Mesa Falls Marathon

August 27, 2011.  26.2 miles.  What a day!  I was hoping to post the same day or at least the day after so everything could be extra fresh in my mind, but, here we are…3 weeks later.  Get ready for details, because well, I love details and I don’t want to forget them!
The ‘race’ actually starts the night before, for me at least.  It includes packing and planning and eating and drinking {water} and laying out your clothes and equipment for the big run, amongst other things.  Oh and anxiety attacks.  It’s not mandatory, but apparently inevitable for miss stress-ball over here.
At about 7:30pm {night before race day} I realized I had been so anxious about the next morning that I had hardly eaten anything that day, including dinner.  Ideally, I would have eaten dinner between 5:30 and 6pm, then had a snack before falling asleep comfortably and soundly by 9pm because HELLO my alarm is set for 4:30am the next morning and I want to sleep fabulously before I run the farthest I’ve ever run in my life.  Naturally.  Is that so much to ask?  But, instead, I panic.  I frantically look through my fridge and pantry and am at a loss of what I should/could make for dinner!  I call Zuriel, explain to him my realization of how late it is and that I hadn’t eaten dinner yet and blah blah blah blah… Basically the evening went down hill from there.  He quickly came home, put me in the car, and drove me somewhere to eat.  By the time we get home it is about 8:30pm.  Long story short–I don’t fall asleep until after midnight.
Now we’ll skip to more happy and exciting moments.  For example, the START LINE!  Standing at the start line was in one word, surreal.  Was I really about to run a MARATHON?  And I don’t feel nervous but sincerely excited?!  I couldn’t believe it.  Where did my anxiety go.
The advice I heard over and over from friends, family, and random ‘marathoners’ was don’t start out too fast!  So from the start, I did what I could to not let the excitement and adrenaline take over and push me too fast so early in the race.  I was on my ‘runner’s high’ from mile 1, which was very convenient!  I kept thinking I was running too slow because more people than I expected were passing me.  But when I checked my trusty watch, I was always right where I wanted to be.
I ran sans music for the first 13 miles.  I was enjoying the beautiful scenery!  A handful of runners were even running with cameras, stopping every now and then to capture the perfect picture.
The first ten miles were on dirt roads.  We were up in the mountains, surrounded by trees.  Yet, you knew farms weren’t too far off every time you heard a cow “moo” or you just barely missed the pile of poop your shoe was about to land in.  The dirt roads turned into pavement for a few miles, until just past the point where the half-marathon started.  This is where I put my headphones in.  I can’t remember how desperate I began to feel for the up-beat music, but, it seemed like as good a time as ever to use the ipod!  After a few miles running on pavement, we veered off the road to begin the trail-run portion of the race.  It was awesome!  The path was only as wide as the ATV that drove on it to create the path.  The narrow path between trees almost made you forget you were racing.  Until, of course, you bumped elbows with runners wearing bib numbers as you were passing them because of how narrow the path was.
The end of the trail run brought you to the {dreaded} beginning of a 2-mile hill.  It was at this point {the bottom of the hill} that I saw my husband with our dog, along with my best friend and her dog, screaming and cheering me on.  It was just what I needed before I ran that hill.  Not to mention she was blasting Journey from her car for motivation…it was perfect!  I glanced up at that hill, and all I saw was runners walking {or jogging slow enough that someone could walk faster than they were running}.  Not entirely encouraging, but I’ll have you know that not one person passed me going up that hill.  I ran that hill for two miles, and it felt good.  By the end of the hill, I was just past the 19-mile marker.
The remainder of the race was mostly flat or downhill-ish, but there were a few unexpected smaller hills that I wasn’t mentally prepared for {where was THAT hill on the course map?? whaaa? and another one??} you get the idea…
Almost everyone I talked to who had run a marathon told me of this huge, massive, ugly, 50-foot thick, barbed wire “wall” that I would hit or almost literally ‘run into’ at the 18 or 20-mile mark.  I braced myself at both those mile markers and you know what happened?  Nothin’.  I thought man, I’m good!  Kidding.  But I was honestly a teeny tiny bit surprised.  However my surprise only lasted a few more miles because just after mile marker 22, things started to get rough.
However, it wasn’t the kind of rough I was expecting.  I thought maybe, every muscle in my body would feel like it was shredding into pieces.  Maybe my legs would feel like they weighed 300lbs…each.  Unfortunately, none of the above.  I had been feeling some minor nausea, uncomfortable epigastric pain {where people feel heartburn} since around mile marker 6, but it was bearable.  Soon after mile 22 the pain and nausea became very apparent.  The LAST thing I wanted to do was vomit.  It must have been a combination of the eating a burrito salad for dinner the night before, barely getting 4 hours of sleep, the nerves, and the extreme heat that graced its presence three hours into the race {who invited you?!}.  Who knows.  The point is, I was doing everything I could {while running that is} to not spew everywhere.  Gross.  I stopped 3 times for about 15 seconds when I literally thought I couldn’t hold it down any longer.  I knew that if I did throw up, I wouldn’t have the energy to finish.  Luckily after some major prayers and mental motivation, I refocused all of my attention on finishing the best I could.
       
What surprised me about the race?  Honestly truly?  I didn’t think I was going to want to stop as bad as I wanted to stop those last four miles.  But I didn’t quit.  I kept running and I finished strong.  This is what I had trained for.  This is what the last 5 months have revolved around–my running schedule.  This is what my friend convinced me that I was capable of doing.  She convinced me that I didn’t give myself enough credit.  That I COULD do it if I worked for it.  So I did.  That’s why a marathon is so ‘hard’ and so ‘scary’ to people.  Not the physical part {believe it or not}. It is a mental battle. And that is why it is so rewarding.  Because you didn’t think you could do it.  Because you didn’t know it was possible.  But it is.  And you CAN do it.
It was one of the hardest but most rewarding physical and mental things I have done.  I was fighting tears as I was running towards the finish line.  The feeling of accomplishment you’re rewarded with as you cross the finish line is indescribable.  I’m so blessed to have had this experience and the support I had from friends and family.  I look forward to training for my next marathon!

 

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