Ok, here you go-perhaps the most anticipated part of the marathon experience-and definitely the longest: RACE DAY.
I dropped him off, and ate a cliff bar on my way to the race since there was no time to eat my oatmeal. I tried to shake off nervous energy to some songs, but a mile away from my exit I found myself stuck in traffic-which hey happens with 11,000+ try to get to one place. I had originally planned on leaving earlier to avoid this situation, but the dead acura foiled me. I inhaled and exhaled and said Today, you run a marathon-it's going to be ok, you'll get there. I sat there for 45 minutes just trying to get OFF the highway. Then Eric texts me that parking took forever, and that's when the real panic set in. It was now 7:00, and I wasn't off the highway and guntime was in 30 minutes.
By the grace of God, I finally exited but only to sit at more lights and I knew I wasn't going to have enough time to park in the designated lot so I cruised downtown KC looking for an open spot on the street. Of course most were taken, so I resolved to park in a spot that may have been illegal. I geared myself up, threw my belongings in the trunk because I knew I didn't have time for bag/gear check and took off for the start line which was about 2.5 miles from there. I arrive, out of breath and more nervous then ever. Did I mention 30 minutes ago I realized I had to pee? It's now 7:20 and almost all the runners are in their corrals and lined up with their pacers-but guess who's frantically searching for port-a-potties? me. I couldn't find one and the anthem was starting. Crap. I had found Megan and Sofia, they wished me luck and I resolved to just use a bathroom along the course and take the time penalty.
The first mile seemed to crawl by and I still couldn't shut off my brain. There were so many people who I knew running this race, and I seemed to run into them every so often, they clinch my shoulder or wave to get my attention-wish me luck and then pass me. In the second mile, we made our way up a hill that according to my garmin was a ascent of 504 feet. It just seemed to go on and on and on. I confidently forged this hill, I remember thinking "uhm yeah hill repeats what's up." Atop the hill there were hundreds of people gathered to cheer, the hill we had just climbed was Kansas City's famous Liberty Memorial Hill. With all these people, and balloons it seemed like some political rally. Overwhelming really, I looked at all the faces. Now, it's all blurry but running through it I could see everyone so vividly. I scanned each face, looking for a familiar one. Then I saw bathrooms...then I saw the line. I decided I could wait and pressed forward.
After mile 13, Eric told me to go ahead my legs were turning to stones and I knew walking wasn't doing me any favors. I struggled onward, it kept me going knowing that Logan and my mom were ahead somewhere. Then it hit again, the emesis lightning bolt. Numb arms, bent over perpendicular to the group and revisiting my strawberry-banana GU, if you know what I mean. I stood back up, walked if off and kept going. All these stops, all these attitude adjustments-all these things were totally harshing my marathon experience. I kept wondering: Where's my magic? Where's my emotional breakthrough? I wanted to be able to soak every ounce of this, every inch of the 26.2 and all I could focus on is how I wanted this over. I so badly wanted it to end, but it was a marathon-they are like never ending, and that's kinda the point.
What killed me was that at mile 13.1 we didn't turn around and started heading toward the finish. That makes sense no? Apparently that's psychologically too easy. We had to run another 4 miles south and make a hypotenuse like return to the origin. That messed with my head so bad, it's so easy for me to mentally tackle a split on an out and back-but for some reason I just couldn't do the math on this. Yeah, I had reviewed the course before but it's a whole 'notha story once you're out there. Mile 16 came and this is when things started getting really real. The crowds had thinned, but there were still people along the way: high school cheer squads, volunteers and neighbors-everyone. The runners now were more spread out, and now each time you'd pass they could see your bib and cheer you on personally. I felt like the most pathetic celebrity alive, they'd say my name and it felt good and shameful at the same time. These strangers kept telling me to keep going and sharing in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life. I have never ever felt so weak, so tired and so sick and here they were telling me I was strong and to take it home.
I kept trying to think of certain monuments to look forward to, to keep me going. I knew where people would be and knowing that would keep me running temporarily. I couldn't hold my pace for very long, but every time I'd stop I would at least try to start again. Right after 16 passed, I saw my family including my sister in the distance. They all had signs, they were screaming their heads off. I wanted their energy. I wanted it refuel me but more than anything I wanted to stop and let them sweep me off the course. I kept going, anyway-but I admit, I really really didn't want to.
The next few miles were about the same, equally tough but I started a new battle with fatigue. I literally started falling asleep while running. I would forcing myself to run, and my eyes would droop and I felt like I could just nod off. I fought this giant internal war to not take a nap, you can not nap and run and finish a marathon. The muscle fatigue in my core was no better even, and right around mile 18 I started feeling full on muscle failure in my obliques and transabdominals. They vibrated like they were receiving texts messages, and holding myself up became a chore-but throwing up a third time was even more of a chore. Mile 19 came, and I saw volunteer friend Scott who I think could see things weren't going right. I tried to choke out that I've been puking to offer up an explanation-but I'm pretty sure my face was reason enough. He told me to take it home and I started to count down the miles.
I figured that once I saw mile 20, maybe I'd be able to just have this complete out of body experience and have the last SIX MILES flash forward. FAIL Worst assumption ever. Mile 20 is when things only got really more realer. My family was starting to get worried that I wouldn't finish in under 6 hours, and until that point I had never even thought about it. They shouted at me how much time I had left to get those last six miles in-and I thought Today, you FINISH a marathon. I had to finish, but I couldn't help be discouraged. How did this happen? How had things gone so wrong? How did I go from a 4:15 to worrying about making the 6 hour time limit? This is what I had trained for? This is what the last three months had been all about?
Oh that's right? He then said "Guess what? In less then 6 minutes you'll be able to sit down" Glory!
Finished. That was it. Where were my tears? I still just couldn't let go. I think part of it was I didn't want to waste my tears on such an experience I was totally unsatisfied with-but I think it was largely due to dehydration. I gathered my medal, my finished shirt, and some food that I knew I wasn't going to be able to eat. I walked away from the shute and found the closest patch of grass and just laid down.
It was finally over. I finished in 5:48 and some change, a full hour and thirty minutes off my goal time. I did everything right in training a prep, but when you mentally wear yourself down and your luck plays out like a series of unfortunate event, it happens. I wanted to badly to be happy with finishing, but in my heat I felt cheated. I wanted better, and I know it's natural to be slightly disappointed. I knew I had to do some major reflection on accomplishment and the like. So I returned home from the race to do so.