Tuesday, October 19, 2010


This race report is going to be EPIC!  I've been a little reluctant to write it up simply because it feels like it's putting closure on something awesome that I don't want to be closed. Heh.  This post is gonna be picture-heavy, and really long, so sorry in advance...but I want to remember EVERYTHING.

Let me start off with a little "before" and "after":  
Here I am in Sam's car, getting ready to leave.  It's like 6am-ish and I'm pumped and ready to rock.  You can see my little inspirational things on my hand from you all.  On the inside of my arm, which you can't see, I have my planned mile splits.  I like this photo--I look tough and determined.

Now, here I am after the race:
Sam took this photo after I slumped onto a bench, clutching Gatorade and crying because my muscles were cramping so badly and I was feeling everything emotional about the race just crushing down on me.  This photo was never meant for public viewing--it's pretty much the most unflattering thing possible--but that face I am making, and the way I'm sitting, and everything about this photo just captures what I went through.  And because of that, and because it's a hilarious contrast with the "before" photo, I'm posting it here too.

Hopefully in day-to-day life I look more like the "before" than the "after."  And if you haven't done a full yet now you know what you'd be getting yourself into.... :P

So anyway... here we go:
Pre-Race:  Sam and I got there with just about the perfect amount of time to spare.  The Cbus Pacers group I run with had gotten the downtown YMCA to open up early for us, so I got to use a comfortable, clean restroom with a line of like 3 people instead of the usual pre-race port-a-potty fiasco.  Still more perfect, the Y was between where we parked and where the starting line was, so we just stopped in there on the way.  The weather was a little chilly at the start--mid 40s--but clear skies.  The starting area was chaos when we got there.  This is the first year that the Columbus Marathon has done a corral start--you had to submit a qualifying time to get into each corral and they put that number on your race bib.  I was in corral 3, but it was nearly impossible to get to it because there were also tons of spectators cramming up the sidewalk and people pushing and shoving, literally.  I will definitely say that I was glad enough not to be a faster runner because most of those I encountered who were trying to get to corral 1 were complete assholes.  Maybe it was just the few I ran into, but geez.  Way to represent corral 1 and all the fast runners, arrogant self-centered dudes...I understand it was stressful, but we were ALL stressed.  This might give some sense of the chaos, but I'm not sure where this photo was taken from (Sam's friend took it):
So I made my way into corral 3 with about 6 minutes to spare.  I have to say I felt nothing like I thought I would feel.  I was expecting nerves, upset stomach, the usual pre-race jitters...but somehow I was feeling completely detached and even a little zombie-like.  There was so much chaos around, and I was there by myself (Sam was in corral 2, and I didn't know where my other friends were).  I wanted to feel excited, to feed off of the energy, but at the same time I thought I should probably just keep on with the general feelings of apathy since it was keeping my stomach from feeling sick.  I really felt out of it and detached from the whole experience and the whole scene, kind of like I was going through the motions.  

The Early Miles.  When the gun went off they had fireworks off of the top of a building which was pretty neat.  It took about 6 minutes for me to cross the starting line.  Once I started moving I was feeling pretty good and I did have to resist going out too fast.  A couple of times I looked at my watch and I was doing a 10-minute mile which would've been fine later in the race but the plan was to hold back a lot for the first 6 miles.  The streets were wide at the start and thanks to the corrals the people around me were mostly my pace.  A really weird thing happened, though--about half a mile in, this guy ran up behind me and grabbed me around the waist and chest in a weird sort of groping bear-hug...then he pushed me aside and sprinted off around me.  I have no idea what that was about, if he thought I was someone else, or if he was going fast and just crashed into me, or if it was intentional, or what.  But it was very weird and threw me off a little, and it would've been nice if he hadn't pushed me.  I didn't exactly plan to get mauled by some random strange dude and pushed out of the way in the first mile.

Approaching mile 2, Lisa came up behind me!  Of all the thousands of people on the course--close to 15,000 to be exact--I never thought we'd run into each other.  After doing parts of my last few long runs with her, it was nice to see that familiar face early on.  She was doing the half, and after we chatted for maybe a minute, she sprinted off ahead.  At this point I was just focusing a lot on trying not to go too fast, and being hyper-aware of any tiny aches and pains (my right hip was tight a tiny bit and I was starting to worry..) 

The first stretch of the course that goes east felt kind of long because I was expecting to turn earlier--I think I didn't remember the course correctly.  The road was divided and the wheelchair racers were coming back the opposite way.  This meant I also saw D. come zooming past (he was a bike chaperone with the fastest wheelchair racers).  I tried to keep my mind on the race and not on getting my hopes up that he would still appear somewhere on the course to cheer for me because this race was so important to me (Incidentally, he didn't, but I entertained those hopes all the way through mile 14 or so with a heavy heart.  I ended up getting support from a lot of others along the way, for which I feel fortunate, so it's ok I guess--I'm considering myself lucky in spite of him).  At mile 3 we turned off into a residential area near Bexley and I saw Angela up ahead of me--she runs our Pacers Turtle Thursday runs.  I yelled at her and caught up with her for a minute, but the streets got really narrow there and I couldn't manage to hang with her in the crowds.  I realized around mile 5 that the slope of the streets was what was causing my hip and the ball of my foot to hurt more and more--I'm so glad I figured out that was the problem, because it saved me for later in the race.  I just moved to run in the middle instead of on the side and felt immediately better.  During this time I was also debating about ditching my pace strategy--I kept catching myself running faster than I was supposed to be running, and I was getting frustrated.

At just before mile 6, it was finally starting to get more sunny.  Michelle came up by me--another person from the Pacers who was doing the half.  She said she wanted to run with me the rest of the way, I told her I was going to be doing around an 11min mile, she agreed to it, and we kept on.  I think she was struggling a lot and also getting angry with me because I was having trouble holding back to the 11 min pace.  My original plan was to run miles 6-18 at a 10:45 pace, but I decided that having company for a few miles was worth more to me than running that extra 15 seconds faster, and that I had time in the bank already from rushing the first 6 miles too much.  But then I couldn't do it...I think we did a couple of miles at around 10:30 anyway by accident, which is why she was getting grumpy with me, I think.  I told her to just tell me if we needed to slow down because I was having trouble with pacing.  The mile 6 water stop was manned by the Pacers crew but I didn't see anyone I knew--everyone I knew was running.  I took a gel early at mile 6, trying a slightly new strategy with the fueling  (I know, nothing new on race day, but I learned on my last long run that I need to eat more and earlier).

As we made our way downtown the crowds started to get heavier.  I was starting to feel awesome.  Somewhere around mile 7 I started feeling like I could rule the world.  I stopped feeling like a detached zombie and started looking around me and appreciating the experience.  There were a lot of people out in German Village south of downtown, and this part of the run was really fun.  I had some fears about the stretch from miles 11-13 going north on High Street because last year that part of the half was extremely hard for me and it's a long steady uphill.  This year it didn't even phase me... I hardly noticed, except that it was raising my heartrate a little.  I was trying to keep my heart rate under 170 for as many miles as possible at the start, and when that started to get hard, I was trying to keep it under 177.  I read before the race about how a well-paced race doesn't have you reaching anywhere near your max until late in the race, because your heartrate will naturally climb with the amount of time you're running--so along with pacing I was watching the heart rate a little.  I took a second gel around mile 10--again, trying to frontload the nutrition.

At mile 13, the half marathon runners split off; I said a quick goodbye to Michelle (who ended up with a new PR by 8 minutes!)  From that point on it was a whole new race.  The course thinned by at least 75% and very suddenly I went from running in a pack to running basically alone.  There were a few runners maybe 50 yards ahead of me and one guy behind me.  The whole street was vacant, no spectators, nothing.  It stayed that way until about mile 18.  I actually really really enjoyed this time of the race--it was hands-down absolutely my favorite part of the whole journey.  Things had been really high-energy and chaotic with the half runners and as soon as I was alone, it was eye-opening.  When I passed that turnoff point, I remember thinking to myself, "Well, now it's about to get real...it's time for serious business."  Like, there's no turning back, last year I would've been done but now I'm doubling what I just ran, and I just committed by passing the half turnoff. 

Miles 14-18 were really desolate, then, even though it was right down Columbus's main street.  I used this time to let the "it's serious now" feeling sink in, and to look around me and think about how awesome it was to run down Columbus's main street while it was completely vacant.  They had a timing mat somewhere around mile 14 with a guy saying names as you passed over it and they didn't say my name, so I started getting worried that my chip wasn't working (gah.)  We went up through the Short North and into the Gateway area, around a little residential block, and then toward the main part of Ohio State's campus.  I ran into Jess at the mile 15.4 water stop--I was on a massive runners high at this point, it was ridiculous.  This race was going so well for me then, basically awesome since mile 7, and even more awesome after mile 13.  I was on pace, feeling good, nothing on me was hurting and I was reaching the point where, in training, sometimes things would start to hurt.  Seeing Jess then was just perfect because I knew it might be awhile before I saw another familiar face.  As I was passing mile 16 I took my third gel.  It was deserted all through OSU's campus as well...probably too early for students to be awake.  I must admit with humiliation and shame that at this part of the course I was listening to the new Nelly song "Just a Dream" on repeat because for some reason it was giving me superhuman amounts of energy.  How it even ended up on my ipod is beyond me--the rest of my ipod was full of obscure indie music for the most part--but I considered it a godsend since it was making me run awesome.  Whatever it takes, I guess.  (Ironically I once commented to D. when we were dating that Nelly was crappy and "no longer relevant"... and here I am running a marathon, finding Nelly the most relevant possible thing to listen to on repeat...in spite of my elitist anti-mainstream music tastes!)

Mile 18 was where things started to get tricky.  Mile 18.5 to be exact.  We had been running on a weird service road or something, with an uphill, and very suddenly I just started to get crazy muscle cramping and I took my "pause and stretch."  I had to fight muscle cramping, sometimes severe, for the rest of the race.  I guess this is probably a hydration issue, but I was taking water at most of the stops and I also took about 4 Hammer Endurolyte capsules (one before the race, 3 during).  I was not taking sports drink because I thought the endurolyte capsules would make up for it and i was afraid the gatorade would make me sick (I usually drink Nuun).  If I could figure out how to not have this cramping happen, which has happened, on every run over 15 miles that I've ever done, I might be able to become a much better runner.

Miles 18-20 were getting quite tough.  There was a guy near me who was also struggling and I thought about trying to get him to run with me to motivate each other, but this other guy came back to coach him so i was on my own again.  I was expecting Sam to meet me...somewhere, but I wasn't sure where.  The plan was that he was going to finish his half, and then get on his bike and bike to a few points on the course to see me.  At mile 20 they had another timing mat and this time read my name, which gave me a little boost (thank god, the chip was working!)  I was heading down  think I first saw him just after mile 20, when my legs were burning like fire and all i could think about was "Oh my god, there are 6 more miles of this!"  You can see how funny I'm running in this photo.
Miles 21-23 were a blur so some of these miles may not even be that accurate.  I literally hardly remember scenery, hardly remember anything.  We went through grandview--the above pic is me running down the main stretch in Grandview which would've been somewhere around mile 23 I think.  Sam was somewhere near mile 22 where I was literally thinking I wasn't going to make it-- I saw him and nearly had a meltdown.  He was being all encouraging, and nudging me to keep going, and then he said, "Here, Angela will bring you in, go with her" and I turn around and Angela was there!  She was supposed to be ages ahead of me, as she was aiming for a 4:15 finish--but she hurt herself around mile 17 and was walking the rest of the way (they told her at the aid station she could either walk the rest or wait for the sag wagon, which would've been like 3 more hours..wtf?)  She hugged me and we walked a little while she told me what had happened, and then I realized how much worse it was hurting to walk--every step was killing both of my hips and my lower back--so I decided to try to keep on moving and I left her.  At this point my pace was obscenely bad... I was doing like 12:30 some of the time, but I would get these little second winds where I'd run at an 11 pace for a bit again.  It was really up and down.  I saw Sam again near mile 23, and then I was coming up on 5th avenue and my friend John (in the above pic) was there (Unexpectedly!! He was signed up for the full marathon, but backed off to run the half...but his bib was a marathon bib so he could be on the course.)  When I ran into John I literally crouched down on the road and was whimpering like a freaking baby (it was really humiliating, but everything hurt so much!)  We walked a bit (maybe like 2 minutes) and then started running, and we ran the whole rest of the way from mile 24 to the end without stopping.  

Miles 24-26. John was saying some great stuff to minimize the amount of running left... one of the best was "Two miles?  TWO MILES?!  My grandpa could run that and he uses a friggin' walker!"  and other things about how it was just a mile, I always run a mile, etc etc.  The constant stream of optimism he was spewing during these last 2 miles was fricking priceless and really got me through.  My legs were in immense pain at this point--mostly my hips, also a little pain on my left knee...but weirdly it was getting easier to ignore.  The crowd support started to get awesome--these people really realized how hard it is to do a marathon, I guess. The crowd support was great before John came along too, the whole last 6 miles of the race had great spectators--not huge amounts of them, but the ones that were out there were REALLY saying supportive things.  It made a huge difference.  The run down Neil Ave, mile 24-26 I think, was nice and tree-covered, a nice wide street, lots of people saying lots of things about how close were were to the end.  Just after the half-mile to go banner, John split off (he didn't want to cross the finish line again since he hadn't really run this race).  

Here I am coming up the final 0.2--yes it was UPHILL up a bridge before making a right turn into the finishing chute.  At this point I'm both grimacing because the pain was so bad and I was refusing to walk, and also fighting back tears a little because it was starting to sink in... All of the spectators along the last 0.2 were yelling ENJOY IT!!  ENJOY IT!! at me, so I must've looked like complete hell, what with gritting my teeth and fighting through the pain.  This one guy in particular screamed out, "SMILE!  You just ran 26 freaking miles, TAKE IT IN!!"  I'm glad he was there because I needed to unfocus and refocus on everything happening around me and I was able to actually appreciate the rest once he woke me up a bit.  Coming into the finishing line the spectators were like 10 people deep and it was really awesome.  Just as I'm coming down the finishing chute, though, I felt this one blister on my right foot completely split open.  I was literally probably 20 steps from the finish and it exploded.  I've never had that happen before.  Yikes.  So close!

The big moment of finish line joy!

So I finished in 5:09-- my garmin inexplicably says 5:03.  In any case i was aiming for 4:45ish so I did much worse...but I'm so proud that I ran the first almost-19 miles so so well.  I felt so amazing for the majority of the race... it was just those last 6ish miles that kicked my butt.    

Incidentally I officially hate both those shorts and my Ifitness belt that I got... possibly the most unflattering combination ever.

Now for a few more photos:

My favorite one from the race, taken I think around mile 24... don't I look like a badass legit runner in this photo??

finish line with my medal :o)  That finishing moment was seriously intense...but I don't think the fact that I finished a MARATHON even set in until like...yesterday.

Me with Sam after the race--

My first ever ice bath... yes, I am wearing a sweatshirt in a bathtub... yes, I have swimsuit bottoms on.  I'm on the phone telling my parents about the race :D  The ice bath, while absolutely horrible, really helped a lot... I felt better almost instantly after getting out of the tub.

So how have I felt since the race??  Actually, really good!  The rest of race day I was in pain--I got home, had the ice bath, had some food, and fell asleep on the couch (without a proper shower until like 430, bleh).  Monday I was walking around rather stiffly, limping a bit.  But today I went for a light swim in the morning, and while I'm still a little sore, it's nothing out of the ordinary compared to a regular long run.  I'm descending stairs normally without pain.  I went down 4 flights today and at the bottom was like "Hey wait a minute--that was supposed to hurt still!!"  

And I can't wait to get out there and run again!!  I was even saying at the finish line that I'd DEFINITELY do this again--in spite of the pain, in spite of it all.  I did something I thought I would never be able to do in my wildest dreams... and even when I wanted to give up, I toughed it out and somehow moved through those last miles.  All I can say is what a journey... mentally, emotionally, physically.  It was difficult in nearly every possible way it could have been difficult.  And i still ran strong for almost 19 miles, and I ran the last 2 miles without a break.  And my longest walking break was only maybe 2 minutes, tops.  Any other breaks I took were just to stretch.

So I have garmin data to analyze and ideas about what to do for next time but I'm not gonna go there in this already ridiculously long report :D  So, more on that later.  

Definitely one of the most special and most important moments of my life so far.  I can't thank everyone enough for supporting me through training and giving advice and everything.... and I can't say how unspeakably happy I am that on race day some people were there to share it all with me, too.  I feel like everything is different now... I achieved the unachievable, and I have something that's mine that I really can be proud of.  I did this because I *wanted* to do it, not because I had to or someone made me.  It's mine, and I did it.

ALSO:  as hard as this race was, the pain didn't even COMPARE to what I endured on that 21 mile training run.  Go figure, eh?  I kept reminding myself of that as I went along.  


  1. Ahh, I love reading race recaps! I love how epically long this one was. :) I'm so glad that you're feeling good post-marathon and that you want to do another one! It was great seeing you on Sunday, and I was so relieved that I was able to catch you; I was paranoid that you'd be in the middle of some huge pack and I'd miss you!

    Let me know when you're back out on the trail (or at Cornerstone!), and we'll have to meet up!

  2. "I did this because I *wanted* to do it, not because I had to or someone made me. It's mine, and I did it."

    What an amazing thing to be able to say! I am so excited for you, and I can't wait to read your triathlon report in a few years :)

  3. How dare you say you "did much worse" simple because you tacked on a few minutes from a goal time -- you ran your friggin' first marathon and you did it strongly!! You look amazing and you should be so, so proud. No one cares about time (especially for a distance you've never done before) anyway; just absorb & feel accomplished :) So few people actually do this...

    GREAT JOB! Great report.


  4. This was such an amazing report to read. I almost wanted to cry! You are so proud of yourself, and happy, and relieved -- it's so great to read :-) I can relate to so much of what you say, and I don't want to be one of those 26.2 elitist assholes, but I think until you've run a full, you have no idea what a mental (and physical) battle it is. It's so much more than two halves! Just getting to the end feels freakin awesome, right!

    I *love* the photos too. I love how excited you were in the first one, and how absolutely spent you look when you'd finished. And great to see you out on the course too.

    Rest and recover well, and I look forward to hearing what you sign up to next.. :D

  5. Okay, I'm all weepy. You're amazing! I'm going to be remembering your race report at my marathon (IN THREE DAYS, I could vomit from nerves just thinking about it!) and I'm going to use what you've written to help me.

    First thing, I'm staying with my 5 hour pace group! No going faster until mile 23, minimum, and only if I feel good. I'm really worried my old bursitis hip will act up or my new shin issue will defeat the compression socks I got to wear to help... but I'm going to finish if I have to crawl. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

    You're AMAZING! I'm so proud of you. *hugs*

  6. Totally amazing awesome job!! <>

    It's an incredible feeling, isn't it?

    My aim for next year is to come in under 6 hours, and hopefully run most if not all of it.
    Pretty sure I'll do Portland again.