I made it to the finish line.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been really gun shy after I hurt my back, and then after 2 weeks of the viral plague running rampant in my house, I was freaking out a little like crazy.

Friday rolled around and we were all miraculously healthy! Hooray! After work Bryan and I packed up the car, we picked up the twins and headed out. Packet pickup was at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, and other than a minor re-route because of the Family 5k going on, we had no problem finding it. I basically had to run in, pick up my number and shirt and run out because we wanted to get the twins to bed ASAP (it was already a half hour past bedtime at that point). From what I could tell in my quick trip in, packet pickup was well organized. All you needed to pick up your bib was your bib number. If you had downloaded the Its Your Race app on the website prior to the race you could look yourself up and find it, otherwise there was someone there to tell you. In fact, if you wanted to pick up a friends bib all you needed was the number – no name, no ID, nothing. Most races won’t let you pick up a friends bib without an ID, a permission slip, a mothers maiden name and a lock of hair (if they do at all) so it was nice to know there are some races that don’t make it that difficult.

We got to the hotel and as I’m putting together my gear for the next morning I find myself thinking something to the effect of “holy cow I’m running a marathon tomorrow”. Even though I’ve done a couple before, I think it will always be a big deal.

what was I thinking?
what was I thinking?

I don’t typically sleep all that well the night before a race and this one was no exception. I have this fear that I’m going to oversleep my alarm or forget to turn it on despite the fact that I’ve checked it 20 times before I lay down and another 15 afterwards (I mean, you never know). At 500 am my alarm went off and I showered (I like to shower the morning of races, it helps wake me up), ate a banana and some peanut butter and bagel and drank a measly 8oz of water, which will become significant later. It was a quick drive to the start so we left around 545. Bryan was nice enough to hang out in the parking lot for a bit so I could sit in the warm car. I ended up getting out of the car around 615 anyway though because even though I went to the bathroom before we left, I had to go.

Race start was 630 so it was still dark when I made my way out of the car. I didn’t honestly take much note of what was around me, but there were a good number of porta-potties, the importance of which any runner would understand. There was a line of course, but I only had to wait a couple of minutes. The start was split with the half marathon runners on the left and full on the right, with the pace goal clearly marked.

pre start selfie
pre start selfie – yes that is the shadow of my own phone in my face

When I started training for this race my main goal was simple: finish injury free. At one point my chiropractor told me he wasn’t sure my joint could handle the training required for this and I think it was always in the back of my mind (and always a reason to keep going so I could prove it wrong). It was the reason I stuck with the Novice training plan and only ran 3 days a week. It was the reason I kept my milage low. The last thing I wanted was to be out of commission again. After I finished my 20 mile run feeling stronger than I expected, though, I changed my tune a bit.

I really wanted a 4 hour finish. I am notorious for starting races too quickly and dying at the end. I knew that my best bet in reaching that goal was to start slow.

The gun went off at 6:30 sharp and we made our way up to the start line. My slow mindset worked a little TOO well though, because I ran Mile 1 in 10:15, Mile 2 in 9:45 and Mile 3 in 9:39. Well, at least I couldn’t say I didn’t start slow.

The course was pretty straight forward – a few turns, a couple out and backs and one sharp turn that I can remember but nothing so obnoxious that it was worth complaining about. A good deal of the run was along the road near the beach but honestly its hard for me to enjoy scenery during races because I’m usually focused on what I’m doing. There was a water/Gatorade stop every 2 miles, a time clock every 2 miles and an aid station every few miles at the start and every 2 miles near the end. Food was available at mile 16 and 22 – Gu, bananas and oranges. If you downloaded the app I mentioned earlier, you could actually track a runner live. This came in handy for Bryan so he could figure out when to leave and meet me at the finish line with the twins.

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The one downside to this race was that because I didn’t want to run in Charleston for a third time, I didn’t have any friends running so I ended up doing the entire thing alone. I broke the race up into thirds: the first 10 miles I’d run without anything, the 2nd 10 miles I’d listen to my audiobook and the last 6 I’d turn on my interval music in hopes I’d be ready to kick it up a notch. I’d fuel with the food I bought (puree baby food in a squeeze pouch, not kidding) at mile 8 and 12/13 and then use what the race provided after that. I know many advise against it but I also brought  two ibuprofen if I needed it. I know my body well enough to know that I’m not going to miss a sign of major injury because I took two ibproufen.

After mile 3 I started to find my pace.

So remember that 8oz of water I drank before the race? Well even though I peed before we left the hotel, and again at the race start, by 1 mile in I had to pee. Seriously? I skipped the first water stop hoping I could “sweat it out”, but took some water at each stop after that. Each water stop had a bathroom or two but they all had lines and I didn’t want to waste 5 minutes waiting in a line. Honestly I should have gone somewhere in a wooded area. (I was really jealous of males at that point) By mile 8 I saw one with only one person waiting and stopped, but I still lost probably 60-90 seconds there.

At the first split (10k) I was at 1:02:22 – oddly a little SLOWER than I’d hoped.

Mentally I knew I’d have to pick it up quite a bit to hit 4 hours, but somehow I was able to keep myself in check and realize that if I started too soon I’d be suffering at the end, so I tried to keep it steady. By Mile 11 I started to feel sore. At Mile 12 I took the ibuprofen. I was still walking through the water stops and felt like my hip/butt was off. I stopped a few seconds to massage.

At the 2nd split (half) I was at 2:03:55.

By that point, gauging what energy I had left, I pretty much knew a 4 hour finish was out. I was averaging at 9:28 min/mile and needed a 9:09 to finish in 4 hours. Still, I figured I could easily shoot for 4:05 which would still get me a 5 minute PR.

The third split (18.3) I was at 2:51:14

The audiobook did a decent job of keeping my mind busy and pace steady until I hit Mile 20. I did stop to stretch for a few seconds once and was still walking through the water stops. The good news was, I had 6 miles left and had managed to pace myself well enough that I felt like I had enough in me to speed up. (The bad news was there was a headwind for the better part of the last 8 miles.) I tried to keep steady for 2 more miles and ran Mile 20 in 9:15 and 21 in 9:16. At Mile 22 I cranked the volume up and my speed with it.  I finished Mile 22 in 8:41, Mile 23 in 8:36 and Mile 24 in 8:35. I had to stop and walk a couple times during Mile 25 and 26 but still managed an 8:57 and 8:45. I felt like I might throw up the last 2 tenths but I sprinted anyway. I’ll admit teared up a bit towards the end. Infertility, a twin pregnancy and 2 injuries before this and I was minutes from crossing the finish line of my 3rd marathon. For those couple minutes, I felt incredible.

Clock time: 4:03:59

Chip time: 4:02:48

I didn’t finish in 4 hours, but I beat my last finish of 4:10:16 by nearly 7 minutes. I mean, honestly, I couldn’t complain about that.

I'm awesome
I’m awesome

One of the things I love best about running is what it teaches me. Each race I’ve run I’ve learned something about myself that I either didn’t already know or forgot in the hustle and bustle. Usually, they remind me that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. This year, I learned that even with LESS running (3 days a week and cross trained 2) and lower mileage (I think my highest week was 36 miles), with a little planning and a lot of belief in myself, I can finish faster. Finishing even close to 4 hours didn’t even feel possible to me until a running buddy of mine suggested it was possible (thanks Tami!) I distinctly remember the last few miles of my 2011 marathon HURTING and I spent the last 4-5 miles wishing for the finish line. I was so tired at the end my legs almost seized up and I hobbled to the car, This year, I not only finished faster but actually enjoyed the entire race, ESPECIALLY the last few miles.

The best part was the fact that Bryan and the twins were waiting at the finish line. It was something I had always hoped for during our struggle with infertility. At 21 months old (to the day!), they are still too little to understand, but one day they will. And maybe by then they’ll both smile in a picture?

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You know what I realized this means though?

With the right plan and motivation, a Boston Qualifying time is totally possible.

The madness never ends.

And because no post would be complete without them, Abby and Miles also wish everyone a Happy Valentines Day. 🙂

Until my next crazy idea…

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