Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reflecting on the marathon, a couple of days after the fact

If you read my last blog, you may recall that I was really struggling with how I finished the Fox Valley Marathon. I was disappointed because I felt like I let down the race directors Dave and Craig by not maintaining a pace to get me in to the finish at 6 hours as the "back of the pack" party. Now I'm just mad at myself.

Not because of the fact that I didn't finish like I wanted to....or because I hit the proverbial wall around mile 20.

I'm mad because I was so concerned about my time that I couldn't take the time to relish in the fact that I ran (okay, ran and walked) a freakin' marathon.....completed 26.2 miles....all as part of a phenomenal racing event.

Three years ago (and many pounds heavier) I never, ever thought I would be able to accomplish such an incredible feat. Yes, I know there are people out there that run several marathons a year, but for anyone who knew me when I was younger they would remember that I HATED running. I dreaded having to do the mile in gym class, and would just stick to riding my bike or aerobics for exercise. Luckily, back then I had a super-high metabolism, so I never really had to worry about staying fit...it just happened.

The Fox Valley Marathon is something I looked forward to all year long. As a volunteer and committee member I had the honor of seeing all of the magic behind the scenes, and getting to know so many other volunteers in the process. In some small way I've been involved with FVM since 2011, when my kids did the Kids Marathon and I volunteered at packet pick up. Last year I volunteered some more, Matt and Nathan did the kids marathon (Thomas was too old, so he volunteered), and I ran the half.

This year was amazing! I volunteered to put together the display for the Municipal Building window, and did that along with the help of Sue and Craig. I paced the 12:30+ pace group for the training runs, and I know without that pushing me and Pat offering to train with me on the off weeks I never would have even made it to the starting line. Even with the thunder, lightning and pouring rain during our 20 miler I wouldn't trade a single moment. I also served as the Kid's Packet Pick Up Captain, and LOVED seeing how excited the kids were to turn in their log, get their t-shirts and, for many, their first ever bib number.

I was done thinking about all that DIDN'T happen, and focused on all of the positive highlights from Sunday. So last night I stopped by Dick Pond Athletics to pick up a Fox Valley Marathon 26.2 magnet to add to the minivan, alongside Nathan's Kid's Marathon magnet. Yes, it might be seen as bragging or downright annoying to some, but it warms my heart to see that when I walk by it and reflect on the last several months. I never thought I'd say this, but bring on next year's Fox Valley Marathon!

Monday, September 23, 2013

One of the hardest things I have EVER done!

I started to write up my Fox Valley Marathon recap last night, but between exhaustion and the kids I decided to "sleep on it" and finish it this morning. I was still kind of in a daze after everything yesterday, so I'm glad I made that decision.

My day started off pretty well. I didn't get a great night's sleep (too many dreams about oversleeping), but I still felt pretty rested. I got up, showered, dressed, and ate my bagel and banana before doing a last-minute sweep to make sure I had everything together. It was a beautiful, cool morning - perfect for marathon day, with a beautiful sunrise.
What a great way to start out the morning!
It took a little bit of driving around to find a parking spot, but luckily I was only four or five blocks away from the Race Village. I dropped off my gear bag, hit the porta-potty (where I met a blind runner and one of his guides...talk about inspirational!), and met up with my family as I made my way to the back of the pack. It was great getting hugs and well wishes from them!

The wave start was slowly helping us make our way to the starting line. I was with probably the last group to start. This year Dave and Craig, the best race directors EVER, had talked about having a "back of the pack" person...someone who would run the marathon at a 13:45 pace, and let the aid stations know that they were technically the end. This was also for those who were worried about being the only person out there. I'm a slow runner, so I said I'd do it....then it hit me that I'd be running TWO marathons this year, three weeks apart! I did get some fabulous advice from my friend Aldona on this sign she posted for me along the race course:
This was such a great surprise on the course!
Time to run!
After all the training this summer, I felt like I was really ready to tackle my first marathon. Oh, how naive I can be! Everything started off well enough, although I did have to slow down after the first mile because I was actually running faster than the pace I needed to keep. I had thought that I would run until we got to an aid station, and then walk. That plan worked great until about mile 14...then I started adding in some fast walking. I kept that up for the next 4 or 5 miles, and then I bonked - big time. My legs, hips and feet were done running. I munched on my Fig Newton and took some Gatorade chews, and that gave me a little pick up until mile 23ish.

It hit me then that I wasn't going to finish in the 6 hour time limit....I was crushed. I knew there were still some runners behind me, but I felt like I had failed at my job as the "back of the pack" person. I sent my wonderful friend Christine a text to let her know I wasn't going to make it under 6 hours...that it would probably be at least 6:10 for a finish time. I knew she'd be there, along with my other friends, family, and my FVM "family". She replied, said "I'll be here waiting for you!" and I said I was going to need a big hug when I got done. I was in tears - not from pain, but because I really thought I could do this in 6 hours. I had actually been training a bit faster than a 13:45 pace, but it wasn't in the cards for me yesterday.

Once I passed Prairie Street, I could see the finish line. It was only another 0.3 miles to go, and I was determined to run that last bit as well as I could. There were still some spectators there (you have NO idea how much that meant to me!), and as soon as I rounded the corner heading on to the Illinois Street Bridge I could hear Bob Hackett welcoming me back. Then my brother, Thomas, and Nathan ran out with me to run me in to the finish. I saw so many of my friends there waiting for me, and I just hung on to Christine and sobbed for a bit. Carrie gave me my medal, and I got more hugs from Pat, Jeanne, and I swear Colleen although it was kind of a blur at that point...haha! My family also came around the finish area for more hugs, and then Pat made sure I got my "space blanket" and food/water/Gatorade. Erin made sure I had my Endurance medal for running a FVM race a second year in a row, and I got to see my friends Sara and Catherine after they finished.

Luckily I took today off of work, and I'm planning to go for a nice walk at some point...gotta keep the muscles moving. I allowed myself to throw a little pity party for one this morning, but now I'm trying to get over that. Because in the end, the thing that really should matter to me is that I finished my first marathon. And I still got some cool bling ;-)