My dear friend, Marion. This girl cracks me up. While many only share the good stuff, she is bold enough to tell you the bad and the ugly. She ran her first full marathon last month and lived to tell the story. Here it is in her words:
You’ll Always Remember your First….
That’s what everyone says about your first marathon. It’s special. No matter what happens, it will always hold a place in your heart. Well, friends…I’m here to tell you that NO. There is no way that the 2015 Cleveland Marathon will ever hold a special place in this girls’ heart. The words I used to describe this marathon are “Spectacular Disaster”. That sums it up for me in a nutshell.
I went into the marathon feeling very prepared. I didn’t put in nearly as many miles as my training partners, but I did my due diligence. I started training in mid January for the marathon on May 17th. Most of my training weeks ranged between 35 & 40 miles and I peaked at almost 50. I loosely followed the Hal Higdon Novice 2 plan, and added more miles and a few speed workouts. I ran two half marathons while in training. One was my PR (1:46:32…in wind and 17 degrees!), and the other I ran with my friend Laura. (not a PR, but lots of fun!) I did two 20 milers during my training, one with my favorite running friends, and the other solo. Both went very well, 8:40 average pace at conversational effort.
When I arrived in Cleveland on May 16th I was ready.
My husband and I dropped the girls and dogs off at my parents and made our way downtown. We were staying literally a block from the start line. We hit the expo to pick up my race packet, had a bland (for me) dinner, and just watched TV. I ended up turning the TV off around 10:15 or so. I had a definite “night before a race” sleep, but when I got out of bed at 4:30 I felt pretty good. I had time to drink a little coffee, eat a piece of bread with PB and a banana, and let my system “clear out”. I was excited. I was ready. I was not nervous, but was a little worried about the humidity. My shakeout run the previous morning felt harder than I would have preferred. I shrugged off those feelings and kept myself feeling positive. I was about to complete my first marathon. Let’s do this!
Kevin and I headed over to the start area at 6:30 (7 AM race start). We waited around for a little bit, I took a gel, and then decided I HAD to pee one last time (of course!). The porta-potty lines were epic, so Kevin suggested I just run back to the room and use the toilet there, so I did (and got a bonus warm-up!) As we were walking back to the corrals at 6:50, it started downpouring. Luckily, it only lasted a couple minutes, but it made me happy I decided to wear a visor. I never wear them, but figured it would probably be useful since both rain and sun were predicted that day. At race start it was about 70 degrees and between 85-90% humidity.
I weaved my way through the crowds and found the 3:55 pace group. My plan was just to stick with them as long as I could, and possibly pull forward the last couple miles if I felt good. After consulting with everyone that knows me and my abilities, we all trusted that 3:55 was an achievable, conservative goal. I backed off of my original plan of joining either the 3:40 or 3:45 group because of the predicted weather.
I popped my headphones in, my Garmin finally found satellite, the gun sounded, and we were off. Yay! I was pumped. The first couple miles I felt pretty good. Even the bridge wasn’t terrible. I was hitting each water stop and drank at least half the cup full, if not more. Since it was so warm and humid, I knew I had to keep myself hydrated. If I got separated from the group at the water stop, I would slowly catch back up. I wanted to conserve all the energy possible, so no sprinting was allowed. The group wasn’t a chatty group. We were just all kind of running together and following the bobbing 3:55 sign. I was hoping for a little camaraderie, but no biggie. I was glad I at least brought my headphones. We were running along clicking off miles. Our pace group leader was keeping us a little ahead of the 8:58/mile pace, which was fine with me. I felt good. The first 6 were 8:40, 8:40, 8:48, 8:49, 8:47, 8:41.
I started feeling twinges of upper stomach cramping around mile 7. Anyone who knows me knows my constant battle with lower GI issues. For now this was still all good. I crossed my fingers the bowels would stay in check. Mile 7 - 8:59.
During mile 8 we passed the first aid station with gels. I did training with the gels they used on the course (Carb BOOM!), so I grabbed one. I pulled off to the side so I could take my gel and chase it with water. I started going again. The 3:55 group was still in my sights, but it was getting harder to slowly reconnect with them. Mile 8 – 8:52.
At the start of mile 9, my stomach cramping started getting more persistent. Along with that, I had the addition of side stitches. What in the ****? I rarely get side stitches any more. I grabbed onto my side while running to try and make it stop. I was also losing the pace group. Mile 9 – 9:27. Uh oh….
Miles 10-13.1 were rough. I had to stop and walk for short spurts several times because of the cramping. I could not completely straighten up, which is a problem when you’re running. I could feel my goals just slipping away. I believe it was during this time I got passed by the 4:00 pace group. Ego BLOWN. Somehow I managed to keep going and just tried to keep my focus on finishing. There were a lot of people walking throughout the course, so at least I knew I was not alone. Miles 10-12: 10:11, 9:53, 10:56.
I crossed the half mat at 2:04 and some change. I was devastated. My first half marathon was 10 minutes faster than that, and I know (knew?) that I was a better runner than this. Just as I was about to get really down on myself, I saw my friends Lisa and Jackie yelling for me. I looked up and smiled and then gave them the big thumbs down sign. Seeing them rejuvenated me for about half a mile.
I saw my husband, parents, girls, and cousins at the 14 mile marker. Kevin had my bottle of water/Gatorade mix ready for me and handed it off. I just gave him a fake smile and kept trucking along. Mile 13: 10:43.
Miles 14 and 15 were even worse. 11:20 and 12:37, respectively. During mile 15 I tried to employ an interval method. Run 4 minutes, walk 2. I did one cycle of this, and realized I could not get running again. When I hit the 16 mile marker I was in pain. My stomach hurt so bad. I was nauseous, cramping and was not sweating. I pulled out my phone and sent Kevin a text that just said “I hurt”. He wrote back and said “Don’t give up! Walk if you need to! You’ve got this!”. So, on I trudged. Although, I will admit, if I had passed a medical tent then, I would have dropped. I was done.
We went down to Rocky River and hit the turnaround point between 17 & 18 miles. I was still trying to jog once in a while around then, but wouldn’t last long. I also kept pulling off to the side to bend over and relieve the cramping. I just wanted to lay down in the grass and sleep. But somehow I kept going. I crossed the 30K (18.6 mile) mat at 3:25. This was a DISASTER.
When I was between mile 19 and 20 I looked up to see Kevin walking down the sidewalk towards me.
Stopping to chat with the fam. Yes. DURING a race!
I was in major pain, but so happy to see him. He asked me if I wanted to finish. I said “yes”. Then he replied, “let’s go”. Yes, my husband wearing his khaki shorts, crappy running shoes and C-Bus shirt finished the marathon with me. I stopped several times to sit down and try to relieve the cramping in my stomach. I was still drinking water, but had not had another gel since mile 8. I knew if I tried it would automatically make a return appearance. I did give Kevin one of my gels because he was starving. Having never had one before, he was like “this tastes like an orange loogie!” Gross, Kevin. Gross.
(I made him run for the camera!)
The 5:25 pacers passed us and were nice enough to stop and check on me. One of them gave me a few salt packets. I took one and it really did seem to help. I was able to make it from about 24 miles to the end without stopping due to stomach cramps.
When I saw the mile 26 flag waving in the distance I just looked at Kevin and said “I’m gonna go”. He waved me on, and I took off. I started sprinting coming down a hill, under an overpass, and there it was. The elusive finish line. It seemed like it was light years away, but I was determined to finish strong. I heard my name being yelled, and looked over to see Lisa and Jackie running down the sideline with me. I saw my parents and the girls yelling as well. The announcer was saying my name and saying I looked strong (HA!) I crossed that line at 5:48:32.
I was elated and crushed at the same time. I thought I would finish 2 hours before this. TWO HOURS. How does this even happen?
Things I took away from this experience:
- I do have the best husband ever. The poor guy ended up walking 15 miles that day! His knee was hating on him. My parents were fantastic as always. They took care of the girls and the dogs and stuck out a LONG marathon with two 4 year olds. They’re awesome and brave!
- I also have the best running friends. Lisa and Jackie were calling, texting, and even checking in with medical on me. (I didn’t look at my phone until after I finished, sorry girls!). I thought for sure they would have left, and I would not have blamed them at all! But they didn’t. So, thank you so much for sticking it out until the bitter BITTER end with me!
- I was not the only one having issues this race. There were a ton of people who dropped. The medical tents were packed every time I would pass one. I saw several ambulances, and people were puking everywhere. I wish I was exaggerating. The conditions were brutal.
- I am pretty sure I will never do another spring marathon (except if by some miracle at some point I end up qualifying for Boston). Training in a brutal winter, and then trying to run in heat and 90%+ humidity did not work for this girl. Which brings me to my next point….
- Yes. I will do another marathon. I put in too many hours, 4AM wake ups, miles, and time away from family to have this end up as my sole marathon experience. I need to know what I am really capable of, and this sure wasn’t it.
I took 4 days off of running after that and have been easing back in. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m determined to keep trucking and one day reach those goals that I know I’m capable of.