It took me two years, but I finally ran down my marathon dream.
By the way, it’s going take you about the same amount of time to read this race report, so settle in.
Friday night I came home from the carbo-load event even more nervous than I was at the dinner. Luckily, I had anticipated that and most of the things I needed for the race were already set in a pile on the ironing board in my bathroom. My D-tag was on my shoe, my bib (the correct one) crinkled up and pinned to my shirt. Mr. T helped direct me a little since I was wandering around, unable to focus. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat at the start, and then I heated some water for some calming tea. We drank tea and watched TiVo. This was nice. I felt calmer. Just before 10, I kissed the hubs goodnight and went to bed.
Sleep didn’t come exactly easy, but it wasn’t the tossing, turning fit I’d had the night before my first half marathon in 2009. Breathe-in-1-2-3, breathe-out-1-2-3. I fell asleep before 11, I think, and I didn’t wake up till it was time to.
Get up time was 4 a.m. I am dressing in the bathroom thinking, “I’m going to run a marathon today.” I pass on my usual pre-race coffee since I didn’t have coffee before my 20-miler, and even though I hadn’t really worked out race-morning fuel – and it was 4:15 a.m. – I choke down an English muffin with peanut butter. That, ahem, got things moving, which was the goal. My tummy is calm. Good. I am still nervous. A little jittery.
I walk out of my door before 4:30. In fact, a few minutes early. On time! I may be late to for my long runs, but you bet I’m on time when it counts – race day! Driving to Zoë’s house was quick and soon we were on our way to get Kasey. Zoë (Run, Zoë, Run) is telling me that she did not have as nice of a night as I did, and I’m a little worried about her.
Let me just say this: Zoë is amazing. Knowing what it’s like to have a 7-month-old, I am still amazed that she trained for and ran this marathon. Truly inspiring. A little nuts, but in an inspirational way, of course.
In about five minutes I’m slowly circling acul-de-sac and me and my passenger are checking house numbers, trying to find Kasey’s friend’s house. She must’ve been waiting for us because I hardly stop and she is already out the door, but then running back to the house to get her breakfast. Kasey (Blonde Mom on the Run) seems awake so we all chat nervously. It is good to have her in the car as she’s running the half and not as nervous as we are.
Our plan, if you remember, was to meet our kick-ass-driver-volunteer-dropper-offer (AKA Amy), who would have Mel (Tall Mom on the Run), Jess (Blonde Ponytail) and Christine (running with Amy’s bib) with her at 5:45 at Starbucks a few miles away from the race start in Tukwila, transfer everyone to my van, get dropped off in a secret-squirrel location right by the start, and then Amy would drive the van back to the Starbucks, park it and get her truck.
At 5:30, I pull into the Starbucks, which is the one I go to on a semi-regular basis, and notice something I’ve never noticed before: 2-hour parking signs! What? I freak out…just a little, but then Zoë points out some businesses behind the Starbucks that are obviously closed on Saturdays. I park in a spot in front of one…for about 10 minutes before I remember, I AM NOT PARKING THE CAR, I AMS PICKING PEOPLE UP! I was so nervous, dudes!
I put my seatbelt back on with Kasey and Zoë laughing at me, and I pull the minivan around to the front of the Starbucks. Our friends are just getting out of Amy’s truck and then they pile in the van.
I steer us toward the freeway, and then someone realizes nobody brought the directions to Mel’s secret-squirrel drop-off location. Luckily, Mel has a good memory and, like a Race Jedi, directs us using The Force. We make it with only one wrong turn.
As we pull up to the drop-off, there is Jill (Running to Sanity) and we all squeal like Woohoo Girls. After some discussion – Should we park? Should we not? – we decide to park in front of an empty looking building right nearby.
We all pile out and everyone, including me and Zoë, re-lube thighs, etc. I’d covered myself in the stuff at home – all under my sports bra, groin area, bum, thighs and toes, and while in the car, my chest. I peel off my Moeben butterfly sleeves. I’d pulled them on at the last minute, but I know I’ll be too hot the second I start running. Besides, when Kasey says, “Do those even stay up?” I realize they are too big for me now.
Being able to park for a little bit near the drop-off is nice because Amy can go with us down to the potty area and take some pictures. We see Amanda (5 Miles Past Empty) with her DetermiNation shirt on, and there are hugs all around. Then we see Stacie (Impossible Is Nothing) and her hubby. More hugs. More pictures.
|Christine, Zoe, Jess, Mel, Kasey and me.|
|Jess, Zoe, me, Mel and Stacie.|
Suddenly, I notice something. My jitters are gone. Now that I’m here, I don’t feel nervous. Not at all. I’m calm. I feel relaxed. (Looking back, I don’t even think I was talking that much, which is very, very rare. Ask Zoë.)
Mel handed me and Zoë some Brooks VIP potty passes at the car, and I am very grateful for these. The VIP pottiers wander over to the small line where there are Brooks employees, who are wearing t-shirts with printed tuxes on the front and holding trays of mints, gum, hand sanitizer and more fun little items. I am a little chilly in my t-shirt, shorts and CEPs when a Brooks employee walks up and asks me if I want some gloves. Yes! Thank you!
I eat my sandwich and chat with a woman in line next to me. Inside the VIP potties, it is warm and there are real bathroom stalls and sinks with running water, plus anything else you might need: sunscreen, hand sanitizer, lotion, hair ties, tissues, and lots more. (I loved the VIP potties. But they ruined me. I can’t go back to Honey Buckets. I just can’t.)
Zoë and Mel need to check bags, so we pick through people over to a very organized line-up of UPS trucks. Suddenly, I’m aware of all the stuff I’m holding: my phone, headphones, the fuel belt and a banana. I strap my belt on, but don’t want to put my phone away just yet in case I want to take pictures.
Zoë and I are walking to the 6:30 bloggy meet-up/photo and it’s already 6:30. We weave in and out of people. We get to where Corral 6 was last year (according to Zoë) and it’s not there – it’s Corral 24 or 25. Uh oh. They rearranged the corrals. So we continued to thread our way through runners until we find 6. We missed the first photo, but we get in the next one.
I chat with everyone, including Alma (The Average Woman’s Running Blog), and I show her how I’d crumpled my race bib like she always does. She sighs and says in her soft voice, “I didn’t do it this time.”
Zoë and I gasp. “WHAT? Do it!” So she grabs her bib, which is pinned to her shirt, and crumples it. There. Better.
|Alma crumples her bib and all is right in the world.|
Then EMZ and her abs are there, and I am star-struck. Then it’s time to get in our corrals as the race announcer is counting down to the start! We are still at Corral 6 and need to be at Corral 16. Then the race starts. Now, me and Zoë are like fish swimming upstream on the outside of the corrals as everyone is rushing forward toward the race I am still holding my phone, headphones and a banana. But I’m thinking, “It’s okay. We have lots of time. We are in 16.”
We get to 16 and ease into the pack. I’m thinking we’re good, but then all of a sudden we start moving forward and I’ve never been in a race this big and not understanding how the waves work I’m thinking we’re starting.
“Zoë!” I scream and hold up all my accessories. “I’m not ready!” We move forward with the crowd and I’m panicking, trying to cram my phone into my belt, but then…then, we stop. Oh, this is how it works.
So we do this for each wave and I, little by little, am able to get all my gear in order and eat my fruit. There is a man in front of us with long, soft-looking curly hair that swept into a loose ponytail. He is doing some weird wiggly hip stretches. The man next to me inquires about our marathon status (Are you a couple of noobs?). He’s a Maniac and his advice: Don’t go out to fast. I relay this to my running buddy.
Curly-Hair turns and confesses to the man that this’ll be his first full and he just started running in September. I swear I hear him say something about how he just followed his 5K plan to train for the marathon. Um…what?
|Almost our turn to go!|
Finally, we are at the front. I hug Zoë. Now, I’m excited. Jumping out of my skin excited. Not nervous, just really, really excited. And I’m talking, talking, talking about…nothing. Random things. Is Jason from The Bachelor here? I wonder if he’s running. I’m a ball of freakin’ energy. Let’s get this thing started!
My starting line pictures look like finish line pictures. I guess, in a way, they are.
There’s a countdown and…we’re off! I am grinning huge. “I’m really doin’ it!” I think or (probably) say and laugh. (Watch the Marathon Thoughts video HERE.) Just before we started, Zoë and I agreed to run five minutes and walk 30 seconds, instead of a minute. I feel fine with that. “If it gets too hard, we’ll switch to a minute walk,” I said.
Zoë and I are hootin’ and hollerin’ as we get running. I think, “We are going to wear ourselves out,” followed by, “Who cares!”
The first walk, of course, comes at the first “exciting” thing on the course: a bunch of spectators, a photographer and a band. “Let’s walk on the next one,” I suggest. We “woohoo” the band. And we see Jessica, Amanda’s friend, and we “woohoo” at her! We’re like a couple of hopped up lunatics, “woohooing” at everything. We “Woohoo” at Mile 1. “Are we going to ‘woohoo’ at every mile?” I ask and Zoë just laughs.
Miles 1-5ish are mostly through an industrial landscape, but there are plenty of spectators and people-watching. We run past a line-up of Nekkid Semis and I joke about them with Zoë. We run by the spot where I spectated last year.
I am just cruising. I’m feeling great. Hills? What hills? (Seriously, were there hills here?)
We are having one little issue: I can’t remember when our walk breaks are. Zoë is having to do all the math, and I’m even repeating the time after her and still, I cannot remember. I’m so deliriously happy, that my brain is not functioning well. It’s wandering. I apologize over and over. Also, our watches are not synchronized – we did not start them at the same time and there is about a 5-10 second difference, which makes switching watch duties difficult.
I like having to keep track of the walk breaks in my head rather than putting it on my watch because it keeps my mind off the miles ahead. And I had no problem remembering on my solo 20-miler. I think this is because I had nobody else to rely on. Now, Zoë’s here.
The run 5/walk 30 seconds is working out well. I feel amazing. Full of energy. Like I am floating. Zoë and I are careful to move off to the side when it is time to walk. We discover there are other run/walkers around us on similar schedules, too, which is comforting.
Soon, we are at the part of the race I was most looking forward to: Lake Washington Boulevard. The view of the calm lake are beautiful and I know Chelsea will be at Mile 7 where we will exchange water pods. My belt pods both have Nuun in them.
It’s what I use on all my long runs. I did not test out Cytomax, which is what the race was providing, and just water is not enough for me on long runs (I’ve learned). I need the salt and electrolytes.
Along the lake, there are many spectators and cheer groups, and Zoë and I are high-fiving as many people as we can. We are having fun! We are still grinning! We are posing for photographers. Zoë sees Amy and we “woohoo” at her. We also see some people spectating from a speed boat in the lake. Awesome! We “woohoo” at them. Somewhere, I point out a water-skier and we talk about the sport for a bit.
Then we see Amy! Woohoo!
Next is the part of the course where Wear Blue Run to Remember has set up a tribute to fallen soldiers – a long line of people are standing and holding flags. Zoë and I run and applaud through here. I cry a little. My chest feels like it will burst I am so thankful for brave people like these soldiers and their families. I feel proud of my country and lucky to be out running a race on a Saturday morning. It is a beautiful tribute.
We start to round curves and I do what Chelsea did the day we drove the course: “I think she’s right around here.” No. “Okay, she’s up here.” Nope. “Around this curve.” Um, nope. All those curves look the same! Around 6.5 miles in, Zoë and I cross to the left side of the street. Then we see her. We holler like lunatics. Chelsea (Will Run for Food) and her friends have quite the set-up and I sort of want to join them. I see Chelsea grab her camera.
As we approach, I’m a little sad inside that this little event is about to be over, and then me and Chelsea do the most awesome Nuun-hand-off in the history of Nuun-hand-offs. And, OMG, the new pod of Nuun is COLD and it tastes awesome. And I am thanking Chelsea over and over in my head, but know now that we might not see anyone we know till the end of the race.
The weather: it isn’t hot. It is perfect and I keep reminding us how perfect it is: overcast, maybe upper 50’s (low 60’s by the end). Sunbreaks.
Not long after our Chelsea-sighting, we pass through a water stop and someone hands me a little package of gummy bears. “Thank you!” We are about to head up the steep access lane to the I-90 express lanes. I remember out loud this part of my first half marathon in 2009, except on that course, you go down it. And I remember being mad because people were walking down it. Yeah, I got some blisters going down that thing too fast in that race. Dummy.
Running up doesn’t feel too hard and at the top, big signs and volunteers are telling the full marathoners to stay to the right. I am excited. I’m a full marathoner! And then we are splitting off from the Half runners. Zoë and I “woohoo.” And down we run onto the floating I-90 bridge.
I’d heard from someone that this part of the race sucked: windy and lonely. But I love it. It is sort of quiet, except for cars racing by on the other two bridges on either side of us. I eat my gummy bears. There is a slight breeze that is refreshing and the view of the water is gorgeous. I can see the turn-around and Zoë and I cheer for friends coming back the other way, like Jesse (Track Coach) and Cynthia (Run, Dream and Laugh). Soon enough, we are the ones heading back.
I see the 4:15 pacer coming toward us still on the “out” portion of the bridge. “Wow,” I think, then look, wide-eyed, at Zoë, who is looking at me with wide eyes. “Wow,” we say. I laugh. “I love how you know exactly what I’m thinking and I don’t even need to say anything!”
Now we are heading up the end of the bridge and entering the tunnel. “We are done with the bridge!” I shout. It doesn’t seem real. I’ve been thinking about that part of the race for so long. Now, it’s over.
As we enter the tunnel, I feel dizzy. Me and Zoë are quiet and I’m telling myself the dizziness is from the placement of the overhead lights and I wonder if maybe the ground is moving a little from the cars on either side of us. But, then, I find out it’s not just me! Zoë feels like she is going to pass out, so we walk for a minute. My Garmin gets confused in here, too.
Once we start running again, I speed up. “Let’s just get out of here!” I yell over the poorly placed band inside.
It feels awesome to get out of there and now we are up high – above Seattle – and sort of running with the Half runners. I still feel awesome. Floating. I am passing people up a hill when Zoë has to reel me in: “We’re at an 8:40 pace!”
Oops! “Sorry! I didn’t mean to do that,” I say. “Definitely don’t want to do that.” (I was just feeling so great for some reason. I also wasn’t watching my speed at all. I was just running, which I didn’t think I’d want to do, but it worked out, I guess.) We see two people with animal heads on: a horse and a chicken. Both Zoë and I “woohoo” half-heartedly at them. “That actually kind of creeped me out,” I confess as we pass them, and Zoë agrees.
As we approach Mile 13, I say, “I think we are going to beat my half marathon PR!” This makes me even more excited since I don’t feel like we are running that hard. (Beat my Half PR by about one minute officially with 2:12:59!) But, as we run down toward the city streets, Zoë tells me her legs are chafing bad and says she needs to find a medical tent. “Okay,” I say, and decide I’ll make a pit stop while she does that. Luckily, we see one between Miles 13 and 14 – right around the Half Marathon Finish.
We are fast with our stop and are quickly on our way again. I still feel great. In fact, since I got to pee, I feel fantastic. (All they had at the medical tent for Zoë, unfortunately, was petroleum jelly and I think you all know that that doesn’t cut it.)
But Zoë’s a trooper and we are heading up to the double-decker elevated highway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct. We turn north on the lower deck and Zoë suggests we switch to minute walks. I check in with myself and don’t feel like I need them, but in the end decide it
’s a good idea. My original plan was to do that the entire time and I don’t want to die at the end.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct surface is not asphalt. It’s concrete with larger smooth rocks mixed into it – almost a cobblestone-type roadway. Ouch.
At Mile 15.6, we head into the Battery Street Tunnel. It is banked, dark and creepy. The steep slope is killing my downhill shin – my left one. “I gotta get out of here,” I say, then notice at the top there is a thin flat place to run so I go up there and Zoë follows. We get out of there about a half-mile later and are now on Aurora.
|Pretty sure I’m going to order this one.|
We’ve been warned up and down about Aurora and it’s steady almost 2-mile incline onto the Aurora Bridge, so we aren’t too excited about this part, but I still feel good and so I’m grinning like an idiot, being goofy and just trying to keep things light. We can see people coming back the other direction and we watch for Alma (not knowing what happened to her on the first half of the course). “We probably missed her,” I say. But we do see Jesse again along this portion and Cynthia, too.
We also see Skivvies Dude again (a guy running in his skimpy underwear) and Dickies-Man (an older, beer-bellied man running a marathon in carpenter-type overall pants). Dickies-Man sees Skivvies Dude and says to us, “I don’t know what’s worse: too much clothing or not enough.” Zoë and I laugh and then go silent as we slow for a walk interval and then discuss the strangeness of Dickies-Man’s outfit. Talk about chafing.
Speaking of: We’re on the hunt for another med tent as poor Zoë’s thighs are really red and painful. And we’re still going up, walking through most water stops. I started dumping water on my head around this time. I wasn’t too hot, but I wanted to keep myself comfortable and the splash of water felt good. I still had one complete pod of Nuun.
I wish we had known/remembered that Chelsea made us some amazing signs for this part of the course because that really would’ve been fun to look for.
|I can’t believe I missed it. 🙁|
During a walk interval, Zoë tells me she’s hungry, I offer her a gel, but her tummy doesn’t do gels. She digs into her rock-hard Clif Bar.
The actual bridge is lonely. A lot of the spectators are before the bridge, so this portion is a little dull even though the view is pretty.
But we are now approaching the turn-around at 18.5 miles. My legs are a little sore, my arches are a little sore, but overall I feel great, especially now that we are heading downhill. Around Mile 19, a woman comes up from behind us and introduces herself – it’s Ashley (Redonkulous Runner). What a welcome distraction!
We chat with Ashley and I tell her we are doing walk breaks. She doesn’t mind and stays with us for a while, which is nice. I then confess that walking hurts my legs more than running.
Energy-wise I am still feeling great, but walking is tough, I almost wish I could slow-jog instead, but I want to stay with my friends.
I had, sometime before the race or during the first half, suggested we run straight through (no walk breaks) the last six miles…if we felt up to it. Obviously, we didn’t. I suggest running through the last three instead. I also am a little worried about my friend and, I think, it was around this time that I told her to stop thinking about the run/walks and I would be responsible for them. This is when I became responsible for the times and started remembering them. Poor Zoë was probably very relieved that I wasn’t asking her every two minutes, “When do we walk again?”
Then, my phone rings. I struggle to get it out of the fuel belt and miss it. I see it’s Mr. T, so I call him back. “We’re here,” he says. “Just trying to find a place to park. Where are you at?” I’m excited, “Okay! We’re just passing Mile 19.”
Then I hear a little munchkin voice, “Hi Mommy! Are you running the race?” And I tear up. (I’m tearing up now as I write it.)
“I am!” I say. T Junior tells me a few other things, but I can’t really understand him on the cell that well, then Mr. T says he’ll let me know where they will be.
And, it feels like, just after I get my phone back in my belt, it rings again. “Sonuva!” Mr. T tells me they will be at the Mile 26 marker, I tell him we’re at Mile 20, and we hang up. But this little exchange has given me even more energy. Yeah, didn’t really need it. Now, I’m borderline annoying. “Only a 10K to go!”
Ashley tells us to go on ahead and so we do, and I’m a little sad to leave her. I hope she’s okay. “She seemed like her spirits were pretty high,” I think. Zoë and I re-enter the Battery Street Tunnel. This side is banked, too, and I just want out. But I also discover there’s a wonderful echo in there. Imagine signing in the shower, but multiply it by 100. Beyonce comes on my playlist and all of a sudden, I’m busting out Single Ladies. I wouldn’t have blamed Zoë if she punched me in my face.
Back onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct, this time on the top level with beautiful views and a slight breeze, but also with the cobblestone-type surface. Zoë has neuromas in her feet and is cringing. It’s making my ankles hurt. But we are still “woohooing” at bands and spectators.
|I like this one, too!|
I spot a couple of bike medics alongside the road and ask if they have petroleum jelly or something for chafing Zoë. They do, and as it turns out, it’s something (I’m not sure what it was) that actually helps her get some relief.
“We are almost there,” I keep saying, knowing as soon as I say it, it’s the wrong thing to say. I hate it when people say that, but I couldn’t help myself. I suggest we run through the final two miles.
At Mile 23.5 Alaskan Way Viaduct descends onto flat ground as it passes the off-ramp where people turn toward the finish (at about Mile 25.5). The people at 23.5 have a long out-and-back to get to the 25.5-mile. It’s a little brutal. We were warned about it, but you can see the U-turn waaay in front of you, and you think, “Really?”
At Mile 24, I’m hungry. My fueling plan, though, had worked like a charm. I’d taken gels at Hour 1 and 2, and then took one at Hour 3 and 4. Now,
I took my emergency gel – my last one!
The closer we got, the more excited I got, but my buddy was struggling a bit. The uneven surface was really getting to her, I think. I tried to mentally pull her, tried to keep things light.
Then the 4:30 pacer passes us around Mile 24.5. I watch as the laminated sign on a stick bounces into the distance, the sun glinting off of it.
This was my secret goal: 4:30. I thought it was an ambitiously realistic goal. I think I told Zoë and Mel about it, and that’s it. We hit Mile 24 at about 4:14.
Zoë knows what I’m thinking, of course, as the pacer passes. “You can chase it. It’s okay, run him down.”
I look at the sign, I look at Zoë. “That’s okay,” I say and walk next to my friend, who stops to stretch. She bends over to touch her toes and a medic rides up on his bike. “She’s okay,” I say. “You’re okay, right?” I ask her and hear her say, “Yes.” I tell the medic she’s just stretching, but I know they have to err on the side of caution, so he stops to check on her, but she finishes stretching and we get going again.
Zoë and I had a little moment right after this. I’ll let her talk about it in her report if she wants to.
Finally, we are turning around — heading in the direction of the finish!
At the bottom of Mile 25 (an on-ramp that is, thankfully, asphalt), I say, “How ‘bout we walk this hill?” and we do. It looks like freakin’ Everest. I still feel energetic, but my legs and feet hurt. I’m still smiling, but I can definitely feel the pain. That viaduct was brutal.
|The final downhill.|
As we crest the top, we decide to run it in – most of it is downhill anyway. All the way down, I’m thinking (probably saying), “Where is the 26-mile marker? Did I miss my family?” I’m panicking inside that I missed them somehow, until we turn the corner around the backside of Qwest Field.
My heart leaps. I see Mr. T’s crimson WSU hat and T Junior’s black shorts with the different colored guitars all over them that I’d specifically picked out for today. As we approach, I see Mr. T drop T Junior inside of the race course and I sprint over, hug him, kiss his head and rejoin Zoë. Then we spot her husband, too.
We round the final corner. We are on the final straightaway, my stomach has butterflies in it and I’m getting choked up. “Zoë,” I say, “Is that the finish?”
“Yes it is,” she says and then she spots a group of cheering maniacs. Our friends – Chelsea, Mel, Jill, Jess, Stacie I think – they are going nuts.
|Here I come! Can you see me?|
|My running buddy has a kick!|
Zoë and are I sprinting (well, it felt like a sprint) and I’m sort of crying.
Somewhere, maybe around Mile 24, we’d decided to hold hands as we cross the finish line and put up one finger to symbolize our first marathon.
Next thing I know, we grab each other’s hand tightly and thrust the other arm up in the air. The announcer on the loudspeaker says excitedly, “These ladies have been running together the whole way!” (Or something like that.)
Then, we cross over the mat, tears in our eyes. 4:42:51. I think I hugged my friend. I hope I did.
It was over. We did it. I did it. I got my marathon.
I am done.
Or is this just the beginning?
Next: Post-race recap!