WARNING: VERY LONG POST MARATHON POST!!
The 8k and marathon challenge in the outer banks in North Carolina was indeed a challenge and an amazing experience. I was nervous weeks before because I was unable to continue training after mid-September because of my work schedule and then in early October because of an old soccer knee injury. I gave it one final go in Mid-October by running three runs…the first week I ran 10 and 8 miles on back to back days, and the second only made an 8 mile run because my knee starting hurting again! My pace for the final 8 mile run was at 11:42 per mile, 50 seconds faster than the previous week, I was at least excited about that. But I decided not to run any more until the race after that. I play a little ITG because it didn’t bother my knee, but I don’t account that for helping me. I did not taper, and did not reach a long run goal during training.
Then came the day of the 8k. Me and Rich arrive the night before, not much sleep because we never do get sleep when we’ve been apart for a while. Waking up, we decide to walk to the starting line, about 0.75 miles away from the hotel. It was partly cloud and temperatures were above 72 degree, with a relative humidity of 89%…AMAZING for November! We missed bib pickup the day before by half an hour, so I had to get my bib 20 minutes before starting time at the latest.My stomach was having bad cramps from a bad jalapeno I had the previous night, wasn’t sure I could run. It was about 5 minutes before registration closed and we weren’t close…we tried cutting through a field but there was a locked fence! So we ran around it and made it just in time to get the bib! Ran about half a mile before the first race even started. My plan for the 8k was just to go slow, even walk if I had to, to ensure I wouldn’t be sore for having a too high pace and not running for the two weeks before. The race started on the rubber high school track, and we were off, 7:30 in the morning. It quickly led into the woods nearby off road. I would not consider this a true trail race, but it was never on pavement except for when it led out to the woods and came back to the track start. I did not expect this, and I have not practiced running on anything other than pavement for over a year! It was amazing, my pace was lower, the first mile at 10:02, oh too fast. I slowed down in the 2nd mile to 10:22, still too fast. But my knee felt great and the off road path gave me energy. I passed so many during this time, third mile in at 10:03! Ok have to slow down, or I’ll be sore for sure, I never kept this kind of pace, it’s even close to a 5k pace for me! 4th mile came and the pavement came back, slowed down to 11:18 at least, walking a little at the water station. Then the last mile, I could picture the finish. Everyone who knows me knows I can’t hold back…I sprinted to the finish along the track below a 6:42/mile pace, making my 5th mile in at 10:02, same as my first mile!! Finish was at 52:10 unofficial, for 5.06 miles. When I stopped, I knew I had my heart rate up for a whole mile, and my quads were going to be sore…whoops.
Rich and I continued to the beach where we got to stick our toes in the sand and in the water (water was 72°F!) and marveled in how it was this warm. Temperatures climbed to 81°F that day. We went to the First Flight Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, where we were staying, and walked forever. We made it to the top of the hill where the memorial was and just laid there in the sun taking it all in. Met another runner, doing the half marathon, and she was doing a half in all 50 states. Such an interesting person! We walked probably more than I should have before the big day, but I loved it. Had some real North Carolina BBQ that evening at a local restaurant that was delicious. Then it was off to bed early.
The next morning was a lot cooler, at 58°F. I was sore from the day before…ugh. Rich got me arm sleeves just in case. I used them the whole time, never got too hot for me. The starting line for the full was up in Kitty Hawk. Apparently there were over 800 people at the starting line, for what looked like 200 some. This was a Boston Qualifier race, so there were a lot of fast people hoping to get into the 2017 Boston Marathon. I stayed near the back. Went off in the last corral at 7:20am. The first group of people in the first mile said “use the force”, and had a Star Wars theme going. The race led out of the woods into a local neighborhood along the sound. Many people came out of their houses to cheer us on, even though this was just the beginning, a warm up! Many joke signs along the way making fun of Kanye West and Beyonce, and a few houses playing music for us. That’s when I became “butterfly girl”, because of my shirt I was wearing. The race went through neighborhoods until mile 6 when it became a sort of greenway along the sound, seeing all the pretty piers along the way. Splits from the start were 11:00, 11:06, 11:13 (Water station), 10:54. I told myself, “I’m going too fast!”, but I couldn’t slow down, I felt so good and didn’t feel tired. There was a little girl in the middle of the road holding out her hands for high fives. I high fived for energy and she smiled. I was able to talk to an older lady and her hyped up husband pushing her along, and had a nice conversation about marathons. I finally went on from her. Mile 7, I met up with the First Flight Monument from the previous day, realizing then how far we walked then. It loomed over me as the marathoners ran around the park circle. The park ended with the entrance to the woods.
This was a REAL trail, with many little hills and soft pine needles on a mix of mud and sand (wet surface). It felt good, as I went up the first real hill, I passed EVERYONE, they were ALL walking hearing “go butterfly girl go!” I didn’t know how long the trail was. This didn’t affect my pace at all, averaging less than 11:20 for each mile on the trail. I looked at my watch, “wow, I’m going to hit half way at a record time!”. The exit to the trail was at the half way point, 13.1 miles, and I hit it at 2:27:49, my 2nd fastest half marathon time. My 10k time was terrible at 1:08:42, so I thought I was going decently slow to pace myself. But I was surprised I was still RUNNING, because never had I actually run all 13 miles of a half before without stopping for a decent walking break. I took small walking breaks at each water station so I could sip the water without choking, but I never walked because I was tired of running!! I felt empowered, I know when I hear “you’re half way there”, I think…”I have to do this again?” and get discouraged, but this time was different. The course ran out to the main road and Rich apparently drove past me at around mile 14 on the road haha! I was so focused I didn’t hear him. I was trying to slow my pace after the half mark, because part of me was scared I wasn’t going to be able to maintain this pace and I would hit a wall and not be able to finish…this part of me was screaming at me. My pace stayed around 11:23 for the next 5k after the half mark.
Mile 15 led back into a neighborhood, this one quiet and the only person who came out was an older lady (looked like in her 80s) to ring a cowbell for us passing in her nice coat. This was the mile I had trouble with. When I stopped for water at mile 15.2, I couldn’t force my legs to start running again, as they felt like they were splintering like dry wood already, and to start running felt like shooting metal arrows up my legs from my feet. I walked for the first time for a little bit to take a gel, but started running again. Mile 16 was my 2nd slowest mile at 13:22 because it took me about 0.25 miles to get back up to pace and feel comfortable again. I kept going, kept running, which elated me because I had never in my life run straight like this for more than 8 miles and I was about to double it. The neighborhood ended back out onto the main highway again and it was loud, and annoying. Keeping focus here was hard. I hit miles 17 and 18 at about 12:10 average pace but I kept running still. Brought my pace down for mile 19 at an incredible 11:53, so tired of running. My thought process was this:
“The water station is at the next mile hopefully, that will be a little break, like an Ian break, so I shouldn’t stop running”. The next mile there was no water station. “Oh no water station, I guess I’ll keep running a mile more, that’s not so bad. And if I stop running, I may not want to start again…I hurt so much right now.” The pain was so great that the thought of walking and then starting to run again was unbearable. Then I just couldn’t believe I’d managed any sort of pace under 13:00 for any mile after the half way point! I’d never done that before either, what was happening? I took another gel at mile 20, and it slowed my pace a little. Mile 21, 11:51 pace. Then at mile 22.4, I saw the unthinkable happen. A girl running several feet in front of me collapses, as her left leg suddenly crosses behind her right leg and she falls to the ground…she hit the wall. She tried getting up but it didn’t work and she pulls herself to the sidelines with her arms. There were some spectators to help her, but I panicked. I slowed my pace to 12:45 average for the next 2 miles terrified what would happen to me…I had not trained for this, I had not done what I was supposed to do, I was doing unbelievably well…all these negative thoughts streamed through my head, and then I saw it…the bridge, the one major obstacle of the entire race that takes people down. I was still running, and decided I had enough energy to conquer it. The incline started, and my muscles switched gears. It felt SO GOOD to use different muscles, I kept a pace of 10:15 all the way up, and an even faster pace down. It was like a hot steak dinner after eating nothing for days. Restored for miles 24 and 25, I got splits of 11:11 and 11:29, on par with my starting splits. I was baffled, but regained focus. I made the mistake of thinking mile 24 was the last full mile for some odd reason, so I pushed through it. Then again at mile 25…then I hit mile 26 when my garmin said I was already at 26.2, I should be done? I saw the finish and didn’t care, my legs were dying, and had been since mile 15, I brought my pace down to 11:00 for the last 0.2 miles, ending at 26.45 miles in 5:08:58.
I had done it, in my opinion, I had actually RUN a whole marathon! I didn’t quit out, I didn’t walk. I did the unthinkable. I ended up not paying attention and ran a little past the finish not realizing I could stop. The wind took a toll on some parts of the course and slowed me down and was cold. After the finish, I just wanted to go home so I could spend what little time I had with Rich. We went to the shuttle stop, and had to wait about 10 minutes when all I wanted to do was sit down. The shuttle finally came, and as I was climbing the stairs to the bus, I fell. I guess I hit my own wall then. My legs would not support me any more. It hurt, but it was more the fact I fell that was embarrassing.
I can’t describe how I pushed through so much pain. I must have gotten several adrenaline rushes before the finish, I felt quite a few. I honestly don’t know how, without proper training, I was able to finish running and running strong. I know my time is not good for some people, but my pace has never been that good for such a long period of time. Even for half the distance I struggle with those kinds of paces and splits. I know the road to recovery will be hard, mainly because of the lack of training, as it feels right now like I have no muscle in my legs to support me even standing (which I can’t do well at the moment), and it all hurts so much. I know I am not injured and I am thankful for that. Regardless of others and their times, I am very proud of what I did and now I have the knowledge that I can improve. Congrats if you made it to the end of this.