I did it!
I actually ran an actual marathon! More than a marathon—I ran 26.46 miles because it was a trail race and they tend to be less exact. I still can't quite believe that I really did it. There are pictures on Facebook, though, so it must be real.
During my training, I covered each of the trails on the course at least twice, so I was able to put together a plan for running and hiking on race day. The week before the race, I practiced getting up at 5 am so I wouldn't be as dopey on the big morning. It didn't help my attitude during the week—I am definitely NOT a morning person. But race day dawned slightly overcast (perfect for running) and I was up and making coffee by 4:45 am. Out the door by 5:45, but my car started overheating when I was almost there. I turned the fan up and kept rolling. I figured if the car died, I wanted to get as close as possible before starting to walk (or trying to hitch a ride). The car made it to the parking area at the resort (whew!) and I found someone to take my “before” picture.
|A little stressed but starting to refocus|
While I was engaging in the traditional “standing in line for the porta-potty” ritual, I got a fist-bump from someone else who had run this particular race as his first marathon a couple of years previously. My timing continued to be lucky as I only had to stand at the start line for a minute or two before the gun went off.
Here's a link to the map of the course, if you want to see it. The initial trail through the resort was fairly narrow and the resulting bottleneck slowed us down, but we were out on a paved road pretty quickly. We had a little over a mile to find our pace, then we hit the park and the dirt trails. My race plan included walking the first trail (The Trough), since it goes right up the side of the ridge, but I did run some parts of it. What goes up must come down, so we went down Buck and Hotel, both fairly tricky trails—steep with lots of rocks, roots, twists, and turns. I caught up with a woman who was going just a bit slower than I felt like running, so I stayed with her on Hotel and Four Gorge. My usual technique is to try to run the first half of a race with someone who is going a little slower than me, which keeps me from wearing myself out too early. She would get ahead of me on the uphill parts and I would catch her on the downhills. Once we got to the flatter parts (Tuck-a-way and Enchanted Forest), I got ahead of her and stayed ahead. I ran Little Bell and Schoolhouse without seeing anyone except a couple of guys fishing in a boat on the cove.
A mile or so after the halfway point (on Arrowhead), I caught up to an older gentleman. He was going to let me pass him, but I wasn't going quite fast enough. He was less chatty than my previous race buddy, so I concentrated on running. Sometimes he got ahead for a while but I would always catch him. I was certain that my earlier running buddy would catch me on the long uphill (Brushy Mountain—2.5 miles of up up up starting at mile 19—yuck), but she didn't appear. I met a college student who was running her first marathon and a woman who had come from Virginia Beach to run the race. Eventually, I caught up with the gentleman and passed him when we started heading downhill again. I had tried a new technique going up the long hill (yes, I know you're not supposed to do that during a race, but after hiking that hill a couple of times I discovered that my muscles would shorten up during the hike so I wasn't able to run once the terrain changed). The long uphill was a fire road, so there was plenty of room. I occasionally turned around and hiked backward, then ran a few steps before dropping back into my steady hiking pace. When we got to the downhill part, I was much better able to run than I had been on my training runs. The long downhill trail (The Gauntlet) was narrow and rocky, but I ran it better than I expected. At mile 23, I was getting really tired and a little whiney, but I pictured my running buddy's grin which always helps to keep me going forward.
|I Run 4 Joshua cuz he's awesome!|
Just a couple of miles of slow and steady uphill (Horsepen), one last water stop, some paved road, and some slightly confusing trails through the resort property and I was done. Twenty minutes faster than I had expected and only 10 minutes slower than my dream goal! Though honestly, I had to pee so badly by the time I hit the finish line (no porta-potties on trail race courses!), that I look grumpy in my finish line picture and the lady who hung my medal on me told me to smile. I flashed her a grin, then found my way to the porta-potty at last. My regular running buddies were supposed to be at the end, but I didn't see anyone. I grabbed some food and found the college student and my first race buddy and congratulated them. I was starting to wonder if they had closed the resort property so my friends couldn't get in, so I hiked back toward my car to find my phone. I ran into a couple of my friends on the way. I had finished so much earlier than expected, they were still getting into place! We hung out at the finish line and cheered for the last couple of runners, and my buddies gave me a couple of cool gifts, including this magnet:
|My friends are the coolest!|
For the next couple of days, all I did was eat and rest and admire the slogans and drawings on my car (The Cove = Conquered). It would have taken a serious emergency to get me to run. It's been over a week now, so I'm hoping I can run a little this week and get back to my usual routine next week. But holy cow, I'm a marathoner now—can you believe it?!?!
|Heavy medal ;-)|