The day before:
I got up to Grand Rapids on Saturday at about 4pm. I met Abby and her boyfriend, Ben, at the expo and picked up our bibs, shirts, etc. Then we walked around downtown Grand Rapids a little and made a stop at Meijer to buy tissues and gloves. At Abby’s we made a very bland and boring dinner – plain pasta with parmesan and salt – and drank copious amounts of water. We also each had a mini pack of m&ms. By 9pm we were ready for bed – Abby had her ipod loaded up and we both were feeling sleepy enough. We were in bed and asleep by 9:30pm!
We woke up at 5am. Both of us had marathon/running dreams. I dreamed Abby and I had fantastic races; she dreamed we got to the race late and it was stressful. We had breakfast (coffee, quaker oatmeal squares cereal, raisins, and a peanut butter crunch clif bar for me; green tea, scrambled eggs, banana for Abby) and got our bibs pinned on and our chips on our shoes and took care of bathroom business (every runner’s first priority on race morning: a good poop).
At 6:30 we got in the car – Ben graciously got up early in order to drive us to the start. It was such a relief – we were able to sleep a little longer since Ben dropped us off and then parked instead of us going early to fight for a close parking spot. We bathroomed again and then stood in the start line together, talking, and taking pictures.
Ben nicely allowed me to wear his vest pre-race to keep warm. Are you jealous of our fancy gloves? They were a tween’s dream with pink and purple hearts and stars.
At about 5 til the start of the race Abby and I separated. The corrals had pacers and Abby wanted to stay between the 4:44 and 4:59; I wanted to go between 4:29 and 4:44. Plus, I think we both knew we needed to run our own race and not be pulled by the other person.
The first couple miles of the race were through downtown. Ben managed to find me around mile 3 or so and grab a picture.
After that I saw Ben again around mile 5 and saw Abby’s mom around mile 9, but didn’t see anyone else after that until after the finish. Surprisingly, this didn’t really bother me. Normally I crave seeing familiar faces (someone cares that I’m out here and feel like crap!) but I was feeling so good and other fans were so supportive and encouraging that I did okay without having my own personal fan club. At the second water stop Gatorade sounded sooo good. I debated, knowing it could throw off my stomach, but went for it. It tasted so delicious and I was glad I did. I knew the salt and electrolytes would help. From then on I had gatorade at every water station (about every 2-3 miles) until the end. I had some rice chex and pretzels every 40 minutes or so, and ate two orange slices at one aid station (tasted ah-maze-ing). I never got nauseous or felt like vomiting!
Here’s the thing I loved about this race: I had so much fun. At one point I was cruising down this big downhill and I started laughing to myself because I felt like a little kid! I was smiling almost the whole race because I was just loving the run and the weather, talking to people, chilling out by myself, seeing fans… it was everything I’ve always loved about running – the community of people, the solitude, the exploration of the outside, the sweat, the exertion, the relaxing pull of pace, friendly fans, and the sound of shoes. I was so so happy. Around mile 22 I started to get a little tired and wished that the miles would come up a little faster, but I never hit the wall, mentally or physically. Even at 22 I knew I would finish. The last three miles I was tired and starting to disconnect from my legs, but I just rode that high knowing I was so close to finishing and that I would not only hit my goal (PR) but beat my lofty goal, too (run 4:30)! I came in at 4:22:05!
After I finished I texted with Ben and found out when Abby would be coming through and got to cheer her through her first marathon finish! An awesome 4:50 for her – definitely making her goal of finishing below 5 hours!
(That’s not the finish but it’s a great pic of Abby running.)
Abby and I took some pictures together (those will be coming – they were on Ben’s camera) and then went back to the house and took hot showers. I had sweat salt caked all over my forehead in a white crust. It felt awesome to get clean. We ate some lunch (sandwiches and apples and pineapple) and watched some football and then I drove back home (2 hours). Dave and I watched a movie and ate dinner and then went to bed. I slept about 9.5 hours and woke up feeling a little stiff, but pretty good. I did a slow 3ish miles this morning to shake out my legs and they’re feeling a lot better.
This was by far my best race, not just because of my time, but because of how much I enjoyed it. It was everything racing and running is supposed to be – that edge of personal challenge, but also just getting out there and running and being with other runners! It was pretty much my perfect and ideal run and race. After two marathons this year feeling like I kind of blew it, it feels so good to know I ran the race I knew I could.
I’ve got more to say about the race itself – the expo, the swag, the course, the volunteers. I’ll leave that for another post – coming soon!