Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marathon Recap

Ahhh, race day. The day we've been training for since June! SO exciting! I started the day feeling so lucky to be a part of it all. This race, this experience, and most importantly, this group of girls...

Bottom row: Mary Curtis and me.
Top row: Anna, Kat, Niki, Heather and Allison

Look at how happy we all were...before the pain.

The race started at 8am. We met at 6:30am and after hanging out in the warmth, headed up for a large group photo of the entire training team. Then it was time to go potty that last time before the start. Hello, potty lines!!!

We checked our bags (so no more pictures) and headed to the start. It was pretty darn cold, but the forecast said it was going to be 65 by noon (which is pretty warm to run in - I've always heard to add 20 degrees, because that's what it will feel like when you're running). So, you have to start wearing clothes you don't really care about so you can throw them to the side when you start to warm up.

Before I go any further, I'd like to give you some information.

1. A marathon is 26.2 miles.
2. I had issues with my IT band beginning in October. It hurt like hell. So, I decided to try going to a chiropractor. He said my left hip (ITB issues on left side) was lower than my right and made some adjustments. It worked! I ran my 20 miler with NO issues and felt great for every run thereafter.
3. This is going to be long. Sorry. I had no idea I would have so much to share! It was such a BIG day!

So, we started at 8:03am and spent the next several miles laughing. We ran with one of our coaches, Marc, and he helped set our pace at 10-minute miles. He also helped take care of putting our jackets in the bin that would make it back to the start so we could recollect them. The gloves and shirts, we threw to the side when we were done with them. It was really crowded. For some reason, I expected it to thin out a bit. I don't know why.

I knew that Tom, Jennifer and the kids were going to be at Mile 4, but I didn’t know which side of the street.

Unfortunately, it was right at a turn and I got pushed to the outer side of the crowd and Tom and the kids were on the inner side. I saw the stroller and the “run mommy run” poster out the corner of my eye, and then Tom came running beside me taking pictures.

Here are four of us, waving. It was so fun to have someone to cheer us on!

I was so sad that I didn’t get to see the kids and they didn’t get to see me. They told me later that Murphy cried because they missed me.

After that, Jennifer took the little ones home and Murphy and Tom spent the next four hours finding me along the course.

I saw them next at Mile 6. Murphy ran along side us for a little while and everyone (even strangers) got a kick out of that. Runners love and need support.  So, any time you see an enthusiastic supporter it is energizing, fun and so appreciated!

At the water stops, we did our own little roll call to make sure we had everyone. Our plan was to stick together at a 10-minute per mile pace until mile 10 or so. Then we could do whatever our bodies wanted/needed to do and it was every man for himself.

At Mile 8, I saw Tom and Murphy again. And then I saw my Mom and Dad, and my brother, Bruce, his wife, Nancy and their daughter Maggie (Nancy and Maggie ran the 8k that morning). It was so great to see them all.

My group of friends really appreciated the support, too. They said I won best support group!

My family appeared again at Mile 11. Tom took some pics of Murphy giving some five's. So cute to see him getting into the fun!

See how excited we all were to see them again? Look at Kat leaning over to give Murphy five!

Heather and Mary Curtis are behind the guy in the white shirt. Such a shame, because it would have been a pic of all of us together (except for Niki, who had IT band pain beginning at Mile 5!!! What a fighter she is!)

Mile 8 through 11 are pretty hilly. And the down hills are pretty steep. While that sounds great, it is actually hard on your legs and feet to control your speed going down hill. And, in my case, it is hard on my IT band. At Mile 11, I started to feel it. And my heart sank. I knew that it was going to get worse, and I knew that the rest of the run was going to be HARD because of it. It was going to be hard regardless, but this was NOT going to help!

I did my best to ignore it and tell myself that it didn’t hurt. Mind over matter I said to myself. At the next water stop, I decided to refill both of my water bottles. I was putting water in one, and Powerade in the other.  You need both hands to refill one bottle. So, looking back, I should have only refilled one at a time. But, I didn’t want to risk going another two miles. So, I lost my group while I was refilling. It took a couple of blocks or so to catch up, which didn’t help my IT band.

At Mile 13, I saw my friends Allison and John. Allison had just run the half marathon that morning and did it in an incredible 1 hour and 38 minutes! That’s a 7:31 pace! Congratulations Allison!!!! She jumped in and ran beside me for a few minutes. She told me I looked great. I can’t remember if I told her about my IT band. I might have told her because she’s had IT band issues in the past and knows about mine. Or I might not have told her, trying to convince myself it was fine. Saying out loud might have made it more real.

Just a few minutes after that, I lost my group. I fell behind and that was very disappointing.

While my ultimate goal was to finish (and have a fun, great experience in the process) I wanted to keep up with my group for as long as possible. Three of them had time goals in mind (wanted to beat their times from last year’s marathon) so I knew I wouldn’t finish with them. So, deep down, my goal was to finish in what they finished last year (about 4 and a half hours) - as first timers. I thought that was a more realistic goal.

At mile 14 it finally started to thin out and I found Allison. So, we stuck together for the next several miles, over the Lee Bridge, which I hear can be hard. It was very nice for us to be together. On the bridge I saw our coach, Marc. He asked me how was I doing, and I was honest and told him that my IT band was hurting and I was struggling. He was awesome and asked me if he could get me some water or anything. I think I just needed to be able to tell him that I was hurting - and hear something encouraging from him. And that helped.

Oh! And while running with him, I made eye contact with a man standing on the side of the road. I don’t know why. He wasn’t doing anything special, just standing there. He looked right at me and it was like he could tell I wasn’t doing well, so he smiled and clapped for me and I smiled back. Then Marc hit me on the arm and said, “You just got cheered on by Bart Yasso!”

At mile 17, I saw Tom and Murphy again.

Tom could tell I wasn’t loving it anymore.  He ran with me for a minute and said, "Don't quit.  Your little girl doesn't quit." And my friend, Bethany, jumped in to run with me until Mile 25. That was planned. And I was definitely looking forward to seeing her smiling, supportive face.

My inexperience lead me to think that since I ran 20 miles a few weeks ago (keeping up with my group) and feeling great (no IT band issues) that I would feel the same way until Mile 20 again, and the hurting would start then. That was stupid. Because one thing about running that makes it so challenging/great is that every run is a new run - a clean slate, if you will. So, you can have a great run one day, and a terrible one the next. Some days, you can go out for an easy 4 miles and it could feel like you’ve never run a mile before.

Regardless, I wasn’t expecting to start struggling so early in the run.  Mile 11 is still so early in the marathon. And to know that you’ve got to run through pain for more than 15 more miles is incredibly daunting and disappointing.

So, Bethany joined in and immediately started telling me stuff I needed to hear. I couldn’t really talk at this point. I wasn’t running too fast (trust me on that one), but all my energy was focused on telling myself that I didn’t hurt that bad (when I really did!).

I can’t tell you how helpful it was to have Bethany by my side for those eight miles. She just kept on telling me that while I might not have felt strong, I looked strong and no one else could tell I was hurting. I kept telling myself that if I looked strong, I must be strong.

Between Miles 17 and 18, we found another one from our group, Anna. I introduced them to Bethany and she made fun of me for being so polite. It was cute. And funny, but I couldn’t laugh anymore, which was sad. I really enjoy laughing.

So, it was me, Allison and Anna (and Bethany, of course). Anna had to stop and stretch her legs a few times and we all had to walk through the water stops. While I didn’t want anyone else to struggle, either, it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone.

Bethany told me that so many people hit the wall at Mile 18, and if I could just make it through I would be home free. She kept giving me goals to run to (like let’s just make it to the next stop light or whatever). That’s a common thing that runners do to break down the miles into something more manageable mentally. The thing is that I’ve NEVER had to do that. I have never been in a situation where I had to push myself like that. So, that goes to tell you that I was in new territory - even though I had already run that distance before.

I think when we turned onto the Boulevard (about Mile 18) we lost Allison and Anna for good. Meaning that they were in front, and we didn’t see them again. That might sound like it was sad for me - but I can't tell you how happy I was to see my group do so well. Such a great group of girls!!!

Between Miles 19 and 20, we passed the stadium (our start and finish for our training team since June). We all knew mentally that passing the stadium would be hard. There is a hill right before the stadium, and that hill marks the end of our training runs. But, this time, we had to run the hill and continue running for another 6.2 miles (about an hour’s time)!!! But, I ran the hill like nothing and that was a nice boost.

At Mile 21, I saw Tom and Murphy again and our friends, Mike and Marcy. At this point I was hurting so bad, I was getting blurry. Evidently Murphy offered me a cup of water and all I did was shake my head “no” and keep going. I don’t really remember to be honest.

What I didn’t know is that they had been there for over 30 minutes and Murphy started handing out water at that water stop. He wanted everyone to take his water - so he kept moving up to be the first one that the runners would get to, so they would take his water. Kids are so funny. Tom said that when Murphy saw me he was so excited to be able to hand me water and then I just shook my head no and ran past. Then he started crying. Ugh. Poor kid. I clearly had no idea.  I was just trying to keep one foot in front of the other.

So, Murphy tried to run to catch me, and couldn’t, which made him even more sad. So, Tom had to pick him up and carry him to catch up. Which they did and I said hello or something and he was okay.

Starting at Mile 22, I started to feel nauseous. There were numerous times I looked to the side to see where I could yak, if necessary. I think all the water, Powerade and sport gels were taking its toll on my stomach. Not to mention the pain in my knee.

I saw my Mom and Dad at Mile 23. They had a poster and it was so fun to see them again. I had to dig deep to find the energy to wave and smile. But that’s what helps. The support makes you find energy you didn’t know you had. One supporter along this stretch of the road was yelling, “take some of my energy and use it!” It was great.

Since we had our names written on our shirts, people were constantly saying, “go Christy!” It was awesome. And I so needed it for the next several miles.

Sometime during Mile 23, I took off my fuel belt and handed it to Bethany. I couldn’t drink another drop, so I just wanted the weight of the belt gone. I thought she would just put it on, but she carried it. I wanted to tell her to put it on - but I couldn’t. Isn’t that crazy?

 I think it was at this point I saw another coach, Chelle. She ran with us, too. She was so supportive. And Bethany had to speak for me. She told her that I was doing great. So funny how our definition of "great" changes depending on the situation! Bethany also told me that I was going to have to "gut it out" - another thing I held on to those last miles.

At Mile 24 or 25, I saw another coach, Shawn. He was running against the flow looking for yellow shirts and saw me and turned around to run with me for a few minutes. He asked me how I was doing, and I told him I was hurting. He said, “I know it hurts, but you have to keep going.”

There was something about the way he said “I know it hurts.” I was feeling so weak hurting like that and him saying that to me told me that it was okay. That it wasn’t a weakness within me - it was just the way it feels to run a marathon. I can’t tell you how much that helped.

There were definitely people walking and stopping to stretch. I just kept telling myself that it felt better to run than to walk (even though my body was telling me something very different) and that I would get to the finish faster if I just kept running. I think I might have said I couldn’t do it or something and they said I could. Bethany told me I was still right on pace for my goal time.

I think at this point I wanted to cry. But, I didn’t have the energy. I honestly never thought about quitting. I knew I would not quit (even though my body totally wanted me to!). But, I was afraid I would start to walk more than run and that I wouldn’t be able to run that last bit with everyone watching. The thought of me having to walk through the finish was unbearable. So, I kept running.

I knew Bethany was going to leave me at Mile 25 (Miles 17 and 25 are only a few blocks from each other, so it worked out best for her to park between the two) and I will admit that I was feeling afraid. I didn’t know if I could run the next 1.2 miles without her! She must have sensed it too, because she ran past the Mile 25 marker and stayed with me for a few minutes more.  When she saw the stop light that marked our turn onto Cary Street (the home stretch) she called Tom (yes, she carried her cell) and told him I was about to come around the bend.  She told me I could do it and left. I could only sign “thank you” and “I love you” and kept going.

Turning onto Cary street makes me cry now just thinking about it. I knew that I couldn’t stop to walk at this point. The crowd was awesome and I felt like I was alone because it felt like everyone was yelling my name, shouting, “you’re almost there, Christy!”, “Christy, you’re looking great!”, “Christy, you did it!”, etc. I just wanted to smile and look like I wasn’t going to die.  It's funny, because I don't remember seeing another runner at that time. Then I saw the pictures...

You might have to click on the picture to see me. But, you can clearly see that I wasn't alone! Makes me laugh thinking about it!

I started to look on both sides, looking for Tom. I saw him on my right with my friend Allison (Harlie’s feeding therapist). They were cheering and it was so moving to have so much support!

When I envisioned myself crossing the finish line, my arms were up in the air.  I know, I'm a total dork. So, I just concentrated on doing that, and smiling. My Dad said that the announcer said my name when I crossed the finish line, but I didn’t hear it (because I was trying not to die). Pretty cool that they did that, bummer that I couldn’t hear it.

I was DONE 4 hours, 34 minutes and 18 seconds after starting.  I wanted to sit so bad, but there’s no place until you get out of the gate. In the crowd I didn’t know how I was going to find anyone. I found a curb and sat my butt down. Put my knees up, and put my head down and cried for about 5 seconds (that’s all I had the energy for). And I don’t care. I was so proud of myself and oh, so glad to be done!

Just then I saw the bottom of the poster that Tom made go by. I looked up and it was my Dad who just walked by, but didn’t see me. I yelled for him, but he couldn’t hear me. So I had to get up and go get him.

Then my Mom, Tom, Allison and her family appeared. Miraculously, some of us found each other so we got some pics.

My Dad, me, Murphy and my Mom.

Natalie, Heather, Kat and me.

We had all planned to meet at a restaurant down the street for a beer. So, on our way there I got to see so many people that I knew. It was so great to see all my friends and to congratulate each other.  Amazing considering it was such a large crowd.

At the restaurant, I had to check out my foot. At about Mile 13, I could feel some rubbing in the same place where I’ve gotten a blister before. I knew it was going to be bad, but never expected this:

Ouch!! I almost screamed when I saw it. It was way worse in person. Trust me! Everyone asked me if I could feel it while running. Yes, but there’s nothing you can do, and the pain on my skin like that was totally bearable. That was not my problem for sure. I guess it paled in comparison to my knee so I ignored it. Although, looking back, I remember thinking that I wanted to take off my shoes and run in my socks. One thing that kept me from doing it was the thought that I would have to carry my shoes, which would have looked really stupid. But, it goes to show that somewhere in my mind I wasn't able to completely ignore that pain.

After a beer and some good laughs, we left the restaurant and went home. Tom stopped to get some ice. Just six bags. No biggie. Then I took an ice bath. I wasn’t planning on it - but I knew my IT band needed it. At this point it was agony to bend my left knee at all.

At 6:30pm we left to meet everyone for a celebratory dinner.

From left: Neal, Natalie, me, Mary Curtis, Heather, Kat, Allison and Anna.

It was so much fun to share stories of what happened along the course.

My family got a kick out of cheering my group on - looking for the green duct tape. And my friends got a kick out of having a cheering section. It was just great.

All in all, I saw Tom a total of nine times - at Miles, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17, 21 and the finish. Isn't that amazing? What a great guy for busting his butt and navigating closed roads and crowds to support me the whole way!!!

And lastly, some funny stuff that I want to share:

From Kat - a friend of hers asked, “so how long is this marathon?”

From Natalie: Her mom asked her, “So do they have water stops?”

And Heather and Neal's babysitter (who has been watching their kids almost every Saturday during the past six months of training) posted on Facebook: "Good luck to Heather and Neal, who are running the Ukrops 10k!" For those of you not local, the Ukrop's 10k (just 6.2 miles - not 26.2 miles) is in the spring here in Richmond.

From Natalie: Sometime in the 20-mile range asked the person next to her, “Am I running?” They said, "Yes, you are."

Natalie provided lots of laughs. She took off her gloves at mile 4, but wasn't entirely sure she was done with them, so put them in her sports bra - and completely forgot about it. They stayed there the entire run, which was not what she intended!

From Tom: Getting into the car to come home I noticed some clothing items with which I wasn't familiar. I held up a North Face hat and asked him whose it was. Tom smiled excitedly and said, "I can't believe what people will throw away!" And then he told me that he picked up about 30 Accel gels that were unopened on the ground. "They are over a dollar a piece!" he exclaimed.

I know you are probably sick of hearing it by now (if you're even still reading) - but I am so darn proud of myself and all my fellow marathoners.  Ah!  I'm a Marathoner!  And I am so lucky to have so many supportive people in my life.  I loved doing the training with the Sportsbackers and all the support they and the coaches provided.  It was an amazing experience.  And I can't wait to do it again!  Okay, maybe I can wait a little while.   But I am definitely doing it again!

Thank you for making it this far!


Ann said...

Christy -- what a story. I was literally in tears reading this because, although I've never had to push myself through a marathon, I do understand how "mental" the whole experience is. Thank you so much for sharing the details of your race. You have much to be proud of - not only of what you accomplished physically, but what you accomplished mentally in talking yourself through the rough spots. Bravo to you!!

CS said...

Christy-I was in tears, as well. Congratulations! You rock and are a badass! You should be proud of yourself. I hope you're getting to take it somewhat easy this week... (and Tom picking up the throwaways is completely cracking me up) -Caty

Dara & Jerry said...

Christy, I so enjoyed reading this while drinking my coffee this morning. What an accomplishment. Your story brought tears to my eyes several times. What a great support system you have. Great job and you should be proud of yourself and your family.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic recap! It brought tears to my eyes! I'm so happy for you and lucky to have gotten to know you over the past 6 months. Here's to many more miles together!
P.S. I saw so many unopened gels on the road and it KILLED me not to stop and pick them up - but I knew I'd be trampled if I did! :-)

Rebecca Bennett said...

I was also in tears reading your story. You are amazing. You should do some freelance writing for the Richmond Times or Runners Magazine. I mean that. Honestly, people need to stop and appreciate what they have and the courage it takes to put one foot in front of the other. Congratulations on your success. You deserve it.

Kristen said...

I've always suspected that Harlie is a LOT like her mother in terms of her strength and determination and mental toughness. Now I know for certain that it is true! Congratulations, Christy! You have every right to shout about your pride "from the rooftops!"

Dara (Tom's classmate) said...

Add me to the group of people in tears reading this. Your whole story is just so inspiring! I think of you often for motivation, even though I don't know you! You really are affecting a lot of us in a positive way. You have one of the absolutely BEST husbands that I have seen (based on FB postings, ha!) and I am sure your kids, maybe not now, but will some day be so proud of what their mom accomplished! Keep up the great work and thanks for helping to get my butt back in gear!!!!!!

Anonymous said...


So as I read this from by bed at 6:15 am this morning, my husband just watched me as I giggled, gasped and shed a few tears. He was in such a wonder as to what I was so intensly reading from my blackberry. I always say remember the girl I went to elemenary school I told you about that has her hands full with her daughter and 2 boys and he says "yes". Well, I now can just say my friend who ran/finished a marathon. Christy, we were close friends in 3rd and 4th grade and havent seen each other since. I remember alot from those days and cherish those memories. Because of facebook and your blog, I feel a reconnection. (weird, I know). Christy, you seem to handle life so graciously. You are an inspiration to me and so many others. I walked the 10k earlier this year (yes walked which was a start and huge accomplishment) and have had dreams of running a marathon for a long time. Reading your blogs makes it real for me to know that I can/will one day do it too. Congratulation to you Christy!!!
from your friend and silent supporter
Christine Stepp Norman

Karen (Tom's client) said...

Great, great story, Christy! Welcome to the marathoners club! I got a high five from Bart Yasso right where you saw him - he's the man! Congratulations and enjoy that high!

paige said...

You are an amazing woman and marathoner. Congratulations on your wonderful success, Im so proud of you. Love all the pictures.

B-Mama said...

What an honor and privilege it was to run alongside you those last miles! Way to go!! You are SUCH a STRONG woman--you looked it during the race and live it every day. Way to conquer such an awesome goal, girl! 4:34 is NO joke!! Amazing job!

Anonymous said...

So proud of you girl!!! what an accomplishment!!!!! I Loved reading your story, you really are a good writer. I wish i had it in me to train for something like this, i can imagine what a rush it was to cross the finish line.!!!! AWESOME job, and props to Tom and Murphy.
thanks for sharing,

Susan said...

Christy I really enjoyed reading all the details. The way you describe it reminds me a bit of natural childbirth. Pushing past the pain, not allowing yourself the option of giving up, and the feeling that your body is just going to give out and that you'd have never made it without support. Which you have in spades. Your husband and family are so great. Hearing about Murphy is quite touching. As well as the ways that Harlie inspired you. You've got great kids. Congratulations again on your remarkable achievement.

Jennifer and Elizabeth said...

You are so AMAZING Christy!! We def know where Harlie gets her determination and strength from. Congratulations. You have every right to be proud of yourself!! You did what most only dream of!

Sue Mitchell said...

Congratulations! I am so proud of you! But I never doubted for a moment that you would do it and finish! You are truly amazing and I loved reading about it.

Janis @ Sneak Peek at Me said...

Congrats!! You are one amazing mama! All these months we have been following you along on your runs...just amazing to see it finally happen. I am glad you were so candid about the pain. I don't blame you for mentioning it every day -- it's a wonderful accomplishment. You ROCK!!

ps: The part that had me teary is when Tom mentioned the bit about Harlie.