The journey began Thursday when my dad and I drove with the kids from Washington to Idaho. I wanted a day to acclimate because the race started at 6,000 ft. elevation. My training in the Seattle area has all been right around sea level. Friday, Dad and I went and picked up my number, shirt, & gear. In addition to the usual race handouts, I also received a large bag of potatoes. Only in Idaho. We drove around the race course a little bit and I was grateful to have an extra day to adjust to the higher elevation. The one on one time with my dad was especially meaningful as he is the person who got me started in running. I remember him running a marathon when I was a kid, I ran my first 5k with him by my side, and he cheered me through every cross-country and track race during my high school years.
Saturday morning Matt and I got up at 4:45 AM to drive down to Pocatello. Hooray (and thank you) for grandparents who willingly watched the children. I caught a shuttle to the start line at 5:15. This could not have been more different from our Seattle Rock & Roll experience. Seattle had almost 28,000 participants. Pocatello had 350. To get to the Seattle start line we battled traffic, then had to walk shoulder to shoulder at least a mile with other racers. There were hundreds of port-a-potties, bagels galore, fruit, drinks, & live bands. Large blow horns announced the start for each of 29 corrals . . . yep. 29 starts.
To get to the Pocatello start line, Matt dropped me off at a hotel with no traffic to be seen. I immediately boarded the shuttle bus and was dropped off at this start line.
This picture was taken the night before. You can see the horse and chickens if you enlarge the picture. In the morning it was almost pitch black, which made using the potty quite exciting. Though the hype and adrenaline with 28,000 was fun, there was something special about this more quiet, intimate group, stretching together in the darkness before our journey began. At 6:15 sharp, with no fanfare at all, they simply said, "GO!" and we were off.
The first 4 miles were tough. I had mentally prepared myself to keep a slow and steady pace (10 minute miles) so I didn't run out of energy before the end. However, on a course that's almost entirely downhill the first 13 miles, this is VERY hard to do. I'd start to pace myself with another runner, then after a few hundred yards I'd check my pace only to find I was going faster than I wanted. So I'd find a new person and go through the same cycle. It was a maddening 4 miles speeding up, slowing down, trying to keep pace with or pass others. Finally at about 5 miles I just took a deep breath and quit worrying about anyone else. I focused on what I had prepared myself for.
At mile 5 I also turned off my music and turned on General Conference. I know . . . not exactly "Eye of the Tiger," but during my training runs I discovered I LOVED listening to the uplifting messages and music from Conference. This started after a frightening early morning run when I needed something to calm me. After listening to the words of our prophet and apostles for the remainder of my run I realized it helped me focus on something other than the running and it made me feel a little more balanced to be exercising my spirit along with my body.
Almost immediately after turning on the Conference talks I was able to settle down and really begin running my own race. I felt great and enjoyed the serenity around me. The picture doesn't quite capture it, but it was an absolutely beautiful morning.
At mile 6, there was a surprise waiting for me. MATT! Who I thought was going to go sleep at his sister's house for a few hours. This was especially fun because up to this point there had been nobody on the course cheering at all. He ran about 1 mile with me. Then he got in his car and drove further down the course. He was there to cheer me on again at about miles 11 and 16. I think he should have gotten a medal for best cheerleader.
The whole race up to mile 16 or so I was feeling great. I traded in my Mizuno's for a new pair (same shoe, just new) a few days before the race. The shoe experts assured me this was a good idea since my other ones were worn so thin. They were right. The foot pains I had experienced the past couple long runs disappeared entirely with the new shoes.
I drank something at every aid station, alternating between power-aid and water, and gelled about every 6 miles, walking just long enough at each station to get the fluids in my mouth, not all over my shirt.
By mile 16, so many other runners were walking. I was amazed at how many of the people who I couldn't keep up with earlier were now walking. Though I was not going fast, I was passing many, many people. I just kept running, one foot in front of the other. As I ran, I kept making life and gospel analogies - slow and steady, staying focused, not letting distractions keep you from doing what you need to do, etc. There was one girl from early in the race I had nicknamed "Numbers" because of the shirt she wore. I was so frustrated I couldn't keep her pace early on, but I passed her around mile 17 and didn't see her again.
There were a few people I did find to run with for a few miles - one man who was working toward running a marathon in every state. 50 marathons . . . wow. That's a lot of time & money. I'll raise my family before I can commit to that!
Around mile 18, I was anticipating hitting a wall. Everyone told me beforehand that miles 18-21 were the hardest. But the wall didn't come. Maybe it was because about mile 19, when so many others were hitting that wall and walking in pain, the song, "Press Forward Saints" came on. Though it didn't have the same upbeat rhythm as Green Day or Vampire Weekend, at that moment the phrases, "Press Forward," "Steadfast," and "Enduring" were exactly what I needed. A tender mercy from above. Maybe the wall didn't come because I had the best cheering section ever right around mile 21. Grandma LaRue, Grandpa Warren, Dad, Kaylee, Danny, Matt, and 2 homemade signs. I felt so loved. The smiles and cheers carried me forward. Maybe the wall didn't come because I was running with the bib number 143, a code for I LOVE YOU, reminding me of the many people who were cheering me on from afar. Or maybe the wall didn't come because the horse pin from my mom (who was taking care of my grandparents in Florida on race day), worn on my shoe, gave me just enough added inspiration to run like an Arabian.
By mile 23 my legs were exhausted. Despite refueling throughout, I could tell how low my energy level was. But I was already at mile 23! Only 3.2 miles left. One cross-country race . . . piece of cake! These last miles were definitely the hardest. We were no longer in the scenic mountains, but on a road paralleling the freeway. Most of the road was still open to traffic, so there were many cars all around and the serenity of the first 22 miles was gone. But, I realized I was going to reach my goal. I focused on each 1/2 mile and kept reminding myself how far I'd come and how little was left.
As I approached the finish line, two things happened. I became very emotional - having achieved something HARD that I'd always dreamed of doing and the perspective I'd gained doing it. And, my high school race training took over - I kicked it in to the finish. 4:27.43 Not Olympic, but within my personal goal of averaging 10 minute miles. And, a Personal Best. :) Next time I'll aim for beating my dad's marathon time - 4:17.
Debbie, Timmy, & Isabelle arrived just after I finished and I was greeted by the whole cheering crew. I felt so loved . . . how lucky to have so many people who believe in me! The bagels, ice cream, and fruit never tasted better. The rest of Saturday I could walk, but mostly laid around. I was grateful for a mother-in-law who babied me along while my husband had to go work at the fair. Sunday I was able to go to church and walk around at the fair in the evening, but I was sore and winced in pain anytime I was going down stairs. Monday night I was able to work at the fair, but my quads were still quite tender from 13 miles of downhill. Wednesday morning I woke up and felt 100%. 4 day recovery . . . not too shabby.
And, guess who else raced on marathon day?
Danny's first race - 0.2 mile. I wonder if someday I'll be cheering this guy on when he runs his first marathon.