The morning was beautiful. Overcast and drizzling, clouds hanging low around the mountains and into the meadow where the start area was. This is where we got to hang out before the race.
This is what things looked like down at mile 13-the half marathon start where Aaron's relay leg started.
Pretty much what it looked like up at the start too.
Down there they had tarps.
Up at the marathon start, everyone huddled together around the fire barrels trying to stay warm and as dry as possible. There was all of the usual runner chatting, the one big theme throughout the morning was the Salt Lake City Marathon that was one month ago, which took place in a big rainstorm. We all hoped that we could stick with the drizzle and avoid the downpour that the SLC runners got. A number of people there had also run SLC, there was a lot of laughing at the fact that it was raining for this race too.
I started getting antsy just sitting there, so I headed back to the port-a-potty line, knowing that it was getting longer by the minute and I would be standing there for at least 15 minutes already. I think we all spent a little bit more time than necessary once we got in, just because of the shelter from the rain! Once I was out there was still about 25min till start, but that tends to go pretty quickly. I wandered around a bit seeing if there was anyone I know (I did see a girl who grew up in my neighborhood, though she was far enough away I didn't chase her down), and then checked my gear bag. This left me without a jacket as I knew I didn't want to run in my jacket. I had brought some makeshift arm sleeves (cut socks) figuring I would toss them at some point, so I was a little warmer.
I headed out to the road instead of slogging around in the field (that was slowly turning into a swamp) for any longer. I chatted with a sweet old lady from Florida, who offered me a jacket. She had a waterproof jacket, and the fashionable garbage bag poncho, so though I refused at first to take her other jacket, she insisted and I caved. She had brought it as a throw-away anyway, but was plenty warm and dry. Sweet lady. She was running her 50th marathon by the way.
I ended up next to another lady who was also in a tank and skirt, but she was shaking and shivering and covered in goosebumps, so I offered to share the jacket. She also refused at first, but quickly got over the awkward idea of her in one sleeve, me in the other and the two of us huddled in the middle as the sky started to open up and the rain came down harder. Did I mention it was only about 40 degrees?
A few minutes later good old Jeff Galloway gave the countdown (pretty cool!) and we were off.
(at that point jacket girl took off, it definitely would have been awkward to run together like that!)
I had mulled over my running plans so many times, and even as the gun sounded I still wasn't sure how I wanted to approach this race.
Knowing that had things not fallen apart over the past couple of weeks I should have been able to run a 3:45-3:50, I decided I would hang out near the 4:00 pacer and see how I felt.
About a half a mile in I realized that I don't run well near a pack of people.
My Garmin was tucked under my sleeve anyway, so I decided that I would just run by feel, see how things went, and avoid peeking at the clock. I ended up a little in front of the 4:00 pacer, in a spot with considerably fewer people, and fell into a comfortable pace.
I was a little surprised at how little downhill there was in the first miles of the race, I expected more simply due to the fact that we were coming out of a canyon. Technically it was down, but it sure felt flat.
The view was amazing. The gray skies and rain made everything look so green, it really was incredibly beautiful. I was feeling good, the rain wasn't bothering me too much, and the temperature was just about perfect.
Things continued on well, I was still feeling good, and my pace felt comfortable. (I still hadn't looked to see what it was.)
But then the rain picked up again.
Around mile 10 that started getting to me. I was completely water logged, my shoes and socks had already been soaked through for miles (at least I didn't need to bother avoiding big puddles anymore), and one of my earbuds quit working. I was annoyed. Then at mile 11 my mind hiccuped for the first time this race. I was bugged enough that I am quite sure I actually said out loud (instead of just in my mind), "Why do I have mile 18 legs at mile 11?! Ugh!"
This was also about where the guy who had been running next to me started puking his guts out. That was fun. At least I wasn't in that situation. A good reminder that it definitely could have been worse!
I turned my focus to the fact that I was almost halfway done, and more importantly, Aaron's relay leg started at mile 13. Realizing that I would get to see him in a matter of minutes was a pick-me-up that I desperately needed at that moment.
When I passed the sign that indicated the relay exchange leg was 1/4mile away, I started crying. Yep. Between race brain and the hormone cocktail I was riding thanks to my body deciding that this was the perfect weekend for my first postpartum cycle (sorry, we runners specialize in TMI), I was a complete mess.
I managed to pull it together as I rounded the corner and could see up ahead where the relay runners were. With everyone covered in jackets and tarps and blankets I couldn't tell for sure if it was Aaron right up front or not, but he didn't leave me wondering for long.
You see this smile?
(also-do you see that quad? yes!)
(The smile, not the quad. But the quad does make me pretty happy too.)
I was happy enough that I really didn't slow down much before barreling right into him. Whoops. Good thing he was standing firm because otherwise I think I would have knocked him over, along with the people standing closely behind him. I was a little excited to see him.
After a big bear hug that I desperately needed, a kiss and a quick chat, I was back on my soggy way.
That was my demise, right there.
I had worked for a lot of days to let go of my goals and accept that whatever happened would happen, that the most important thing was running comfortably enough to not cause more problems with my back. Once the number was back in my head I was thinking way too much. At least I was smart enough to continue to keep the numbers covered under my sleeve so that I wasn't constantly looking.
Mile 14 was the only significant uphill part of the course. Staying true to my desire to be a strong hill runner, I continued to run the whole thing. It was awesome to pass dozens of people (I lost count in the high 20s), even if it was tough getting up there. I did walk the aid station that wasn't too far past the top of the hill, which is when all of those people who run faster than I do but chose to walk the hill came blasting past me. That was deflating.
Just keep moving.
I managed to stay in my groove until around mile 18 when the real downhills started to catch up with my quads. And it was then that my mind started to let go. It made sense (and I remember reasoning with myself that it made sense) that since my legs had felt like mile 18 back at mile 11, that now that I actually was at 18 they should feel like mile 25 legs. I tried to push the thought out of my mind but boy, it wanted to stick around! I continued to stick to my plan of running without walking, but my legs were not happy. I knew I had been running slower for the past few miles, and just didn't seem to have the juice left to pick it back up again.
At mile 20 I ran past two girls on the side of the road with white all over their legs. I realized that it was Icy Hot. I turned around and begged some off of them.
Dear girls in the rainbow arm sleeves with the Icy Hot,
I love you. My plan was to run with some Icy Hot in a ziploc bag in pocket so I had it if I needed it. (St George marathon aid stations spoiled me) I forgot to get it out of my gear bag when I checked that at the start line. You are the best. You saved me. Seriously. Thank you.
Still running, fighting only my mind now that my legs were sufficiently placated by the Icy Hot.
It even prompted a smile again. Kind of.
I was hanging in there mentally until I found myself in a crowd of people and the 4:00 pacer passed me at mile 22. Dangit.
That was SO incredibly deflating. I found myself fighting tears again. I tried again to pick up the pace a little, but my body just didn't have enough left to go any faster. I had fueled well, I had hydrated well, I didn't feel the all over exhaustion, but my legs were just so ready to be done. Feeling the effects of all of those days completely off during the previous three weeks was so frustrating. The sinus infection and girly issues were not helping. And my socks being so wet had caused them to bunch all up in my shoes and push in between my toes. I could feel the skin rubbing off the sides of my toes. That was so incredibly annoying at that moment.
Running past the waterfall at the end of the canyon was a great reminder to just let it all go and enjoy the beauty that surrounded me on every side. It was a continual effort, but focusing on looking around helped me get out of my head a little bit.
This is a peek of the canyon from Aaron's leg, I'm guessing it had to be around mile 16.
The last few miles dumped into a paved bike and pedestrian trail surrounded by trees with the river running along next to it. It really was beautiful. The whole course had been, and thank goodness for that. I am grateful that I had enough presence of mind to realize that and to appreciate that. This trail rolled up and down, and each uphill was a little harder for me than the last. At this point I was continually telling myself that I could finish this. At each mile marker since 20 I had put myself on my regular run route at home, telling myself "this is just running home from ___".
Mile 24...only two more miles. I could finish this. I could keep running. Suck it up, don't cry. Just two more miles till you can dry off.
Mile 25. So close. SO close. One foot in front of the other. One soggy squishy foot in front of the other. Just. keep. moving.
Mile 26. Right there. RIGHT there. The few people that I had run right next to for the majority of the race found their finish kick and the distance between us started to grow. I had no kick left. Try as I may, digging deep and fighting with everything I had, there just wasn't any speed left. Which made me want to cry again. Dangit.
To the man on the sidelines who realized how much I was struggling with myself just two short-and yet infinitely long-blocks from the finish line, and looked at my race bib so he could encourage me by name, thank you. Hearing "come on Catherine, you can do this! Hang in there! You've made it! You're there! You're right there!", I cannot tell you how much that meant. I'm sure that sounds silly, but it was awesome. Thank you for encouraging me through that last little bit.
Those last steps took so long. But finally, I crossed the finish line.
I snapped back to reality as I realized that the lady who crossed the finish line just a few seconds before me had really barely made it and was going down. I turned to help catch her, to find that a volunteer was right there as well, and realized that it was a good thing someone else was watching her go down because my legs wanted to buckle when I stopped walking to turn to her.
Reality check-I was in pretty good shape comparatively.
My back still felt good. My legs were tired but still (mostly) functioning. My mind was completely exhausted.
I continued to walk through the finish chute, got my medal, grabbed some water and something to eat, and scanned the crowd for Aaron. I couldn't find him anywhere. I mulled around in the still pouring rain trying to find him, sloshing through the park that had become a swamp, grateful that my body was much more accepting of food than right after the last marathon. After spending 10-15 minutes waiting for my bag and looking for Aaron, I realized that I just needed to get back to the hotel. I had left my phone behind because I didn't want to risk it getting broken in my bag, so I had no way to connect with him. I couldn't stop shaking and couldn't even get my teeth to stop chattering so I figured it was best that I get back inside and warm up. Except I also didn't have a room key. Dripping wet and shaking at the front desk I begged for a new key, then made my way back up to the room to my phone.
On my way back I had passed a number of people trying to walk back to their hotel that had to have been experiencing some degree of hypothermia...there were some people in bad shape out there! I was selfishly glad that I wasn't one of them. I may not be as fast as I'd like to be, but props to my body for being pretty darn resilient!
I got in touch with Aaron who was still on the bus trying to get back to the finish area from where his relay leg had ended. I didn't feel so bad about being at the hotel when I found out he wasn't roaming around in the rain trying to find me!
(One more installment coming up with all of my post marathon thoughts and some of the damage from spending 4 hours running through the rain. Then I'll be done, I promise.)