Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My First Marathon!

I put a marathon on my list of New Year's resolutions for this year and signed up for the OC Marathon based on its location, beautiful views and relatively flat course for this newbie. My friend, Brian, also signed up for it and the 16 weeks of training it would entail.

Jimmy, Brian and I booked a hotel room near the start and arrived the day before the race to get our race packet and walk around the expo. We were in and out in no time and I ran into another friend who was running the half marathon while I was there.

I was super nervous in the days leading up to the race and I have to admit that the taper made me more anxious because I felt like I was losing my fitness or something. As the day before the race led into evening, we all went out for a nice carb load dinner at the Cheesecake Factory at Newport Fashion Island. I had a chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato and a plain side salad. I didn't want to risk any stomach upset come race day. After dinner we all headed back to the room and slept early. My worries and nightmares about oversleeping for the race start kept me from getting a full night's sleep so I was up and about at 3:30am munching on a bagel with honey while everyone else slept. My friend and I hopped on the shuttle to race start and got situated in our corral at about 4:30am. Originally when I signed up for the race I had no idea what my finish time would be so I put down 5:30. Based on my prior two half marathons and training runs, I knew I could come closer to 4:30 or 4:45 so I lined up in an earlier corral. The start area was nice and wide and everyone had plenty of room to stretch and there were lots of porta potties. There was a bit of a delay to the 5:30am start, but before I knew my friend and I were running and my nerves seemed to settle a bit because I was so excited to finally be doing this. I was in a sort of fog of disbelief. All these weeks of training and proper eating and hydration were all coming to a crescendo at the marathon. I was so entranced in the run and how pretty the course was that I didn't turn on my iPod until about mile 3 and that's where Brian and I parted ways. He had some stomach issues so I continued ahead. I was so happily surprised at all the spectators out cheering this early in the morning. There was such great crowd support at this event and I found myself muting my iPod so I could hear the cowbells and cheers. I couldn't have asked for more perfect weather either, low 60's and overcast through mile 22.

I was touched when two soldiers who were running with backpacks came upon the Vietnam soldier statue in Castaway Park and stopped to pay their respects as did another runner. So awesome.

I took a GU at mile 10 and another at mile 14 and I think something was wrong with the second GU because it tasted off. It was kinda gritty and I totally gagged but finished the pack anyway. In hindsight, that was probably a big mistake. I had bouts of nausea throughout the rest of the race and didn't eat another GU either. I alternated water and Gatorade at each aid station and I knew it wasn't enough but the thought of ingesting another nasty GU packet completely discouraged me.

I reached the OC Performing Arts complex around mile 16 and knew that my husband would be waiting for me at South Coast Plaza so I picked up the pace a little.

I was so happy to see him out there and yelled, "I'm doing this!" I don't know why, I must have been in a bit of a stupor. He said I looked good and checked his watched and thought I'd kick major butt for the rest of the race. Little did I know that my early speed (half marathon time was 2:04:07) and lack of glycogen would contribute to my struggles later. When I reached mile 21 I was still feeling pretty energized but nauseous. There was a cheer area with the Area 21 aliens that made me laugh.

Area 21 aliens
That kept me smiling until mile 22 when I wanted to stop and cry. My legs felt like lead bricks and I felt like I was swinging my arms but not going forward. I looked around and there were alot of other runners struggling too so atleast I wasn't alone in my agony. My hips were hurting, my knees felt like they were hit by a hammer and I really wanted to go #2. I knew if I stopped to walk, I wouldn't be able to get going again and all I wanted to do was get to the finish line for my medal. I went through a whole string of emotions, an emotional roller coaster if you will. I thought I had to be psychotic to be doing this. Why am I doing this to myself? Why had I signed up for Long Beach AND Surf City before running this first? WHY? WHY? WHY? I got choked up with a few tears at one point and then found my happy place again when I realized I was really doing this thing! How many people did I know who could do this? I kept telling myself that while you're healthy and capable, you need to do this because there will be a day when you're old where you wish you could do this! I told myself that I was in the best shape of my life and that nothing could be harder than this...ever. Ever curb I had to jump onto was pure pain but I just kept listening to the crowds in front of their homes and taking their time to cheer for strangers. I was so happy to see them and felt like they were just for me, my personal cheering squad. At mile 23, I caught up to a girl with a sign pinned to the back of her shirt that said, "there will be days when you don't think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have." I've stared at that exact same quote on my desk for the months leading up to the marathon and took this sign as a personal message to me to suck it up and keep running. At mile 25 along Fairview Rd, I saw my parents and their dog, Snickers, cheering for me! I tried to make it look fast so they felt that the drive out was worth their time. I can't promise that I looked fast but my dad said that I looked like I wasn't suffering as much as some others. He also told me at the finish that he couldn't believe this many people paid to do this. When I got closer to the finish, I saw a guy who already had his medal high-fiving the runners as they passed and I planted a firm high-five. It was all the extra oomph I needed to keep running. I saw my husband at the finish area and couldn't wait to cross the line so I could stop.

When he asked me how it was I told him it was the hardest thing I'd ever done but I'd do it again. I felt a bit lightheaded but I couldn't eat anything so I laid down for a few minutes on the grass before taking a few bites of a pb&j sandwich. Brian finished a few minutes behind me and he had his own struggles. We reunited and drove home where I took the best shower ever and a two hour nap! I woke up hungry and finally ready to eat!

I finished the marathon in 4:33:53 and was very happy with that even though I wish I never hit the wall. I took this as a learning experience and learned so much about myself in the process.

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