Thursday, February 02, 2006

Marathon, Part 2: Don't think, just run

First off, good luck to Angie (doing her first 50K this weekend), and BadBen and DirtRunner, who are both doing 100-milers this weekend. This is a big trail/ultra weekend! I can't wait to read all their reports! I'm sure there are others racing this weekend, but considering I'm 268 posts in the hole (GASP!) no doubt I've missed a few!

So, back to the good stuff. In my last post I wrote about 500 pages on all the events leading up to my entry into the starting corral. At this point I'm freaking out internally. Not in my normal emotional, teary eyed way but in a "what the hell am I doing way?". I'm still obsessing about my shoes. Are they too tight? Are they not tight enough? Is my watch tight enough? Is it too tight? I'm standing on the right side of the corral and then I hear my name being called out. I look up and it's David and Naomi! How in the world they spotted me in the dark sea of people I will never understand! I make my way over and meet Naomi. Both D & N seem cool as cucumbers. If they were faking it they should head to Hollywood! We make small talk but all I can think about is my shoe! I finally stoop down and retie it, but I'm still feeling weird about it and knowing my luck the gun will go off and I'll end up trampled! David bent over to do some stretching so at least I had some back-up, plus I felt somewhat reassured that they might help rescue me since they'd probably be the ones who would have the task of explaining to Brent exactly how I was trampled to an early death.

A few seconds later the national anthem is played, a flare goes off and the race is underway! OMG! It's real - it's really happening. This is it, the moment I've been training for, the exact event that's been on the forefront of my mind since 9.30.05, the day I officially registered - the night before my 28th birthday. You think about something forever, and then it's there and you just can not put your arms around it. We head off and D & N are still chilling, like we're about to head off for breakfast at Starbucks, not a 26.2 mile run through hell! We start looking for Brent on the right side for photo opportunities. We spot him.....but he doesn't spot us! In a chorus we scream out his name and he snaps to life! He missed THAT photo opp but sprinted ahead to try again.....bust - the camera couldn't focus in the dark. He sprinted around the crowd and SCORE! He took one pic of us all laughing at his antics and then sprinted ahead one last time. With a cheer of good luck to our RBF group he wished us godspeed and we were on our own. Sort of.

They didn't really pause the starts between the crowds so it was very thick. People were already walking and the road was a large see of runners at every speed imaginable. We moved onto the first bridge. I put my headphone on and the Dixie Chicks were telling me "I was ready to run". But I really didn't think I was. It was warm, 69 degrees already at the start. That's not THAT warm, but considering most of my training runs have been in 27-40 degree temps, that's a huge variance. I could already tell the air was thick with humidity, and I was hoping for a thick layer of clouds when the sun came up. To top it off, my stomach was rolling. That sort of sound when it's sloshing stuff around, and you just hope it decides to stay there versus finding it's way out one way or another. We started our ascent up the steepest part of the bridge and I saw.....Coatman!! The one and only! I was hoping he would be participating since he lives in the Miami area. He was in full Coatman garb. I sped up to take a pic with my camera phone and then let him continue to pull away. My stomach was grouchy and I didn't want to push it so early on. I drank some water and that helped the stomach issue. I tried a little Gatorade as well, and the stomach pains started easing. I knew it was mostly nerves at the task ahead anyway. Mile 1 passed in 10.13. A little slow, but a lot of that was due to the starting congestion. Mile 2 pushed us further onto the Macarthur Causeway bridge, running next to the massive cruise ships docked in the Port of Miami. Brent and I had spent a lot of time watching the cruise ships come and go the afternoon before, and I enjoyed the closer view of the ships. What an amazing opportunity to run down this bridge?!? Mile 2 clicked off in 9.42. Mile 3 brought us towards the end of the Bridge and onto South Beach. I passed a Galloway group (there were tons of them in their yellow jerseys!) and they were just finishing a walk break and starting a run interval. They were cheering loudly and having a great time. I thought "I wish I was with them!!" My stomach was still bothering me, and I had a bit of a side stitch. I drank some more Gatorade and realized I was going to have to fuel a LOT more often than in training. I knew my 6 bottle Fuel Belt wouldn't get me through the whole M, but I hoped it could get me through at least the first half. The water stops were CROWDED and I didn't want to lose a lot of time there. Mile 3 clicked off in 9.59.

Mile 4 brought us through South Beach and the beginning of the sunrise. This was when I decided to have FUN. I was mentally stressing myself out over anything and everything. As the sun was breaking over the beautiful art deco buildings I reminded myself of this amazing opportunity. I had trained for this FOREVER, and I was READY. I was doing this for everyone who couldn't. Not the people who WON'T, but the people who CAN'T. I had the physical ability, and the financial ability to be there. I wasn't going to blow it mentally this early on. I relaxed and the stomach problems vanished. Mile 4 clicked off in 9.51. Mile 5 took us through the heart of South Beach, all the great hotels and the beachfront parks of to the right. You couldn't see the ocean, but having been to SB before I knew it was JUST right over there! We passed the hotel we had stayed at last time we came to SB and I smiled at those memories. Right through that water stop a lady said she wasn't going to stop - she was just going to share with me! I laughed and said "Only if you carry me piggyback the last 6 miles!" She laughed and continued on her way. As the sun was coming up more spectators were straggling out. Several people hung from their hotel windows to watch. Mile 5 was over in 9.44. Mile 6 brought us towards the end of our run through SB. I was already thinking it was nearly halfway over for the half-ers! Time was starting to fly, I was into my music, I had found my form and I was having fun. We were running towards a tall building with a clock and temp on top. It was reading 7:00 am, 70 degrees. The sky was still thick with early morning clouds, but they were vanishing quickly. We curved back towards the return bridge (the Venetian Causeway) and Mile 6 ended in 9.43. Mile 7 took us through a residential area of SB. During this mile I came up on Coatman again and passed him! I took my camera phone out to take a pic and the guy next to me got all excited too. He said "HEY! That's Coatman! From Runner's World! I wish I could take his picture!" Well, if wishes were fishes.....Maybe he'll find my blog and download one. A guy wearing a gold Speedo and goggles passed me. Interesting. Mile 7 ended in 9.40.

Mile 8 took us back over the bay. The water was so calm and beautiful. I knew in only 8 more miles Brent would be waiting, and then in 10 more miles this experience would be ending. It all seemed SO doable! The sun was really starting to feel warm and I was very glad I had put on sunscreen. Mile 8 lasted for 9.37. Mile 9 continued along the bridge, sprinkled with small islands with beautiful homes on them. Somewhere around here I felt a tap on my back. Well, at first I wasn't sure what it was. I thought it might be a sea gull. Strange, right? Thousands of people running and a sea gull would land on MY back? I have an IMMENSE fear of birds, so in my world that would totally happen. It tapped again and I turned around. David!! I took my headphones off and asked him how he was doing. He said "Great!" He asked about me and I said the same. He took my pic running along the bridge and said he was going to continue on. I told him I'd see him at the finish line and to snag a Coke for me. (I rarely drink soda but after a long run the caffeine seems to settle my stomach.) I was really glad to see someone I knew, and he looked strong. Mile 9 took 9.47. Mile 10 took us through the final stretches of the bridge and back towards downtown. The whole time I was running I could smell my sunscreen and it kept me motivated to move so I could get to the beach faster! Somewhere along the bridge a spectator on a bike was yelling out motivation the runners. There were a ton of great bike riders out supporting and encouraging. The bridges would have been very lonely if it weren't for people like them. He yelled out "Keep moving, you're doing something amazing! I'm so proud of you! Obesity is NOT an epidemic here today!" That struck me as so funny. Mile 10 clocked in at 9.40.

Mile 11 brought us back through downtown and into some areas heavy with spectators. Yeah! With our names on our bibs a lot of people would cheer for us by name. One area was very concentrated with spectators who had spilled onto the street. The area was so congested you could only run about 2 or 3 people wide, but the massive crowd was very energizing. I knew in just 5 more miles Brent would be waiting! Mile 11 ended in 9.45. Mile 12 took us through more areas of downtown, as the half-ers were approaching their finish. Downtown Miami is not....pretty. I was already starting to look for the half/full split, like Naomi I was worried I'd miss it! Mile 12 was over in 9.43. Mile 13 was full of energy - there were lots of people cheering for the half-ers, telling them they were so close! For some reason that didn't de-motivate me. I felt like I was finishing one race and starting a second - something I was OK with. You would have had to be blind to miss the split. Huge inflatables split the crowd, along with plenty of signs and volunteers. And just like that I waved good-bye to the half-ers and headed over for the second half. Mile 13 was 9.54.

I had been very diligent with my fueling throughout the whole race. Cliff Bloks at mile 6 & 12, and water or Gatorade at least every two miles. Once the sun came up and the heat/humidity really kicked in it was more often than that. I was down to 2 Gatorades and 1 water bottle left. I decided to start going through the water stops so I could have a little water and splash the rest on me. I also knew it was time to start slowing down the pace a little. My legs still felt good, but my initial plan had been to maintain a 10.30 pace for the whole race. I knew all my previous miles had been under 10 and I didn't want to burn out too early. Mile 14 was my first trip through the water stops and it came in at 10.30 even. Perfect! Now we were heading through residential areas of Miami, pretty coastal home with big palm trees and beautiful Spanish style architecture. A lot of home owners were out in their yards cheering, and spectators were scattered throughout. I knew I was SO close to seeing Brent! Around this time a girl about my age on her bicycle made her first appearance. She'd ride ahead and snap some pics, cheer, and then continue on. I wasn't sure who she was guiding, but I was very glad to have someone to watch for. Mile 15 ended in 10.12.

All throughout the next mile I was anxious to see Brent! It seemed like I couldn't move fast enough to see that 16 mile marker, although the "Sweat is Sexy" sign held by one supporter did crack me up! And then....I rounded a curve - saw the Mile 16 marker and there he was!! My sweetie! Right next to the sign with his big shirt on. I waved BIG and he saw me!! Only 10 more miles to go. Mile 16 ended in 10.01. He asked how I was doing and I said "Great!" He told me I looked Great and that he had just seen David about 2 minutes earlier and he looked strong. We instantly started getting lots of great "Go Rachel....GO TEAM RACHEL!" cheers from onlookers. It was so funny to watch them read my bib and then Brent's shirt. You could literally see the lightbulbs go off! I was wishing I'd had him right there the whole time! I told him a little about the race so far, and how I was starting to use the water stops for some cooler water and something to splash on myself. Mile 17 flew by in 10.01.

My legs were starting to get tired and the heat was starting to be so taxing. I knew I was almost there, and I was determined to finish strong so I could go to the beach. We got some more energizing cheers, especially from a young group about our age. They got a huge kick out of the ".com" on Brent's shirt. We were now winding through Coconut Grove and I knew we would be at the turnaround point before long. Lots of spectators were out cheering, and somehow smiling at them and giving them a thumbs up kept me strong. Mile 18 ended in 10.23. I took two more Cliff Bloks and instantly felt stronger. Although the course had a lot of shade there were still some extremely sunny areas. I was so glad I'd started splashing water on myself. One resident had his water hose out and was spraying anyone interested. And boy, was I! Later I thought about it and he was probably in it for the "wet T-shirt" aspect but I don't give a rip, it was great! (Pictured at tge right) Mile 19 passed in 10.31.

I knew Brent was struggling. We've been together over 10 years now and I have a pretty good read on him. He was drinking pretty often, and that's a sure sign that he's struggling. I tried not to focus on it as we approached the point where the course curved and headed back to downtown. YES! Somewhere around here there were orange slices on ice. I've never tried them before (during running) and since I have a pretty weak running stomach I generally avoid anything new. But ANYTHING on ice sounded like such a good idea. I grabbed one and Brent grabbed two for me. I tried it and it was the best thing I'd ever eaten. Cool and surprisingly sweet without being too acidy. Utopia! I finished the first one and Brent handed me a second. I sucked on them for a while further and Mile 20 ended in 10.43.

So here I was, in the toughest part of any marathon, the final 6. Seeing the "Mile 20" marker was such a relief! Here I was, 20 miles in the pocket with just 6 to go. I was headed back towards the finish line and through lots of little shops and outdoor cafes. How cool! The Mile 20.5 water stop was especially energetic and I felt so happy to be in the 20's! Just 6 miles to go, just one of my normal runs and this experience would be over! My legs were starting to feel tight and weak, but I just wanted to keep going. I knew I was slowing down, but it still felt manageable. Mile 21 ended in 10.53.

And then...I felt it. A blister. I had felt one forming on one of my toes for a while, since about mile 12. That's really not an unusual thing for me. I often get small blisters on the fatty undersides of my toes but they rarely amount to anything. They're usually deflated the following day. But not this one. Right at this moment my foot shifted and I could just feel it, at the breaking point. I knew if I stopped I would have an impossible time continuing. I'm terrible at run/walk. So, I decided if it popped, it popped - I would take my chances. I tried shifting my foot to relieve the pressure and found a "comfortable" spot. I told myself we were almost there!!! We also saw the same young group of onlookers who got such a kick out of Brent's shirt earlier and they yelled out "We remember you!! Go Team Rachel!!". Everyone needs a Team Rachel shirt! Mile 22 ended in 10.42. Mile 23 brought us through more of the shops and bistros and closer to downtown. Somewhere in here people were giving out beer. NOT my marathon beverage of choice, but whatever works for you! I couldn't believe it....I was getting SO close! My legs were tired and the blister was throbbing, but I could DO this! I saw the "Sweat is Sexy" group again, and the bike woman had started cheering for me now and waving each time she rode back and forth. Mile 23 ended in 10.53, and so did Brent.

I knew he was having a tough time. He had started getting some water at water stops and was sweating profusely. He looked over at me and said he was cramping badly and absolutely had to stop. I knew he had to be hurting badly, he would have never dropped out so close and missed my finish otherwise. I nodded OK and continued on. It really hurt, I wanted him there with me and I would have been so happy to stop, too - but I knew I needed to finish this. He wouldn't want me to give up. I dug deep and tried to truck on as quickly as I could. Since we were within miles of the finish a lot of spectators, half finishers and speedy full finishers were out cheering. I saw people with medals and I wanted one! I had earned it. I saw the guy with the "You're kickin ass!" sign and waved at him. I had seen him earlier and LOVED that sign! He yelled out to me "You're kickin' marathon ass!", so I knew I couldn't stop! Mile 24 ended in 10.42.

I couldn't believe I was getting so close! All the other miles seemed like such a distant memory now, except to my tired and throbbing legs! The blister had shifted now so I had some relief there. I saw a guy off to the side, all alone with his Boston Terrier. I yelled out to him "I HAVE A DOG JUST LIKE THAT AT HOME!". He looked at in a shocked and frightened way. I'm thinking he thought I had moved into that stage of exhaustion where you absolutely lose your mind. Nope, I just love and missed my dog, and was getting pretty excited about the finish! Mile 25 ended in 10.39.

So here we were, the last mile. It flew by, I had so many thoughts running through my head. All of the training, everything, leading up to the final mile. I wanted it to be over, but I wanted it to last forever. The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment of such a daunting task. Being part of something so few people will ever experience. A million thoughts raced through my head. I saw my bike friend one last time and she said "Go Rachel! You're almost there, just over the bridge!". I headed up the last bridge, mile 25.9. I had read about it, and finally here it was. A slight incline over the Miami River. The hill wasn't bad, I was too busy thinking about finishing to notice it . But it was a drawbridge and the 2 previous drawbridges had been an uncomfortable metal surface - slick and not very cushiony to the feet. This one was no different, I dug deep and pushed over it. Mile 26 ended in 10.31. And here we were, down the bridge and around the corner. The finisher's area was full of people, cheering, screaming, rejoicing. And there it was - the finish line. A beautiful orange spectacle like nothing I imagined. So close, but I really just wanted to push it a little further out to enjoy this feeling for just a minute more. I finished the last .2 at a 10.10 pace. And just like that, I was a marathoner.

Part 3 will have the post marathon meet-up and aftermath - including pics of strange chafing, dirt accumulated in strange places and how I have learned that it's far better to drain a blister than to let it pop on its own.


At 7:28 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Great 2nd report and great pictures! You look awesome. When's the next marathon?

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Simba's Mom said...

What a great recap! I almost feel like I was there with you. I am so unbelievably happy for you. You completely killed that marathon!

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Kiki said...

That was a great recap. I was captivated. I felt so sad when you had to leave brent behind.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger ShoreTurtle said...

I agree with Simba's mom--Your recap is excellent. I'm really happy for you.

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

Really enjoying your race report. Thanks for all the details!

At 8:43 PM, Blogger jeanne said...

GREAT RECAP! I loved every single detail. I don't think i have ever read a marathon recap where the runner wished it would last longer! :) So you must be a very special runner.
Congrats again. Can't say it enough. You kicked that marthon's butt!

I felt so sad when *I* had to leave Brent behind.... :(

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Just12Finish said...

Wow! I'm beginning to think Miami 2007! What great spectators and Coatman too! And what a suspenseful finish - can't wait for Part 3! I can't write any comments without "!"!

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Danny said...

Just awesome!!

I could almost feel your excitement at the end there!

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Darrell said...

I'm always amazed how people can remember so much about the race. All the good stuff comes back reading a report like this. I'm so excited for you and glad that you had such a good time. Poor Brent, though. I've seen coatman in San Diego and NYC but didn't know who he was until the RW article. Quite the character, huh. Looking forward to the final segment.

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous DREW said...

I remember reading your blog when you signed up for this race. Fun to "tag" along for the ride. Congratulations on a race well run!

At 11:27 PM, Blogger Running Jayhawk said...

This is an amazing story, Rae!! we are all so proud of you :)

I love the part about the end...wanting it to stretch on for a while...these memories will be something you'll cherish forever...

I can't wait to read the next installment!!

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great report! You definitely kicked ass! Congratulations! :-)

At 4:15 AM, Blogger Scott said...

I feel like I was there with you. I am just at the beginning of my marathon training journey (and injured at that) but after reading your reports I just desperately want it... How cool to see the Coatman?

At 5:44 AM, Blogger PLANET3RRY said...

An old adidas advertisement for Boston went as follows:

The Seven Stages of Marathon:
1) Ritual
2) Shock
3) Denial
4) Isolation
5) Despair
6) Affirmation
7) Renewal

Seems like you totally missed #5! Great recap

At 6:15 AM, Blogger D said...


At 8:29 AM, Blogger E-Speed said...

awesome recap! I am amazed at how steady you stayed! Great job!!!

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Cliff said...

Good job Rae. I can't believe u recall every mile.

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Jack said...

Great recap of the big day, you totally blew that marathon out of the water! I was thinking of you when I was driving home from my cross-country race here in Germany on the same day - you were just starting. Congratulations!

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Hilda said...

Fantastic report!!!!!!!
How can you remember just everything?
I was so excited when you saw the finish line. And what a great pace you had the entire run!!
What an amazing expirience!!
This report should apear in one of the marathon trainer's book.

At 4:19 AM, Blogger CJ said...

Wow, 4 coffees, dinner and a snack later and I've got through parts 1 and 2 of your marathon report. Very exciting - it sounds like you had a good one, despite the niggles and the blister. Loved the photos too.

Looking forward to the next instalment!

At 6:11 AM, Blogger robtherunner said...

Wonderful report Rachel! I am glad I woke up early this morning and baled on my run to get some extra homework (reading blogs) done. For part 3 I am definitely going to have some popcorn ready. I hope you're resting well and still basking in the glory.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Feel like I was running right along with you. Without the sweat, of course.
How are you doing now? Almost a week out. You get out for any recovery runs?

At 9:29 PM, Blogger partyrunner said...

maybe cause i'm emotional lately, but great race report! as i read, i sort of felt like i was running a marathon. i don't know if anyone can really understand what it feels like to run a m, all the training, the questions, the work and then, finally, the race.
nice job!!!

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Jon (was) in Michigan said...

What a great race, Rae! You totally rocked it! Love the pics. Your final couple miles gave me goosebumps from the anticipation. Just a wonderful read. I loved that earlier shot of you grinning with your medal. Marvelous!

At 10:01 AM, Blogger David said...

Thanks for remindng me of details along the course that I will now always remember: the shoelace re-tie and stretch. Sweat is Sexy. Coat Man. The Galloway runners. The Gold Speedo guy (I passed him as he stood in line at a portable toilet). Good recap.
You were very steady with your split times which is how I think Mean Rachel helps you run so well.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger angie's pink fuzzy said...

Woo hoo!!! Awesome recap. When and what is the next marathon!?

At 3:48 PM, Blogger runr53 said...

I'm not the 27th comment but rather the .2, Yeah Baby, you can do it!!! Excellent accounting, I wish I could keep track of mine like that but I think there is too much pain involved, hehe! Welcome to the club Rae!!

At 7:45 PM, Blogger brent said...

hi. i read this a while back but never commented (my bad). i read it again tonight... way to go rae, all the training paid off for you. what a great feeling. rae, the marathoner!! so awesome.

my favorite part was the, "I wanted it to be over, but I wanted it to last forever". that is such a perfect way to describe it! great job to brent too on the teach rachel!!

At 7:46 PM, Blogger brent said...

teach rachel, oops. i meant team rachel of course!!


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