Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Simply Unbelievable- My incredible adventure.

Two weeks ago I posted a blog talking about my marathon preparation and even found out how tea benefits athletes. Today I am going follow up with that post and write about my marathon which I finally ran and successfully finished this past Sunday.

The race took place in gorgeous Burlington, Vermont. Going into the marathon I had three goals just like Lance Armstrong says to do: 1)To finish the race 2) To beat my previous time of 4:19:11 3) To get anywhere around 4:00:00. Not knowing what laid ahead of me, I would be happy with completing any of them.

Although the day was expected to be sunny and 70, the morning actually turned out to be around 55 cloudy and rainy which was preferable because then the runners wouldn't overheat as quickly. My boyfriend and I started the race together and unexpectedly ran the first 4 miles through the center of Burlington. I saw my parents not long after we crossed the start line and a little further down I saw my brothers and their friends. The race was packed! It looked like just a swarm of people, hundreds and hundreds of people. We found out that there were about 3000 marathoners and 5000 more people who made up a 2 person and 5 person relay. Typically in marathons the further you get out in mileage the more sparse other runners become. This never happened on this course...there were always tons of people around, but thankfully, for the most part, other people weren't in my way.

So we started off and the first three miles were nice and easy, saw my family again (Mom somehow made it in front of the barricade to cheer for me...don't ask how, she's Italian and she gets her way). After mile 4, my boyfriend took off and the rain really started to come down and sans visor or hat, I was soaked. I didn't notice the rain too much and I did feel like it kept me cooler and more hydrated, but around mile 7 I notice the water dripping off of my hands never went away. Mile 9 we passed back through the town, saw family again, and headed out south of the city. This was a long and somewhat difficult part mentally because you just kept going further and further south and yet, because it was an out and back, knew that you would have to do it all on the way back. I don't wear a watch when I run, I probably should, but when mile 13.1 finally came around I saw that I was just ahead of the 2 hour mark which meant I was keeping a pretty good pace (typically my half marathon races are right around 1:55:00 so I was feeling good about my time).

I was cruising along and all of a sudden during mile 14 WHAM I got a horrible side cramp. I couldn't believe this was happening, I never get side cramps and they are practically impossible to stretch out like other muscle cramps you get. My body immediately slowed down and my mind was racing as to how to take care of it. I knew from back in chemistry class that these cramps occurred due to a lack of oxygen and a resulting build up of acid. I also knew that my family would be standing at mile 15 and I didn't want to be hobbling along just because of a stupid side cramp. I started breathing really deeply and after about 10 minutes the cramp actually went away!

Half of mile 15 was one long continuous hill which probably upset a lot of people but training in Colorado for both the altitude and the hills made this obstacle very doable. My family was standing at the top of the hill and this would be the last time I saw them before the finish line.

The next few miles I started to get very annoyed with this running thing. I believe my body was saying "ok you can stop anytime now" because I started to get a horrible headache, my left hamstring started to tighten up, and the tendon above my right ankle was pinching with every step. The course took us through a few neighborhoods where little kids were handing out oranges, apples and water and I was taking most anything I could get. I believe miles 17-22 were, just like my last marathon, the worst miles ever. I was tired, in pain and mentally done with the race. But I kept going. I had an ongoing internal battle with myself at each water stop...the debate being to take time and stop and stretch to see if it helped my hamstring or to just drink my water and keep going, in the end I did a bit of both. At this point I pretty much hated marathons and wasn't sure I would be able to finish.

Around mile 20 the sun came out and it came out so brightly as if it never had rained that morning. Thankfully at the same time I headed into the bike path which was covered by trees and would keep me shaded from the direct sunlight, but boy was it gorgeous.

As I approached mile 22, they had another clock up and the gun time read 3:30:00 (the gun time is when the gun when off but I didn't pass the start line till 2 minutes after that). Basically I did some quick math and figured out that I had 4 miles left and even though I wouldn't make 4:00:00, I would come in around 4:10:00 if I kept up 10 minute miles. From that point on it was sheer will power that kept me going. Still in pain I just kept moving, kept saying, "just 4 miles left", "just 3 miles left", "you can do it", "keep on keeping on", "you are an athlete", whatever popped into my head that would help me ignore the pain and keep moving. At mile 24 I started picking up the pace. At mile 25 all I kept saying in a singsong voice was "1 mile left, 1 mile left, 1 mile left". It is during these last miles when you realize what you're doing and what you're about to complete. It is surreal. Knowing you've just put your body through and beyond its physical limits. That you've felt pain and pushed through. That you've done and overcome something that most people will not do in their lifetimes, that is what goes through your head.

At the end of mile 25 you come out from the bike path and head into the park where thousands of people are cheering you on. At this point you feel invincible, or at least I did. I passed my family and was grinning from ear to ear...I passed mile 26 and thought...I'm almost done...and around every turn the finish never came! I swear the last .2 miles took forever to end! Finally I did see the finish line and came sprinting through the end where my boyfriend was waiting for me after his finish 14 minutes before!

My final time was 4:10:07, 9 minutes better than my first marathon time. I was exhausted and sore, but the experience was amazing. Having my family there, doing what I set out to do, and completing my goals, truly awesome.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats! A great time. I just completed my first HALF and it felt great. Like many, I cannot fathom doing a full...but you never know.