Michelob Challenge: Part II – It’s Marathon Time Baby!

by Meghann on February 28, 2010

Michelob Challenge: Completed!

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That’s a total of 38.4 miles for 3 races in 1 weekend. :)

The best part is, I feel great!!

My alarm was set for 4:00am this morning. This gave me an hour to get dressed, eat, and mentally prepare myself for the marathon I would be running at 6:00 am.

I fueled for my 26.2 miles with the exact same breakfast I had yesterday. Only I decided to add chocolate chips to the bagel half with almond butter for good measure. :)

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As soon as Ashley arrived at Derek’s apartment we were off to the start line. Luckily we had learned our lesson yesterday and were prepared to pay for parking this morning. Not having to worry about parking was a huge stress reliever. We were able to park and make it the start line with plenty of time to use the porta potties and relax before the start.

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Melissa decided last minute that she would be running the first 7 miles with us. Ashley and I welcomed the company. :)

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Not only was this my 3rd race this weekend, but it was also my third marathon. :)

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I was representin’ the #3 all morning. ;)

Gasparilla does not have a dedicated corrall system for any of their races, so all of the starts are a bit insane. The start for the marathon/ half marathon was no different this morning. The three of us entered the crowd at the very back and tried to push our way to the front, but had no luck.

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Close to six minutes after the the start of the race, we finally crossed the start line. Our goal for the first mile or so was to simply stick together and fight our way from the bottle neck of the crowd. We were quite successful at our goal until we hit the mass of people waiting to cross the first bridge.

The first bridge was INSANE to say the least. We were brought to a dead stop as a few thousand people tried to cross a very narrow two lane bridge. The only thing we could do was laugh and go with the flow. :)

Eventually we did make it over the bridge and on to Davis Island where we were still surrounded by people, but at least we had room to move. The sun began to rise as we ran through beautiful multi-million dollar house neighborhoods on the elusive island.

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Ashley, Melissa, and I picked our future homes and discussed why we would ever need so many bedrooms. We decided we needed the extra rooms for all our future little ones and for when friends (such as ourselves) came to visit.

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The loop around Davis Island took us to mile 6 of the course and before we we knew it we were entering the same narrow bridge to exit the island. Fortunately by this time the crowds had begun to stagger the trip across was much more pleasant. The sun had also risen giving us gorgeous views of the water and downtown Tampa.

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Derek was patiently waiting for us just past the bridge and managed to capture a couple of photos.

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Mile 6 and we were still going strong!

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At this point we were averaging just over 10 minute miles and everyone was feeling really good.

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We circled around the start and right before mile 7 we hit the split where the half marathoners and full marathoners separated. After running the half marathon last year, it felt strange to follow the arrows to the full marathon route.

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At mile 7 the three amigos became two. Melissa stepped out and headed back to the start to meet up with Derek as Ashley and I began our new adventure into downtown.

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We missed you Melissa! Thanks for keeping us company for the first 7 miles!!

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I really enjoyed running through downtown Tampa. It was a new experience compared to the half portion of the race I ran last year. I made sure to soak up all of my surroundings.

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Ashley pointed out the old building she used to work at and we talked about the days when she lived and worked in downtown Tampa. She recently moved to Orlando a few months ago and loves it, but you could tell Tampa still has a place in her heart.

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Ashley had failed to mention until we were over an hour into the race that she had trained for all her marathons with the run/walk galloway method. We had not walked at all for the first 7 miles or so, but Ashley had requested that we start. I felt bad for not realizing her training methods earlier and encouraged the walking breaks as opposed to pushing her too hard.

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It felt funny to walk during a marathon. My legs did not enjoy starting back up after the walking breaks and they were beginning to yell at me to make up my mind on whether I would be walking or running.

Ashley was still doing great though! We looped back around to the start line for a second time and saw Derek and Melissa waiting to cheer us on.

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I grabbed the sports beans I had planted on Derek earlier and we continued on our merry way.

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Right at the halfway point was when things began to go downhill. Ashley’s stomach began to act up and she needed more and more walking breaks. I tried to stay as encouraging as possible, but I also felt bad that I might be pushing her too hard.

We were right on track to reach Ashley’s finish goal of 4:45, but with each mile I could see our pace dropping significantly and the goal sipping farther and farther away.

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Ashely kept telling me she had to get in her zone and for me to go on. I kept telling her no and that we were in this together, but she kept pushing me away. She told me to go and to promise her I would get under 4:30. I hesitated, not wanting to leave her, but she was pretty persistent on telling me to go ahead.

After two miles of Ashley pleading with me to go ahead, I decided I had to obey her wishes. I felt AWFUL leaving her, but I knew Ashley was still on goal to PR ( her PR was 4:57) and I knew it really was what she wanted.

We gave each other a big hug and I was on my way.

I departed from Ashley around mile 16. My legs felt great and I let them fall into their natural 9:30 pace. I was actually pretty surprised how great my legs felt. I only had ten miles to go and I knew in the back of my head that I could easily hold this pace for the remainder of the race.

Around mile 17 I grabbed a vanilla gu, but waited until a water station just before mile 19 to take it. It tasted like vanilla icing and was pretty nasty.

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Mile 19 was probably one of my favorite miles of the course. It took us on a loop around this beautiful park that was essentially our turn around point before heading back to the finish.

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After the turn around point I was able to spot Ashley in the crowd heading to the park. She was walking, but still had a smile on her face. There was now a 2 mile gap between us, but it encouraged me that she was still smiling and still determined to finish.

Once I passed mile 20 I knew the rest would be cake. My legs felt great and after some quick math I discovered if I held under a 10 minute pace that I could easily finish under 4:30. I wasn’t planning on finishing this race in under 4:30, but since the opportunity had presented itself I was going to take advantage of it.

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I bet it you were to compare the pace averages from all three of my marathons for the last 6.2 miles, you would find today’s marathon the fastest. I’m not sure if I had just been conserving all my energy from the first 20 miles or what, but I felt like I was flying. It was seriously the easiest 20 -26.2 miles I had ever ran. I couldn’t believe I was about to finish a marathon!

At mile 24 a woman was handing out M&Ms and I happily grabbed a fun size bag. I think my new favorite thing is chocolate in the last couple miles of a marathon. Those M&Ms tasted just like gold. :)

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The finish line was so close! I had hauled ass and knew my 4:30 goal was 100% attainable.

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I saw Derek and Melissa at the finish line and gave it my all as I crossed the finish line in the closest thing to a sprint that I could muster.

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There’s the finish line I’ve been looking for!

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My official chip time is not posted yet, but my Garmin has me crossing at 4:26:21!!

That’s 3 minutes faster than my first marathon in San Diego and I had been pacing the first half of the race with a goal of finishing at 4:45!

I grabbed my two finishers medals (one for the marathon & one for completing the Michelob Challenge) and went to find Derek and Melissa.

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I was very proud of those medals. :)

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They were also handing out little finisher’s towels.

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Its kind of sad this was Gasparilla’s final voyage for their full marathon. I LOVED this race and would 100% run it again in the future! I’m so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to run it at least once before it simply became a part of history.

After I finished our wait for Ashley began. The minutes began to tick by and I began to worry. What was I thinking leaving her? I should have stuck with her! I began to have an awful feeling deep in my stomach that something was wrong. :(

We waited and waited, but we all knew Ashley would not give up. Melissa had ran a half a mile or so down the course to see if she could spot Ashley and run the last half mile with her. Finally just after the clock hit the 5:30 mark we got the call that Melissa was with Ashley and they were going to finish the race together.

A few minutes later we spotted them ourselves.

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It felt so good to see those smiling faces. :)

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Ashley was finishing strong. God love her!

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I drew a big sigh of relief when I found Ashley in the post-race crowd.

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She was GLOWING and so happy with life. She said her stomach was off when she tried to run, so she decided to walk the last 10 miles. The idea of giving up was not even an option in her mind and for that she is officially my new idol. LOVE HER!

With Ashley safely across the finish line, I felt it was safe to finally start celebrating.

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Got to show off all my new bling.

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That’s 4 medal rights there!!

We headed back to the car and I grabbed 1/2 a bagel to munch on.

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Ashley and Melissa loaded up on the bananas the volunteers were desperately trying to dispose of.

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After crossing the finish line more than 2 hours before, I was more than ready for a post marathon feast at J. Christopher’s.

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I wanted PANCAKES! But knew I needed some protein as well. The pantry feast seemed to be the perfect fit.

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I went with the blueberry crunchcakes, scambled eggs, and instead of meat or potatoes, I had double fruit.

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Those plates didn’t stand a chance.

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We all left very happy. :)

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I have a lot of thoughts and insights regarding my third marathon, but I think I will save that for another post. Right now I need to prepare for the long drive back home. :)

I will say this though – this weekend was AWESOME! ;)

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