Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ready, Set, RUN!

Picture: Beth and me and some random kids :)
Preparation: Mentally and physically preparing to run a marathon. Step one, be sure to be hydrated. I quit drinking caffeinated coffee a few weeks ago and started drinking more water and milk. The day before the race, I was sure to drink several bottles of water, but I didn’t force myself to drink. My nerves kicked in Thursday and were bothering me so much on Friday I had to force myself to eat. Not unusual for me, but was annoying.
Step two: Be sure to have good music for the run. There’s nothing worse than running by yourself on a boring course. Sorry Siouxland Marathon, it’s pretty, but not interesting. Large crowds are fun to run in and there's just not a lot of people around. I need tunes. Because my MP3 player beeps between each song every few weeks and I could NOT figure out how to get it stopped, I was given a very generous gift from a friend of mine…a pink iPod. We spent a few hours downloading (or is it uploading?) music to it for the run. If I had to run with the thing beeping between each song for 4 ½ hours, it would have been smashed to bits on Highway 12. There’s only so much I can handle.
Step three: Get up early before the race to eat and stretch. I was up at 4:45 Saturday morning and had a banana with peanut butter, water and some granola bar. I felt very good and was optimistic for the outcome of the run. My mom picked me up at 6 and I sat in her warm truck until about 10 minutes before the race started. Thanks, mom, it was great to chat with you and be distracted from what I was about to do!

We gathered to hear a very nice prayer and National Anthem. I thought there was construction in the distance, but it was just the chattering of everyone’s teeth. Boy was it cold!! It started at 7am with a beep (they didn’t use a gun for this one). There were two waves of starters, one at 7 and one at 8. The “over 5 hour” finishers were to start at 7. I went ahead with this group because I like to run early and I wanted to get it over with! There weren’t too many people who started at 7 and it was extremely peaceful. We wound around South Sioux City and along the river. A bike was in the front of the tiny pack, thank goodness, since it was very dark! After the first mile, I checked the time and found that it was at 8 min 50 sec. I thought to myself, “Whoa Nelly, you gotta slow the heck down, you can't keep up at this pace!” So I tried. After the 2nd mile, I checked again and found myself at 18 minutes. Well ok, SLOW DOWN. After four miles of “trying” to slow down, I decided that I had found my pace and was going to keep it. I am used to running on hills, so I figured that because this course was flat, just take advantage of it, stay at a comfortable pace, and GO FOR IT! During this time, I was thinking silly thoughts and decided to write a poem in my head (of course it would be in my head as who brings paper on a marathon?). It would be made from the titles on my iPod and others that fit. I won't share it here because it's long and strange but here's a line or two: "It's a beatiful day but I need a new drug because I got bad medicine for this cat scratch fever. I won't ever say that I'm not running anymore because it's like a river of love and it only makes me stronger. I did it!" At the time, it was really funny and entertained me for a few miles.

I digress. Before we crossed the bridge into Sioux City, I saw the port-a-jons and decided to utilize one while I could. When we ran over the bridge, the sun was coming up and it was so beautiful. I took a video with my iPod and will post this week. We ran on the riverfront trail from mile 6 for about three miles. There were people with water and fruit and power ade. One stop by Riverside ballfields had signs urging us to keep going and had a Maragaritaville theme. It was fun to see although thinking of drinking anything but water or power ade was nauseating. I do remember them having cut up bananas for the runners, which was unexpected and very generous.

I was counting down until the half way since Andy and the boys were going to meet me. Before the half way, we wound around the riverside neighborhood and met one very steep yet short hill. Then we were thanked with a very long downhill stretch. I like to lengthen my strides going downhill to use gravity for my advantage.
At mile 13 and 13.1 I looked and looked for Andy and/or our truck. Nope, wasn’t there. I was hoping that the boys weren’t sick (Tyler had flu last week and Ryan was on the verge) or they didn’t get lost or something. I was upset as I wanted to see their faces and needed some food-gu (basically discusting but much needed carbs for energy), some granola, and new gum! After I topped the hill after the exact half point, I saw them and was so relieved! I got some medicine for my silly headache (silly wasn’t what I was thinking but that’s what I’ll say here) and took off my ear things and gloves, which I found out later was a huge mistake, and had some food. I got energized and told Andy that my strategy was to tackle the hills and try to keep at my 9 minute mile pace. I thought that after the race, if I looked back and thought I could have done better, I would be upset. So my thing was to do the absolute best I could instead of taking it slow at the beginning and go faster, if I could, at the end.
Kudos to Great West for a really fun water stop. Music was blaring and they were cheering loudly although I was the only one near at the time. It helps and is appreciated! We ran along Highway 12 for about 3 miles (this is where my patience would have run out and I would have smashed my beeping MP3 player into bits) and at mile 16, we headed into Stone State Park. Yikes. There was a water and gu stop before “the hill” and someone handing out water said “Have fun on the hills!”. Grrrrrr. I saw the first stretch and tackled it with all my energy. I went to a 10 minute mile pace for the next mile, which had a few steep hills and some flat parts. Then one more steep climb met us with the top, probably around mile 17.5. Whew! Not as bad as what I thought it would be. It wasn't easy by any means though. We were then rewarded with a very nice loooong downhill run for a few miles. I went for it and picked up the pace. Why not, I knew I had less than 10 miles left!? Go for it became my mantra. I had to retie my shoes along here and since I took my gloves off earlier, my fingers were like ice cubes. It doesn’t work well when you need to tie shoes quickly. Just put your hands under freezing water for about 10 minutes, try and tie your shoes and you’ll understand what I mean. They did soon warm up though. I zoned into running so don’t have any fun or quirky thoughts to write about for pretty much the rest of the run. I was hurting a little, of course, was tired, and was wondering where all the walkers came from. Was I was going the right way (of course I was, it was well marked) or miss something? I couldn’t do the math and figure out that the half marathon started 30 minutes before I got to that point so they were just that far ahead of me. I didn’t pick that up until after we were done. It did give me something to think about though.

Around Mile 21, it got really confusing. I was running on the sidewalk going one way, others were on the road, going the other way. Did I miss something again? There weren’t other runners there so I was just wondering if I had gone the wrong way. Nope, saw the 21 mile marker, so kept going. It was confusing at one point and I know one runner took the wrong way. He ran the same distance but just went the opposite direction on the circle part of the route.
Andy and the boys were there again at the 21 mile marker and between 22 and 23 along with my friend Anne and her 3 kids. It was so energizing to see them there cheering me on. One of them even yelled “Good luck Kelli!” to me. So sweet and appreciated so much!

Thankfully, I never hit the “wall” that is most dreaded in marathon running. Let’s just say that at mile 23, I knew I couldn’t go faster, but I wasn’t going to slow down either. My legs hurt and I was just plain tired, but I knew we were almost there. This part of the route was on the Perry Creek Trail, which is actually very nice! There was a water stop along this way decorated in pink, which I totally loved. (I had pink finernails, toenails, hair thingy, shirt, and gloves. I love pink. It was for the Race for Life next year. They were handing out pink beads, which I declined, then regretted that I declined. BUT another mile down the way I found two sets of beads by the trail, so I picked them up and wrapped them in my hands. I will keep at least one set forever, just to remember that moment and for all the women who couldn't run. Connie Prince Houlihan, the best female runner I have ever seen, ran by somewhere along this trail. She won the entire race in 3 hours 4 minutes! WOW! Remember that I had been running an hour longer than she had. And she's 52.
When I saw the mile 25 marker, I turned to my favorite inspirational song, Stronger, by Kanye West. I don’t think it really has anything to do with sports, but the words are true “N-n-not that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger…” I love running hard to this song and it really helped me think about what I was accomplishing and what I was blessed enough to be able to do. So went for it, picked it up a little, and ran to the finish. The 26 mile marker was right before a turn, so at that point, I was exhausted and couldn’t “KICK IT” like I usually do. I ran for the finish, heard my friends and family cheering for me, and crossed the line in 4 hours, 12 minutes 39 seconds.
Mission: Accomplished.

Thank you to Andy, Tyler, Ryan, Mom, Beth and Larry, and Anne, Paul, Drew, and Kia. You gave me inspiration and I thank you so much for being there for me at a very important time in my life!

I got a cool medal, 93rd of 170 overall, 26th of 67 women, and 9th of 14 in my age group. Not too shabby!

How do I feel the day after? Ouch. My 2nd toe hurts and I expect I will lose my nail. My legs are tired but especially on the side joint and knees. Other wise I'm doing well. I got lots of sleep and hydration yesterday, thank you mom!
I am very proud and lucky to be able to do this and to have the support of my friends and family, especially you, Andy. I am amazed at the limits that I can push my body and how well it responds. I am thankful to Beth and Paw Prints for giving me the inspiration to set this goal of Running for a Paws and for supporting me in it. Thanks to my sister for her words of encouragement on Friday as well. You'll blog about your marathon some day too!
It doesn’t stop here. There’s so much more I can do. And I will!

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