Thanks to my mom, who flew in from Minnesota to visit and watch me run my first marathon, I got to spend Friday and Saturday at the Newport Beach Marriott conveniently located about two blocks from the start of the marathon. It was a bit funny staying at a hotel for a marathon only 6 miles away from my apartment in Huntington Beach, but it was incredibly relaxing and made the morning of the marathon way less hectic. I spent most of my Saturday eating, drinking lots of water, and relaxing next to one of the pools. A little taste of heaven.
Sunday morning, I didn't have to wake up until shortly after 5am since we had literally a 5 min walk to the starting line. I got dressed, pinned on my number, made some oatmeal, and headed up to the lobby to give Billy his race number. We headed back down to the room where Pete was still getting ready, and chatted for a bit while I finished my oatmeal. It was great to see Billy before the race, and hear that he would be biking around looking for me around the 20 mile mark after he finished the half.
Finally, at about 6:10am we headed to the start of the race. I told Pete good-luck, and he jogged to the start to make his way up towards the front with the fast people since he was going to be running a speedy half. My mom and I then casually walked over to the crowded start, and I eventually planted myself near "corral C." I realized later, after waiting 10 minutes just to cross the start line, that I probably should have lined up a bit closer. Oh well. It was during this time that a few "fast" guys were complaining about how they somehow managed to line up towards the back of the pack and one felt the need to say, "so this is what it's like to be slow." I wanted to slap him. If you're a fast marathoner...shouldn't you know better?
Anyway, I was surprisingly the least nervous I've ever been for a race, and was relaxed when I finally made my way across the starting line some time around 6:40am.
Taking most everyone's advice, I started off slow - almost painfully slow. Since we started with the half marathoners, and they greatly out-numbered the marathoners (1498 marathoners finished; 6112 half marathoners finished), it was a little hard to keep going at a slow pace, and people were passing me left and right, but I knew it was for the best and averaged the first 5 miles at about a 10:45 pace, still feeling fresh and full of energy. I relaxed and enjoyed the only views I'd be seeing of the ocean, and sort of watched all of the people around me. I teared up a bit when I saw a lady running for a little girl named Andrea who had cancer - the picture on her shirt, and the fact that she had my name, made me sad. I also got a bit emotional when I saw the Marines pushing their Sergeant in a wheel chair. At this point, I told myself I wasn't even to mile 5, and I really needed to mentally HTFU if I was going to make it to the finish!
I was most excited for this part of the course. It was mainly through the beautiful Back Bay, where I had done both of my 20 mile training runs, and I knew my mom would be waiting for me at the top of the hill at the 9.5 mile mark. I was still going pretty slow, even getting a little bit slower. This is the first point where I contemplated picking the pace up since I was feeling good, but since I had never done this before and it was still early in the race, I kept trotting along at about the same pace. Somewhere between miles 8 and 9 I could tell my legs were getting a little bit tired, and it freaked me out a bit since it was so early in the race! I told myself my legs were just warming up, working out the kinks, and I'd be fine. I ran past a bunch of people walking up the hill (that was fun!), and saw my mom - who had surprised me by making a sign!
The most annoying part of the race for the marathon runners. I lost count of how many times volunteers and people cheering yelled, "you're almost there!" because we were running with the people doing the half marathon. I wasn't even half of the way there so hearing this over and over was not fun, at all. Just after mile 12, we parted ways with the half marathon runners, and suddenly it was like I was running alone. I went from being surrounded by tons of people to having maybe 10 runners in sight. My energy fizzled a bit from lack of commotion, but it was also calming and I started feeling really strong. I decided to pick up the pace a bit, running close to 10 minute miles for a couple miles, but again got "scared" that I would totally run out of energy later since I had no idea what to expect, and slowed back down - and ended up maintaining this average pace for the rest of the race. About half way between miles 13 and 14, I knew to look for Jeff and his son, and was really excited and feeling amazing when I came across them making HUGE bubbles for all of the runners. I gave his son a high-five, Jeff told me I was looking good, I said thanks, and kept chugging along.
Soon after mile 15 is when things started getting a little sketchy. We had just come down from a fairly big hill, I ate a Gu and drank some water and I felt a bit sick. Thankfully the nausea faded quickly, but my legs were starting to hurt. I saw my mom again at mile 16.5, and when she asked how I was doing, I told her it was starting to get painful. It was great seeing my mom again, but I knew that would be my last familiar face until Billy found me around mile 20.
Miles 17 through 20 are kind of a blur. It was the only area of the course I wasn't familiar with, and I don't really remember it. The pain was coming and going every few minutes and wasn't bad at all, but I was definitely getting tired, and I kept telling myself I just needed to get to mile 20 and I would make it to the finish.
It was so great to see the 20 mile sign, and it was even better to see Billy up ahead soon after! He briefly chatted with me, took a shockingly great picture, and headed back to his bike - telling me he'd meet up with me up ahead a bit.
I was running a bit slower, but still feeling relatively good at this point. A little before mile 21, Billy met up with me again and ran with me for about a mile. It was so great to have a friend to talk to to distract me from my legs that were slowly getting more and more tired.
After Billy left again, I was looking forward to finding Pete. I was a little worried his race may have left him incapable of running with me, but the plan was for him to be somewhere around mile 23. Moments after turning a corner past the mile 23 sign, there he was! I could tell I didn't have much left in my legs, and was so glad to see him. He slowly ran with me, talking to me about his race, when the next aid station would be, told me I looked like I was still doing pretty good, and all that good stuff...and I was doing my best to contribute to the conversation. Then BAM! Right around mile 24 I hit the "wall." I was done. It was extremely painful to keep moving. I wanted to stop and walk, but thankfully Pete made me keep going. I also started to get a bit cranky and Pete's talking, and usually welcome enthusiasm made me want to punch him...in a nice way :-) We saw Billy again around mile 25, and he captured this great picture that illustrates this perfectly.
I've never tried so hard to smile in my life! Pete quieted down a bit, I kept slowly putting one foot in front of the other, and somehow made it to mile 26 - only 0.2 to go! Pete was forced off the course, and I kicked it in to the finish - running a speedy 9:07 pace to the finish. I was so happy to be done! I just became a marathoner! The initial awe wore off a few seconds later when my legs, hips, butt, everything started aching so bad I was in tears. I walked around a bit to find my mom and Pete and had to sit down. Again, SO glad Pete did not let me stop...if that is what stopping feels like - holy moly!
Finishing my first marathon was a great experience I will definitely never forget, and I'm thankful I am able to accomplish such a feat! I was hoping to run close to 4:30, but I couldn't be happier with my official 4:50:23 finish. I wanted my first marathon to be a FUN learning experience, and it was definitely that! I know what I want to change, and what I want to remain the same during my training and during my next marathon. And, I made it out alive with no puking or bowel movements, all of my toenails, only three blisters, a pretty sweet medal, and one big smile :-D
Special thanks again to my mom, Jeff, Pete, and Billy for cheering for me and running with me on the course. And to everyone else (on Twitter and in person) who has given me tons of advice and have been incredibly supportive :-)
For the curious:
Garmin Connect Data
Race Results (bib #158)
Training Plan (deviations in red)