Road to race day...not much longer now!

Definition of a fantastic friend: someone who doesn’t hesitate when asked to get up early Saturday morning to help you “plant” water for your 20-miler. Did I mention it was pouring rain? Didn’t seem to bother Kelle, who met me at 7:30 a.m. in the college parking lot, where I left my car and she drove me six miles out the Bayshore Marathon course so I could experience running to the halfway point and all the way back in to the finish line.

Thank you, Kelle, for interrupting your get-kids-up & soccer-game-filled morning for yours truly. You are the best.

I’d also like to thank the weather gods for giving me the perfect running conditions for my longest run ever. The rain stopped, I swear, just as I began, and started back up again only after I finished nearly three hours later. Overcast and damp, with temps in the high 40s, it was ideal.

I’d decided to run phone-free because the armband I wear has been slipping down my arm one too many times. I don’t want to deal with that race day. Besides, my Ironman watch is simple and perfect, giving me my split times, and I pulled out my old iPod shuffle for tunes. The night before I created a marathon playlist, though I think I could stand to add a few new songs to line-up – send me your power songs and I’d love you for it!

We planted water at the halfway mark, which is next to a field at the end of Bluff Road, as well as at miles 16 and 18. The plan was to take a Gu packet with each water stop. At the finish was my car, which contained a cooler packed with two ice-cold cans of Coke – regular, sugar-filled Coke – at Lisa’s suggestion. When was the last time you’ve drank regular Coke??

My goal was to run at marathon goal pace – 8:34 – the entire time. Mostly, though, I wanted to feel strong and good throughout, especially given the pain I’d experienced recently in my right heel. I started out nice and easy, as I try to do – “Don’t worry about that first mile, use it as your warm-up,” I’ve been told by several marathoners. I just wanted to get into a groove.

Minus an early-on headphone snafu – the right ear bud didn’t want to stay put and kept falling out of – I fell into a nice rhythm. My splits remained even, and I found myself comfortably hitting under an 8:34 pace much of the time. Still, I didn’t want my 8:10s and 8:15s in the first half to mean I hit a wall by miles 15, 16 or beyond.

But I just felt good! I kept thinking, please let this weather (with perhaps a bit more sunshine) be the day of the race. I know, though, that I need to prepare for other conditions: humid, too hot and sticky, or rainy and cold. It’s May in Michigan, after all.

The fuel and water made all the difference. A big duh for many of you maybe, but this will be the first race I’ve deliberately planned for fuel beyond grabbing a sip of water/Gatorade at an aid station because I was incredibly thirsty (um, if you’re incredibly thirsty, you’ve waited too long to get a drink) and having a Gu or two on hand but not necessarily knowing for sure when I’ll take them.

The final four miles were challenging, but it was my mind more than anything physical. This is when you dig deep. “It shouldn’t be a walk in the park, it should feel challenging,” Lisa told me. In the last mile, as I ran a slight downhill before turning south to the final stretch, Coldplay’s live version of Yellow came on and it powered me. And got me teary. Not the song so much, but the realization that I was about to finish running 20 miles. And that this very same path, two weeks from now, would be the final stretch of my first marathon.

The parking lot had filled some in the time I’d been gone, and a few people were milling about – doing what, I’m not sure, maybe something was going on at the college – but it didn’t stop me from all-out crying, just for a few moments. Happy tears. I’m sappy like that. I did it, I ran 20 miles.

Coke had never tasted so, so good. I had to snap a quick picture and send it to Lisa, who was out of town for the weekend but had told me to keep her posted on my run. Here’s me, being dorky with a can of pop.

Finished!

That night, Joe and I celebrated with a night out at one of our favorite downtown restaurants, Amical. I’d decided that the final three weeks of training I’d treat my body especially well by eliminating alcohol, drinking lots of water and eating as clean and pure and healthy as possible. Saturday night, I made an exception since we were celebrating. I savored one glass of red wine and indulged in a “chocolate torture” dessert and delicious coffee.

The French know how to do desserts

And here I am, all blissed out over chocolate … it tastes sweeter after running 20 miles, I’m telling ya…

Happiness

So now, The Tapering! A day of rest Sunday, light 3 miles Monday (with my Girls on the Run team), 5 today and 8 miles at 8 minute-mile pace tomorrow.

Getting closer…

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