I am a two-time marathoner! I can't believe I ran my first 5k 18 months ago and since then have finished 3 half marathons and two full. It's incredible what a bit of determination and a lot of hard work can do for you. This was my first Rock and Roll Marathon event and I wasn't sure how I'd feel about being in such a huge race. The races I've participated in have, at most, 3000-4000 participants. Last I heard there were 30,000 runners this weekend at Nashville! I wondered how race day logistics would go; parking, water stops, crowding on the course. Now that it's all over I can safely say this event was meticulously organized and I am 100% going to do another (hoping for the Rock and Roll marathon in New Orleans in January 2015!)
Dad and I got into town Thursday around 3 p.m. and went straight to the expo. I read online to try to get there Thursday as most out-of-town runners would be there Friday and it would be much busier. There were zero lines to pick up packets and we had a great time walking around and seeing the vendors. Aren't the shirts adorable?
After we finished at the expo we checked into our hotel (more on the Hotel and Nashville in general tomorrow) and I ate this makeshift diner. I brought a ton of food so I could save money and eat what I normally would at home. The days before a marathon are not the days to start eating out all the time!
The hotel had a pretty nice gym so I was up at 5 a.m. Friday and went to do a slow 20 minute run to keep my legs feeling fluid. Treadmill running does not agree with me and a few minutes into it I developed horrific shin splints. These were an ongoing issues with me during my first marathon training cycle but hadn't been much of a problem this time around. I headed back to the room and iced my shins while taking stupid selfies. That afternoon we stopped by Publix so I could get my ritual pre-long run sushi. When I posted this pic on Instagram I was surprised to hear how many other people eat sushi the night before a race! Saturday, race day, Dad and I got up at 4:15 a.m. (isn't he a trooper?) and headed to try and park at LP Stadium. We got there at 5 and there were plenty of spots left. I hung out in the car for a bit not wanting to get out into the cold.
I went to the bathroom 3 times in the 2 hours I was waiting to start. I'd wait almost 30 minutes in line to use the restroom and as soon as I was out figured I may as well get in line again just in case! Made a few new friends while standing around. Nothing like talking about pissing yourself with random strangers.
I was in corral 22 so I knew I'd be starting a little later than the first start of 7 a.m.. Around 7:20 I got into my corral and it took us about 20 minutes to cross the start line. I know there is no other way to safely get 30,000 runners over the start but waiting around for 40 minutes after the race starts to begin does suck. I was SO nervous I was almost shaking (the cold didn't help) and I was just so ready to start the run. I didn't have a specific goal for the race given how hard I heard the course was. Overall I aimed to keep a 10:30 pace the first half, and knew I'd slow down the second half and hoped I could keep it to about an 11:30 pace. I did just about that as my average pace ended up being 11:11. I knew by mile 15 that I wasn't going to be able to beat my Pensacola Marathon time so my goal was to just come in under 5 hours.
Dad hung out the whole morning waiting to catch me a few times on the course and got to cheer on runners and take some cool photos of the race.
I saw him at mile 10 and when he asked me how I was feeling I responded with, "adrenaline is a hell of a drug!" I was feeling pretty good knowing that the steady incline in the first few miles was behind me and that a flatter part of the course was coming up. While miles 12-15 were pretty flat they were in an extremely boring part of town and the heat at this point was brutal. I was keeping up with the 4:30 pace group until mile 15 when I stopped to walk the first time. Mile 17, circled below, was definitely the worst. IT WAS ALL UPHILL. I saw Dad at the foot of the hill and shortly after passing him started to walk, and continued to do so for almost half a mile. My knee locked up suddenly halfway up it but went back to normal after a few steps. Worst feeling ever.
I never hit the wall. I attribute it to preparing well and having a good attitude during the race (both topics I will talk more about this week in a training recap post.) Miles 17-21 were pretty tough but once I got to 21 I was smiling most of the way to the finish line. I kept saying to myself (and updated my facebook around mile 23) "I'm about to finish an effing marathon!" A lot of my first marathon was a blur and I wanted to try to take in and remember as much of this race as possible.
The last part of the course was around a gorgeous park. At this point in the race I had seen a few runners passing out on the side of the course or vomiting. The heat and hills were just a nasty combination. The aid stations, water stations, and crowd support were phenomenal. By far the best I've ever seen at a race. Every station was well stocked, the volunteers were positive and clearly willing to do whatever the runners needed. I almost cried twice on the course. Once when a family cheered me on and after I yelled 'thank you' they responded with 'we love you', and once I passed the 26 mile marker and nearly every person in the crowd lining the streets to the finish line said something encouraging to me. I had to fight back tears when I realized I was about to start hyperventilating! Very hard to run a marathon while crying!
I crossed the glorious finish line and made my way down the runners area to get my medal and food. I do wish they provided runners with bags to put their food and drinks in as by the time I saw Dad in the family area my arms were overflowing with goodies. The first thing I had was a chocolate milk (old school carton style) and I chugged that shit like I was drinking beer at a frat party (not that I ever did that.) It was the best tasting chocolate milk of my entire life. In the blur of the immediate period post-finish I had an orange, coconut water, and a small bag of pretzels. I walked around for about 10-15 minutes as we slowly made our way back to the car. I busted out the foam roller and went to town on my legs as I knew I needed to do whatever I could to make the 8 hour car ride home more comfortable. My legs cramped up a bit on the ride but overall I am so glad we decided to leave after the race. I would have been too tired to do anything fun in Nashville anyway and this way I saved $150 on a hotel and got to sleep in my own bed that night. The ride home was made 10x better thanks to compression socks and a legitimate runners high. The high didn't wear off until about an hour outside of town so it worked out perfectly! My post-marathon lunch of champions. Lots of ice bags were used on the ride and compression tights from Tommy Copper (review soon!) I had to pick up at least one chocolate gas station treat on the way home. When I got home I took the most amazing shower and went to bed with a big bowl of this lentil/faux beef spaghetti concoction and two huge pieces of cornbread. Eating that in bed was one of the best feelings ever.
The day after the marathon went something like this:
Literally having to roll myself out of bed and onto the floor. I was so stiff it was ridiculous. Going to the bathroom is an act of controlled falling. It is such a proud pain though - I actually do love the feeling! I added my latest bling to my collection (all earned in the last 14 months):
Salem is jealous. I did a bit of research online to see whether or not I should try to go on a short shakeout run. Basically, if it makes you feel better go for it. Walking around the house helped loosen me up a lot so I foam rolled, did trigger point, and went out to see how I felt. I managed to do 2 miles in 28 minutes! I am going to take most of the week off from running but I am hoping to do a slow 5k with friends Wednesday night and if I'm feeling back to normal after that then a 7 mile run on Saturday. After my run my super awesome amazing friend Christina texted me and offered to pick me up and take me out to lunch. Ummm - yes! We went to Tijuana Flats. This was only my second time being there in 10 years but omg was it amazing. After lunch we hung out poolside for a while. I jumped in the water for a bit and it was pretty cold but it felt great to swim around for a few minutes. Active recovery is clearly working in my favor, as is hydrating like a boss and maintaining a higher than normal consumption of carbs. I have a lot more I want to talk about regarding the race (like my thoughts on doing out-of-town races, and how I felt my training went this time around) so look for that later this week. Thank you to everyone who congratulated me online after the race. As soon as I crossed the finish line I started thinking about #3! Six months from now I WILL get my 4:30 goal!