Friday, November 6, 2015
My family left Madison, AL and headed to Columbus, GA at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, November 6, 2015. The drive was about 4 hours (but we lost an hour on the way). We arrived at the packet pickup at the National Infantry Museum right around 5:00 p.m. their time. The museum was closed, but we were able to look around outside and to see the Avenue of Flags and their Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall. We watched a kids' marathon there that looked like a lot of fun. We headed to our hotel (about 15 minutes away) and grabbed Panda Express for dinner on the way.
I am standing in the Avenue of Flags. The start/finish area is behind me.
The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall is to the far left in this picture.
Saturday, November 7
We woke up early (I was up at 5:45 a.m., which felt like 4:45 our time). Well, I was actually up most of the night. Our baby was in a pack and play for the first time ever (she's 16.5 months and this is her first overnight trip). She did well until 4 a.m. when she woke up crying. I was already up tossing and turning, so I nursed her and kept her in our bed. At 5:45, I was relieved to be able to finally get up, shower, and prepare for the race. We woke up the kids at 6:15 and were in the car around 6:35 a.m.
Traffic to get to the marathon was heavy and at an almost standstill. The race started at 7:30, and at 7:15 I was still in the car a 1/2 mile away and not moving! Finally, we pulled into a parking lot and I raced to the start. Rick ran up behind me with the kids as I was walking and trying to scarf down a Honey Stringer waffle. He served as my "gear check," so no need for a checked bag! When I think of Rick, I am reminded of this quote by Daniel Bennett from the Soldier Marathon FB page: "I encourage you to play an active role in enhancing someone else's participatory experience." Rick, who is usually at my side as a fellow runner, was injured and unable to run today, so instead he was my biggest fan and supporter. For someone who's used to not having any support on my marathons, knowing that Rick and the kids were there meant so much to me.
I tucked in with the runners at the 8:00 pace sign and waited about 10 minutes until the race began. It was a close call, but I'd made it! As I waited for the start, I looked down and noticed a mosquito bite on my leg. The conditions here today were humid and warm (70's). The area was swamp-like, with Spanish moss on the trees and even an alligator habitat along the course near the river! With a cannon's loud "BOOM!," the race began.
First Half: Right on Pace
7:36, 7:42, 8:04, 7:52, 8:04, 8:10, 8:06, 7:54, 8:06, 8:14, 8:14, 8:03, 8:08
I saw the 3:25 pacer ahead of me as the race began, and our first couple of miles were a tad fast. No congestion at the start was nice (The marathon had around 500 finishers, but the half started with us with almost 1,000 finishers. There was also a 5K which started right after our start). I was running with only a stopwatch and no Garmin, so I had trouble judging my pace at the beginning but was aiming to stay at 8:00 the entire race. Mile 2 held Drill Hill, complete with a drill sergeant barking at us to go faster up the hill!
This part of the course led us around Fort Benning, so we saw lots of the army housing and soldiers stationed at frequent intervals. I felt pretty warm, but I was still feeling like the running was easy. I had a chocolate Gu offered in Mile 6 and a salted caramel one at Mile 10, and I poured water on my head at every water station, hoping to cool off a bit. I made it through the first half perfectly paced for a 3:30 (half split was 1:45).
|Photo courtesy of FB Soldier Marathon site|
Second Half: Let the Excuses Begin
8:45, 8:49, 9:33, 9;04, 9:12, 10:33, 17:51 (OUCH!), 10:14, 9:07, 12:15, 9:17, 9:33, 10:49 (1+.2)
We ran a lot of miles on the Riverwalk by the Chattahoochee River. It was so pretty with all of the water and the changing leaves. It was such a relief to not have rain (they'd predicted thunderstorms and even posted a severe weather policy on their FB site in case a delay or cancellation was needed). I told myself to enjoy this day and the opportunity I had to run. It was a little lonely for the early teens and I began to wish I had brought music (something I never use in marathons).
I began to know that I would not be able to get the 3:30 right after I finished Mile 13. I just knew I didn't have it in me today. It was easy to list the odds stacked up against me in this race: stomach bug over the last 2 weeks and no appetite or energy, Rick being on travel while I cared for all of the kids while they were sick, not well hydrated since my stomach had still not been taking liquids well, more frequent nursing from my sick baby, lack of sleep the night before the race, endless chaffing along my bra seams that I cannot seem to stop, and warm conditions. I'd also gotten this weird feeling in my right ear, just like what you get when you swim and water gets in your ear. I've had this happen only once before, on a hot long run. This wasn't good. But this was my chance! Couldn't I push through all of this? Wasn't I tougher?
Seeing Rick and the kids at Mile 15 was a highlight of my race, but it also made me want to stop and quit. I wanted Rick to drive me back to the hotel and just call it a day.
Here I am when Rick and kids saw me at Mile 15.
What Rick didn't see was me crouching down on the grass near the street shortly after I'd left him. I knew I could not hold my pace anymore, and I looked back at them longingly, wanting to go back to them and drop out. When I finally made it to Mile 16, I was surprised that even with my stop that mile was only 9:33.
We passed some type of barbecue festival to our right as we ran near the city, and we ran through a marching band at one point! I'm not sure why they were on our course? I also remember running through lots of parking lots with uneven footing and feeling a little confused about where to go for some of the course. I was struggling to maintain 9:00 miles.
When I saw Rick at Mile 20, it was another surprise for me! I didn't except to see him at either place along the course. How I wanted to just stop! I shouted, "Expect me in 3:45 or slower!" He knew what this meant. I was now just running to finish. I had officially tossed my goal out of the window.
After I left my cheering crew, I just gave up. I stopped, crouched to relieve some of my legs' soreness, and began to walk. Mile 20 was 17:51--one of my slowest marathon miles ever. I texted Rick, "Talk me out of the DNF," to which he wrote back a flurry of inspiration and also started tracking me with my phone. He wrote, "You aren't a quitter. That is not who you are. You are tough! You finish what you start. Finish this thing!"
Shortly after that, I came to an aid station that some man had set up (I don't think it was an official one). He had all sorts of stuff, and I stopped to fill up my water bottle (which I carried because of the warm conditions). I asked if he had Advil, and he did! So I took 2. I told him my legs were really tight, so he offered me some pretzels to give me the salt I would need to hopefully avoid cramping. I continued on, thankful for that wonderful stop. I ate some caffeinated Sportsbeans and did some walking over the next few miles, knowing that now even the 3:45 time was gone. Then the 3:50. When I got to Mile 23, I knew I had 32 minutes left to get a sub 4, so I ran as much as I could for those 3 miles, and they were all sub 10 which felt like a victory for me.
Finally, we were on the last mile, a long, straight stretch on Lumpkin Road (the same road we drove in on that morning in the standstill traffic). So I knew I had a long way to go as I chugged along. Then, I got to turn the corner and could see the finish! I knew I was almost done. I heard a guy shouting about finishing sub 4, and I sprinted to the finish line. I saw my family cheering for me! I finished in 3:59:26 (chip time), 81/523.
I grabbed food and immediately went to lay down in the field behind the finish line. The Planet Pop they gave me was delicious! I also had water and a Diet Coke! After cleaning up a little, I walked through the National Infantry Museum (seemed odd that they were letting us walk through it all sweaty, but this was our chance so we took it).
From a news article I found online, which validated my thoughts that the warm conditions played a part in the way my race turned out today:
My feet were so water-logged when I got back to the hotel, so I had one of the kids snap this picture.
And where do you put smelly, wet shoes when your toddler wants to wear everyone's shoes? Why, on the lamp way up high over her head, of course.
We headed back to the Chattahoochee River to see the urban whitewater rapids at this place called the Island, shopped at a mall briefly, ate Firehouse subs for a late lunch/early dinner, watched lots of cable t.v. (luxury to us non-cable people!), and grabbed more popsicles at Planet Pop that night. The next day, we headed to Auburn to tour my alma mater. The rain they had forecasted for race day came a day late, and we all ended up wet.
Even though I did not get my time at this race, it still marked the return of something I love to do: traveling the country and running marathons. As I do more and more of these and get older and older, I am sure I will have many more races that don't go my way---and hopefully a few that do. It is the hope of these "mountain-top" marathon moments that keeps us coming back for more. I am so thankful to be able to race, and I have to take the good with the bad. No, it was not my day out there, but I pray that there will be other opportunities.
I plan to pace the 4:00 group at the Rocket City Marathon next month. I will hopefully be able to get within seconds of the time I got in the Soldier Marathon, with a much differently paced race, of course.