For those of you paying attention, back in September I was telling you about my first marathon and the events of race day. Well, I never got around to publishing part four, the final part of my marathon adventures, because a lot of miscellaneous stuff came up. But for those of you that have been waiting, clenching the edge of your seat, only removing yourself from the glow of your computer screen for bathroom breaks and to open holiday and birthday gifts . . . Your patience is about to be rewarded!
Here it is…the long awaited conclusion and results of my marathon race day.
Part 4 Missoula Marathon 2007 Race Day
Well, as you’ll recall, I had just had a pit stop, where T poured cold water on my neck and changed out my neck wrap for a fresh cold one.
It was hot – 90 plus degrees out – a record breaking summer for western Montana! The sun was intense, and there was no shade to be found.
I was running along, nearing the 20 mile mark, when I noticed my right foot was feeling numb. I stopped to examine it and as I felt my ankle to see if it felt swollen, I flexed my toes on my right foot…Whoa!!! Big mistake! My whole leg started to cramp up. I never get cramps, so when this one started, I panicked a bit. I pushed my toes back down and furiously rubbed my right leg, and luckily, with that immediate and intense attention, I was able to avoid a full blown cramp. But of course, this whole situation had me worried – a lot. Would I be able to finish the race? If I ran on my numb foot, I could injure it even worse and not even realize it. Would it hurt to walk on it? Could I keep myself safe and healthy, or was it too late?
Obviously I couldn’t run on a numb foot…that was just too dumb, so I started walking because I didn’t want to risk twisting my ankle and being unable to finish the race. With my ever-present cell phone, I called T. I think she was surprised to be hearing from me. I said I didn’t know if I could go on. We had a bad connection, so when she said, “What? I didn’t hear you…,” right then and there I decided not to repeat my negative thoughts, and instead I told her I was going to have to walk some of the last 6 miles due to my numb foot and leg cramps.
So we pushed back the next meeting time, and I told her I would call again when I was getting closer. I was more than a little bummed by my set-back, but at the same time, I was glad that I was able to walk, and even run some when the numbness subsided, and I felt my foot was okay.
All along the way, volunteers were there to hand out water, power aid and gels, and the crowds were so supportive.
At one point, a volunteer on a bike came up to me and asked how I was doing. I told her I was walking due to some cramping in my right leg. She gave me about 6 Pringles potato chips for the sodium and, can you believe this: her own personal water bottle!? How amazingly generous and compassionate! She told me I could leave her water bottle at the next aid station, and she would get it there. I was so grateful for her care and attention.
By now, I knew it was true what I had heard about the marathon: that it was really two races: the first twenty miles, then the last six. Because my last 6 miles were hell. It seemed like it was taking forever.
My next pit stop was near the mall with about 3.2 miles to go on the bike path that I was very familiar with. There again I met T, and this time our good friend Marty was there too. They got me a fresh cool neck wrap and water. T walked with me for awhile, but I really wanted her to be at the finish line, so I said I would be fine and started to run for a bit, and she peeled off to head towards the finish line downtown.
The enthusiastic crowds at the mall gave me a much needed boost of energy, and I ran for quite some time before I had to walk again. I was very aware of my time: that it was going to be well over 5 hours before I would cross the finish line. Of course my objective had now changed, and I was only concerned with finishing, and doing it in under the 6 hours required to be an official finisher.
So with my run-a-little/walk-some-more strategy, I plugged along on the path that had no shade at all. The sun was beating down on me, and I knew it had to be getting close to 100 degrees!
As I was approaching the turn that would take me over the Orange Street Bridge, I could hear the music playing and the crowd cheering, and in my brain I did an imaginary back flip with excitement: I knew I was just about there!
As I got to the bridge where the finish line was, I was looking around. I could see balloons tied to the side of the bridge, but I was expecting so much more. According to what the website had said, there was supposed to be a huge balloon arch. Oh well…I was just excited to be on the bridge. I gave it my all, running as fast as I could, high-fiving the onlookers as they stretched their hands out and shouted words of encouragement.
I finished strong, running at a sprint towards the finish line. I was never so happy to be done with a race in all my life.
I was a marathoner! Albeit a bit of a dazed marathoner, but an undisputed one, nonetheless. My finish time was: 5:28:00.
T came to the finish line and escorted me to get my finishers medal in the shape of a star, and then on to the food: to the re-fueling station to replenish my glycogen stores! I was wobbly and very tired, and with the temperature hitting the mid 90’s, of course I was overheated. I sat in a folding chair under a tent, and chowed down on watermelon and bagels. The pasta and salty nut mix were just what I needed.
After I regained some of my strength, I turned to T and said with absolute conviction, “I’m never doing that again!”
“I was hoping you would say that,” she replied. She knew how hard this whole marathon training process for the past six months had been on my body.
Then it was time to head for home. But there was one small problem with that plan: I could not get out of the chair. My legs had stiffened up. But T managed to pull me up to a standing position. I didn’t want to hang around as it was hot, did I mention it was hot? And I needed my Starbucks fix!
So we stopped at my favorite coffee hangout, and I showed off my medal to anyone who would look! At one point I asked T to tell me what it said on my star-shaped medal.
She looked at it and then said with a straight face, “My Little Sherriff.”
Of course it didn’t really say that, but I have to admit the shape of the star medal did look like one of those kids play tin sheriff badges. To this day, we still laugh about that.
Once we were home, I had a soothing bath and tried to take a nap, but my legs were too sore and every time I moved they hurt. So it was not very restful. I got up, and within a few hours my legs felt better. It wasn’t until I tried to climb the stairs that I realized just how sore they really were. And don’t even get me started about going to the bathroom!
That evening, T and Marty took me out to our favorite steak house for my celebratory dinner. Yes, I wore my medal, and if it was socially acceptable I would have worn it as a badge of accomplishment everywhere I went for a week or two! But I was content to wear it to dinner, where I did talk to several other marathoners and half marathoners who had run in the race, and we all agreed it was way too hot! DUH! I don’t know if anyone running a marathon could really stay hydrated in that heat.
Oh yeah, that balloon arch that was supposed to be at the finish line? It was there, big as life. I didn’t see it when I ran under it, so imagine my surprise when I saw it in the photo. What’s that all about? You’d think I was blind or something….
How ‘bout it?
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Title: Marathon Training: My First Marathon – Race Day Part 4