Going into this marathon, I knew two things....
1. It was going to be a training run for me.
2. It was going hurt.
And now... two days later I can attest that it was both of those things... but it was also a lot of fun.
Every marathon I've ran has been an interesting experience. I LOVE traveling to new places and exploring them by running through them during the middle of a race. This is why the idea of running a marathon in every state is such an important goal for me. So, in my head... I kind of downplayed this race. No big build-up. Running in the same park I train in a couple times a month... nothing special. Just heading out to the park for a long training run.
I was wrong.
The packet pickup went very smoothly on Saturday afternoon... I picked up my packet and was pleased with the goodies I received for my minimal entry fee (I think it was a $60 race?).
1 long sleeve tech tee with my name printed on the front. No ads, very classy, my favorite race shirt to date! A short sleeve t-shirt (designed by my friend and running buddy, Matt!!) That is a spoof on Star Wars (May the hills be with you). Very cool! And then a monkey sticker, tattoo and some various granola bars and oatmeal from a company with the name Monkey (Monkey Bars= granola bars, Monkey brains=oatmeal). I thought the bibs were really cool. My number, 641, will always be my number now if I decide to run the race again. I loved the black color of the bib.
On my way home from the packet pickup, I stopped and picked up my standard pre-race meal of pizza from a new place in town ( Jets Pizza: It was okay. Kinda of a mediocre crust and I didn't like the cheese on the pizza at all. It was like rubbery and gross). And settled in at home to watch the Vandy/UT football game before I retired to my own bed for the evening.
I slept well and woke up around 5:30. Since, I didn't have to leave my house till 7ish, I went ahead and guzzled some water, ate a yogurt and a banana and tried on about 20 different tops. The weather forecast was for perfect race conditions: Overcast, in the high 40s, low 50s, with a SLIGHT possibility of rain. After first deciding on a long sleeve tech tee, then changing into a short sleeve tech tee, I finally decided on a sleeveless top that is kind of thick.
Ahhhh the small race. I pulled up, parked literally about 50 yards from the start/finish line and made my way to the porta potties. There was lots of nervous chatter going on... just like any pre-race. But the best thing... we were all running the same race. And EVERYONE was nervous.
This race definitely carries a hint of mystique to it. It's a hilly course. Remember me always talking about the 11.2? Well, you not only get to run that bitch once during the race... you get to run it twice! In both directions! At least I had a vague idea of what to expect, being a home turf race. Those poor out of town bastards... I'm sorry for you.
Before the start of the race... they had group pictures for Maniacs and a Running Ahead Forum Group and also for those people who've ran all 4 (now) of the Monkey Marathons (sadly, I missed the Maniacs photo op! boooo!!). After all the pics were taken, it was time to get started...
The first 10 miles of the race, FLEW by. I was consistently keeping around a 9:45/10:00 mile pace. I would pause briefly at water stops (starting around the 3rd mile, I consistently stopped at about every water station for a quick gulp of water or gatorade). Around mile 5ish I heard a guy with a bullhorn saying annoying things like... "it's a beautiful morning." etc. etc. (Annoying because I was in the middle of my least favorite hill in the park (the dreaded 9 mile hill) and the morning didn't feel that damn beautiful). By the time I reached the bullhorn man. I probably gave him a half smile (I did appreciate his enthusiasm) and a half eat shit look (I was wishing I was on the sidelines). A few moments after I passed him I heard him say... Amy?! and he ran up next to me... "Amy?! Twenty-six point two Amy?" Haha. Of course. I just gave one of my readers the stink-eye. Awesome. Anyway... it turned out to be Old Man (which... dude... with that name I was picturing you WAY older)! Thanks for volunteering and talking to me despite the eat-shit look I gave you! I promise, I'm normally a nice girl.
I was feeling good, despite the fact that I was climbing up what I always find to be one of the hardest hills in the park (the first mile if you're doing the 11.2). I was cracking jokes about a kid in a stroller having the right idea (the park was still open to regular folks and traffic). A couple of girls caught up with me... one girl said... "you look familiar." I looked at her.. and we realized that we had met at the Grizzly Marathon back in August! And the girl she was running with, I had met at the Beer Mile! I was secretly stoked to be semi-keeping up with these two fast and accomplished runners... and then I realized they weren't running the race... ahhhh well. (And, I didn't keep up with them long... they smoked me).
Around mile 11ish (?) I heard someone calling my name as I approached a group of people hanging out a Deep Wells. I kept looking around and couldn't figure out who it was and then I saw someone clapping and yelling and I realized that it was my running pal, Anonymous Commenter! I stopped at the water station for a quick drink and we chatted for a second, before I took off towards one of the worst hills in the park (3 mile hill). Seeing a friendly face definitely helped me get up that beast of a hill.
By the time I saw Matt at mile marker 12, I was still feeling okay... but, I could tell that I was losing some momentum. The miles between 12 and 14 sucked. Really sucked. It's generally one of the least favorite parts of the park for me, AND we ran a special little loop that I normally don't run and not knowing what to expect there and being out of familiar surroundings threw me for a loop.
At the half mark, I was at 2:16.
That's right. I ran a half marathon at Percy Warner Park in 2:16, with.. really... minimal effort. HOT DAMN.
Sadly... that's not the end of the story... it's merely the beginning of the story: wherein the wheels start falling off...
At mile 14, Matt had graciously volunteered (on his own accord!) to run the rest of the race course with me! So, that gave me a much needed spike in adrenaline. I had prepped him earlier in the day... "all bets are off dude. I can't be held responsible for any injuries you might sustain during this... be it physical or emotional. There could be yelling fits filled with expletives, I could hit you, trip you, or push you off the side of a hill if you get on my nerves, and there could be crying... that's right, I might make you cry." He accepted regardless of the warning.
I remember around mile 15 or so, we had a 9:30 mile. Granted it was mostly downhill... but I was kind of like.. whoooaaa nelly. Let's dial it back a bit. By mile 16... I was taking walk breaks. I literally held off as long as I thought I could (though... if maybe I could have made myself just slow down a bit, I might could have lasted longer) because I knew... once I started walking.. it's hard for me to get back into a constant routine of running.
Around mile 18 (at the stone gates) I heard my name being called again... and it was my NashMash teammate Lori!! Again, it was awesome to see a friendly face. It was also at this water station that I got a fistbump from a dude dressed up in a Confederate General Costume and I got hit on the head with a wand by the "endurance fairy." I started up the back side of a tough hill (9 mile) expecting it to not be so bad... it's usually not. That day it was. Then again... I'm not usually running it after running 18 miles.
We walked up the.whole.damn.thing. It was awful. I knew I couldnt maintain any kind of momentum running up the hill, so I just stuck to walking. Part of the problem for me... that I realized in this race... if people around me are walking (particularly late in a marathon) sometimes I feel like I have to walk, too. (Didn't happen in St. Louis, I was trucking it to the finish there). So... everyone's walking... and I'm like... well.. if that dude ahead of me, who looks like a fast runner is walking.. then... I should be walking, too! WRONG.
Anyway.. there was one minor hill towards the top of the hill and I told Matt... I'm running to the top. And I did. And at the top, I could barely jog down because that hill had trashed my legs. Ugh.
At this point in the race, I was probably walking more than I was running.. we had some 13:30 miles. I stopped at water station 23 to chat for a bit with two of my relay team members who were volunteering... and that was awesome. (Some other guy at that water stop tried to tell me that there weren't any more hills. He was lying and I called him out on it. Seriously... I found this race to be the worst about that. The volunteers were AWESOME, but they were all stinking liars about the hills. Luckily, I knew better) :)
I realized that I was going to have a chance to finish in under 5 hours. My main goal. The last 1.2 miles I ran the whole way. Matt was great. He ran a little ahead of me... like a rabbit and I just kept concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other... finally we made the turn off and hit the grass. I knew there was only a 1/3 of mile left at that point... I climbed the last hill and started kicking up any last bit I still had.
Here I am! Note... two relay teammates there!
It kind of sucked, because I didn't feel comfortable looking up and enjoying the finish line (although I did hear and see Lori yelling my name again!!!) because I didn't want to trip and fall (the grass). But I crossed the finish line and as they were tearing off my bib I saw my mom come into the shute followed by my dad! It was the first race that he'd seen me in and I was thrilled to see him at the finish line!
I was emotional. And thirsty. I hugged my parents... fought back the tears and sought out some gatorade. Which was empty, so I had to go to my car to get some. (Luckily I got that SWEET parking spot).
My official time was 4:57:03
I talked to a few people after the race, but was craving my celebratory milkshake so much that I ended up leaving fairly soon after the race.
It was a great race... and I'll tell you why... because of the people. Thanks to all the volunteers (especially the ones I know.. Matt, Grady, and Edward) It was awesome to have friends at water stations to talk to and get encourangement from. Thanks to Old Man for standing out there and encouraging us runners. Thanks to Steve, Lori, the confederate dress up dude and the endurance fairy. Thanks to Tanya for making me feel like a pansy cause I wasn't pounding the beer like she was (in my defense, she had finished the race an HOUR ahead of me). Thanks to Elly, the Nashville Striders Photographer for always being positioned on a downhill or straightaway.
Thanks to Matt for sticking with me through those last 12 miles. Thanks for not being annoying and making me have to resort to pushing you off the side of Luke Lea.
Thanks to my parents for making it out! It was special to have you both you there!
And thanks to Trent, the race director, for taking the time to make this such a great event!
I have a feeling I'll be back next year!
Side Note: When I walked back into my place on Sunday after the race, I was greeted to this:
This is what trying to figure out what to wear to a marathon on race morning looks like.