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Friday, December 14, 2012

The One About The Dallas Marathon {Part 1}

I was hoping I wouldn't have to write this in parts but then I got to page 6 of a single spaced word document and realized I was only half way finished I figured I should probably break it up for you. So here is part 1 and I hope to have part 2 up early next week.

It’s kind of surreal that my marathon is actually over and done with; in one regard I’m sad that it’s come and gone and over with but in another regard I’m relieved and so glad that it’s behind me. In many ways the Dallas marathon far exceeded my expectations but also in many ways there were things about the day that I wasn’t entirely happy with and will definitely be working on for the next marathon. But the bottom line is this: I would do Sunday over again!

The whole time I was running the thing that kept coming to mind was just how prepared I actually felt. When I think back to my first race (the 8 mile Turkey Trot) and then my very first half marathon (Big D in April of 2011) I can’t help but be thrilled with just how far I have come. I know that technically this wasn’t my first marathon; I have in fact trained for one once before and toed the line and in many regards run a marathon, but I didn’t actually finish that race as a marathoner. But even then, as prepared as I felt then, this time was so much different. On Sunday I went out and ran, I did what I knew how to do and I wasn’t worried about the things that were unknown for the day and the things I couldn’t control; that’s a huge step for me. On Sunday night my mom told me that she was shocked every time she saw me at just how relaxed I was on the course and how much I seemed to be enjoying myself, in my mind that is the biggest success of the day. I run for me, I did this for me and I enjoyed it.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t enjoy every single little step and there were some pretty brutal parts of that race but when I thought about what I was out there accomplishing in just 5 short hours I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the ability to accomplish a dream. Despite the fact that I’m a perfectionist and have a list of things to improve upon I’d say I put forth a pretty darn good effort on Sunday. Marathons are no joke; they are hard work and no matter how hard you train you just can’t grasp the magnitude of how hard that race distance is, but the pride you feel in crossing that finish line is worth every single step.

The day started for me at 5 am; I am actually very thankful that I get up at this time every day for work and many times for training runs I would get up at this time or earlier and head out to run, it definitely made waking up much easier. I live about 40 minutes north of downtown Dallas so we left the house around 5:45. I am very lucky in that I had my mom drop Alex and I off at the starting line so I didn’t have to worry about parking, those things stress me out. Traffic was a bit of a mess downtown though and we were supposed to meet Mr. and Mrs. Thomas in their hotel (which was within walking distance of the start) but because of street closures mom just dropped us off literally right at the start line and then we walked to meet the Thomas’s. Alex will tell you that I was nervous and while I was nervous about things like getting into the corral and finding port-o-potties and such I wasn’t really actually thinking about the actual running part, for that part I was surprisingly calm.

Once we met up with the Thomas’s we walked to the starting area and found plenty of port-o-potties that we barely had to wait for. I’d say we waited about 5 minutes total for a one. Then we made our way to the corrals. The corrals were supposed to close at 7:40 but due to an accident on 75 South that had the highway closed they never actually closed the corrals until right before start time. 

At the expo I had switch corrals and moved up a corral to corral B. Mr. Thomas was also in corral B. Alex and Mrs. Thomas were in corral C. So after a few pictures, some good luck hugs and well wishes we parted ways. There were port-o-potties in the corrals so I quickly jumped in line again, I didn’t have to really go again it was more to occupy my time and ease my mind. Once I made it through the potty line there was about 10 minutes to start time. There was plenty of room in the corrals to walk around and stretch so I took advantage of that. I really liked the start area and how it was organized; there were 3 large corrals with plenty of room and everything was very well organized and easy to find. I couldn’t see the start line but I could clearly hear the announcer with no issues and they were doing a great job of keeping us entertained. The only thing I would say was lacking was some excitement from the runners and a lack of a crowd at the starting line.

It took me about 9 minutes to cross the starting line and then I was on my way. Even though I had moved up a corral I still needed to go really slow so I just took my time and let people pass me. We actually started out on a downhill portion so it made it kind of hard to go slow but the humidity helped keep me in check. Speaking of humidity…holy humidity was it bad out there!! I knew within the first half mile that I was in for an interesting day; I was already sweating bullets and it was so humid that the streets were actually slippery; this would be a problem for quite a while actually. I got a side cramp within the first mile and I can count on 1 hand the times I have ever gotten a side cramp while running so this was odd, thankfully it went away by mile 2 or else I was going to be in for a very long day.

We headed south towards a part of town that I have never been in before, and for good reason, but the people of south west Dallas were actually quite welcoming and seemed thrilled that the race was coming through their part of town. People were out cheering and handing out candy and donuts and water but I didn’t take anything. I was my dad and stepmom right about mile 2, they were out cheering and had a sign for me, it was really good to see them, I liked knowing they would be out on the course. 

Right after I saw them we made a right turn and continued on our way. There was a place where a motorcycle group was out cheering and many of them were revving their engines which I get was cool and they were trying to boost the energy but the fumes were awful! A little later we made another right turn and I saw one of my co-workers whose family owns a bakery in south west Dallas, I had no that was where it was but she recognized me on the course and waved at me.

After the second right turn we were coming upon the Mary Hunt bridge which in a new structure in Dallas that connects south Dallas to downtown and that was part of why they switched the course. Alex came upon me at this point and ran a few strides with me but I told him I needed to slow back down so I let him go ahead. Right at the base of the bridge I remember the first water stop but I didn’t take any water yet. I saw Alex again because he had stopped to grab some water. Then it was up the bridge. It wasn’t a huge incline but a little steep and the ground was super slippery and it was very hard to get my footing which made my hamstrings and glutes hurt. Once on top of the bridge it was nice because you could see downtown Dallas in front of you and there was a slight breeze, and I say slight with much exaggeration, but I do remember be thankful for some sort of relief from the humidity, even if it was minor.

Once off the bridge we made a sharp left turn and headed toward the design district of Dallas. Again this was an area that I had never been before but it’s supposedly pretty cool and very up and coming right now. This was actually one of my least favorite portions of the race because obviously none of the stores were opened and the streets were kind of narrow. There was only a speckling of spectators because most of the streets were closed in this area. Around mile 4 there was a group that I ended up on the fringe of and they were all wearing the same shirts and singing and making jokes. I couldn’t tell if they were fundraising together or just running as a group but they were funny and entertaining albeit slightly annoying at times. I would stay in and around this group for much of the race.

The first relay exchange point was in the design district around mile 5 so there were some spectators there. I do remember vaguely taking some water at one of the water stops in and around here because I knew if I didn’t I would definitely regret it later. I also decided that instead of waiting until mile 7 or 8 I would take a GU at mile 5 because I really needed the electrolytes. This portion is vague to me but I think I wasn’t feeling all that great and just getting really tired, the humidity was awful and I was sweating a ton but I was still running strong. My pace was pretty consistent at this point with most of my miles being in the 11:20 range, this was a bit faster than I had wanted but I was ok with that.

I knew I was going to see my dad at mile 6 which was where Scottish Rite Hospital was so that gave me a boost of energy along with my GU. Right before mile 6 we were heading up a hill and I passed Alex going up. He was taking a GU and walking. I was actually really surprised to see him because I thought he would have been long gone by then but I said hi as I passed and just kept my pace since we were heading up a hill I didn’t want to lose momentum. At the top of the hill we turned right and headed down hill. I saw my dad and Denise again and I thought my mom was going to be there as well but I never saw her. (it turns out she was actually there and kind of behind my dad but she knew I never saw her) My dad offered me GU and water but I told him I was fine for now, especially since we were going down the hill at this point.

At the bottom of the hill we made a left turn and started heading down the Turtle Creek area, I have actually run this area many times before in all the different races in Dallas, it’s a nice wide street and generally good for races. There were lots of spectators at this point and that was very nice. This was also the point in the course where you could see all the half marathoners heading back to their finish. I like being able to see the other runners, that’s always encouraging for me but Sunday it was weird knowing I wasn’t going to be with them.

At the end of this long stretch was mile 8 and that was where the half marathoners did a U-turn while the marathoners went straight. This was where it started to get real for me. I remember thinking at this point that it was so humid I won’t even want to be running a half marathon, yet low and behold here I am running a FULL marathon. Add to the drama of the fact that for once I couldn’t make the U-turn we had to go up a hill to get to the next turn. I have actually run or rather walked this particular hill before in a race and it’s a brutal one for sure. Add to that, the streets are still really slippery and I couldn’t get my footing very well which made my left glute very unhappy, it was sore most of the race. I would say that this turn off point was daunting to me but in all reality it was kind of empowering to me to know that for once I’m one of the “big dogs” on the race course and I get to go straight, from here on out anyone I see on the course will know I’m running the whole darn thing.

Once I made it to the top of the hill I was able to breathe and relax just a bit and let the realization sink in that there was no turning back now. We were going through some nice neighborhoods now and there were a few people sitting out in their lawns cheering. At mile 9 we were exiting the neighborhood and getting ready to go across the highway. I stopped at the water stop to grab some Gatorade but I actually had to come to a dead stop because they had run out and were taking their sweet time making some more, this really frustrated me. Not that I was running for a specific time or anything but seriously to have to stand and wait at the table with a line of people for Gatorade was annoying. This was the second water stop that I had stopped at and so I grabbed a cup of water as well and drank both then went back on my way. I remember was we ran over the highway and I could look down and see all the cars driving below I was think how cool it was for those drivers to look up and see us all.

At this point I was starting to see a few 10s pop up on my pace, mile 9 was a 10:59 and for the next 6 miles I would consistently switch back and forth between a mid-high 11 min mile and then a high 10 min mile. I didn’t really plan this, it just happened. I would have liked my pace to be slightly more consistent but I knew that regardless of what pace I was running early on the weather was just too hot and I knew the last half of the race was going to be hard for me so I decided to let myself enjoy those faster miles while I had the energy. I don’t think I wore myself out because they honestly weren’t that fast.

I saw my mom right before mile 11 and it was nice to see her. I had missed seeing her at mile 6 and I didn’t think I was going to see her again until mile 17 or later so that was a nice boost to be able to see her. Right after I passed her I realized I needed to take another GU so I walked through a water stop and took a GU. I tried to run again right after that but started to get a weird stomach cramp so I took it easy for a few more steps before picking it back up again. I honestly would have liked to have made it a lot further before I started walking but it was still very hot and humid and it’s really amazing how much that just zaps your energy.

I powered through miles 12 and then right before mile 13 I saw my dad and stepmom again which was unexpected (by the way, they are truly the best race spectators ever, they find the most obscure places to park and they can find you on the course, this is not the first race they have spectated and every time I’m so impressed with how many times they find me) I hit the half way timing belt at exactly 2:30. I knew deep down I didn’t have it in me to finish the second half in 2:30 but I was actually still feeling really good so I was optimistic that I wouldn’t be too far off of my 5 hour pace. I also got a nice mental boost here because I came across a lady that I knew from church and she’s run countless marathons and she was walking while I was passing her (for the record I finished before her!) I said hi and asked how she was, she said she was having a rough day. I felt bad for her but I also got a surge of energy realizing just how strong I actually felt when everyone else was melting in the heat.

To be continued.....


Jameil said...

I'm amused by the people perfectly posed in your pics. LOL Can't wait for part two!

Kim said...

I'm impressed at how great you look in all the pictures! I love your narrative - almost feel like I'm there! Can't wait to read the rest of the story!!

armyamy said...

I love long race recaps with lots of questions! This is what you were working towards all this time - we want all the juicy details!

The fact that you felt so strong during the race indicates that you were well-trained. And especially considering that you most recent half marathons were so good, it's not really a surprise. You were ready physically and mentally. I'm looking forward to hearing the second half!*

Meghan said...

Such an amazing accomplishment! Can't wait for the next installment!

Suz and Allan said...

Beautiful pictures! Ugh, humidity. It's so brutal! I know that must have been so encouraging to see your family a few times during the first half. Nice job on hitting 2:30 in the first half!

Tiffany said...

This is awesome!! So excited to hear Part 2!


Elizabeth said...

Great photos! I'm loving this recap- can't wait to hear about the rest!! :)

meghan said...

I can't wait for the rest!! I love hearing some of the thoughts that you had, because they're things I'd think too. The part about all the other people knowing you're running the full after you split off is something I'd definitely be proud of, and when you were running over the cars and thought they'd think it was pretty cool would definitely be another though that I'd have! Put the rest soon. I can't wait to hear it. I love the detail that you're going into. It's getting me so excited!