Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spinx Run Fest Marathon!

Saturday... I had set my alarm clock for 6 a.m., but woke up at 5:30. I showered and then changed tops three times before deciding to wear the race technical t-shirt instead of one of the ones that I had brought. I stuffed clif bars and shots into one pocket of the wind/rain jacket and my cell phone, money, and hotel room key in a zip lock back into the other pocket. The pockets had zippers, so I didn't have to worry about anything falling out and getting lost. A little before seven, after pinning my race number onto my shorts and lacing my timing chip onto my left shoe, I went down to a light breakfast. I thought the hotel breakfast area would be packed, but there were only a few people. I ate half a bagel with cream cheese and a bowl of berries. I was too nervous to eat much. I took my hotel room complimentary water bottle with me and then set off to walk to the race start. It was cool and I was so glad I bought this jacket. About half-way there, an older man caught up with me and we chatted about running as we walked. He said he's only been running for three years, but this is his 15th marathon. Wow!

I nervously stared out onto Fluor field while waiting for the start. At about ten minutes until 8, they announced that racers should head to the starting line at markley and main st intersection. I went to the starting line feeling good, but nervous. I reminded myself to start out slow and just go at a slow and steady pace. When I crossed the starting line I felt huge excitement that I was beginning my first marathon! The first mile was mostly downhill but I held my pace back as I knew I should. I warmed up during that first mile and took off the jacket while still running, and tied it around my waist. It was big and the stuffed pockets bounced off my legs. After a few minutes I remembered my last experience of running with with a minor irritation and knew that I needed to fix the problem NOW, not wait until later. I stopped and rolled the jacket and then tied it around my waist so it wasn't flapping any more. I decided to not take planned walking breaks like I had in my training runs, but to walk only when needed and at hydration stations. This turned out to be a great tactic. I felt great the majority of the race. I stayed adequately fueled and hydrated and didn't have any major chaffing or blisters. I drank two cups of sports beverage at each hydration station (about every 2 miles) and sipped on my water bottle as needed, refilling it at hydration stations as needed also. I ate a clif shot, gu gel or half of a clif bar every hour beginning at the 45 minute point. The race started out at 55 degrees and overcast. Misting rain occurred during the first 3ish hours. It was just a light mist that didn't really bother me since my hat prevented it from blowing into my face. The temperature was perfect! The first four miles seemed like they were all down hill and I worried about the hills that had to be ahead. There eventually were hills, but they were gradual and not as bad as I had anticipated. The majority of the course was along the Reedy River and through parks. Other portions were through downtown Greenville. I thought the course was beautiful! I especially liked the path along the river that had a softer track to the side of the asphalt path. I took advantage of that extra cushioning. The course was well marked, with lots of volunteers, and police blocking intersections. I walked up a few hills in the first loop, but more the second time around. The course was a 13 mile loop, that marathoners did twice. I felt strong at the half, but noticed the runners dwindled significantly as most entered the stadium for the half-marathon finish while much fewer runners continued on in the marathon. There were only 234 people who completed the marathon and they were all spread out along the course. The second half was a little lonely and I was getting a little delirious. At times I wondered if I was still on the right course or if I missed a turn. But before I got too far down that train of though I would see a volunteer or an arrow marker and knew I was still on the right track. When I lost sight of anyone in front of me as well as behind me it was really weird. I kept telling myself that I was doing great, feeling good, and running strong; which I truly believed. It was a good run. On the second lap, I even passed a few people and only one passed me back. This woman had slowed to a walk just shy of 14 miles and when I passed her, I told her she was doing awesome. In the 20s, she caught up to me and said, "Hey, this is my friend xxxxx, she's fresh/hasn't been running/ and came out to help me get through these last few miles. You're welcome to tag along if you'd like." I did for a few minutes, but then realized couldn't keep the pace and let them go on ahead. I jogged along great, with minimal walking during the first 17 miles. At this point is where the uphills began and I walked up most of them. I still kept strong, though. At mile 23 I could here Kyra saying, "3 miles is an easy distance for you, right mom?" She's said this quite a few times when I've gone for a "short 3 mile run". 3 miles seems like forever to her, but she knows it's short for me based on the long runs I've been doing. So for that entire 23rd mile I kept repeating "3 miles is easy, piece of cake". At one point, a cop was directing traffic to turn right and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to go straight or turn so I asked him. He smiled and said, "You're the leader of the pack. Go straight." I laughed thinking there are advantages to smaller attended long races. At about 2 miles to go, a volunteer delivering chicken sandwiches to other volunteers offered one to me. The thought of it made me feel like vomiting so I politely declined. I kept telling myself, 2 miles is easy... When I got to the high shool track to make the loop around it once (for the second time), I was the only one on the track. The woman that had passed me was exiting the track as I was entering it. I wondered if I was the last one, but remembered that I had passed several other people earlier, they just must be out of my distance. During the last mile I actually passed a few more people. By now, they were walking and didn't look like they were going to start running again. I was feeling elated that I actually was going to finish this race, and finish it feeling strong. I picked up the pace as best I could, which wasn't by much, but was a little bit. When I entered the field, tears welled up. I can't believe I accomplished this! I rounded the outfield and heard my name and home town announced and just wished my sister were with me. I looked at the clock as I headed towards the finish line beside home plate and attempted to sprint. It was not an all out sprint, but it was a faster pace to get me across the finish line in 5 hours 27 minutes and 02 seconds!

I cried. I achieved my goals! #1, I finished! #2, I wasn't last. #3, I did it in under 6 hours. After receiving my finishing medal and having the volunteer remove my timing chip from my shoe, I went to the bathroom and then headed for the food table. I wasn't hungry, but the hot grits looked delicious. I filled a styrofoam cup with grits, grabbed a water bottle, and then sat down in the stands to watch other runners finish. I first called Kyra and told her my exciting news. She sounded distracted (she was painting), but she said she was happy for me. I fought back tears thanking her for her encouragement during the past few months and telling her how her words helped me through the last few miles. After talking to her I called my sister. She answered the phone "you're alive?" She was very happy for me and I kept telling her that I wished she had been here. Then I just sat, soaking up the sun, in the bleacher seat until what was probably the last runner crossed the finish line. It was probably in the low to mid 60s now; beautiful weather. And then I accomplished goal #4, I proudly was able to walk the half mile back to the hotel, feeling amazed and feeling only a little pain. I was exhausted, my muscles and joints ached from such a long event, but it was the pushed to the near limit soreness, not the pain of an injury. And I honestly anticipated the soreness would be much worse than it actually was. Yippee!!!!

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