Friday, October 26, 2007

The Columbus Marathon (Part 2)

I woke up early, refreshed and surprisingly not stressed.

And like a gift from God, my knee felt a million times better. The ache was still there, but much less threatening. And when I jogged back and forth across the hotel room, I couldn't feel the ache at all. I held my breath and said a prayer that after 20 miles of pounding, I still wouldn't feel it.

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We met Kevin and Marissa in the lobby. I peed for the 15th time, and then we headed outside. I have to say, our hotel was perfect. It was only like a hundred bucks (I'm used to Miami prices) and it was a HUGE suite, very clean, comfortable, had a great view of the river and was RIGHT in front of the start of the race.

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So close in fact, that when J decided he needed to use the bathroom before the start, instead of the port-o-potty (about 5 people deep, not too bad), he instead went to the hotel to our room on the 7th floor.

I of course had to pee again since 15 times is obviously not enough. The lines closer to the start were miraculously short and I will say this about the Columbus Marathon. Those port-o-potties has T.P. ALL DAY LONG! I don't know how they did it, but it was awesome.

As we waited for the gun to go off, I felt really calm and happy. It was chilly, but the weather was going to end up in the mid-70's so I knew it was going to be warm. I tossed off my long sleeve and felt great knowing that I wasn't going to be soaked in sweat in 30 minutes.

The gun went off (of course I never hear it) and we shuffled our way to the mat. Once we hit the mat, we instantly had room to run. They capped the registration at 10,000 and it made for a nice race. Not too big, not too small.

The course was amazing. We started out on E. Broad which is lined with countless amazing, old churches. This part of the race was filled with laughter, smiles, hope and adrenaline. I felt great and so did everyone around me. Kevin and Marissa were right behind us for the first few miles. We all did our first few walk breaks together, making each other take them, clearing our way off to the side, making sure we walked fast and single file, But as the miles went on, we wished each other well, and Jeremy and I were off.

Next we ran through Bexley's orange and red tree-lined streets. The fall leaves popped brightly against the deep blue sky and the air was still crisp but comfortable.

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The homes in this hood were out of control and Jeremy and I were quick to realize that we had no business being in this neighborhood when we were living in Columbus, which is why we didn't recognize it. It seemed as though every 10 seconds you would hear someone say "Holy shit, look at that house!" or "Wow, look at that beautiful park!". It definitely kept the mind off running for awhile as we contemplated how much a house that size would cost in Miami and why exactly we moved again.

It was also nice how everyone in the neighborhood seemed to come out to sit on their lawn (big-ass lawn) with their kids and their dogs and cheer us on. It was like people were tailgating the marathon! I loved it and it kept the smile on my face for miles. People in Columbus are so damn friendly!

I took my first GU at mile 5 and subsequently at 10,15 and 20. Since I wasn't carrying water I realized the easiest way to take it was to open the pouch when I saw water up ahead and take the GU as I was running. Then I could walk through water and wash it down. It worked out really well and I did a good job of taking fluids at every stop and mixing my Gatorade and water at every other stop.

The only bad thing about stopping for water while doing walk breaks is that sometimes we would finish a walk break and there would be water about 20 yards ahead. So, sometimes our walk breaks ended up a little long which made for some weird splits that were all over the place.

Soon we ran through picturesque German Village which was awesome.

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They had some great bands playing in the streets and there was still a lot of crowd support. Then we turned for our 5 mile trek up High Street. A lot of people said that this was the hardest part for them (including J) but I loved it. High Street was fun because you get to see so many different pockets of Columbus. First we ran by the Brewery District, then as we got closer to downtown, the half-marathoners were finishing their race. This was great for about 5 minutes as we heard the rush of the crowd cheering "ALMOST DONE!", until we realized they aren't talking to us. Next thing you know, it was suddenly quiet, much less congested and the race was finally starting to begin.

I should say that it was about at this point where I first felt myself getting tired, although it was short lived and faded fast. I got my head straight and soon felt fine.

I also noticed that I really didn't even start sweating till about mile 10. And it wasn't so much a sweat as it was a light perspiration. In Miami, my clothes are SOAKED by mile three. The only reason I was soaked in Columbus was from Gatorade sloshed on the front of my shirt.

Next on High we ran by our old gym.

Eight years ago, after Jeremy and I started dating we both suddenly gained a lot of weight (like most new couples do).When I say a lot, I don't mean like 10 lbs. J was about 60 lbs heavier than he is now and I was about 20. Six months later after seeing some Christmas pictures of ourselves, we'd had enough and decided to do something about it. We joined this gym in downtown Columbus which was a huge feat for me since I had never worked out a day in my life. The first day we were there, after we lifted, Jeremy told me to walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill. I remember barely being able to get through those 20 minutes. The treadmills faced a wall of windows that looked down over High Street and I remember staring down at the Statehouse and thinking I would never finish. When I was done, I was so out of breath and red that it looked as though I had run a 10K. Three months later and 15 lbs thinner walking wasn't keeping me entertained enough and I decided to attempt the one thing I always said I would try but never did, running. I got on that treadmill and ran (with walk breaks) for 20 minutes. It was one of the proudest days of my life.

So here I am with Jeremy running past that old gym, looking up at the wall of windows and seeing the treadmills lined up where it all began. I wouldn't have bet a cent back then that one day I would run a marathon past that building.

An emotional moment to say the least.

We continued up High Street. We passed the Short North and all our old, favorite bars.

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We passed the Ohio State Campus and marveled at all the shiny new buildings that had replaced the old run down nightclubs. We passed the Newport Music Hall where we went on one of our first dates to see Ben Folds Five.

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And as the neighborhood progressively started to get more shady and run down, we passed Hudson Street, the street where we first lived together. Yes indeed we agreed, we had come a long way.

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As we turned off High Street around mile 17 I was still feeling pretty good. I was tired but not dead. I do remember trying to scratch the back of one leg with the other during a walk break and realizing that my legs were really heavy and my quads were tighter than normal. I commented to Jeremy that it was funny how training in Miami was more a test of endurance since it is so hard to breathe in the heat and humidity, but my legs are ALWAYS warmed up, so they never hurt. But in Ohio I wasn't struggling with my endurance at all but my legs were noticeably sore.

Then we hit Upper Arlington.

Now, everyone had been telling these tales about how flat Columbus is. These people are liars. Of course after living in a place where the highest training hill is 80 feet above sea level, a pancake seems hilly to me. As soon as we got into Upper Arlington we hit a little hill I wasn't prepared for. I mean, we weren't running in San Francisco or anything, but it was gradual and long. We ran it though, as we did every other hill we encountered after that and we didn't walk once. I was pretty proud of this fact especially since we were the ONLY ones running up the first hill. The hill part was OK, but recovering from it was harder than I thought. It kicked my ass and took me about a mile to get my mind and body focused again. This is when I started to get tired, but no matter how hard it was, it still wasn't as bad as my first 20 mile run in Miami in August. I knew I was well prepared for feeling tired and out of it.

The next few miles were kind of a daze. The energy would come to me in waves. I remember running along the outskirts of campus along open fields and it being a pretty boring part of the course. I remember some guy blasting "All That Jazz" from a speaker in his front yard while dancing around. I remember high-fiving little kids as they lined up in the streets, I remember yelling "GO TRIBE" to a lady in a Cleveland Indians Jacket and she replied,

"Go Tribe? GO YOU!".

I remember being exhausted one minute, then focusing on a runner in front of me and going into a complete zone for about another mile. I felt like I could go on forever. Then a few moments later, the wave would crest and I was once again exhausted.

Then I remember crying.

As we ran along Lane Avenue around mile 22 some lady yelled out something encouraging, I don't even remember what it was, but I got really emotional. All the sudden the weight of what I was doing came crashing down on me and I literally felt like I was choking on my emotions. The tears started to flow.

J: "Um what are you doing?"

Me: "I don't know, I just got really emotional all the sudden."

J: "You can't get emotional at mile 22!!! Suck it up lady, we got a job to do!"

This is why I training with J is so good for me. Mr. Common Sense is there to remind me that there's no crying in RUNNING! And sometimes, that's just what I need to hear.

I sucked it up. We kept going. We ran though campus, but it was mostly a blur. We then turned down Neil Ave to run through the Victorian Village and I hit another zone and sped it up a bit. Then, after we took our last water stop and I downed some Gatorade at Mile 25, we took off.

As we turned up to Goodale Park, the crowds suddenly swelled. The cheers got louder and seemed to surround me. As I passed spectators I remember looking them in the eye as they screamed to me "You look strong, keep going!" I tried to thank them but only a muffled grunt came from my mouth as I ran by. I started feeling nervous from the crowds and all the emotions that were building inside of me. The sounds, the cheers, the runners, the sun on my face, it was all too much and I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up. I asked Jeremy where our walk break was and he said,

"Oh, you wanted to take another one?"

I could barely utter the word "yes" as I slowed to a walk. It seemed as though everyone left in the race was suddenly running by us as we passed the last 1/2 mile mark. Jeremy urged me to not leave it on the course when we were so close to being done. I was strong, he said. I was going to beat my time goal. Then after I got mad at myself for waiting till the last possible moment to get tired, (I mean really, who runs 25.5 miles of a marathon and then stops?) I collected myself and with a final "O.K" we were off.

We turned the final bend to the finish line that was (thank God) downhill! As we passed all the cheering spectators my emotions/weariness got the best of me and I started sobbing uncontrollably. I really don't remember anything about this last stretch except me crying, the roar and blur of the crowd and Jeremy grabbing my hand and raising it up as we crossed the finish line. As we slowed down to stop I grabbed him around his waist and he held me as I cried like a baby. A medic actually came over to us and asked Jeremy if I was OK.

"Yes" he assured him with a slight chuckle, "She's fine."

Next thing I knew, he led me to have my chip cut off (still crying). Suddenly a kind lady was hanging a marathon medal around my neck and congratulating me on my achievement. I don't remember seeing her, but the warm-hearted tenderness of her voice made me cry even harder.

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After I composed myself and we made our way through the lines. I grabbed some food, but that last thing I I could do was eat. I nibbled on a few things, drank a ton of Gatorade and hobbled our way to the sidelines to check out our splits.

1. 10:57 (not bad for a start)
2. 10:45
3. 10:48
4. 11:07 (keeping it slow early on)
5. 10:38
6. 10:22
7. 10:11
8. 10:37
9. 10:30 (right on pace)
10. 9:56 (getting a little excited)
11. 10:48
12. 10:36
13. 10:34
14. 10:08
15. 10:48
16. 10:43
17. 10:34
18. 10:13 (Jeremy keeps trying to reel me in)
19. 10.31
20. 11.01
21. 10:33
22. 10:20 (crybaby)
23. 10:43
24. 11:09 ( a long stop with water)
25. 10:40 (felt good this mile)
26. 9:49 (no wonder I wanted to throw up)
.2. 1.45

Our pace was right on and I ran a negative split by less than a minute! Not bad for marathon number one.

Then we watched as Kevin and Marissa came in. Kevin ran it with her as well and she knocked a whole 30 MINUTES off her time from her first marathon! She's my hero!

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The rest of the day was filled with Marathon stories, hobbling around (my knees are still recovering 7 days later), big juicy Mushroom Swiss Burgers and Scottish Ale at Barley's Brewery (the brewpub where J and I met when we both worked there 9 years ago).

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And like the dork I am, I fell asleep on our bed with my medal still draped around my weary little neck.



Marcy said...

CONGRATS!!!!!! ;D ;D ;D

What a fabulous report, chica!!! ;D ;D How wonderful to take a "stroll" down memory lane like that and with the DH no less :-) I'd be crying tpwards the end too (and that was a speedy crying mile LOL) YOU ROCK!!! ;D ;D

Sarah Jo Austin said...

Wow! Thanks for the race report! I've been having a pity party all weekend because my first half marathon is next weekend, and I'm starting to doubt myself. You've helped me get back into the right frame of mind!

Jess said...

Great conclusion to the race report and thanks for all the pics -- it sounds like it was a great race.

Again, congrats on your finish and time -- those are such consistent splits!

Lori said...

Oh my gosh Laurel! You have me all teary, too! LOL What a great marathon report. It really felt like we were right there with you. So, so, so proud of you! What a great running partner you have, too :)

My Life said...

Ooooh Laurel... what a great race report. And what a fabulous race for you! You couldn't have had a better first marathon experience!

(...what's next? ;) )

Sonia said...

That's an awesome race report!! I got a little teary myself! =)

CONGRATS AGAIN!!!! You did so well out there, this is awesome. I'm definitely jealous of you for having such a great running partner to push you. What a great race overall!! Something to be proud for the rest of your life =)

P.O.M. said...

That sounds so incredible! I got really emotional at about mile 25, but I was all by myself. I think i told some stranger that i wanted to cry. But they just looked at me weird.

How great to incorporate the "memory lane" with the marathon. So fun!

Way to go!!!!!

zanne said...

oh laurel! i am crying! i am so happy for you ... what a great, perfect day you had! congratulations ... great, great race report!

Pokey said...

Your post gave me the CHILLS!!!!!

Congrats on a great marathon!!!

Moon said...

oh, girlie, THIS is the kind of race report I love to read. I got a few tears welling up in my eyes there near the end, too ;) You rocked the HELL out of this race, and should be damn proud!! CONGRATS!!!

Dori said...

I second what Moon said. A fabulous race, Laurel. Congratulations on BEATING YOUR GOAL IN YOUR FIRST MARATHON!!!

This was a great report--you made it sound very real. I especially liked the part where you ran past your old gym. And I can understand getting all emotional at mile 22 when you realize, "Holy shit, I'm actually going to make it!"

Congratulations to your husband, too. He sounds like a great running partner.

JohnF said...

Incredible report

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