26.2…because 26.3 would be crazy!

“I run from hate, I run from prejudice, I run from pessimists, but I run too late.
I run my life or is it running me? Run from my past, I run too fast, or too slow it seems.”  -Lady Antebellum


I know, I know…where have I been? I welcomed you into my life, shared with you what it’s like to live a day in the life, and then I disappeared. Don’t worry, I left Steve hanging, too. As I type this he’s on his way home from another 75ish day deployment. When he left I told him that I would take up The Daily Dahl again for him….and as you know, I did not. I don’t know what my problem has been – I promise that I haven’t been lacking in material! There are so many little stories I have wanted to share. Confession: I’ve been tired. Too tired to think, much less write.

But I’m back. And with a new title under my belt! I am now a marathoner. What better way to reintroduce The Daily Dahl than with my RACE REPORT?!

Back in the fall I knew I wanted to do a big race this spring. I thought maybe I would do another half, but after being inspired by friends and family running the Marine Corp marathon and the Richmond marathon I decided that maybe I, too, could join the ranks as a marathon runner. I researched some training programs and saw that a local running store was offering a distance training program geared specifically for the race weekend I was interested in. (Local running store: Potomac River Running…best running store EVER! Great coaches, great programs, great advice, great races, great product, etc) I took it as a sign and immediately registered for DTP through PR and changed my Shamrock Half-Marathon registration to the Shamrock Marathon. I was committed.

My training officially started in December and I felt great! I was stronger and faster than I had been in years. My Saturday morning runs were going great – I would always run a mile longer than I had planned, or I would keep the pace through hills and wind, or I would have negative splits, or whatever. I felt good after each run. I was setting new PRs every weekend. I felt encouraged and proud of myself. I don’t remember when things started to decline. Steve left and weekday runs became more challenging because of the weather – in an effort to avoid buying stores out of Boogie Wipes, I tried to keep Graham out of the bitter cold. I wasn’t able to make it out on Thursday nights for track workouts, which meant that I wasn’t working on my speed. Yes, I have a treadmill…but at the end of the day I was so tired that the last thing I wanted to do was get on the “dreadmill”. I was still doing alright with my long runs on the weekends. I did my 18 miler on the treadmill because it was something like -8 outside. My 20 miler got broken up into two 10 mile runs because halfway through I was barely functioning thanks to the freezing cold wind. My 21 miler went well – finished around 3 1/2 hours, minor cramping, didn’t die…I was feeling confident as I headed into tapering. I raced the Reston 10 miler and felt GREAT! I set a couple PRs, had negative splits, conquered hills, wind and cold temps, etc. The next weekend I headed out for my last long run before race day. I comfortably ran 10 miles, tried out my race day gear, and felt fine. I was ready.

Then came Tuesday. I was a nervous wreck.  I had already emailed my coach panicking about what to wear for race day, now came the aches and pains. I had made it through training injury free and all of the sudden my back was killing me, my hip was causing me to limp, my foot screamed with pain every time I flexed it, I had a crick in my neck, etc. On Thursday my blood pressure was high (I know this only because I had a doctor’s appointment….I never have high blood pressure!). I was falling apart. As I headed into the weekend I was stressed and already feeling defeated.  When I got to the expo on Saturday, along with my cheering squad (mom, Joy, Charlotte, and Graham), my nerves finally calmed a little. I found the shamrock running hat I had been searching for online and was able to get my back taped – things were falling into place. I carbo loaded for dinner (just like I had been all week long!), hydrated, relaxed and actually got a good night’s sleep!  By Sunday morning I was ready – it was just another weekend long run with a few thousand other runners.

Photo4

Ready to shamrock the marathon!

I got to the start line and realized immediately that I had underdressed. It was freezing and the wind was out of control. The weather was nothing new – the majority of my training was done in similar conditions. But on this particular morning, I was not dressed appropriately – I was counting on “it feels 20 degrees warmer when you’re running.” With only 4 corrals, I didn’t have to wait long before crossing the start line. I found the 4:30 pacer and we were off. This was it, I was running a marathon. It was a comfortable pace, exactly what I had trained for.

My cheering squad (mom, Joy and the two little ones) rooted me on in the first couple of miles. It felt great to see them! Little did I know, that would be one of the few cheers I got along the way. After a few miles I was still pretty cold – to the point that I was tempted to pick up runners’ throw-away jackets off the side of the road! Around mile 6 we did our first turn-around and I realized that for at least the next 10 miles I’d be running into the wind. I started to get a little worried. Would I be able to keep up? Even in my training, on the windiest of days I never did much more than 10 miles – and I still had 20 miles to go! But oh well, it was too late to turn back now! I saw the running juggler(!) – you know, the one I talked about back in September after the Rock and Roll half – crazy show-off. I hope the wind blew his balls away. Anyway…I made it through Camp Pendleton just fine – I even warmed up enough to take my gloves off for a few minutes!  I had fallen a little behind the 4:30 pacer, but they were still in sight. At mile 10 I stopped for a potty break and some water. I had planned on stopping every 5 miles to refuel, so this was fine. Unfortunately, this was when I lost my pacer. At mile 11 I was surprised on the boardwalk to see my cheering squad again. That bit of encouragement boosted me along to the half marathon mark. I crossed at 2:20 – I was 5 minutes behind. I knew there would be no making it up, so I quickly made peace with finishing around 4:45.

Photo2

Saying hi around mile 2.

The next 3 miles seemed to take forever. The wind was kicking my butt. I was freezing cold. I saw several half-marathon finishers wrapped up in what looked to be fleece blankets (shamrock always has great hand-outs for finishers!) and I kept wishing I could be finished and wrapped up in said blanket! This was also when I started seeing elite runners coming into the home stretch. (I even saw one of my coaches!) At mile 16 I ran past the last of the already sparse crowd of spectators. Heading towards Fort Story was quiet and lonely. I stopped for another quick potty break around mile 17. My back had been hurting on and off, but I thought the kt tape was doing it’s job pretty well. My hip flexers were tight, but I could handle it. I was actually in decent shape – I didn’t hurt too badly, I was just really cold and tired. At mile 18 I started thinking about my pacer again. I was relieved that the 5:00 pacer hadn’t passed me. Of course, as soon as the thought crossed my mind, who came along side me but the 5:00 pacer! Gah (shaking my fist in the air)! I actually kind of want to cry thinking about it again…

 As I neared the Cape Henry lighthouse, the thought of entering back into civilization kept me going. After walking through the water station at mile 21 I decided that I wouldn’t walk again until I crossed the finish line. I was in the final stretch. I had hit my wall (a few times) and made it through. I knew the end was in sight. I knew I was going to finish. I knew there was a warm blanket waiting for me at the end! As I headed towards mile 24 I was surprised to see Joy, who ran with me for a couple minutes, then I saw my mom, my mother-in-law, and Scout (yes, seeing Scout kinda made me want to cry…he was probably like, “wth, you’re running without me?!”) Joy dropped off and mom picked up and ran a couple more blocks with me. While she was jogging alongside, encouraging me, I couldn’t help but think about 7 years ago when I ran my first 10k. It was my mom who had reassured me the night before that I would be able to run 6 miles, and now here I was 23 miles in and she was doing the same thing. Thanks, mom, for being my #1 fan 🙂 Once I hit the 24 mile flag I slowly started to pick up the pace (oxymoron?). It was about that time that my music died. Oh well. That only made me want to go faster and finish sooner. I wanted to earn the cheers of the few people that were left standing out in the cold, so I dug a little deeper.

Photo1

Finish line 🙂

I crossed the finish line at 5:14. I was 44minutes past my goal, so I did what anyone would do…I cried…well, first I got my medal and fleece blanket(!), then I cried. Disappointed is an understatement. Joy was the first to meet me with a great hug – I cried into her shoulder saying I didn’t get my time. She thought I meant I hadn’t seen what time I finished, so she quickly told me my time – , as if I needed reminding, oh no, I was well aware. Yes, I’m glad that I finished. Yes, I know, I ran 26.2 miles (26.43, according to my garmin). And I’m still bummed. I’ve heard a couple of similar “first marathon” stories and been reassured knowing that I’m not the only one. I think I just had a bad race day. It’s true when they say that running is a mental game – your biggest competition is yourself. And I kicked my own ass. Maybe things would have been different if there hadn’t been the wind, or if I had ever warmed up, or if I felt more support along the course, etc. At the end of the day, I know that I’m walking away from this experience as a better runner.

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Trying to smile through the tears…and keep Graham from stealing my gatorade.

A few positives:

-I am a marathon runner.
-I have a 26.2 sticker on the back of my car that I worked hard for.
-I will run another marathon.
-I set the bar low enough that it should be easy to set a marathon PR and then I can brag about shaving x number of minutes off of my time.
-I set a distance PR.
-My last mile was faster than my first…that qualifies negative splits!? (hollerrrr)
-I was reminded of what great family and friends I have! I couldn’t have done it without each of you – those who came to the race (my parents, in-laws, and little sister….and Graham, Scout and Charlotte 🙂 ), sent me messages, sent me cards, babysat so I could train, sent me flowers, posted words of encouragement on my dailymile profile, gave me race advice, made me a marathon victory bag, etc. Seriously…I would be lost without you guys!

Now it’s time to prepare for the Nike Women’s Half in April! I have a few goals in mind 🙂

xoxo,
Jo – a marathon runner

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7 thoughts on “26.2…because 26.3 would be crazy!

  1. Pingback: Flower Therapy |

  2. Pingback: We ran DC! |

  3. Thanks for following my blog!
    The Shamrock VA Beach Marathon was my first (and so far only) marathon too- and my race experience was nearly identical (minus the freezing weather). I stuck with the 4:30 pacers until mile 17ish, then crashed and burned around mile 19. The rest of the race was an alternating walk/shuffle while I cried my eyes out for feeling like a failure.
    Needless to say I feel the same way you do – at least our next race will be a heck of a PR 🙂

    • Thank YOU for following me back 🙂 I forget how I stumbled across your blog – probably from a comment you left on another blog. I enjoyed your Wine Country Half recap – I’m getting geared up for the Diva half out here in September and I’m interested to see/read what people think of the hills.
      Have you picked another marathon? I just registered for Richmond in November…it has to be better than Shamrock! If I don’t PR I’ll throw in the towel and stick to 13.1 probably try again in the spring 😉

      • Good luck on your Diva race – as well as your other upcoming ones before the marathon this fall. It definitely wasn’t the hills that killed me in the Wine Country half – it was the heat. But hopefully that won’t be factor for you in September 🙂
        I debated signing up for the Richmond Marathon, but I settled on the Baltimore for this October instead – training starts next week!

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