I wrote this email to all my friends and family when I ran my first marathon this past January for TEAM ASPCA. Hoping to post it here and then compare it with my recap from yesterday’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon.
How the race weekend went:
Friday, January 28, I left work around 5:00 and headed to the airport for my 7:20pm flight…me, my carry on bags (75% full of running stuff), my bananas and reading materials made it there in plenty of time. About 10 minutes before boarding the flight, I got paged. Well, it went like this…”would Miss. Rebecca Z….a….w…. please come to the desk”. Immediately, I thought “oh no, this flight is full, I am getting bumped or worse, they will make me gate check my bags”…when I went up to the front desk, they had bumped me up to first class! Now, that was a treat. Row 1 on the flight and no scuffling to get my bags in overhead bins. The only downside was the gentleman next to me drank 5-6 glasses of red wine on the flight and I could not have a single sip of wine (as I was trying not to dehydrate myself). Arrived in Miami close to 10:45pm Eastern. Got into bed around midnight.
Saturday morning, we had a brief group run with the Team ASPCA trainers. I was able to meet some of my team that was preparing for the half and full marathon. We had a breakfast afterwards. My nerves were really kicking in and I did not eat much (let’s just say this is lesson learned #2 – I will get to lesson learned #1 here in a minute). It seems like Saturday was a whirlwind! So much so that we never had time to eat lunch. I met a great group of folks that I joined to go to the expo to get our packets (Liz, Ciaran, Siobhan, Steve, Kay, Stephen and some more). We all hopped on an old school bus (well, after we walked a mile to the shuttle stop) and got wedged in Miami traffic to head to the expo. By now, it was 2:00.
Once we got to the expo, it was just terribly congested and difficult to navigate, but we were able to get our packets and bibs. The goody bags were not fabulous but we did get a nice technical shirt for our race shirt. I felt overwhelmed in the expo….there were sunglasses to run in, tennis shoes, GU gels, GU blocks, GU beans, body glide, vibram shoes, running shorts, running shirts…..tons of stuff + tons of people! People from all over the world ( Italy , Kenya , Russia ,Guatemala to name a few countries). The afternoon was a whirlwind (notice that not too much eating happened this day…and this was meant to be a day of some carb loading).
I met my Dad and Sam for a pre-race meal around 7:00pm. This is where I ate some things I very rarely ever eat in my diet and I am confident that was a bad decision on my part (especially since I was already anxious/nervous about the race). We were finished with our meal no later than 9:30pm or so and I was back up in the hotel and trying to get things ready for the morning (get out my gear for the race, pin my bib on my shirt etc.). Set a wake up call for 3am! Our breakfast was scheduled for 4:15, walk to starting line was sched for around 5:00am and start of race was scheduled around 6:20am.
Sunday morning, after tossing and turning for the full 4 hours of sleep J I was up at 3am and getting ready. Just the usual stuff I do to get ready for a shorter race. I had packed some things to eat and had a cup of coffee. We all socialized for a bit around breakfast time and then started our walk to the start line. I was in corral F. There were 1,000’s of people. I believe 21,000 or so registered for the full and half but about 19,000 were there. It was jam packed! We must have stood in our corrals for about 15-20 min before the gun went off to start the race.
I really tried to sandbag a bit and stay between 9:30-10:00min/mile pace. I tried not to get caught up in the crowd and use all my energy on the front end (knowing I had the long haul ahead). We ran over one of the main causeways from downtown Miami over to Miami Beach , it was still dark but the sun was coming up slightly. Energy and beautiful would be two words to describe that experience. I never had to turn my iPod on even though I wore it; all I could do was draft off the energy from the crowd. My Dad and Sam were around the mile 7 checkpoint and I pulled over for a second to take some pics. I would say I was feeling good at this point.
Not terrible but I did feel myself trying to push a little harder. About 75% of the participants were half marathoners and at this point they are all pushing to finish the race and get the time they want and you have to be careful not to get caught up as you still have twice the work left in the race. I made sure to stop at every aid station for water (and do every third aid station for Gatorade). My ½ marathon split was around 2:04(I think my best has been around 2:02). If this day had been a half marathon race for me, I had more in me to come in below my previous best time….but I was really trying to save my energy. At the half marathon point, the temp was around 60F or so.
Around mile 16 was where I started to feel some fatigue. My fingers pruned up (like what happens in a hot bath for too long). Immediately, I knew I was dehydrated so the rest of the race was going to be an uphill battle. It is too late to rehydrate when you are this far in. My toes were also hurting (blisters and toe nails) and I started to feel fatigue in my quads (the entire quad really). Temp was closer to 74F around here.
My longest run in training was around 20 miles. Internally, I set a goal to get to 20 miles without crying…I’m being serious. Once I got to 20, I knew I would be experiencing something new….boy was it something NEW! Miles 20-24 were the HARDEST by far. At that point, I really did feel myself saying “how long would it take me to walk 6.2 miles….wait, I can’t walk 6.2 miles, I don’t want to be out here another hour….wait, I don’t want to tell all my friends/family I gave up…okay, suck it up Becky and put your big girl panties on”….that was all going through my head, while seriously wanting to cry. On the bright side, I didn’t cry!
We went over a couple more bridges during this time, also, crowd support is generally lacking during miles 18-22….which was a little tough. You also see people stopping and you hear them groaning…not great for the psyche. I literally saw every aid station as hitting a jack pot…YES! Water!!! Woohoo! Ironically, around mile 24, I met a guy that had done 281 marathons. I also spoke to a guy who told me….”I keep telling myself this will be my last marathon, but then I sign up for another one”.
The last 2 miles of the race were sheer determination through multiple pains both physically and mentally. I refused to stop….refused to stop…although I was going much slower. What was a real pain was there was still another bridge to cross and towards the end I could see people going up that hill and I really just dreaded it. Refuse to stop!!! The finish line was wonderful; my Dad was there on the right as I came in. Clock time was around 4:27 (net time was around 4:24). Once I got through the finish line, I would be lying if I did not tell you I felt pretty sick. Nauseous, sore, exhausted, sweaty and just not great. I tried to keep moving around. Liz and Siobhan helped me by getting me a banana and water. I got my gear and met my Dad and Sam, then went for a margarita (in nasty running clothes…haha). Later that afternoon was the worst pain. This video my friend Fred sent me is a great example of how you feel roughly 24-48 hours post marathon:
Today, Wednesday, I actually ran 2 miles this morning (and all that hurt was the toenail on my left big toe)! So I am almost up to 100% again while in recovery mode.
$3,125 raised for Team ASPCA.*
*Fun fact I learned on Saturday is that it costs $100 to spay/neuter an animal. So, $3,125 = 31 animals spayed/neutered. This is an amazing accomplishment when you consider the issues with pet over population and how that leads to animals being neglected/abused and ultimately euthanized in many cases. Please remember this when you think about your donations to this cause.
Marathon time: 4:23:59*
* Please see lessons learned, hahaha!
Lessons learned from my first marathon:
Lesson #1 – Get plenty of rest at least the 2 nights prior to your marathon morning
Lesson #2 – Get plenty of healthy carbs in your body at least 2-3 days if not more prior to your marathon morning (not at the last minute on the night before).
Lesson #3 – Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (with water and electrolytes). Oh and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Lesson #4 – Have fun, meet new people and remember that this is as much a mind game as it is a physical test. If you smile, trust me – the pain will seem more bearable.
Lesson #5 – No matter how much you prepare, there will be a part of your body that will still be tested, torn up or in pain but those battle scars are worth it. You will also forget something (may it be that you wanted to get photos of the moment or tell someone they did a great job).
Lesson #6 – This is the most important one to me. NEVER SAY NEVER. Never say…I can not raise the money for the cause or I can not do a marathon. Most of you know I never played sports in grade school or college. Running is a relatively new thing for me.