The weekend started off on the right foot! Penny and I both took off Thursday even though we didn't leave until Friday morning! It was nice to spend a relaxed day with a great friend!!
When it comes to the rest of the trip ... I don't even know where to begin! Penny and I had a great time driving up to Apalachicola. It was five hours worth of driving in the middle of no where, but somehow there wasn't a silent second in the car.
We arrived on Friday around 1PM and headed straight to the Expo. I should have realized that all of my fears and nightmares were about to come true, but I still had high hopes. The expo was in a small little room that basically just gave us our bibs. We quicky learned that there wasn't chip timing and that we'd be going off of gun timing. I was so confused as to why this would be the case, especially on a Boston certified course. The chips on our bibs were for the finish line only. At the Expo, there was a small table with about 5 different clif bar samples. There was a sign that read "take one of each." At least I didn't go broke at the Expo .... no running temptations at all!
Penny and I headed out to the neighborhood (beside the expo) for our little 2 mile shake out run. I was supposed to run one easy, on at pace. I was aiming for 8:50 and 8:20. I ran an 8:10 followed by a 7:58. I was pleasantly suprised with the effort, especially since it was 85 degrees outside.
During my run, a million thoughts went through my head. Luckily, the race director was easily accessible at the expo and we were able to question him to death. I was terrified of getting lost on the course (there were only 200-ish marathon runners). We were terrified of having to stop to cross the road because of traffic. I was terrified of there being no water on the bridges (more than 20 miles of the race was on these bridges ...I'm not exaggerating ... probably closer to 23 miles). I had concerns of there not being mile markers or clocks on the course. What about traffic on the bridges? We were to run in the emergency lane facing traffic??!
This should have been a major concern of mine, but the race director (depsite being extremely laid back) eased my fears. Everything would be taken care of.
Then, I did something I've never done before .... I drove the course. All I can say is "Thank God!" We started the start/finish line. I got a crack out of this. This should have been enough foreshadowing in itself for what the rest of the weekend would entail!
The rest of the evening was normal. I hung out with Stephanie and Penny, ate pasta, tried on a million race outfits and then went to bed.
The race started at 7AM, so we arrived around 6AM. I parked about fifteen feet away from the start line (NICE)! It was a little chilly but not freezing. We waited in the car until about 6:40, went to the bathroom and then made our way to the mat. We decided that we were going to start at the very front (sorry faster runners) .... but there isn't chip timing, so what else am I supposed to do ... not add 15 seconds to my finish time.
The gun goes off and we start running. Several runners pass me immediately and I notice that they keep going straight. I drove this yesterday and we were supposed to turn. There weren't signs, it was dark, there weren't cops or anything showing the way .... Another girl and I turn and soon everyone follows. I think several people probably added on a good .2 miles before figuring it out. Like I said, thank God I drove the course.
We climb a mountain of a hill (picture - Stephanie is approaching the finish line. The top of that bridge ramp is mile .5 and mile 25.5) and start across the water. I hit the first mile in 7:58 and freak out a little. I vow to slow it down and hit miles 2 and 3 in 8:20 and 8:29. I realize at mile 3 that I already have a mile over pace. I try to not let myself get discouraged.
My legs felt great! The wind was insane ... 25 mph gail force winds. Great! Two girls pass me and I swear I hear them say they're going for 8 minute miles and I think they're running the half. I decide to pick up the pace and stay with them. Drafting is much better than running in this wind. My next 3-4 miles are between 8:04-8:12 I hit mile 5 and I'm 1:30 ahead of pace. I feel good, so I don't worry about it. We are running in the emergency lane the same direction the traffic is going. The trucks are zooming by at 70 mph ... or so it seems!
When we approached the point for the half marathoners to turn around, the girls don't leave. Hmmm. I talk to them for a second and realize they're trying to run a 3:40. We're a little too ahead of pace, so I let them continue on. I get stuck on this long, hilly bridge with all of the wind by myself. I hit the next mile in 8:17 and am happy.
Around mile 8-9, I start worrying a little. I realize that I haven't smiled once and I'm already wishing that the race would be over. I'm starting to worry about the lack of water and the sun is coming out. The wind is brutal. I'm fighting it so badly and it's worse than the actual hills (which are the devil). I keep telling myself to be strong and to believe. I say a million prayers and simply just ask God for the strength to do my very best and for strength to not give up.
The hill at mile 10 was the worst. As I climb the half mile + incline, I see my pace dip down. I tell myself that it's okay and that I can make it up on the downhill. Once I get to the down hill, I realize my pace isn't picking up ... the wind is pushing against me. My ipod falls out of my ears three times on this stretch and the dust from the cars is blowing in my eyes. Mile 10 - 8:45 I'm at 1:22:40, though ... which is still ahead of schedule.
I keep pushing but it gets harder. I'm so mad because my legs felt great that day!! The feel incredible, but everything seems to be going against me. I think of Penny and Stephanie and how this is their first marathon. I ache for them ... this is not something they should be experiencing! :(
I hit mile 11 in 8:41. I'm upset. I'm already off pace. I'm even more upset. I feel good but I know the wind is wasting my energy. The only thing that is keeping me going is that I'm almost off of the bridge. There is a two mile loop once I get off and then I get to head back.
I get off of the bridge and Penny's brother hands me water! He was an angel! The neighborhood has no shade, either. At this point, I just keep telling myself to get to the half way point. It's the only mat on the course and I just want to be there. I hit mile 12 in 8:41 again and realize that my cushion is going away and that I'm not hitting 3:40 today - not under these circumstances.
Around mile 12.6, I make a decision to stop at the half way point. I know this is quitting ... but I didn't want to waste my legs. I don't want the recovery that comes with the marathon. I don't want a 3:45. Everything was going against me and I gave in. Right or wrong, I stop right after I hit 13.1. There was no clock, but my garmin read 1:49:34.
There were not any medical/aid stations on this course. After I walk .4 tenths back, I realize this is an out and back course and pray that John (Penny's brother) is still at the base of the bridge. I walk .4 tenths before any runners pass me. I was out there alone. It felt worse than a solo training run. My training runs have been crowd support and water stops. :/ I jog about a mile back to John, in tears, as I'm just ready to be done. I'm upset with myself for quitting but nothing in me wants to do this. Running isn't fun. I'm sad ...I keep crying.
I have a minor meltdown once I reach John. I borrow his phone and call David. Saying the words "I quit" isn't easy! I ask John to take to the finish line so I can see Penny and Stephanie finish.
I tell him to not let them know I stopped if for some reason they ask when they see him. I don't want it to mess with them mentally. This is my fifth marathon and their first. I can't let them know yet.
As we drive to the finish line, we see Penny. She's on pace and looking strong. She's second overall female. I hope that she holds onto it.
I get to the finish line and find myself excited. I tell the timing people that I stopped (just in case my chip picks up near the finish line).
I get so excited as Penny nears. Sure enough, she comes in looking strong. She finishes 2nd female in 3:20:14 - what a debut marathon! I get lots of pictures and get to witness her first finish. This in itself makes my decision worthwhile!! :) This girl has amazing potential. She definitely has a sub 3:10 in her .. especially after finishing in these conditions. We talk about the race and how horrible it was. She said she thought about me a lot and was so upset that I had such bad conditions to run in, too. Penny was walking fine and felt great ... simply amazing!
As the clock crosses 3:40, I have another breakdown. This one lasts about ten minutes. I kept seeing runners finish and was so upset. I was mostly upset because I kenw I was as good of a runner as them and that I just haven't proven it in a race yet! (I mean that with all the respect in the world).
I collect myself for Penny and Stephanie. Now is a time to celebrate and I don't want to interfere with their finishes!!
Stephanie finishes in 4:38. What a crazy first race. That girl definitely has a sub 4:15 in her!! :)
We all laugh and talk and take pictures. What a day! We definitely won't ever forget this. There isn't any ice at the finish line, or cold water. They have soft drinks and chips - but that's it.
Since the race is super small, I talked to the race director. He gave me a half marathon medal and said that he would use my half split as a half marathon finisher time.
I looked online Sunday and much to my surprise, I finished 5th in the half marathon. I was 5th female out of 126. Not so bad since I was pacing for the full.
I'm at peace with my decision now. I have my eyes set for a redemption race very soon and already have a new schedule from my coach. The best part about running a half on Saturday is that I was able to run on Monday and I don't have to recover. Still, though, I'm sad. I wanted to run Apalachicola .... but, I learned my lesson: no more inaugural marathons for me!!
Check out mine and Penny's medal ... they had already broken.