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Rocket City Marathon Race Recap

Before I write about Huntsville... I apologize that I still haven't blogged about Vancouver yet. For those of you that don't know, I was 21st there (Vancouver) in 25:02 (7K through the mud). I was happy with the race, so happy, that I got up the next morning and ran 2.5 hours around the bay. I felt amazing...for about 2 days afterwords before things started to unravel....

I took it easy after that long run, mostly just some easy runs in the AM. Then Thursday (9 days before Rocket City) I attempted my last real hard season. Originally I had planned on 4X2 mile, which ended up being about 4x10 minutes. My legs felt heavy and tired, normally I run this workout between 5:45-5:59, that day I ran 6:05-6:15 and STRUGGLED.

I shrugged it off to tired legs and lack of sleep. Saturday I ran 12 miles at a pretty good clip but my hamstrings were still tight. I figured things were coming back around and slept most of the day Sunday. Then Monday came. I woke up and just couldn't run. Period.

My legs were toast. The days before a marathon that you usually feel fast, sharp, and light on your feet, I was shuffling along at an embarrassing slow pace. My legs ached and I was constantly yawning at work. I then decided, it was time to call it a year.
Photo by We Run Huntsville

I ran a little bit that week, but nothing faster than 7:30 mile pace (because I couldn't). I knew that Huntsville was going to be a struggle, but I wanted to do it. I had planned to do it and my friends (Kelly and David) were also running, my goal would be to finish, in a respectable time. The race had also comped my hotel and a bunch of my meals, and I have ALWAYS wanted to run this race. I really wanted to run this race.

The last time I registered for Huntsville was around the time I got pregnant with Madison. It was originally the first marathon I had ever wanted to run, and its "special". After all, the first race I ever ran (and won) as an MSU bulldog was in Huntsville.

So yeah, the place and race is special for many people. Its a place were many of my friends have ran big PRs, broken 3 hours, starting dating, and more. Rocket City Marathon is a big deal in the south. I guess you could say, dreams come true there, maybe?

Warm ups with Kelly & David.

Race Start. Me in my Brooks ID top.

We (Houston, Kelly and I) hit the road just before lunch time Friday, only to arrive late for the "technical meeting" (Houston has a little bit of a lead foot, something that can be extremely expensive and, ironically, can cause long travel delays) which left me a little bit stressed. However, once we arrived at the Holiday Inn, literally steps from the start line, things started to get better. We attended the pre-race pasta dinner, listened to the extremely humble Bill Rogers talk about his life as a runner, watched a little bit of television and went to bed early.

Brooks Green Silence has been my racing shoe for 2 years, though it is now being discontinued .
Looking forward to trying something new in the spring.

Saturday morning I woke up early, ate well, drank well, stuffed a couple of Blackberry GUs in my pockets and set out on a 15 minute jog to stretch the legs with my friends. Though I didn't feel drained, at this point I still predicted a 2:55-3:05 finish because of the state of my legs. (I know that seems crazy coming from someone that has been training for a 2:45...but I knew my body had had enough.) 55 minutes later we set off, me and 1599 other runners, to pound the pavement of Huntsville Alabama for over 3 hours.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea..."
I felt ok for the first few miles and stuck with the top three ladies. I figured I would probably finish forth because everyone seemed to be doing fine with the conservative 6:30ish pace. Eventually my hip locked up at around mile 7, I anticipated this, I fell off the back pretty fast. I spent the next 4 miles struggling to get one foot in front of the other as I chocked back tears. I tried to be patient and wait for things to loosen up again.

Around mile 9-10 I was caught by a running "train". A group of southern gentleman running single file, sharing the wind every 30 seconds. They offered me a position in their group and I happily accepted. The hip responded well and we continued along at about 6:30 and change. I felt fine for about a mile or two.
Brooks Infinit II shorts. My racing bottoms of choice.
They have a flat (& flattering) waistband and a  pocket in the back for gels.

After about 6 or 7-30 second bouts into the wind, I told my new friends that I wasn't feeling it today. They said their goodbyes and continued along without me. It was about this time I had serious doubts that I was going to finish this race. I had not even reached the half way point and my legs and feet were screaming at me. Even just "running" at a slow pace hurt. I was going to have to find some motivation somewhere just to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

"Just keep picking them off, one-by-one."
And then it happened. One of the race staff that I had talked to yesterday had pulled of the course early, he saw me struggling along and decided to jump in to help for a mile. He was also looking for a ride back to the stop, so as he pulled me a long he continually asked spectators "Hey, can I get a ride??" I could see the 3rd place lady just up ahead, we were gaining on her fast. I had a hard time believing she could be running slower than I was.
I pulled up beside her to say hello, she didn't turn, didn't nod, didn't say hi, instead she just quickly coughed out, "I'm going to drop." Her dropping out almost guaranteed me a third place finish. Sadly, I didn't know what 3rd place paid, I hadn't really looked. But third was better than fourth.

Four things kept me going that day.

One. I was in third place.
Two. The hospitality that I had already been shown by the race echoed in the spectators that were scattered all along the course.
Three. I told myself that if I finished, I could eat a cheeseburger (I only eat cheeseburgers after runs over 20 miles).
Four. Dropping out is hard.

I learned my lesson with #4 in Columbus. I dropped out before mile 11, then spent another hour plus trying to get back to the start line to pick up my race bag. Dropping out is hard. And, it sucks.

So I kept running. It might sound weird, but I also wanted to see if I could finish as bad as I was hurting. I have never had a truly BAD marathon (until this one). The three that I have ran have all been PRs, no matter how good or how bad I have felt, I have never crashed, fallen completely apart, or "hit the wall". Today I was about to do all these things, and I still had 13 miles to go. I wanted to have the "marathon disaster"  that everyone talks about. I wanted to make the best of a very bad day. I wanted to have a bad marathon story.

I had only one problem...I wasn't sure I could finish.

I was all alone quickly slowing down. My pace felt slower than a Sunday recovery jog and I basically surviving water stop to water stop. I felt like crying. I cursed a little bit. Every once in a while I whispered encouraging words to myself, "Come on, keep moving!" I did my best to smile at the spectators. I needed the people. I needed the funny race signs. I needed reasons to keep going forward.

"Come on...Come on!"
I tried not to pay attention to the mile markers, but they were coming really slowly and I needed to know I was getting somewhere. I started to get tired of drinking water, and therefore, didn't drink as much as I should have. I took a gel at 21 and got a serious cramp in my chest. It took my breath away. I slowed to a crawl to stretch it out, then continued on.

Then I saw Houston. I blurted out "I need some water. Where is the next stop?" (that is the edited version). Later he would tell me that there were two little boys standing beside the road that heard my profanity. Anyone else that may have been standing there, I am truly sorry. I couldn't help it. I really don't remember the last time I was that uncomfortable and hurt that bad. Obviously, having a child is a much more painful experience. Truth is, if someone asked me at mile 22 if I would have chose childbirth over the last few miles...I am not sure I would have continued running. After all, in childbirth I would have had the choice to not feel my legs. I could have used an epidural around mile 22.

From mile 22 onward I saw every marathon sign, the funny ones like, "worst parade ever" and the ones taped to trees offering encouraging words to loved ones. I saw a man in a speedo, I saw a man in front of me keel over in pain. I heard people at every corner, I heard the cheering, I started to think about the finish.

I was hungry, thirsty, tired. I had never wanted to finish a race more than this one. I plodded along, one foot in front of the other. I reached mile 25.

I was going to make it.

1 mile to go, 1200m, half-mile. I kept shuffling, moving forward. I turned another corner, I could see the finish line.

I picked up my knees. Stretched out my legs, let out a little kick that was barely faster than the pace I had been running. Reached out. First mat. Two more steps. Second mat. Done. Finished. Over.

There it was, my fourth marathon, my slowest by over 14 minutes (3:03:34) for third female overall. The one that hurt the most, never been more relieved to be finished. A volunteer offered me water, I asked her for a glass of wine. I waited for my friend Kelly to finish, barely behind me in fourth (in the money!). We laid on the ground and cried, laughed, took a deep breath. It was over.
Me, Kelly and David before the race. We all finished!
If I wasn't so proud, I would have hit the medical tent. Pain ran down my legs all the way to my toes. My body hurt and I couldn't walk. I felt so pathetic...but I couldn't help it.
Finally, Houston helped me to my feet and I walked into the hotel to take a bath. I laid there for about 20 minutes until my legs stopped hurting and I finally smiled.

Hey, I finished 3rd. My slowest marathon by 14 minutes. Was it worth it?

Of course!

Would I run Rocket City again? Absolutely. Many people talked about a hill on mile 16..I don't remember any hills. Some people complained about the weather...the weather was perfect. Some people complained about the wind...hey, its a marathon, there is always going to be SOME wind.

Rocket City Marathon was a blast. The course is great, the fans are great. The hotel is steps from the race start line, the pre-race meal, expo, all great. I had a fabulous time at this marathon and I would do it again, in a heart beat.

Later on we all ate at the Melting Pot, spent a little bit of our hard earned cash on cheap t-shirts and a few glasses of wine. I had a great time.

Every once in a while, I think its important to run a race just to run it. Whether its a marathon or something else. Struggle. Be...human. It's worth it.

Run Happy!



L.A. Runner said…
Oh, the wind... I also have some beef with that race. The actual RACE is a great event, even the rolling course, but my performance there, not so much.

That feeling of having a marathon suck and choosing to stick with it is MISERABLE! The very few times I've ever said the "f" word have been during marathons. Haha, so I can totally understand you dropping some verbal bombs out there.

You are truly a rock star, Meggan. I hope this doesn't discourage you too much, and that you can bounce back quickly. I just KNOW you have 2:45 in you! Hugs, girl.
I cannot even imagine running a marathon when your heart is not 100% in it. You sounded so casual about it! Seriously amazing. Congrats for sticking it out even though it hurt like hell. That's how champions are made right?! ;)
Vicky Cook said…
First of all I think it's important to teach youngsters different ways of expressing themselves through expanding their vocabularies so job well done there ;D Miles can become so long when you're not feeling it, sucks it happened to you on race day. I prefer running in 'cycling' shorts same style as you and was going to fashion my own pocket for gels, now I will just get some Brooks!
Haley said…
I love how detailed your posts are :) And that's still great that you finished the race when you were hurting so badly! Plus 3:03 is not bad at all.
I'm just getting back into running. We'll see what happens. But you're an inspiration :)
Haley said…
I love how detailed your posts are :) And that's still great that you finished the race when you were hurting so badly! Plus 3:03 is not bad at all.
I'm just getting back into running. We'll see what happens. But you're an inspiration :)
Sunny 2 Runner said…
Life is a beautiful struggle :-) You did your best with what you had and proud of you for being out there and trying to get the best out of yourself even though you knew it would not be a PR. I love that you did the race and never gave up! It is an experience that will make you a strong and more compassionate runner. I think my hardest races taught me to be more compassion with other runners struggles. Btw - You should like I did when I had a horrible half in the fall. Legs were just friend. After 2 months of not so greatness, I had bloodwork done and found a thyroid condition. You should check it out if you come out your recovery not feeling 100%.

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