I’ve been talking about the Space Coast Marathon since April and training for it since July. Much like everything else, it seemed like it took forever to get here but when I woke up Sunday morning, it was kind of surreal that the day I’d been working so hard for, for so many miles and months, was finally here.
I laid out all of my clothes, gear, and gu the night before. I pinned my bib onto my shirt and attached my timing chip to my shoe. I’d been thinking about goals for the last few months and what I would consider a successful marathon. For me, as long as I crossed the finish line upright, I was going to consider it a success. I’ve read and been told so many times not to have any sort of time goal for your first marathon, to just take it all in and enjoy the run. You know how they always say hindsight is 20/20.. well, it is.
Did my stubborn self listen? No, of course not. I wasn’t tired, so I wrote a quick post about our day and included some race-day goals in it:
A – 4:30
B – 5:00
C – Finish
All of my training said I should be able to run 4:30 so I didn’t think it was really that far out of reach. I thought that it could happen, but that it probably wouldn’t. I doubt myself a lot when it comes to running and mentally, I’m not all that tough. My legs will go on forever, but I get inside my head and psyche myself out. I know how to make my legs go faster and I know how to build my endurance so I can run longer but I’ve yet to figure out how to make that voice hush. That voice got the best of me on Sunday.
Two of my friends (Jenn from Runs with Pugs and Andrea from Once Upon a Run) were with us for the weekend, so we all piled into the car with our official driver/sherpa (aka my husband, Adam) and headed to the race. I don’t function without coffee, so when we got to the starting area, I grabbed a cup and we all headed for the long lines at the port-o-potties. Thankfully they moved quick, and as soon as Andrea and Jenn were done they had to make a bee-line for the starting line. The half-marathon started at 6AM, followed by the full at 6:30. The half is an out an back that heads south along the river and the full is two out and backs – first heading north, then back past the starting line and south onto the half course.
Adam and I found a bench and I finished my coffee and breakfast, then relaxed until it was time to head over to the starting line. I kept going back and forth on how I wanted to run the race — I’ve done a lot of my long training runs with my friends Galloway group (they do 4:1 intervals) and after every one of those runs, I’ve felt great and I’ve had no issue keeping up with them. When I run on my own, I just run without walk breaks. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and when we were walking over, we ended up behind the 4:30 Galloway pace group so I figured what the heck and I lined up and planned to start with them. Adam and I were getting lost in the shuffle, so he gave me a quick good luck hug and kiss and went to find a comfy spot to sit and wait. I kept an eye out for Carter, but I’m short and couldn’t see over the sea of heads. I finally gave up and figured I was pretty much on my own from here on out.
I won’t lie, I probably teared up five or six times while we were waiting to start. Then there were audio issues when the national anthem was being sung and all of the runners started singing along and I got really teary-eyed. I bit my lip though and held back the tears. Before I knew it, the shuttle was blasting off on the big screen and we were off. I probably should have done some research on what kind of pace we’d be running at to keep a 10:18 average pace with the 3:1 intervals that the pace group was running.. but again, hindsight is 20/20.
For the first few miles, I was fine. My legs felt great and I had no issue keeping up with the group. Around 4.5, I was chatting with one of the guys in the group and he told me this was his third marathon in five weeks. He was running with the group because he thought it would make it an easy recovery run and he realized he was wrong, we were running at a much faster pace than he’d anticipated to make up for the constant walk breaks. I agreed with him and laughed when he told me this was stupid. I got to thinking though and it was stupid.. I was starting to struggle to keep up and I was only about 5 miles in. I knew staying with them was probably not a good idea.
Mile 1 – 10:12
Mile 2 – 10:11
Mile 3 – 9:54
Mile 4 – 10:05
Mile 5 – 9:53
Mile 6 – 10:33
Just before the mile 6 marker, I decided to bail on the pace group. I had to use the bathroom and knew I wouldn’t be able to catch back up any time soon anyway, so I just ran at a comfortable pace for a while while looking for a port-o-potty. Apparently my bladder picked the wrong place in the race to decide to have to go because it was around four miles before I found one.
Mile 7 – 10:35
Mile 8 – 11:26
My cousin texted me around mile 8 to say good luck and as I was digging my phone out, I remembered my post about marathon motivation. The night before, I’d written the motivation for each mile on an index card.. and left it in the hotel room. I pulled it up on my phone and laughed. Mile 8 was “Remember everyone who told you you couldn’t do this, those who never supported you. Prove them wrong.” I was thinking about a few people in particular who weren’t exactly supportive and got lost in my thoughts.
Mile 9 – 11:19
Right after I passed the mile 9 marker, I realized I had done a really bad job of figuring out nutrition for this race. I’d already taken two gu (I take them every 4 miles) and the idea of another one anytime soon was not appetizing, and I only had 3 left anyway. I texted Adam and asked him if he could grab me a banana or something.
Mile 10 – 13:36
Ohh look at that mile 13 split — sweet relief, I found a potty! Since I was already stopped, I also filled up my water bottle. I’d decided to carry it with me since I figured the pace group wouldn’t really stop at water stops and I drink a LOT when I run. I also texted Adam around here and told him I felt great since I ditched the pace group.
I was kind of frustrated with myself for running so much slower than I knew I could, but I also knew that trying to keep up with the pace group earlier on had made me more tired than normal (their run pace was a little over a 9 minute mile, which is a tempo pace for me) and whoever decided this course was “fast and flat” was a lying liarpants. Maybe if you are comparing it to other courses somewhere where there are real hills, then maybe it is. But there were slight rolling hills over the entire thing and I was tired from running faster for the first 6ish miles. I took a walk break and updated my facebook status — “New plan.. Forget about pace, run comfortable, walk hills, and 4:1 intervals.. and just finish upright!” That was probably the smartest thing I did for the entire race.
Mile 11 – 12:16
Mile 12 – 11:34
Mile 13 – 12:00
Mile 14 – 13:15
The 14th mile is where I crossed back through the start area and met up with Adam. He’d grabbed two bananas from the finish area and I wanted to hug him. He wanted nothing to do with that though, he said I smelled really bad. So sweet, huh?
Since the race is on the smaller side and it goes through a neighborhood, it was really easy for the spectators to access the course, which was a HUGE perk. I can’t run and eat at the same time, so Adam walked with me while I ate my banana. I held onto the other one and felt kind of silly running with it, but I didn’t want to give it up! While I was walking with Adam, the 4:45 pace group passed me, and then I passed them again when I started running. A short bit later they passed me again and I let them go without a second thought. I knew if I tried to keep up, I’d just be miserable and I wanted to enjoy myself so I just took it all in, high-fived the kids at the water stops, and chatted with other runners.
Mile 15 – 11:47
Mile 16 – 12:13
Mile 17 – 14:33
At mile 17, I decided to eat my second banana, mostly because I was just tired of holding it. There was a guy taking his trash out as I finished and I asked if I could toss my banana peel in, he asked a few questions about the race and where I was from and what music I was listening too and I was off again. When I started running again, my back started hurting and I started to worry.
Mile 18 – 12:35
About halfway through Mile 18, my back really started to hurt. I called my parents to check on the kids and thought hearing them might motivate me to get a little pep in my step. I told my dad if I ever told him I wanted to run a marathon again to smack me. The kids had no desire to talk to me, so I hung up with him and texted Adam — “This is stupid. I’m fine, just slow. I don’t want to be miserable though.”
Mile 19 – 13:58
I struggled a good bit with mile 19 and walked more than I wanted to. Every time I tried to run, my back really hurt. I went to physical therapy for issues with it related to cheering and doing gymnastics for so many years and it was the exact same pain. I was really worried about how I was going to cover 7 miles with that kind of pain. I texted Adam again — “This is annoying, I feel okay but my back hurts. Really hurts to run, same pain I went to PT for.”
I passed by the mile 20 flag (it was on the other side of the road, after the turn around, so I wasn’t quite there yet) and I decided that no matter what, I was finishing strong. At mile 20, I’d switch over to 2:1 intervals and run when I was supposed to, no excuses. I’d only have a 10k left at that point and I can run a 10k in my sleep.
After the turn around and before we got to 20, there was a tent set up with a guy passing out towels soaked in ice water. That was the first time I wanted to hug a total stranger. That towel was AMAZING. I walked a bit longer and wiped down my arms, legs, back, face, then tucked it into the top of my tank to keep my neck cool.
Mile 20 – 13:42
At 20, I updated facebook again with “Mile 20 — only a 10k to go!! I feel great except for my back, it’s angry. Also ice cold towels are amazing!!” Then came mile 21. I’d passed a guy on my way out with pretzels and all I could think about was how delicious pretzels sounded. When I ran by him, he was holding a plate full of gummy bears and I was bummed. It wasn’t until I had run past him that I realized he was also holding an open bag of pretzels, so I turned around and went back and grabbed a handful. They were so, so delicious. On my next walk break, I texted Adam again and told him that we were going to need to get divorced, because I was going to marry the guy with pretzels at mile 21.
The next few miles, I felt really great. Sure, I was tired, but I think because I decided to just enjoy myself and not stress over pace (I barely even looked at my watch) or anything, I just felt better. I looked around, talked to volunteers when I stopped for water, chatted with other runners. I forget exactly where, but somewhere along here there was a runner that stopped and was doing something with her knee. I stopped to make sure she was okay (we weren’t near any volunteers) and she told me to just keep going. I offered her the biofreeze I had in my pocket (I didn’t know what else to do) and she took it and promised she would be okay and urged me to keep going. I felt bad, but I went on.
Mile 21 – 13:18
Mile 22 – 13:19
Mile 23 – 13:04
Mile 24 – 12:18
Around mile 24 I started getting really bored. There’s only so much you can think about and look at while you’re out running for over 5 hours on your own. I typed up a text to a bunch of my friends telling them I was at mile 25, only 1.2 to go. As I kept going, I kept thinking of more people to send it too and was counting down ’til mile 25 when I could click send.
Mile 25 – 12:41
Mile 26 – 12:04
Around 26, I ran past a few of the race photographers (all of the pictures in this post are from either there, the finish line, or the brick path leading to the finish line) and was all smiles. Once I got past them, I looked down at my watch and noticed the miles – 26.12. I knew I still had more than .08 to go and was wondering how much further since I obviously stink at running the tangents. I figured I’d walk for a few seconds so I had enough energy to push hard and look like I was running fast at the finish line (the spectators there didn’t need to know how much I walked!) but then I saw a dog over on the left hand side of the road (I love dogs) and was my thought process was pretty much “Aww cute puppy! He looks like my friends dog, Rondo.. oh, look, the guy holding the leash looks like Mike. Oh my gosh it’s Jessi and Mike!! What are they doing here?!?” I started to run toward them and blubbered something about them being there and Mike told me I was almost done and I was like no, I should be done, I’m pretty much at 26.2 now! Jess ran with me, told me where I was going to turn and how much further I had left. She told me where to look for everyone there cheering for me, then gave me a quick hug and sent me on my way!
I ran around the path that loops around the finish area and ran over a timing mat and was like really? That was the finish? I didn’t even see a clock (it wasn’t just me, the other runners around me did the same thing).. thankfully there were some helpful spectators that were like “noo, you’re not done yet, the finish line is around the next corner, keep going! So we all took off, rounded the corner, and were done!
Last .51 – 11:43
My official finish time was 5:17:20, for a 12:07 pace! (My garmin put me at 26.51 miles, for an 11:58 pace.) Totally over my A and B goals, but I didn’t care at all (and still don’t) — I ran a marathon!!
Volunteers handed me my medal and finishers towel, and as I rounded the corner, Adam met me with a “Congratulations.. yeah, don’t hug me!” He brought me another banana and orange slices — SO delicious. We grabbed some strawberry lemonade, then walked over to where our friends were waiting.
We chatted for a bit about the race, our times, and how everyone did. I think they were a little worried that I would be upset since I was so far off my goal times, but I was just happy that I did it. There were a few miles in there where my back hurt so bad that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish, so the fact that I did, with a smile, and feeling great? Totally happy.
One thing that I was not happy about was that in my post-marathon daze, I forgot to take pictures with everyone there to support me! I didn’t get one of me with Adam, Michelle, Jenn and her family, or Jessi and Mike. The only post-race pictures I took was with my friends that also ran. Boo to me!
After taking a few pictures and chatting with my friends for a bit, everyone needed to get on their way (several of them had been there waiting for me to finish for a few hours) so we all gave hugs and congratulations and said bye. Adam and I headed over to a local Thai restaurant to grab lunch with Carter, Mark, and Mark’s girlfriend. Pad Thai and Spring Rolls.. maybe not the perfect way to refuel, but it was good.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower, change, and get my compression capri’s on then we headed home. I missed my little ones like crazy and couldn’t wait to give them big hugs. Later that night, after we had dinner, we realized we were out of stuff for Braden’s lunch so I ran to Publix to pick up a few things.
I snapped this picture there and laughed. Totally the life of a mother runner — wake up, run a marathon, race home to hug your babies, then back to the grind — all in a day. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.
Adam also surprised me with a few goodies he picked up at the expo — he got me a 26.2 magnet for my car, two new wine glasses — one that says “I ran to infinity and beyond 26.2” and the other “Mommy’s Sippy Cup”, a tervis tumbler with the marathon logo and a Christmas ornament to celebrate my first 26.2 — what a sweet guy, huh?
Overall, the race was a really great experience and I’m so glad I bit the bullet and did it. I was really scared that I wouldn’t finish, but now that I have that fear behind me, I’m ready to tackle 26.2 at Disney in just 5 short weeks – ACK! That one, I’ll definitely have some time goal for that I want to meet, I just need to work out what exactly they are. If you’re looking for a gorgeous race that is well run and very spectator friendly, I’d definitely check out Space Coast. I’m looking forward to running it again next year, for sure!