Monday, October 8, 2007

Mind Over Matter

Patience is a virtue! Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for…

Well, I finished! I was a nervous wreck the past three days leading up to the race. My biggest concerns were: (1) the weather (2) running alone (3) hitting “the wall.”

Much to my dismay, it was the hottest weather in the history of the Twin Cities Marathon. The average high during the race was 77 with a dew point of 69. All those steamy training days paid off since my body had somewhat of a chance to acclimate to the muggy conditions. However, the possibility it would be so miserable in October never crossed my mind! I was very much looking forward to cool, crisp temperatures -- should we have been so lucky.

Did you hear they closed the Chicago Marathon due to heat? A 35-year-old man died and 250 were treated for heat-related ailments.

When I first arrived at the metrodome Sunday morning, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Many were gravitating indoors so I followed the crowd and plopped down on the cold concrete to do a very weak job of stretching (I hate it). I guess I wanted to appear as though I actually followed the rules of running. Five minutes of stretching was all I could handle.

I then headed back outdoors and made my way to the starting line. Just arriving at the start and seeing the 10,500 runners who signed up was inspiration in itself. I thought to myself, if all these people can do it, I certainly can. It no longer seemed like such an unattainable feat.

Flags were posted with times of fifteen minute increments and we were to line up accordingly. My heart nearly leapt in my throat when the first flag I saw said 5:30, as I assumed it meant 5:30 mile pace. Then I realized it meant finish time. I was set to make my way to the 4:30 group (you had to push your way through the crowd) when around 5:15, I spotted a friend of mine, Roxy, from college. She was with two other girls – one she works with, Sasha, and the other girl, Amanda, was Sasha’s friend from Portland.

Quick back story on Roxy – she lived in my section freshmen year of college and if there’s one thing to say about her, she’s got balls. Back then, she drove a bright yellow pick-up truck and every morning around 7:30, she’d blast Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up” as she was getting ready for class. My fellow section mates didn't share my admiration. Given that I didn't care for most of them, I loved her even more. Needless to say, I wasn't surprised that she and Sasha were wearing black t-shirts, hot pink skirts, and matching pink ribbons in their hair. They looked cute and sassy.

I knew Roxy was a runner but didn't know she was a marathoner. Turns out, this was her third. In fact, I remember her going for ten mile runs back in college and thinking she was insane. I was so relieved to see someone I knew who had done this before! They were all former marathoners so it was comforting to know they'd all managed to complete them.

The girls said they were in the 5-5:15 range so while I knew that was slower than what I was shooting for, I was just grateful to have people to run with. Having someone to encourage and push you along the way is crucial! Earlier I'd had all these visions of me sprawled out on the ground as I was trampled by other runners with no one to pick me up. At the time of sign-up, I was freaked about not having anyone to run with, but ultimately decided that was a poor excuse for not running a marathon. During training people kept asking if I was running/training with anyone and when I'd say "no" they'd get this blank expression on their face before saying, "Oh, I'm sure you'll be fine."

You know it’s a bad sign when the announcer says, "This is not the day to set a PR, folks" before the start. The humid conditions were brutal and only got worse as the sun came up and beat everyone down.

So we began as a foursome but Sasha kept insisting we were going too fast. Around mile 4, Amanda and I surged ahead. At first, we kept slowing and checking to make sure they were within sight, but eventually we lost them in the pack.

Amanda and I seemed to match one another’s pace until mile 10 when she began to drop back. She first wanted to walk because she needed to use a port-a-potty so when we arrived at the next one, there were four people in line. She encouraged me to go ahead more than once but I declined and waited for her. Afterwards, she needed to walk the next hill.

At the next water stop, she seemed to perk up a bit after re-fueling with Gatorade and water, but I still had to decrease my pace quite a bit ‘cause she was lagging behind. The humidity really began to take its toll so she began to get dizzy and needed to stop and walk at other points as well.

They have designated runners set as “pacers” whose sole purpose is to set the pace for others. They carry balloons and wear a sign that denotes their time so when the 5:30 pacer passed us around mile 16, that was when I made the decision to take off on my own. I definitely didn’t want to finish after 5:30 or even worse, risk not finishing in the 6 hour time limit. I felt terrible leaving Amanda but my competitive side was raring to go in hopes of coming in under 5.

At mile 20, they have this giant inflatable “wall” so if you weren’t thinking about it before, you are once you get there! After the 20 marker, you think, only 6 to go, that’s nothing!

I never caught the 5 hour pacer and instead came in at 5:11. Not the best time by any means, but I did manage to beat Sven Sundgaard, a local celebrity weather forecaster. Of course I did also get beat by an 80+ year-old man. I struggled those last few miles, but nearing the end was motivation. I stopped and walked a couple times due to dehydration. I learned that one misconception about marathoners is that people assume they run the entire time. Not true. Some even power walk and beat the runners. I felt discouraged by the number of walkers for it made me want to walk, but I don’t do so well with the pattern of walk, run, walk, run etc. so I only walked during those weak moments when I felt as though I might collapse.

I finished strong (adrenaline goes a LONG way) and when I came down the home stretch outside the St. Paul Capitol, I was thrilled to see GC and another friend cheering me on. A few steps later, my parents shouted my name as my dad attempted to snap a picture but he was a few seconds too late. Since you’re wearing the micro chip to identify you, they call your name as you cross the finish line and volunteers immediately place your medal around your neck. Then they place a silver blanket around your shoulders for warmth since you’re prone to the chills afterwards. Every finisher also receives a shirt.

I got the backside of my medal engraved with "1st marathon."

Despite the killer heat, it was a positive experience and easier than I anticipated, but it could just be that I'm prone to imagining the worst-case scenario. I'm curious to know how I'd perform in mild temperatures for I know the weather significantly hurt my performance as was the case for others.

The fans are AMAZING. I swear, I think some of them exerted more energy into cheering than I did running. If you put your name on the back of your shirt, they'll call you by name. I knew this beforehand, but chose not to partake. Even so, a few called me by my bib number. They were right there supporting you -- some sprayed runners with their garden hoses, handed out food and even beer, and provided music and entertainment. One chubby, middle-aged guy wore a t-shirt that said, "If I've Done It, You Can."

When I got home, I slept. A lot. I think my exhaustion was actually more mentally strenuous than physically strenuous! It truly is a case of mind over matter. While I enjoyed it and fully intend to do more, I'm so relieved to have it over and done with. I would’ve been sorely disappointed if I hadn’t finished. For the last few years, every time a marathon has come and gone, I've felt disappointed in myself for not participating. Not anymore!

Fortunately for me, I experienced no chafing, no blisters, and very minor soreness. Prior to the race, I feared I hadn't trained hard enough, but my body held up in good physical condition even post-race! My mom couldn't believe I wasn't panting or breathing heavy after I finished. I think it just comes naturally.

My only question is: now what? I’d like to do a half-marathon. Maybe not anytime soon but I think I could do well.

Thanks once again to all my supporters and well-wishers! I've never felt so loved!!

On the sleeve of shirt:


ruby said...

CONGRATULATIONS! my brother finished in 4:50 so he was right there with you! i'm so excited now for mine.... 25 days, bitches, 25 days!!

Jeff said...

YAY!!!!!!!You are my HERO..I can hardly run a mile!!!!!!!!!!

MD said...

WOOOOO! Sure, not as good as my 3:35 finish in the Boston Marathon, but you tried at least.

I can't imagine doing that for 5 hours!

Way to go Kiddo! I think you should focus on conquering other fitness goals. Look to the World's Strongest Man Competition for inspiration. Deadlift 8 full kegs, Pull a 747, carry a VW Bug on your mighty back! You caaaan do eet!

MD said...

By the way, I was unaware of girls running in skirts...THE TRAINING STARTS TONIGHT!

wearingthepants said...

Thanks all! :)

Here's to my new goal: conquering The World's Strongest Man competition.

DaveGrohlFanClub said...

CONGRATS!!! You're awesome!

Kim said...

I can just see you now, throwing telephone poles around.