My first marathon.... WOW. It was easier than I thought in some places while extremely hard in others, it was miserable, it was fun, it was a painful, it was pleasure, it was terrible and it was awesome, it was disappointing yet rewarding.
3 goals: (1) Finish (2) 4:00 (3) BQ 3:50
Mark, Lance and I got on the road from our hotel just a few minutes later than we'd wanted but still plenty of time to park and walk in. We were having a hard time finding a parking spot, so Mark and I got out while Lance looked for a parking spot. Lance knew I'd start bouncing off the walls soon if we weren't parked. LOL. I never saw Lance again until after the race. Mark needed to use the port-o again so we said our goodbyes and good lucks. I had about 20 minutes to warm up and get into the coral.
Like srlopez said from CoolRuning, the coral area was very tight! I saw PacerChris, also a Coolrunner, lined up with the 3:10 pacing balloons and I yelled and yelled from the other side of the railing, but the roar of the crowd and the music was too loud for him to hear me. Did a little warm up run and took care of last minute bathroom issues before squeezing into the 3:50/4:00 area.
BOOM! There goes the cannon and we're off. As in all races there was a surge forward then an immediate wall of people then another surge forward over the timing mats. I was feeling a very giddy at this point.
Things I carried with me: A small Ipod clipped to my sport bra with earbuds tucked under one strap for the later miles when the crowd thins out and for further distraction/motivation. 4 packs of GU to be taken at 5, 10, 15 and 20. A tube with a twist off top which held several electrolyte capsules to be taken every 4 miles thus eliminating the need to take Gatorade which I tend to spill all over myself anyway. I also carried a mini size 8 oz water bottle which I drank from for the first 4 miles so I could avoid the congestion at the early water stations. These things all proved to work quite well.
The first mile was a little slow (8:36), but aren't they all. Second mile a tad faster at (8:23). Next two miles before the hills were 8:12 and 8:09. Aw heck, here's my pace per mile according to my Garmin... sorry to bore you with my pace information: 5- 8:38 • 6- 8:52 • 7- 8:53 • 8- 8:38 • 9- 8:53 • 10- 8:3911- 8:36 • 12- 8:45 • 13- 8:45 • 14- 8:54 • 15- 8:45 16- 8:45 • 17- 8:58 • 18- 9:01 • 19- 9:18 • 20- 9:2321- 9:40 • 22- 9:45 • 23- 9:45 • 24- 10:30 • 25- 10:4526- 11:33 • .2- 8:39
When I saw the bridge at the top of Eden Park, I could hardly believe I'd made it up so easily. "Wow, all down hill from here I thought". I later learned that it was not exactly all down hill.
When the HMers split off I was giddy and scared; like I just missed my exit from the ski lift and was heading to the "experts only" hill. I felt really good though and felt ready to embark upon this new adventure.
Mile 9 something. OUCH! OMG, what the heck was that in my right hamstring?!?!?! NOOOOOOO. I hobbled a bit to the side and quickly inspected and tested my right leg for signs of real danger. I had some problems with this area in training, but nothing like this. And why now... at N I N E and not like 20something? Thoughts of not finishing this thing started swirling in my head. I must have had a look of horror on my face because a fellow runner asked if I was ok. I didn't know. The next two miles were test miles and I had a bit of a limp from whatever it was that just happened. I tried to take the downhills that came after reaching the peak of Eden Park as cautiously as possible. It was at this point that I let my 3rd goal, which was a stretch anyway, to BQ slip from my head and concentrated more on goal #1 which was to finish while possibly still obtaining goal #2 which was to finish in under 4. Talk about a mood swing mile!!!!
By mile 12 my hamstring didn't bother me anymore or maybe I was able to block it out. The crowds yelling out my name, which was written extremely large down the sides of both legs, was a great motivator and distraction.
Somewhere along the way I met srlopez in his pink "Breast Cancer sucks" shirt. Rundadrun picked me out of the pack... most likely due to the huge lettering down my legs. It was really neat to meet you guys even if it was only for a few brief strides in the middle of a race!
Anyway. Mile 14 introduced another hill with a quick steep right hand turn at the top; over all it wasn't too steep, but I was a little suprised by it's length. My pace slowed a bit more at this point, but held stead for the next few miles until 17 where I encountered that nasty little steep dip. It couldn't have been more than 50 yards down then 75 back up. But it was S T E E P. I never recovered from it and my pace fell off to a steady 9:45 by mile 23. That's ok though. I can still make 4:00! Cool. - - - or maybe not.
Somewhere on the freeway I started feeling a little off. Maybe it was the heat, maybe lack of crowd, or maybe the void of anything but pavement and distant trees. Mentally this was tough. At 18 I began feeling the discomfort in the high hammy again of the right leg, but it never became a real problem. Around mile 19 I needed more than I was getting from the course itself so I fished my ipod buds out and plugged in. A runner who I had passed previously and told it was my first marathon must have noticed my pace slow and as he passed by said "don't panic... stay calm". It must have noticeable that I was in dire need of some stimuli. The Ipod helped a lot for several miles. I had it turned down enough so I could still hear my name called out and was able to reciprocate my appreciation with a quick up turned thumb or a "whoo hoo".
Around 22 I was feeling even more strange. Not really dizzy, but unfocused and I couldn't tell if I was running up hill or down. My legs were getting tighter. It didn't occur to me while running that I might be approaching "the wall". I did know however that if I cramped up there was NO way I'd make 4 hours. I began taking both Gatorade and water at the aid stations which later evolved into to taking 2 of each at the last 2 aid stations.
I started to struggle quite a bit at 24 and took 1 walk break on a "hill" losing maybe 15 seconds which dropped my pace to about 10:30. During the 24th mile the 4:00 pacer passed me. I tried and tried to tag along, but she slipped away quicker than my rapidly tightening legs could take me. New goal. FINISH!! Don't cramp. I took 1 walk break in mile 25 this one a little longer than the one in mile 24, but I was still moving. Mile 25 1/2 to 26 was complete hell. I removed my ear buds and tried to feed off the crowd to get me to the finish. The crowd was roaring, but I could barely hear them. I was literally gritting my teeth and grunting with each step. I took 2 walk breaks during 26 when Mark found me and began yelling at me "You can't stop now!!!! Run... Keep going, you are so close". I grunted and gnashed my teeth some more as I plodded my way to the finish line for a finishing time of 4:03:27.
Making my through the finishers chute was a challenge. My legs were like lead poles and I had a hard time focusing on what I suppose to do. I gulped down a full bottle of water as I wandered toward a stand with some chips. What I really wanted was a beer. I decided I better get some ice for my hammy so I wandered back to the medical area where they fit me with an ice and plastic wrap bandage. Laying down for a few minutes out of the sun helped clear my head a bit. I left there really really stiff grabbed another water and shuffled my way toward some green bananas. I collected 3 gross chocolate cookies and a bag of peach chips of some sort. I saw people pass me with the really good Panera bagels, but I didn't have the will to walk back again to find them.
Mark and Lance were waiting for me at the exit point. It seemed like I'd wandered around in there forever so it was nice to see them still waiting at the end. As Mark recalls it, my comment after the race was, "I need a beer. That was really hard." Yep, that about summed it up.
It was a beautiful day. And after having lots of attention at the massage/medical area with a diagnosis of having most likely having a slight tear in my hamstring during the race I was happy to spread out on a sea of silver blankets, drink beer, talk about the race just ran, future races and listen to live music. Other than the volunteers in the area, we were the last to leave.
Over all course experience. Tight coral as are most, well managed course. Plenty of water and Gatorade. Wonderful cheering crowds once you leave the start area. The beginning seems to be more friends and family waiting for their runner rather than die-hard Pig fans so they were pretty quiet IMO. I thought last year had more music and where was the guy with the PA belting out inspirational stuff? Maybe he's on the 1/2. Over all the crowd support was superb! There was plenty of cheering going on throughout most of the race and the energy from the crowd soared from15-16 and it was cool to see the runners on the other side of the boulevard. The bike trail was a nice break from the street. The highway sucked all together, but it's an understandable neccessity. I know there was fantastic crowd support in the last mile(s) even though I was rather out of it at that point. Fortunately I didn't have to use any, but there appeared to be plenty of port-o-johns on the course too. There were people with trays of oranges which I helped myself to and people with gummy bears and jelly beans. I passed a "runner's lounge" and a long line of screaming folks with pom-poms. I never had a problem with another runner on the course (tripping, getting cut off, elbows, 3 abreast) in fact every one I spoke to was pleasant and happy and I appreciated the support I got from those around me. Despite it being a little tough for my first marathon, it was a pleasure to have run it. We're already planning on returning next year.