Saturday, January 23, 2016

Baby's First Marathon

I've been asked if I was planning on blogging about my marathon experience. I said probably not, but I am feeling the muse, so I might as well go with it. Especially now that it has been a month and a half and I've had time to analyze and over analyze and forget the pain of the last 6 miles. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here is the take away: it's definitely true when people say the first half of the marathon is 20 miles and the last half is the 6.2. 

I don't have any amazing finish line photos because I'm too cheap to buy them, so here I am in my CIM shirt. These are my adult clothes.

After my failed attempt to make it to the start line at the spring marathon, I was kind of devastated. All of that training for no reason. I had even done a 21-miler! My hip had been feeling better and my I had started increasing my milage. Talking with my coach, he decided I should go for it. Karen had asked if I wanted to start training for California International Marathon with her and her husband, and I stupidly said yes.

So, we ran. All fall. We ran and ran and ran some more. We ran all of our long runs together except for one, where we all ended up being in different places and Poor Karen was stuck running 20 miles by herself while I ran 15 with my coach and Matthew ran 14 by himself in some other state on a work trip. We even had a destination 20-miler in beautiful weather.

It is really helpful to bring along boys to hand you your fuel and water. Ten out of ten, would recommend.

I had zero goals in mind for this marathon. I just wanted to finish it healthy. I had heard too many horror stories of terrible first marathons and I had no desire to finish like that. I wanted to have fun and experience the specialness that is the marathon. During my training I learned that I can't handle GU. It's disgusting and makes me gag. Chomps are totally the way to go. I also learned that salt tabs work miracles.

I drove down on Friday and stopped in the town my coach lives in. We spent the evening obsessing over the course. He had run it the year before and PRd (uh, 2:38, he's kind of fast...) so he knew the course already. It's technically a downhill course and is "the fastest marathon in the west," but after running it, I don't believe it. Karen said that it's just as hilly, if not more so, than the Boston course. So Coach wrote out a plan for me that I was supposed to carry with me for 26.2 miles.

Yeah, I left that in the hotel room while I ran, but it was hilarious. He stressed over and over and over that I needed to go out at a 9 minute mile and maintain that pace for the first 6 miles, then slowly decease my pace. The marathon is a real beast and going out too fast will kill you in the end. He knows my pattern of going out way to fast, so he adamant about me going out slow.

Saturday, after a 2 mile shakeout run, I headed to Sacramento and met up with Karen and Matthew. We had Thai for dinner (another thing I learned during my training was that green curry with rice is the best long run fuel). We woke up at 4:30 and were at the busses by 5. 

They brought Zoey because she wasn't feeling well.

I didn't take my phone with me because the weather called for rain, so I have zero pictures from the beginning, middle, and end. I know, really bad blogging form. The race started promptly at 7. Both Karen and Matt were going for PRs, so we said our goodbyes at the start line. The gun went off and I began my first marathon. I was SO proud of myself when mile one beeped on my watch and it was exactly a nine minute mile. Of course, I naturally sped up, but every time I looked down because I felt too fast, I backed down. I ended up with pretty consistent splits for the first 21 miles! I was so proud of myself. I saw my coach at mile 20 and he was really proud of how I was running.

It was really great to see him because I was having a mild panic attack about how I still had about an hour more to run. He told me to breathe and that everyone around me was also falling apart. Everyone else hurt as much as I did. He also told me that this was the most physical pain I will experience besides child birth and that the marathon was preparing me for that. As someone who isn't planning on having kids ever, I turned to him and said, "I've been running for over three hours and YOU'RE the delusional one?!?"

I think this was mile 24. I was totally falling apart at this point. But so was the guy next to me.

The last 5k is pancake flat. I've never had a 5k go so slow. My mental game was way off by this point. I knew how long a 5k would take me at the pace I was running and it sounded like forever. I tried to just breathe and take in the scenery. Everyone on the course was amazingly supportive. When I saw the finish line, all I could think about was sitting down. I didn't tear up. I don't even think I realized that I had run a freaking marathon, I just wanted a nap! But I had finished! I had run a really smart race. And I had finished significantly under four hours, which was secretly my A goal. 

We sat on the grass for awhile. I didn't want anything sweet. I had taken in fuel every six miles and electrolyte drinks at every aid station. I tried to eat a bite of banana, but couldn't handle it. I also tried to find the bag check, but kept having to sit down because I felt like I was going to pass out. I finally stomached some tomato soup which was the best, most deliciously salty soup I've ever had in my life.

Matt and Karen both ran really great races. I am so, so grateful for them.

We began the long walk (maybe a quarter of a mile) back to the hotel. We were all limping (except Coach, as he had not just run a marathon). We showered and headed out into the fall wonderland to find food.

After lunch (I still wasn't handling good very well and only managed a few bites of green curry and rice) and goodbyes to Matthew and Karen, I headed back (about a 2 hour drive) to Coach's house where I promptly laid down for a nap. I still had a four hour drive home because I was working in the morning. Around 6pm, my appetite came back and I was ravenous. I knew immediately that I NEEDED to eat pizza. Coach went on a gluten free pizza hunt and ordered me the best pizza I've ever tasted. 

I made the decision to just fall asleep at nine and wake up really early to make it to work on time. It was the best decision I've ever made and slept like a baby. I even made it to work almost on time!

Overall, the marathon was a very positive experience. It's been a month and a half and I still have no desire to run one again anytime soon. Many people have said that they are addicting and I will want to keep running them, but I haven't felt that at all. I was incredibly proud of my time and how I managed to stay consistent in my splits for 21 miles. I was also very proud of my training and for making it to the start line almost healthy. I couldn't have done it without Karen and Matt's undying support and the gazillions of miles and hours of advice they gave me. I also could not have done it without my coach, my best friend, my partner in life. He may be four hours away, but we still managed to run at least 4 of my long runs together. I gave me advice and listened to me bitch when my training felt horrible. He got me through the last 6 miles of the marathon when I thought I was going to die. 

Those three believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I can never repay them. I finished a marathon! I now know that I can do pretty much anything I put myself through. I can do hard things. 

I'm not sure what's up next. Right now, I'm enjoying running what I want when I want, but I know I need to train for something. I definitely love the half the most, so I may focus on that for awhile. Who knows? I just know I want to keep running for as long as I possibly can and this year is going to be about learning to listen to my body. 

Thank you all for reading and supporting me, even though I disappeared for awhile!


  1. That last photo of us made me giggle. I don't remember taking that one. Like, at all. Hehe. So cute that my Zoey made your race report. Right now, she's hanging with us in Medford and is really pissed I keep sleeping in "her" spot at night.

  2. I would say your first marathon was a HUGE success!!! I have had marathons where the last 6 miles were fine, but I would say maybe only 1 or 2?? The rest- PAIN, DISCOMFORT, TIRED, WHY DID I DO THIS!!!??? And you finished in under 4 hours! That is AWESOME!!! Not only that, but injury free. Way to go, Rachel!!!! :) Thanks for writing about it.

  3. Congratulations on your first marathon!!!! I still remember so many details of my first marathon as well. I've definitely run marathons where I thought I'd die during the last ten km. Those are the ones I remember the most, lol.

  4. I seriously love that race plan - let 1000+ idiots pass you! HAHAHA!

    You may be the first blogger in history to run a marathon without posting about your training and plan and goals etc! I love it. I love that you didn't buy pictures. Seriously, it's so clear that you did this for YOU, and you were wildly successful. Thank you for giving us a recap!!