Marathon Day #2

GUYS!!

My marathon was today.

It was AWESOME.  I PR’d!!!

Jenny split times

I know it is super obnoxious to be like, “LOOK AT MEEEEE” but I just can’t help feeling happy and proud of my time.  I tried to be pretty quiet about it on Facebook but I feel less bad about talking about it on my blog.

I might have mentioned that I did one marathon, the San Antonio Rock N’ Roll, back in November 2011.  I finished that marathon in 4:33.  The temperature crept up into the 80s by mile 17, so it was a brutal race.  I really don’t remember the last 10 miles of that marathon at all, other than going into a survival shuffle and perking up near the end, since I always try to finish strong if I am able.  While that marathon was an amazing experience, I burned out really badly from it and didn’t run very often for the next year and a half.  In 2013, wanting to return to form, I decided to train for a half marathon. I’ve done two since then but felt thirsty for another marathon.

This training season went really well, with your normal moments of doubt like, “Am I training hard/fast/strongly enough?” followed by little injuries creeping here and there (my right shin hurt on and off for the last couple of weeks).  I was terrified to do the Austin marathon.  I live here so I know how hilly the city is, and the half marathon course, which I’ve done twice now, is very hilly (I’d say the half marathoners have the worst hill at the end of their run.  It is so steep that it’s difficult to run up without feeling like an asthmatic.  If that hill had been on the marathon route, I might have just crawled up it).  But it seemed like a challenge and as the weeks went by, I felt more and more ready to do it.  The past several weeks I listened to my running song, “Bridge Burning” by the Foo Fighters, and envisioning myself finishing strong by conquering the last (not-so-steep) hill.

I was incredibly nervous yesterday. I couldn’t sit still, cleaning my entire apartment, and talking with Boyfriend about all my random fears (“WHAT IF I GET FOOD POISONING TODAY?!”) I somehow managed to sleep a little and woke up at 5 am, nervous as hell but ready.  Boyfriend got up with me, drove me to the race area, and hung out with me until the start of the race. Boyfriend is not a morning person, but he always dutifully waits with me before every race, cheerily and without complaint.  Being there with him always makes me feel so much better. He gets about a bajillion boyfriend points for being so awesome.

About a minute before the starting line, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m crazy enough to do this again!” But once I crossed the starting line, I turned on my running song and started.  It’s always a bit emotional to see so many people running, with the crowds cheering you on so much.  I listened to the advice of my dad and my training coach and took the first three miles (which were a slow climb uphill) slowly.  Once we started going downhill, I started going faster and found my groove.

I had three goals for this race.  My baseline goal was beating my San Antonio time.  My “I really really want to PR” goal time was 4:10-4:15.  My “this is probably not even possible, but I can dream, can’t I?” goal time was a sub-four hour marathon.

I passed up the pace group for 4:10 around mile 6 or 7.  I thought, “Well, as long as I can keep it together, I got this.” My experience from San Antonio helped. I had been on track to running about a 4:15 then until the heat completely overwhelmed me.  Keeping this in mind (since the temperature was already creeping into the 60s and getting humid), I reminded myself not to get too carried away with the race and to focus on finding a pace I could sustain for another 20 miles.

Around mile 9 or 10, the course split and the half marathoners went one way, while the marathon runners ran the other.  This part always makes me a little emotional, regardless of which route I take.  I thought, “I’m really doing this! I’m RUNNING A MARATHON!”  I had the dumbest grin on my face.  The half marathoners wished us luck while we encouraged them.  The camaraderie of these races are awesome.

I was feeling pretty good until mile 14 or 15. I knew I would hit a wall then, just because I always hit a wall around that portion of the course during training. It’s in a neighborhood and there’s a very long stretch of just street and houses, so it’s easy to feel discouraged.  In training, I’ve found that I hit a wall in the middle when I still have around 10 miles left to go.  I found a pace that was comfortable and stuck with it.

Around mile 18, I saw my coach on the sidelines, which was awesome. I did a total girly scream when I saw her.  She had oranges, which was equally awesome.  “You guys have too much energy,” one tired runner said as he passed.  I thought, “I DO have energy.”  Seeing my coach and hearing that comment completely turned the race around for me.  From then on, everything turned into one of those extreme advertisements in my head. “Fuck this, I’m strong!  I got this shit!  I’m at Mile 19, I FUCKING GOT THIS.”

At mile 20, I cheered without shame as I passed the marker.  I felt so happy.  I was still feeling really tired but I felt a lot stronger than I had in San Antonio.  I looked at my watch and figured that even if I slowed down to a 10 min/mile pace, I would be able to meet my goal.  I was so excited but wanted to stay focused for the rest of the run.

At mile 25, I saw the 4:00 pacer.  In my fantasies pre-race, I would catch up to the 4:00 group and then pass by them to finish a sub-four hour marathon. So when I saw her in real life, I was like, “No fucking way.”  I looked at the time and realized that the pacer was running a little slower and I probably wouldn’t beat 4 hours.  But not like I couldn’t try.  So I kicked it in for that last mile. I bolted up that last hill, listening to my song, feeling so tired and happy as I crossed the finish time, and elated at my time – 4:05!  It wasn’t quite sub-four hour, but it was close.  And it was 28 minutes faster than my San Antonio time.

Envisioning the finish line pre-race always makes me a little emotional, and I really wanted to SHED SOME TEARS, DAMN IT. But I am always way too relieved and happy at the finish to cry.  The closest I came to crying was when a volunteer put the marathon finisher’s medal around my neck.  That was a wonderful moment.

And then my legs really, really, really started hurting. I ran into some running friends and while it was wonderful to see them, it was painful even standing still.

I found Boyfriend near the gear pick-up station and I made the slow, slow, slow walk back to his car.

This afternoon has been pretty chill. I took about a two or three hour nap and my legs feel better. Boyfriend and I ate Thai food. I have been basking in the afterglow of love from my family and friends.

And now…will I do another marathon?
Pre-race, I was determined to take a break from marathon training for at least a year.  Training is so brutal on your body. I just wanted to relax and focus more on “shorter” half-marathons.

But now…I don’t know guys.  I was so close to a sub-four hour marathon. SO. CLOSE.

…I kind of want to train for another one.

I’m going to relax and see what happens. I won’t pressure myself because I don’t want to burn out from running again.  Even if I wait a year to decide to train again, I know I can do it.  For now, I’m going to be completely lazy without any expectations.

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