I've put off blogging about my marathon, because I wanted to include some pictures - and perhaps a video of me crossing the finish line. But the pictures and video are still on the camera at home. I want to write about it before I forget all the details. So, here's the story, and the pics are coming soon.
Saturday October 2, 2007:
The day began early, at 3:30 am. I was so tired, as the girls were sick and didn't sleep well the night before. I was also sharing a room with them (and a bed with G). Needless to say, I was super tired. Matt, HL, and I were out the door by 4-ish. We made a quick stop at a c-store for their pre-run coffee ritual, and then made it to the bus pick-up a little after 4am. We got right on the bus, and after a few minutes we were on our way. It was still pitch black outside, and the ride seemed to take forever. The race began way up in the top of a canyon, and the road was steep. With each passing minute, I got more and more anxious. I couldn't believe I'd be running back. The drive alone seemed to take forever.
We finally reached the start line. It was really cold up there - I'm sure in the 30s. Luckily, there were bonfires where all the runners could huddle around to keep warm. I was grateful to be one of the fatter runners, because I think I was able to handle the cold much better than most.
I always get nervous before a race, and this one was no exception. I think I made 2 trips to the port-o-potties and one out to the bushes before people started lining up at the start line. My plan was to follow the 5:30 pace team - my goal was just to finish under 6 hours, so I went towards the back of the pack to find the group. I decided to make one more pit-stop before the race started, so I ran to the outhouses. Unfortunately, all the Advil I'd stuck in the pocket of my shorts fell onto the floor. There's no 10 second rule in an outhouse - that stuff was unfortunately gone.
I came out of the potty to find that most of the runners had already started, and I had no idea where the pace team was. So, I just started running. It was rather anti-climatic. It felt good to finally be moving my stiff, cold legs, and I was struggling to keep my pace slow. I just wanted to run, but I knew that I needed to save myself. As the sun came up, the sky was gorgeous, and it felt so good to be alive. The first few miles flew by, and I was amazed at how good I felt. At mile 6, there was a time clock - it read exactly 65 minutes. I found out later that it took me 7 minutes to cross the start line - so I had run 6 miles in less than an hour, which is really fast for me. The first 7 miles were all a gradual downhill, and they just flew by. I didn't stop running once - I even ran through all the aid stations. I also made a friend, although I never asked her name. She was from Arizona, had 4 grandchildren, and was running her 1st marathon also. I enjoyed talking to her, but she stopped at the aid station at Mile 7, and I kept going.
The Mile 7 aid station was in a valley called Veyo, and from there, the road made a steep ascent - for the next 4 miles. I finally had to walk a bit, as some of the hills were very steep. Pretty much everyone around me was walking too, so I didn't worry too much. For the next 4 miles, I alternated running with walking (although still mostly running), but I knew I needed to save my legs. Approaching mile 11, as I was going up the last of the steep hills, the 5:30 pace team passed me. I tried to keep them in my sights, but I felt myself losing steam. I even popped a couple more shot blocks, but never caught back up.
I knew I just had to keep the 6:00 pace team behind me.
I was still feeling good at mile 13, but was starting to feel some wear on my body. The prospect of running 13 more seemed very daunting. But the clock at the Mile 13 aid station read 2:45 (minus 7 minutes of course), and knowing that most people run a negative split (when the second half is faster than the 1st) I thought 5:30 was a real possibility.
The route started going down hill. At about Mile 14, my grandma friend passed me as I'd slowed to down a couple more shot blocks. But I flew by her on the steep downhill portion from Miles 15-16. I was very excited to get to 16, because there is a big spot there where spectators can view and my family had talked about being there. But they weren't there, and it lowered my spirts a bit. I was really starting to feel fatigue too. I started giving myself mini goals: next road sign, next rock formation, next aid station, etc. When I'd meet that goal, I'd press myself to meet the next goal. I was still mostly running, but I'd slowed a lot. 10 more miles seemed so far.
About Mile 17, I came up to an old man who seemed to be struggling. He was coughing a lot, and I asked him if he was ok. He told me that he just had a tickle in his throat and he'd be ok. This was his 16th time running St George, and he was going to be fine. I asked him about the huge hill I could see ahead, and asked why I thought the race was all downhill. He laughed and said that the hill wasn't as steep as it looked. (it looked quite formidable to me) Then he was off.
The hill ended up being Mile 19, and that is where I started to really struggle. My knee was giving me problems, and I could only run a few yards before the pain would force me to walk. I got passed by an ambulance taking some poor injured/sick runner, and I thought how nice it sounded to be in the back being taken care of. But I forced myself to keep going. I stopped at the next aid station for some Icy Hot on my knee, and it helped quite a bit. My grandma friend finally passed me here for the last time - I never saw her again.
I also started having some stomach problems, and had terrible cramping. I was never so happy to see anything as I was to see the port-o-potty at mile 21. I dashed inside, and spent a bit too long in there. The rest did help me though, and I felt my energy renewed a bit.
The next 3-4 miles were "gently rolling" hills, but they felt relentless to me. I was really struggling, and the only thing that kept me going was the thought of the finisher's medal - I wanted one. At one point, a lady at the aid station told me "its all downhill from here" and I thought that I'd rather do anything than run downhill. By now, I was pretty much doing a "power walk" with a bit of running. My legs were thrashed, and all I could think about was sitting down. I kept up my "mini goals" only now they were much shorter.
Mile 23 finally took us into town. There were a lot more spectators, and it helped my energy level quite a bit. At one point, a handicapped girl was clapping and cheering. She told me that she was everyone's personal cheerleader, and that she'd been in the same spot all day. She really touched me, and I struggled to keep the tears back. I knew I didn't have energy to run and cry. Another volunteer asked if I was ok - I probably looked like I was having a seizure or something.
At Mile 24 (2 more miles to go) I asked a volunteer how many more blocks to go. He told me 8 (which I later found was more like 18) but that renewed my energy. By this time, it felt like a death march, and I could only run about 10 steps before I had to walk. At Mile 25, they had icy towels, and they felt so good. I noticed that many of the runners around me had friends and family running along side them. One man was leaning on his wife so much that she was practically carrying him.
I finally saw the balloons of the finish line, and was able to work up a jog. I started looking for my family, and when I finally saw them I started bawling. I had to stop running, because I couldn't run and cry. It was too much effort. I finally managed to run across the finish line. The clock said 6:05, but I knew I'd started a few minutes late. I just hoped my final time would be under 6. But I felt so good: I had finished a MARATHON!
I got an ice cream sandwich at the finish line, and went to look for someone I knew. I found my family, and my girls wanted to be held. I cuddled them both, as we walked around looking for everyone. Matt and HL finally showed up. He had really struggled, and only beat me by 20 minutes. HL had finished at 4:13, and waited a long time for us.
I found the booth to have my chip scanned. The printout said: 5:58:07. I had beat my goal - by less than 2 minutes - but I had beat my goal!! We decided to get the girls back to the condo, as they were sick, hungry, and tired. We stopped by McD's on the way back, and I got the biggest diet coke. It tasted heavenly.
I went back, took an ice bath, a shower, and a nap. Then I ate whatever I wanted. And other than a swollen and sore ankle, my soreness has been tolerable. Today is Wednesday, and my legs feel pretty normal. I think I may try running tonight. I'm already planning my next race too. I think I may be addicted to this.