I Did It! – 26.2 – 4:58:02
I went into this race, the Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon, knowing that my training had fallen apart during the last month. I’d only run 37 miles in the last three weeks. My initial goal was to break 5:00:00. I’d have to run a 11:26 pace to do that.
I knew that my body was feeling pretty good with all the “rest” I’d gotten, but I knew at the same time, I wasn’t in the same shape I had been aerobically three weeks ago. I realized I’d have to run the smartest, most disciplined race of my life to hit my goal. I’d have to pace, drink and GU just right.
I had my Garmin set to track elapsed time, distance and last mile pace. (If I set it to more than three data fields, my old eyes have trouble reading it while I run.) Sometimes I also show my heart rate on my watch, but I generally know if I start getting out of breath that my heart rate’s too high.
I also had a 5 hour pace band on my wrist that I got at the race expo. It gave me the splits I’d need to hit for my goal. This turned out to be incredibly helpful!
I also had seven Chocolate Outrage GUs and my water belt.
The gun went off at 7am and about 20 minutes later, out of Corral 14, I hit the start line.
I did a pretty good job hanging close to my pace time. Some people can hit every mile split within a second or two of their goal pace. I’m not one of those people. I’d go a little under and make up for it by going a little over. I tried to feel my breathing and run relaxed and under control.
I can’t begin to explain how wonderful, friendly and welcoming the people of Savannah were as we ran through their neighborhoods. It reminded me that although Atlanta isn’t exactly rude, it is kind of hard. It doesn’t have the spirit and soul of the south anymore. Old men and children waved to us from their porches. We ran in the shade under huge oaks draped with spanish moss and along cobblestone streets. It was delightful!
Then, around mile 11.5, the full split off from the half, and we ran on the expressway – the Harry Truman Parkway to be exact. It was hot. But it made me giggle when people were bemoaning “the hills.” It was clear they didn’t do their training in Atlanta.
We ran about 2 miles on the parkway and then turned and ran about a mile and a half to the Savannah State campus. We hit the entrance at mile 15. It had gotten really warm by this time, there hadn’t been much shade, and I was a little worried because I didn’t seem to be sweating. I had drunk a couple of cups of water at every water stop – there’d probably been six or seven by this point – and I’d sipped my water bottle almost dry. I’d had three GUs, one every 45 minutes.
Halfway around the campus loop at mile 16, I started feeling spent – not sick or dizzy or anything – just overheated and thirsty. I hadn’t walked at all at this point, except to drink at the water stops. I’d been running for three hours straight.
It was time for another GU, so I ate that and drank the last sip of water in my bottle. We ran on through the campus and did a lap around their track in the football stadium and left the campus at mile 17. Thank goodness, there was a water stop really soon after.
I drank a cup of water and poured one on my face. This cooled me off and the GU kicked in and I felt better.
18 miles is where I’ve lost it completely in my other two marathons. I was about four minutes ahead of my goal time at this point and felt like I could probably experiment with walking for 30 seconds at the beginning of each mile. I knew I needed to conserve my energy.
The walk breaks turned out to be a good strategy for a couple of reasons. In my other two marathons, I started walking at mile 18 with no real rhyme or reason because I was tired and wound up giving up and walking way too much of the rest of the race.
The 30 second planned walk breaks in this race let me get my heart rate down a little (once it gets too high, it’s tough to get back down) and also gave me something to look forward to at the end of each mile. I’d look at my watch and see 18.73 miles and tell myself, “Just keep running! You can rest in just .27 miles.” It really helped me break the end of the race down into manageable chunks mentally and physically, instead of thinking of it as “Oh my God! I’ve still got to run 7 more miles!”
At some point during mile 18, there was another blessed water stop. I drank a couple of cups of water and asked if they could fill up my water bottle. The young man said, “Just go over there and dip it in that big garbage can full of ice water that we’re using to fill our pitcher.”
I tell you, if there is a heaven, it will be like that moment when I stuck my entire arm down into that bucket of ice water. I think that was the moment that got me through the end of the race. Not to mention that it simply refilled my water bottle. There should be a new parable written about that moment, because Jesus was in it!
I went on with my run-walk plan but really started wearing out about mile 20. But I was SO close to meeting my goal. I didn’t want to ruin it after all the mental and physical struggle I’d gone through over the last four months training and the last four hours running! So I kept chugging.
About 22.5, we had looped around to run the “back” of the out and back section of Harry Truman Parkway. Only a 5K left to go. I wasn’t even pretending anymore. I was unhappy. I won’t say I was miserable; I wasn’t even particularly hurting. I guess the way to explain it is that I felt “empty.”
At mile 24, I wanted to quit. I just wanted to walk it in. I walked for the first minute of that mile. I was fighting myself so hard. It was that same moment I had in that 20 mile training run where that thing clicked in my brain at mile 10 and I quit. That “thing” was screaming at me to quit, to give up.
I KNEW if I came this close and then gave up with two miles left I would never forgive myself – literally. And I was actually afraid that if I blew this shot at breaking 5 hours, I’d feel like I had to do all this training again and take ANOTHER shot at it. Like I told somebody earlier in the race, I don’t ever want to have to get up at 4:15am again in my life unless the house is on fire and somebody already tried and failed to extinguish it.
I didn’t have some big inspirational moment where I gave myself a “You Can Do It!” pep talk. I just put my head down, looked at the pavement, gritted my teeth and ran.
At one point I was actually running and hollering – that holler you make when you’re frustrated and tired and angry and don’t want to be doing what you’re doing.
1.2 miles to go and I’m grinding. My brain is big and empty. There’s nothing but road.
So close. Still on pace for the goal. Run. Run! Finish strong.
Can’t manage a smile for the race photographers. It would be a lie anyway.
Turn the corner toward the finish line. .2 miles to go. I’m going to make it. I hear the PA announcer blabbering words, but they mean nothing. Why isn’t he telling everybody gathered at the finish line that I’ve DONE IT?!?
I cross the timing strip. Hit the stop button on the Garmin. And there it is.
I take my medal, look up at the sky and say out loud, “Thank you, Jesus!”
163 avg heart rate
11:17 avg pace
2819 calories burned
Target Pace: 11:26
Total weekly miles: 36.4
Compare to Last Week
Weeks to Atlanta Thanksgiving Half-Marathon: 3-ish