Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Great Adventure

Here is the full story of my experience at the National SunTrust Marathon, which turned out to be one of the best days ever:

So, on Friday night, I managed to fall asleep by 10:15, which was good because I needed to get up at 4 on Saturday. I got up, did some yoga, drank tea and some other fluids (I actually don't eat solid food before I run because it just sits in my stomach). I took the metro in to RFK stadium, where the race started and ended. The metro ride was somewhat bizarre, because the only people on the train at 6AM were runners - it was like we were in another world.
I arrived at the site, and it was still pitch-black outside, with the exception of the spotlights set up. I checked my bag, took off my warm ups, and headed to the starting line. Although months ago, I registered at the 9:16-10:00 per mile pace, I positioned myself in the 8:30-9:15 per mile corral, in the hopes that I would run with other people trying to run the marathon in 4 hours.
It was about 30 out when the gun went off at 7AM, but I warmed up within a few miles. I was able to see my parents at the starting line, which was great. The first few miles went by quickly, although when I ran my first mile in 9:30 (21 seconds off my pace), I picked things up, nervous that I wouldn't meet my goal. My ideal goal was to break 4 hours (and I had secondary goals of 4:10 and 4:15). For the first 6-7 miles, I ran alongside of a nice guy named Rich, who was also trying to break 4 hours. However, at mile 7, my right sock rolled under my ankle, and I had to pull over to fix it. I was so concerned about the time I lost fixing my sock, that I picked up the pace again. The majority of the hills were between miles 3 and 9, and it felt great to knock them out. The crowds were great; everyone was cheering, playing music (including the Rocky theme), and just being very supportive. I saw my parents at mile 11, and I was so happy to see them. Around that point, I think I misread my pace band, and thought I was 4 minutes off of my pace. However, when I got to the halfway point (13.1) in under 2 hours, I then realized, not only had I made a mistake in reading my pace band, but that I could truly break 4 hours with some room to spare. Also, I know I was halfway done, which was good. Then I was also able to see my mom and dad again at mile 15, which was great. The next few miles flew by, especially mile 17, which went downhill (weee). At mile 18, I realized I only had 8 miles to go, which did not seem that bad. I knew that my friends from grad school (Wes, Seth, and Mary - the 3 I talk about the most) were going to be standing at mile 20. I told them to come around 10AM, but thankfully they got there early, since I was running at a pace faster than I imagined. I saw them first, and yelled out, and they were so surprised to see me, it was hilarious. I was so happy to see them. Then at mile 21, things started to seem a bit ugly. 5 miles left, but I just started to feel icky. It's not even that my legs were hurting, it was that I had been drinking powerade and eating GU (it's an energy gel that gives quick calories and a carb/sugar boost), and just had a sickening sweet taste in my mouth. Mile 22 was an "out and back" mile, which meant I ran half a mile, then turned and ran back on the other side of the road. It felt like I was going nowhere. Then I had 4, then 3. At 3 (23), I told myself there was only a 5k left, and that I would be done with it soon. Then 2 miles left, but 2 hills to climb. Those 2 hills wouldn't have been so bad had they been earlier, but they seemed terrible then. Then the mile sign said 25, so just 1.2 to go. That felt long. Finally, I passed the sign that said 26, so all I had was a 200 yard dash. I dug in, found the last bit of energy I had stored, and sprinted to the finish. They announced my name as I went through the finish line, which was pretty cool, and I saw my friends and parents as I was finishing. The time that showed up as I crossed the finish line was 3:55:47, but I knew it was actually less than that, since it took me a few minutes to even cross the starting line. I then got my medal, and was immediately surrounded by Mom, Dad, Mary, Seth, and Wes. It was amazing, lots of hugging, etc.. I was insanely happy (I'm sure the adrenaline played a role in that). Once I slowed down, I started to feel sore, so I walked around, stretched, and even got a free massage on location, which was great. Later in the day (following a good shower and nap), I went out for a steak dinner with my parents and friends - so good. It was just great for my parents to meet my new friends, and everyone just had a great time.

When I got back from my celebration dinner, they finally posted the official results of the race.
743 overall (out of 2094)
29/120 in my age division (F 18-24)
10k split 55:00
1st 10k pace 8:51
Half marathon: 1:52:16
Half marathon pace: 8:34
20 miles: 2:54:25
Pace: 8:44
Overall Pace: 8:52
Finish: 3:52:18

I did not expect to finish in that time - I was shocked. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was filled with a lot of doubt about my goal, and in the end, I beat myself (or in the words of Wes, I bangaranged myself).
Urban dictionary interruption:
bangarang: The ultimate in excellence. Better than cool, rad or awesome. Saved for very special occasions. Word first used in the movie "Hook". Anyways...

It was an absolutely wonderful day, and one of the best days of my life, actually. I am in a fair amount of pain from my hips down, but it is completely worth it. I am so glad I did it, and I don't think I could've done it without the support from my family and friends. It was an incredible adventure, and something I'm sure I'll do again in the future. Hopefully I'll have pictures to post soon.

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