Thursday, October 25, 2012

Detroit Marathon Race Recap "I'm Killing It!" until it almost killed me...

As you might imagine after this post, my mind as been swimming with things "to do" before we head to Colombia. I have several lists going and they just keep getting longer!  

But I didn't want to completely give up on a marathon recap. My first marathon is simply too important to me to just let slip away.  My memories of it are already getting pretty foggy so I know there is no way to revisit the issue 1-2 months from now.  So, here we go!  

(And hang on - despite my crazy busy schedule, this sucker is likely to be loooong)

I left off with the alarm going off at 4:30 a.m. Although I was still super tired after another not-so-stellar night of sleep, I crawled out of bed pretty quickly. Although I got myself ready pretty quickly and had everything laid out, it was fast approaching 5:15 - my goal time to leave. :(  Thus, I did not get a great pre-race photo of my cute outfit. Bummer. Mark did snap a quick one, but it's so bad and includes my throw-away sweats, so I"m not even going to bother with it.  I will, however, share this ADORABLE note that my kids left me to find in the morning. So, very sweet.  I think S was probably the mastermind, but I decided to pretend they all cared. :)

Okay, so heading into Detroit. We have only a basic plan as to how we're getting down there. I was hoping to get out of the van around 5:45, giving Mark time to get outta town before the roads were closed. We actually came pretty close to this goal. I finally started seeing big groups of people walking, so I hopped out and tagged along. I was in a daze and all turned around. I knew where I was going, but I couldn't quite put the map in my head to my feet! So I was thankful to the many people directing runners so I didn't have to! Another example of how out of it I was, there were all these buses and I had a moment of panic! Why would I need a bus?!  Well, of course I didn't. They were for legs 2-5 of the marathon relay. Seriously, rocket scientist here.

Despite my nervous and brainless-ness, made it to the start line in record time and hit the porta potty. After that, I just wandered a bit, then found a heater to stand by. It was cold! Time passed fairly quickly. I had another chance to hit the bathrooms, then found my corral, which was already getting very crowded. I found the 4:40 pacer (10:41 min/mile) and just stared at the sign for awhile. I decided not to "join the group" and introduce myself. Instead, I hung back toward the rear of the corral.  My goal was to just keep the pacer in sight and under no circumstances get in front of him.  I chatted with some really nice people throughout this time, but mostly kept to myself. Before I knew it, the first wave was off!
[Crazy crowded start line...]

It took another 15(ish) minutes before corral H crossed the start line, but time passed quickly. And given how congested things were even with the wave start, I was so very thankful for the waves! So I cross the start line, click on my Garmin, and can't help but smile - I'm running a marathon today! Whooohooo!

So, literally we are less than 1/4 mile into the race and I not only see my favorite spectator of the day, but also hear my favorite encouragement. :)  First, I catch sight of a middle-age Asian man (maybe 50s?) dressed in a full Minnie Mouse costume (including ears and dress) who is waving a Japanese flag.  About this time I am sorry that I did not have my phone for photos!  Right after seeing this, I hear someone yell out "Only 26 miles to go!"  That got a laugh. :) It was still early enough to be funny. Both these things put a stupid grin on my face.

So right after all this happens, I look to my left. And I can't help but think, this lady looks familiar. Now, keep in mind I am surrounded by people. In fact, there were 16,000+ people at the start line (international marathon and half marathon - the 5kers and the US only half started later). But just over 1/4 mile into the race, I realize I know the woman running next to me!  It was Katie, who I ran with/next to for a large portion of the Riverbank Run! I was only maybe 75% sure though. It seemed too odd. So I just asked her if she'd run the Riverbank Run in the spring and when she said yes, I asked if I'd run with her! :) Fortunately, she didn't think the question was too odd - she recognized my sparkle skirt. :) We kind of laughed about how it was a "small world" and "what a coincidence." As the race wore on, we realized it was far more than a happy accident and were just thankful for the gift!  

Katie and I realized that we pretty much had the same goals. 4:40 was definitely an "A" goal and a bit ambitious. We both really wanted to finish under 5 hours. So, we decided to cruise along together,keep the 4:40 pacer (Steve) in sight and see how things went.  The first few miles flew by.  We walked through each aid station to make sure we were getting enough fluids. As you can see, this wasn't slowing us down (should've been a red flag...)

Mile 1  10:45
Mile 2  10:45
Mile 3  11:14 (bridge)

Around mile 3 you hit the Ambassador Bridge, which carries you into Canada. This bridge is not open to pedestrians other than race day, so it's a really cool experience to cross it - one of those awesome running moments. The sun is rising over the river and gradually lighting up both Detroit and Windsor. It's really breathtaking. It is also crowded! The bridge condenses everyone down so there was a lot of dodging and squeezing.

Also, I saw one porta potty on the bridge, which was not just sitting there, but actually bungeed to the side of the bridge. I suppose this is very smart, but it was also really funny. Crossing the Canadian border was so fun! The border patrol was out cheering and there was someone actually MCing? Poking jokes at the pacers and cheering everyone on.  Also, Gangnam Style was playing. It was just fun. 

Mile 4  10:27
Mile 5  10:29
Mile 6  10: 18
Mile 7  10:35

(Anyone noticing a pattern? These splits are definitely too fast.  And yet, we never did pass the 4:40 pacer and barely even "caught up" to him)

So, the next 5ish miles are in Canada. I have to say, the Canadians know how to cheer! These miles passed quickly (and not just because I ran too fast!).  Katie and I chatted easily, were feeling good and just enjoying ourselves. I took my first Gu around mile 4.5.

Shortly after mile 7, you head into the tunnel back into the US.  Like the bridge, this area was also congested because runners couldn't spread out. Unlikely the airy bridge, however, the tunnel is, well, a tunnel. It started to feel very small and there was not a lot of dodging possible. We were practically walking at times. I lost GPS service, but it was picked up again when we came out.  The tunnel ended up being close to a 12 min/mile and it felt like it. It was great to get out of there! Especially considering the border patrol on the US side is not nearly as friendly as the Canadians. There was less music and cheering and more yelling, "Show us your bibs!" Yeesh.  Fortunately, the crowds were great once you were out of the tunnel. This is when we saw Katie's husband.

Mile 8   11:56 (tunnel)
Mile 9   10:13 (what?!)
Mile 10  10:39
Mile 11  10:45
Mile 12  10:27
Mile 13  10:31

The next few miles are sort of a blur. I don't have very many specific memories. We ran along the river briefly, passed Joe Louis Arena (go Red Wings!), through Mexican Town and Cork Town.   Sadly, no mariachi bands. Katie and I are still plugging along together, Pacer Steve has been in sight most of the time, but we never did catch him.  He must have been doing some serious pushing to make up for that 12 minutes in the tunnel because we were frequently under 10:41 min miles and never got super close to him. I know I took Gu somewhere around miles 8 and 12. My goal was to fuel every 4 miles, which I did pretty well.

Anyway, as we pass mile 12, the course slants back toward the start/finish line for the international half marathon finish. The marathoners are diverted to the back half of the course.  At this point I'm watching my Garmin. I've only run one actual half marathon (exactly a year before) and that was in 2:37 or so. Well, by my watch at least, we hit 13.1 around 2:19:xx.  I will consider that an informal PR. :)  I'm feeling so good, I actually start to wonder if a 4:4x marathon time is possible?  Apparently that led me to run mile 14 wayyyy too fast (and still not catching Pacer Steve!)

Mile 14  10:10 (are you kidding?)
Mile 15  10:23
Mile 16  14:10 (porta potties!)

So, after the half marathoners finish, the course thins out considerably.

We decide this is a good time to start looking for a porta potty stop. This is also the point Katie and I agree that we are finishing this race together!  Well, all the sudden, the porta potties seem to have vanished!  Right around the mile 15 marker, we see a set of 2 with a short line, so we jump on it. 

This is also the point we close in considerably on Pacer Steve who appears to have lost his pace group. :( I think most of them were half marathoners. We saw Steve check in with someone to confirm he was still on track for the 4:40 finish (he was). Apparently this was his go-ahead to take a potty break as well so we got to see him pee on a tree. Lessons learned - (1) being a guy is much easier and (2) If being a pacer means you have to pee in this way, it's definitely not in the cards for me (not that it was!). :)

Despite there only being 2 people in front of us in line, there was a long wait... and I only saw one of those porta potties being used.  (Form your own conclusions).  I figure we lost 3+ minutes at least here. This was especially frustrating because there was a set of 3 more porta potties on the other side of the aid station with NO line. Boo.

Pacer Steve (and the 4:40) is long gone.

But we take off again, still feeling pretty good. However, at this point I am realizing my stomach is not very happy with me. Not exactly the typical runners gastro distress (thankfully) but it was just sort of crampy and uncomfortable. More of a nagging annoyance than anything. But odd - I've never had this issue before.This continued on and off for the rest of the race. Spoiler alert - uncomfortable turned to painful later on... : (

Mile 17  10:51
Mile 18  10:53
Mile 19  11:08
These miles were some of my absolute favorite of the race. Still running strong. We ran through Indian Village, which includes some beautiful neighborhoods with nice cheering residents.  The leaves were gorgeous and the temperature was very comfortable. Mark, the kids, his sister and two of her kids were waiting for me right about the mile 18 marker. This was SO AWESOME.  I am so, so thankful that I was able to see them on the route and not just at the finish. I swear I smiled all through the next mile! They were yelling and giving high fives.  I had planned to stop for hugs but was just feeling so good that we kept going.

As an aside, I actually have a video I was going to upload that Mark's sister took. It's kind of embarrassing, but it is a good indicator of how good I was feeling. As I'm running away from Mark and the kids, I yell to them that "I'm killing it!"  ha. I can't seem to get it to upload though. :(  Probably for the best ;)

I guess Mark and the kids hung around there and cheered a bit longer. Lots of runners gave the kids high fives (which the kids loved) and many people said thank you. It was a nice boost I guess.  Even better, some of those same runners recognized the kids again at the finish line!  The kids thought that was awesome!

Mile 20  10:45
Mile 21  11:42
Mile 22  12:55
Mile 23  11:17
Mile 24  13:05
Mile 25  12:07

By the time mile 19 wraps up, the course is heading into Belle Isle for about 3 miles. I had been looking forward to this part, thinking it would be an interesting way to push past a few of these crappy last miles.  Well, let's just say I now hate Belle Isle. :) Basically, this is a pretty flat course. The downside of that is ANY incline feels like a hill - including the bridge into Belle Isle. Ugh. Cruising into the Mile 21 aid station, I was really hurting.  My stomach (diaphragm?) was cramping up so badly it was difficult to breathe. I have never had this happen before, but was finally forced to walk to calm the spasms down.  Right around this time, Katie starts getting some bad cramping in her calves and hips.  So, instead of walking through each aid station, we are stopping and stretching, trying to keep her loose and just keep going.  I didn't have cramps exactly, but all the sudden I just hurt everywhere. So the extra breather was appreciated.

You hear that expression, "hitting a wall" and know that most marathoners do around mile 20-22.  We hit mile 20 still feeling pretty good and I'm so excited. I'm seriously thinking that I might not have a wall after all! And we're cruising along so well!


That's my face splattering into the wall around mile 21. :)  It sure wasn't pretty. As you can see, the remaining miles involved run, walk intervals, aid stop stretching and just general misery.  We saw Katie's husband again around mile 24 (?) and he was very supportive. I think he stayed with us a little longer than he planned, because he had to then sprint to get through the crowds to the finish.

At this point, Katie and I are leapfrogging. Our run/walk intervals aren't really together, but we'd catch up at each aid station. We both started using music. Otherwise, I had not used my ipod at all on the course.

Somewhere in the middle of mile 24, at a point when I was running solo, I had this warm feeling.  The sun was shining and my music was playing and I just felt this incredible presence with me. I felt like my dad was watching. I imagined if he could have been there at the finish line, cheering for me.  And everything still hurt so badly, but I felt so much hope.  I got pretty choked up at this point.

Mile 26       14:37 (yes, the LAST mile was by far my slowest. Bah)
Mile 26.41   3:39 (avg pace 8:52 min/mile)

The last aid stop is 0.6 miles from the finish. Yes, that's right.  Just over 1/2 mile. And it seemed so stinking far that I wanted to collapse and cry. The major motivating factor to keep going at this point?  It was almost over!!!  :) So we forced ourselves to run that last 1/2 mile.  And as I turned the corner and could SEE the finish line, I just pushed it. I needed to finish strong.  And I saw Mark and the kids, and his sister, and I saw my sister and mother in law on the other side.  And I just raised my hands up and crossed.  I clicked my Garmin off and saw it - sub 5 hours after all. :) 

Garmin finish:  4:54:40 (11:14 avg pace)
Chip Time:   4:56:34 (11:19 avg pace)
Overall: 2701/3749 (note, there were 4800+ registered marathoners... over 1000 dropped off somewhere?)
Female: 983/1524


                                                                     [And with Katie!]

I can't explain the feeling of crossing that finish line and getting my (very heavy) medal. I was in a complete daze. This is further evidenced by the fact I did not get photos with Mark or the kids!  : ( I think I was so tired and out of it I just couldn't think. Fortunately, someone snapped this shot for me. As bad as I smelled (seriously), Mark gave me the biggest hug. And so did the kids.

[My sweet sister]

We headed back to his sister's for lunch. I had a 10min ice bath (yeeeouch) and a hot shower and felt a million times better.

The end. :)


  1. This is cool! Congrats again, I'm so jealous :P If I do manage to run the full next year, I'm pretty I won't have the mental capacity to remember such details, haha! Since FB is being a jerk and I can't find you either, here's the direct URL, hopefully that'll help!

  2. You did such an amazing job!! So proud of you. :) And the pics are so fun and you look incredible!!!! (and love the hair!) :) Hugs!!!

  3. I am so proud of you! This was a great recap & I think I really want to run the half in Detroit next year. It sounds like a fun race!

  4. Thank you! :) And Bari - definitely add this to your list. The bling is fab :)

  5. congrats!!!! :) sounds like a fabulous race.