Saturday began with my alarm at 3:40 a.m. I washed my face, put on sunscreen, ate a Paleo pancake topped with almond butter for breakfast, applied my PaceTat and a Nuun tattoo, and got dressed.
I thought the PaceTat was going to be my ticket to glory, but instead, I think it was part of my downfall. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
My future mother-in-law, Greta, arrived at 5:00 to pick me up, but I wasn’t ready until 5:15 because I was busy triple-checking that I had everything. And then we were off!
It took us only about 15 minutes to reach Seattle Center and park in the Mercer Street garage, thanks to the fact that I paid $40 for an InTune upgrade, which included a reserved parking spot right next to the finish line. There was no traffic. No jockeying for a parking spot. No running on the freeway to the start line. WIN WIN WIN.
The upgrade also gave us access to a special pre-race area, which included private porta-potties with hand-washing stations, private gear check, and warm, indoor seating with water, coffee, bagels and bananas. $40 well spent, in my opinion!
Greta and I arrived at the upgrade area around 5:45 and hung out there until 6:50 or so. It was great to be able to relax and chat with her! I drank lots of water, ate a Clif bar, and mayyyybe a banana? I honestly can’t remember.
Right before we headed to the start line, I applied another layer of sunscreen, used the porta-potties, and snapped a pic with Greta and the Space Needle peeking out from behind the trees.
One last pic before go time!
I wrote “I LOVE YOU, MOM” on my bib because my mom was so, so, so disappointed she couldn’t come to the race (treatment + race spectating = no bueno), and I wanted to let her know that she was still there with me in a way, through every step of every mile. This one was for you, Mommio.
The race had already started by the time I made my way to the corrals, but I was assigned to corral 11 (technically 12, but I bumped up at the expo) and had plenty of time to get to it. I noticed that the 3:55 pacer was in corral 10, so I actually jumped in there, even though I didn’t plan to keep up with the pacer.
And then we were off!
In the first mile, I actually had a little side stitch (whaaaaat) and had to pee a little, but I knew that feeling would go away. Sure enough, that first mile was 9:00 even — right on my goal pace — and I soon felt just fine.
Just after the mile two marker, we passed the Nuun headquarters! They had their own Nuun hydration station and were blasting fun music, but I didn’t pull over because I already had two bottles full of watermelon Nuun in my fuel belt. I’ll see all the Nuunies in August for Hood to Coast anyway!
I don’t have much to say about the rest of the miles through mile eight, since I just kept a steady pace and felt good.
Although, in hindsight, it’s clear that I was going too fast. Like, 10 seconds per mile too fast. I should have been running 9:00 miles at the fastest, and probably more like 9:05 to 9:10 miles to be safe and save my legs for the toughest miles later on.
But I was a little too addicted to checking the PaceTat every mile to see how I was doing based on my 3:55 goal, and every time, I was thrilled to see that I was ahead of the pace I needed to be running. Even though I knew I should slow down, and told myself I should, I just kept on going. Sighhhh.
We split off from the half-marathoners just after mile six, and headed down Lake Washington Boulevard toward Seward Park while the half runners headed the opposite way toward I-90. The course got a lot less crowded at this point, since there were about 12,400 half-marathoners and only 2,350 marathoners. This was both nice (less weaving around slower runners!) and not nice (fewer people = less energy to feed off of).
I saw my dad right at the mile eight marker, just before entering Seward Park. Hiiiii, Dad!
I yelled, “I’m right on pace!” I believe that is known as hubris — excessive ambition or self-confidence, ultimately causing ruin.
Nice pictures though, right? My dad did a great job! The weather was spectacular and the views of Lake Washington were amaaazing.
Miles nine through 11 around Seward Park were quiet and uneventful. I started to feel very minor, creaky pain in my right hip and knee, which I decided to pretend did not exist.
I saw my dad again right around mile 11 as we headed away from Seward Park and toward I-90!
You can see in this photo that I’m absolutely soaking wet, as I was for most of the race, since I started dumping water over my head at every aid station starting at mile 4.5 or so. It was getting HOT.
Thank goodness I Body Glide-d like a boss beforehand. Nothing chafes like soaking wet clothes!
I could see the I-90 bridge in the distance, and knew I had to get through mile 15 before I’d even start running across it… and then running back. It looked sooooo far away and sooooo long. I actually thought, “Well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” Literally.
I crossed the 13.1-mile timing mat in 1:56:19 (my half PR is 1:55:22, so… yeah) and felt good through mile 14.
At mile 14.5, I realized I had accidentally missed taking a Clif Shot at mile 13.5. I had taken my first two shots at miles 4.5 and 9, then totally fell off my plan of taking one every 4.5 miles. So I ate it, but a mile late!
I remember checking the PaceTat here and seeing I was more than a full minute ahead of my goal pace.
There was a pretty steep incline up and around a corner to get to I-90, but I kept powering up, refusing to walk. (Now knowing what happened later: Sighhhh.)
Miles 15 through 17 were the first miles I slowed down past 9:00 pace. It was cool to run across the I-90 bridge at first — beautiful views of Lake Washington, Bellevue, and Mercer Island! — but it got old really quickly. There was no shade and no spectator support, and the freeway felt harder on my legs than the roads we had been running on (although this was probably more due to already having run double-digit miles at sub-9:00 pace).
Eff this part of the course. Seriously. It is the sole reason why I would not run this race again.
Mile 18 went uphill, and that’s when things started going seriously downhill (see what I did there?). Lots of other runners started walking, my legs started hurting, and I really slowed down.
I thought the turnaround at the mile 18 marker would lift my spirits, but instead I just thought about how I still had three more miles to go before I’d be off the bridge. Mile 19 was stupid-fast because I promised myself that once I reached the mile 20 marker, I could take a walk break.
8:10. Stupid. Fast.
And then… ruin.
My legs were absolutely shot. My hips, my knees, my calves, and particularly my quads were shredded. Once I took a walk break, I realized it didn’t feel much better than running, but it was sort of a nice mental break. Of course, I thought I would only take one walk break and then keep running, but once I started walking, running seemed to hurt more and more.
I’d start running again and promise myself I wouldn’t walk again until I reached a water station, but then I’d see other people walking, realize no spectators were around to judge me anyway, and then walk. I think I ate a Clif Shot during mile 20.
3:55 slipped away pretty quickly. 4:00 was still in sight if I could run much more than I walked, but then my leg muscles started to feel like they were on the verge of cramping, so I stopped to stretch a few times and just stopped caring about my time.
I got very frustrated with myself and said a lot of F-words under my breath. I couldn’t believe everything went so well for the first 19 miles, and then completely fell apart — although looking back, it’s so obvious that I did this to myself by going out too fast!
There were plenty of medics on the bridge, and I did think about how easy it would be to stop and ask for a ride to the finish line. I never seriously considered it, but the fact that quitting even crossed my mind makes me sad.
(However, I’ve now read Skinny Runner’s recap of this race — she ran it as her 50th marathon — and don’t feel as bad now that I see she really struggled with the bridge, too. Even through struggling for her means finishing in 3:21, it still makes me feel better to know it wasn’t just me.)
I don’t know how I kept moving forward, other than through pure stubbornness. Even when I was done with the bridge, we still stayed on the freeway, which continued to be desolate and spectator-less. The marathon course rejoined the half-marathon course, and by that time, the half-marathon lane was filled with all walkers.
Walk walk walk. These miles felt like they took soooo much longer than they actually did.
I finally got off of I-90 in mile 24, regained some spectator support, and found the strength to run much more. Yayyy!
I even got a happy, strong-looking photo out of this mile!
And then right at the mile 24 marker, the course took a steep downhill turn onto Seneca Street, and my left IT band seized up when I tried to run down it. NOOOO!
Mile 25 was the worst by far. It sucked in every possible way. I ate half a Clif Shot, thinking it might help give me a burst of energy, and then put the rest of it back in my fuel belt in disgust.
Then I hit the mile 25 marker and somehow just ignored the pain and the misery and ran the whole damn mile 26 at my original goal pace. UM, WHAT?
I wish I had found that strength earlier, but I’m glad I did at the very end, at least!
The last stretch from the mile 26 marker to the finish line was up a bitch of an incline. I believe I stopped for a moment to walk and muttered something like, “You’ve got to be effing kidding me,” and then powered on up.
Not smiling through the finish chute. So much effort!
My dad caught a nice robot-like action shot of me crossing the first of the two finish-line mats! Notice how my soaking-wet ponytail ratted itself out throughout the race, ha!
Official chip time: 4:08:30 — 9:29 pace
I have never been so happy to be done with something in my life. I’ve been really lucky in that every single race I’ve run has gone really well, up until this one. Those last several miles sucked so much, but they also reminded me that the marathon is truly a physical and mental beast, and that just finishing one is a big, big deal.
I was disappointed that I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast and flaming out, disappointed that I walked so much, and disappointed that I missed my A and B goals when I knew I had them both in me. Truth be told, I was disappointed about this race up until right now, as I finish writing this recap.
But after going over this race in excruciating detail (sorry about that), I see what everyone else sees: that I made a mistake, yes, but that I ran an incredibly strong race most of the way through, never gave up, finished strong, and PR’d by almost six minutes. So fuck yeah!
Thank goodness for post-race massages.
And for my dad and Greta, who woke up ridiculously early, drove me around, took photos, waited for hours on end, and cheered me on from start to finish.
And for my mom and her fiance, Don, who cheered me on from home and let me know in so many ways they were proud of me; and for Aaron, who live-tracked me from Scotland! (He flew home on Sunday, and we ate lots and lots of food with my dad to celebrate!)
And thank goodness for the ability to take one not-ideal marathon and use it as fuel for the fire to kick all kinds of ass at the next one.
I’m looking at you, Chicago!!!