I dug deep – and I pulled out a marathon that I didn’t even know I had inside me.
How deep did I dig, you ask?
I slammed through 26.2 miles in 4:22:38 – a full 32 minutes faster than my first marathon and 13 minutes faster than I hoped to run this race. Smashing my goal of 10:35/mile pace, I pulled out a 10:02 pace for the race. This was my 30th race and BY FAR the best one I’ve ever run – I ran hard, I ran smart, and I totally surprised myself!
It wasn’t easy! In fact, it was the hardest race of my life.
Started like all the other races! I woke up at 4:25 AM, drank two coffees, and ate PB toast.
Then, DadHTP, the Husband, and Nicole piled into our car and we began the 2-hour journey to Greenville, South Carolina. I sat in the back and set up a “hydration station.”
I drank a Gatorade on the way to the race, ate a banana, and I ate a Clif bar. I also drank two waters. I did NOT feel like eating 800+ calories before 7:00 AM but I knew it would benefit me during the race. If you want to run fast, you better fuel up!
We arrived in Greenville a little later than I would’ve liked, so I booked it to the baseball stadium (the starting line).
Luckily, we had enough time to grab my bib, go to the bathroom, and say hello to a group of bloggers + readers who were also running the race! There was also a 5K (which Nicole ran) and a Half Marathon going on.
Jen was also running the marathon, but we didn’t run together because she is much faster than me!
Before I knew it, it was time to line up at the start. This race was smaller and SO different than the Disney Marathon. Although Disney had its benefits (more aid stations, better spectator support), I loved Spinx SO much more. It was more personable, less of a hassle, and more relaxed.
Elvis did the 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… GO countdown! And then we were off.
It felt so strange to be doing a race by myself. I can’t even tell you the last major race that I did alone (probably a Half Marathon in late 2008?). But I really WANTED to do this marathon alone. I wanted to see what I was capable of when I was dictating when to run and how fast and when to take walking breaks.
The first few miles flew by! I was using Nicole’s Garmin because mine died on the way to Greenville, and I didn’t realize she didn’t have AutoLap on (which automatically tells you the pace each mile. But I did the math in my head each mile was pacing 9:10 – 9:50 per mile.
I was feeling GOOD!
The course was beautiful for the first Half. We went through a lovely park and along a Greenway with a rubberized (and therefore knee-friendly) sidewalk. I was smiling SO big by Mile 6.0 as I realized that I WAS RUNNING A FREAKING MARATHON. I was so, so, so happy and grateful as I remembered that I doubted for a long time that I’d ever be able to run a marathon, and then that I doubted I’ve ever run a second one.
The course looped back on itself around Mile 7.0 and I got to run by Jen, which was awesome!
I also started to fuel early into the race. I took a Gu at Mile 4.0, Mile 9.0, Mile 16.0, and Mile 22.0. I had carefully reviewed the course map and knew that aid stations were spaced 2 – 3 miles apart, so I carried my own water bottle and would fill it with three paper cups worth of Gatorade or water at each station. I have no idea how much Gatorade I drank, but I never got hungry.
The other way I ran a smart race was I really focused on running the tangents to run the shortest legal distance (I ended up only running an extra 0.1 mile, which is NOTHING for a marathon). Fueling right + running right = an awesome marathon!
And although the spectators weren’t amazing in numbers, the people who were there had such fun signs! They made me laugh with messages like, “Only 5 more miles until yummy nom noms” and “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.” And this one, of course!
Don’t worry – I didn’t!
At Mile 12.5, I came up a top of a hill and saw Nicole waiting for me! I was SOOO excited to see her. We ran together for another half a mile and then I saw my Dad and the Husband!
I was feeling SOOOO good! I screamed to the Husband, “I’m on pace to run a 2:07 Half Marathon!” And he yelled back, “I’ve been Twittering from CaitlinHTP this whole time!” Only when I got back to the car did I find out he was tweeting stuff like this (and everyone thought that I was tweeting while running!):
It’s like he was reading my mind!
At Mile 16, I realized that I could hit the lap button manually as I passed each mile marker. So from this point out, I have mile splits. I ran Mile 1 – 15 in 2:27:44, which is an average pace of 9:47.
The excitement of running the marathon began to wear off around Mile 16. I was definitely beginning to feel the distance and began to take walking breaks. I have written many times before about how much I LOVE walking breaks, and I am happy to report that I used the walk/run method throughout the second half of the marathon! I walked every mile, and for the last four miles, I walked every half mile. I walked during Mile 25 about 4 times and still had awesome times. Walking RULES. I also took a few stretching breaks to do downward dogs.
- Mile 16: 9:59
- Mile 17: 10:06 <—my first 10:00+ mile
- Mile 18: 9:51
- Mile 19: 9:35
- Mile 20: 10:18
I was so excited to see Mile 20 – the furthest I ran this training – that I stopped to take a picture of the mile marker!
Also, around this time, I came up alongside the 4:15 pace leader. He said he was a little behind his goal pace, but I could barely believe that I was even TALKING TO the 4:15 pacer. I told him, “I NEVER though I’d see you!” I did some math and quickly realized that I might be able to run a 4:20 marathon. I began to FREAK OUT. I was so excited that I was doing so well!
But then… I hit Mile 23.
Mile 23 was the death march during the Disney Marathon. During that race, my pace shot up because I literally could not do anything but shuffle. It was an excruciating mile. When I passed the Mile 23 marker during this race, I became so scared. I really was waiting to get hit by exhaustion. I knew I was pushing my pace and really feared that I would crash and burn. I put on Eminem’s “Til I Collapse” and walked/ran my way to glory.
- Mile 23: 10:51
- Mile 24: 10:31
- Mile 25: 10:13
Also, side note: I had to stare at this guy for Mile 23 – 25. I wanted to kill him. I felt like he was mocking me.
At Mile 25, I really started to get ITCHY!!! I knew the marathon was almost over, and I really wanted it to end ASAP. That’s when I saw Nicole’s smiling face again!
Nicole was SO awesome and ran Mile 26 with me! I really needed her there, too. I couldn’t hold a conversation (I really felt like death) but I reached over and squeezed her arm to say, “Thank you. I cannot talk but I am so glad you are here!”
- Mile 26: 10:38
- Mile 26 – 0.2: 1:55
Nicole said goodbye as I entered the stadium for my victory lap. I began to cry the minute I hit the field and literally openly sobbed as I crossed the finish line. I had big tears running down my face. I was exhausted, my legs hurt, and I was so proud of myself.
Pain is temporary, pride is forever.
When I looked down and saw my time – 4:22:38 – I was FLOORED. I never, ever thought I had a sub 4:30 marathon in me. But I’ve spent the last three months training right, eating well, and doing lots of yoga. Three cheers for what another 10 months of healthy, happy living does for a girl – it knocked 32 minutes off my marathon personal record!
The cruel irony was that I had to climb the stadium stairs after running 26.2 miles – and it hurt.
I stumbled over to the food display and grabbed some Pumpkin Bread (obviously).
And after sitting down for a few minutes, we piled into the car and headed for my personal version of heaven – Whole Foods hot bar.
I piled my plate with 1.5 pounds of macaroni and cheese, tofu, sweet potato casserole, black beans and rice, and veggies. I also had a coke.
I pulled on my compression socks (which really do work) and we drove home! When I arrived, I pulled out the blender and made a protein smoothie (2 cups spinach, 1 cup almond breeze, 2 tablespoons protein, flax, and a banana).
There is MUCH more refueling in my future.
This race was a wonderfully amazing race. I don’t think I’ve set a PR in over a year (at least), and it was absolutely glorious to do it on the biggest, baddest race distance I’ll ever tackle – the marathon!
Thank you SO much for your support!!!