Sunday, March 17, 2013

A PR RR: Tattoos, tears, and fabulous Loopsters

I don't know how to write a bloop about massively (in my not-at-all-humble opinion) striking down my PR as I am so wrought with emotion still.  I think I am prouder of myself for this achievement than I was the first marathon I finished.  When I was walking to meet up with Adam after I had my medal, I had tears welling in my eyes.  I ended my race feeling so good and so strong. My old PR was 3:50:xx and I took it down to 3:43:18 today.

Here's the story:

Last night I prepped my outfit and applied my temporary tattoos:

Adam and I got up at 4:00am-ish.  We got ready and were out the door at 5:00am.  Our friend Jeff was supposed to meet us at our house to walk the 5K with Adam, but he had a late night and bailed.  So it was just the 2 of us.  Getting there a little earlier meant that traffic wasn't bad at all and the best news--I didn't have to wait in a line to use the Porta-Potty before the start.

We walked up to the start line to try to figure out where he was to start.  The marathon/half-marathon started at 7am, the 5K started a 7:30.  Once we realized it was the same spot, we started to walk to where I said I would meet up with Stewart (Running Stew) and Scott (Flying Tomato).   We stood talking nervously and I kept asking for hugs because I was freezing.    As we were standing, I knocked my sunglasses off my head and re-broke them in a spot that I had superglued previously.  Thankfully, being married to an optician has its' advantages and we walked quickly back to the car to retrieve another pair of sunglasses.

When we got back to our meeting spot, it wasn't long before Stewart and I spotted each other.  We chatted for a few minutes and while they were playing the National Anthem, I spotted Scott.  It was nice to say good luck to Loopsters in person and know that there were a few of us out on the course!

I went to Corral E after that and lined up in the vicinity of the 3:45 pace group with my snazzy little 3:45 number on.  And then, just like that, we were bunched up walking towards the start mat.  I punched the start button on the Garmin and headed off into the morning.

The first miles are always a challenge with so many people clogging the course.  You spend more time concerned about getting an elbow in the face than finding a pace.  The pace leader had a stuffed leprechaun attached to his pole so I just kept that silly little guy in my sight.  My shin was feeling twingy and I told myself that I would try to hold on as long as I could.  I was so concentrated on the way that I felt physically that I missed the spot where my former co-worker has spotted me in years past.  Oops.  Splits: 8:51, 8:38, 8:41, 8:42.

By mile 5, I started to feel a little better and then I realized it was because we were running faster!  The crowd had thinned out a little and we were trying to make up a little bit of time with a slower start.  I was so relieved that I started to feel better that I almost forgot to take my first Gu past mile 5.  I got some high fives from spectators and that really brought my spirits up.  We narrowed just past the 6 mile mark and climbed a hill at the same time.  I really run better on the uphills (weird, I know), but I stuck with the pace group and enjoyed a relaxed climb.  At just past mile 7, we split off from the half-marathoners and suddenly our little pack seemed pretty small.  8:09, 8:23, 8:37.

The next few miles we picked up the pace in order to net some time in the bank for the hillier portion of the course.  I was surprised that I felt better when we were running faster, but then again, I realized that maybe it was because I was finally warmed up!  Our little group was mostly quiet save for the banter of the pace group team leaders.  I listened to them to keep entertained--running a marathon is as much a mental game as it is a physical one.  I took my second Gu at mile 10 and noticed very quickly that I felt re-energized.  It probably was placebo, but hey, I'll take what I can get.  8:11, 8:09, 8:24, 8:22.

I had to pee since we started the race, but I held off thinking that the feeling would pass.  Ha! It didn't so I thought I would take advantage of the Porta-Potties at just past mile 12.  However, 2 of the 3 pace leaders started talking about going right before we got to them and there were only 3 available. Not wanting to wait, I decided that I would just hold off until the next set.  It gave me a little confidence to run ahead of them for awhile and wait for them to catch up to me.  At just past the half-marathon mark, they had Cuties (mandarins) at an aid station and so I took one--the juice and calories would be okay.  As soon as I started peeling it, I realized that I was a few feet away from the next Porta-Potties.  I ducked in with the Cutie in my mouth and came out hoping that I hadn't tainted my snack.    8:13, 8:21.

The next miles brought us to my old stomping grounds near and through Emory University.  I took my 3rd Gu at mile 15.  I was feeling good and hoping that the feeling would last.  The course changed from previous years and we wound through a different portion of the campus--arguably a prettier and safer route.  I started chatting with the pace leaders and surprised myself that talking wasn't a struggle.  The crazy long hill that I feared in the North Druid Hills area was actually not as terrible as I remembered.  I used small steps that made me feel like I was practically speed walking rather than running.  8:41, 8:21, 8:42, 8:39

Somewhere in the rolling hills of miles 18 and 19, I got ahead of the pace group and they never were on my heels again.  I was trying to do math--dangerous business after running for 18 miles--and trying to figure out the slowest pace I needed to maintain to PR.  That occupied me for quite some time, so much that I kind of zoned out.  I started passing people on uphills that never passed me back.  My confidence continued to build.  8:23, 8:33.

I had my last Gu at mile 20.  Halfway between mile 20 and 21, there was a banana station.  Cut up bananas in little cups.  I realized that the nutrition seemed to really be helping me, so I chanced it.  I ended up with smeared banana all over my hands, but I think those extra calories helped in the final miles.  At around the mile 22 mark, I happily realized they changed my least favorite part of the course this year!! Yippee!! I didn't have to watch the faster marathoners run past me but for a few steps this year! 8:39, 8:14

I chatted with a lady just past mile 22 because I was passing her on the uphills and she was passing me on the downhills/flats.  She said she had just completed her 50 states and was doing this for fitness.  She had a PR of 3:12 (!) and was gunning for sub 4:00.  She encouraged me to go on and get my PR and so when we got to the evil hill at mile 23, I tackled that beast.  Weeee!  8:53

I checked my Garmin and realized that with 5K left, I was going to PR.   Suddenly, I got into race mode.  I started picking people off one by one.  For any non-marathoners reading this, about 50% of people look like zombies at this point.  They have blank looks in their eyes, their bodies are stiff and awkward with every movement, and a tremendous amount of grunting occurs.  I have been there and it ain't pretty.  But today was not that day.  I was comfortably strong.  I started imagining the points I run on the Greenway when I got to various mile markers and trying to conjure up the easiness it felt during my training runs.  8:13, 8:27.

At mile 25, I knew that something catastrophic was going to have to happen for me to not PR by that point.  But I was in a good place--I couldn't believe how great I felt at this point.  I kept pushing the pace, but conserved that last 5% for the kick.  I am pretty sure that my gums are showing in all my pictures in the final mile because my smile was so huge. 8:22

When I spotted the 1/4 mile marker sign, my heart leaped out of my chest when I glanced at my Garmin.  This was really happening!!!! I put the afterburners on and started looking for Adam in the crowd.  He was near the finish line and looked surprised as he spotted me.  I pointed at my watch, gave him a huge smile, thumbs up, and plowed down the finish chute.  Last .3 (not too bad on the tangents) was at 7:56.

After I got all emotional by myself, I met up with him.  I was so proud he finished his 5K--something he couldn't do 2 years ago AND I PR'd.  We compared notes and giddily talked as I got my time printout and goody bag.

I really wanted to try to see Scott and Stewart come through the finish chute, so we made our way back to the sidelines and watched.  I was so excited that I got to see (and yell loudly at) both of them!!! They both looked strong in their finish and it made me so proud to be a part of amazing community that has so much support for each other.  A little encouragement really, really goes a long way--all the nice messages left on my bloops and on FB were so appreciated. 

Adam and I made our way to the car and drove over to the Vortex for my ritualistic post-race burger and beer.  My sister, her boyfriend, and my dad met us there to help celebrate.  I had a Fat Elvis burger which consists of a hamburger topped with fried bananas, peanut butter, and bacon.  Ohhhhhh yeah! 

And now, I begin the fun few days of grasping handicap bars in the bathroom and cringing at the sight of stairs.  This time, it is sooooooooooo worth it!

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