Friday, March 7, 2014

Woodlands Marathon Race Recap

Previous posts on the Woodlands Marathon:
Race Strategy
Race Mantra
Post-Race Recovery

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Last Friday marked the start of the Woodlands Marathon festivities when I arrived at the race expo with my husband, Robert, my parents, and good friend, Long, who was running the race with me. Although a small expo, they had great vendors. While I was there, I picked up my bib number and race packet, a few Bondi Bands, and a new shirt for the race, which I was able to personally customize! I picked out a blank shirt style, and then chose the decal I wanted on the front and back. They had so many neat designs from which to choose!

I love my new Bondi Band that says “Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fastest One of All”!

After some expo exploring, the decision was made to have a pre-race dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. I love this restaurant, although it is very difficult to not go overboard on calories. I had a couple pieces of bread, and ordered a pasta dish from their Skinnylicious menu, which turned out to be a perfect portion size. Once dinner was done, my parents headed back to their hotel, and Robert, Long, and I went back to the apartment to get everything ready for the race. We laid out our outfits and gear, and made sure our fuel belts were fully stocked – his with Gu, and mine with Honey Stinger gels & waffles. After some stretching and foam rolling, I went to sleep; my nerves hadn’t quite hit yet so I had no trouble sleeping like a rock until my alarm went off at 5 AM the next morning.

Here is a picture of the customized shirt I got at the expo. I ended up with an all-black race outfit and decided it was a way to symbolize a funeral for all the times I used the word ‘can’t’!

We arrived to the corral area around 6:20 AM Saturday morning, where I ran into a bunch of my Team RWB friends – why we did not get pictures, I have no idea! I made a quick port-a-potty stop, did some warm-up stretches, took a few pre-race photos, and by then it was time to line up in our start corral. That is when the nerves and excitement started to overtake me both mentally and physically. My hands were shaking, and yet I could not stop smiling! After what felt like a split second, the crowd was moving towards the start line, and I followed suit – I waved goodbye to Robert and my parents on the sidelines and began my very first 26.2 journey.

Side 1 of my awesome husband’s race sign!image

And side 2!image

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The nerves eased immediately in passing over the start line and I fell into a familiar rhythmic cadence. I was so grateful to have Long there running with me – we kept at a steady pace for a long while, enjoying each other’s stories and discussing random topics of conversation. Every once in a while we would find ourselves in a similar pace with a third person and would chat with them for a few minutes (we even had one guy tell us a hilarious story about his son’s birth – he made the mistake of saying to his wife “well, that wasn’t so bad” after she had the baby, and he said 14 years later, he is still paying for that comment haha)! One of my absolute favorite things about races is the sense of camaraderie. It is SO easy to meet new friends, and the encouragement between runners on the race course is always astounding!

Some 10-12 miles down the beautiful {SINGLE LOOP!!} course lined with gorgeous green trees as tall as you can imagine, we saw our first on-course photo opportunity. I knew we had to do something epic, and I think we made the right decision! What do you think?

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We continued on and things were moving fine. I easily lost track of the miles with having a running partner, plus the on-course volunteers and spectators were incredibly motivating! I do admit, though, that the humidity started getting to me around mile 18 – luckily we had overcast for the majority of the race up until then, but the sun began to peek out at us every once in a while, and that was when the weather took more of a toll than I would have wished. That being said, I helped make up for it by drinking both electrolytes and water at every aid station instead of alternating between the two. This kept me from ever getting dehydrated or overly-fatigued.

Showing our enthusiasm at another photo op!image

A couple miles later I saw the 20-mile marker and, once I passed it, every single emotion you can think of just hit me like a ton of bricks. My longest training run was 20 miles, so at this point I knew I would make it, but my brain kept playing games with me, saying that those final 6 miles are so close and yet so far. I nearly burst into tears from both happiness and aggravation, and the hard attempts at choking them back caused me shortness of breath. Long was fantastic and calmed me down enough to where I could hone in on my mantra – trials and tribulations, I’ve had my share, but there ain’t nothing gonna stop me now cause I’m ALMOST THERE!

Last photo op a few miles before the finish!image

Repeating that got me through the next few miles, and something sparked within me when we were about 2 miles away from the finish. As exhausted as I was, there was something left in my tank to where I could really pick up the pace to the end! Long and I sped up and passed tons of spectators cheering for us; I heard one lady screaming “THREE MORE TURNS AND YOU’RE DONE!” and that is when I got serious tunnel vision. A few minutes later I saw it – the cheers were deafeningly loud but all I could hear was my own laborious breathing from sprinting so hard – Long and I ran across the finish line and I screamed “YEEEEEES!” at the top of my lungs! I felt truly invincible in that moment, and it made every single day of the last 18 weeks’ worth it! There was no holding back the emotion anymore; I saw my family right away and went over to them, smiling and bawling at the same time.

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After many hugs and congratulations, I got my medal and checked my time – 4:50:25! As if finishing the 26.2 mile race wasn’t enough, I also beat my sub-5 hour goal!

My Race Stats:
Overall Rank: 701/1238
Gender Rank: 254/516
Age Group Rank (F 25-29): 37/56
10K Split: 1:06:54 (10:46 min/mile)
21K Split: 2:20:43 (10:45 min/mile)
35K Split: 4:01:27 (11:07 min/mile)
Finish: 4:50:25 (11:08 min/mile)

Although the journey to my first marathon has ended, the triumph will ring in my heart for a lifetime. In my 18 weeks of training, I encountered tough moments, fun moments, strong moments, prideful moments, humble moments, and more; but that one fleeting moment in crossing the finish is enough to make me want to do it all over again!

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QOTD: How did you feel when you finished your longest distance race for the first time?

21 comments

  1. Ok, you officially have me in tears! I am so proud of you! That was very courage of Long to jump for the photographers. The photographer at PHM wanted me to do that but I could just imagine myself falling over with my bummed knee...lol so glad you had a great first marathon and that you had a good friend by your side! Love the saying on your bondi band!

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    1. Awww, thank you so much!! I looove the jumping photo - it is probably my favorite one! Jumping with a bummed knee probably wouldn't have been the best idea, so I think you made the right call ;0)

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  2. Oh my gosh... that picture of you going to your family - the emotion. Make me feel all the feels... so magical!
    You look so HAPPY & STRONG in all your pictures!!! You are amazing!!! Glad you had a running partner that made it a 'not so lonely' experience.
    Your husband's sign.. that is hilarious!!!
    SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!!!!! Hope you're still healing up well!

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    1. Thank you so much Rebecca!! I can't even begin to describe all the emotion. The photos capture it better than a thousand words could!

      It was really incredible having a great friend as my on-course support and having my amazing husband and parents there to support/spectate before and the after the race as well!

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  3. I almost choked up at Princess but I managed to control the tears. I love the area around the Woodlands and your pictures show a great scenic course. Great job on your first marathon!

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    1. Thanks, Lesley! It can definitely be hard choking back tears, especially after running for such a long time! And it was a very beautiful course!

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  4. Congrats on an awesome race. You are a marathoner and should be so proud. Your photos made me tear up, especially where you jumped into your husband's arms. Very sweet!

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    1. Thank you so much, ladies! My husband has consistently been one of my biggest supporters - he is amazing!

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    2. I'd be lying if I said I didn't tear up at the pics too!

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  5. I got chills and teared up while reading this! I am SO happy for you!! Those pictures are all amazing and capture the emotion perfectly. I choked up when I finished my first half marathon but managed to hold back the tears because I was alone at the time. If I had immediately gone to see my family I definitely would've cried. Congratulations again you were a rockstar out there!!

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    1. Aww, thank you!!! You are so sweet :0) I think I would have cried even if my family hadn't been there, but seeing them at the finish line to support me just made it all extra incredible (and emotional)!

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  6. That would be fun to design a shirt - didn't see that at the expo. I hope you received a finishing shirt after all and without much trouble. Congrats on your first marathon finish!

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    1. Thanks Tina! I haven't received my finisher shirt yet, but I'll be picking one up at the Fleet Feet store next Saturday! :0)

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  7. Super huge congrats to you! I had no doubt you would meet your goal and rock this race. That first on course photo is truly EPIC! - Jess

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    1. Thanks Jess!! That jumping pic is probably my favorite race photo ever!

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  8. So amazing! You did it!!! Your recap has got me in tears. What a wonderful end to your first marathon! I love how supportive Robert is- what a great guy! The jumping photo is pretty awesome, too! This is all just preparation for Dopey, right? :)

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    1. Aww, thanks Kim!! Robert is such an amazing husband - I hit the jackpot when I found him!

      Not only for Dopey prep, BUT I'd be lying if I said that wasn't in my mind. I definitely wanted to know I can do a full marathon before signing up for a massive race challenge like 48.6 miles! :0)

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  9. I'm totally crying like a little girl right now, not even gonna lie. Hahaha. That picture of you crossing the finish line, and at the end hugging your hubby, really got me.

    OMG, CONGRATULATIONS, girl! You did it. You look incredible and so happy and proud (as you should be!), and your finish time is amazing! It's so great that you got to run with a buddy and he helped you through, and, also...I love your shirt. I want one! :-D

    Sooo happy for you! Okay, now...what's next? ;)

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    1. Aww, thank you Jennifer!! :0D I'm not gonna lie, I'm still basking in the triumph of completing the marathon! I hope this feeling never goes away haha :0)

      Next runDisney race is Wine & Dine, then Dopey Challenge, and I have plans to run the Big Sur Marathon in 2015! Want to join?!

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  10. Love! I love your pics! Love the shirt! and love the recap!

    Almost There got me through the last 3-ish miles of my first half, too!

    Congrats . . . Marathoner!

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    1. Thank you Summer! :0) 'Almost There' is such a perfect song/mantra for a race!

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