I set my alarm for 5:00AM on race morning, but I woke up at 4:00 and stared at the clock. I woke up thinking that in a few hours, all of this will be over. All of the training, the anticipation, the fear of getting injured, everything. Done. I felt mixed emotions about all of it, but I was really just ready to get the show on the road!
I had a cup of coffee in the motel and started getting ready. The race started at 7:00AM so I planned to eat my breakfast around 5:30. My standard pre-race/run fuel has always been Cheerios and milk. Last year it was Peanut Butter, this year, Honey Nut. I had my cereal and a Clif bar and just a little bit of Gatorade.
At 6:00AM I took my O2 Gold and drank Spark and Arginine Extreme on the way to the race.
Gotta have a pre-race, motel bathroom selfie right?
I stretched and finished pinning on my bib and tying my shoes, and we were out the door. We planned to leave the motel around 6:15 to make it to the park around 6:30. It ended up only taking us about 10 minutes to get there.
It was a bit chilly, I had gloves, but ended up ditching them before the race started.
We had to pose and show off our guns
We hung out around the porta potties like cool people do and warmed up and stretched. Then the announcement came that it was time to line up!
I left my headphones out the first maybe half mile just to soak everything in. I was in shock that this was actually happening, oh, and that I have 26 miles ahead of me. I had to put my music on pretty quickly!
The course was fantastic. There were lots of turns, lots to see. The route went through the college campus, as well as a couple parks and a golf course. Most of the streets we were on were residential, there wasn't much traffic going by.
The first 5 miles went fairly quickly. I was in a zone, and I never once thought about how far I still had to go. It was one of those running days where everything clicks. Your brain and your legs are on the same wavelength, and it's just effortless.
Mile 5-6 is when I caught up with Heidi. We ran side by side for about a mile and a half. We have a strict "no talking while running" rule, and we stuck to it. It was nice to just run silently together for a while.
Mile 7 I took my first Gu. I carried my shot bottle filled with orange Powerade Zero. This has always worked well for me. I can't drink out of the cup at water stations to save my life, and I don't like to have to stop and deal with the crowds around them.
Mile 9 we entered the back side of a park, and there was the dumbest hill I've ever seen in my life. It was the steepest hill of the entire course, but it was a tiny bike path, and it was just steep. The downhill was actually worse than the uphill. I had to almost completely stop to hold back downward momentum and not fall on my face. I saw my mom for the first time at mile 9 and waved for her to refill my bottle. She left the Powerade in the car, so that meant she was headed to mile 12 to meet me again. I'm lucky to have such a great race assistant!
Mile 11 the half and full marathoners split off. That was exciting to me. That meant it was getting real, and I could also gauge who my competition was! The nice thing about this race are the different bib colors to designate half, full, and relay runners. It was nice to know the person sprinting past you was a relay runner!
Mile 12 I stopped for a second in the road to get some more Powerade from my mom and kept trucking along. I hit the half mark at 1:52 something. I don't know what happened after that, my body just took off. My next miles were my fastest of the entire race. 8:15 and 8:08 came out of the blue. I knew I needed to calm down a little and slow back down, but it was a serious rush at that point.
The miles after the half way point were out in a rural park and on a trail. The wind had picked up quite a bit at this point and it seemed to be more of a struggle. I really wanted to get back into town and feel more protected. I took my second Gu at mile 14.
Mile 19 was the next marker I was focused on. I knew it would be around a church we drove by the night before, and I knew my mom was planning to be there. I refilled my bottle again and kept on going. I focused on hitting mile 20 and taking my last Gu.
I really had no idea what to expect that last 10K. I hit 20 around 2:51, so I knew that even 10 minute miles the rest of the way got me sub 4. But I knew I had faster miles left in me. I kept waiting for "the wall". I'm sure this was a rookie marathoner once in a lifetime kind of thing, but I NEVER hit it. I never once felt like I couldn't keep going mentally or physically. I slowed down quite a bit, but my slowest two miles were 9:20s. I stopped at a water station around mile 23 and took a drink of water. I had some Powerade left, but I felt like I needed water. My lips were sticky with Gu, and I felt my face and lips getting sun and wind burned.
Mile 24 I realized I only had two more miles, and that I should just soak this all in. I remember taking deep breaths and looking around and just enjoying the view. I couldn't believe this was almost over. Mile 25 the rush of what I had left in me hit, and I took off. I passed about 3 guys in that last mile, which makes me smile. I was on the last loop right before turning back into the park towards the finish line and I started swearing... I was just in shock this was real. I couldn't believe it. I said holy... to things that aren't holy... I'm pretty sure people had to have heard me!
I realized my time was going to be 3:48 something and I just couldn't believe it. This was what I wanted SO BADLY for so long. It was so surreal. I tried to throw my hands in the air, but I think my arms were too tired!
At that second, I was convinced that was the greatest moment of my entire life. It doesn't get better than this. But it did...