Richmond Marathon, Nov. 14, 2009
My day started at 3am, when I woke up the first time, and never really got back to sleep. This was OK, as I had planned for a "non-sleep" night all along. It's sometimes good to know this about yourself. So, that didn't mess me up at all. I waited until 5 minutes before my alarm and got up. The first thing I did was check the website to see if they'd changed the course. They hadn't. SO I signed onto facebook to have breakfast with all my running friends... so to speak. I had breakfast, a half a bagel with pb, and about 8 ounces of Orange Gatorade, and a cup of coffee. I have to drink coffee, or I get a headache. I'd rather NOT consider the implications of that... I know I'm addicted. The articles on nutrition say to stay with what you know, and have a low fat 800 calorie meal. Um. Hello. So, I stuck with what I know.
After breakfast I got dressed and put on my sexy Navy/Orange runningskirt and matching top. I know, it's matchy-matchy, but I LOVED my ROAD CONE ORANGE running shirt and knew it would make me easy to spot. I took my watch off the charger, noting that it said, "Battery Charging Complete", laced my shoes on and was ready to go. It was warm out. Too warm to need my "Throw away" sweat shirt, so, I tossed it in the car just in case and pulled up my "sock sleeves".
H and I left our house on time, picked up T in her super sexy pink/white socks, and in good spirits, chatting all the way, we headed into the city. I had eventually decided on pig tails, so T gave me a set of navy bows to match my outfit - super cute. Parking was a non-issue, since my H is an uber-planner. Our steps were energetic and we practically skipped through the rainy, grey, city. I know, not ideal weather, but I wasn't going to let the weather get me down. I was practically crowing that it wasn't hot and humid. I guess it would be fair to say that I was thrilled that it was rainy and cool because T and I had trained in some extreme weather, and "rainy and cool" sounded SUPER. We arrived at the steps of the Library, our agreed meeting place and connected with Jack and Fay.
We sent Fay off to run the Half, which she rocked of course, and posed for a few more photos before we headed to the potty lines (in the back ground of this photo). The lines moved fairly quickly and we got to the front to discover that... there was NO TOILET PAPER. We're marathoners, we made due.
H & reviewed his spectator plan, and Rach gave me some quiet words of strength while we waited out the 30 minutes until Race Start... eventually we saw the 4:30 pacer and knew it was time to step into our corral. I went to turn on my fully charged Garmin... and nothing. Dead. It's marathon morning and I have no Garmin. No watch. Oh. My. God. (a few seconds of panic and complaint... and then)... "OKAY. No biggie, I'm running with the pacer from start to finish."
T & I make friends where ever we go, and the girl beside us in blue with the brown hair (SARA) was chatting with us when she asked, "So, are you guys students here?" "Uh... WE LOVE YOU!" No, I explained, we're moms, we have 6 kids between us and are running my 1st (and T pipes in "my 2nd") Marathon. But, that was just another great omen on what was shaping up to be an awesome morning.
We milled about for a while, and then a roar went up from the crowd and we started moving toward the start line. Jackie P, T & I had decided to run together, so we were off with the 4:30 pacer, "John" I think his name was? John seemed so sane... but... then again, clearly NOT the case as we would find out later.
The first miles were full of chatter and laughter. Jackie P is a hoot. T was kind enough to point out some funny signs - a personal best on her part was offering to take me shopping for a new pair of pants at PANTS PLUS (a ghetto looking pants store right on the main drag through Richmond). Our first mile was a touch slow, because of the start "traffic". Then the second mile we made up the first mile's lost time. The third mile's split was a touch fast, but the pacer was "banking a few seconds to make up for lost time at the 4th mile water stop" His words. And then, at the mile four H2O... John stepped into the restroom. Uh... without telling anyone, so the group, as a whole, sped up to look for him. I swear, we were like a bunch of lost kids. This mile was WAY too fast. It didn't ruin my race, but it certainly didn't help bolster the confidence of John's abilities. John steps back in but by now I was over John. I think T&Jackie P might have agreed with me. I had no watch, I was just running whatever T was running, trusting in her pace. The first few miles evaporated, they vanished, gone from my memory. Truly, I only retained the non-sense and high points.
I admit, after this point all mile points are estimates. With no Garmin to tell me where I was, I was only noting certain miles - 6,12,18,24. Those splits were where I would take my nutrition. Jackie P had a heart attack 13 months ago this week. So he mentioned to me that he had taken a lot of asprin before today's run and that if he fell he would need a tourniquet. "No worries Jackie, I have my sleeves here, I can save you."... Jackie says, "I was hoping you'd take off your shirt." We all laugh. I pointed out that in his fantasy of a bunch of half naked women working over him, he was most likely picturing Victoria's Secret models, not squishy momsof3. The woman running in front of us almost wiped out trying to figure out if Jackie was hitting on me. (He was not.) The three of us were planning for the upcoming bridge (at mile 16ish? I honestly don't know), and how it would be windy and to not get caught up in the wind we were going to fly in V formation. Like Geese, and yes, we were laughing.
So, sometime after mile 4 but before mile 7 T started to fade a little. I didn't say anything though, because I didn't want to think it was what I thought it was. I thought she was powering down. We were running downhill along side the country club when I first worried about her race.
At mile 7 we arrived at the first PARTY ZONE where my DH was waiting for us with refuel of H2O, and cheering. We picked up E, our resident Kenyan, and ran with her. John was still in our sights, but by now I had realized that the 4:30 marathon wasn't for me. It would be more fun to run a 4:45 marathon, and so I sat back to enjoy the rest of my 2o mile warm-up.
The 4 of us paired off, me with E, Jackie with T. Then suddenly I realized Jackie was with us... and I dropped back, only a few paces, to check with T. Not good. I asked what I could do for her? "Go run your race, your race doesn't suck because my foot hurts". I'm not even sure if that is what she said, but that is the message that I heard. Those words would haunt me at every mile post after. I kept questioning whether she had really said them, or if I had imagined them. Trust me, when you're running a marathon, the mind plays tricks on you, and it's hard to know what's actually happening and what's in your head. I ran up to E and asked her to run with T. E was kind enough to give me her watch, since we knew I couldn't rely on T's watch anymore. Jackie and I were now on our own.
The course took us down a hill to the banks of the James. Seriously, the grey swollen river was rushing only a few feet beside us, swirling and foaming, with logs and sticks and... Canadian Geese? The Geese were riding the water at the same pace that we were running. Nice. The river was 'running a 10 minute mile'. If you wanted to know. Jackie and I ran comfortably chatting, slowing when we got breathy, speeding up when we felt good. I never felt stressed except on a few hills. And every time we passed a spectator with a cow bell I yelled, I NEED MORE COW BELL! and the spectators & fellow runners would all laugh and go crazy. I secretly expected T to arrive beside me any second. Just before the second party zone my own training injury came up to bite me. For a few minutes I thought about being brave. Yea, and then reason stepped in and I took an Alieve. Right after I swallowed the alieve I had a familiar feeling. A familiar feeling that woman gets right before she starts her... OMG, are you SERIOUS? Have I just started??? I have NOTHING on me, and my H won't have anything either!
We got to the Party Zone, kissed our Spouses, as we were leaving the zone I snagged Rach and asked, "can you get me a personal item by mile 20???" Rach's jaw dropped... "YES!" Here I am, seconds before talking to Rach...
At mile 13.change (I know because Jackie P and I crossed the halfway mark at exactly the same point) I got a nasty cramp. Not the kind you run through. So I told Jackie that I was going to stop by a potty, take care of my personal business (i.e. CHECK TO SEE IF I HAD STARTED, whew NOT YET), and that he would have to go on without me. My cramp was bad, lower abdomen, and I feared that I was going to need a few minutes of regroup. He was obviously distressed that I couldn't hang, but the rules of the road are established by now. You run your race alone together. So he ran on, and I saw a construction porta potty. YAY! I stopped, checked to see how bad the damage was, and couldn't get my skirt back on... I shimmied in so the girl parts were covered and then I basically came out of the potty and got redressed in the street. I got out my i-pod, crossed back into the race course, walked for a minute while I set up my play list, took a breath, and realized... my cramp was gone. my foot pain was gone. Nothing hurt. It's a beautiful day for a run. I felt awesome. I've been stopped about 5-6 minutes I'd guess. I wonder if T passed me while I was in the potty? I wonder if I can catch Jackie before the bridge? I wonder...if I NEED MORE COW BELL!
So that's what I set out to do. Find T, or catch Jackie. I switched into 4:30 race pace for mile 14-17? Big fat question mark on the numbers. I was in race pace from before 14 until just after the bridge. I caught up to & passed SARA and wished her a happy race. And... I arrived at the Bridge. I was prepared for the wind. HOLY SMOKES! I was blown physically around! My body was buffeted by it. All I could think of was Jackie... our V-FORMATION plan... and as I set out to start across, I saw Jackie P., just finishing the bridge. I decided, that in honor of Jackie's plan, I would draft someone. I found a tall woman and hunkered down behind her. Curiosity got me a little and I turned my head to look at the River. Wow. I wished for a camera to capture that awe inspiring view. It was breath taking. The city was ahead of me and the white water falls were to my left churning with unrelenting energy. I breathed in the Richmond Marathon in that moment, and was glad to be here, wind and all.
Tall woman was running a little slow, so I quietly passed her and settled in behind Tallish Guy. Yea, tacky, but effective. I got across the bridge. I took gummie bears at the junk food station. SARA caught up to me and we ran together for a minute. I probably was only 20-30 feet behind her for much of the race.
Once you cross the bridge you get back into the spectators. NEED MORE COW BELL! I saw some familiar faces. AngieB. is one of T's Peeps, and so when I saw her all I could think of was T. Had she seen her? No? OK, she must be behind me. I got all choked up into tears after I left Angie and turned onto Main St, and that slowed me down. I couldn't breath through the tears. I think they were a combined effort - tears of amazement, tears of relief that I had made it this far, and tears of sadness that T was behind me. Emotionally I had prepared myself, from the start of training, to the day when T would leave me behind on the course. I was prepared to be left. I wasn't prepared to do the leaving. I had terrible guilt seeping in and then I thought, "T would be a little disappointed if she knew you were wallowing".
In historic Richmond you run past a row of pastel houses on Cary Street, it was around here that I saw SpeeDee. She is... awesome. Simply amazing. She settled in beside me for a few steps, seeing that I was obviously struggling with something. I told her I was crying for no good reason. She said she does it every race. Whew. I'm normal. And then she wished me well, told me it is all mental after 20, and said loudly to the thick crowd of spectators around us, "Hey ya'll this is my friend Ginny!" "GO GINNY!" And my head spun for a second with the power of their cheer. That cheer, that visit with Dee, carried me for another 2+ miles. At the corner of Boulevard and Main St I had another opportunity to shout, NEED MORE COW BELL!!!
My friend V came into town from PA to run part of this race with me. At some point during the day she heard from DH that I was apart from T, so instead of standing at the mile 20 marker, she was a lot closer to the mile 19 marker. She ran onto the course screaming and cheering, "YEAH!!!! BABY!!!!" She quietly whispered that she had my "personal effects on her". H was on the other side of me, handing me fresh water bottles, gave me a kiss, told me I looked awesome (*note- he's a bad liar, but nice that he tried). I made him promise to wait for T. And then from that point until mile 26 I had a personal cheer leader with me. Every 2-5 minutes she would alternate the phrase, very quiet and up beat, "you can do this" with a very loud "YAY G!" If we saw spectators she would yell, GO G! And they would respond, GO G! Running with V was awesome, we posed for the photographers, cheered for ourselves, and in my darkest moment I never felt even the slightest bit, dark. Oh sure, I hurt, but, I was FINE! I knew I was FINE!
Around 22/23(?) we saw Rach & Jackie! I had caught them! But, I was too wasted to hold their pace, and all I could do was shout from 100 feet back.... "RACH!!!"... no response... so, I went with "WOW THAT IS A HOT MAMA IN AN AWESOME RUNNING SKIRT!" That they heard. And then I wished them a very loud and awesome finish.
At mile 24 I had to potty again. Uhg. No TP AGAIN. Twice in ONE DAY? Not cool. Mile 23-25(?) of the Richmond Marathon is, um, uninspiring. It's along side of a bland looking college campus, which I'm sure is lovely in the spring, but with the washed out grass, grey skies, greyish tan building and grey street I was running on... let's just say, it was grey. No worries though because I had V shouting, cheering, running backwards ahead of me, dancing to her i-pod. OH, I almost forgot! For about a half a mile we ran next to a woman who was singing LOUDLY to her i-pod. Hysterical. I said to V, "Yea, anything to get past the pain." My body was screaming in pain, but I never questioned if I could make it. Once I had to stop to ease a calf cramp and my hip flexor into a little stretch. I never thought about taking a dirt nap. I never hit the wall I had prepared to scale. I... just ran very slowly, until mile 26 was suddenly upon me and I was looking down the hill. I could hear the finishline cheering. Richmond has the most awesome finish - straight downhill on Cary Street. You just put your feet infront of you and let them catch you as you fall straight down. It was awesome.
V slipped off the course so I finished alone. I could see the count down clock ticking toward 5 hours and I kicked it into high gear because damnit, I didn't make it THIS far to not make it in under 5 hours! I made it as it rolled to 4:59 with Mel in my mind of all things. One of her 26.2 things learned was to suck it up and try to look good for the finish. So I threw my arms up and went crazy as I crossed the line.
I saw Dad, & DH, my kids, over the railing, handed them my water & banana and stuff, got a photo with my medal that is ROAD CONE ORANGE AND NAVY!!!, and connected with them. When I stopped moving I felt my blood pressure plummet. So, I insisted that we walk, and we walked up to J (T's H) so we could watch her finish, and scream for her. And as soon as she crossed the line I had to go to her. And, of course, I started bawling. I felt so sad, I knew we should have been together, but I had left her. She, well, put me in my place quite nicely and I was instantly better.
Over all, it was an awesome experience. I will do another one. My actual time was 4:55:42. I will crack 4:30, eventually. It might take 2 more marathons before I can do that though. I think... yes, I think I will run Richmond again next year. Crazy, since I'm sitting here typing this alternating icing my knee and my foot. But they'll heal.