Monday, November 1, 2010

Long Over-due, Columbus Marathon Recap.

Two weeks ago I ran the Columbus Marathon. It's taken a couple weeks to get back on schedule; my apologies for not writing sooner!  Here we go.

First item on the agenda, if at all possible, avoid the Greyhound! Our (my husband Mark and I) trip started at 3am on Friday, walking to Halsted st., taking the #8 bus down to the Chicago Greyhound station. It was a long (and ugly) trip, but we made it to Toledo where my parents picked us up on their way heading to Columbus. My Dad was running the marathon, my Mom was running the half and Mark was there as for support and being the bag boy. Three hours and a Subway sandwhich later we were in Columbus.

The Marriott Hotel we stayed at was great, with an ideal location about 4 blocks to and from the start and finish line. We parked the car, dropped off our gear and walked to the race expo just blocks from the start. The expo was nothing special to write about. It was your typical expo, minus all the free samples I'm used to seeing – Mark is always looking for the Cliff bars! One good thing the expo did give us was a glance at where the finish line was. Nationwide Boulevard, all extremely down hill. A grilled cheese sandwich and a beer (gotta carb load!) finished off the night at a local brewery.

Saturday – the day before the race – consisted of race mandatories: the proper breakfast, lunch, diner and snacks; Gatoraide and water; going over the race course maps (and even driving the course in the car); charging the Garmin; laying out all the gear and pinning on our bibs so there is no fussing in the morning; etc. Oh! And painting my toenails and fingernails a sparkly bright fushia color to match my bright fushia shirt! I'm normally not a matchy-matchy type of person, and I think I've painted my nails once in the past 2 years, but for some reason I really wanted to have sparkly nails!

A well rehearsed diner at Noodles and Co. completed the day. We tried to catch some zzz's after watching the Ohio State v. Wisconsin game in bed (sorry Ohio State!) but soon enough it was Sunday, 5am and the alarm clock was buzzing!

Sunday, race day morning. The organized piles served us well.  Eat, drink, get dressed, put on the Garmin, Ironman, Fuel Belt, SPF, take extra TP, etc. Time to go! The lobby was buzzing with other marathon runners; adding to the excitement. With 50 minutes to gun, we began our walk to the start.

What is a runner's dream? Porta-Potty heaven! That's what we saw when we got to the start. We each had our turns (with no wait) and then headed over to the corral. I gave my Dad a hug and "good luck" – he's one of the fast people who qualified for a seeded start.  His bib read XXXX-2 (giving him special access to the fast people's spot), and my Mom's bib and mine read XXXX-4.  In concert terms "4" was like "general admission" and 2 was "special seating."

It's 7:30 a.m., the band is rocking, the sun is just starting to light up the buildings. The race starts with a bang and an awesome explosion of fireworks!  As my Mom and I make our way to the start we are singing with the band "You gotta fight, for your right.... to PARTY!" I knew this race would totally be a party (and a fight!). The start line was one of the coolest I've seen. The full band and stage was set up directly at the start. Another "good luck" to my Mom and a press of a button on my Garmin and on my Ironman and I was off!

I was a little apprehensive about the first mile; the race director said that it was all uphill for the first mile and to be careful "not to burn out" here. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The entertainment (bagpipe players, bands, cheerleaders, etc.) were about ever .5 miles it seemed. I kept repeating to myself "bring it on." The weather was perfect, the pace was feeling really easy, and it literally felt all down hill.

Mile after mile I was about a minute too fast on my splits. I tried to slow it down, but the next split was still too fast. It just felt good. I thought "it doesn't get better than this."

Somewhere near mile 7 (maybe) there were speed bumps to travel over. A girl next to me said watch out for the speed bumps. I said "what speed bumps, do you mean speed boosters?" We chuckled and I mentally used those speed bumps as a launching pad for my next 30 seconds of running until the next launching pad.

Around mile 11 I ended up next to two girls, one who was running her first half, the other who was helping her finish. The girl made the comment, "we're lucky we aren't doing the marathon." I said, "hey now" and we carried on a light conversation for several minutes. The half-marathon virgin looked pretty defeated, and the other girl was trying to help her out. I asked the newbie girl "have you ever run a 20 minute training run?" she looked at me strangely, then answer, gasping, "yes." I then said, "well then you got this - 20 more minutes." I then split from the girls and carried on.

At mile 13 the half-marathoners turned left and the full-marathoners went straight. It felt like it was just the beginning of the race. I saw my husband Mark at mile 13, he asked me how I was doing. Everything was feeling really good and I was still ahead of pace. When I continued on straight, the pack extremely thinned out. I remember seeing about 4 people ahead of me on about a 2 mile leg; as opposed to having about 25 people running right next to me for the first half. The party kind of felt like it ended, but I knew I had to keep up the intensity!

The sun started beaming at about mile 15, and the shirt sleeves got rolled-up into a make shift sleeve-less shirt. I am so glad I brought my own fuel and water, and that I had so much practice at refueling during the Summer. I emptied my Gatorlytes packet into my water bottle at about mile 16, right around Ohio State's campus. I was starting to feel cramping coming on, but was able to hold it off with the Gatorlytes.

At one point in the Ohio State campus (where you could see inside the stadium) there was a really big descent.  I ran past a guy my age walking and said "this is awesome, you can't walk through this, you gotta run dude."  He said, "I'm doing intervals, it's my walk break." I said "ok." About 15 steps later he was next to me running and said "you're right, this IS an awesome downhill" as he proceeded to pass me. No Ohio State cheerleaders as I was hoping for; I had to be my own cheerleader at this point.

The stretch between the Ohio State campus and the next residential area was pretty challenging from a mental standpoint. There wasn't a whole lot to look at, it was semi-industrial for a bit. I also noticed that I was developing a blister on my middle toe on my left foot; my shoe was slipping a bit, but it was nothing compared to the fatigue I had in my hip flextors, so I carried on.

Around mile 20 I noticed that I was passing and being passed by the same people over and over. We were all going around the same pace. There was one girl in orange who kept passing me and then I would pass her. After about 2 miles of seeing her I started a conversation with her. She was pretty pooped out (as to be expected) just like me, this was her first marathon and she was getting cramps in her hamstrings. I offered her a swig of my Gatorlytes drink and she took it. I told her that I was running 4 minutes, and walking 1 minute and that she could run with me if she wanted to.

We ran the next couple of miles together. She was a great help in bringing my focus back to the race. I remember her saying "mile 23"... and I was like "really? no way!".  About a few steps beyond the 23rd mile marker she had to stop and stretch. I continued on, "see you at the finish line!" I yelled back.

Just a 5k to go, I can do this! From mile 23 to the finish it just kind of happened, one step at a time. I passed the last strip of restaurants withpeople sitting outside watching and then the last park with the beautiful pond and knew I was almost home. Next thing I saw was my Mom and Husband cheering me on at mile 26! Was it really mile 26?! They said my Dad was at the finish line too.

Just a turn to the right and all downhill! I ran through the orange and white balloons knowing that I would finish. They announced my name as I crossed the finish line, and I kept moving forward to the boy who made eye contact with me, who was giving out medals. I bowed my head, and he placed the ribbon around my neck. Yes! Success! I had beaten my goal time by about 19 minutes, and had a PR of over 20 minutes!

I continued through the shoot where I found my family. I waited at the finish line for the girl in orange to finish; when she crossed I gave her a big hug! I ate my Cliff Builders bar and put on my sandals (to find that the blister was no joke, another post about that coming soon). My first thought was "how did you guys do?"... both of my parents got PRs! My second thought was "I want a massage!" We proceeded to the free massage room and all three of us got our messages; victory!

I then went over to the medical tent where the medical students had a field day with my "mother of all blisters".  They popped the blister, said I'd probably lose my toenail. I told them it was no biggie – I just finished a marathon! The afternoon continued on with stories about our races, a dip in the pool, martinis, buckeyes (thanks Deb!) and a walk around downtown Columbus. And I continued to say to myself (just like I did in the race) "It doesn't get much better than this!"


  1. Congratulations on a great race and your new PR! I'm glad you wrote about the Gatorlytes. I tried them and they worked great for me as well! I did a killer 5 mile uphill with no cramping! Thanks! And really great job!

  2. Jen, that's so great about the Gatorlytes! Congrats on a tough 5 miler! I'm going to check out your blogs tonight! =)

  3. Huge Congrats to you!!! I really admire you marathoners.

  4. Congrats on the awesome PR!! Sounds like a good race and great family fun! I love that your dad and mom were in on the race too!