One step at a time 26.2 - My First Marathon

In High School, I had a few teachers talk about running marathons and I thought "thats so amazing, I could NEVER do that!" I thought about maybe trying to do a marathon, but just by running a 5K my IT band showed up and I couldn't swim let alone run without pain and that was pretty much the extent of my Marathon aspirations.

Fast forward a few years, PT visits, X-rays and scraping of my IT Band to have completed enough Half Marathons that I have to stop and think about the number... I think I am at 6, No wait, 7. I just had to count the medals. I cannot count how many 5Ks Ive done and 10Ks are right behind that.

After my first few half marathons there was always the question "so are you going to do a full?" I can honestly say that I was 100% positive when I answered "I'll stick to 13.1" I wasn't in the place where I felt mentally capable to train that long and honestly didn't think my body could handle it. I kept staying it over and over "Ill stick to 13.1, I am not that crazy" but every time I said that I could feel it slowly becoming a lie. Instead of convincing others, I was trying to convince myself that it was the truth but it was not happening. It didn't help that I was surrounding myself with all these amazing athletes that were pushing the limits and proving to me every day that "Impossible" was all mental. 

After completing my Ironman 70.3, I was ready to train all winter for another 70.3 in St George. I was about halfway through training when I figured out that the race was the day after Morgan's graduation and wouldn't be possible, I lost almost all motivation to train. After a few weeks of sleeping through workouts and not feeling myself, I talked to Morgan. "I need a goal, I want to accomplish something big." I needed something that could get me through the winter and work towards for spring. That is when I found the Salt Lake Marathon. 

"2018 is going to be the year I run a Marathon..." 

I was debating between a few races. I initially planned on the St George Marathon to be my first but the problem is that it was in October. I needed something soon. The Salt Lake Marathon was the perfect time, but it was a hard course. I had people telling me that they biked the course and they had a hard time with it... That was a little unsettling but the most important thing for me was for it to be as close to home as possible just in case my family was available to cheer me on. So I did it, I signed up, and surprisingly, slept peacefully that night. 

I found a homemade training plan off pinterest that focused solely on miles, printed it out and stuck it in the back of my phone. as far as training goes, It was done 95% on the treadmill. I hate the cold and get too nervous running outside in the dark alone so with it being winter in Utah the days are short and the nights are cold so the treadmill and I became very close friends. I was able to stick to my training plan with only a few scheduling conflicts here and there. I noticed that I was noticeably more sore during this training set but I was also very determined.

It wasn't until the week of my birthday that things went south. Morgan came home with a cold from work and I was certain that I had dodged it, the lysol was in full force, I banned him from any physical contact and he was finally on the mend when it hit me..... the sore throat, the head ache.... I was just under two months away and got hit with a massive head cold. Morgan and I joke a lot about us getting sick, I don't get sick often but when I do I catch the pelage. When Morgan gets sick, which is more often than I do, he gets over it in 72 hours. This was no exception. This cold that lasted him 5 days took me out for 5 days and by day 9 I was finally able to get back on the treadmill but not without blowing my nose every quarter mile and coughing up a lung every half mile. I made it thorough though and even though I had missed out on a week of training I still felt strong. 

That was until I caught the second cold two weeks later! I could not believe it. I had been sick all though Valentine's Day and my Birthday wasn't that punishment enough?! You better believe I was actually this dramatic when I started feeling sick again. I tried so hard to stifle this one with Vitamin C, Airborne, all the Doterra oils... Another 5 days of a clogged brain and just getting through the day. 

You could say my training was pretty spotty for that month and I spent my last month of training just trying to squeeze it all in without injury. My training had suffered from injury in the past but never from Immune system betrayal. I was navigating uncharted waters in every aspect of this race. I did what I could, my longest run before the race was 16 miles, but accumulative, I was bringing in over 100/Month I felt confident in my ability to mentally get through the race so although I was aware I could have trained more, I was ready.  

The entire week leading up to Saturday I tossed and turned every night. I woke up in panics wondering what day it was convinced that I had missed my race! Night after night the lack of sleep was starting to wear on me... As Friday rolled around I was ready to just get it done and over with! Morgan and I had our celebratory date night with rice and chicken, I had everything set out ready to go for race day, turned on 3 alarms and went to bed. 

I was surprisingly calm heading to bed, I went right to sleep and didn't have as much race anxiety as I normally do, especially with it being a new course and new distance. In all honesty I don't think that It had set in.

Morning came and we were out the door 4 min behind schedule which is fine because we always factor in a big buffer window. I had my toast and water while Morgan and Maddie (SIL) drove with me to downtown SLC. Morgan reaaaallllly wanted to get me to the starting line so he could be there with me but they had EVERY road blocked off, we made U turn after U turn and I told Morgan, Id rather just be safe on time and take the TRAX station to the start ( as recommended to the runners in the race packets ) So Morgan found the closest TRAX station and dropped me off. I have to admit I was very proud to be wearing my bib that said MARATHON across it. All of those other races I looked up to those runners as if I was in the presence of royalty or pure insanity... either way, they were the hierarchy and for the first time ever I was amongst them. 

We rode the TRAX station up to Primary Children's Hospital, hopped off and found the start line. I was actually happy to only have 15 min until start. I didn't have time to get through the bathroom lines  (but didn't feel like that was going to be an issue) more importantly, I  also didn't have time to panic either. I found my neighbor who was also running the marathon which was nice to see a friendly face. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was given the fact that it had snowed the week before and was ready to get this thing done! I had lost so much sleep, spent so many hours and miles working towards this goal, I was beyond ready for the race to start. 

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I got in my corral and put my hand over my heart for the anthem and before I could back out and call Morgan "im coming home" I was off. I hate the start of every race, I don't love the massive crowd of people sprinting past you (just to see them walking a few miles later) or having to dodge people who have decided to start walking 2 miles in while trying to settle into your pace. This race starts out climbing a few good hills but the half and full marathon started together so the crowds were still pretty compact. It took me about 3 miles to get settled into my pace. I past all those big houses up on the mountain that I would pass while on the freeway, waved to the bald guy in a robe sipping his coffee, laughed at the dogs going crazy in their yard as masses of people were running past their lawns. 

The easiest miles were near the start heading down a beautiful canyon. There were porta potties everywhere and I was so relieved that every time I did a head to toe check I wasn't feeling anything, no pain, no fatigue I was doing great! I was having so much fun! Mile 6 came and I was starting to get a little warm and started to wonder why I hadn't seen Morgan or Maddie.... but sure enough there they were! I was able to shed my jacket and hand it off to Maddie. She was the funnest, she would run ahead so she was the first one I saw and ran a little bit with me as we got over to the group. Seeing Maddie and Morgan for the first time was so exciting! I was so excited to be able to report that I was feeling amazing! I kept running on and actually found myself smiling! I was so excited to be on that course in that moment and enjoying every bit of it. 

After mile 9 there was a huge sign and I realized this was where the Half Marathoners and Marathoners split the problem was that they all went downhill and I was headed straight up .... "here we go! " I took a Left and up the hills I went!

Morgans Family, My MIL FIL AND my other SIL came along a few hours after the start and cheered me on for the last 3/4 of the Marathon. It was so fun to see my squad along the course! I found my MIL, FIL and SIL at Sugarhouse park at mile 10. I was taken completely by surprise because I was so lost in my head after those hills wondering which toe had the blister that I was feeling... Seeing them was a huge boost for my moral and got me up the Sugarhouse hills like they were nothing! I remember yelling just 16 more miles to go! and it hit me, "Hey, I have run 16 miles before. I can do this" 

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I had so much fun along the course. Sure it was up hills but there was so much support it was hard to let the hills get to you. The residents came out of their houses, they had squirt bottles, waters, fruit and one guy even handed out Dole Whips! I found it so easy to get lost in my thoughts, reading the signs along the course is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I turned up a hill and remember thinking "oh boy" but up the hill I went, I was reading signs, smiling at the cheers, thanking the officers and then I read " IF YOUR READING THIS SIGN YOU AREN'T FOCUSING ON THIS HILL," that made me laugh a little and bring me back to reality which was perfectly fine because the next sign read "YOU JUST CONQUERED THAT HILL"

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One of the most impactful moments of the race was when I hit mile 14. When I realized that I only had 12 miles left I thought "I only have 12 miles left I can do this!" and this time, It wasn't a pep talk, it was a fact, I honestly believed it. That surge of confidence was something that I had never felt before and at that point, I had "won the race" I had let go of the nerves and doubt and from that point on, I had the time of my life. I was able to see my family along the course so many more times than I expected. I was anxiously searching at every bend or at the top of every hill trying to spot my FIL's red shirt and the rest of the crew that followed. 

The sun was up, the wind was a perfect slight breeze and the miles felt like they were flying by! I was very diligent on my nutrition, eating my gels and trading off with my Gu's for the sake of variety. I was very careful to avoid any of the Endurance Formula Gatorade ( I learned my lesson from my Half Ironman ) At every aid station, I was pleasantly surprised when I had no inkling of needing to use the porta potties but finally it hit me coming up on mile 21. I could see the flags up ahead signaling an aid station, I called Morgan and wanted to see if the map indicated that there were bathrooms ahead. There was nothing of the sort. I knew this feeling and I wasn't about to push my luck like last time. After hanging up the phone, standing still and grabbing my stomach, while weighing my options... Should I try to run up and risk there not being bathrooms or should I dart across the street and take advantage of the Taco Bell.... the officer holding off traffic yelled over 

"Is everything okay?!"

"uhm yes, do you by chance know if there are toilets up there at the aid station?"

"you know... I dont, I think your best bet is Taco Bell"

"okay thanks! they are open right?"

"oh yeah! they are 24/7"

and just like that, traffic was cleared and I sprinted over the median into Taco Bell. I ran in and nearly yelled "can I pleaaaasse use your bathroom?!" the desperation in my voice along with the race bib caused two employees to rush over to me and toss the key over the counter pointing to where the bathrooms were. It was perfect timing and I was in and out of the bathroom as quick as I could and literally ran out of the store yelling "thank you so much!!" I was crossing the street and back on the course I thanked the officer and he responded "no worries at all I have been there before!"

I ran up ahead to see that there were indeed two bathrooms set up next to the table but I was able to run straight through and keep moving forward. My pace had slowed considerably compared to the start which I was fine with because I had just been climbing hills for the last few miles and was completely okay with letting myself slow down. I could feel the blisters growing as well as multiplying and I had reapplied the vaseline to all the places that had started burning but I tried to ignore all of the things I couldn't control. The one thing that I could focus on was my heart and lungs, I realized that every time I tried to pick up the pace my lugs were not having it and I would start to cough. I tried to play it smart and just keep my heart rate in zone 2 and keep it steady. 

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My neighbor as well as some other experienced marathoners warned me about mile 22 they said just keep your head down and run. Although I really did feel great and have such a fun time I would be lying if I said I didn't know what they were talking about. I realized how tired I was when I finally made it to a downhill stretch and still felt like I was running uphill! Those last two miles are the miles I was most proud of. I was tired. I was hurting and I kept going. I had come to terms that I was not going to be picking up my pace but I had also decided I wasn't going to be walking to the finish. I tried my hardest to zone out and to just keep pushing on to the finish on step at a time. 

Mile 24 was coming up and I could see the last aid station staffed with all the medical personal. I grabbed a cup of water and was approached by one of the paramedics. He searched for my eyes suggesting that he needed eye contact and very sincerely asked "are you okay? do you need anything at all?" I appreciated the gesture, tried to not look like I was dying and happily tried to convince both him and me "Only two more miles! I can do this!" I dug deep and found just enough determination to make it through. Just keep moving, don't stop running. 

I am going to be honest, I was so relieved to know I wasn't going to be the very last person but I was very aware that I was in the back of the pack. The half marathoners had to of finished hours ago and I was no speedster. I turned the corner and saw that arch... I was listening to Carrie Underwoods new song Champion and I felt like I was in a movie. My heart started to flutter with excitement, I was going to do it! This was my time, this was the day, the year the moment, I was FINALLY going to be a marathoner! That stretch felt long and I noticed that My Garmin was clocking my distance beyond the 26.2... I thought about just walking the rest of the way, I had run a marathon.... I didnt need to run the last .3 but the music blaring in my ears was mixing with the cheers of the volunteers that hung back to cheer us runners on! I glanced back and saw that there were more people behind me than I had assumed. I wasn't the back of the pack, I could run into the shoot with pride. So that is what I did! I tried to search for my cheering squad as I ran into the finish and caught a glimpse of my mom and dad right before I crossed that finish line. 

I instinctively through my hands up in the air and almost immediately brought them back down onto my head as exhaustion fully set it in. I stopped my Garmin and saw that my neighbor had hung back long enough to see me finish! It was so kind and I am so grateful for that but I only had enough energy to yell over, "what the heck I clocked 26.5!" turns out everyone else did too! haha how annoying! After I got my water bottle I remember just walking along the gates trying to figure out how I was going to get over to my family.... Finally, I found Morgan who came right over to give me a hug and the tears just started flowing. I couldn't figure out why I was crying, how I had just done that and if this was real life. 

Thank the high heavens, it was not a dream but to this day it still feels surreal. I had both sets of my parents there to watch, I can't believe that my in-laws ran around downtown to cheer me on and that my parents were able to make it in time to see me finish. I was especially emotional that my dad was there because he was my OG running buddy. We both suffered through many 5ks together and he was the one who drove me to my 10K races in the early hours of the morning. Although im sure he was more than happy to pass the torch on to Morgan but we absolutely had some good times along the course even if it was full of my dad cursing me in his head as I urged him along the course and demanding that he kept running. 

After getting my medal I managed to find my way to my family and cramped up just trying to take my socks off so thank goodness for my support crew who helped me get my shoes and socks off so I could slip into my sandals in between counting the blisters on my feet. 

I made it home and sat in a freezing cold bath. Morgan helped me brush out my hair, apply bandaids on the 11 blisters on 8 of my 10 toes and we both laid down to take a nap. I laid there listening to Morgan doze off and couldn't figure out why I couldn't get myself to fall asleep. I had been exhausted all week long, just ran a marathon and I couldn't sleep. The adrenaline had subsided or so I thought, but I just laid there in pain. I tried to do an inventory of my pain points, the blisters had calmed down, the ice on my knees numbed that pain but then I realized my back was on fire. The pain and discomfort was from the impressive new tan lines that come from running for 4 hours in the sun.... I was briiiight red. After realizing that was why I was so uncomfortable, I just laid there and thought about what had just happened and allowed myself to feel proud.

I had all these excuses, the IT band, the head colds, the asthma, the busy schedule, but it turns out that they were just that, excuses. A winter full of "dreadmill" runs, head colds and nutrition experiments and I not only ran a marathon but I also ran one of the toughest courses locally in Utah. Id say it was a dream except that I am STILL nursing the blisters back to health and im pretty certain that these tan lines are permanent.

I had been told there is nothing like your first Marathon and I can report that It is true. I may only have one under my belt but I can promise that this finish was unlike any other. I don't know if it was because I had been so nervous for so long to conquer this distance or if it was because I had so much support show up or both but either way, this race is one that Ill always remember and do so with a huge cheesy dorky smile on my face. It was an amazing day, the day I became a marathoner.