Sunday, April 13, 2014


You guys! I did it! I am officially a marathoner!
Neil and I drove down for the race on Friday night, since there was only packet pickup the night before (!!). My parents were SO kind and offered to watch our kids so that he could be there with me, and I was so grateful! It was so so good to have Neil there with me supporting me and running interference on things.  Anyway, I was getting so nervous the night before the race—I had an awful stomachache, headache, and felt like I was going to throw up all night. I didn’t sleep very well (which is a shame because we had a beautiful and HUGE suite) and woke up an hour before I needed to in the morning.

Neil drove me to the starting line and I found the 4:10 pace group and lined up with them. I wanted to run it in less than 10-minute miles so I didn’t want to go with the 4:25 pace group. Frankly I was hoping to be way faster when I originally started training (my half-marathon time would have predicted a 3:50 finish) but I have been sick through so much of training that I have really struggled to go quickly—if I go under 8:45/mile I start coughing like mad and can’t stop—thanks to the double-header combination of bronchitis and strep midway through training. And, quite frankly, I haven’t been as careful about what I’m eating as I should be and so I’m not at an ideal racing weight.

Anyway, I LOVED running with the pace group! The two pacers were so incredibly friendly and really worked to create a sense of community within the five or so of us that were running with them. We had other people sort of ebbing and flowing and it was nice to talk to them as well, but there was a sort of core group that stuck together for most of the race. I spent about fifteen miles talking with another woman (we had the same first and last name!) and we got to be good buddies over the course of several hours! One thing I really liked so that our pacers insisted that we walk through all of the water stops to make sure we got enough water (it was pretty hot by the end of the day and I started taking one cup of water to drink and another to pour over my head) and then they would check to make sure everyone was there before we started running again. After about fifteen or sixteen miles I was so looking forward to those walking breaks! It really helped me mentally to know that I could walk for those ten or so steps as long as I just made it to the water stop, and I was able to avoid walking anywhere else on the course, which made me feel pretty good. It’s always nice for my internal motivation to be running past people who are walking up the hills or whatnot. 

Mile 22--I was super focused on never letting this girl catch up!

Another thing I loved about the pace group was the ability to maintain a steady speed without having to worry about it myself. When we first started off it (of course) felt way too slow and it was really good for me to have someone telling me to hold back (and then of course we passed all of the people who sprinted out). I loved not having to constantly check to see how fast I was going and worry about whether I should speed up or slow down—I just kept pace with my new friends! And it was so good to have people to talk to—we were literally about eight or nine miles into the race before I started paying attention to how far we’d gone.  

I felt really good for the first fifteen miles or so. After that it started to get incredibly windy and we were pushing against the wind the whole time. I dropped back a bit and focused on catching up to the pacing group at waterstops—that took me through miles 18-20. Unfortunately, those miles were easily the windiest of the whole course—we were running along a straight road with no trees lined with giant buildings and so the wind just funneled right down it pushing us backwards. It was sooooo exhausting! I finally decided that I would just run at my own speed and not worry about staying with the pacing group. I dropped down from 9:30 miles to about 11-minute miles, but by that point I was just thrilled to still be running past all of the people walking with their heads bent against the wind. I was worried about hitting the notorious wall but I never did—I was so thankful! I definitely slowed down but I just kept on going and let my legs go at the pace where they were comfortable rather than trying to push it too hard.

The last six miles were kind of unpleasantly hilly. By this point it was quite hot and still really windy! Neil caught up to me about mile 22 and biked alongside me off and on for the next three miles. It was so good to have him with me talking to me and giving me something else to focus on. And it was also nice because he had cold water instead of the awful lukewarm stuff at the last aid station.  He peeled off at mile 25 so that he could meet me at the finish line and that’s when I realized it was a 3/4-mile looong uphill all the way to the finish—and the wind was back! I seriously felt like I was taking two steps backward for every step forward.  I just kept going and plugging away—I passed a LOT of people on that last uphill—and I was so grateful for all of the people cheering there because I focused on saying, “Thank you! Thanks for being here!” instead of mentally griping about the awful wind and hill. And then it was downhill to the finish line for the last two-tenths of a mile! It was so exciting and I felt great as I finished—I think I raised my arms and cheered as I was running downhill.  The two pacers from my pacing group were waiting at the finish line and they hugged me and congratulated me and pointed out where Neil was waiting on the sidelines. 

It was a great experience. I definitely was more worn out by the end than I was hoping to be and slowed down more than I was planning to, but I felt like it was a good decision with the heat, wind, and hills. I was most worried about hitting the notorious wall and I never did—I just kept plugging away with my same slow and steady pace. I was passing people all through the last six miles of the race and that felt great. And I was so, so, so grateful that Neil was there—he biked around and met up with me every so often and handed me a couple of Kashi bars, took my jacket, and had water when I needed it most. It was so great to have his support.

I think the hardest part of the race for me was miles 17-19. I still had a long way to go and pushing against that wind was miserable! By the time I made it to 20 I knew I was getting close, and once I hit 22 I felt great—I knew I had it in the bag with only 4.2 miles left and I’d gone past the dreaded 20-mile mark without hitting the wall. I made sure to walk around a lot after the race and even stopped in the massage tent, and so far I feel pretty good! Definitely stiff but not in horrible pain (although I did take a healthy dose of ibuprofen before I fell asleep last night).

All in all, it was amazing. It was so good to be able to finish something that I have been working on for SO long and was such a huge deal! I am so grateful for all of the people who made it possible—I still kind of can’t believe that I ran a marathon!! My final time was 4:17:55, so I came in under my goal time and still have lots of room for improvement if I decide to do another one some day.:-)


Erica said...

Congrats!!! Sounds like u did amazing and now it makes me want to run another ;)

Melanie said...

Congratulations! I thought about you all day yesterday and I'm so glad to hear it was a success!

Amanda said...

Congrats! What a great accomplishment for YOU! :) Im glad you achieved a goal of yours!

Robin V said...

Rachel, congratulations! What a great post to read - something for you to read and remember. What an accomplishment!

Lance and Kathleen said...

So fun to read this Rachael. I've always said I would never have the desire to do a marathon but you made it sound doable. I've never heard of the pace groups before that would make SUCH a difference to have people to talk to. Well way-to-go!

Kristyn said...

Yay for you!! I'm so happy for you!! And I'm glad it was such a great experience! There's nothing like it, huh? Congrats!!

Laura said...

Yay! How fantastic! Congratulations on a job well done. Thanks for the race report! Maybe someday I'll be fast enough for a pace group... ;)

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