I have so much I want to say in this post and I have many, many pictures, so grab some ice cream, a Diet Coke, or whatever relaxes you, and settle in; this could take a while.
If you've followed my blog for this whole journey, or you know me in person, you know the amount of anxiety this marathon has caused me has been nothing short of ridiculous. I'm a worrier by nature so I was kind of doomed from the get go, but I really tried to not think negatively and pump myself up to accomplish something I never (in a million years) thought I would do.
That anxiety level was pushed pretty high during the last 5 weeks or so. 6 weeks ago, I came down with a terrible UTI that I'm positive spread to my kidneys and I was down for the count for a good week. That was the second worst time I've ever been sick. I completed my 20 mile run right after that, but just barely. Also, due to scheduling conflicts, I had to do the 20 mile run 5 weeks before race day, instead of 3 like most training plans require. The following weeks were met with all kinds of obstacles that stole my running time: moving, plantar fasciitus, family trips, etc. I was supposed to be tapering, but I almost ceased running altogether; except for the 13 mile Big Cottonwood training run and the actual half marathon. All that time off made me super nervous and I doubted my abilities.
The crap hit the fan, though, Friday morning, when I awoke with UTI symptoms again. I promptly called the doctor and we made a quick visit right before I left to pick up my race packet. Sure enough, UTI. I wasn't feeling sick yet, so I was confident we caught this one early, minus being a little more tired than usual. But of course, it made me worried. The other one hit me pretty hard, pretty fast so I didn't know what to expect. But we started antibiotics and I had Cory and my dad give me a priesthood blessing. I had worked 5 months to get to this point, I would have been devastated if I was too sick to run. The blessing instantly calmed my nerves. I felt excited and I slept pretty great that night.
I awoke Saturday morning ready to get to work. I met my carpool and before I knew it, I was stepping off the bus at the top of Monte Cristo. I had over prepared for everything, especially for it being cold at the start. But as soon as we got off the bus, it became apparent it was going to be a HOT race. It was 8:30 a.m. at the top of a mountain and it was already hot enough we were all in our tanks and shorts. I knew it was going to be killer and there was nothing I could do about it, so I took a deep breath and prepared myself.
The views of the changing leaves at the top were BREATHTAKING! I took one scenic picture that apparently didn't save *insert frowny face* but that's ok, you can still see it in the background here.
I also ran into my new friend Robert, who you might remember me talking about from Big Cottonwood.
There were only 500 marathon runners and the first thing I noticed was how incredibly nice and supportive everyone was. Literally, everyone! I think marathon runners know just how tough it is to conquer that distance, which makes them more encouraging and supportive of others who are willing to torture themselves as well. Even on the course people were just incredible.
I enjoyed the views and listened as runners talked about trying to BQ (Boston Qualify) and admired their speed and determination. My only goal was to go slow because I wasn't sure what my body was going to do with the UTI, and most importantly, ENJOY IT! I did not want my first marathon to be a horrible experience. I did not care what my time was, I just wanted to cross that finish line without hating running and wanting to die.
We lined up and the gun went off and it was go time! Tears filled my eyes as I passed the start line. Here I was, running a marathon. Me. It was so surreal. I kept my pace easy and took in the amazing vibrant colors of the leaves. I don't think I've ever seen fall leaves that amazing.
The heat started to get bad around mile 5, and I also stopped for my first bathroom break. I walked slowly through each aid station and either drank two cups of water or drank one and dumped the other over my head to cool off. My body kept having the major urge to pee, so I kept stopping, and nothing would come out. I wasted a lot of time in the port-a-potties. At mile 7 my legs were feeling pretty achy, which scared me it was happening that fast, but then I remembered the ibuprofen I had brought. I took it and things started to feel much better.
I clipped along at a comfortable pace. I took my time at each aid station and ran to the next one. This continued until about mile 16 when I was really getting hot and needed to slow down a bit more. It was also around this time that I noticed a girl in front of me limping badly and seemed to be in distress. I ran up to her and asked if she wanted my extra ibuprofen I had brought. She started to cry and told me that would be wonderful and told me she felt like she sprained her ankle and was in a lot of pain. We were still a mile from the next aid station so she was going to walk to it and get some help. I gave her the medicine and tried to lift her spirits a bit before moving on. I felt so bad for her. I hope she was ok.
If you will remember, I originally signed up for this race with a friend. That friend ended up having to drop out because of injuries. The thought of running the last 6 miles alone terrified me, and I kept whining about it to my running friends. My dear, sweet, life-saving friend, Michelle, offered to drive up and meet me on the course and run the last stretch with me. I cannot tell you how much I needed and appreciated that. It was amazing! The mile markers were a little unclear on the map, so we weren't quite sure when we would run into each other. But at mile 18, around the corner, running up the canyon, was Michelle. I pulled off my headphones and threw my hands in the air and cheered! I was still in good spirits and seeing her meant it would be fun from here on out. I didn't have to do it alone, anymore.
And let me tell you, she saved me! She brought everything under the sun to help keep me going, including extra water to dump on my head. Even just-in-case stuff she was prepared for. I was feeling good overall and we kept plucking along.
Mile 20 was roughly when we left the canyon and started running through the rural streets of Huntsville. The shade was gone and the sun was HOT! Just after mile 22, I spotted Cory and his brother Jason on their bikes, who rode next to us for the rest of the race. They even rode ahead and got me "cold" water. It was supposed to be colder than what I was carrying, but it wasn't. They were a huge morale boost as well.
I never hit the wall, but at mile 23 the heat just zapped my energy. I kept soaking myself and guzzling water, which ended up making my stomach uneasy, and I had to walk quite a bit. My feet were done. Seriously done. The last 3 miles were insanely long and pretty miserable physically, but I was still having a good time and wasn't wanting to die yet. Then at 24 miles my legs were done. I kept trying to tell myself to push through the pain but I didn't have much left to give.
Cory and Jason rode on ahead as I got closer to the finish so they could see me cross. We rounded a corner and there it was: the finish line. I blurted out, "Oh my gosh!" And started crying. I also learned it is impossible to run and cry and be able to breathe, so I had to stop and try and catch my breath. I was about to finish a marathon!! 26.2 freaking miles! I limp-ran to the chute. I passed my entire family -- just about everyone from both sides made it to support me -- and as I passed them, Michelle broke away
I HAD DONE IT!!
I got my medal and ice cold water and they shoved a bag of ice in my hand. My family found me shortly after and Cory surprised me with flowers, which made me lose all control of holding it together.
Ok, more pictures:
Everyone who came out to cheer me on. I have the best family!
-the canyon was GORGEOUS!
-the race was well organized and the course was nice
-volunteers were great
-late start time meant I didn't have to get up at 3:00 a.m.
-too freaking hot
-the race fee was cheap which meant kind of cheap swag
-water was warm at most aid stations
-road kill along the course... oh my gosh, the stench!
How do you feel?
I feel amazing. I'm obviously insanely sore and sunburned, but I feel like I can conquer the world. I kept crying yesterday because I just couldn't believe I had actually ran a marathon.
Did you get any injuries?
My plantar fasciitus is flared up again and I have some pretty gnarly blisters, but no real injuries. Yay!
Was it worth it?
HELL YES!! I had the time of my life. Yes, it was physical agony but I've never felt so amazing.
Will you do it again?
Yep, probably. But not right now. I'm taking some time off from running for a little while to rest and focus on strength I've lost while marathon training (and losing the 7 lbs I've gained) but I'm sure the itch will come back before I know it.
This year has been incredible for me. I set myself some pretty lofty goals and achieved them all. I've ran 4 half-marathons so far, got a half-marathon PR, ran my first marathon, and passed level 6 at my gym. I feel like I've proven to myself I am capable of anything I put my mind to. I feel pretty incredible and I can't wait to see what the future brings!