Official Race Photo – running towards the finish line!
And just like that we are at the end of October! I feel like time has flown by this month. It’s been nearly three weeks since I became a marathoner. In that time I’ve done zero workouts but I am fully moved into our new house so while it’s been incredibly hectic, it’s also been a very productive few weeks. I’ve been wanting to write my marathon recap but a certain little kitty has chewed through my laptop cord so I have been without a computer. I don’t think I’ve even been able to share that I inherited my grandma’s cat – he’s a littermate to my parent’s cat Mia, so he’s about a year and a half old and quite energetic! In addition to chewing my laptop cord he’s also chewed through my iPhone charger, a cable wire and my brother’s iPhone charger and laptop cord. So needless to say, in addition to being super busy packing, moving and unpacking, getting on my computer to write has been a bit of a challenge.
I am a marathoner!!!
I cannot believe it’s been nearly three weeks since the NU Hartford Marathon. I was pretty nervous the week leading up to the race but surprisingly calm the night before and the morning of the race. I left work early the day before so we could check out the expo and that helped to pump me up a little bit. Downtown Hartford was decked out with Hartford Marathon signs and that was awesome to see. Pete and I each got long sleeved HMF pullovers as a Christmas gift to each other. They say “Run Hartford 26.2” on them which is cool. We were not thrilled with the finisher’s shirts this year so we decided to buy something to celebrate the occasion. I have to say I was a bit nervous about buying these before officially running 26.2 – this becomes important later on! We got some freebies at the expo as we were walking around. My favorite was an organic, GMO-free, gluten-free, soy-free protein shake from Organic Valley. We stopped to chat with the two girls running the booth for a bit and they ended up giving us a few bottles to take home! Super fun. We also got a nifty key holder that attaches to your shoe which is nice for the days when I don’t feel like wearing my SPIbelt.
After leaving the expo we went home, ate dinner and called it an early night. We stopped quickly at my parents so my mom and dad could each write out a quote on my forearm for me to glance at during the tougher moments of the race. Later on I was so glad I had them do that. I’d laid out my clothes the day before along with my fuel for the race, my CamelBak, water bottle, and good luck charm (I’ve carried it during every race since my first half marathon last year). Knowing I was all ready to go helped me relax and actually fall right to sleep. I’ve had issues in the past with being up all night prior to a race but like I said, I was feeling super calm about everything, despite the horrible weather predictions. So odd! I still don’t understand it.
Since the race was only 20 minutes away we didn’t have to get up that early. The race started at 8am, so we were up at 5-5:30 with the goal to leave by 6:30. As always I was running a bit late and we left 15 minutes later than planned but it worked out fine because of the weather. I wouldn’t have wanted to hang around for a long time in the rain. We parked and made it over to the bathrooms with just barely enough time. My parents, sister and aunt found us while we were waiting in line. I felt so bad for them – it sucked that it was raining for us runners but I think standing around in the rain for our spectators was probably worse. I gave everyone hugs and they wished us luck and said they would be somewhere between miles 4-6. One thing I did regret about arriving later than normal is that the port-a-potty was out of toilet paper. I usually remember to bring some just in case but I didn’t this day. Ugh. Luckily I was wearing a trash bag over my clothes to stay dry as long as possible so I ripped that up a little…things I never thought I’d do! Being a runner has definitely forced me to get creative! After that we were literally running to the starting line a couple blocks away and missed the National Anthem and all that stuff, but like I said, it was pouring rain and freezing cold so it worked in the sense that I wasn’t sitting around thinking about running for 5+ hours in the cold rain. I didn’t get ANY pictures before the race! I’m kind of bummed about that but it was too much trouble to get my phone out and I was trying to keep my phone dry. I broke a cardinal running rule and wore something new on race day – a baseball hat. With the heavy rain I really wanted to keep the water out of my eyes so I wore my Disney Vacation Club hat. It ended up not bothering me at all so that was good.
I was so pumped up as we were running over to the starting line. The three guys I was running with…not so much! It was funny because I am usually the one grumbling “why are we doing this???” before a race. The announcer kept saying “who is running their first marathon?!” which got me so excited. I mean, you only run your first marathon once, right? I was so excited to get going and so proud of myself for being at the starting line of a marathon. Me! The non-athlete! Running a marathon! It was an awesome feeling.
My running crew🙂
The full and half started together and stuck together for about a mile or so. I ran with Pete, his friend Ant and Ant’s uncle Pat. Pete is the fastest while the rest of us run similar paces. Pete stuck with us for 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile before he took off. It was weird knowing he would be ahead of us, even though this is how we typically run races together. I was almost worried about him even though I knew he’d be fine. I was feeling really good at the start of the race but we kept our pace slower than normal to save our legs for the second half. We made it our goal to stay in the 11 minute range and I glanced down at my watch every so often to keep an eye on pace. The weather definitely sucked. The air temperature was about 20 degrees colder than the forecast predicted so I was very underdressed. I kept my throw away long sleeve shirt on at the start and wore it for a few miles. I would have kept it on the whole time but the rain made it feel so heavy so it started to annoy me. I really liked the first half of the course. We started in front of the state capitol, out through a park along the Connecticut River, back into the city before heading out of the city for a looooong out and back. The first ten miles were a lot of fun. I loved running along the riverfront park – it would have been even better if the sun was out! Since we were keeping a nice slow pace it was easy to chat with each other and the runners around us. There weren’t really any major hills – a couple small ones but it’s New England and virtually impossible to find a race that is totally flat. I started fueling right around mile 4 with a couple Honey Stinger gels and took 2 more every 2 miles until the halfway point. I also alternated Gatorade and water at every aid station – they were pretty much in between each mile marker. I love when races do that rather than put them at each mile marker – it gives you something to look forward to every half mile or so. The volunteers at the aid stations and various points along the course were awesome. There weren’t as many spectators as I’d expected, likely due to the rain, so the volunteers really made a huge difference for me especially during the long, boring out and back portion of the race.
Mile 1: 11:18 Mile 2: 11:06 Mile 3: 11:29 Mile 4: 11:27 Mile 5: 11:05
I saw my family around mile 5. I handed off my wet shirt to my mom right away but I didn’t really stop to chat. My dad had this huge red horn that belongs to my brother and I could hear him blowing it for a good quarter mile which made me laugh. With the out and back part of the course, I knew I wouldn’t see my family again until the finish but I had Pete’s parents waiting for us around the halfway point which gave me something to look forward to. After passing my parents we headed onto the Founder’s Bridge to head out of the city – I knew the next time I ran on the bridge I’d be a mile from the finish!
Mile 6: 11:01 Mile 7: 11:08 Mile 8: 11:11 Mile 9: 11:31 Mile 10: 11:23
We ran through some residential neighborhoods in East Hartford before starting the out and back into South Windsor at mile 10. (Side note: it seemed crazy to me that I was running in 3 different towns!) We had to run 7 miles out and 7 miles back. If it hadn’t been raining this would have been a really nice run because it takes you down Main St where there are gorgeous old homes and really pretty fall foliage. Plus this section of the race was very flat which was a bonus! I started to have some stomach issues halfway through mile 11 that plagued me for the rest of the race. At mile 12 I stopped to use the bathroom hoping it would put an end to the cramping. It did stop the cramping but then I felt depleted and really low on energy. At the halfway point we walked for the first time (other than through aid stations to drink water). We fueled and hydrated while we walked and commiserated over how this was starting to feel hard. It was tough to start running again, and when I did I started to feel really nauseous. I do not handle nausea well at all and often pass out when it gets bad. (I have a condition where I pass out very easily – I know my triggers: extreme pain and nausea are the two biggest ones). I got very quiet at this point (up until this point we had been chatty the entire time) and the race became a huge mental battle. I also started to feel so cold around this point. It was still raining, too, but I am not sure if it was the rain or the nausea that made me shiver. It rained all that way through the end of mile 24.
Mile 11: 11:25 Mile 12: 11:05 Mile 13: 12:14 (bathroom break!) Mile 14: 11:41 (and so begins the nausea…)
Moments after my finish – hugging my favorite guy!
I was nervous about the nausea causing me to pass out – I’d never, ever experienced this while running before. Stomach cramps and having to go to the bathroom? Yes. Feeling like I was going to vomit for ten continuous miles? Never. It was awful. I stopped taking in Gatorade because I thought since it wasn’t hot and sunny, maybe I took in more sugar than I needed to, causing the nausea? I also stopped taking in fuel because I was so nervous that anything other than water would make it worse. I saw Pete’s parents at mile 14 and tried to put on a brave face but I’m told that I looked awful. Not surprised, I felt pretty dang awful. I was mad because my legs still felt good. It was so frustrating. I held on a little bit longer knowing I would soon see Pete after he hit the turnaround point. A spectator yelled out to me “Yay DVC! Cool!” referring to my Disney Vacation Club hat – that was pretty fun! I kept walking through the aid stations but walked slower than normal and a little bit longer than I had been. Around mile 15 Ant went off ahead of us – I was proud that we stuck together for 15 miles! His uncle and I stayed together the entire rest of the race – I was so thankful to have someone with me when the miles got ugly later on.
Mile 15: 11:46 Mile 16: 11:51 Mile 17: 13:06 Mile 18: 12:51
I saw Pete about a half mile later. He looked awesome! All smiles! I could barely muster a smile for him. He later said he knew I was struggling just based on my expression. I was so happy for him in that moment but I also felt a lot of jealousy that a.) he was so far ahead of me (even though I knew he would be) and b.) that he felt and looked so much better than I did. Shortly after I saw Pete I started walking for 1-2 minutes at every aid station. I felt so awful. Pat and I talked each other into running again at the end of every walk break. It was around this point that I knew I wouldn’t make my 5 hour goal, let alone my 4:45 goal. I told myself I just needed to finish – that’s all that really matters, right? I started to focus on the turnaround point – mile 17. It would feel like I was headed back into the city, which I was, and I’d start running by people who were slower than me. It was tough to see so many fast runners on the opposite side of the road for 7 miles. It’s no secret that I am embarrassed about my lack of speed during many races. I am so competitive with myself and with people that I have no business competing with and I often forget that finishing is the main goal. Anyway, it was a confidence booster for me to not only see that I am in fact faster than some people and also to see that there were people in much worse shape than me who were not giving up. My legs started to feel the normal long-run soreness but nothing hurt to the point where my legs felt like they couldn’t keep going – just my stomach!
Mile 19: 13:05 Mile 20: 12:47 Mile 21: 12:52 Mile 22: 11:37
I started seeing warning signs about the vans that would pick up runners after X:XX time. Even though I knew I would make it under 6 hours with no problem it still freaked me out. I was so tempted to stop at every aid station and ask to be picked up. I contemplated making myself throw up on the side of the road. Honestly, I think I would have felt so much better. I kept gurgling/burping so maybe I had swallowed a bunch of air? I’m not used to talking so much during my runs? All these thoughts ran through my head trying to explain the nausea but I guess I will never know what caused it. At mile 19 I had a talk with myself. I spent $60 on that “Run 26.2” pullover. If I stopped I would never be able to wear it. I am a major cheap skate and hate to waste money so this motivated me for a little while. I spent a lot of time staring at my forearm and the words my parents wrote for me. From mom: “When your legs get tired, run with your heart.” I changed out legs for stomach, ha! From dad: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Those words helped me hang on.
Mile 23: 12:56 Mile 24: 12:20 Mile 25: 11:21 Mile 26: 10:49 Last .54!: 9:30
With my dad in the Mile 27 Beer Garden!
At mile 20 I knew I would finish and my attitude improved dramatically and my walk breaks decreased in length. “We only have a 10k left,” we kept repeating to each other. It was surreal after mile 20 because I’d never run further than that. I felt like I’d accomplished something major just by getting to the 21 mile marker. At that point I knew I was only a mile away from The Candy Stand at mile 22 where volunteers would be handing out candy (no thanks) and flat soda – I could not wait for that. I took two cups and sipped it slowly while I walked. I’d never tasted anything so good before and I am not a soda person. It wasn’t totally flat which I was thankful for as it helped me to gurgle up some more air and by mile 24 my nausea was gone. Thank goodness! The rain also stopped at mile 24 so I felt like a million bucks. Sure, my legs hurt pretty badly (my legs felt great until I got to 20 miles) and I was still cold, wet and exhausted but I knew I was almost done. We were headed back into Hartford and the crowds got a little better.
At mile 25 we were running on the Founder’s Bridge and cars on the other side of the bridge were beeping and cheering, plus there were tons of people lined up on our side cheering. It was awesome… one of my favorite race moments. I’d read that this was the hardest part of the race because the bridge is uphill but nothing was stopping me at that point. I ran the whole freaking bridge with a smile on my face. Being in the heart of the city was incredible – such a major difference from the quiet residential streets of the out and back. Spectators make a world of difference for me. As we got closer to Bushnell Park and the Capitol area spectators and runners who’d finished would yell out how much was left which I actually like. I ended up running 1/3 mile longer than 26.2 because of weaving so I couldn’t tell based on my watch exactly what was left.
I was about a half mile from the finish when I saw my aunt and my sister. I kept it together the entire race until I saw them – I totally lost it! My aunt was yelling “you’re doing it! Don’t stop, you’re almost at the finish!” and the tears started. I couldn’t even say anything to them – I just smiled through the tears and high fived both of them. Seeing them meant so much to me – I was not expecting them to be there at all. My aunt suggested they wait for me there and my parents stayed at the finish line and I’m so, so glad she had that idea. It gave me such a huge surge of energy to get through the finish. I rounded a couple more corners and finally could see the finishers chute, which was lined with beautiful autumn mums. I spotted Pete on the right side of the chute and waved like a mad person at him. He pointed to my left where my parents were and I got to see them too! It was incredible. I don’t even have words to describe it. I was so thankful I got to see each of my family members at the end. I was fighting back tears as I sprinted to the finish line, and heard the announcer say my name as I officially became a marathoner. Surreal. I couldn’t believe I did it. I finished in 5:13:46 and given the horrid weather and massive amounts of nausea for almost half of the race I am thankful just to have finished.
Pat and I tried to figure out where to go. We were handed heat wraps right away – oh, I loved that heat wrap! We were lead around a corner to get our medals and then two seconds later my aunt and sister walked over and the hugs started! Soon after my parents and Pete found us. Hugs all around! I was so happy I was practically in tears again. I was almost delirious – I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the finisher’s chute so I was hugging everyone over the fence. I wasn’t hungry at all but knew I needed to eat (and poor Pete had been done for almost 45 minutes by the time I finished – he was starving) so we made our way to the food tent. I couldn’t eat a lot of the post race food but luckily they had GF granola bars, bananas and more of the protein shakes that I had at the expo, which was plenty for me as I never have an appetite after running. Pete got to enjoy grilled cheese and hot soup! Yum.
My legs were definitely tight and sore once I stopped running. I remember asking if I could walk around because standing still hurt my legs. We decided to get beers at the mile 27 beer garden but headed home soon after. I was so cold and dreaming of a hot shower! The walk to the car felt never-ending but I was glad to be moving. It’s funny how quickly your body shuts down – just an hour before I was running and on the trek back to the car I felt like I could barely walk! My sister drove us home, thank goodness. We didn’t think ahead about how neither of us would feel like driving after the race. I tried to nap that afternoon but was too wired. I felt so cold for a good 24 hours after the race ended – I’m not sure if that’s a result of the cold rainy weather or the longer distance? It’s never happened to me before. I also came down with a nasty cold the week after the marathon – I did read that your immune system is a bit suppressed following marathon races but I am sure running in the rain for 5 hours didn’t help! It took five whole days to move normally again. That first day my shins and ankles hurt a lot but for 4 days after, my quads bothered me more than anything. My arms actually felt sore for a couple days because I was hauling myself up the stairs using my arms, ha! I got my first black toenail during the marathon! I also had some of the worst chafing ever on the underside of my left boob. It was very strange. I almost ended up going to the doctor because it looked infected a couple days post-race but luckily it cleared up on it’s own. I have a lovely scar there now.
My sister braved the elements to watch us run!
Today marks three weeks since the race and I went back to the gym for the first time this morning. The first week I used the “I just ran a marathon” excuse, the second week I was sick with that cold and the third week I was moving so that counts a little, yes? Yes. ! I feel like there is more to say about achieving this goal, but this post is already ready crazy long. I’ll be back with a post on my post-race thoughts soon!
26.2 miles in 5:13:46; 11:59 pace; 2183/2419 overall; 951/1070 female; 139/156 females 25-29.
26.54 miles in 5:11:46; 11:45 pace.