Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cyndie Actually Runs A Marathon...And LIKES It!

***Warning… This post is long, and full of details that may or may not be important to the reader.  But this was my 1st marathon experience, and I wanted to remember it all.***

Race Morning…

The plan was for Amy to pick me up at 5:30am and drive me downtown.  Yes, you read that right.  Amy was NOT running this race, but my BRF offered to get up freakishly early and drive my nervous-nelly self downtown, park, walk me to the corrals, hang out with me, wait in the port-a-potty lines (several times!), and generally just keep me company.  Love that girl.  She even frantically started seeking out someone to bring me a Garmin when we thought mine had frozen up.  I figured out how to reset it, but she had my back regardless.  The weather was perfection.  I honestly couldn’t have asked for better race-day weather.   Temps were in the low 50s, and it was DRY (quite a difference from the weekend before!).  The sun was predicted to come out, but temps would stay cool, and there was not a drop of rain in the forecast.    I honestly couldn’t believe it.  

READY to ROCK 26.2!!!

Amy headed out to find Brandi and wait for me around the 7 mile mark.  I headed to wait with the mass of Corral D participants.  I was planning to run a little faster than the expected pace of this corral, so I made sure to start up at the front.  We could hear the announcements, the moment of silence for Boston, and then WE all sang the National Anthem TOGETHER.  It gave me goose bumps as I listened to the singing, cheering, and watched the sun rise over the city buildings.  I had never felt more prepared for something ever, and I was ready to get this party started!  

The Start line... brought me to tears

As a corral, we walked past many uniformed Guard Members who were checking to make sure only bibbed runners were there, and made our way to the start line.   I couldn’t help getting choked up, and felt myself fighting back tears.  I was really proud of my training, my goal, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my family and friends that supported me, and who I knew were on the course ready and waiting to cheer and run with me!  It took the first mile to get myself together.  So many people were cheering and waving signs.  Talk about a runner’s HIGH!  My pace was 9:06, too fast but I expected that.

I finally settled into my rhythm around mile 2, and slowed my pace a little to 9:25.  I felt like I could breathe again, and I was smiling from ear to ear.   The first five miles were relaxing, fun, and a great warm up (averaging around 9:20).  I focused on keeping my pace under control (couldn’t imagine doing this without my Garmin!), and listened to my music.  I realized that I had done so many of my long training runs with friends, and hadn’t listened to music in a while!  I was actually feeling like I didn’t WANT to have my earphones on.  I was more interested in taking in the excitement from the crowds of spectators lining the streets of Portland.   Soon I was making my way toward the Freemont Bridge, and I knew I would be seeing my family and my running buddies.  

I spotted Chris and the kids on the other side of the street, and I ran across to give them hugs and get some high 5s and love.  A few steps back into the race, and I saw Amy and Brandi, who would join me for the next 6 miles.  They were so generous to run the most boring part of the Portland Marathon: the out and back section in the Industrial part of town.  I took my earphones out and never put them back.  It was so great having the two of them to run with and chat with and just generally goof around with.  Amy took pictures, and both of them did an awesome job of keeping my mind off of what I was doing.  It was just a run with my girlfriends.  And I LOVE running with my girlfriends.  I almost peed myself from laughing when Amy was voice texting Chris.  Her phone has a funny way of transferring what she says into type.   A quick potty stop was necessary, and I was thankful for friends to hold all my stuff.  Amy blogged about her Marathon experience on her blog, Bliss and Chaos.

Running with Brandi and Amy(taking the pic!) along the train tracks of Portland
Running Selfie!  Amy and Brandi keeping me company

They left me around mile 12, and tried to run ahead to warn Chris and the kids and Marianne and Melanie (who were meeting me at mile 13 for the next section).   I saw Chelsey (Co-Girls on the Run Coach) and gave her a big hug!  The energy on this stretch of the racecourse was electric!  Lots of front yard parties, kegs, college kids, just insane.   I saw Chris and the kids again, with Amy and Brandi, and then noticed that Marianne, Melanie and Dr. Mohr were all there too!  I grabbed some pics with the kids, a bag of pretzels, a few more high 5s and hugs, and then Marianne and I took off towards Hwy 30.  

A quick pic with the kiddos

Andrew's AWESOME sign...We have WINE at home...oh yesser!

I hadn’t seen Marianne in a while and she had just returned from a CRA-ZY trip for her HS reunion in Washington DC.  For the next 5 miles, I loved hearing all her stories from the trip, and also loved hearing her reminisce about last year’s Marathon.  Melanie drove along Hwy 30, and jumped out at several places along the way with signs and cheering!  I love my running buddies.  They are just the BEST, and I felt truly blessed to have their support.   As we neared the St. John’s bridge, I knew I would have to part ways with the girls.  They only allowed bibbed participants up and over the bridge.  A quick hug to the girls, and I continued on alone (but not for long).  Again, I didn’t bother put my earphones back in.  

The climb up to the bridge is not insignificant.  Many people were walking.  I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I think I probably ate a Gu, and I just made sure to take in the majestic scenery.  For those of you NOT from Portland, the St. John’s Bridge is one of the iconic images representing the Portland Marathon.  It is a stunning work of art, and it was an amazing experience to cross it on foot, able to really look at the beauty and the view from the bridge.  Did you notice in the pre-marathon post that it’s even on my necklace from Amy?  I tried snapping a few pics with my phone while I was running, but I couldn’t get anything decent.  So I finally pulled over and stopped to take a few pictures.  I can honestly say that this was one of only a handful of times I stopped during the entire 26.2 miles (potty, family pics/hugs, bridge, and one more a little later).  

As we crossed over the bridge and turned the corner into mile 18, I heard “PELTO!!!!!” and knew Caryn was there.  I didn’t expect to see her so soon, but I was so so so glad she was waiting and ready to RUN.  I was beginning to realize that I was tired.   I think I might have almost taken out another runner trying to run over to her and give her a hug!  We headed up a short hill, and then the course leveled off and settled in to the neighborhoods on the East side of the Riverfront along Willamette Blvd.  Having Caryn there totally rejuvenated my step, and we were total goofballs (shocker, I know) but stayed focused too.  Caryn was the perfect running buddy to have by my side during the stretch, because she has been there done that so many times before.  She had so much great advice, and knew how to keep my mind off the pain that was starting to creep in, but stay focused and distracted at the same time.  

I'm delirious at this point... Caryn keeping me in check.

Around mile 19, I started to complain about my knees and my hips.  Me: “My hips hurt.”  Caryn: “You can bitch about your hips later. Right now, keep running.”  Sound advice from a seasoned marathoner.

At mile 20, we saw the kids, Chris, and my friends Mara and Ruann.  Lots of cheers, smiles, cowbell, and signs, and I finally handed off my earphones to Chris…but we didn’t stop running this time.  I was ready to be DONE.  Ruann turned to Chris after he commented that I looked like I was doing great and said, “Yeah, but this is where the race begins.”  And she was so very right.  I felt myself having to dig deep for each step.  

Around mile 21 I saw Dr. Mohr again.  This time I pulled over to chat.  My old ITBand injuries were making some noise.  I asked him if he could hose me down in BioFreeze.   He could not, but he did apply some to my legs, for which I was extremely grateful.   We were off again.

Got BioFreeze?  Oh YEAAAAHHHHH

It was shortly after this pit stop that we saw the “mat.”  Caryn had told me about this particular mat, and made damn sure I crossed it!  It tracks how many people you PASS in the last 5 miles of the marathon.   I doubted I would pass that many people, but I figure, what the hell?  I stepped over it, and then the game was ON.  Caryn said, “See that guy in orange?  Go get him.”  I did.  Then she said, “See that girl in pink?  GO GET HER PELTO.  I mean, it sucks for her, but whatever.”  I did.  We started picking off runners (and many many walkers at this point) left and right.  I will not lie…it felt AWESOME to feel so strong and fast in the last 5 miles of a freaking marathon.  We passed Adidas headquarters, and started downhill.  It was here that Caryn pulled out two of her most awesome comments.   She looked at her phone and said, “My app estimates you’ll be finishing at 4:00:36.  You OK with that?”  Me: “F&*% NO!!!!  F*** that F***ing 36 seconds!”  (Sorry, I was delirious at this point.)  So we proceeded to sprint downhill.   As we were feeling a little sorry for the people pulling over to stretch out whatever was hurting them, Caryn said, “Keep your eyes forward.  Do NOT look at the carnage on the side of the road, and whatever you do…DO NOT STOP.”  OMG, I laughed, and kept going, eyes forward.  Then we passed Widmer, where there were volunteers handing out cups of beer.  BEER.  At mile 24 of the marathon.  Caryn said, “DO NOT drink that beer.  I promise you do not want it.”  And then she graciously drank my beer for me. ;-)  What are friends for?   

I love this picture.  I felt strong, proud, pain, excitement...
Broadway Bridge behind me...
We crossed the Broadway Bridge, a beautiful sight, and headed into downtown Portland.  As I was turning the corner off the bridge, I saw my friend Penny and lost my mind (who am I kidding, it was already gone at this point).   Then I saw the Cascade Lakes Relay peeps with their awesome signs, and really REALLY lost it… Yes, I played air guitar while yelling “Twisted Sisters totally wants to ROCK CLR!” I blame the endorphins.  Caryn laughed at me, and said, “Um, apparently you still have some gas in the tank, so let’s get a move on.”  And we did.  My last full mile (even being STOPPED BY A MAX TRAIN) was 8:46 pace.  As we neared the part of Naito Pkwy that has the barricades lined up, Caryn jumped out of the race, and headed to the finish.  I’ve never seen so many people cheering in a race I was in, and I’ve never felt more like a Rockstar.  The signs were amazing, the smiles were contagious, and I was ready to lay it all on the line and bring it home.  I saw Amy and Brandi, Marianne and Melanie, and Chris and the kids right near corner of the finish.  I pointed to them all, blew them a kiss, and then headed for the finish line.  In my last push, I passed two more guys before crossing the line.  Needless to say, my finish pics are not good.  I was hurting, and I was pushing hard, and I didn’t care what I looked like.  

As I walked through the finisher’s area, a volunteer placed my medal around my neck, and a blanket over my shoulders.  I was very grateful for this, as I suddenly found myself dizzy and cold.  I kept walking, collecting food, chocolate milk, my finisher’s shirt, a tree sapling (well, it IS Portland after all), and chatting with several other runners.  By the time I made my way to the family reunion area, I was feeling back to normal, and smiling from ear to ear.  My whole support group was there waiting to hug this sweaty runner, and take pics.  

Marathons... a TEAM effort!
Just a short year ago, the tables were turned in this picture.

We laughed and chatted for a bit, took more pics, and then everyone was pretty much ready to head home.  I wanted a shower in the worst way, and was suddenly feeling like a nap would be on the agenda as well.  Two things I DIDN’T want:  Beer or food.  It would take until later that afternoon, around 4pm.  The celebratory recovery beer was opened and leftover pizza had never EVER tasted SOOOOOO GOOD.  

I can’t even begin to thank my husband for all of the support he gave me, not just by schlepping the kids all over Portland and making it to each of the 4 spots I requested he be at in time to see me (while getting Lauren to a potty every time she had to go!), but for helping rearrange our schedules each weekend so I could get in all my crazy long training runs.  

Love my Family

My Girlfriends, my Best Running Friends (BRFs), are simply amazing. The love and support from all of you I felt and carried with me all 26.2 miles.  And even though some of you couldn’t make it on that Sunday, I felt your positive energy and carried it with me the whole way.  

When I decided to run a Marathon, I had a few goals.  1) to finish, hopefully before my 40th birthday. ;-) 2) to finish strong and healthy and happy, 3) to maybe want to do another one, and 4) I wanted to enjoy the experience.  I’m happy to say that I had the BEST TIME running this Marathon.  I’m so glad that I stopped when I did for potty stops, pictures, hugs, high 5s.  The experience wouldn’t have been as much fun without all of that.  I’m thrilled with my time, 4:04:52.  For what it's worth, I passed 345 runners in the last 5 miles of the Marathon.  Yeah, that mat was a cool thing!  And I’m ready to do it again.  Without so many stops next time. ;-)

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