Monday, November 18, 2013

The Magic Marathon Part 1: Miles 1 through 16

It is Sunday, November 17. As I sit down to write this, I am officially a marathoner.

And more than anything, it's still completely surreal.

Bear with me as I attempt to get the experience put into words. First, I'm going to try to just recall the nitty gritty part - the race itself, in two parts because you know me... I'm long winded.


After somehow managing to get 8 hours of sleep, I woke up at 6:15 am in our hotel in downtown Richmond. Just 3 blocks from the start, I could hear other runners participating in the earlier races (8k and half marathon) making their way to the starting area. I peeked out the window and was greeted with my worst nightmare: rain.

Instead of freaking out, I put it out of my mind as I got ready. For the first time in my life, I used Body Glide and then put on the outfit I had painstakingly picked out after much waffling and conferring with others.

Toe to Head:
Brooks Ghost 6
ProCompression Marathon Socks
Lululemon Dart and Dash Shorts
Lululemon Track and Train Tank
SPI Belt
This was my mantra and source of inspiration for the day.

Around 6:30, the room phone rang. It was Greg, who came up to stay dry and warm. I ate my traditional 1/2 a PB&J sandwich on whole wheat and insisted the Greg eat a mini-bagel from my stash after he told me he hadn't eaten anything. We turned on the Weather Channel to try to gauge if and when the rain would stop. From what we could tell, it was a small-ish blob of rain that should have been gone by the time our race started.

The MTT teams were supposed to meet at the State Capitol Building steps at 7 am for a group photo. At 6:50 am, Greg and I peeked outside. It was downright POURING rain. I said, "Um, I love MTT and all, but there is no way in hell I'm going out there and getting myself drenched just for a photo." Greg agreed and we stayed inside until just after 7, when the rain let up. But first, we put on our so-very-stylish rain gear, just in case.

I picked the ugliest possible throw away sweat shirt so
I wouldn't feel guilty about getting rid of it.
Pretty darn ugly, isn't it?
We got to the Capitol and found our fellow MTT members milling about. The plan for our Team Navy pace group had been to meet up for the big MTT photo and then stick together until we got to the corral. First we found Kit, then Teresa, and eventually Lauren, Mark, Will, Giles, Marie, and Allison. 

Me, Teresa, Lauren, and Allison (an Iron Woman, by the way!)
Kit took this photo and captioned it, "I fell in with some fast women."
Love it.
By now it was about 7:20 and we needed to get a move on, so as a group we made our way to bag check. Those of us without bags tried to stay centrally located while everyone else went to drop theirs off. Keeping the group together at this point was a bit like herding cats... plus it had started to rain again. Next we wanted to hit up the porties, but Marie shared a super secret bathroom location that we went to instead (not sharing here because then it wouldn't be super secret anymore!). It was a heavenly spot - a real bathroom that was warm, dry, clean, and had running water. We even took the opportunity (or at least I did) to dry our shoes off with the insane Dyson super-velocity hand dryers.

Now it was time to move to our corral. I hadn't looked at my watch at all so had absolutely no concept of the time. We worked out way as close to the 4:00:00 pace group as we could, did a head count, and found Coach Shawn just as the National Anthem started.

After what seemed like the longest, slowest rendition of the National Anthem ever, the announcer said 1 minute to go. "What????" I said. "How can it be time already???" But sure enough, it was go time. 

I was running a marathon, whether I was ready or not. 

Miles 1-8 
9:30; 9:19; 9:14; 9:09; 9:15: 9:06: 8:48; 9:08

This is what I will call the "jolly" part of the marathon. Coach Shawn ran the first two miles with us. He was absolutely determined that we wouldn't start out too fast. The rain had let up just before the start, but as we made our way down Broad Street, it started to absolutely pour again. To be honest, I barely noticed. In fact, until we reached mile 4, it didn't even feel like the marathon. It felt like any other training run - just what I had hoped for. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that I was running a marathon. 

Teresa was officially designated as the Pace Police, and she kept us on track as we made our way down familiar streets. The crowd of runners was still thick at this point, but we all stuck together easily. The first water stop threw us for a bit of a loop because there were volunteers handing out on both sides, but we regrouped quickly. 

I don't remember much about these miles, except that it all felt surreal. The rain let up at some point - probably around mile 4 but honestly I can't be sure. Keeping Coach Shawn's advice in mind, we all took water or Powerade at every aid station and regrouped afterwards. We thanked the policemen and women who were along the course blocking roads. We laughed at signs (one of personal favorites being "If running a marathon was easy it would be called your mom!"). I got a high 5 from Bart Yasso somewhere around mile 5. 

Our 10k split was 57:55. We were doing well with not pushing it too hard... yet.

Giles and I marveled at the calves of a runner in front of us during the downhill of miles 6/7 - they were so huge and impressive that we just couldn't get over it. I found it kind of disturbing, actually. "That's what she said!" jokes were flowing freely. As we crossed the Huguenot Bridge during mile 7, we picked up a fellow MTT member from Team Cocoa - Heather - who joined in on our dirty jokes and stuck with us for the next part of the course.

Mentally, I don't even know what I was thinking at this point. I think that I wasn't thinking! Others were talking about what was to come and how we needed to save ourselves for Riverside Drive and Scottsview, both hilly parts of the course. I kept telling them to be quiet and just live in the moment. Let's not worry about Riverside, Scottsview, or the Lee Bridge until we get to them. 

Basically, we were all just having a great time.

Miles 8-16
9:08; 8:55; 8:59; 9:16; 9:00; 9:06; 8:52; 8:54; 9:03

Ah, Riverside Drive. This is probably the most gorgeous part of the course, and as we made our way along the James, our spirits were high. The group was still together - me, Giles, Kit, Teresa, Greg, Lauren, Mark, Allison, and Heather. It was slightly misting, but that was ok - it was kind of warm out and the misty rain felt good. I broke open my bag of fuel - pretzels and candy corn - and had a bit of each. Greg took off his shirt (a funny tradition) somewhere along the way and the dirty jokes flew freely.

I was feeling very happy until we ascended Scottsview (the dreaded hill, which didn't bother me much) and came up onto Forest Hill Avenue. Even during training runs, this was not my most favorite street. I'm not sure what it is about Forest Hill Avenue, but I just hate it.

It was during the long slog on Forest Hill (miles 11-15) that I knew that Teresa wasn't feeling good. She was not her normal chatty, bubbly self at all. I was worried about her, mainly because I knew she had a stomach bug earlier in the week and was just over coming it. Oh yeah, and she had also just totally rocked the Marine Corps Marathon a mere 3 weeks before. I pulled up alongside her to ask her how she felt and the news wasn't good. I felt partially responsible for her misery... Teresa has been one of my rocks during the training cycle and I knew that part of the reason she was running the full that day was to help me with my first marathon. To put it plainly, I was worried about her.

At this point, the group started to string out a bit. Giles pulled ahead (as Giles normally does - he is the fastest of our little group and we are the greyhounds to his rabbit), Teresa and Allison dropped back. Allison had done her full Ironman in October and, having already achieved her goal for the season, was running for fun. We lost Heather somewhere along the way.

When we crossed the 13.1 mark, the core group was me, Mark, Greg,Lauren and Kit with Teresa not far behind. We were at 2:02:25. Still on target, but knowing that after we conquered the Lee Bridge, we'd need to pick it up a bit if we were going to sub-4.

Not long after, we passed a some folks handing out Sugar Shack donuts, which I happily grabbed and scarfed down.

Finally, at mile 15, we hit the Lee Bridge. In the minds of many, the Lee Bridge is the true half way point in the Richmond Marathon. It signals the end of the most difficult part of the course, and is itself a mindf*ck all the same. First, it is a long bridge - you officially cross on to it just after mile 15 and you hit mile 16 just as you come off the other side. Second, the finishing area can be seen from the bridge if you look to your right. Third, after you beat the bridge, you have to run uphill until you finally make the left onto Main Street.

As we stepped onto it, I said, "You guys, we are going to make this bridge our bitch." I was determined to not let this portion of the course mess with my mind. I still felt pretty good and I also knew that there were a few carrots waiting for me at the end - one being that Coach Shawn was going to be waiting for us, and two being that I knew that Husband and my great friend Sheila were going to be waiting for me on the other side of it. The final carrot was that I knew once I had conquered Lee Bridge and the incline afterwards, it was pretty much a flat 10 miles to go.

We beat the bridge and I immediately started scanning the crowd, searching for Husband and Sheila. Finally I spotted them just after the Mile 16 water stop. Frantic screaming and yelling, then I just kept going. As I approached Main Street, suddenly there was my Dad! And my Mom and my Brother! And then my Aunt and my Uncle! I had no idea there were going to be there and to see them at the moment was a wonderful surprise. Then Lauren spotted her family as we rounded the corner to Main - and then our faithful MTT photographer Mark was there, taking photos as always.

It felt beautiful.

Shawn wasn't at the bridge after all, but Coach Ed was. He jumped in with and asked me how I was doing. "I feel great!" I said. His response, "Kathryn, you are way too energetic for Mile 16 of your first marathon! You should be miserable! I expect to see some misery when I see you again at Mile 25." My response: "Ok Coach, I'll order some misery for Mile 25, just for you."

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