Thursday, January 20, 2011

December 9, 2010 - Marathon recap Part 3

This is part three of my recap of the marathon and our weekend in Vegas. If you missed parts one or two you can scroll down to the previous posts or click here for part one or here for part two.
We were pretty close to the front of our corral #13. Josh and I lined up on the left side of the group, as we knew we were going to pass our hotel in the first half mile and we were expecting to see Dad, Pam and Noah on that side. I also had the 4:05 pace group leader in my sites. I hadn't signed up to run with the 4:05 pace group, however I wanted to hang close to them for at least a while, or at least stay in between the 4:05 pace group and the 4:15 pace group. I knew that I would lose the 4:05 group though when I needed a potty stop (or two or three), so emotionally I didn't get myself too attached to running with the group.
I knew that Josh and I would be running the same course for the first half of the race.
Music blared and they counted us down from 10 to 1. Then a big horn sounded and we were OFF! In all my reading on how to run a marathon the biggest advise and warning I heard over and over was not to go out too fast. 26.2 miles is a LONG way, and if you go out too fast, you are likely to hit "the wall" and run out of energy well before the finish. It's easy to get caught up with the crowds and music and excitement and just take off, but I knew to be careful not to.
(Here is one of the official race photos from right after the start).
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My goal was to stay inbetween a 9:10 and 9:40 pace for the first half, and to just relax and let my body do what it knows how to do. I tried to stay lose and relaxed and to enjoy it. I glanced down at my Garmin to double check my pace fairly often and we stayed pretty close to the 4:05 group. I slowed myself down regularly as I usually run at a faster pace. I wanted to stick with my plan and just hoped that it would work out and I would thank myself later in the race.
The half marathoners and marathoners were all on the same course so it was pretty crowded, but not terribly so. It was usually pretty easy to get around slower runners. I tried not to waste too much energy zig zagging around people.
In just a couple of minutes we were running past our hotel and we saw my Dad, Pam and Noah waiting, waving and cheering. It was so great to see them!! It was a huge emotional boost every time I saw them on the course. Here is a pic that Pam snapped as we went by.
Boy, I am reflective!
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and here we go....
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and here is my cute Dad with Noah
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The first quarter of the race was pretty uneventful. We ran down the first half of the strip and passed all of the famous hotels and resorts. There were lots of people out cheering us on and with the other runners there was lots of people-watching. We went past the "run through wedding ceremony" and you couldn't even count all of the runners dressed as Elvis. :) There were also three runners in huge, full body costumes of Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster and we saw all kinds of silliness. Pam got a pic of a guy running in just a Speedo. Yeah... it's Vegas!
My fueling plan for the race was to take a Hammer gel every four miles, to drink my Hammer HEED drink consistently and to supplement with water occassionally from the aid stations. I can drink from my sports bottle while running, so I kept running through the aid stations in this part of the race. I was able to do all of my gels without stopping as well.
At one point we heard cheering ahead of us, and then we realized that the marathon leaders (who had had a 15 minute head start and run at an amazing pace) were already passing us in the other direction and that was really cool. We cheered for them!
My body felt good, my emotions were happy but calm, and the weather was cool (perfect). We made a few turns, and were soon headed back down the strip towards the 12.5 mile mark, which is where we would split and I would turn off on the second part of the course and Josh would go straight towards his finish line.
I had two toes that I could feel were rubbing funny and had no idea why, but I was able to not focus on it.  (I use the same shoes and the same socks all the time. I did end up with two blisters. The only other time I ever got a blister was when I ran my 1/2 marathon race, but never on my super long runs. Who knows why!)
Around mile 9 Josh started to get faster, and I told him just to go. I knew I had a lot of running left to go and didn't want to blow it, so I watched his orange shirt get slowly ahead of me and I was ok (and I was excited he was feeling so good). I tried not to think about how many miles were left.
Around mile 10 I finally had to stop and use a porta-potty. (Sorry if this is TMI for some, but I know it is a common topic among runners so I am including it!) I was actually THRILLED that my stomach had felt so good and that I had made it 10 miles without needing to stop. I HATED to stop running and have to wait on the short line, but it moved quickly and I was back to running really quickly. I lost three minutes and a couple of seconds with the stop, but felt great when I started moving again.
Funny moment... I got a quick glance at myself in the tiny, scratched up mirror in the porta-potty. Seeing myself with the beanie, sunglasses and tank top was so unlike how I usually look when I look in the mirror that it really boosted my self-esteem. I reminded myself I was tough and that I was going to do this. :)
I got right back to running and everything felt really good. The crowds got bigger and louder as we got closer to the half-marathon finish and the marathon turn-off and I got excited to see my Dad, Pam and Noah again. I ran close to the crowds but as we got close to and then passed the Luxor, I didn't see them. I thought maybe Noah had fallen alseep or was being cranky and tried not to be disappointed.
I got to the turn off and I blew Josh a kiss and hoped he had finished strong and feeling good. As I turned the corner I had my first feelings of concern. My legs and body were tired. I had already run a long way and I wasn't even half way done. After the turn off, the number of runners on the course reduced DRASTICALLY. There were about 20,000 people running the half marathon and only 5,000 running the full marathon, so there were a lot less runners after that turn. Around the corner I could see the mile post sign for mile 13, which was almost the half way point. I could also see a big uphill (up an overpass).
But then, I also saw my Dad, Pam and Noah! They had waited around the corner where it was less crowded. I gave them a thumbs up and a big smile and kept on running. Seeing them again and having them cheer me on was a huge emotional boost. It was really exciting and encouraging.
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I kept that smile on for quite a while. I checked my pace and continued on, settling in for the second half of the race.  This part of the course was another "out and back", which I kind of liked because along with the runners going the same way I was, there were the runners headed the other way, which was fun to watch. I love watching other runners. It is always amazing to me to watch them. You see people of all ages and builds and gaits, wearing all kinds of outfits. Most of the runners were really friendly and encouraging. I even saw a few Ragnar shirts and I always gave a "Go Ragnar!" shout out when I saw one.
I got up the first overpass just fine, and felt really confident in getting up the hill without walking (which many people were), and then I enjoyed the downhill on the other side of the overpass. On this part of the course I felt pretty good. I was tired, but felt good.  I kept telling myself, "You are doing it! You are running a marathon!"
And every time I passed a guy I thought about Amanda, and how she wanted me to beat a lot of boys. I kept thinking, "I just beat another boy Amanda!" :)
Shortly after the first overpass there was a second overpass, and even more people were walking up that second big hill. I continued to run, although my pace definitely slowed on the hills. I felt really tough though running up that, and it was right about at the top of that second overpass that I told myself I could run this entire race without walking. In all of the long runs that Jenny and I did, we always walked some. We  walked to drink and gel, and sometimes we just walked for a few minutes because we were tired. Even in my half marathon this fall I stopped running and walked for just a couple of minutes because I felt awful. So to run 26.2 miles and never walk sounded unlikely before I started, but around mile 16 or so I decided I really wanted to achieve that.
We had a few turns/detours off the main route. The bands all along the course were fun, but you were moving by fast enough that you didn't hear much. I was very glad for my IPOD, and from the first mile of the race I really enjoyed having my familiar music. I didn't "hear" it the whole time, but it was nice to have it there.
I continued with my plan to gel every four miles and to keep drinking well (I dehydrate easily and wanted to avoid that because I knew I would never finish strong or well if that happened). I realized I was running out of my HEED drink, so I started grabbing drinks at all of the aid stations. It is impossible for me to drink out of a cup while running, so I would grab the cup, say "thanks", stop and take two quick sips, and then take off running again. I don't think those aid stations cost me more than five or six seconds each. The coldness of the drinks made me feel a little side-achey, but I knew I needed the fluids so I drank them anyway. At one point I unscrewed the top of my water bottle to get my last little bit of drink out and the top fell and rolled. I wasn't stopping for anything, so I took the last swig out of the bottle and then dropped it.
Bedises the Ragnar shout-outs and saying thank you to the volunteers who handed me drinks, I didn't talk to anyone. I was really, really concentrating on everything. I know some people "zone out" when they run or like to be distracted, but I don't (at least not when I am racing). I was constantly concentrating on my pace, my form, my breathing, my legs, and everything else. I didn't want to zone out or be distracted. I wanted to concentrate. So I did!
I did think about Jenny quite a bit. I thought that her and Alana (and my Dad, Pam and Josh) were getting texts sent to their phones every time I passed a check point so that they knew how I was doing. I stomped on those timer pads when I went by and thought how cool it was that they knew how I was doing. It made me smile to think they were following along (and I wanted them to be proud of me). Little did I know that the system didn't work and they didn't get a single update! Poor Josh was worried and wondering how I was doing, and all they could do was sit and wait for me to appear near the finish line.
My pace slowed down around mile 19, but not terribly so (down about 20 seconds a mile). It was hard at that point to think that I still had to run over 7 miles (and for over an hour!) but I was happy at that point to still be feeling pretty good. My legs were TIRED and a bit crampy, and of course my whole body was tired, but I never felt like I couldn't keep running, I never felt sick, I never felt out of breath, I never felt like crying... I still felt pretty dang strong, which felt awesome.
And I kept on running. There were people walking everywhere now, and even though I had slowed down a bit, I was passing people like crazy. I got more and more excited as we got closer to the finish. My stomach felt great, and I knew that if I was able to just keep going as I was, that I was going to beat my goal of finishing in under 4:29. (Truth be told I really wanted to finish under 4:20, and I started to realize that that was highly likely too).
I never did recatch the 4:05 pace group after I stopped at mile 9 to use the portapotty, but I had not yet seen (or been passed by) the 4:15 pace group, so that made me feel good too. (As it turns out, I looked up the time of the 4:05 pace group and the leader finished in 4:14 and change, so I really was just behind them).
The weather stayed PERFECT. It got warmer, but I was never hot. Every once and a while we would get a nice light breeze which was heavenly. It was "sunny" but a bit overcast a lot so the sun wasn't super strong on us.  The weather could not have been better as far as I am concerned.
Mile 23 was a hard stretch for me. It sounds SO close to being done in the big picture of 26.2 miles, and yet in reality you have over three miles to run, which is still a long way, especially when you are so tired. I kept thinking that if I just kept moving, I would keep ticking off the miles. I also had the quote in my head (sorry, I don't know who it is from!) "The marathon is tough, but I am toughter."
At this point in the race there were tons of people struggling. There were people walking, people sitting down on the road, people on the side of the road throwing up, people rubbing cramps, and people crying. I felt bad for them, and at the same time glad it wasn't me (and I kept hoping I wouldn't end up that way).
When I hit mile 24 I felt pretty good, and when I hit mile 25 I felt amazing! I picked my speed back up. I knew I had another 1.2 miles in me, and I knew that I wasn't going to hit "the wall" or crash even though I was exhausted.
I could see that the runners were turning a corner ahead and then going up and over a final overpass. It seemed really cruel to have to climb one last big hill, but I knew that on the other side of it was Mandalay Bay and the finish line. I knew I was going to see Josh, Dad, Pam and Noah and that I was going to cross that finish line and be a marathoner. And I knew my time was going to be pretty dang good too!
I ran up that last hill really strong without slowing much and then down the other side. I had to run through a dark "tunnel" of sorts, and when I came out the other side I saw Josh, Dad, Pam and Noah! I wanted to tell them "I haven't walked at all! I only had to stop to use the bathroom once! My stomach feels awesome! I am almost done! I haven't stopped running in over four hours!" but I just smiled and waved and kept running. (Pam thought she video taped this part but the camera didn't work right. Bummer!)
Josh jumped in and fell in next to me, which was super cool. He kept telling me how good I looked, how great I was doing and how proud of me he was. We had less than half a mile, and I started to pick up the pace even more. Josh pointed out a girl in green up ahead and told me I had plenty of time to catch her and pass her. I wanted to tell him I planned on passing her and a whole bunch of people ahead of her, but I just smiled and ran. It was priceless to have Josh there by my side, experiencing those last marathon moments with me.
I  kept increasing my pace and passing people. We turned one final corner and then we were on the final stretch. I pulled out my earphones. Josh was yelling, "You got it babe! Go babe!" and there were lots of people cheering in the crowds. I saw that the race clock said 4:30 and I knew I was just over 15 minutes behind that race clock (because of us starting 15 minutes after the official start), and I was really excited about my time.  I ran as fast as I could across the finish line and threw my arms up into the air. I was given my medal and then Josh kissed me.
Josh kept telling me how amazing I was and how great I did. I kept thinking (and saying) "4:15!" And then I told Josh, "The wall is a myth! I never hit the wall. I never walked.  I ran the entire marathon!" I felt like I was on the top of the world.
I asked Josh how he had done and he had finished in 2:00:32. He rocks!!!
We walked through the post-race "runner secure area", and Josh got me a bottle of sports drink and a half of a banana. I was worried that eating would make me nauseous but it didn't at all. My legs were tight and sore as soon as I stopped running, but I kept on walking. The walking felt good and I stretched a little, and I was really surprised how un-bad I felt! I expected to feel terrible and I just didn't. I was exhausted, but good.
Josh grabbed me a mylar blanket (I have always wanted one!) and then I got a "finisher" picture taken. With that medal and blanket I felt like a million bucks. After the guy took my picture Josh asked if we could do another one, and he jumped in and they got a picture of us kissing. :)
 We wandered out of the secure area and picked up our gear bags. I asked Josh if he had his cell phone and he did, so I made him text Jenny right away to tell her how I did (after he told me that the update texts had never come). Josh exchanged my race shirt for a smaller size for me, and then we went  to the family reunion area, which is where Brett Michaels was rocking out on stage! It was really cool, but I knew right away that Noah was going to hate how loud it was (it was vibrating in my chest bone!) so I just wanted to find Dad, Pam and Noah and get away from the concert.
It was so great to hug my Dad and then Pam. I am so, so glad they were there to share this with me. As I expected, Noah was not thrilled with the volume of the concert (although they said he had been an angel up until then), so we started walking back to our hotel. We chatted (and yup, I was already talking about "the next one") and walked and it was such a great feeling.
Here is Josh and my Dad after Josh finished his half. :)
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Pam waiting and posing. :)
 
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Me... all done! A marathoner!
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 Brett Michaels concert!
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I will have one more post coming with details from the rest of our weekend and some final thoughts about the experience, my "review" the Rock N Roll Vegas race, what I learned, what worked for me, etc.  And I ordered digital copies of some of my official race photos (including a video clip of the last stretch into the finish line!) and I will post those when I get them (hopefully soon).
Thanks to all of you who have commented with such kind words. :)

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