Thursday, June 7, 2007

Marathon Story, Part 1 of Many

Perfunctory Warning: This is a long story. Actually a multi-part looooonnnnggggg story. A marathon length story if you will. (Sorry, that was bad.) If I were you I’d grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Consider yourself warned.

I never thought I’d actually be able to say this, but HOT DAMN EVERYBODY...I ran a marathon!!!!

My marathon day began at 2:30. I’m not even going to dignify 2:30 with “in the morning” because 2:30? Is not “in the morning”. It’s 2:30 in the middle of the damn night. But I digress... 2:30 wake up call. Eyes pop open and my first thought is “26 miles? Really?”. But I’m up, in the shower, thanking God that I’d followed everyone’s advice and laid out my complete outfit the day before. There’s a reason they tell you to do that... it’s called Marathon Brain, and I was in its grips – no clear thoughts, just moving on autopilot and trying not to completely lose it. People, I’ve done nervous my entire life... this was a whole other level of nervous. Somehow I managed to pull myself together, gather up all of my gear, and get out the door. Our team met in the hotel lobby at 3:30 in the middle of the damn night, and I actually found the collective nervous energy to be somewhat soothing. We took a team photo, took down the first salt packets of the day (sounds good, huh?), exchanged anxious pats on the back and hugs, and got on the bus. The bus that departed at 3:59 in the middle of the damn night.
Picking up my race packet. Also known as: Before The Pain
And... that girl to my left is giving me that "Girlfriend you are plain crazy" look.

In hindsight, I’ve done a good bit of moaning about how early we headed to the race, but I am so thoroughly glad that we did. We were amongst the very first to arrive at the race start and this was awesome for a number of reasons... fresh porta-potties being the first to come to mind. As you can imagine, put about 20,000 very hydrated marathon runners in one spot and the number of porta-potty visits per capita is kinda ridiculous. The race start was incredibly organized, easy to navigate, and our team found a great spot to relax near the coffee. Had my breakfast... whole wheat english muffins and peanut butter (I even brought the peanut butter from home because we were told “try nothing new on race day”. Overpacker + nervous runner = pb in your suitcase.) and a banana. (Marathon Brain Moment: asked my teammate Tony “hey, where did you get that banana?” Ummm... gigantic sign reading “FRUIT” approximately seven feet away. Brilliantly observant.) It was still dark at this point and it was interesting to see how the nerves manifested differently for each of us. My anxiety was focused solely on fiddling with my race number... where to pin it? Shorts? Shirt? Fold it down to make it smaller? Ok, think I got it now... nope, not quite perfect, let’s try that again. Oooh, I’m kinda crooked, nope that’s too low, uh-oh, can’t cover up my name on my shirt, nope not folded quite straight... I was even starting to annoy myself by this time. Finally got that settled, then the porta-potty visits became more and more frequent.. am I too hydrated, not enough? Should I have coffee? More water? It was a little maddening that I just couldn’t sit still and relax.

Finally, it’s about 5:30 am... the starting area is getting more crowded, time to check our gear bags with UPS (UPS is awesome. What can brown do for you? Well at the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, brown will take your gigantic gear bag, and transport it to the finish line where you can easily and efficiently pick it back up.)

Even bad coffee tastes amazing at 4 O'Dark.

Ok. A word on the gear bag. Those of you who have had the pleasure of traveling with me know that I like to have options when I travel. I like to be prepared. Hi, my name is Caroline, and I suck at packing light. The gear bag was no different. Suddenly sprout extra feet? No worries... I got six pairs of running socks. Shoelaces not matching your outfit? I've got you covered. Need a little cream in your coffee? You get the idea. I had it all, and then some. So I lugged the thing over to UPS, and handed it over to the nice volunteer who probably laughed when I said “Please don’t lose this.” Yup. I am that girl.

Hey, you two ready down there? Also pictured: Gigantic Bag O'Stuff

It was around this time that my cheering section showed up. My best friend Krystal, her husband Chris, and her mom Martha all arrived with “Go Caroline” shirts and neon posters in tow. God how I love those three. I didn’t realize just how emotionally fragile I was at that point; the warm hugs and reassurances were so needed. Good timing, Krys. Like always. I needed you, and there you were. You guys gave me the boost I needed.

Still dark. But there are snacks to be had.
And check out how empty that other runner's bag is. Bet
she forgot something. Poor girl.

Our team gathered for one more pep talk, a reminder of our Team In Training honorees, all those people we were running in honor of, some singing (we sang, right? This part’s a little fuzzy for me.), and then we did some warming up. You figure we’d be saving every step for the actual marathon, but the warmup got things moving, burned off a little nervous energy, and gave us something to do rather than fidget and think about how long those porta-potty lines were getting. And they were getting rather cumbersome. After warmups it was about 5:50... race start at 6:30, so we said goodbye to Topher (our TnT coach), hopped in the enormous line and sent “Pee Fast” vibes to all of those in front of us. While in line, we: watched Marines playing the US Marines Hymn, sang the Star Spangled Banner, saw lots of running Elvises (Elvi?) heading for the start, and tried to stay calm. Someone was smiling down on us because we were at the front of the line at 6:23. I remember this distinctly. PERFECT timing.

In line at the porta-potties. Still dark. Boy, by the looks
of me, you'd think this might be an "after marathon" picture.

We jumped into the nearest corral (runners are grouped into the starting line by corral, based on your expected finish time. This is done so the fast people are at the front, and slower as your get further back. There were 23 corrals – we started in #9, based on a projected finish time of between 4 hours and 4:15.)

(Ha... I think I warned you about the length of this. We’re actually getting to the part where I run now.)

The five minutes before the gun were stunning. Possibly one of the best moments of the day. The anticipation, the giddy excitement... I was hydrated, fueled, ready to run smart, had my gear situated, shoes tied just so... I was READY. There were four of us together at the start... two teammates and one of our TnT mentors, Rebecca. (Rebecca, I’m thanking my lucky stars for you because your experience and reassurance helped me hold it together for the first few miles, and especially in those final moments before the start.) Aaaannnd.... the gun! Went Off! The Marathon Has Started!!

But... ummm... we didn't move. Well, we sort of nudged forward, but there was not much fowardness happening. After a few seconds the crowd began moving towards the start... it took us about three minutes to actually reach the start line, and as we crossed those mats and the huge balloon arch, I broke into a run.

I was running a marathon.

Upcoming in Part 2: The real fun begins. Featuring: Nudity. Alcohol. and Britney Spears. (All during the race too. Get excited.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Caroline- YOU ROCK GIRLFRIEND!What a sheer pleasure it was to be there on your 1st marathon, and give you a hug and support before you headed to the start line. I am so proud of your accomplshment. What a blessing it is to know you for as long as I have and for our lives to come together again for such an awesome reason. Lots of love to you my friend!! Keep on running and I will see you next season. Love you,

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