Well, we did it! Another 26.2 mile adventure under our (hydration) belts. :) This was my fourth marathon, my husband's first. It never ceases to amaze me how different each race experience can be. You truly never know how you will feel or how your body will respond.
Our trip began Thursday evening as we made the drive down to Salt Lake City to our friend's home. During the drive, Chris and I talked about how we anticipated things would go on race day. I felt so good, and while I hoped to have an official PR, I mainly wanted to focus on enjoying the time with my husband and just having a good race. He on the other hand, was more concerned that how he had been feeling physically for the past few weeks might come back to bite him - between the IT band pain he had been having on his long training runs and being sick with a chest cold for a while, he just wanted to finish.
On Friday, we took the kids and went to the race expo in Ogden and picked up our race packets. It was pouring rain and a little chilly, so we didn't stay long at the expo. After we perused the vendors tables a bit, we headed back to Salt Lake, stopping at Brick Oven Pizza for lunch. When we got back to the house, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, then enjoyed a nice dinner with all of our family and friends in the evening. Surprisingly, we were all able to go to bed at a decent hour (9-ish), with alarms set for 3am!
A friend drove all of us up to Ogden (an hour away) to catch the shuttles that would drive us up to the starting area (another 30-40 minutes away). I love race mornings. It is so fun to be around all the other runners and listen to the chatter about their other races and running experiences. There are always so many stories of inspiration. When we arrived at the staging area, there were fire barrels spotting the field, along with rows and rows of port-a-potties. Chris and I both jumped in a potty line, then found a barrel to hover around until it was time for the race to begin.
I try not to look at my pace or mileage too often when I'm running. It tends to get to me mentally. I just ran how I felt, knowing that I was risking going out too fast, since the course is a lot of downhill. My mental strategy for this race was to just keep reminding myself that I could do it - I had proven that to myself on my last long run with my friend Holly when we ran the 26.2 distance in 4:56. Things moved along well for Marsden and I as we ran the first 17 miles or so. The great thing about running with someone you love is that there is never a shortage of things to talk about, so the time passes quickly. We just ran well on our run intervals, and walked at our walk intervals like clockwork, and slowed down through all the aid stations to sip some water. Last year I didn't stay hydrated well enough and got very thirsty towards the end, especially with the heat. I did much better staying hydrated this time.
I also felt a noticeable difference in my strength during this year's run compared with last year's Ogden Marathon. I ran with Marsden last year, too, and even he noted the difference. Around mile 17, the course crosses the reservoir dam and then starts to wind down into the Ogden Canyon - much steeper downhill at that point and for the next 5-6 miles. After we crossed the dam, we were greeted by our friend who took some photos of us then said he would wait to see Chris when he made it to that spot.
A few minutes later, our friend caught up to us in his truck as he was driving back down the course headed toward the finish line so he could greet us there. He pulled up along side us and said Chris was just a couple of minutes behind us. I was very surprise and in fact didn't even believe him at first. Marsden and I had been going at a really good pace for those first 18 miles - a little over 10 minute miles, and that's with walking breaks! I couldn't believe Chris was keeping up so well.
Around mile 20, I felt someone come up behind me and pinch me on the back-side - yep, it was Chris - AMAZING! While I was happy to see him, I was so surprised that it kind of threw me for a loop, mentally. I had fully expected to finish before him and then be waiting for him at the finish line. Not because I didn't think he was capable of doing it that fast, but because I was truly worried that his knee and leg pain would hold him back. I guess I didn't need to worry!
While I was still feeling relatively good at that point, I had started having some side cramping. I don't usually get side cramps, but we had been going down hill for a while and I had been keeping up that good pace for so long, and it was also getting pretty warm. It took couple more miles for me to breathe through that dang cramp and just as it finally started to subside, my quads started cramping up. Now Chris had gone ahead of me, not much, just enough that I could keep him in my line of sight. I was actually feeling pretty frustrated as we exited the canyon and entered the town of Ogden, the last 3-4 miles of the course. The quivering in my quad muscles was really painful and there were times I thought my legs were going to give out. The only things helping me hang on were Marsden's words of encouragement and my own mental strength, knowing I would be mad at myself later if I didn't push through the pain - I knew a PR was totally within my reach, as long as I didn't slow down too much at the end.
Finally on the homestretch, I could see the finish line (man, that .2 miles is a long way) and I could also see Chris just ahead of me. I had taken a couple of extra, short walking breaks during the last mile because I wanted to be able to run through the finish line. When you get this close, the crowd of people cheering and calling your name really helps and gives you that boost of adrenaline to run it out. Although I was in a bit of a mental fog, I watched Chris as he ran across, the clock reading 5:01 something, then I crossed the finish line with Marsden as the gun-time clock read 5:02. At first I was feeling disappointed, I wanted to break 5 hours so badly. But then I checked my Garmin and saw that I had done it!
It's hard to remember that the gun time and your chip time are different, and since we had started so far behind the official start, I was safe. (My official race chip time was 4:58:10 and Chris' was 4:56:53 - less than 1.5 minutes apart!) This was a race PR for me, beating my previous time by 14 minutes - oh, yeah! :)
I found Chris after receiving my medal and we hugged and cried together for a minute, holding each other up so we didn't collapse on our exhausted legs!
I am so happy for Chris that he was able to overcome the obstacles he faced during training to pull out such a successful race experience. I think we will be reliving this runner's high for some time. It is the best feeling to be able to share all the emotion of something so challenging with my best friend.
After gathering all of our stuff and the rest of our group, we all went to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries for a post-race meal and celebration.
Yesterday (Sunday) we traveled home. The 2-3 hour drive home was uncomfortable, to say the least. Both of us are very, very sore. I don't think my quads have ever been this sore. I'm not even sure what to blame it on. I mean, the downhill in the course is probably partly to blame, but I train on hills a lot, so I'm sure that most of my soreness can be attributed to the pace we kept for the majority of the race. While I'm not fast compared with a lot of runners, maintaining an average pace like we did means that during the running portion of our run/walk/run intervals I had been running at a speed of 7-9 minutes per mile the whole time. The walk breaks bring the average pace down, but there's no way I could have run that fast without those little breaks in between.
Oh, and of course no marathon would be complete without a blister or two...
Now, 2 days post-race, I think I'll do a little Pilates or Yoga this morning. I hope it will help with some of this soreness because it would be really nice to be able to walk up and down the stairs again. :)
If any of you are interested, feel free to check out my Facebook profile to view some additional photos from the weekend.
P.S. Stay tuned, my dear readers. I'm hoping that when my husband returns from being at work-related training in a few days, I can talk him into writing a blog post with his thoughts on the experience!