Pre-Story .. Number 12 was a truly outstanding experience! It would not have been possible without the EXTRAORDINARY support system I was fortunate to have on Sunday. My family (Mom, Dad, Bro, Husband, & Mother in Law) and two Sticks (C & K) really stepped it up to cheer, take pics, offer words of encouragement, be supportive, run part, run all (ALL!!), and/or just be awesome! What a day! There are about 98572954729471 pictures in this post, and hopefully they will help tell the story for which words do not suffice. Starting it all off is a picture of my finishing tee from my first Madison Marathon in May 2000. They handed these out at the finish line. I remember thinking that I had worked really hard for those threads..
Almost Race Day.. My husband and I flew in to Chicago late Friday night. The next day, I did my traditional one mile run/extended stretching regimen @ the mother-in-law's. Though she is no stranger to my excessive running habits, this would be her first full marathon spectating experience (she was a part of Madison 2000 at mile ten and the finish line). After a lovely lunch, we all drove up to Madison. Of course, my brother had gone up a few days earlier to play golf at just about every golf course Madison has to offer ;) We met C of Team Stick for dinner. Here we are "carbo loading" at a fun little Italian restaurant the night before. (Tip for viewing this pic: Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see..)
After dinner, I was in for quite the surprise! K of Team Stick had flown in from Minneapolis for the marathon! I couldn't believe that she came all that way to be a part of it--how awesome! Unfortunately, we had to get some zzzz's due to the next day's 7am start, so there wasn't much time to catch up.
Pre-Race.. My alarm went off in the 4's (4:57am, Central Time) and soon the Sticks were in full game-day mode. We munched on bagels and peanut butter, sipped water, gatorade, and sports drink, body glided, pinned on gels, and slathered on sunscreen (the latter took significant time and effort--but was well worth it!). K drove us to the start and I was greeted by the Capitol. Awww--love you, Madison!
The start extravaganza was painless and drama-free: easy bag check, fast-moving bathroom lines, a brief salute to the USA and we were off! C met me about a quarter mile after the start. Her plan was to run about half with me, take a break at her house, and meet me again for the last six. Of course, things don't always go according to plan..
Early Miles.. C easily met me and we headed into the Arboretum, one of my favorite running routes during college. It reminds me a lot of Central Park with the road and the trees. It's also deceivingly hilly. We were in the Arb for the first three miles or so. K met us around mile six and jumped in to run. Shortly thereafter, we saw my fam for the first of like nine times that we would see them on the course!
These folks were simply awesome! My bro, mother-in-law, and parents utilized serious vocal projection, vigorous cow bell ringing, some sort of clapper acquired at the Philly Marathon, and their own hands to make some noise! My husband and mom were the primary photographers.
We passed them all too quickly, and it was just us and the road (and the heating up atmosphere..) I'll take this moment to say how awesome it was to run with the sticks! Though we didn't chat much, their constant presence and occasional banter helped me get through another beastly hot marathon. Thanks, girls!
Shortly after this first fan sighting, K veered off the course to momentarily hang with my fam. She had plans to turn on the speed to meet us a few miles down the road, so she couldn't stay long. C and I plodded onward. We mostly held about 9:30-9:40 pace, despite some hills and increasing temps. The folks in yellow on the bikes were volunteers who rode around the course making sure the runners were okay. And if you're wondering what's written on my leg, it's a little birthday wish for my dad; his birthday was the next day!
Shortly before the half, K joined us again. C was supposed to cut out shortly, and K was going to accompany me through Maple Bluffs. That's right..bluffs. But C decided to continue and soon the three of us were chugging up and down some serious hillage in a somewhat shaded and beautiful part of Madison. I believe we passed the Governor's Mansion in there. It was around mile 15 that my pace began to slow. I took my first salt tablet and tried to stay hydrated, but the hills and the sun started to get to me. When we came out of the Maple Bluffs, my fam was there! Of course there were high-fives all around!
Pretending.. The next stretch was bit icky. Though the course was flat for miles 16-19, it was also in direct, blazing sunlight. I was gobbling ice cubes like they were M&Ms and guzzling ice water whenever I could, but I still felt twinges of dizziness and lots of fatigue. My splits took some hits, but that was because I started to walk periodically. When I next saw the peanut gallery, many participants were walking.
Luckily, I was able to employ my minimal acting skills and pick up the pace for a bit. I wanted to give the illusion of stamina and assure those around me that I was plenty capable of running another 8-9 miles no problem!
Luckily, I was still carrying on as though I had energy in reserve, because the fam did some drive-by spectating shortly after this sighting --beeep beeep!! Cowbell, clap, clap, wooo-hooo!! ;)
Toughing it Out.. Despite increasing walking breaks, C and I were still running. Yes--C was still with me! We finally arrived on the beautiful Monona Terrace, where we enjoyed another encouraging round of applause from my fam. I was hurting at this point, but it was only a matter of a few miles to the finish.
Red Flags.. For some reason, the heat index climbed high enough for authorities to worry about the safety of the runners. A pacer informed us that the clocks had been turned off. People were supposed to walk. Several red flags were waved and held up to let us know that this race was now "high risk" and we should stop running. I didn't need to be told twice, so I walked a bit, punctuating my strolling with occasional running.
The Finish.. Among the things I did in the miles around the bay was take another salt tablet and sing "Empire State of Mind" at a volume that landed me some strange looks (but some smiles too--come on, don't tell me that "these streets will make you feel brand new..big lights will inspire you" doesn't motivate you to kick it into high gear for the last miles of a marathon..or at least pull ahead of the crazy person singing to you..). C was STILL WITH ME and looking the opposite of exhausted. I remembered that she had joined me in this race about a quarter mile in. I informed her that if she wanted to run a full marathon, then she'd have to add some mileage. C was only too happy to oblige. She quickly veered off the course to run around a couple buildings, much to the surprise of a few confused fans, but with her extra effort, she would be able to say she ran a marathon, instead of only 26 miles. Definitely worth it! ;)
Finally, we saw K one last time. She joined us for the last mile or so, but both of my wing women had to check out when I entered the chute. Knowing the end was in sight, I stepped it up and went full speed ahead. There was, after all, beer at the finish line (Michelob Ultra being a sponsor and all..) This pic is perhaps the greatest of trickery. As I approached the finish line, there were three times for me to choose from. I headed for 3:40. Obviously, if you are reading this blog, you know the significance of that number if you are a female under the age of 35 ;) Here I am crossing the finish line in 3:40 -- ok, ok, not true. If I must be truthful then add about an hour and four minutes to that time for my real finishing time. (4:44.04) Apparently, they turned off the clocks or something..
Post Race.. I love marathon medals! Here is my twelfth:
Then it was fun and games with the Sticks at the finish line. We reunited with my fam and there were lots of congratulatory words. My parents set a new PR for number of times they saw me on a marathon course (these people do not take race day lightly..). Here is me with my entourage.
Clean up.. After the race, I took some inventory. I had (and still have) two seriously offensive blisters as well as some significant chaffing. I am at a loss because I certainly did not skimp on the preventative measures (ie. body glide, dry-wick socks, perfectly broken-in shoes..). But aside from that, I was injury free and really hungry! Here's what our car reported on the way to lunch:
As a Flyer put it, I am now a Bikram marathon specialist ;)
The first half: 2:06 (~9:37 pace)
The second half: 2:38 (~12:04 pace)
Total: 4:44.04 (~10:50 pace)
Final Comments.. I do not, for one second, regret signing up for a second May Marathon. The memories from this one are priceless! Experiences like this make me realize how lucky I am, not only to be healthy enough to run, but also to have my family by my side. Both of these things should never be taken for granted.
On the recovery front, I haven't run since Sunday, but I foresee a few miles in the very near future. Luckily, these recommended rest days also coincide with the very busy end of the school year - three more days!!