We drove to Raleigh this past Saturday afternoon with one quick stop for gas and a taste test with salt packets.
Traffic wasn't too bad getting there.
We got there around 4 pm on Saturday and the Expo closed at 5. We finally found a place to park that wasn't ten bucks and walked inside. Coming down the escalator we were greeted by this gigantic balloon arch which was pretty cool.
Picking up the race bib was easy and fast. RNR had the place very well organized. We got our timing chip, t-shirt, gear check bag, and beer bracelet. We even took a few fun pictures. I think we all wished we'd had a bit more time there than 45 minutes but it all worked out and we got what we needed.
We made our necessary dinner stops for pre-race ritual food at Chipotle and Jersey Mike's and then we headed over to my cousin's house for one last sleep before the race. I slept okay the night before. I certainly didn't have trouble falling asleep but I woke up around 2 am to use the bathroom and had trouble staying asleep after that.
When we got up and drove downtown the morning of the race, we got stuck in a lot of traffic. Eventually, we were fortunate enough to make it to a parking deck that was provided to race participants for free before it filled up with race participants. RNR Raleigh had over 12,500 registered runners plus who knows how many spectators so it was crowded.
We gathered for a picture with our training group from Fleet Feet and then we headed to the starting line. I was placed in corral 17 with a 5 hr goal time but decided to start in corral 19 figuring I was going to finish closer to 5:15.
My fastest half marathon was 2:29 and McMillan Running calculator said that would put my marathon at 5:15. I was hoping to finish faster than that, but I knew the weather forecast was predicting heat so I was prepared to be okay with a 5:30 finish time.
The race started out well. My training partner, Kristine and I were joined by one of her friends who has run many marathons and a couple of ultras. We repeatedly told him at the start that our only goal was to finish. We stayed conservative on our pacing and ran the first couple of miles around 12:15. The next couple of miles were even harder to hold back on but we stayed around 11:50/mile pace.
I knew the hills were coming around mile 5 and boy did they come! I found the elevation change in this race to be incredible despite the number of times (at least a hundred) that I have run Brookstown Avenue over the last 6 months. We trucked it up the hills all the way until the half marathoners broke off from us around mile 8. Somewhere just before that I lost my partners and found myself running alone.
I didn't want to walk early in the race and I didn't let myself, but it was getting hot and although I was maintaining race pace around 11:40/mile somewhere around mile 10 I let myself walk a bit.
This was a Rock n Roll race and there were supposed to be bands at every mile. At mile 10 there was a lady with a microphone and piped in music and she was annoying me to no end. This was a point on the course where the lead came flying by at the 20 mile marker and she was cheering those runners on by saying things like, "Only a 10k to go!" It was disheartening to hear and I let it get to me.
I managed to run/walk for the next three miles and somewhere my friends caught back up to me. They had stopped to use the bathroom and check with a medic for toe-tape. We wound through PNC arena and down past my old apartment complex. The road was almost unrecognizable from 15 years ago.
I was slowing down a lot, feeling like puking, and I knew I should have passed my dad already running by me in the opposite direction. As we turned off the main road into the stadium and arena my heart sank because I thought I wouldn't get to see him the whole race.
I knew my family would be ahead and I tried to keep going but when we left the arena area we hit more hills and no shade for miles. I tried to keep run/walking with my friends but began to get discouraged and called my mom and sister to tell them to try to catch my dad and not wait on me. I knew I wasn't having a good race. I knew I wouldn't make it anywhere close to goal time and I figured if he could still be encouraged by them then they should be there for that. We saw my dad, a bit behind schedule around mile 13.5, and because I wasn't expecting him there I almost missed him. I was so disappointed that I hardly got to speak to him. It was so hilly and so hot. I felt like puking.
At this point I started to see stars and have episodes of black vision every time I would begin to run again. I was completely and utterly overheated. I encouraged my friends to go on and I continued to walk. I saw my friends one last time and reached the turn around at 16.5 and I decided to walk the remainder of the race. I was so far off schedule and I knew I could finish but I also knew that it wouldn't be by running.
At 11:12 am, somewhere around the 18 mile mark I posted to Facebook, "I'm just starting on my tan, not running a marathon." I'm not sure what I was doing on Facebook during a marathon but 26.2 has caused people to do stranger things I'm sure. Friends began to text me and send encouraging messages that brought tears to my eyes. I tried to run one or two more times but I knew it was pointless. I wasn't going to push past the crazy vision problems and the heat wasn't getting better.
I had completely given up.
I walked to mile 22 and saw my husband standing on the corner of our past (NCSU - Hillsborough Street and Dan Allen Drive) and my heart almost exploded. I hadn't seen anyone I knew since mile 16 and knowing that he could walk with me to the finish line was the only thing making me not just quit.
With my faithful husband (who had finished his own half marathon and walked several miles to meet me) I walked to the end, ran the last tenth of a mile without dying and felt good at the end.
I wish I had pushed myself more, but I was not prepared for the heat.
This is crazy, I know, but somehow I knew halfway through the training that I would want to do another marathon after this one. Now I know I have to.
I played it safe on the course and I didn't work as hard as I should have. But I am living.
It's hard to reconcile 4.5 months of successful training with what feels like one day of race failure.
My race time of 6:39:57 does not make me proud. My training does make me proud. Remembering my 22 mile run a few weeks ago in just shy of 4 hours 40 minutes still makes me giddy. Knowing this journey started with what was supposed to be an impossible 15.5 mile run in 15 degree weather makes me smile. The fact that I'm willing to work that hard again and do better makes me satisfied for now. Knowing that God loves me enough to help me survive that horrible race makes me amazed.
This note from Kristine makes me emotional and probably will for a long time:
We're alive, and even if our times don't match our abilities, we played it smart and slowed down, and we're here to talk about it.
As it turns out, Jonathan and I could have been at the starting line, the gun could have gone off and he could have run his half marathon, then gotten in the car, driven to the beach in a different state, and still been there well before I crossed the finish line in the same city I started in.
|the one who struggles hasn't quit|
Here's to the next 26.2! I'm going to set a PR by more than an hour. Who wants to do it with me?