Country Music Marathon Race Report

1 05 2012

I did it!!

First of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone for your kind words of encouragement before, during, and after the race. I am overwhelmed by the support 🙂

You’re probably wondering, so how’d it go? Well, I didn’t meet my A Goal time-wise, but I certainly met my other goals to finish and have fun! I had what I considered to be a great race and couldn’t be happier with how the day went down.

I went to bed pretty early on Friday night, and willed myself to sleep. I tossed and turned some, as my nerves were getting the best of me. I had this terrible fear that I wasn’t going to finish. I knew I had done my training, but I was second guessing myself. Its funny because I don’t remember this fear before my first marathon, which I had hardly trained for. I guess back then, I didn’t really know what real marathon training looked like. Ignorance is bliss?

I finally fell asleep and then woke up before my alarm.  However, after realizing that it was only 1:00am and the race wasn’t for another 6 hours, I went back to bed. My alarm buzzed at 5:15 and I sat up in bed thinking, “Holy crap. I am running 26.2 miles today. That is a LONG way!”

I had laid out all my gear the night before, so it didn’t take long to get ready 🙂

After fueling up, our car full of runners left for the starting line. Michelle (my hostess) drove me, her cousin, her cousin’s friend, her husband, and her husband’s friend all to the starting line. I’m so glad I was staying with a Nashville local- Michelle drove us to the starting line, taking back roads, so we experienced zero traffic. We were there in no time at all, about 15 minutes before the first corral was set to leave! Michelle’s hubby Luke, was also running the full. It was his first marathon and he was also hoping to run it in four hours, so we decided we would run together for as long as we could.

We wanted to try to make a quick bathroom stop before heading to our corral, but unfortunately, we underestimated the potty lines a bit. We tried to get into some of the local businesses, but the lines there were crazy too. Oh well. I had gone before we left the house, and this was going to be a “just in case” potty break. We decided that we’d just get in our corrals and stop along the course if we needed to.

There were TONS of people at the race. I heard somewhere in the ballpark of 31K running the full and half! That’s a lot of bodies!

An up and coming country music star sang the national anthem and then the race began! It was already humid when the race started, and the weather had said it was supposed to get into the 80s. I wasn’t too worried, since I had done all my training in Florida; I was just worried about getting a headache from dehydration after!

Just before 7 I got a text from Bill telling me he was hitting the road again. If you recall, I had mentioned in my goals post that I was excited about Bill coming to the marathon, since he had a gig within driving distance to the marathon. We discovered on Thursday afternoon that we had a slight miscommunication about the location of the race and his gig. Had my marathon been in DC, he would have been a mere 2 hours away. Unfortunately, his gig was in central Virginia, and he was a good 10 hour drive from the actual location of the race, Nashville, TN. Whoops.

I was a little disappointed when I found this out, so I searched for flights from Dulles (VA) to Nashville for Saturday morning. I saw that the earliest flight got him to Tennessee at 11:30, after my expected finish time. I mentally began preparing for him not to be there for the race.

We texted back and forth on Thursday night about what the plan was going to be. I was worried about him driving all through the night, so I tried to discourage him but he is one determined man. He soon sent me a text that said he made the necessary changes to the rental car agreement and was returning the car in Nashville. He was going to drive through the night and sleep when he needed to, but he was NOT going to miss my marathon. Love him. ❤

I was worried for sure, but I tried not to think about him driving all through the night. I didn’t ask details about when he was planning on leaving, or where exactly his gig was. I figured the less details I knew, the less my mind would stress about it, and the greater the chance that I’d be pleasantly surprised to see him.

He had texted at about 4am to let me know he was stopping to sleep and that he was about 140 miles away. So when he texted again at 7am  to let me know he was on his way again, I put a smile on my face, because I knew he’d definitely be there to see me finish, barring any terrible problems. 🙂

A few minutes after 7am, Luke and I crossed the starting line. The crowd was pretty dense, but somehow we were able to find a little space and find our groove. I knew that we needed to hold 9:07 miles for the entire marathon, so I incessantly kept checking my watch, even within the first mile. I didn’t want to go out too fast and die. I wanted to run a smart race.

Mile 1: 9:03

Mile 2: 9:03

Only a smidge fast, but that’s ok. I recalled that mile 2-5 was basically uphill, so I was mentally preparing myself to slow a little.

Mile 3: 9:14

Mile 4: 9:05

We saw Michelle around mile 4, and we were so very excited.

You’d think we were just finishing the race! I was feeling good and having fun!

Mile 5: 9:12

Mile 6: 9:02

Mile 7: 9:04

These miles were just ticking by. I kept checking my watch, and then checking my wristband that I got at the expo to help pace me. I realized we were right on track for a 4:00 marathon; heck, we might even be able to sneak in under it!

Mile 8: 9:03

Mile 9: 9:04

Mile 10: 8:51

Just before the marathon and half marathon split, I got to see Michelle again. It was so fun seeing a friendly face along the course! About a quarter mile later, the marathoners stayed left and the half marathoners stayed right. I jokingly looked over to my right and waved saying, “Hi Friends!” As soon as I returned to looking forward, I saw my friend Caroline heading over to the half marathon side. It was an unexpected surprise to see her! I smiled, gave her a cheer, and kept on moving!

Mile 11: 9:10

Mile 12: 9:05

Right around the 13 mile mark, Luke asked if I could call Michelle and ask her to have a dry shirt ready for him the next time we saw her. We knew she planned on being between mile 18 and 19, so I got out my phone and made the call. It was short and sweet, and I didn’t need to stop 🙂 She also said she’d have my Acellerade ready with the cap off the water bottle. (We had a failed exchange at mile 10).

Mile 13: 9:05

Mile 14: 8:54

Mile 15: 9:23

I looked at these splits and was pleasantly surprised. After the half marathoners left us, the crowd thinned way out. We also headed to an area of the course that was pretty much just pavement and nothing else. Miles 11-15 were probably some of the most boring miles on the course, and there weren’t many spectators on the course either. Because of the way the course was laid out though, as I was headed towards mile 12, I was able to see the runners coming towards mile 16. I spotted Mary, and gave her a yell 🙂 She was looking pretty good, and I was happy to see her!

Just before mile 16, Luke told me he could feel some leg cramps coming on. He said he was going to walk through the water stop at mile 16 and then see how it went from there. I was still feeling good, so I kept on trucking.

Mile 16: 9:01

Right at mile 17, we were running past the stadium where the half marathoners were finishing. It was fun to see all of them, and to think how crazy it was that I was still running. It was also about this point where I pushed aside my “I’m not going to finish” fear. I had miles in the single digits to go. I was going to finish, and I was going to finish well!

I glanced off to my right, and there was Bill!! He was over in the crowd, running along next to me. I yelled over and waved, and I’m sure I had a ginormous grin on my face. HE MADE IT!!! I didn’t expect to see him again until the finish, but I was SO HAPPY he had arrived safely. I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug! I kept chugging along, knowing that I was going to see Michelle in a little bit too, and that I was less than 10 miles from the finish line!

Mile 17: 9:11

Mile 18: 9:17

I knew at this point in the marathon it really becomes about the mental game. I recall at this point in the race trying to stay ahead of that girl in the sport bra. I think we went back and forth a few times, but then I lost sight of her at a water stop around mile 21 or so.

Mile 19: 9:24

Mile 20: 9:04

I think mile 20 was slightly down hill, but I was also REALLY excited that I only had a 10K to go. A 10K! I do that at the end of my tris! BRING IT ON!

At this point however, I think I was barely hanging on to my 4:00 goal. But honestly, I didn’t really care. I was having a great race, and was going to PR by about 40 minutes. I’ll take that!

Mile 21: 9:16

Mile 22: 9:32

Mile 22 was where I started to hit a wall. I knew I only had a little over 4 miles to go, but I was hot and my legs were starting to yell at me. Miles 21-25 were also through this golf course part of town where there were few spectators. Again because of the loops in the course, you could see the runners on miles 24 and 25 as you were headed on mile 21 and 22. I saw Mary again and gave her a cheer. Unfortunately, I could see that she was tired. I could also see that a lot of other runner were tired and hot. Runner after runner stopped to walk and stretch, but I kept on trucking. Until mile 23.

Mile 23: 10:14

Ouch. I was hurting for sure at mile 23, so I stopped for a second to stretch. I didn’t want to stop, but I told myself I could stop for a few seconds, stretch out my legs, and then I’d feel much better afterwards.

I started running again, and I felt a bit better. i was doing some serious self talking, trying to get motivated, when I looked up and saw Bill coming toward me in all his running gear. He ran up to me, told me how proud of me he was, and told me he was going to be right there by my side. I was super surprised and thankful to see him there, but didn’t have enough energy to tell him so. I smiled big, and pushed a little harder.

Mile 24: 9:51

The last 5K was SO HARD. My legs were incredibly tired and I just wanted to be at the finish line already. I knew at this point that a 4:00 marathon was out of the picture; I just wanted to finish. I stopped to walk twice (maybe three times?) between mile 24 and mile 26. It wasn’t for very long, but I was just beat. Bill stayed with me every step of the way. He hung back a little while we were running so that I was setting the pace and not him, which I really appreciated. He provided words of encouragement when I needed them, and poured some of his water on my back to keep me cool. I am so incredibly thankful to have such a loving, caring, wonderful man in my life!

Mile 25: 10:40

My legs felt like lead. I looked at my watch and saw my pace, and thought to myself that I could walk faster than this. Pull it together Steph, you’re almost there!

Mile 26: 11:07

On the home stretch I saw my friend Leah, who had ran the half. She gave me a cheer, and I started to pick up the pace. Only two tenths of a mile to go. I CAN DO THIS.

Last 0.2: 8:54

Official time: 4:05.58. YESSSSSSSSSS!!!

I was so incredibly happy to be finished, and just as happy to know that I had run the marathon in a 4:05!

Finishing the race with this guy was icing on the cake. I can not put into words how thankful I am that he made it and how incredibly loved I feel. He is certainly a keeper. 🙂

Overall, I think the course was pretty challenging. It certainly was hilly, but honestly, I think I had psyched myself out for some more serious hills. It was also a hot day, but training in Florida had prepped me for that. I think I hit my nutrition pretty much spot on, taking an AcellGel and 3 Gus during the race. I drank Gatorade at just about every station they offered it (every other water station), and drank water throughout the entire race. I popped a few salt tabs during the race and I took a salt packet from one of the medics on the course too. I also had a few swigs of Acellerade between mile 18 and 19. All of this put together = NO headache!

Me and Leah, happy to be done:-)

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good day. I have to give a HUGE thank you to Michelle for hosting me, schlepping me around for a few days, and for being an amazing support crew and photographer! You are awesome!

Some folks have already asked if I am going to do another one. Right now, my answer is I don’t know. I would really like to get that 4:00…In fact, during the race I told myself that if I crossed the line and there was a 3 at the beginning of my race time, I’d be perfectly content not to run another one. But for now, I’m going to be proud of my accomplishments, and think about another marathon later. Its time for me to turn my attention to the sport I really love. Triathlon season is here, and I’m ready to rock and roll!