Sunday, October 25, 2009

Columbus Marathon - the experience

Sunday October 18th, I finished my first marathon! Yay!!!!
Time was 4:57:41 and I met all of my goals.
1. Finished.
2. Finished running across the line, thanks to a lovely downhill finish approach! :)
3. Finished under 5 hours.

It was an awesome experience and very, very fun. I hope this isn't too long and boring of a report. There is way too much to try and capture. This is chock full of photos (26 even!) so hopefully that helps make it more interesting. I can thank Erin Powell for the wonderful documentation of the race day! And Greg was able to snap some of me as well.

As Greg and I pulled onto 71 North to head to Columbus, it hit me. I started laughing my butt off and said, well I guess there's no turning back now- I'm going to run a marathon this weekend! It suddenly seemed so insane to me. Other people run marathons, not me. My friend Sarah flew up from Florida to run the marathon also, and we picked her up from the airport late Friday night. We chatted until 2 a.m. - it was nice to catch up.

SATURDAY - marathon eve
Saturday I woke up at 8, wide awake. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't. We all got up and headed out for breakfast around 10. We soon discovered that not much of downtown is open on the weekend. After visiting some places we wanted to eat at only to find them closed, we ended up heading toward the Convention Center where the race expo was, hoping to pass some food along the way. We did find a Max & Erma's in a hotel that was open and had some hot soft pretzels with our lunch.

The expo was pretty dinky so we breezed through that pretty easily. We picked up our packets and shirts and posters, then walked the cold, windy route back to the hotel, which was only about a half mile away. Sarah got the best hotel location EVER. Here are the port-o-johns, just yards from our hotel.

Knowing we just were supposed to rest, we holed up in our hotel suite and watched college football games. I was soooo tired. I didn't want to nap, though I could have, but I was hoping this fatigue would help me sleep well that night.

At 5:15 we had dinner reservations at Due Amici with my friend Jennifer who was in town. I had a mushroom stuffed ravioli in a pesto sauce that was delicious. They also had great bread with olive oil. And lots of water, of course.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and chilled out some more. I began to get stuff ready for the next day. I wrote my name huge on the top of my shirt. Friends who have done marathons before advised me to do this and it was great advice! I felt like a rock star out there when people were yelling my name. I got all my gels together. Stretched. I was so tired. So I went to bed at 9, read for about an hour and finally fell asleep around 10.

SUNDAY - marathon morning
At 4:30 I woke up with a very, very painful headache, while in the middle of a dream that we had overslept for the race. My neck/back hurt from the bed and pillow change, leading to the headache. I jumped out of bed and popped some Advil and then laid back down. Originally I was going to get up at 5:30, but figured I should stay in bed until the Advil worked and my headache was gone. It worked and I got up at 6.

First I ate my two little containers of applesauce. I munched on a half of a mini-bagel. Then I splashed water in my face and woke up a bit more. I ate some Sport Beans (yum) 30 minutes before the race start time.

Here I am furiously tying my shoes. I only tied my shoes once the entire day. Usually I have a weird thing of untying and retying them compulsively before a race.

At 7:20 we walked downstairs, met Jennifer (who would be teaming with Greg all day going around to see us) and went to the start line.
Ready to go!!!!!

THE RACE (Photos courtesy of Erin Powell and Greg)
The entire race experience was the coolest thing I've ever done. I was super nervous and somewhat in denial about actually running 26.2 miles. But I knew I could do it.

The morning was cold. Probably about 38ยบ. But dry!

We're somewhere in there.

It took us about 15 minutes to cross the start line. Here's the aftermath of discarded clothing after all the runners were gone.

Sarah and I started out running together. Once she warmed up, she went ahead. I wasn't sure what my pace was - it ended up being a little slow in the start. But I just kept running how I felt, figuring I'd settle in after a couple of miles.

I remember the race in approximate chunks, so here it goes:

Miles 1 - 5: We ran through some really cool neighborhoods with awesome houses. I felt great, and just kept chugging along. The miles were ticking by pretty fast. I was very aware of my feet and legs. My legs were numb due to the cold. My left foot's shoe didn't feel like it was tight enough....

Then I saw Erin and Roman!

They were on the left side of the street so I veered over to run closer to that side. Erin snapped 5 million pictures and both of them were cheering and yelling at me. It was awesome.

Miles 5 - 13: After heading back towards downtown, I saw Jennifer and Greg around mile 8 maybe? They were on the left side and cheering. Greg made an awesome sign. He gave me my sunglasses which I had forgot in the hotel room and I gave him my long sleeve shirt I wore in the beginning to stay warm. I had all intensions of just ditching it on the side of the road, but for some reason couldn't part with it forever.

There is frost on my hat! And that lady in pink is totally checking out my butt.

Then I think we ran through German Village, where I saw Roman and Erin again! I'm in a sea of half-marathoners (blue on the bottom of their bibs), who were soon going to be done.

It was fun to watch for Erin and Roman, as I didn't know where they would pop up, so it was kind of a game for me to keep myself occupied. It definitely made the time go by faster. They again screamed at me and it was so cool to see them.

After running through German Village, we were back on High Street. I wasn't looking forward to this, after looking at the race map, because it was just a long 5 mile stretch downtown. Turns out it was one of my favorite parts of the course. Before the half marathoners split off to finish their races, I saw Erin and Roman...again!

This time they jogged with me and Erin sprinted ahead to take some pictures.

I was complaining about the hill. Not really a hill, more of an incline. Columbus doesn't have hills.

Right at the State House, where we all started, I saw Jennifer and Greg again. They yelled "You look great! Almost there!" which was our ongoing joke for the weekend. I wanted to flip them off, but there were kids around and my big red gloves don't hide.

In truth some people were almost there- the half marathoners. I thought I'd be mad at seeing them be able to finish already, but I wasn't. I was happy to keep moving along. After they turned off, the course greatly opened up. I was practically by myself. We continued on High Street and then turned into fraternity row and back into another neighborhood.

Miles 13 - 17, OSU Area: There weren't many people out along fraternity row, but what can you expect early on a Sunday morning from college kids, right? The street was very rough and I had to watch the ground so I didn't stumble. And then around mile 15...I saw Erin and Roman! Yay!!! Erin shouted at me that I had sped up, which I knew, but didn't know how much. I was feeling soooo good. At this point I was just waiting for things to start declining.

At some point we were running on campus. This was by far the worst part of the race. No one was out except one group that was giving out Gummy Bears, which I took gladly! Candy to suck on gave me something to do. I was beginning to lose a little steam. I was getting warm so the hat came off and arm warmers got pushed down. Apparently Roman and Erin were trying to see me in this area, but the course map was wrong, so they missed me.

Miles 17 - 20: After the OSU area, the course wound its way into another beautiful neighborhood. Most people in this area were chatting on corners with their coffees. It was very pretty, the trees were gorgeous and the sky was as blue as it can be. When I passed mile marker 18, I thought: this is it. Uncharted territory. What is going to happen now? I watched a woman drop her gloves, stop, and then eeever so slowly reach down to pick them up. Those gloves would have been gone if I had dropped them - no way was I stopping to bend over for anything at this point.

When I passed mile 20, a weird, bubbling, emotional cry came up out of me. 20 miles! I'm going to do this! I had two pace bands on- one for a 4:45 finish and one for a 5:00 finish. I was trying to stay in between them. At the beginning of the race I was closer to the 5:00 finish, but since I had sped up, I gained some padding with every mile that I would allow me to finish under 5 for sure. As I ticked away the miles, I began playing the math games, realizing that even if something bad happened and I had to walk a mile, I could finish under 5. So this realization made me pretty happy. Plus until mile 18 I was pretty certain I had been running a strong pace faster than any of my long runs, which made me feel like I had accomplished something there even if the rest of the race fell apart. Everything was beginning to hurt, but I still had my breathing under control for the most part. My legs hurt, my knees hurt a little. My feet hurt a little, but not too bad. My neck hurt - I stretched that the most. But I just kept telling myself over and over that it was just pain and would go away later. More good advice from experienced marathoners :)

Miles 20 - 26.2: I hadn't seen Erin and Roman since somewhere around 15. It had been awhile and I was really getting tired, mentally and physically. I wondered if I would see them at all before the finish because maybe they just needed to head back that way. But then, at mile 22 (and the picture to prove it) they were there!

My spirits were immediately lifted and I slowly chugged down the street towards them. Erin ran with me a little and called Greg. She said I had to say something. I said I couldn't! She said just yell then. So I yelled into the phone when we heard Greg. After their visit I was much more energized once again. The course was making a lot of turns. There was a big downhill at one part, which I thought would be nice...but my legs screamed at me! It was a little scary and definitely not a good thing at that point in the race. Now I understand what people mean about Boston and how the downhills can be just as bad or worse than the uphills in a marathon.

At mile 24, my mind was all over the place. 2 more miles... no wait 4 more miles... wait (check pace band, check watch) oh no I slowed down a lot! No wait, (get out fingers) 24...25...26... YES two more miles!!! Holy crap there's only 2 more!!! 2 is a very small number!!! During the whole race I never thought about how many miles were left. But at 24 I did. I wanted to speed up so bad, but my knees were weak, probably because my legs were so tired, and I didn't want to risk having them get all tweaky and painful. Slow and steady, I trudged along.

Somewhere along here there was a slight incline and people handed out individually wrapped buckeye candies when you got to the top, after running under big OSU colored balloon arches. Yum for later.

At the last water stop, I took my water and then stopped and bent over. I just needed to stretch my back. A guy next to me asked if I was OK and I told him yes, just needed to stretch. He said "we're almost there!" And I said "yep." This was the only conversation I had with another runner that entire 5 hours. The volunteer that gave me water looked right into my face and told me there is only .5 miles to go. I didn't know whether or not to believe him, as people like to shout out all kinds of interpretations about how many more miles they think you have. But after another run along a beautiful street with cool houses, the course turned and BAM! Back on Front street.

This is the home stretch!

Oh wow. So many people and many of them were cheering and yelling my name as I passed. I immediately picked up the pace and a huge goofy grin spread across my face. I was going to finish the marathon!!!! I didn't feel anything anymore. I just looked ahead. And then I saw Greg, Jennifer and Sarah (yay she finished too!) along the side, cheering. I rounded the last corner and saw that it was downhill (sweetness!) and ran as fast as I could without falling over. Erin and Roman were on the side, but I don't think I saw them. I had tunnel vision. I crossed the line and looked at my watch - 4:57:40. Yay!!!!!!!!

Cool balloons...



Crossing the line. 4:57:40 was the official time...the clock here shows how much of a delay there was to crossing the start line!

And now I was done.

I got my medal, my mylar blanket, and my free beanie hat. I then continued along the food corral, looking at my options. Mmmm donuts... no ew. That sounds awful right now. Bagel? My throat seemed to tighten. I found the biggest half of a banana and ate that. Then I suddenly thought about what I had just accomplished and got a little blubbery again. I just ran a marathon and it was awesome!! Then I was exiting the food area...cruel of them to put 5 or 6 steps coming out of the food area into the celebration area. I made it up them and then walked back towards the Starbucks we were all meeting at.

Greg and Jennifer, awesome cheering/support crew, outside of Starbucks. It was a long, cold day for spectators!!

I saw Greg and Sarah, then Jennifer and Pete, then eventually Erin and Roman found us too. It was all over and amazing. Sarah and I began gushing about different spots on the course and different experiences. There is just so much that happens along the way, I haven't even covered half of it here. So many people, so many thoughts and emotions, so much dialogue with yourself that you never have in other situations.

Finishers! Sarah finished in 4:37!!

Me and the best race-supporting hubby ever.

This was by far the coolest thing I've ever done. I am pleasantly surprised by how good I felt for the duration. The weather and flat course definitely had something to do with that. It was a perfect day.

Afterwords, we walked back to the hotel, showered, and checked out. Then we went to a restaurant down the way called Barley's for grub and beers!

Erin and Roman: the coolest marathoner-chasing friends EVER!!!!

My medal.

So now it is over and done. I had so much fun. It was an amazing experience: from the training, to the race weekend, to finishing the race – I've never done anything like it and look forward to doing another one!


E-Speed said...

great report! glad your first marathon experience was such a good one!

KimZepp said...

I just stumbled across your race report and wanted to let you know I really enjoyed it!
Congratulations on your first marathon.
Columbus might be my first full mary in '10!
Kim Zepp