Wednesday, November 21

Route 66 Marathon! First (ultra)marathon

The experience of running a marathon is definitely overwhelming.  It takes up so much more then race day - you are committed to running the marathon for 18+ weeks of your life, and it really does become part of your life.  A day later I sit here with a whole in my daily life because I am no longer training for the event and no longer have this race to look forward too.  It is understandable why we runners become addicted to these races - when you do something for so long it becomes ingrained in us.

My original first marathon was suppose to be the Maui Oceanfront Marathon last January   When injury delayed this marathon, my goal became to run a marathon before the end of the year.  After the OU football schedule widdled down my selections I was left with Route 66 and the Dallas Marathon.  Since I'm an Oklahoman, I decided to stay in-state.  Backwards 18 weeks from the Sunday before Thanksgiving is known as hell in Oklahoma (otherwise known as late July/ early August).  I started my training in the hottest part of the year, including long runs that started at 5:30 am to beat the heat.  I used Hal Higdon Novice II plan - the mileage was good to get me back into 30 mpw that I was struggling to achieve on my own.  Like with my experiences on half marathons, if you want to have better times you need a plan that has more mpw built in.  Maxing at 36mpw just doesn't get you there.  But it worked for me.

We headed to Tulsa Saturday before the race, hit up the expo for my bib and some pictures of the experience.  I did an extended carb load plan - I started Friday night with pasta at Olive Garden.  Saturday while we were driving we stopped at IHOP for pumpkin pancakes, and Saturday night we went to Charleston's for steak, mashed potatoes and vegetables.  I had noticed in training that some of my best runs I ate steak the night before.  It seemed to work well for the marathon as well.  And the line for the restaurant was soooo much shorter!

Race morning I met up with my racing team friends to hang out pre-race and get a group picture.  Hit the port-o-john right before race time, slipped into the corral and waited for the gun.  The first mile I spent catching up to some friends that I felt would be running a good pace for me.  Once I caught them we feel into a nice rhythm.  I enjoyed their company and the fun they were having during the race.  It made me smile and kept the air light.  I kept a solid 10:15ish pace for the first half of the race.  I really had no problems except for a small side cramp around mile 10 that I had to breathe out.  I lost my running buds around mile 9, but I still had a large group of people around me from the half race so I was good.

Once we hit mile 13 and the half marathoner peeled off, it became real.  There were significantly less people on the course and there was little support along the side of the course.  There had been hills in the first 7 miles, it became flat till mile 14, then we started climbing again, and that's when I hit the wall.  I think it was a mix of the mental fact that I no longer had people to run with and that I still have almost half the race to go.  I started a run/ walk regimen where I walked up the hills and attempted to run as much of the down and flats as I could.  I don't know how successfully I accomplished this, but I felt I did a good job.  The highlights of miles 14-21 were seeing my friends twice and the Center of the Universe detour which made the race an "ultra"marathon.  That extra .3 miles played mind tricks with me the rest of the race because it added mileage to the Garmin, but I wouldn't take back doing it for anything!

Center of the Universe Detour (photos by Snaps by Erin)

Around the 20 mile mark, I came out of my fog and was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  With only a 10K left to race, I knew I could do it.  My mood started to improve, and while I still walked the uphills, I had more energy on my runs (this does not mean they were faster!).  I had two blisters, one on each foot, that became apparent around mile 24 and they were pretty painful for the end of the race.  My focus became just making it to the finish.  When I could finally hear the cheers of the finish line, I knew that I could make it.  We had climbed the last hill at that point so I just cruised as fast as I could.  There were almost tears as I crossed that line with a huge smile on my face.  It was definitely an amazing feeling to be a marathoner.  I didn't finish the race in the 4:30 that I had originally planned, but I was happy to cross the line in just over 5 hours (5:00:33 to be exact!).  As they always say, the first race is an instant PR!

Would I do another race?  The only reason I would say yes is because I don't think the first marathon really gives you a good view of what running a marathon is like.  I would like to give it ONE more chance knowing what to expect.  I already have the race picked out (Flying Pig - another super hilly course) I just have to let time slip a bit and make sure that I am ready to once again commit my life to this non-sense!

Expo Fun & Pre-Race jitters

Racing Team picture, Corral, Race buddies, Fun on the course, & Bling!

Photos throughout the day (Photos by Eric Bloemers and Heath Tate)

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