Well it has been since November since I have written a blog entry. I have had a lot happen since then racing wise, life has just taken precedence over sitting and writing. But, I promised myself that I would keep this blog going in hopes to inspire others with RA and autoimmune diseases to never give up hope so here we go!
Back in November I ran this race called the Anthem Richmond marathon and it was pretty dang amazing. I traveled up to Virginia with an awesome posse of people. My racing crew if you will. Andrew and I had been training “together” (not really actually together but calling each other weekly) in hopes of getting him across the line in 3:10 for a BQ. I had some serious doubts if this was even possible for myself. Yes, I had been running the 3:10 training plan, but I had some epic fails along the way. I had ran Emerald Isle back in March and was on pace through mile 16 for a 3:07, but because they were not equipped to put on a marathon properly (there wasn’t water on the course from miles 10-21) I ended up doing a death march and I pulled out a 3:23. Then 4 weeks later I ran Boston in the pouring cold rain in 3:19. So, I wasn’t exactly sure I was even capable of a 3:10. I thought I would have a better chance of finding a talking unicorn (btw I heard Mark Zuckerberg is giving one of those away if you share this blog). The crew was Andrew, Danny, Steve, James (my hubby, not running) and my daughter (aka best cheerleader ever).
We all went to the expo to grab our stuff and the nerves really set in. My daughter thought the expo was the coolest thing ever because she got a blue cow bell and lots of free junk she totally NEEDED. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed that cow bell for the rest of the evening (earplugs has been put on my #1 spot for packing essentials). We were in and out at the expo and headed over to Chipotle to get our bellies full. I was trying to be all cool and play off that I was secretly dying inside from the nerves. How the heck am I supposed to run a 3:10 marathon? What if I let Andrew down? What if my training runs have been a total fluke?
Race Day was here and there was no turning back now. Funny how just four months ago it had seemed like it would never get here and then BAM it was already time to race. I had the most awesome sock monkey throw away pajamas. **Seriously people if you are not going to the Goodwill and getting your winter throw away clothes then something is wrong! It is awesome. You spend a few bucks to stay warm and then someone else can either pick up the clothes or most races donate them to the shelters or back to Goodwill. So it is really a win-win. I think they were an extra large (can’t be picky when you spend $2 on pants) so keeping them up was a challenge. But, it all worked out since they slid right over my shoes. I saw a few friends before Andrew and I lined up. We had to climb over the gate and I saw my future flash before my eyes as I envisioned having to tell the ER Dr. just exactly how I ended up with a broken arm and nose. It didn’t phase Andrew since he is 6’3, but when you are 5’1 it’s a little more of a challenge. We ended up both making it over the gate without breaking anything and it was game on! It had finally come down to the moment that I had spent the last four months of my life dedicated to. This was it…the one day…the one shot I had to make this work…to put together a solid marathon for 2015, something that had eluded me all year long.
The weather was PERFECT. When Richmond puts on a marathon they really do it right. I mean they brought in dry skies, sunshine and a perfect 40* starting temps. Andrew and I started out a good pace, he tried to speed it up a little too much when he saw some girl in cute Lululemon running tights, but I had to rein him back in. We were cruising and feeling pretty good. I saw a girl running slightly ahead of us with a shirt on that said, “It’s a marathon it’s supposed to hurt. If you don’t want to hurt go fly a kite, you pansy.” And that pretty much set the tone for the day. I wasn’t going to be a pansy and I was going to embrace the suck whenever it decided to show up. About mile 7 I had to pee so I ran ahead of Andrew so I could hit the port-o-john. I dipped into 6:40 pace for that mile, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold it for another 19 miles. Right around mile 10 I was feeling good and Andrew was just a few steps behind me. I was hoping that I would continue to feel that great for the rest of the run. It seemed almost too easy at that point. I crossed the half-marathon checkpoint at 1:34 and knew that I was just ahead of pace. Andrew was still behind me but I didn’t know where. I figured he would catch me by mile 20. MIle 16 is always a beast at Richmond. It is over a bridge, so you have concrete and strong winds to deal with. Right at a point where you are ready to be done and you know you have 10+ miles left. I had no one to tuck in behind, but saw a guy a few feet ahead with his coach and just tried to keep them in sight. It helped to have someone to chase. It pulled me along. I made it off of the bridge and I started to hurt. Mile 17 was my slowest up to that point at a 7:34 (and my 2nd slowest of the day) and where I started to feel like I wasn’t going to make 3:10. Mile 18 was slightly better at 7:30 and I finally dialed it back down for mile 19 with a 7:18. That gave me the confidence I needed to keep pushing. Mile 21 was brutal and acorns started to fall off of the trees and hit us as we ran. The guy behind me shouted, “these acorns were not a part of the waiver I signed and I want my money back.” If you are that guy and you happen to read this then thank you because I laughed heartily at that. Maybe in my marathon delirium it was funnier then, but it really helped get my mind out of the hitting-the-wall suck fest I was in. Miles 22-25 were pretty uneventful and I was averaging around a 7:32 pace and just kept reminding myself to “embrace the suck” because at that point I felt some suck. Mile 26 was AWESOME because I knew I was almost done and I pulled that one off in 7:06! The very last part of Richmond is my favorite for sooooooooooo many reasons: 1) the spectators are literally lined up 5 deep along the last .2 and they are cheering like you are an Olympian 2) you are almost done 3) the downhill finish is epic and I can downhill like it is my job. I finished that last .2 (really .38) at a 5:50 pace! Yep! You read that right at the END of a MARATHON I ran a 5:50 pace for over a quarter of a mile. Thank you downhills! Woohoo!!!! I stopped my watch and was beyond happy! 3:10:50! Official time and Garmin time! I literally had tears of joy as I walked through the finish chute. I did it. I walked through the finisher chute and grabbed my medal and my fuzzy finisher blanket smiling like a Chesire cat the entire way. I saw the girl with the “go fly a kite” shirt and I stopped to speak to her. She was a super speedy and a really sweet runner chick. She ended up running a crazy fast 3:05 or something. So she definitely was not a pansy and won’t be flying a kite any time soon.
Steve quickly found me at the finish line (but for real Steve how did you find me so quickly? Is that like part of your job training or something? I am betting you are a rockstar at Where’s Waldo) which I was really grateful for because I had NO clue where my hotel was and my asthma flared up in the worst way. I really didn’t want to die before I got to eat my celebratory Mellow Mushroom pizza (after that is game on, but I hadn’t had pizza in forever and was overdue). So Steve walked me back the half mile (which ended up being like a 1.5 miles since we got a little lost) with me wheezing and stopping to breathe. I think he was waiting for me to keel over so he could get my fuzzy and warm finisher blanket, but I wasn’t giving it up or missing out on pizza. Once we finally made it back to the hotel I got my inhaler, put on my compression socks and changed into warm and dry clothes. I didn’t think the walk back would be tougher than the marathon!
Lunch at Mellow Mushroom was incredible. I don’t think wine or pizza has ever tasted better. (Side-note: I drink like 2 times per year so I was pretty tipsy after one glass and apparently I am a lot funnier/nicer/happier/awesome-er when I drink). We had a blast and swapped some race stories. Steve ran the half for fun on a whim and enjoyed it even though they made him start in the very last corral, Danny had a HUGE PR in the 8K (over 5 minutes! Go Danny!) and Andrew bailed at 16 to save his legs for the rest of the racing season. The friendships you build along the way and over the miles is what makes racing so much fun. The PR’s and awards are always nice, but nothing ever replaces the friendships and bonds you get racing together. These are some of the best times of my life and nothing is better than being around the family that you choose. My running family is a huge part of my life and always will be.
Later that evening we met up with more people that ran Peyton (seriously awesomely fast runner dude) who ran a 24:56 for the 8k. And his friend, Taylor, who ran a 1:25 half! Blazing fast! We had fun, food and I may have had some more wine. Which I highly recommend after a marathon because I was up dancing and couldn’t feel my throbbing legs. I am sure my after marathon dance moves were worthy of a “So you think you can dance episode”….I am just praying no one has video of that…dang smartphones. And a shout out to my husband for watching our mini me so I could enjoy my PR victory celebration.
That pretty much wraps up my super awesome and amazing marathon weekend. That is why I love the marathon distance, there is a lot that can go wrong but when it all goes right it makes you happy to your core because you know what you had to do and to sacrifice to get there. 26.2 miles is a long way. It is a distance that tests your mental fortitude and pushes your body beyond what you think it is capable of. It is a distance that requires you to respect it, to put in the months of work needed to accomplish your goals and even then a small part is left to chance. The marathon will humble you, it will change you, it will test everything you know about yourself. It can chew you up and spit you out or it can make you feel invincible. Marathons are magical. Happy training my friends!