As I headed to the bus, I still wasn't nervous, but found myself getting emotional as I walked away from Aaron as I thought about how completely he has supported me in this whole crazy endeavor. This really has been a fairly consuming thing for me over the past few months, a lot of hours out running, especially on Saturday mornings, and he has been nothing but encouraging! He hasn't complained once about any of it, he talked me down from my crazy ledge when I was hurt and thinking all was lost, and spent hours rubbing out my feet and legs and making sure this could all go as smoothly as possible for me. His encouragement really carried me through all of this! And dangit, it makes me emotional all over again to think about it.
There was no waiting, they were already rounding people up on to the buses and ours filled quickly and was off! I was glad I ended up sitting next to someone who looked to be my age and who was friendly. We chatted about life, running, kids and it was nice to have a bus buddy! She knew a few people that were running but wasn't planning to meet any of them at the start so she and I hung out for a bit and she stuck around to hang with everyone else from my neck of the woods that showed up to meet at fire pit 7 at Central.
When we stepped off the bus at Central it should have been cold. They have fire pits there because you NEED them to stay warm. We stepped off the bus and I had just a hoodie on over my running gear, with my pants in hand. My bare legs from the skirt down should have been shocked when I stepped off that bus just after 4:00am. They weren't. They were comfortable.
That is a bad sign. Comfortable at that elevation over 2 1/2hrs from the start means a way too warm run. I did end up putting on pants because just sitting there it was a little chilly when the wind kicked up, but overall, warm.
It was SO awesome to have friends to spend that time with! How boring it would have been to just be there alone. We chatted, laughed, lubed and bio-freezed. And used the portapotties about 6 times each.
And then it was finally almost time. We dropped our bags at the trucks. I had gloves and sleeves that I expected to wear for the first little bit. They stayed in the bag. It was that warm. By the time we were lining up for the start I was comfortable in my tank and skirt. Too warm!!!
We said goodbye and good luck to our elite buddies (MaryAnne and Arianne. I have elite buddies! I feel special.) and the rest of us hit the potty lines one more time, just as every other of the thousands of runners did. And then we realized that we were about 20 people back in line and it was just a couple of minutes to start. People were dashing into the fields behind the potty line up by the dozens. Uh, yeah, I didn't want to step in someone's poop (it happened-not to me, but it happened) so I opted to wait in line. Thankfully everyone moved quickly and we made it to the big fat lineup before the horn went off.
I still wasn't nervous.
What the heck?
And there was the horn. And the cheer. And the crowd slowly started moving.
And then just like XLMIC told me I would, I got all teary.
I was finally doing this!!! Awesome moment.
I decided before I even crossed the start mat that I would run conservatively. I knew I wanted to take the first few miles more slowly that I normally would run because I was afraid of going out to fast. And with as warm as it was at 6:45am, I knew I was headed to a hot finish and I don't run so well in the heat.
I spent the first two miles with my bus buddy. We chatted a little, but mostly we just soaked it all in. I remember around mile two she was telling me about two friends of hers who did a marathon this year, the one felt the need to stay with the other even though they ran different paces, and that one who had stayed was super frustrated with her slow finish. She said "don't feel like you need to stay with me if you are faster". I felt guilty when I realized about 3 minutes later that I had started going a little faster and had already lost her. whoops.
Miles one and two at about a 9:50 pace, I felt awesome and knew I could pick it up a little but didn't want to push it much still. Mile 3 9:30, Mile 4 8:58.
I was in love with the landscape from the very beginning. The sky was lighting up from about mile 2, the light cast amazing color across the hills.
A few miles in and the mindless chatter and bad jokes started to slow. Did you know that everyone is a comedian the first few miles of a marathon? It was funny in mile 1. It was tolerable in mile 2. I had to ignore it after mile 3.
The miles were flying by, even without music. I had decided not to use music until I hit Veyo so that I was running comfortably, not pushing my pace, and had a little pick-me-up when the hill hit. I was shocked at how many people were already breathing really heavy. Like struggling heavy. Already? Too soon! But it made me feel great that I was still very comfortable.
Mile 5 9:07, Mile 6 8:52, Mile 7 8:49
I'd been eyeing the 4:15 pacer, staying close behind so I could have an idea of where I was without doing math. Planning to kick it in in the second half.
Then in the distance, there was Veyo. I have heard so much about this dreaded hill. Veyo is a little town, but it's a little town at the bottom of a big hill. And when you think you've hit the top you really haven't, because you keep going uphill for a couple of miles. I was told "don't be a hero", just walk Veyo. What? Totally not me. Besides, I like hills. I also had the pleasure of seeing my good friend Ashley at Veyo right before I hit the hill. Awesome pick me up. I turned on the music and went.
Mile 8 10:02, Mile 9 9:47, Mile 10 9:42
I had lost the 4:15 pacer with my bathroom break. Dangit.
Still going uphill.
I ran into a friend from out here at Mile 9 and he had passed the friends that he was running with so we ran together for a while. It was great to have conversation for a bit, which is funny because very rarely do I like to chat while running. It was a nice distraction on the continuous hills and fun to get to know him a little better. He's run a number of marathons and did his first 70.3 this year so it was fun to hear about those.
Mile 11 9:39, Mile 12 9:30, Mile 13 8:55
Dave dropped off at the halfway point, his hamstring was tightening up so he needed to reign his pace a bit. But I had caught passed the 4:15 guy a while ago!
I realized that I was just barely over two hours. I think I was 2:02. I remember thinking "Oh my word-I could really sub 4 this thing!" I have heard all about how it is the perfect negative split course. I reminded myself to keep it comfortable because it was heating up, and that I'd rather just run by feel and miss the 4:00 cut off but finish feeling good than push it and finish half dead. I didn't know what to expect from my body after the 21 mile point and I didn't want to walk.
Mile 14 9:35 (more hills), Mile 15 8:42, Mile 16 9:03
Still feeling absolutely incredible. Totally buoyed up by the people who had gone out to Snow Canyon to cheer runners. Left nearly breathless by the amazing beauty of Snow Canyon. Amazed at the fact that it just kept getting more and more beautiful out there.
I did steal someone's poster at this point. Kind of. There was an awesome lineup of ladies who had posters with "Punch here for Power" and "Energy Boost" posters-so fun. Runners were being lame and not giving them any love, except for one lady in front of me. All the other spectators loved it when she hit the posters, so I figured I'd get in on the fun. First one? woo-hoo! Second one? uh, I punched a little hard. And she wasn't paying attention. And I realized I was running with her poster stuck to my hand. Good times.
Mile 17 9:24, Mile 18 9:34, Mile 19 9:50
Anyone who tells you that you just have to get up Veyo and the rest of the marathon is downhill is a big fat stinkin' liar. I was SO grateful that Steve had warned me that it is continual hills! I am sure I would have felt deflated if I'd had no warning on that.
Mile 20 9:53, Mile 21 9:14, Mile 22 9:21
I realized at mile 21 that I'd officially run longer than I ever had before. And I had actually run the whole thing except the few steps at aid stations that I needed to slow down enough to get the water.
I had stopped for Icy Hot rubdowns twice and hit up my third one around mile 23. Best volunteers ever. I will be ruined running any other marathon that doesn't have people sitting on the side of the road ready to rub down my legs in the second half. It was amazing! The quads were pretty tight after all the hills, and my IT Band and knee had some uncomfortable moments along the way-this really helped a ton!
Also, at mile 22 I thought to myself "Wow-this is GREAT! I LOVE this!! I'm SO going to do an ultra! I wonder what 50ks they have in Utah......" Which is also about when I realized that I had well passed the 18-20mile mark and had not had the infamous 'hitting the wall' moment. I felt amazing.
We had been blessed with some spotty cloud cover throughout the course which had been a huge help in keeping the temperature down, if only by a few degrees. But honestly, by the end it was hot. Even though high 80s was lower than the predicted temp, it was hot. And out there in the red rock on a big blacktop road, you feel the heat.
Mile 23 was the only one where I felt a bit of a struggle. I walked a few steps out of the aid station before I told myself to get over it and RUN. I knew I wouldn't sub 4, but still felt better than one should at mile 23, so I was ok with that. I knew I would clear 4:15, so I was good!
Mile 23 10:30
Then we started coming in to St George. And to a lot of people. And I KNEW it was close. I got all emotional again as I realized that I was only a 5k away from the finish. That's nothing! People were awesome. Passing out popsicles, spraying runners with water, awesome cheering and support.
Mile 24 9:07, Mile 25 9:42
It was flat. It was hot. Winding through the neighborhoods started to feel like a maze where you would never hit those last few turns. Still awesome people. Crowd getting even louder. Someone passing out washcloths soaked in ice water. Bands playing on the side of the road.
And then the 25.2 mile sign..."the most important mile!"
I knew I was close. So very close! Darn that last mile! I picked up as much as I could, and though I felt good I was getting tired so there wasn't too much left to pick up.
Mile 26 9:18
And that last quarter of a mile. Wow.
People down. One on the side of the road. One guy in the middle of the road trying to stretch out his leg and crying out in pain. They were so close! I hurt for them. They were just steps away!
Turning that last corner was crazy. Hitting the chute, SEEING the finish!
Do you know how hard it is to run when you are crying?
I was THERE. I had made it, I felt good, and I was still running! I averaged an 8:41 pace for the last quarter of a mile. I saw Ashley again-so awesome! I scanned the crowds for Aaron and my kids. Had I missed them? Oh please tell me I didn't miss them! Where are they??
And then there they were. Up in the top corner of the bleachers at the finish line.
I was choking back sobs, SO happy to see them!
I thought "I hope Aaron doesn't drop Sam!" as he was snapping pictures of me.
I couldn't leave well enough alone so I kicked in everything I had left and passed a few people just before the line. I hope they didn't think I was a jerk. I just needed to get there a little faster. (and hey, I passed seven people)
I knew I wanted to do this again!
My official finish time was 4:11:44.
But of course I stopped my garmin for the three bathroom breaks, so my actual run time was a little less.
I tucked the garmin and ipod under my shirt and walked through the sprayers at the finish. Wow that felt good.
Then the medal was placed around my neck. And though it's the goofiest picture and my shirt was riding up in the front, this smile is 100%.
I wandered into the finish area, grabbed waters, tried a popsicle (a few bites in I couldn't do it anymore), tried a big piece of wheat bread (i love Great Harvest, but again, a few bites in and I couldn't do it), and headed for the ice cream sandwiches.
I finally found Aaron who got a big sweaty gross kiss from me and a greeting of "you are doing this with me next time!" Probably not what he expected to hear I'm guessing.
The eating trend continued
and that's about as far as I got with the ice cream sandwich. Oh well.
A quick official finisher photo
and we were off. It was about 11:30 and we had to be out of that fabulous funky motel at noon. They were insistent. We bolted back to the hotel where I quickly showered and changed and we hopped in the car to head home. It was a hilariously quick anti-climactic post marathon experience!
But oh, it was so wonderful! I loved the marathon. LOVED it! I am so looking forward to the next one! Having done one now, I know that I am capable of running it a lot faster. Sub 4 is definitely something within reach and something I can't wait to accomplish. As for that Ultra idea that came up at mile 22? Absolutely! Good news? There are a couple of 50k's in Ut. One of them is in Goblin Valley-oh what an awesome run that would be! I love that place. Though that will be a little further down the road, hopefully only two years, as we need to get Aaron through this school first and let the kids get a little older so I have more options for babysitters for my long runs.
I did also get Aaron to commit to a marathon with me in two years. Yes really!!! The only thing better than doing a marathon again (well, besides doing it in slightly cooler temperatures) would be doing it with him at my side. I am SO looking forward to that!
I feel like I've left out so many things.....things I saw, things I thought about....but it's already a novel. I suppose some of those things are things that wouldn't mean much to anyone other than myself anyway. One of those things about running is that it holds so many very personal little gems. That's part of the magic and the appeal....one of the things that keeps me coming back. I can't wait to go back.