For the last 18 weeks I have been running my buns off with one goal in mind: To break 4 hours on the marathon! As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Mission accomplished! : ) But I still thought I'd give you the details on how it all went down.
On Friday morning we farmed out Monty and the kids to some awesome friends for the weekend, then we hopped on a plane and headed to DC!
Once we landed we headed out for some quick sight seeing. We saw the national monument and hit a few Smithsonian museums then hopped on the metro to go to the expo.
We randomly happened to arrive at the exact same time as my sister Naomi and her running machine hubby Kevin, who had driven in from Chicago the night before. There were 24,000 runners filtering through the expo that weekend and somehow the stars aligned that we would bump into each other!
We took advantage of an Elvis rock and roll photo op.
And I took a picture with my little sissy! It was seriously so cool running into them!
At the expo we picked up our packets, signed up for the 3:55 pace group, bought some gu's and a headband, then went on the hunt for some carbs.
On our way back to our hotel we spotted Bertucci's so we swung in and loaded up on pasta. We'd been carb loading all week but thought we should pack in a few more just to be safe. : )
When we got back to the hotel, we laid out all our stuff, watched the You vs. Them video to pump ourselves up, then we went to bed at 9pm to get a good night's sleep before our 5am wake up call.
In the morning we popped out of bed at 5am. I geared up with my new bondiband from the expo and my neon green running tank for St. Paddy's day. We watched the You vs. Them video one more time (because it seriously gets your blood pumping!) Then headed to the metro.
The trains were JAM PACKED with runners! We thought we were smashed in like sardines and then we'd get to another stop and more people would squeeze in. The train was groaning but we made it to the stadium and the wave of runners flooded up the steps towards the armory.
With about an hour to go before race time we hit the port a potty's, secured our timing chips, gulped down some bananas and oatmeal and chugged some chia seeds.
We took one last pic with Kevin and his cousin Eric, then packed up our camera's and phones and checked our bags. With 30 minutes to start time we went outside for one more round of port a potties.
When the race started we were still in the port a pot line so as soon as we finished we got a great warm up trying to catch up with our corral before they crossed the timing mats. We made it just in time! Taber and I were in corral 8 (out of 26) so we could run with the 3:55 pace group. I figured if we stuck with them, even if we fell behind a little, we'd still have a 5 minute buffer to reach my goal.
Once we were over the mats I tuned everything else out around me and just focused on the pace group leaders. There were 3 of them and I figured as long as I kept them in sight I would be doing pretty good. The first mile was hectic as we tried to get through the sea of runners and establish our pace. There was a lot of elbowing and surging and I had to scramble to stay with the group. Finally after mile 2 we settled into a rhythm. That's when I relaxed a little and was able to take in more of what was going on around me.
The first half of the course was awesome. We ran by the national monument, the smithsonian, the white house and the capital. There were bands playing every few miles and plenty of great spectators to cheer us on. We were keeping a really solid pace just under 9 min mile and I felt awesome. This was definitely not a flat course but the hills weren't too steep or too long.
We knew it was going to be a warm day so we made sure to drink up at every water station and pour cups of water over our heads and on our bodies to stay cool. At mile 7 we took our first Gu which gave me a huge burst of energy and I started clapping with the bands, cheering loudly for our pace group and pumping them up with motivational sound bites every few minutes. I'm sure I was driving them crazy but I seriously felt euphoric between miles 7-10.
At mile 13 the half marathoners (nearly 16,000 of them) pealed off to finish their race and the course became much roomier and a lot quieter too. I took another Gu at mile 13.5 and happily chirped something to the group like, "Oh yeah! We're just warming up guys! The race doesn't start till mile 20!" A guy looked at me like I was out of my mind but at that point I still felt great.
As the morning wore on, the temperature began to rise into the low 70's. The back half of the marathon severely lacked shade and the sun started to take its toll. I continued to drink up at every water station and tried to repeat things like, You vs. Can't! You vs. Excuses! in my head. But by mile 17 my quads started getting heavy and I was struggling to keep my head in the game. I pulled out my iPod shuffle and plugged into some tunes hoping to get back into it.
At mile 18 my shoelace came untied and when I jerked to a stop to tie it my legs screamed in protest. I fumbled around with the laces for almost a minute till they were tied. When I finally got going again our pace group was way ahead of us. I tried to catch up but there was a hill at mile 20 and they pulled away. By mile 21 I couldn't see them anymore and my heart sunk. I was so out of it at mile 21 that I forgot to take my last Gu and the next water station wasn't for almost 3 miles.
Those were the worst miles of the marathon for me. It was hot, my legs were aching, and our pace group was out of sight. We saw a runner pull to the side and break down in tears. We saw another guy drop on the grass and just lay there. Every step was so exhausting, every minute my protesting legs screamed louder. Finally half way through mile 22 I stopped in defeat and with tears clouding my eyes I told Taber to go on without me. He said, "no." I shook my head and said, "I can't. Just go." And he said, "I'm not finishing without you." I looked at him, saw the pleading in eyes for me too keep going, and reached as deep as I could for the strength to move my legs. I decided I might not break 4 hours but I wasn't going to walk. I might have to shuffle and limp jog but I was going to keep pushing to the end.
At mile 23.5 we finally reached another water station and I was able to take my last Gu. It gave me a much needed boost of energy and I saddled up my will power and said to myself, "LETS" DO THIS!" The last 3 miles had several daunting hills but I stayed focused and plowed up them. There was a down hill at the end of mile 24 and I used it to pick up some speed. Taber dropped back a little so I slowed down to wait for him and he said, "No go! if you feel it you've gotta go! It's gonna be close!" I wasn't running with a watch so I didn't realize I could still break 4 hours. When Taber told me I was close, something just clicked inside me and I started barreling towards the finish line. At mile 25 I saw my brother in law Kevin who had been sidelined with excruciating muscle cramps. When he saw me he jumped back on the course and with Taber just behind us we willed ourselves through that final mile. My sister jumped out at mile 26 to run with Kevin and I let them surge ahead while I fought for the last .2.
I honestly didn't see anything around me at that point but the finish line. When I crossed the mat I finally became aware of my surroundings and as the moment hit me I started to cry. Tears of exhaustion, tears of gratitude that it was over! Tears of disbelief that I actually finished! I turned around and saw Taber and he pointed to his watch and said, "You did it! You're a sub 4 marathoner!"
Funny how quickly the pain of those last 5 miles faded away when Taber told me that! I laughed and shouted and cried again. Happy tears! Happy happy tears!
We did it! With just 63 seconds to spare! Official time: 3:58:56! If Taber had let me walk just a few more seconds I would't have that beautiful number 3 in front of my finish time. I finished 53 out of 263 for my age division and 244 out of 1414 for my gender divsion. Not too shabby!!!
We met up with Naomi and Kevin and Eric and took some pics of the proud finishers.
Just don't ask us to bend down or climb stairs. : )
We did it!!
It was so great having my sister there to celebrate with me. Her and Kevin are the ones who got us into running so it was the best having them there.
The rest of the day was pretty low key. We soaked in the post race party for a little then changed our clothes and went searching for some fat juicy burgers. After eating we went back to the hotel, showered, and slept for a few hours. Then we woke up, went in search of more food, ate till our bellies were stuffed, then crashed again. : )
The next morning I limped around DC for a little sight seeing with the Tabester. My quads, calves, hamstrings, feet and IT bands were HASHED!!
I loved the Lincoln memorial but the stairs! OH those stairs!
We also got a peek at the White House (aka Mitt Romney's future pad ; )
If you look closely on the roof you can see the snipers up there ready to take out anyone who makes a threat on the prez. I think they had their eye on Taber with his suspicious looking beard ; )
Taber also really wanted to see the National Air and Space Museum but my legs just couldn't keep up with him. I ended up sending him ahead and then I hailed a pedicab and met him there : )
When we got back to NH we collected Monty and the kids and headed home. At the house we were greeted with posters and signs on our doors and garage from our friends who had watched the kids. When we got inside there was another huge congratulations banner left by our friends from Savior of the World who had gotten the whole cast to sign them for us. It was seriously the most heartwarming homecoming and the perfect way to end an awesome weekend!
My legs may be hurting right now, but that sub 4 is mine forever! All the hard work, the months of training, those dreaded last 5 miles, were all worth it to remind me that I can do hard things!! That knowledge helps me in every aspect of my life. When I'm up to my neck in laundry, when the kids are sick or melting down, when I'm trying to balance a full and demanding schedule, I look back on my marathon and think, if I could do that, I can do anything! : )