Phew! It happened; I ran a marathon. It was an experience and somewhat different than what I had expected. After a long day, I am home with my husband (well, sort of – he’s playing hockey right now) and the dogs. Let’s start from Saturday night…
Mel, Tim, and I stayed at Mel’s parents’ house in Fredonia. They are both from England and have the most amazing accents; I often found myself saying words with an English accent on accident. A popular drink in England is Pimm’s, so Mel’s mom made us a cocktail of Pimm’s, sparkling water, gin, cut-up fruit, and Stevia.
Mel’s mom made us the perfect pre-race dinner: pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, and salad. After this, the three of us forced ourselves to stay awake until 8:30pm and then called it an early night. My allergies were acting up, so I laid in bed and read an issue of Runner’s World to psyche me up. After talking to Brody, I fell asleep around 9:00pm.
Because of the expected heat for the marathon, the race officials moved the race’s starting time from 6:30am to 5:30am. I guess this is one of the benefits of running a smaller race. When that option was suggested to the Madison Marathon race officials, they explained the logistics of changing the times of everything were impossible.
Mel’s mom woke up early to drive us to the start and saved us from needing to arrive at the finish line at 4:15am for the bus (it was a point to point course). Isn’t her mom amazing? We ate our breakfasts in the car and arrived with about fifteen minutes to spare.
I was ready to go. I felt awake, strong, and not very nervous. I had all of my gear: Spibelt with my iPhone, chapstick, five GUs, iPod, knee band, and Garmin.
A runner sang the Star Spangled Banner, and in lieu of a flag, apparently it is appropriate to face the east. The sun, which would later become my arch enemy, peaked over the treetops. Then, the horn blew and we were off.
At some point during the first half of the race, Mel and I chatted about how some bloggers are able to provide mile by mile recaps; I cannot do that, but I can provide a review of chunks of time and miles.
Mile 1 – 3: Mel and I felt good. There were only 116 people running the marathon, and the path is relatively narrow. For the first mile, it was kind of crowded, but then people started to spread out. I had one headphone in for music, but we mainly chatted.
Mile 4 – 5: We ended up running alongside a woman for a while, and she finally broke the ice. This was Cindy’s second attempt at a marathon; she was one of the many who ran a portion of the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon (which was called off after three hours). At one point, I asked her what she did for a living. When she said she worked for Pierce, I almost couldn’t believe it. My dad, who passed away almost nine years ago from cancer, worked for Pierce for twenty-some years. When I told her my dad’s name, she said, “I knew your dad! He was such an awesome guy! We even have the Al Wenzel award.” How insane? I had already decided to think about my dad when I was struggling, but to have this happen just blew my mind. As Mel said, it was meant to be.
Mile 6 – 8: We said goodbye to Cindy, and the course took us off the path and onto county roads. There were two killer hills in this section, but Mel and I both dug deep and ran both of them. Around mile six I saw a deer in the field that ended up crossing the road behind us only one hundred feet away. I attempted to get my phone out in time to take a photo but wasn’t fast enough.
Mile 9 – 11: Getting back on the trail felt great, as the trail was packed gravel and much nicer on the joints. We took a quick bathroom break, said hi to Mel’s mom and dog Louie, and continued on. Around this point, I took a picture of us running. We were feeling great, chatting about lots of random stuff, and maintaining a ten minute mile pace.
Mile 12 – 14: The course again took us off the trail and onto pavement. There weren’t any big hills in this section but lots of open road. A tractor pulling a trailer of manure passed us, and poor Mel was gagging on the side of the road. Around 7:45am, we passed the half marathon mark with a time of 2:15ish. Towards the end of this jaunt, we ran through a subdivision that had absolutely no cover. We fueled again (as we had at mile 4.5 and 9) right before getting back to the trail because we knew there’d be a water station there. We stayed cool during these miles by holding ice cubes in our palms and putting them down our backs.
Mile 15 – 19: This chunk of miles was difficult for me. I became very crabby and had to keep talking myself in to running. Because of my earlier encounter with my dad’s former coworker, he was definitely on my mind. I kept telling myself, “Your dad battled cancer, had surgery, radiation, and chemo; you can keep running.” This kept me going for a while, and I tried to keep most of my negative feelings inside. I thought that expressing them out loud would make them real. When I did share little bits of my negativity, Mel would offer some encouraging words to keep me going.
Mile 19.5: I told Mel to leave me. I needed to walk. I had hit the wall, mentally and physically. I was sad.
Mile 20 – 21: I walked an entire mile and a half at an eighteen mile and hour pace, sipping water and Powerade. There was no one around me. Thankfully I had my iPod, so I tried to keep my mood upbeat by listening to good music and sometimes singing along.
Mile 22 – 24: These four miles were pretty evenly split between running and walking. I’d run a half to three-fourths of a mile and then walk for another half a mile. I walked through all the water stations, taking Powerade, water, and ice. The trees offered very little shade now, and it was getting hot. Many times I cursed the sun aloud. With the water stations about two miles apart, I was always ready for more fluid by the time I arrived. I knew at this point that I would likely not come in under five hours, and I remember not caring.
Mile 25 – 26.2: Another runner and I played a little cat and mouse game for a bit until 25.5 miles when I asked her if she wanted to run the rest of the way together. Chatting with this fellow runner kept my mind off of the heat, my swollen feet, and my salt-crusted body. We crossed the finish line around 5:05.
I saw Brody first and then heard everyone else. They cheered for me loudly as I crossed the finish line. Brody came to me, gave me a big hug, and told me how proud of me he was. I got a little misty-eyed because he was sweet, because I did it, and because it was over.
It was over. I loved training. The short weekday runs, the long Saturday runs with Mel and Tim. It was so much fun! I didn’t finish with a time I had wanted, but I am proud of myself for finishing. Steven Tyler says, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” and he is a smart man.
Now the pros and cons of the race (from a first-time marathoner, who in the grand scheme of things, knows very little about running):
- Fantastic volunteers: Because there were so few people running, when you went through the stations, you had personal attention. They cheered for you and were very good about handing you fluid. Police officers were standing at all intersections of the trail and roads and also offered encouraging words.
- Lots of water stations: I think there were sixteen throughout the course. They always had lots of cups filled by the time you came through. I believe they had GUs at three different spots, but I never took any.
- Early start time: This was KEY in the race going as well (at least for the first half) as it did for me. The temps and the sun were still low.
- Porta-potties: I had read reviews from years past that said bathrooms were an issue. There were enough at the start and a handful positioned throughout the course.
- Cost: The three of us signed up June 3 and paid only $75.
- Signage: There were no signs in Eden of where the start line was. The maps were not very clear, and it was thanks to Mel for suggesting we go towards the Eden Community Center that we found the start. Brody also said he had a difficult time finding the finish line by the West Bend YMCA.
- Little shade: This isn’t something the race organizers can really control, but it was a factor in my performance. In particular, the section that went through the subdivision was so exposed.
The big question: Are more marathons in my future?
Answer: Probably not any time soon.
Maybe in years I would do another (but DEFINITELY in the fall, like the Haunted Hustle or Tyranena), but for the next few years I’ll probably stick with half marathons and anything under.
This was an amazing experience, though, and I am very proud of myself, of Mel, and of Tim. I could not have done it without them, and I am so thankful to have gotten to know them better over the last four months. As Mel put on my Facebook wall, “I’m going to have Angie withdrawl,” and I feel the same way about her. So Mel, if you’re going to run the Haunted Hustle marathon this fall, expect a training buddy for some of those miles.
So with that ridiculously long post, I’m calling it a night. Brody will be home any minute with Salvatore’s pizza and this computer chair is a little hard on my sore butt. Until next time…
Peace out, friends.