Now that it’s been about a million years since my marathon (well, 2 months), I am finally posting a recap of the actual race! I apologize for the lack of pictures, I was too busy running to take any.
Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5:30am. I woke up feeling good, having slept well. This was a great improvement over Friday night’s terrible sleep. My mom was picking me up at 7am, so I had lots of time to get ready.
My first order of business was breakfast. I need to eat at least 2 hours before running or I get sick. For shorter morning runs, I generally don’t eat anything beforehand. But knowing this was going to be a long one and that it was later than my typical morning run, I made sure to eat. I enjoyed my favorite pre-race breakfast: toast, peanut butter, and a banana. Yum!
My outfit was already laid out, so getting dressed was quick. My running get-up consisted of shorts, a t-shirt, makeshift arm warmers (made from long socks, so that they could be tossed if necessary), and a running jacket.
I put my Garmin on one arm and my stopwatch on the other. My Garmin battery only lasts about 20 miles, so I planned to use my stopwatch to keep track of my overall time. My Garmin was just in case I felt like I needed to keep my pace in check, at which point I could turn it on for a bit.
Next, I pinned my bib to my shorts. This was a first, as I am usually a bib-on-the-shirt type of girl. But I knew that I was likely to be removing or adding layers to my upper body, so shorts were the logical place. It took me a few tries to get it right since the timing chip on the back was bulky.
I was pretty excited that Madison had finally switched to b-tags (on the bib) from d-tags (on the shoe lace) for timing. I am particular about the way my shoes are tied, and tying things into my laces kind of freaks me out.
Finally, I wet my hair in the sink so that I could braid it easily. Taking a shower was out of the question, since my hair takes at least 45min to blow dry when fully wet (I wish that were an exaggeration) and I didn’t want to run with a wet head.
At 7, my mom drove up and it was time to go! I put on my sweat pants, grabbed my handheld water bottle and fuel, and headed out the door.
The drive to the capitol, where the race started and ended, was quick. We sat in the car for a few minutes, since it was still early. Finally, it was time for me to head to the start area. It was warmer out than expected, so I decided not to bring a throwaway sweatshirt. I figured I would be fine with just my running jacket, sweatpants, gloves, and headband. I got some hugs, and then I was on my own.
First, I stopped by the porta-potties, because I am one of those people who always has to pee. Luckily it was early and there were no lines!
I wandered around to stay warm. It wasn’t too cold and I was dressed well, but I figured just standing would be uncomfortable. The Starbucks near the start was absolutely packed with people hiding from the weather. I feel bad for anyone who actually wanted coffee!
With about 25min to go, I headed back to the bathrooms. This time there were lines, although they were short. I chatted with other runners as we waited and, next thing I knew, I was ready to head to the start line. The timing was perfect, since they had just announced that they were opening the start corral.
This year they checked bibs before allowing anyone to enter, which meant I had to ditch my sweatpants. Luckily, the corral quickly filled up and was quite warm. I lined up near the 4:40 pacers. Based on my training and discussion with my running coach, Angie, this seemed reasonable. I have a tendency to start out too fast, so starting with a group would allow me to keep a steady pace without draining my Garmin.
I chatted with the runners around me, and next thing I knew, the national anthem played and we were off!
I wasn’t too nervous as we started running, the weather was nice and I was ready to go. About a minute into the race, one of the pacers found some money, which was sweet. People always talk about finding things while running, although it has never happened to me.
The first mile of the course was mostly downhill, which was fine by me. Around mile 1.5, I saw my family for the first time. It was nice to see them, although I wasn’t in need of much support at this point (the course goes by my house though, so they popped out to see me).
At mile 2, we entered the arboretum. I run through the arboretum regularly and don’t generally enjoy it, although I know the rolling hills are good for me. This time, however, it was painless and I barely remember it. Running with the pace group was so distracting that the miles just flew by. People were telling jokes, the pacers were giving advice, and it just felt like we were out for a run. I ate some shot blocs at some point in there.
We exited the arboretum around mile 5, and enjoyed a nice downhill. I was looking forward to seeing my family at mile 6, because I was ready to get rid of my jacket. We powered up the hill by Edgewood College and my family was waiting at the top. They took my jacket and I switched water bottles.
I don’t typically carry water for races, but having a cold had dehydrated me in the weeks before the race. So I really wanted to make sure I had enough fluids. Plus, I was afraid of repeating the mistakes of my last half marathon, where I didn’t drink nearly enough and ended up in the ER needing IV fluids (that’s a story all of its own and is also the race where I set my current half marathon PR). To feel safe, I carried a hand-held water bottle and my family had my other hand-held. We switched every hour or so, so that I was never low on water.
The route wound by Camp Randall (the UW football stadium) and then out towards the UW hospitals. Around mile 9, we hit Observatory Drive, which was one of the two big hills of the race. The pacers shouted encouragement as we trucked it up the hill, and before I knew it we were overlooking Lake Mendota. The view was beautiful and marked the end of our uphill journey.
We turned off the hill onto the street where I work. As we passed my office, all I could think about was how much more I enjoy running by work than actually going to work!
At this point of the race, I was feeling pretty good. My legs felt fine. The only thing bothering me was my back, which has been a problem for me in recent months. Every time I run, my back starts aching/tightening up within the first mile, despite my attempts to relax.
The next couple miles were down University Ave., one of the main roads crossing the isthmus. I enjoyed this part of the course. It wasn’t scenic, but I like seeing the city from different viewpoints. Since University is a big road with many lights, it’s not typically great for running – but for the race we had a whole lane to ourselves.
Around mile 12, we turned off University and headed north. My back was really bothering me at this point, and I was grateful to see my family around the halfway point. I grabbed some ibuprofen and switched water bottles. Typically, I avoid ibuprofen when running, because it isn’t a healthy combination. On this day, however, I just wanted my back to stop hurting!
I was amazed at how the first half of the race flew by. The context really seemed to change how long each mile felt. In a half-marathon, the miles seem longer because each one is a good portion of the overall distance. This time, each mile seemed much shorter despite the fact that they actually took quite a bit longer!
Miles 12-15 were the least attractive of the course, the road is more industrial and just isn’t very exciting. At mile 15, there was an incredibly large St. Bernard watching the race, so that was a nice distraction. Did you know that the largest St. Bernard on record was about 315lbs? If you put two of me on a scale and then added an average weight 7-year-old boy, we would weigh less than that. How do you get a dog that big into the car? What if it tries to sit on your lap?
We turned into Warner Park at about 15.5 miles and I was super excited to see my friend Sarah cheering! It was a great pick-me-up and came at just the right time. As we entered the park, the wind started blowing. It had been calm so far (which was amazing considering the 20mph winds the day before), but there was a half-mile section where there was a strong headwind. This was the only time I was cold during the race!
Once we exited the park into the neighborhoods behind it, we were in the only miles of the course that I am unfamiliar with. I have run on some of the roads in shorter races, but they all look the same to me!
Around mile 17, I needed to pee. I was impressed that I had made it that far, especially since I was hydrating well. Even though it only took me about 30 seconds, it was enough to lose the pace group on the winding roads. Suddenly I went from being in a sizable group to being mostly alone.
Once we hit the next straightaway, I saw the group and caught up. At this point I was starting to feel less than great. My legs felt good, which was nice. My back pain had subsided thanks to the ibuprofen, but it had taken a toll on me. Turns out you run a little differently when your back hurts. It’s not noticeable if you watch me, but the slight changes to my gait add up over the miles. Lately this has been coming in the form of side stitches. It frustrates me so much. I like to think that I am in mildly okay shape, what with all the running/strength training/yoga/etc. So it’s hard to deal with something that makes me feel like I just started running.
Around mile 18, I was expecting to see my family…but they were not there. The map was not accurate as to the locations of the water stops in that area, so my family ended up a bit farther than I had thought. I almost burst into tears when they weren’t there. I had been keeping myself going by reminding myself that I would see them soon.
It’s funny, I am usually a lone wolf when it comes to running. Of the more than 1000 miles I ran in 2013, less than 100 were run with other people . I love running alone and can go out for 20 miles by myself and be perfectly happy. So it felt weird to be disappointed by not seeing people! I think it was because I had been anticipating it, whereas on a normal run I expect to be alone.
I was really starting to struggle because my whole rib cage hurt. When I finally saw my family, it marked my final departure from the pace group. I just couldn’t keep up because my side hurt and we had reached the final set of larger hills.
At this point, I started having to do some walking, which really pissed me off.
I turned my music on at mile 19 (I am surprised that I made it so long without any, this was the first time I even thought about it), but it didn’t really help. It was like I couldn’t even hear it. For the next few miles I did a combination of running and walking, while trying everything I could think of to make my side feel better.
I walked, sipped water (which was my go-to cure for stitches when I started running), held my hands over my head, focused on my breathing, and pressed my hand under my ribs where it hurt. None of this helped, in fact all I managed to do was give myself a large bruise where I had been pressing my hand into my side!
These miles were frustrating. There were times the voice in my head said I should just stop trying and walk the rest of the way, since I was doing terribly anyway. Amazingly, despite the fact that I was very down on myself at this point, I never thought of quitting the race. It just seemed like a given that I would finish it somehow.
I did manage to keep myself doing run/walk intervals, which was pretty good considering how much I felt like just walking. This part of the course was the area of Madison where I first started running. On the same streets where I could barely run for 30 seconds just 3.5 years ago, I was now at mile 20 of a marathon.
Although the course wasn’t crowded at this point, there were way more runners around me than there had been in the previous miles. This part of the course narrows onto some bike paths, funneling people together.
At mile 21, I saw my family and asked my friend to run with me for a bit. Well run/walk with me, I suppose. It was a nice distraction to have someone talking to me, since it made me think a little less about all the running! I spent most of the time talking about how much I wanted a chocolate milkshake.
Around mile 23.5, I headed out on my own for the last out-and-back along John Nolen. I had been dreading this part of the course, having had some less than enjoyable runs along this road (some including 25mph headwinds that almost blew me into the lake and others including scorching temperatures that made heat radiate visibly off the pavement).
On this particular day, however, I really enjoyed running along the road. At about mile 24, my side suddenly felt totally fine – after an hour of hurting relentlessly, it just went away. I picked up my pace a bit and the music in my headphones finally started helping (shout out to Eminem, who kept me going). At about mile 24.5, I decided that I definitely wanted to do another marathon. I felt good, I was passing people and singing along to my music. Everyone else probably thought I was crazy, because I was even dancing a little.
The final trek back up to the capitol square is a hill. It’s not particularly long or steep, but it’s no fun at the end of a race.
The mile 26 marker signaled the start of the barricaded road to the finish, around the capitol. The last .2mi was great, there were lots of people cheering and I could see the finish line. As I turned the corner, I began my final sprint to the end.
Next thing I knew, the announcer was calling my name and I was done. I stopped my watch and slowed to a walk. Someone put a medal around my neck. I feel like it was a teenage girl, but it could really have been a middle-aged man for all I know. I got my mylar blanket, which was great because it got chilly as soon as I stopped running. My next stop was the official race photo, where I posed with my medal. As expected, this photo turned out terribly.
Then there was the food! I grabbed some chocolate milk, which I had been really looking forward to. Weirdly, I never actually drank the milk and found it in my fridge about a month later. I did enjoy a chocolate chip cookie, though. They also had ham sandwiches, but that sounded gross.
As I munched on my cookie, I made my way to my family and some friends (thanks Lyn and Matt!) who were at the finish. I made a quick stop to get a print out of my results (4:48:21) and then we headed to the car. My family was starving, so they were ready to get going! On the walk to the parking lot, there were many runners who looked like they were in pain or possibly about to throw up. Luckily, I was walking easily and feeling good.
Once we got to the parking lot, I threw on some warmer clothes and we headed out.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of my race recap, which I promise to write more quickly than I wrote this one. It will be a thrilling piece in which I discuss a variety of topics including: my post-race ice bath, my celebratory meal, the difficulty with which I climbed into the stupidly tall SUV my parents rented, and my overall thoughts on the race!