The Philly marathon - the big day finally came! And went. And took with it my ability to navigate stairs. I think that makes me a totally-for-real runner now.
Philly was actually the third marathon I signed up for - but the only one I made to the starting line. I had signed up for a marathon last year but IT band problems stopped me a few months into training. Then I signed up for the Green Bay marathon this spring. The plan was to run that with some friends (and, ohh hahahah, I, bwhaha, had thoughts, hahaha, that I would, hahah, LOL, qualify for, hahah, Boston! oh my god, so funny.....). But then that whole Olympic thing happened, bringing with it stress and major IT band trouble and the GB marathon plans went out the door. Much like Russia's medal hopes in Vancouver. (yea, suck it plushenko... anyway).
After I finished that half mary, I was in quite a bit of pain; legs were buckling, cramping, etc, just not very much fun. As I watched my friends come in for the full marathon - looking to be in even more pain - I thought to myself 'NEVER. EVER'
The next morning at 6am, I signed up for Philly.
I even convinced a friend (amy) to come out and do it with me so I wouldn't have to suffer alone! Which, in hindsight, was a fantastic idea. I know I could have gotten through the training alone, but it was so much nicer having a friend to do those long runs on Sunday with.
So we fly to Philly on Friday, hit up the expo on Saturday, buy a bunch of crap and then treat ourselves to pretty much the most delicious Italian dinner ever on Saturday night. The garlic cloves in oil and bread were out of this world - if it was a tad bit more socially acceptable, I would have filled up a giant vat and sat in it. right there on the table.(Pretty sure that delicious oil was the cause of some issues the next day though.... )
The other really cool thing about this race is that I was able to share the experience with my mom. Philly is only an hour away from her home so we stayed out there and my family came to cheer us on.
Race morning! My mom drops us off, we hit the porta-pottys and then tried to find people to hug. In the city of love, it shouldn't have been that hard, right? We knew it would warm up but at 6am, it was COLD. bbrrrrr... Tried to just stay near people for awhile. But then... as the sun started to come up a bit... I saw it.... the Rocky stairs! Amy and I ran over to the art museum and ran up the stairs as our warm-up. Woot! Woot! I think I yelled something like "what you got philly!" (turned out a lot!)
The race started off with a bang - we got a high five from Bart Yasso! Amy saw him and bee-lined us over to him so we could get high fives from the mayor of running. It. Was. Awesome. I ended up emailing him at his site afterwards to just say thanks and he responded! So that was a great way to start things off.
The first mile I had told Amy I was going to stick with her. I didn't want to get caught up in the energy and go out too fast and I knew she would keep me grounded. The first mile was a lot of fun - saw my mom, got a high five from her. Tons of people cheering, even with a 7am start! We came through the first mile marker at about 10:30 and Amy looked at me and said "you want to go, don't you?" I squeaked "YES!" and took off.
My plan was to hang somewhere between 9:30s and 9:45s for the first half. I had a couple of miles where I was a bit too fast but only one sub 9 - most were right around 9:45. It felt ridiculously easy. I kept thinking I should pick it up but I also had no idea how my feet were going to hold up so I decided to just stick with what was feeling good.
I couldn't believe the amount of crowd support out there. Everyone I had talked to about Philly talked about how great the course was and how much they loved the marathon and wow - I get why! There were only a few stretches of this course that wasn't lined with people. In fact, some of it was even reminiscent of the State Street portion of Ironman Madison - so fun! (not that I had any silly thoughts about doing THAT bit of insanity) This race also had your front name on the race bib and that made it even better. Hearing your name called out is such a boost. I've done it to other people countless times but I had no idea how much fun it was when it was YOUR name being hollered out. It's like kid eating glue fun.
So things were going just dandy until about mile 10/11ish when I started to feel the foot stuff creeping in. I have this issue where the balls of my feet start feeling like they're on fire. When that happens, I end up having to start landing on my heels which in turn makes my quads go 'yo, yo crazy woman, whatchu doing down there?' So it's a fun little cycle of hell. It hurts during half marathons so I was pretty sure it would hurt like mad during this. By mile 15, I was already toast. I couldn't run normally and my quads were starting to whine. Adding to this, my stomach started feeling left out so it started to get in on the action. (a pit stop at mile 19ish took care of that - damn you massively delicious olive oil! It caused a literal oil slick in my stomach. whoa!!!)
I started walking a bit of every mile just to try and ease the pain a bit. I knew it wasn't actually helping but I just couldn't push past more than a mile with how bad it was hurting. It was like having an out of body experience though. I would feel myself walking and say "wait, I'm sorry, what is going on down there?" and my legs would respond like a petulant teenager, "just leave me alone! you don't understand anything!" and my head would say "come on now dear, it's not all that bad, think of the starving ethiopians." and my emo legs would say "you don't know anything! you've never felt this way, ever! and screw the ethiopians. They'd be done by now!"
So I just chugged away as best as I could. I had my ipod with me but I found it much more distracting to just listen to the crowd and think about other things, ANYthing other than running. By mile 24 I must have looked pretty wrecked because I started to hear my name a ton. It really lifted my spirits everytime. (thank you philly!) At one point, I made contact with a guy who hollered out for me, encouraging me. Something about the way he gave me a high five and pushed me on made me feel like I was back at Tuesday Night Track and hearing my track buddies push me on. That was the ONLY bad thing about that race. No donkeys! I missed seeing my friends faces.
At a few points along the course I started to get a bit choked up over the fact that "oh em gee, I am running a MARATHON!!! This is insane!" But every time I would get emotional, I would start to hyperventilate. So, yes - hyperventilating and running are not BFFs. I would shake my head out like a bull and just charge through. But I saw my mom about a quarter mile away from the finish line and I had a really hard time holding it in. By that point I was just sick of this stupid running thing and as I stuffed down my feelings, I said 'that's IT! I'm finishing this NOW.' I pushed with everything I had left and kicked my way all the way to the finish. I literally just put my head down and ran as hard as I could.
I was SO relieved when I finished but I could barely walk, my stomach was revolting, I was frustrated with my performance but overall, I felt amazing. Absolutely amazing.
The only dig against this race is they ran out of water and gatorade at the end. I was really surprised. And very bummed. I desperately needed something to drink. I did grab some chicken broth though and WOW. Never has chicken broth tasted like the sweetest nectar of sweet nectar land. The awesome thing about having your family there is that at the end, when you look like you've just been to hell and back, your mom feels really, really sorry for you and sends her husband off to get whatever you want. Oh, and she gives you her down jacket to keep warm too. (I was shivering like mad). Thanks mom!!
Overall, this was a great first marathon experience. It wasn't a perfect day but that was fine. I learned what it meant to push through feeling crappy. I learned that 26 miles is far, but 26.2 is ridiculously far. And I learned that I really, really adore chicken broth.