Thursday, October 13, 2011

Because 26.3 would be crazy.

I'm alive!  I did it!  And what's better, I did it in under my goal time*.  Squee!!

The whole experience started on Saturday, the day before the race.  We woke up to snow, icy roads, and general weather shittiness.  Thankfully the snow turned to rain around the state line, and my two running friends and I eventually made it to Denver and to the expo to pick up our packets.

At the convention center, we stood in one line to pick up packets, in another line to pick up our t-shirts, and yet another to get our swag bags.   And then we were turned loose into the madness...There were SO MANY people!  And free stuff!  and...people!  It was a nuthouse.  We got free energy bars, drinks, pictures taken, and I even met Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, authors of Run Like a Mother and the website another mother runner.  (Dimity is so tall! Wow!)  We saw crazy compression suits, minimalist shoes, tried gross electrolyte drinks, and laughed at weird outfits.  It was fun.  I'm kicking myself that I didn't actually take any expo pictures.  I was too distracted!

After the expo, we checked into the hotel and walked out to grab some dinner.  The hotel recommended a nice Italian restaurant that was nearby but they couldn't seat us for another 2 hours.  We made do with a brewery around the corner.  It was weird eating at a brewery but not ordering beer.  A couple hours and some nervous giggling later, we were in bed and counting down the hours until the start.

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5am.  Woke up, ate, freshened and then bundled up...the temp was in the 30's but expected to warm to the mid-50's.  Hard to dress for.  I threw some long pants and a sweatshirt (to be checked at the last minute) over my shirt and shorts, and cut up some little girl knee socks to make disposable arm warmers and mittens. 

The long pants and sweatshirt got checked right before the start.

The start line was a PARTY.  At 6:30 in the morning!  Music! Lights! People!  SO MANY PEOPLE.  (You can tell I come from a relatively unpopulated place, huh?)  Fortunately, they did a lot of things right, including tons of porta-potties and clear signs directing us to our starting corrals.  I was in corral 7 (determined by your estimated running time) so I said bye to my buddies and slowly jostled my way through the crowds to a spot near my pacing team.

Yes!  I signed up for a pace team on a whim at the expo and I'm so glad I did!  I latched onto the cute redheaded guy holding the 4:20 sign (and yes, people yelled stuff at him about getting stoned pretty much along the whole course.  He responded with good humor.)  After the gun went off for our corral (they staggered the starts, letting each corral go for a couple minutes before starting the next one) I made sure to keep him in sight and that really helped me to reign myself in and not rabbit out of the gate.

I had to stop and pee (naturally...sigh.) around the 5K mark, so I lost sight of the pacers for a while.  About a mile later, I caught up, passed them, and then settled into my own groove.  Around mile 6, things were warming up and I tossed my "mittens" aka the feet from the little girl socks.

The capitol and race crazyness.
The course was gorgeous, weaving through downtown Denver, into parks, pretty neighborhoods.  There were live bands and spectators holding signs all along the course.   The temperature rose into the mid 50's and the sun shone brightly.  The aid stations were well run and the folks holding traffic did a great job.  All we, as runners had to do was keep running!

I used the aid stations but also carried a few things with me:  I had my little handheld water bottle, a couple gels (I like Hammer gels) and some sport beans.  One gel went down at mile 6, and then I ate the sport beans at the half marathon mark.  After that, once I got into the higher mileage, I couldn't talk myself into eating that second gel, so I started drinking the energy drink offered at the aid stations in addition to some water.

Around mile 20, my right leg started to hurt and cramp hip hurt, my thigh, my butt...the whole thing.  I felt myself slowing down.  The pace team was catching up to me.  This was a moment when I had to do some serious self talk and just hunker down and get through it.  I remember repeating to myself "you're fine, you can do this, you're fine, you can do this" over and over.  I didn't want to stop because I knew it would be really hard to start again.  I took energy drink whenever they offered it and dug deep.

Soon, I passed the 21 mile marker, the 22, 23, 24...25.  I knew we were close.  I shut everything out and just concentrated on moving my feet and how good the finish was going to feel.  Right before the end there was maybe the steepest hill in the entire race.  Mean!  It was hard.  But I was going to be damned if I started walking at that part!  I just ran 25 miles!  I can run up a stupid hill!

When I saw the finish line and all the people and the was an awesome moment.  Under my breath, I told myself "You just ran a marathon."  Holy Shit!!


Headed towards the finish!
The mister and the kiddo were snowed in and couldn't make it down but my friends were there, yelling my name.  When I crossed the finish line, they gave me my medal, a shiny blanket thingy, a bottle of water and took my picture.  I grabbed a bagel from a box and shakily made my way out of the finishers area and to the predetermined meeting place to wait for my friends. 

I spread the shiny blanket thingy on the ground and sat in the sun, breathing, drinking water and just taking everything in.  At that moment, I felt so damn proud.  Proud of the months of training.  The lost toenails, getting up at the buttcrack of dawn, weekend mornings spent away from my family, this moment it was all worth it.**

* Official finishing time 4:17:40...way under my goal of 4:30:00.  !!!
**When I got up to walk the mile back to the hotel, however, it was another story.  Ouch! 

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