Thursday, October 24, 2013

7 Bridges Marathon

I ran my first marathon on Sunday.  Seven Bridges Marathon.  Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I turned 40 in July.  It seemed like the thing to do.  Mark a big milestone with another one!

   Here is the back story…I started the Couch to 5K app on 3/5/2012.  I went a whopping 1.92 miles with an 11:41 run pace and a 13:50 walk pace.  I quit the program.  I quit it a lot.  Then I would start back up.  I did finally finish it but wasn't a very regular runner.  I went to a conference with a fellow bookkeeper and seasoned runner the first of November.  We got up and ran 4 glorious miles on the University of Alabama campus.  I thought I would die but I did it!

On November 10, 2012, I ran my first 5K (Woodmeade Elementary Leadership) in 27:21.7 with an 8:48 pace.  I finished 6th in my age group and 28th overall.  On November 18, 2012, I ran the Gobble Wobble 5K at my children’s school.  A few seconds worse than the first one…27:41.3 with an 8:54 pace.  I placed 3rd in my age group and 26th overall.

Woodmeade Leadership 5K Run (L) – Gobble Wobble 5K (R)

I started running with my fellow bookkeeper’s group regularly in January.  On February 16th, I ran my first 10 miler.  I felt accomplished!  I decided to run some longer races.  On May 4th, I ran the Steeple Chase 8K in the pouring down rain.  I can remember thinking “This is crazy.  Am I really going to run in this monsoon?” I did and I finished in 43:02.7 minutes with an 8:40 pace.  I was 2nd in my age group and 44th overall.  On May 27th, I ran my first 10K.  Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, Alabama in 56:00 flat with a 9:00 pace.  I finished 808 overall and 25th in my age group.

Steeplechase 8K (L) – Cotton Row 10K (R)

When we run, we talk.  We talk a lot.  This group kept telling me that I could do a marathon.  They believed in me way before I believed in myself!  Several of them decided to run Seven Bridges Full/Four Bridges Half in Chattanooga.  I always said that if I ran one, I would want it to be somewhere fun!  I also knew looking at some marathon training programs that I would need to start mid-June to be prepared for those 7 Bridges.

On June 16th, I half way committed and started the 18 week Hal Higdon Novice I training program.  I remember sitting down in my kitchen and writing it all down on a pink piece of paper.  I planned on running 3-4 days a week and continuing with my boot camp 2 days a week.  I hadn’t registered.  I still had time to back out!  I started the training plan and even allowed myself to book a hotel room (Hey, I could cancel that the day of arrival).

I trained all summer.  Thankfully it was a mild one!  Most of the people I run with work for the school system like me so we all have our summers off.  We still would start early trying to beat the heat, but just knowing I could go home and kick my feet up until the kids woke up helped tremendously!  School started back mid-August and we continued with our training saving the long runs for Saturdays.

I finally officially registered for my first marathon on Thursday, September 26th.  I really wanted to wait until after the 20 mile training run scheduled for that Saturday but I had seen where the race was filling up fast.  I had not trained for almost 15 weeks to be denied registration!  So I bit the bullet.  That Saturday (September 28th), I ran my first 20 miler and survived.  Actually I felt fabulous afterwards!  For the first time I felt I could actually make it the entire 26.2 miles.

Here we are mid 20 (missing a few regulars).  We stopped back at the cars for drinks and peanut butter & honey sandwiches!

(Jennifer-just starting back after baby, Heather & Barbara-running NYC, me, Lindsay-7 Bridges, Jackie-Rock&Roll Vegas, Paige-7 Bridges and Stacy-Huntsville)

The week of the marathon was finally here.  Tapering had begun.  I will be honest; it was probably the hardest part of the entire training.  It felt so weird not to get up before the crack of dawn each morning.  Monday I ran 3 miles.  Tuesday I went to boot camp where we jumped roped.  Wednesday I walked 2.5 miles then ran for 2 more miles.  Thursday I planned my last short run but it was raining when I got up so I crawled back in the bed!  Friday (feeling guilty I didn’t do a thing the day before) I did go to my boot camp where we did stations with lots of arms mixed in with some calf raises & squats.  I hoped I wasn’t messing up.  I hoped on Sunday I wasn’t going to regret going to that last boot camp.

Friday was the Fall Frenzy at Banks and Mary Reese’s school.  We stayed until about 6:30 then met some other friends at a local pizza joint for a dinner.  I stayed up a little later than normal (My alarm wasn’t set for before 5:00 AM for the first time in a long time.) to finalize my “Run Like The Wind” playlist for Sunday.  Saturday we dropped Mary Reese off with my mother and headed to Banks’s first football playoff game on the other side of Huntsville.  It started at 1:00 and by the time it was over I was itching to be in Chattanooga.  All my other race friends were there having fun without me!  Thankfully they were able to pick up my packet since I wasn’t positive I would make the Saturday pickup.  After the game, my in-laws took Owen and Jody, Banks and I headed towards Chattanooga.

We made it to the Courtyard Marriott Downtown (where we were all staying) before 5 (6 local time).  We got checked in and I picked up my packet from my friends.  Then it hit me…”Wow I am really about to run 26.2 miles and the longest race I have ever done is a 10K!”  Banks, Jody and I headed to the Big River Grille & Brewing Works so I could carb up and we could watch the Alabama/Arkansas game.  Banks hit Ben & Jerry’s before heading to the room.  That boy is a bottomless pit.  We called the front desk to secured a later check out.  1:00 PM.  YES!  Hopefully I would finish in time to shower before heading home.  I slept pretty good and the boys even let me have my own bed.

We all planned to meet in hotel lobby at 5:45 so Jody and Banks could shuttle the five of us runners over to the start line.  I got up that morning and was layering for the weather when I realized that my socks didn’t make it in my bag.  OMG what was I going to do?  I couldn’t run without them!  I thought I might be forced to wear Jody’s.  I text my friends and thankfully they brought me two extra pairs to choose from.
We all made it down to the lobby and posed for a group shot before making our way to the Start Line.

Lindsay (first full), Beth (half), me (first full), Paige (full) & Betsy (4th full)
First Timers!
Sweet Betsy and Paige gave us first timers a little treat.  A sweaty band, a 26.2 magnet and some ever important GUs.

We parked the car in the perfect spot.  I could see the finish line from our parking space.  Jody made a plan to meet Beth after her half.  The boys walked us to the starting line and we said our good byes (I run with my phone so Banks and Jody could track me using the Find My Friends App).  Paige is part Kenyan so she went up with the big dogs.  Lindsay and I were first timers so we just followed Betsy’s lead since this was her 4th!  She was shooting to finish between 4:00 and 4:15.  It was hard to find the pacers.  We finally found the 3:45 pacer and just decided to start there (we didn’t want to get too far back in the line).  Our thought was we could drop back once the runners started to thin out.  They played the national anthem and then we were off in the dark!  Here I go…running my very first marathon at 40 years old!  I have spent the last 18 weeks running (sometimes in the pouring rain) over 450 miles preparing for this moment!
Almost immediately we crossed our first bridge on Market Street.  It was beautiful.  The moon was full, the fog was rising off the river.  Truly breathtaking!  We quickly hit our first mile with a 9:18 pace.  We ran past the aquarium and right beside our hotel.  We followed Riverfront Parkway along the river then turn around to head back to our second bridge.  We hit mile 5 right after starting the 2nd bridge (P R Olgiati), all still feeling fabulous!  We crossed the bridge and headed back through Coolidge/Renaissance Park.  Music (All I Do Is Win) was blaring, we were singing/fist pumping along, the spectators were cheering and we were caught up in the moment.  I kept thinking I would see Jody and Banks cheering but later found out they were pigging out on a delicious breakfast at Good Dogs. 

Then all of a sudden we were running through this grassy area to get back to the road.  Weird.  We crossed our 3rd bridge (Veterans) where I snapped this photo.

The moon is still visible, the fog and the sun are rising.  So peaceful!  We were running at a 9:08 average pace, still amazed at how great we were feeling.  We hit mile 7 at the end of the bridge.  We came off the bridge and did a little turn around (which I liked because you could see people ahead and behind you).  I made the turn and heard someone screaming “Willis” and immediately knew it was someone from college.  I looked left and it was Amy Webb Martin, my roommate in the AXO sorority house our Senior year.  She had been in front of us at some point because we were all admiring her shirt.  Then we started (to me) the boring part of the race.  Miles of just boring highway.  Around mile 9 the half marathoners turned back.  I remember saying to myself “I am so glad I decided on the full because I feel AMAZING!”  I took my first GU at mile 10.  Peanut Butter.  My fav!
We crossed our 4th bridge (C. B. Robinson) at mile 13.  We were all still together.  We had been running for just under 2 hours, averaging a 9:05 pace.  We knew the 4:00 pacer was behind us but didn’t know how close he was.  We made our way along the river to 5th bridge (Thrasher Bridge).  The bridge going over the dam.   The mile 15 marker was right before the bridge.  I walked through that water station and did an Orange GU I picked up on the course (I was saving my Peanut Butter ones for the end).  My two friends took a little bit longer at the station than I did.  I started up that hill over the 5th bridge (the dam bridge) all by myself!  I stripped off my long sleeve shirt, crammed in my earbuds and cranked up the music (I had been running with 1 earbud in so I could still talk with my friends with a little back ground music).  I was by myself but I had Adam (Levine), Zac (Brown) and Tim(McGraw) for entertainment.  It was a rough hill.  I had the 3:55 pacer in my sight.  I could also see this amazing seventy year old man kind of speed walking/running.  I couldn’t believe it had taken me almost 16 miles to catch his guy!  He inspired me all the way up that hill.  I gave him a “Good Job” as I passed him about halfway over the bridge.  I survived the bridge and still had that 3:55 pacer in my sights!
Then I headed back towards the river.  I did another GU at mile 18 and started the home stretch…miles 19-25 winding through the Tennessee Riverpark.  My quads really started burning during this stretch but I kept pretty much kept the same pace (9:10).  I crossed my 6th bridge during mile 20 and took another GU at 21.  I remember a volunteer at one of the aid stations offering me the biggest rice krispie treat I had ever seen.  There was no way I could eat that on the run but it would have been fabulous at the finish line.  At some point I was running beside the 3:55 and the 4:00 pacer.  We walked through a couple of aid stations together and then the 4:00 guy took off.  I asked the 3:55 pacer if he was on track.  He said he thought he would finish a little early.  I remember thinking “I might actually get under a 4:00 time.”  I ended up leaving him and made my way up this huge hill leading to the Art District during mile 24.  I passed these beautiful huge houses we passed on a different road around mile 7.  I discovered one of those houses was a bakery.  I so could have run in there devouring everything in sight!  Mile 24 was the longest mile of my entire life.  I didn’t ever think I would see the mile 25 marker.
Finally mile 25 came with a set of steps.  Nice!  Stairs.  Just what I wanted to run down after running for almost 4 hours.  I made it without toppling down.  I ran through the Art District and finally had the 7th and final (Walnut Street) bridge in sight.  I made my way across the pedestrian only bridge.  I could see the finish line below me.  I passed several runners wearing their metals walking towards me, all cheering me on to the finish.  I came off the bridge at mile 26 and turned towards the finish line.  I was greeted with this downhill section leading to the finish line.  I was almost there!  I took out my earbuds so I could enjoy the cheers.  This downhill section was KILLING my quads but I could see the FINISH LINE! 
I made it!  I actually ran 26.2 miles!  I am a MARATHONG FINISHER.  A volunteer handed me my finsher medal, an ice cold waterbottle and a box of fuel food.

Banks and Jody were waiting with roses. 

My gun time was 4:01:19 with an official chip time was 4:00:20.967.  I was the 160 person to cross the finish line, the 44 woman and the 4th one in my age group (40-44).  Not too shabby for my first one!

We hung around at the finish line for the rest of the group to finish.  Snapped a few group pics before heading back to the room.

(Paige-the 3rd Woman to Finish, me, Betsy, Beth & Lindsay) 
I quickly jumped in the hottest shower I could stand for as long as I could stand it.  Then all of a sudden it hit me…I am STARVING!  We went straight to Good Dogs where Susan and the rest of her crew took care of me.  I devoured not 1 but 2 of her wonderful store made hot dogs topped with homemade pimento cheese and crispy fried bacon and some of their hand cut fries sprinkled with Dog Dust and dipped in some house made Honey Mustard.  It was the perfect recover meal!

This is how great the Good Dogs crew was...

My legs are finally back to normal.  I did run 4 miles this morning and survived!  I am ready to think about running another one. Now to decide which one.  All my friends are signed up for Rocket City.  What's a girl to do?