I told you I had this.
So, where do I begin? The awesome race course? The great organization? The constant mental pep talks? My favorite two favorite spectators in the world? Or how about the dramatic finish complete with a wheel chair and IVs? I have so much to share!
But. let’s start from the beginning. Because – trust me – all stories are best told from the beginning.
And this one begins at 4:45 with an early wake up call, a bagel, and Naturally Nutty Vanilla Almond Butter.
The combination of bagel and nut butter still makes me gag to an extent – totally ODed during race training this year – but it works . I had about 3/4 of the bagel – about all I could stomach and felt great heading to the start knowing I had a full – but not too full – belly.
Before the race I also devised a plan with my sister for sports bottle hand offs. I filled three bottles up with a mix 1/2 water and 1/2 Gatorade. I was warned ahead of time there would be Powerade on the course, but I’m a Gatorade girl at heart, so I prepared myself with my own bottles.
These bottles ended up being a life saver and saved me so much time on the course. While others were becoming backed up through the water stations, I would run right through. It was also nice since the water stations were a mile and a half apart to have water on hand when ever I wanted. Having water at the ready is a definite mental booster.
The weather outside was a lot cooler than Chicago had been. About 47 at the start – perfect racing weather! I wore a sweater to the startling area, but tossed it before the starting line.
Fifteen minutes before the start I gave my Dad and Sister one last hug and headed into the corrals by myself. I had decided the day before that I would run with the 4:00 pace group at least for the beginning of the race. Race pace groups always come highly recommended by other runners and I figured this was as great of an opportunity as any to give it shot.
I never talked to the pace leader or anyone else in the group, so I can’t give any insight in to the camaraderie I’ve heard other people rave about, but I can tell you it was at least nice starting with the pace team. Since we crossed the starting line at the same time I could always judge where I was in relation to my goals by where the race pacer was. That information was invaluable!
The race counted down and before I knew it I was running my sixth marathon.
Keeping up with the pacer at first was tough because of the crowds. I did my best weaving in and out (something I HATE to do) to keep up with the pacer and was really successful at always keeping him in my vision.
At mile 2 my shoe became untied. WTF? Two miles in? Seriously! At least those were the thoughts going through my head. I pulled over, triple knotted both shoes, and was back at the pacer’s side just before I saw my Dad and Sister at mile 3.
There is nothing better than seeing family during a marathon – even if you’ve only run a 5k of a 26.2 mile race.
The crowds had thinned out after that first 5k and the pacer had settled into a comfortable pace that I thankfully had no problems keeping up with. I turned my ipod on high and just zoned out into my music. I’ll have to give in and finally post my marathon playlist – it was pretty kick ass today.
I was feeling great with the pace group, so when we hit a water station at mile 5 and the pace group stalled to grab water – I went for it and kept going. I decided to use them as my marker and as long as I was ahead of them I was alright. But at that moment I felt great.
The course was beautiful and a pleasure to look at while I was running. Beautiful water, big palm trees, and ridiculously over-priced houses along side. I saw a couple for sale, but I’m pretty sure the Sotherby’s For Sale sign meant they weren’t anywhere near my price range.
At mile 6 I took my first 4 Sharkies of the race. My goal was to take 4 every 6 miles during the race and was pretty great with sticking to the plan. I had 4 at mile 6, 12, 18, and 22. I also had some orange slices along the way, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
At mile 8 the half marathon group split up from the full marathoners. The half marathoners were kind of laughing and cheering at us and I told a few to save some beer at the finish line. With the half marathoners off the course, the amount of people really thinned out. I went from a group of new friends to just one or two in front of me and one or two back.
I was starting to get lonely, but had a nice surprise when I saw my Dad and Sister around 10.5
It was a surprise because I was expecting to see them at 12 and I think they were just as surprised to see me. Kelly grabbed the camera and Dad grabbed the signs and they gave me a fanfare worth running for.
A few seconds later I look to my left to see Kelly running up next to me. She had caught up to see if I needed more water – I was good at the moment and assumed I would be seeing them in a few more miles for another refill anyways – and gave me some words of encouragement.
She ran with me for a half mile or so then we parted ways and I continued on my way.
It was great running with my Sister. I was really pumped at this moment and averaging 8:50 min/miles – I was on fire!
The next few miles were quick. We headed to the end of the first out and back and started back up the second. I was expecting to see my support crew just past mile 13 and memorized my half time to tell my sister when I saw her to tweet. Half time was 1:58:30 (!!)
BUT, 6th Ave (our planned meeting point) came and went and I didn’t see them around. On the way back – still no Kelly and Dad. Where were they?
At this point I wasn’t mad, just worried. Where were they? What happened? I kept thinking that their car was towed or something and they had to catch a cab to the other side of town to retrieve the car. I had a lot of time on hands so I kept assuming worst case scenarios. Ughhh… not good.
I pushed on. I made it to the end of the final out and back, went over a bridge, turned around, and prepared for the 8 mile straight shot back to the start.
I also finished my first water bottle and threw it to the side. I felt like I was throwing my clutch to the side. Luckily at this point the water stations had thinned out and grabbing a water or powerade wasn’t as big of a deal as before. I would grab one of each and mix them at each station.
At the beginning of the straight shot back someone heading the other direction on the road shouted “Meghann!” I waved and she said “I read your blog!” I wish I would have gotten the girl’s name! I told her she was doing great and good luck. Just after I saw her pass I saw the 4:30 pace group, so I know she was doing really good. Mystery runner – You were rockin!
I was approaching 6th Ave again and was silently hoping my sister and Dad would be there. I really could have used their support at that point, but again – no fans.
Then, just as I was hitting 19.5 I saw my sister and Dad standing proud.
There they were!!!!
I don’t think I had ever been more excited to see two familiar faces before.
They were prepared too. Kelly jumped in and became the best sister ever. She fed me orange slices – God Bless Her! – and handed me a watered down gatorade bottle. It was full and too heavy for me to carry, so she dumped out about half at my request.
I was weak at this moment. All the work was finally starting to sink in and I needed her more than ever. She ran to mile with me and told I was the 45th female, then we passed a girl on my left and she told me – “Look now our 44th!” I was having trouble talking, but that made me laugh. I hope she knows how much I appreciated her and how much I needed it.
When we reached mile 20 Kelly said good bye and I told her I would see her at the finish line. All I had was a 10k left! I could do this!
Hardest 10k of my life!
I was waivering between a 8:50 pace and a 9:30 pace and was ever so thankful for the slight cushion I had built in for myself. The 4:00 pacer was behind me the whole time – and I knew he was there – but there was no way I was going to let him pass me. He was my motivation.
I pulled out everything I had deep inside me to finish. I kept recalling the post I had written on Friday and how I declared I was NOT going to give up. I was going to give it all I had and not give up. I kept thinking of all my readers, all my friends, my family, and everyone else I wanted to talk to when the race was done.
Then something crossed my mind that Emily had tweeted me the other week. She had told me to ‘finish a marathon with a 3 in front of it.’ And thinking about that made me become so emotional. A marathon with a 3 in front of it?!?! Who am I?!?! I’m the girl who couldn’t run to the end of the block 3 years ago without getting winded and I have the possibility to finish a marathon with a 3 in front of it?!? I teared up more than once just thinking about that. THAT was my motivation to finish – I wanted that 3. I deserved that 3.
I don’t know how I did it, but my pace held for that last 10k. I stayed around the 9:00 minute mark and knew I could finish on pace.
I kept checking the clock and knew I was going to cut it close. To finish my time goal I had to keep this pace. I could do it.
Mile 26 came up and the clock read 3:56:48. Oh god. I had 4 minutes to reach my goal. 4 minutes!!!!
My face was glued to my Garmin. The seconds were ticking by way too fast. Could I do this? Could I reach my goal? I gave it all I had and sprinted to the finish.
I did it! I did it! I got my 3 marathon!
And then everything went black.
I remember crossing the finish line and I remember two people in white shirts asking if I was ok, but after that it’s a blur.
From what I was told I collapsed into the arms of the medics. They told me I kissed the payment. I was loaded into a wheelchair and brought to the medic tents where I came to surrounded by a a group of 13 or 14 people. I was told my blood pressure was really low and I was dehydrated. They gave me oxygen and began loading my body up with fluids.
I immediately started feeling better and wanted to exit the tent, but they made me stay for a good 45 minutes, until I had all 3 liters in my system.
Everyone was really nice. When I told them my legs were cramping they sent a massage therapist over and he massaged my feet and stretched my legs. They also gave me water, orange slices, and pretzels to nibble on.
The Doctor assured me this could happen to anyone and he mostly sees experienced marathoners in the tent. He told me next time to just start hydrating with gatorade the day before my next marathon and to try and drink even more next race – if at all possible. I shared marathon stories with the other nurses and doctors and they all offered congrats for reaching my goal.
After 45 minutes I was released and ready to celebrate my victory. I wasn’t going to let a minor visit to the medic tent spoil my victory.
The proof – I DID IT!!
We headed back to the hotel to shower and change then to Cheesecake Factory for brunch.
I had bread
And a celebratory Baja Chicken Hash – it was really, really good.
I feel GREAT now and can’t believe I was in the medic tent just a few hours ago being treated for dehydration. I’ve been drinking water and gatorade like there’s not tomorrow today and I think that helps!
This race was amazing. Staying on pace, seeing my family along the way, and just running with so many amazing people really put this day over the top.
I’m now a member of the sub-4:00 hr club!!! Is there a secret password I should know about?
MILLIONS OF THANKS to my sister Kelly for being my official tweeter and being so supportive along the way and more thanks to my Dad for coming out and supporting me along the way and for all the tweets, comments, Facebook messages, etc from all of you!
Also, thanks to Derek for being the constant supportive boyfriend, even if he couldn’t make it out to the race today.
I’m home now and ready to dig into more food. Bring it on!