Country Music Marathon
Saturday, April 25, 2009
So I am sitting on my couch, ice packs on my legs and not able to move a muscle... but so excited to share our exciting Marathon experience with you. My husband, Scott and I arrived in Nashville around lunchtime on Friday and went straight to the Marathon Expo where we picked up our race packets, got a few souvenir hats and looked at all the gear they had to sucker you into buying. We also sampled all sorts of energy drinks, energy bars, got a few other samples and checked out the booths. We went to dinner--wonderful local Italian place--and got back to the hotel by 6:30pm. Party animals, huh?
Our alarms went off at 4:30am and after actually sleeping for several hours, our day had begun. Of course we had all of our gear laid out (shorts, shirt, sports bra, socks, sunscreen, body glide, shoes, race number, shoe tracking device, shoe wallet, hat, sunglasses, heart rate monitor, iPod), so we got dressed and ate our usual pre-run breakfast. Of course as y'all know, I am a freak about being late, so as the clock got to 5:20, we raced down the STAIRS (not elevator of course) to catch the shuttle to the race at 5:30. We make the shuttle, no freak out needed... or so I thought. As we are checking our bag for everything, I tell Scott he has forgotten his iPod so he decides that he has time to run back into the hotel, back to our room to grab it. A few minutes later the bus tries to LEAVE!! Yes, there's the first panic attack! But luckily, the bus driver says he was just pulling up and he would wait. Crisis diverted. When Scott returns, I tell him what happened and ask what he was planning to do if the bus wouldn't wait. He tells me, "I figured you would have gotten off the bus," (and then we both would have missed our only ride to the start... that would not have been a good way to start the morning.) I was not amused, but at least one of us was calm.
So it seems like our thought-to-be 15-minute ride to the start would give us enough time to stretch, go to the bathroom, find our corrals (where we were supposed to start based on predicted finish time) before the 7:00am start. As soon as Scott said the bus ride seemed kinda long (its already 5:50), and I say "I am sure the bus driver knows where he's going" the bus driver makes a U-turn in a parking lot and tells us--a bus full of nervous soon to be marathoners--that he's "turned around" and we'll be there shortly. Mini-panic attack again. When we finally get to the start at close to 6:20, we have to run to check our gear bag, find a place to stretch and then part ways to go get in place at the start line. This was a sad moment, when we kissed good-bye, told each other good luck and headed to our respective port-o-potties. The nerves really hit me at this point because now I was all alone.
I knew a bathroom stop before the race was crucial so even though it was 6:40, I jumped in one of the 50+ person lines and waited my turn. It actually went by pretty quickly and I was in my corral at 6:55 and ready to go. Then the waiting game. Scott, on the other hand, chose a longer bathroom line and got to his corral at 7:03, right when his group was walking to the start line. And he was off. I had to wait and slowly move forward until about 7:23 until it was our time to go. I made a friend at the start and we stayed together for the first three miles before she had to walk and I lost her. It was nice to have a partner for the first few miles. I forgot the most important part, at the start, 7:00am, I think it was about 68 degree, but an otherwise beautiful, clear day. The first five or so miles were OK, lots of spectators through downtown Nashville and through some rolling hills, but none too bad. The heat, however was climbing and although my body was feeling pretty good (my sore shin was cooperating) it was already really hot but as I reached the water station at Mile 5, someone yelled "GO TIGERS" at me and my LSU shirt, so that gave me a little boost. Then, right before Mile 6, Scott passed me going the other way--that part of the course looped around--and we yelled hello (as he was about two miles ahead of me), and that was the last time I would see him until the end.
The next six miles got hotter and when we hit the part of the course where there was a split and the half marathoners (all 25,000 of them) were to stay to the right and all of the marathoners (all 3800 of us) were to stay left. There was an Elvis impersonator with a megaphone yelling which way to go. Right past the split was a sign that said "ONLY 15 miles left to go." I turned to the man running next to me and pointed to the sign and we both laughed, like we needed the reminder at that point, in the now for sure 80+ heat. Side note, the split was pretty well marked but as we were eating breakfast this morning, the guy at the table next to us saw me hobbling in and asked if we ran the marathon. He then asked if we thought the split was marked well and then said he was running in a group and didn't see the split and ended up doing the half marathon instead of the full marathon. He said when he crossed the finish line, he was still running and trying to get people out of his way and finally a race official asked him what he was doing, he said "I have to keep running, I'm only halfway done." The race official had to tell the poor guy that the race was over, that he took a wrong turn and couldn't get back on the course. All that training after four months, he was really disappointed.
By now, the temperature was at 85 degrees and where it would stay for the rest of the race. Not a cloud in the sky, which meant no shade anywhere. This is where I started struggling and part of me really wanted to go to the right and just do the half myself, but I pushed on. At this point, I tell myself that I must be crazy. By now, it was so hot that a lot of people were walking and I was drinking a full cup of Cytomax (gatorade type drink) and a full cup of water and pouring a cup of water on my head at every water station. The heat was really getting to me and I realized that if I didn't do something, I wasn't going to make it....so I did something I NEVER thought I would do. I took off the gray LSU t-shirt that I was wearing and continued the rest of my run in my sports bra. I had a brief thought of having to do that earlier that morning when I was getting dressed but chose to wear my white sports bra (that should not be worn alone) instead of the darker blue one that would have been ok shirtless, so that if I was faced with the thought of removing my shirt, I wouldn't do it. The blistering heat makes you do crazy things, like run in a white sports bra for 14 miles... thank God I didn't know any of those people.
Miles 13-17 were through sort of a shady part of town, where there were extra race workers (aka security) and even a table where people were handing out shots of beer, one whiff and I wanted to vomit. The only thing I wanted was more water it seemed like no matter how much I took, I could not cool off. This part of the race continued around a lake on a levy, where most of the people were walking, but like the tortoise (in the tortoise and the hare), very slowly I continued running. At this point, I realize my goal time of finishing in less than 4 1/2 hours was shot and the only important thing was staying hydrated (aka not collapsing) and finishing the race. At the medical stations, they were handing out little fast food like packets of salt for you to eat to try to keep the water retention in your body. So as I passed a few of the stations I poured salt in my mouth and washed it down with some water and now very hot GU. Who does that?
We ran by a cool part of town between miles 18 and 20 and while there was a band at every mile on a stage (not anything special), Scott told me later that the lead singer saw his LSU shirt and as he ran by, said into the microphone, "Let's hear it for LSU!" and everyone cheered for him. He said that was probably the most memorable part of the race for him. I guess I did not get a shout out at that point because I was no longer wearing my LSU shirt but holding it. Neat. No reason to cheer for the girl in the white sports bra who would pass by about 30 minutes later. But we pressed on. At mile 20 the course again met up with the half marathoners, who by this part had been running/walking for over 3 1/2 hours and still not finished, so all the ones we saw were walking (I wanted to walk too!), but it was confusing as to where we were supposed to go and Scott and I both said later that we were afraid at this point that we had gone the wrong way, but luckily we had not and still had six more miles to go.
I can proudly say that I didn't have to stop and walk until somewhere around mile 21 or 22 and did so only when I stopped at one of the water stations. I never actually hit 'the wall' at the 20 mile point as many marathoners do. I think that is because I felt like I was running against a wall known as record high temperatures the whole time! I had lost one of my four GU's on the way so grabbed one at the 20 mile station (ORANGE--gross) and saved it for later. I was not a fan of the last six miles because like a few other parts of the race, was a loop, so you were running one way and you could see the people ahead of you coming towards you and I have never been more jealous! I saw mile marker 25 on the other side of the road when I was between miles 21 and 22 and thought I might die, but I continued on. At this point, I am still questioning whether or not I will actually be able to make it. At mile 24 I try the Orange GU and almost vomit because not only is it gross (I only had ever used Vanilla and Chocolate) but it was so hot. Not a good idea. When I crossed mile 25 that was the first time I said to myself that I was actually going to finish the race. I found my pump up song, Michael Jackson's "Black or White" on my iPod and ran the last mile. As we rounded the final turn and saw LP Field (the finish) I decided it was time to put my LSU shirt back on and head for the finish. During the home stretch, I was the only person within about 10 or so feet so I crossed the finish line by myself and threw my hands up as the clock reached 5:00. At that moment, I became a marathoner. It was awesome.
I caught my breath, took my medal, a water and a sponge that was handed to me to help me cool off. My legs were shaking and it was hard to walk after running that long. I got my picture taken and made my way though the winding path past tons of hot food that also made me want to vomit. How were people eating cookies, bananas, hot fruit cups, and pretzels right now... I only wanted one thing, to see Scott. We had gone to the finish line on Friday to find a meeting spot and I made a beeline for it. When I got there, Scott was nowhere to be found, but some girls sitting there yelled "LSU girl" at me and said Scott had gone to get a beer but told them to look for me. I paced back and forth for a few minutes to try to calm my legs down and when I saw Scott's purple LSU shirt come around the corner I ran (ok, not ran, hobbled) over to him, gave him a huge hug and kiss. I can honestly say that it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but we did it and we did it together. That is a moment that I will never forget.
The reality set it as we sat down, iced our sore bodies, both a little disappointed in our times (Scott finished in 4:15) but knew that in that heat, that was the best we could have done and we were lucky to have survived it at all. We learned later that day that 25+ people were taken to the hospital and a 26-year-old male collapsed when he crossed the finish line and died. It was the hottest Country Music Marathon in the 10 years of the race. We bathed, iced and napped back at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon and somehow managed to get out and enjoy a celebratory dinner (and several martinis) at Fleming's. I did not expect my body to hurt this badly, but it was worth it. When you work so hard for something for such a long time, the satisfaction of accomplishing your goal is worth a very 'classy' sports bra sunburn, a leg you can barely walk on and not being able to move for the next week or so.
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