Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Reflections on my first marathon - Asheville Marathon Race Recap - March 18, 2018

I did it!!!

Wow!! What a journey!!

I am still kind of in disbelief but I am a marathoner!!

As you know I have been logging lots and lots and lots and lots of miles training for this marathon. 

I did not begin my running journey to become a marathoner. That was never on my radar. I also never really planned to stick with running after my wedding either but here I am almost 4 years later still logging the miles.

As it turns out just three years after falling madly in love with my now husband I also fell madly in love with running! I have run 5k's, 10k's, 15k's, Half Marathons, a 25k and now I have added the Marathon to my list!!

It all really started out with Run for God. As you know I have led a Run for God Class now for the past four years. The year before that I participated in a class. Run for God is a couch to 5k program and when I joined the first group I had actually already completed a 5k but I was looking for the comradery and I was curious about the class. The next year the instructor moved towns and asked me if I would take it over. I agreed. 

The second year I led the class Kathleen participated. She was also already a runner and also looking of the comradery. She and I became fast friends and shortly after the Run for God Class was over I invited her to join me and my other runner friends Elizabeth, Bridget and Alisha for weekend long runs. Several of us were beginning to train for the Asheville Half Marathon in 2016. That would be my second half marathon. 

Kathleen and I, along with the others have since completed lots of long runs together including the Asheville Half Marathon again in 2017 and the Detroit International Half Marathon also in 2017. On one of our long training runs Kathleen mentioned how she had trained for her first Full Marathon when she was 40. My wheels began to spin. On another long training run Alisha recounted the fun she had when training for a Full Marathon. My wheels began to spin more. I also knew that my friend Carly was a big time marathoner and she had mentioned once upon a time how the Asheville Marathon had been her very favorite. Then on one fateful long run Kathleen floated out the idea that she'd be turning 60 the same year I'd be turning 40 and we could train for and complete a marathon together!! 

She had me at "together" lol!!

Carly had also mentioned that maybe she would run it again this year too!! Score!!! 

I knew that I could not, or maybe rather I would not, train for a marathon by myself. I knew that I would need someone, meeting me, making me fulfill my end of the bargain by showing up and running with them too. 

I registered for the Marathon!! No backing out now...

Unfortunately shortly after our talks Kathleen started dealing with some injury and did not think this would be her year for the marathon. Carly also had really only said she would think about it at that point. 

Panic began to set in! What would I do? I really wanted them to run it with me. 

Within a few weeks Carly committed. I may or may not have cried at some points and begged her but that's neither here nor there lol. She was in and I was stoked!! As you know we had some pretty epic training runs!

Asheville Marathon Weekend was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. 

I am a Race Ambassador which basically means I am super passionate about this event and help out throughout the year to promote and then I also help out on race weekend!

I worked the Expo on Friday. Had an AMAZING night at the Pre-Event Dinner where I sat with and enjoyed dinner and conversation with the guest speaker Mirna Valerio!! Mirna is seriously an amazing public speaker and her story is so inspiring!! She is so humble that I am not sure she fully realizes how inspiring she really is. She is one tough (hysterically funny) bad ass runner chick spreading her passion everywhere she goes!! 

Saturday I worked the Expo again and then Carly and I had dinner with two other runner girls at Vinnie's Italian Restaurant.

We stayed the night in Asheville the night before the Marathon which I highly highly recommend. It just makes everything so less stressful for me!

I have learned in my training that I need to wake up 2 hours before my long runs and this included the marathon. I got up super early, got dressed and had a small breakfast. 

I had coffee, half a banana and half of a plain bagel!

I was so uncertain about what to wear. Throughout all of our training I wore the Skirt Sports Go the Distance Tights. On every single long run! I originally had planned to wear them. I also ordered a shirt from etsy that was Irish Green (fitting for St. Patrick's Day weekend) that said "26.2 is my Lucky Number" and I knew I would wear my custom green Knockarounds and of course my Crazy Compression Socks!! Race day was looking to be warm though and so I was not sure what to do. I packed my Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt and decided the night before the race that is what I would wear! I also threw in a tank top to wear under my long sleeve shirt just in case I heated up too much!

That morning as we headed out of our hotel room I decided immediately that I needed to go and change. I went back in, took off my skirt and put on my tights. I just was not sure how the skirt would do for me for 26.2 miles. I DID know for certain that the tights would do great because they had already on all of my other runs. I have run in skirts or shorts before for half marathons but this was different. This was a FULL. I am so glad I did change I had no issues at all with my clothing choice. I did end up taking off the long sleeve shirt at about my 22 and ran in the tank the rest of the way! 

I also decided that I would carry my Nathan Hydration vest for the marathon. I debated this briefly but opted to go with and I am glad I did!! When training for the half I also carried my water in a hydration pack but never carried for the race. I actually wasn't initially worried so much about hydration; I knew there were great water stops along the course. I was most concerned about my fueling plan for the marathon. I had been following a very specific plan for my nutrition and I wanted to make sure I didn't steer off plan. I found however that I needed a lot more water than I think I would have taken at the aid stations. It was much warmer than it had been in my training runs and so I sipped on water about every 10 minutes. This pack has been great and I will continue to carry on my long runs! Life saver!!

Somehow I was not nearly as nervous as I typically am before a race. Usually I am fraught with emotion, nerves, adrenaline rushes, and bouts of fear. This time I felt fairly calm. I think this is the result of having so many incredible training runs all of which were beautiful and calm. I also think this is the best trained for an event I have ever been. I even missed one training run but I felt ready. I also did not set any lofty time goals which alleviated any self-inflicted pressure too. My goal was to finish and that's what I did!

We drove onto the estate and parked and I went to meet up with the other Ambassadors for a pre-race photo. We then headed down to the start line and Carly and I met up with our friend Kim! We hung out there for just a short time and then the crowd started to form and move toward the start line. 

I thought briefly that I would start out with the 5:15 pace group. I asked the pacer what her plan was and she responded that she would be running a 3:1 interval. I have trained with a 5:1 and I decided I would stick to that plan. I ran fairly close to them for about 4 miles but then fell back and settled into my own comfortable pace. I may try out the 3:1 method for my next event and see what I think.

The weather was perfect, clear skies all day!

The first 11 miles were gorgeous as always. 

At around mile 11 the marathoners split off from the half marathoners. There was a brief moment around mile 5 that I thought to myself "If this is too hard I can always drop down to the half". I actually do not know if that is an option or not, I didn't even consider that during any of my training. I was immediately disappointed in myself for thinking that and right away responded to that naysayer in my head with "no that is not an option".

As I approached this turning point I had the sudden realization that I was doing this!! I saw a girl I knew working the turn and shouted to her "decisions decisions" pointing back and forth between the two ways and she quickly shouted back to me "You've got this, marathoner’s turn left!” I cried... I'm crying again as I recall that moment. I hadn't anticipated the magnitude of the turning point. The point of no return. 

It was in this moment that I gained great strength. I took a deep breath and committed to the finish. 

This portion of the course is a portion of the property I had never seen. It felt as though I was sneaking into a secret forest, land less traveled, and it was spectacular. 

Just a bit before mile 13 as I ran up a hill I saw two pigs to my left and I said hello. They perked up and called to me to come take a selfie! LOL! Seriously in that moment they seemed to be rooting for me (pun intended lol).

Mile 13... Half way there.

Miles 13 - 20 were pretty great. I felt good. I felt strong. The scenery was AMAZING! We ran through the Biltmore Countryside and Vineyards. 

I ran the Dam Hill at around mile 16 or so.

At mile 20 I cried again. That was the furthest I had gone before. I acknowledged in that moment that each step I took from there to the finish would be new for me. I knew that I was pushing myself beyond what I knew into the unknown. 

My friend and fellow Ambassador and her husband built this incredible wall!! I cried more! I totally broke through and then kept on going. 

The hardest part of the race for me was at about mile 21. We come to a crossroad just below the finish to run out away from the finish and then back. This was the longest 5 miles of the race! In part this could be because I had never run that far before and in part it was because I was so so close yet running the opposite way!

The day had warmed up quite a bit and I stopped for a minute to peel off my long sleeved shirt. It was 61 but I swear it felt like 81!

I was so happy to see some familiar faces out along that stretch cheering the runners on and encouraging me. 

At around mile 24 I met up with a friend from Fleet Feet and chatted with them a bit and then pushed on ahead!

Mile 25-26 was the hardest. It was a long stretch that I could see and even though I was so close I felt so far away. I have realized this "thing" about myself that I plan to somehow work on (once I figure out how). I am finding that in almost all of my distance races I pull back during the last mile. I ran that mile 3 minutes slower than my average pace on every other mile. I walked A LOT of that mile. In hind sight I feel like I easily could have pushed myself just a bit harder and I typically feel the same way about each of my races. I slow way down in the last mile and I know I still have it in me to run on. Maybe it's actually that I don't want it to be over at all. 

With less than a mile to go I caught up to another runner girl and talked to her a bit. She shared with me that this was her second marathon and I shared that it was my first! We talked and laughed and I cried some more lol!! As soon as we could see the finish we decided that together we would sprint in! I am not sure if I pushed her or if she pushed me but I sure am glad we found each other!! We congratulated each other and went on to find our people. 

I got my medal and a blanket and headed to grab a beer. I had seen Kim already and went to sit with her to cheer in Carly!

We hung out for a bit and cheered Carly in to the finish! 

I rang the PR Bell, had a Jell-O shot with my girls Wendy and Crystal (other Ambassadors) and we grabbed more beer. 

We went back to sit and cheer in the remaining finishers! It was a great day!!

After the race we grabbed pizza at a local hot spot Mod in Asheville and headed home. 

The Asheville Marathon is incredible and will be one that I will run forever and ever! 

Asheville Marathon truly was an amazing experience. I love everything about this event and now after having run the marathon I love it even more! I highly highly highly recommend the Asheville Marathon!! Join me in 2019 as I run the marathon there again!!

The marathon is magical. The marathon is powerful. I fully intend to do that again!!

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