This past weekend was my big trip to Kiawah, SC for the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon. I’d never been to Kiawah before and, like I’ve been talking about for the past few months, I’ve never run a marathon before….so I was pretty excited about the weekend!
Despite the race not being until Saturday morning, we headed down to Kiawah on Thursday to have plenty of time to get sufficiently nervous relax before the big day. We had a nice dinner, took our time picking up our race bibs, and even spent a little time reading on the beach.
I joke about it, but I really couldn’t believe how nervous I was for the marathon. I’ve been in a lot of competitive situations before…not that I’m claiming to be a competitive runner, but a race IS a competition…and I’m pretty sure this was by far the most nervous I’d been in a really long time. Well….it’s probably an incredibly close tie with my hall of fame speech…I hate public speaking!
Even with the nerves, I managed to get a good night’s sleep on Friday and woke up feeling really refreshed Saturday morning. I took a quick shower, managed to get my hair looking presentable, and put on a little make-up. A lot of people may question why I’d go through the effort of “getting ready” to only go and sweat it off a few hours later…but it made me feel good. And like I said in last week’s blog, who knows if I’ll ever do a second marathon, so I want to make sure the photos from the first look good!
I arrived at the start line…feeling and looking good….about 30 minutes before the race started. Plenty of time for my stomach to continue to turn into knots. I placed myself at the very end of the 7 minute per mile pace group / very beginning of the 8 minute per mile pace group. I made the mistake at my half marathon of starting in a pace group that was well beyond my capabilities and went out way too fast. As a result, I hit the proverbial wall at mile 10 and almost self imploded. I was very cautious not to do that in my marathon…toughing it out for another 3.1 miles is doable, toughing it out for another 16.2 miles is a different story.
With that in mind, my goal was to stay right around an 8-8:15 minute pace for as many miles as possible, no quicker. For fear of my ipod not lasting the entire race, I didn’t start it up until the national anthem started to play. Hindsight, I should have done this much sooner…10 minutes is not going to make or break the battery life. My ipod immediately goes into shuffle mode, and I can’t figure out how to get my marathon play list.
Side note, I spent multiple hours on Wednesday evening creating the mother of all play lists. Every song I have ever loved, new and old, was included. I had 4.8 hours of quality listening entertainment lined up to help get me through which was sure to be a tough final 2 hours.
As luck and poor planning would have it, my awesome playlist never saw the light of day :( The gun went off as I’m still fiddling with my ipod. The pack starts running. Approximately 100 yards into the race, I drop my ipod. HUGE mistake in a pack of runners who’ve just taken off the start line. For a brief second I contemplated just leaving it, but the thought of not having music for the next 4 hours was terrifying. Music is the only thing that gets me through my challenging runs….and 26.2 miles was definitely going to be a challenged. I had to back track 10 feet to bend down and pick it up. Between dodging runners and various “watch out” comments, I felt like a fish swimming upstream. Not the ideal way to start a race, but I was off and running…
Mile 1: despite the ipod snafu, I felt good. I spent a lot of time dodging and maneuvering around other runners, but it forced me to keep my pace.
Miles 2 – 7: still feeling good. Continuing on at my pace and on target to break 4 hours.
Mile 8: I stop and walk for the first time through the water station in order to take my gu.
Mile 9: completely forgettable. I can’t remember one single thing about mile 9…guess I was in the zone.
Mile 10: my left hip starts to hurt. Not a big deal though, I was definitely prepared for this. My hips hurt during pretty much every one of my long runs. I was just thankful it didn’t start hurting until now.
Miles 11 &12: my legs are starting to get a little tired, but I’m feeling okay still. The Kiawah marathon is also a half marathon race. The course is a 13.1 loop, so if you’re doing the full marathon, you do the same loop twice. It was at about this point where I really started noticing the 23, 24, and 25 mile marker signs as I was passing them. Very discouraging from a mental standpoint. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of running by the 25 mile marker sign, and knowing you still have another 13 miles before you’ll see it again, when you’re actually at mile 25.
Mile 13: I turn right to start my second 13 mile loop and secretly curse all the half marathon runners who are turning left to run the last .1 mile to the finish line.
Mile 14: I stop and walk for the second time through the water station to take another gu.
Mile 15: My stomach starts to get a little queasy…I think from too much sugar. Gu’s are full of sugar and can be tough on an essentially empty stomach.
Mile 16: My hips are really hurting now and I’m fighting off that watery sensation under your tongue when you’re going to get sick.
Mile 17: My body is really starting to hurt now….which coincidentally takes my mind off of my upset stomach.
Mile 18: I’m pretty much miserable at this point. I start walking .05 – .1 miles at the top of each mile marker sign.
Mile 19: after 19 consecutive miles of skipping through songs on my ipod, I’m still cursing myself for not knowing how to access my play list.
Mile 20: despite the pain in my legs and hips, I hit mile 20 right around 3 hours and I’m still on track to break 4 hours.
Mile 21: I thought I was miserable at mile 18, I’m truly miserable now. The thought of running 5 more miles is more then I can take and I’m feeling incredibly sorry for myself. I think I shed a tear or two.
Mile 22: Why did I think this was a good idea again?? I crack a joke to that tune to a fellow runner as he passes me….he laughs, which makes me feel a little better. Still on track for 4 hours.
Mile 23: And there goes my 4 hour goal. I literally feel like I can’t run another step, let alone 3 miles. I walked a good portion of mile 23 because well I felt like hell. My hips were killing. My hamstrings were so tight I felt like they were going to snap. I was incredibly thirsty and had to fight off the urge to slam 4 glasses water as I walked through the aide station. At this point, all I want to do is finish.
Mile 24: because my “good idea” joke went over so well the first time, I try it again on a second runner. Not as funny the second time around.
Mile 25: the end is finally in sight. I took my last gu about 2 miles before, and it started to kick in. I get my last burst of energy…not enough to make up the time I lost in miles 23 and 24, but enough to feel like finishing the race is actually going to happen.
Mile 26: I can’t begin to describe how I felt when I saw the 26 mile marker sign. I was finally making the turn that so many runners before me had made to head towards the finish line. Best feeling in the world doesn’t even come close to capturing it.
At that point, I literally had to left turns to make until I was done. The last .2 miles were fortunately lined with spectators cheering you on to the finish. I think I had a little kick at the end…or at least did my best to try to not look too pathetic running past all of the spectators and far superior runners who finished before me.
Somehow…I still can’t believe it now…but somehow I managed to finish. I didn’t achieve my goal of breaking 4 hours, but I did come pretty close. I finished at 4:05:39. 23rd of 52 women in my age group, and 363rd of 814 marathon runners overall. Not too shabby for a first-timer who just a year ago was fighting cancer, 20 pounds overweight, completely out of shape, and couldn’t run a mile to save her life.
Running a marathon was something I’ve talked about wanting to do for the longest time. It was one of those hypothetical goals that always sounded like a good idea, but I lacked the commitment and drive to actually make it happen. But not anymore baby!! I’m officially a marathon runner and can proudly display the coveted 26.2 mile sticker on my car!!
I was very sore the first hour after the race…my shoulders, my feet, my legs, my knees, my hips, my entire body essentially….but I was able to walk without too much of an issue, which wasn’t the case for some of my fellow runners.
We went back to the condo and relaxed for a few hours after the race…before the post race celebration dinner began. By the time the dinner rolled around, I was feeling pretty decent…much better than I was anticipating. So good in fact that I was able to wear heels out that night, contrary to popular belief that they’d be out of the question
After a fun night of celebrating with a few cocktails, we packing up Sunday morning and headed back to Charlotte. The whole experience is one I will never forget. Thank you so much to all of my friends and family for the constant encouragement during my training the last 4 months. Thank you to all of the volunteers on the race course who cheered me on when I can only imagine how pathetic I looked at times. Thank you to Andrew’s family for being there to cheer me on during the race and help me cross the finish line. And thank you to Andrew, the best running “coach” a girl could ask for. Having your support and positive reinforcement throughout the entire race…and really training process…helped more then you’ll ever know!
Here are a few photos from the race…
A lot of people have asked if I’ll do another marathon….and the answer to that is absolutely. The experience was so much fun…and something that the majority of people won’t ever get to do. AND I still need to break my 4 hour goal. I’ve felt so good that I’ve already started running again. Nothing too extreme…short distances at a fairly slow pace…just to get my legs moving again. I’m not 100% sure what’s next, but I’m thinking it maybe the Nashville Country Music Marathon on 4/28/12!
The only other thing really worth mentioning is that I had my semi-annual mammogram on Monday. I’m happy to report that I once again got a clean bill of health, and everything looks like it should.
And I’ll end on that….photos from 56 weeks post chemo are below…