Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Marathon (and everything leading up to it!)

March 2oth has come and gone, which means so has my first marathon. What a road traveled! Looking back on my training, it went as well as it could have considering. And my speed "test" of doing the Silver Comet 10K the week before the marathon went really well, shaving almost 5 1/2 minutes off my fastest 10K time last year. But, let's be honest, I had to start training long before March 20th. To that end, it came about rather fortuitously in running friend Tracy offering to be my marathon coach back in November. Best decision I made, as without a plan I could look at, and therefore adhere to, I would have been training with no real sense of direction or focus.

Started the training the week after the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving. 4 running days a week, 3 short runs Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a long run on Saturdays. With some sort of cross-training or easy run on Sundays and Mondays and Fridays my rest days. The Saturday long runs would get progressively longer, building up to a 20-22 mile run 3 weeks before the marathon.

Then, lucky me, I also won via the door prize giveaway at the GUTS EOY in December, 2 months of training from Janice! So she asked questions and I answered, and she came up with a plan for me that incorporated speed work into my marathon training. So what's a girl to do with two plans? Combine them, of course! Now my Wednesday night runs turned into my speedwork nights. Whew! Having never run track before, this was a new experience. But, onward I pressed, determined to get myself ready for the 26.2 mile trek through the wilds of Atlanta.

Funny how life reaches out and slaps you just for kicks to remind you that it doesn't always stick to the plan you have. Such was the case when I developed strep throat in February and lost close to 2 weeks of training. But, even recovering from strep didn't keep me from running, it just kept me from the distances I was shooting for. I swept the SweetH2O Half Marathon on 2/13/11, or attempted to. That was slow going and only managed 9 miles that day. Ah well, I tried not to let it throw me off too much. Finally made it to week 15 and my longest run of the training programs, 20-22 miles. Came close to the 22, hit it at 21.8 and was happy with it.

Race day rolled around rather quickly after the SC 10K. I slept fitfully after about 1am until I just got up around 5:15 and jumped in the shower. Kim F. called just before 6am and said she was downtown and wanted to meet before the start so I finished getting ready and headed downstairs to meet up with her. I managed to eat half of a plain bagel with pb and about 2/3 of a banana, then we both hit the restrooms and headed outside to find our respective corrals.

That helped, having her to shoot the breeze with, took my mind off what was coming. But then it was time for me to find my corral after we found hers. And off I went, and went, and went. Corral O, as in Oh good grief, will they send up a flare to let us know the race starts? Anyway, waited, and waited, and waited, then our group finally started moving forwards little by little. We didn't actually cross the starting line until 13+ minutes after the clock started, what fun! But away I went, and managed to keep my pace to a slower one instead of charging full tilt. Made it to the first water stop feeling good, and grabbed 2 half full cups of water, something I made myself do at every hydration stop along the way. An hour in I was coming up on another station, so pulled out my bag and grabbed an s-cap and 2 gels and took them both with the water. That was something else I made myself adhere to.

The miles were getting crossed off, but it got a little lonelier once the half marathoners split off just after mile 7. Now it was just those of us lucky devils who had 19 miles to go, not 6. I stayed feeling good and a pretty decent pace all the way to mile 16. After that, well, let's just say that miles 16 through 20 were killer, almost one continuous hill it felt like. It was hard to push myself to run after that. Luckily Sarah put in her 2nd appearance just before mile 20 and tempted me onward to where her car was parked with the promise of beer. Beer you say? During a marathon, and your first at that? Why not! It wasn't a lot, a few mouthfuls, and a decent amount of nutter butters. I know, I know, what a combination! But the running Gods were smiling upon me that day and I had NO stomach issues at all!

After mile 20 we made our way over to Piedmont Park, where Kim P. was set up to cheer everyone on. Had to run past her to do the out and back, and I actually started feeling better once I made the turn to come back out. Stopped by Kim and grabbed a carrot with some dip, and then they kicked me on down the road. Off I went, out of the park and back up yet another hill. Sarah was "illegally" bike pacing me with her friend Melissa, so by the time we passed the 23 mile mark, she knew what to say to get me moving. Out of nowhere she says "Kirsten, start running" "Why?" "There's someone you need to pass" "Sarah, I'm not here to pass anyone, I just want to finish!" "Kirsten, just start running", and so I did, and I passed the couple that most likely started before me, and were walking. Then just before mile 24 I passed the guy I'd been playing "tag" with starting back around mile 15, and never saw him again! I think I managed to pass a few more people after that, Sarah says I smelled the barn. Which is probably true. I knew I was going to finish, later than I though, but given the hills on the course, I was just going to be damn happy to finish.

Everything was hurting after mile 25 though, and it was hard to keep going, but I wasn't about to stop. Finally when the 1/4 mile to the finish sign came in view, I started running, and ran it all the way in, past Craig taking my picture and past my girls with their fabulous sign, all cheering for me as I crossed that finish line. I wanted to cry, I wanted to sit down, but I kept moving, getting my medal, the mylar blanket, some water, then food, then my picture taken, then I was back inside the park and there was Sarah and Melissa, and Craig and the girls.

This was hard, but I did it. In hindsight had I known how BAD those hills would kick my butt, I would have trained better. But it's lesson learned and I've a brief respite before the next race.

Coming up:

Talladega Half Marathon - 4/3/11
Peachtree Road Race - 7/4/11
Make it by Midnight Marathon in Macon - 7/16/11 YES! Another marathon. :)
Silver Comet Half Marathon - 10/29/11
Soldier's Half Marathon - 11/12/11
Peachtree City 50K - 11/13/11 A 50K?!?! Really? That's the plan!

Crazy? You bet!

I've got to thank Tracy and Janice again, their help and encouragement was instrumental in getting me to train for the marathon. Also a big thank you to Kim F. for being there that morning, a big thank you to Sarah for being there (with beer and nutter butters!) those last 6.5 miles or so, a big thank you to Kim P. for hanging out probably long after anyone else she'd known had been through and a big thank you to Kate for the hug at the finish line!

Of course, I have to give an extra big thank you to Craig, Chelsea and Reann for being so supportive during this entire process and for being my "finish line posse"! A girl couldn't ask for better family.

And a final, though no less enthusiastic and appreciative, THANK YOU! to all who encouraged me throughout this and were just as thrilled as I was that I finished. Rogues, GUTS, friends and family, you all are awesome!


  1. Congratulations! I know it feels great to have that first marathon in the books. You ran a smart race!

  2. Congratulations! We're all very proud of how you took on the challenge and accomplished your goal. Well done!!