I always say this for race recaps, but this is going to be a long one so settle in and maybe decide to read it over three days or something. Also MANY pics so yeah, there's that.
First let me give you a little back story about Kortni (a VIP in this story). Kortni is a "friend" of mine that I found via the blog world. I say friend in quotation marks because Kortni and I have never met. We developed a friendship through our blogs and then we became Facebook friends and eventually we started exchanging texts messages. When you read someone's blog, it does seem like you know them. I mean right? Aren't WE BFFs? So yeah, you see what I mean. So I knew what a good person Kortni seemed to be and I really liked her.
So I invited her to come stay with me and run the Pittsburgh marathon. You see, Kortni is from Pennsylvania and we have so many things in common. Any chance Kortni has to come to PA is a welcome one to her. A few months before the race, I asked Kortni what her goal was for the marathon and she told me she was going to run WITH me. I was so surprised. Kortni is a 3:50 (I mean 3:49:49) marathoner and she was going to run WITH little old me. I learned a long time ago not to question things and I gladly accepted her offer to run together. She may not know it, but that took ALL the pressure off of my training. I knew no matter how my training went, I would make it through the marathon with Kortni by my side.
|Breaking in our new real life friendship at the Penguins Game (we lost)|
Ok so back to the marathon. I have to tell you that ALL week I was so calm about this marathon. In the past I have been so nervous leading up to a marathon, but I wasn't this time. I just kept telling myself that I did my training and race day will be race day. There was nothing I could do to change it.
I was exhausted Saturday for some reason and by 9:00 pm I was READY for bed. I'm pretty sure I was asleep by 9:15 with an alarm set for 4:30 am. I didn't wake up until about 2:45 (also unusual as I usually toss and turn the night before a big race). The only reason I woke up was due to a snoring husband. I even managed to fall back asleep.
When I did get up for the day, I still didn't feel nervous, but my belly had another idea. I WANTED to eat, but my belly was really upset and didn't feel like it could stomach any food. I guess all my nerves were in my belly, but they were NOT in my mind. I managed to eat half of a Panera bagel with peanut butter and my Gatorade Pre Fuel. So about 350 calories. NOT ideal, but all I could manage.
We left the house at 5:15 am and met some heavy traffic. Note to self when I look at this to see what time to leave next year…. LEAVE BY 5:00 am. Even with the traffic, we still managed an EXCELLENT parking spot just a block from the start and finish and we were at our coral with 20 minutes until the start.
|Charlene, Me, Korni, Tracey, Kristy|
Running a tad later than we would have liked, we wound up starting in the D coral instead of the C coral we were assigned. It's a long story how we wound up in D and not really noteworthy, but we were right in the beginning of D with no one ahead of us and I thought that was a good place to be.
The only bad thing was we were 35 minutes behind the start gun due to the delayed coral starts. It wasn't bad really, but waiting around 35 minutes seemed like forever. I just wanted to go already. It was pretty awesome to literally toe the line though. Never done that before!
My goal for the marathon was an 11:00 minute mile. That would put me at a 4:48 finish. Kortni and Tracey both thought I could do better, but I really had it in my mind to try to maintain that 11:00 minute mile. I just felt like it was my "go forever" pace and I REALLY wanted, more than anything else, to ENJOY this marathon as much as possible. I didn't want to go out too quickly and pay for it in the end and I didn't want to have to walk. So, my plan was 11:00 minute miles and no walking until the later (after the half) water stops. If I could manage that, I would be beyond happy.
We started off quickly as all marathons tend to start. Everyone was smoking by us and I kind of laughed as I tried really hard to settle into my slow and steady pace. My garmin was all over the place. I'd look down one minute and it would say I was running an 8:47 and then another and it would say 11:52. So I had no idea what we were running. I just told Kortni, I was going to quit looking. It was too frustrating.
And then another frustrating thing happened. I had to go to the bathroom. You know THE bathroom. Um hmmmm how do I put this… I did NOT have to pee. WE passed several porta potties with long lines and I really didn't want to have to stop, but I also couldn't imagine what holding it for 26 miles was going to feel like.
Suddenly we came upon a group of porta potties that were all occupied but no line. I told Kortni I was taking the time and going. I hated myself for having to go, but I knew I just had to. It was a short term loss for a long term gain.
Mile 1 (with bathroom stop): 11:42
After getting that out of the way, we were happily on our way.
I'm not really sure what happened between miles 2 and 4, but I'm sure it was uneventful. Mile 4 is bridge where my sister has stood and cheered me on for the past two years. I really missed seeing her smiling face and big ballon at the end of that bridge. I guess I don't rank as high as my niece. If she's not there then I get no love from my sister. hahaha Seriously though, I would have loved to see her at mile 4. Instead, you get selifes.
Mile 2: 10:44
Mile 3: 10:48
Mile 4: 10:39
Ok well things started off a little bit "fast" but that's to be expected. I wasn't SUPER fast so that was good. I was feeling good and I was really happy. My legs were definitely feeling tight even from the beginning, however. I was really hoping they would loosen up and feel great after 3 or so miles, but that wasn't the case. They didn't feel horrible, but they didn't feel 100% either. Nonetheless miles 5 to 8 were happy miles for sure.
Mile 5: 10:47 -----> Gu
Mile 6: 11:03
Mile 7: 10:55
Mile 8: 10:45
As we headed onto the West End bride, I thought about last year and how badly the race started to suck at this point. This is the point where I had to start walking last year due to the pain in my legs and the hills. My legs were having the eerily familiar feeling and I prayed they wouldn't hold me back. After all, this year I had MANY more miles ahead.
I made it through miles 9 through 11 with no problems. I didn't have to walk at all.
Mile 9: 10:52
Mile 10: 11:08 -----> Gu
Mile 11: 11:01
At this point Kortni asked me how I was feeling. I told her I felt ok, which I did, but I was scared about what was to come. You see, I knew mile 12 was the biggest hill and one that is NOT on the half marathon course. We were moving into unchartered territory and that scared the heck out of me. The unknown!
Kornit was so encouraging and told me to only think about the mile we were in. She reminded me that it was the only thing I could control-- the right here an now. I really internalized what she said and tried to focus on right now!
Soon we were at the marathon/half marathon split and about ready to head up the BIG hill heading into Oakland. I know this hill as I drove on it 5 days a week for the 5 years I attended the University of Pittsburgh. It was so intimidating, but I decided I wouldn't look to the top. I would just take it one step at a time. And you know what? It wasn't that bad at all. My breathing got a little out of control, but Kortni reminded me to take deep breaths and it really helped. We got to the top and I was actually smiling. Go figure.
Mile 12 (THE HILL): 11:27
These miles are kind of fuzzy, but I remember they were flat and that made me smile.
Before I knew it, we rounded the bend onto Walnut Street and Shadyside and my family was just where they said they would be. The crowd really thins out with the marathon and my family had no problem finding a great spot to see us and as you can see, we were pretty easy to spot.
I took the time to stop and kiss each one of my babies.
I'm sure Nicholas loved me kissing him in public!
Mile 13: 11:02
Mile 14: 10:54
Seeing my family was great, but it only lasts a few seconds and it's back to the task at hand. And now we were really entering uncharted territory as I wasn't even familiar with this part of town. I promised Kortni in the beginning of the marathon I would be happy and smiling for 15 miles and I think I lived up to my end of the bargain.
By mile 15 my legs were definitely hurting and I was having problems with my feet falling asleep. I remembered my friend from the local running store (hi Jenn) telling me to wiggle my toes if that happened and I really concentrated on doing that when I felt my feet fade off. It hard to run and wiggle your toes. Try it sometime. BUT!!!!! It worked.
Wow I really have a long lapse where I don't remember much. I remember running through some interesting parts of town. We were in Homestead which probably isn't the nicest place in the city, but it is where we saw some of the most interesting and enthusiastic people. As far the the marathon ONLY portion of the course, I'd say this was the best cheering section (except for the finish line).
I do remember telling myself during these miles that I just had to make it to mile 23 (where it goes all downhill). The hills, although NOWHERE near as bad as I had imagined in my head, were really getting to me. I felt great on the downhills and flats, but any incline was killing me. So yes, I kept saying to myself, "make it to mile 23, make it to mile 23".
Also during this time I kind of knew I would make my goal of going under 5 hours. I knew as long as I didn't fall apart I would make it. I figured a PR was in the cards but I didn't know by how much. Kortni told me it didn't matter if it was 20 minutes or 20 seconds a PR is a PR. Remember she said that, it will be important later on.
The PR didn't matter that much to me, I just didn't want to have to walk because I was in pain. I wiggled my toes and prayed that my legs and feet would hold up. My feet were definitely aching. I wasn't having any rubbing or blisters, but my feet just hurt and my left big toe was in straight up pain.
I did decide to walk the water stops probably at mile 15 to 16. Again, I felt like this was another instance of short term loss for a long term gain. I'm happy (even looking back now) that I did it.
Hmmm what else happened during these miles. Um there was a lot of running and probably a lot more complaining and definitely less smiling.
Mile 15: 11:12 -----> Gu (the last I would take as my belly couldn't handle any more. I started taking in more Gatorade to compensate for the calories and it wasn't upsetting my belly)
Mile 16: 10:55
Mile 17: 11:11
Mile 18: 11:34 (yikes!!)
Mile 19: 11:16
Mile 20: 11:25
Mile 21: 11:17
And then something wonderful happened. George surprised me and he and the kids were at mile 22. He told me he wouldn't be able to come anywhere but mile 14 because he had to travel 1.5 hours to Nicholas' lacrosse game. I was totally ok with that. Nicholas missed a lot of lacrosse while we were on vacation and I didn't want him to miss more waiting around to see me for 10 seconds. As it turns out, George was just tricking and they had plenty of time to wait at mile 22 and still make it to the game on time.
|Me saying, "what are you doing here?"|
I gave the biggest hugs…
… and looked at the signs they made…
|My smile is so big you can see the veins in my neck|
… and embarrassed Nicholas some more (with more kisses).
At least Jack takes kisses willingly.
From the look on my face, I still haven't fully computed what had happened and I'm giving George my confused look face.
We quickly waved goodbye….
…. and were on our way.
Oh what a boost my family gave me. I was so happy they had surprised me. It was SO MUCH BETTER that it was a surprise because all this time I was trying to get to mile 23 and didn't know 22 would be the biggest highlight of the race.
Unfortunately, my high didn't last too long as things were getting pretty tough at this point. The past several miles had been full of hills and I was over them. I started thinking of getting to mile 23 again.
Mile 22: 10:54
Mile 23: 11:31 (this was a really tough mile)
Mile 23 was probably the hardest mile of my day. I had just come off the high of seeing my family, I was tackling a big hill and I REALLY wanted to be done. Even when I thought about how far I'd come, I still think about how far I had to go. 3 more miles was still well over 30 minutes. I just wanted to stop and I had to go on for a half an hour more!
Eventually we made it to the downhill portion of the course through Bloomfield and I was so happy. It really was going to be all downhill from here. I really pushed the pain out of my head and tried to focus on making it the rest of the way.
Remember when Kortni said, "A PR is a PR. 20 minutes or 20 seconds, it didn't matter." Yeah well, scratch that. Kortni started telling me if I had ANYTHING left at all I really needed to pick it up. She said what she told me earlier was a lie and she wanted every second she could get towards my PR. Suck it up and run was what I had to do.
I swear I gave it everything I had. I would try to speed up and maintain that pace, but I couldn't always do it. My toe was throbbing and my legs, hips, and butt ached. I was trying to make her proud and trying to run raster, but I just didn't know if I could go any faster. I was giving it my all, but it wasn't very fast.
Mile 25: 11:29
As we passed the one mile sign, Kortni was encouraging me in every way possible. She told me to picture Kris Letang (my Penguins crush) at the finish line. She promised he'd score me a goal in that night's game (he DID!!), she promised he'd give me box tickets and private lessons for my kids (he didn't… hey 1 out of 3 ain't bad). It really did motivate me though. I kept thinking if someone told me that Kris Letang would give me private hockey lessons for my kids if I could I run faster, could I? I tried. I felt like my legs were moving through sand, but I am telling you I was going as fast as I could.
We finally passed the 1/2 mile marker and I thought to myself I could do it. I could even speed up some (and I did). But let me be the first to tell you, that mile marker was severely misplaced. It was WELL OVER a half mile to the finish.
I even said to Kortni, "where the hell is it?" It seemed like the finish would never come.
|confused and looking for the finish|
Mile 26: 10:45
Once I could actually finally see the finish line, I just ran. Ran as hard and as fast as I could. I wanted to make Kortni proud. I wanted her to see that I left everything out there on the course. She had supported me for 26 plus miles and now I had to do this for her.
The last .2: 8:48 pace
We started with our toes on the line together and ended the exact same way crossing the finish line together in 4:54:09 an 11:13 pace.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I immediately started to cry. I didn't think I would, it was an emotion that just came. I think it's a moment of exhaustion and relief. Kortni gave me a big hug and I felt so good to just be done. We started to walk again, but I couldn't do it, I had to stop and just put my face in my hands and cry. I had done it. 4 months of training and 5 hours of running and I made it!!!!
My garmin had me running LONG 26.68 miles. I ran an 11:01 pace. Not bad for a girl that set out to run an 11:00 minute mile for 26.2 miles. Regardless of my official time/pace (11:13), I did what I set out to do. I ran a pretty darn consistent pace and I did meet my goals. Yeah I ran over 26.2 and so that makes my official pace slower, but I know what I did and I'm extremely happy with my 4:54:09. Not 20 minutes, but not 20 second either-- 4 minutes and 10 seconds!!!!!
Congratulations to my amazing friends on their amazing races.
To Charlene: Your first marathon. You may not have always believed in yourself, but I never had any doubt. I knew you'd go out there and kick this marathon's butt and you did. I'm proud of your hard work and dedication to this marathon and I'm so glad it paid off for you. You ran a GREAT race and I hope you're as pleased as I am proud! Yes Charlene, you are an inspiration!
To Kortni: I owe so many of those PR seconds to Kortni and her encouragement, but not just those last 2 miles-- the whole way through. Kortni was amazing at pacing me. She was so positive and uplifting the whole time, but not in a "blow smoke up my butt" kind of way. It was like Kortni and I had been friends for years and she knew exactly when to say what. She made me feel so at ease and I felt such a strong connection to her (is that cheesy???? sorry!) She's an amazing person and someone I'm glad to now call my "real friend". I can't thank you enough Kortni for all you did for me. I know I can't ever repay you in the way you did for me, but I can say how much it meant to me and that it's a moment (errrr a few hours) I will never forget. Love you girl!
To Tracey: I don't even know what to say. I'm announcing your time on my blog (asking for forgiveness instead of permission)…. With about a mile left in the race Kortni asked me what I thought Tracey's finish in. I said, "Well if she held back a 4:05 and if she decided to go for it a 3:59." Tracey finished in 3:58:57. To say I'm proud is an understatement. The reason I could predict Tracey's time is because I know her so well. I know what's she's capable of and I know what maybe she doesn't even know about herself. She has a fire in her that will NOT quit. If she has it to give, she will give it and I can tell she gave it during the Pittsburgh Marathon. I said it to her before, but I'll say it again here. I've never seen anyone more dedicated to their training and their family at the same time. Tracey is so selfless and gives so much to everyone around her and that included many SLOW training runs with me. I can't thank Tracey enough for her love, support and guidance during yet another training session. I look forward to many more races together and I'll forever be proud to be "chasing" you. You're my mentor and one of my best friends and I will always look up to you (Cheesy again? Damn it!)
I'm so happy to have run my hometown marathon and, once again, call myself a Runner of Steel!