Newport has been very good to me this year. I crossed the bridge on the morning of August 3rd to complete my first triathlon, which turned out to be a fabulous experience. And I had that in mind as I crossed the bridge again Saturday morning, hoping that it would prove to be a good place for a first marathon, as well.
The weather could not have been more perfect. It was in the 40s when I got up, and was forecast to warm up to the low 50s and be partly cloudy. Like I said, perfect.
My alarm had gone off at 5am, and I had actually gotten a decent night's sleep. I slept in the guest room on Thursday night and Friday night, so that I could sleep uninterrupted. Luckily for Scott, neither of the boys got up either of those nights, so his sleep was uninterrupted, too.
When I got up, I had coffee, bagel with pb and jelly, banana. I felt like I should eat more, but could barely get down the bagel and banana. Got dressed, got my Gu's safety-pinned to my pants, and secured my shot blocks in the little pouches that I had on my sneakers. I didn't want to wear my fuel belt, so I had to get creative with how I was going to carry my gels, and the safety-pin method worked out great. I did some last-minute checking and rechecking of things, hung out with the boys for a few minutes, and left house at 6:20.
Got to the race start just before 7, and got right into a parking spot. Since I had picked up my packet the day before, there really wasn't anything for me to do, so I just wandered around.
I just have to mention here that when I picked up my race packet on Friday afternoon, I got my first look at the cousre elevation chart. They didn't have it posted online, so I hadn't seen it at any point before Friday. And when I did see it, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. ALL the big hills came AFTER mile 17, with an absolute monster of a hill right at the end of the course!
I had known this was going to be a somewhat hilly course, but I had no idea it was going to be like that! I tried not to get too freaked out about it, and instead tried to tell myself that it was good that I had at least seen it on Friday, rather than finding out as I was running.
Anyway, the expo was pretty lame, so there really wasn't even much to look at, so I wandered outside for a while, and stopped for a few bathroom breaks, and contemplated having a Gu, but had a banana instead.
The time actually went by pretty quickly, and soon enough we were heading down the street a few hundred yards to the starting line. I had been so jittery and nervous all morning (and all week!), but as soon as I lined up behind that line, I felt completely and totally calm. The nerves just disappeared altogether, and were replaced by incredible excitement that I was FINALLY GOING TO DO THIS!!!!!
There wasn't much fanfare, and the next thing I knew, the gun went off. It's a small race, so it only took a half a minute or so to get across the mat and really start running.
Miles 1 and 2 went down the main drag in downtown Newport - pretty familiar territory for me, and nice and flat. I felt great, and was so tempted to crank it up and run 9-minute miles, but I remembered the words of wisdom that I received from some experienced marathoners, and I remembered the elevation chart, and held myself to a 9:49 for mile 1 and a 9:42 for mile 2.
Mile 3 took us into Fort Adams State Park, where I relived many, many memories of all the Newport Folk Festivals I've gone to there. I was so distracted, in fact, that I ran a bit fast, with mile 3 clocking in at 9:19. There was also a water stop in the park, where I had some water and a few shot blocks.
I reeled myself back in for mile 4 - 9:43 - but then hit a nice downhill stretch in mile 5, making that one a little too fast again - 9:05.
We were now running through some residential neighborhoods. Nice enough, but certainly not as scenic as the waterfront of the first few miles. But I was still feeling great, and just cruising along. Mile 6 went well - 9:16 - and at the next water stop, between miles 6 and 7, I had a Gu and more water, and finished mile 7 in 9:28.
This was one of the most beautiful parts of the course, as it wound all along the ocean. This also meant we ran into a few pretty serious headwinds, but I was still feeling good, and the scenery was just so beautiful, it would have been hard not to enjoy it.
I very consciously allowed myself to pick up the pace just a little bit here. I knew I needed to save some energy, especially for those hideous hills at the end of the course, but I felt like I could afford a little bit more speed, and ran miles 8 - 10 in 9:19, 9:17, and 9:20.
There was a water stop shortly after mile 10, and I stopped for water, but didn't take any gels. I did decide to stop at the porta-potty here, though, which ended up costing me more than three minutes, as the woman who was ahead of me took FOREVER! I was just watching the minutes tick by on my watch and fuming, but there was nothing I could do, so I just got in and out as quick as I could, and went on my way. Mile 11 was a depressing 12:08 as a result, though.
I didn't want to get too hung up on those three minutes, but at the same time, I wanted to try to get at least some of them back, so I definitely pushed it a bit on mile 12, and it showed - 8:56.
As I was approaching the halfway mark, I knew I'd be over two hours when I hit it. I was a little disappointed, but not too much. I knew I was still having a great race, and kept reminding myself that although I will certainly run other marathons, I would never again have the chance to run my FIRST marathon, so the main goal was to really enjoy every moment, and not get freaked out over lost minutes here and there.
Miles 10 and 11 had wound through the streets that are home to the infamous Newport Mansions, and it was a nice part of the city to run through. Mile 13 (9:21) had us turn back down toward the beach, and toward the halfway point, which was also the finish line. I knew that we'd have to run past the finish line, so I was mentally prepared for it, and it didn't really bother me.
I stopped here for more water and another Gu, and got right back at it, crossing the mat at the halfway point with 2:08 on the clock and completing mile 14 in 9:52.
Miles 15 - 17 were a little less scenic than the rest of the course. We were running near the beach, but couldn't actually see the ocean (just lots of dunes), and it just wasn't as interesting as the beginning of the course had been.
I was still feeling ok, but definitely tiring. But I was also not holding myself back quite so much anymore. I wasn't consciously trying to speed up a lot, but I wasn't focusing on going slowly, either. I started to just let myself run a little faster if I felt up to it, and slow down a little if I felt I needed to.
That ended up translating into the following splits - 9:16, 9:59, 8:54, 9:22. Stopped for a few more shot blocks and some water around mile 16. I liked the flavor of the shot blocks, but since it was a cold day, they were really hard, and tough to chew. But it was at least a nice change from eating gels, so I'm glad I had brought them.
Between miles 17 and 18, we finally turned onto a new section of the course, and went back into some residential neighborhoods. Not terribly exciting, but a little more varied and interesting than dunes.
But this is also where the hills began.
And they never really stopped. They were relentless. And exhausting - both mentally and physically.
Miles 18 through 22 were probably the toughest part of the course for me. The hills were getting to me, and everything was starting to hurt - and it showed in my splits - 9:22, 9:40, 9:56, 9:43, 9:26.
I just kept giving myself pep talk after pep talk, and remembering that every step I took was one step closer to the finish. There were several times where I got really nervous, wondering if the dreaded 'wall' was right around the corner, but I tried to just push that thought out of my head.
The sun had come out somewhere around mile 15, and it was a welcome sight. I was comfortable, and not feeling at all cold, but it was a cool enough day that the warmth of the sun felt nice - and it did help lift my spirits a bit, as the grey clouds were getting a little depressing.
Mile 23 was what they called "The Sweet Spot," and there was a table set up with candy. It was a nice idea, but I couldn't stomach the idea of eating candy, so I took a pass. Mile 23 clocked in at 9:23.
We were now running through some nice farmland, and although I was beyond exhausted, I knew that all that was left was a 5K, and it started to dawn on me that I was ACTUALLY DOING THIS! I was on the verge of completing a marathon!
And that's when the adrenaline kicked in for real. The hills were still coming, but I covered mile 24 in 8:52, and looked down several times to see a sub-8:00 pace on my Garmin. The hills were slowing me to a crawl, but I was making up for it big time on the flats!
In what had to be the cruelest turn of events ever, someone with a very twisted sense of humor designed this course so that Mile 25 runs along a street named "Purgatory Road."
And as if that weren't enough, Purgatory Road just happened to be the hugest hill on the entire course. I got to the bottom and all i could think was "Holy crap, how am I EVER going to run up that hill?" There were a lot of people stopping to walk, too, which was kind of disheartening to see.
And just then, the cheeseball song of all cheeseball songs came blasting out of my headphones, and I dug in and ran (very slowly) up that whole hill, with "Eye of the Tiger" carrying me along. Say what you will about my musical tastes, but at Mile 25 of a very hilly marathon, I'd listen to damn near anything if it got me motivated!
And it worked. Despite the hill from hell - I mean, purgatory - I finished mile 25 in 9:05. Thank you, bad 80s music : )
It took a lot out of me, though, and even though I was passing people during mile 26, I slowed down a bit (9:21).
But now I was RIGHT THERE. It was just ahead of me.
The finish line. The line I had been waiting to cross for nearly two and a half years. The line I thought I might not cross this year.
I slipped my headphones off - I wanted to take in every last detail of this; all the sights and the sounds.
And I ran. For all I was worth.
About a hundred yards before the finish line, I saw Scott and the boys cheering me on, and I nearly started bawling.
But I regained my composure, running across the finish line with my arms in the air.
And it was done.
I had done it. And I had done it pretty well, if I do say so myself.
I met up with Scott and the boys for hugs all around, and had myself a good little cry - tears of joy, of course.
And here's where Scott's heroics kicked into high gear. He's been a saint throughout this entire training process. Taking care of the boys through all my long runs, and doing everything he could to take them off my hands after the long runs, too, when I was completely wiped out.
And of course he's put up with my wild mood swings and the emotional upheaval of the training and taper and my associated injury woes. It hasn't been easy on any of us, and I know he was and is immensely proud of me for accomplishing this, but I think he's just as happy and relieved that it's OVER!
After he dropped me off back at the start (about a mile and a half from the finish line), I went in and grabbed a bite to eat, and he took off with the boys, and the three of them went out to lunch so that I could get home and have some time to myself to shower and stretch and begin the recovery process.
And as soon as they got home from lunch, he got Dante in for a nap and headed back out with Gabe to run some errands and give me yet MORE time alone. He did the same thing again Sunday afternoon, too, leaving me with nearly 2 hours of quiet time, during which I laid in bed and read a book.
Not to mention the fabulous dinners he cooked for me both Saturday and Sunday night, the bottle of champagne he got, and the "Hooray for Mommy!" sign he and the boys made to greet me with when I got home after the race on Saturday. He even went out just before dinner Saturday to buy me Pringles, which I had a very sudden craving for. I am one lucky gal, and to say that I couldn't have done this without him is the understatement of the year.
So anyway, now that it's 3 days later, I'm feeling really, really great. I swam for half an hour this morning, and I think it was the perfect thing to do. I felt so good afterward. And when I woke up this morning, I was hardly even sore, so I feel like I'm recovering very well.
I'm planning a very, very short run tomorrow morning. Probably just 2 miles or so. I didn't know how I'd feel this week - if I might just be so sick of running that I wouldn't be looking forward to getting back out there again. But I am looking forward to it, and already thinking ahead to my next race - a 5K on November 23rd. I haven't done a 5K since June, so it's going to be really fun!
And as I continue to reflect on how things went Saturday, I continue to feel really pleased with everything. In retrospect, I wonder if I should have chosen a flatter course on which to tackle my first full marathon. But although the hills sucked, there was a part of me that liked the challenge.
And as I look back and see that I ran the second half of the race 4 minutes faster than the first half (despite all those hills), I feel pretty good about how I paced myself. I wasn't as consistent as I would have liked to be, but I think I did alright. I wondered for a moment if I was too conservative at the start, given that I was passing people in the final mile or two, and that I finished so strong.
But although I finished strong, I was soooo done when I crossed that finish line, and really felt like I had given it all I had, so I think I was just conservative enough in the early miles.
I was surprised when I realized that I had only had 3 Gu's and 4 shot blocks for the entire race. That doesn't seem like a lot to me. But I felt like it was enough, and I never really felt like I was even close to hitting the wall, so I guess it was enough? And I stuck to drinking just water. The last few really long training runs I had done, I was drinking Gatorade and water, and ended up with stomach troubles after the run, but since I drank just water during the race, I had no stomach issues at all. So maybe the Gatorade just doesn't agree with me?
I'll have time to experiment with those types of things when I start doing longer runs again, but that won't be for a while.
I could analyze the whole thing to death, and I probably will, but the bottom line is that I did what I set out to do.
I ran a marathon, I ran it well, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.