got passed by the 5 hour pace setter, I didn’t let it upset me. So, I wasn’t going to finish this race under 5 hours. I was going to finish it. That would have to be good enough.

I barely remember the Dolly Parton hills. I think I walked up the first one and then switched back to a jog. One of the Dolly Parton impersonators yelled something about the tutu, so I did a little shake-your-booty kind of move and got a round of applause. That carried me forward. My next mental stop was the 23rd mile. One of my friends was volunteering at the water stop there. After that, I only had the finish line to look forward to. I knew that the 23rd mile was at the intersection of Swiss Ave and Fitzhugh Ave, so I kept waiting for Swiss. However, every time we would turn, it would be a different street. I seriously began to wonder if they had changed the course on me. I guess that my dismay was written clearly on my face because one of the runners yelled “Come on, tutu, keep on smiling! You are going to make it!” I yelled back “Well, if I make it to Swiss, I know I am going to make it to the finish line.” His response – “Who cares about Swiss, honey? That was the 21 mile marker you just passed! You only have 5.2 miles left to go – you can do that much in your sleep, can’t you?” He was right. I knew I could do 5.2 miles. That did put a smile on my face, which had satisfied my fellow runner for now. However, every 10 minutes or so he would catch back up to me and yell “Are you still smiling, tutu?” And even if I wasn’t smiling at that point, I would get my smile back each time he asked. We made it to mile 23.

It was great to stop and get some cold water and a warm hug from my friend Julie, but I still had 3.2 miles left to go. By that point, I was in some serious pain. It wasn’t the muscle cramps, it wasn’t a stitch, it was my joints. My hips were literally grinding, and my feet were on fire. Ironically, my bad knee was still holding up just fine. Go figure. I remember seeing the Reunion tower in the distance and thinking “God, that still looks so far away!” I finally ran out of water, and I couldn’t remember if there was another water stop before the finish line (there was!). I don’t remember ever feeling so beat and miserable in my entire life. And then I passed the 26 mile marker, and I knew that I was less than a quarter of a mile away from the finish line. I have visualized this moment so many times during my training, and I always thought that I would be crying when I reach this mark. But I didn’t cry. I didn’t start crying until I saw my friends and my husband in the crowd holding up the sign that had my name on it and cheering so loudly. All I could hear was “It’s just around the corner!” And sure enough, just around the corner it was – the finish line. Just a few more steps and it was over. I did it. I had completed my first marathon.

Someone put a medal around my neck, someone else wrapped the “space blanket” around my shoulders. The next thing was to get my picture taken and get my finisher t-shirt. As I was standing in front of the camera I heard “Hey, tutu, can I take a picture with you?!” Sure enough, it was my fellow runner who demanded that I kept on smiling during my last 5 miles of the race. So, of course we took a picture together. Next was a long (long, LONG, FREAKIN’ LONG!!) walk to the entrance to the convention center to get my finisher t-shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever been so appreciative of the wheelchair ramps and escalators in my entire life.

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A few more slow excruciating steps, and I was finally able to hug my husband 🙂

Looking back, I can honestly say that I had the best marathon experience possible given the conditions. No, I did not meet my goal time of 4:20, not even by a long shot. I didn’t even make it under 5 hours. Hell, not even under 5:30. But I finished! And not only did I finish, but I also feel like my body handled the heat, and the humidity, and the hills quite well. I’ve heard some horror stories about people cramping up so badly, they couldn’t finish the race. Or about runners passing out from heat exhaustion or dehydration. Or people collapsing just a few yards away from the finish line. I have avoided all of that. I finished and I had fun. And I will have a brand new shiny medal and a ton of race pictures of my smiling face to show for it!

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Responses

  1. CONGRATULATIONS on finishing your first marathon! Loved reading your race recap. Those were some really tough conditions on Sunday, but you got the job done. Way to go!!!!

  2. Fantastic news! Congrats on finishing!


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