Race Recap: Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon, 2015

Race Recap: Columbus Marathon, 2015

I ran the Columbus Marathon yesterday. I had a great experience, from pre-race to afterward. I’d love to tell you about it.

Pre-Race

This was our third year hitting the Columbus Marathon Expo, so we knew our way through the Convention Center and expo hall. My Min volunteer was so nice, I could have talked to him for an hour. We picked up our shirts and bags, stopped at a few booths, and headed back out. We had some coffee at The Chintz Room before we checked into our hotel; they were playing football, on mute, with great showtunes through their bar speakers. It was the best ever.

Checking in at our hotel took quite some time. The Doubletree didn’t plan well for a 4:00pm check in time on a marathon, wedding, and home OSU night game day. We waited in line for 15-20 minutes, only to be told our request for a late checkout would not be honored even though we’re Hilton Honors Members. I think we’ll choose a different hotel the next time we stay in Columbus.

We ate at Elevator Brewery again, which was great. I tried a Dark Force, which I recommend, and had the spinach fettucine, which I also recommend. We watched Michigan State win and Penn State start to lose before we went to sleep.

The alarm went off at 5:30 AM and we started getting ready for the race. It was 29 degree that morning, so I put on my race outfit…

Race Recap: Columbus Marathon, 2015

…and over that, I layered an old pair of paint-splotched yoga pants, a pink tech-jacket that I don’t wear anymore, and a pair of throwaway gloves from a previous race. The walk to the starting line was a quick walk from our hotel. My husband and I were in separate corrals (he had an A start! Fasty McFaster) so we gave kisses and headed off in separate directions.

The C-corral porta-potty situation was on point. We had a U-shaped area with—get this—no line. I walked straight into one, which was very clean. I then went and stood in my spot. Right before the National Anthem, I took off the yoga pants and tossed them to the side (they collect and donate the clothes runners toss off). I wish I would have kept them until C-corral started moving forward. Also: Runners, remove your hats during the National Anthem. Yes, I mean all of you. I don’t care if it will mess up your hairdo. It’s a race, not a pageant.

They did a special set of fireworks for Corral C’s start, and we were off!

Mile by Mile

Miles 1-4.5

I crossed the starting line at 7:40. My legs felt fresh—and cold. I didn’t ever feel extremely cold during this portion, but enjoyed the spots with sunshine more than the mostly shaded areas. As the sun was still rising, the shady spots outnumbered the sunny spots. I ditched my gloves somewhere before the turn into four miles. I felt so strong and so happy that I almost skipped my first walking break. I didn’t, figuring I’d need the energy for later in the marathon. Sometimes I’m smart.

Miles 5-9

I ditched my jacket before the photographer around mile 5. I almost kept it with me, but I knew from running the Columbus half marathon twice before that the photographer was coming up. As I was already sweating and I wanted my number to be visible, I ditched it. I debated tying it around my waist but thought it might bother me; I’ll regret this later. We passed Children’s Hospital in between miles 8 and 9, and I took a photo of my Children’s Champions sign.

Race Recap: Columbus Marathon, 2015

While running, so excuse the blur.

I didn’t want to walk at my next break yet, but I did it anyway. I make smart choices sometimes.

Miles 9.5-13.5

A trip through German Village is always nice. I specifically made myself take note of the Angel Mile this year, acknowledging each parent holding up a sign. There’s a slow hill up into the 12th mile. As I had with the slow hill through mile 9, I repeated to myself, “I trained on hills much bigger than this. I run hills. I can do this.” Minus two (small) hills that happened to fall during scheduled walk breaks, I ran every second of every hill.

I expected to feel distraught when the half marathoners made their turn to the finish while I kept going. In fact, I took a photo on our way to dinner the night before, stating how I’d hate this point in the race the next day.

Race Recap: Columbus Marathon, 2015

I didn’t. I still felt strong. I was still enjoying the race. The numbers really dropped off at this point. I took my next scheduled walk break without questioning my plan.

Miles 14-18

Listen, I love the Columbus Marathon but the trek through campus feels underwhelming. There were no crowds. There were no bands. This was a dead zone. If I had been a first time marathoner, having a giant dead zone so soon after the split from the half marathoners might have felt defeating. I just kept going. This was the first time I actually walked a water stop so I could have a Gatorade in one hand and a water in the other. I began longing for my walk break at 18.

Miles 18.5-22

And my wheels fell off. As soon as I stared running after my scheduled walk break, I knew that I was going to have to formulate a new plan if I wanted to finish at all, let alone with a PR. I still stood a chance to hit my A-goal, which I never officially announced out of fear I wouldn’t make it. (Spoiler: I didn’t.) During this stretch, I decided to run between the water breaks, walk the fluid station and for a bit after as my stomach was starting to hurt when I began running too quickly after cold fluids.

There was also a significant incline into mile 20. I just kept shuffling. Some lovely spectators let us know when it ended so we could keep on moving. I remember hearing, “Just two more blocks and then it starts back downhill!” I was running, really desperately wanting some water again, when I ran into Uncle Crappy in Upper Arlington. It was so great to see him and gave me the boost I needed to get to the next water station.

I thought a lot of awful thoughts through this stretch. Most of them revolved around supposed or alleged failure. I considered quitting. I cursed all the things.

Miles 22.5-26.2

At 22.5, a cold wind started blowing directly at me—while walking. If you’ve been running for four-some hours and a cold wind blows at you while you’re moving slower and using less energy than before, you’ll feel cold. I missed that jacket I tossed off way back in the first six miles. I missed my gloves. I missed the yoga pants I walked to the starting line while wearing. I missed being warm.

At mile 23, I started in with my last altered “plan.” You have a lot of time to come up with new plans while you’re walking and freezing to death. I would run all of mile 23. At mile 24, I would allow myself to walk the WHOLE mile in order to find energy to run the entire last mile and point two. And so I ran ALL of mile 23. Surprise, surprise, I warmed up. Once inside the next mile, I walked a little bit, but found that I felt surprisingly great. I overcame the wall that I hit between 18-22. That feeling felt especially empowering. So I started running again. When I got to the final water station, I did walk long enough to drink one cup of water, throw it in a receptacle (instead of missing; sorry, volunteers), and to just before the sign for mile 25.

And then I ran.

I ran hard. I had something left to give, so I gave it. I left it all on the pavement.

Just before the last turn toward the finish line, I found my husband in the crowd. He had time to go shower, check out of the hotel, get coffee, and come back down to cheer me on at the finish as he finished his half marathon in 1:51:20. (His new PR!) I waved, gave him a quick high five, and continued pushing hard.

I pushed all the way through the finish, which you can watch here. (I’m waving to Diane in the approach video. She was at the media tent as she now works for Nationwide Children’s, which is so awesome.) I am so proud of my finish, especially in light of the wall miles.

Post-Race

I felt a little woozy due to how hard I pushed for the last mile point two, so I walked slowly forward for a bit. The volunteer who put the medal around my neck very kindly said, “You’re a marathoner.” I was prior to yesterday, but I cried all over again. In fact, I just cried writing it now. I’m a marathoner. It blows my mind every single time. I then accepted my foil blanket. I learned the lesson to take the mylar blanket the hard way at the 2013 Columbus Marathon, and with my very cold 22nd mile experience, I wrapped myself in the blanket. I took some water, drank a bit, and took a selfie.

Race Recap: Columbus Marathon, 2015

I had my official picture taken. I accepted all the free goodies, except for the yogurt because nope. They gave us a handy little bag, sponsored by White Castle, to put all the goodies into before they handed us all the goodies. This is the smartest thing ever. I just kind of held my bag out and volunteers put bagels and bananas in the bag. I found it difficult to walk, hold the bag and blanket, and think, so the help from the little baggie and the amazing volunteers was greatly appreciated.

I walked out of the finishers chute, found my husband…

Race Recap: Columbus Marathon, 2015

…and began the slow walk back to our car in the hotel’s parking garage. I was really bummed that Jimmy John’s was out of free sandwiches to hand out to runners by the time I finished. I know I was a beginning of the back of the packer, but man, I really wanted a sandwich. When I heard my husband got one earlier, I gave him the stink eye, but it wasn’t his fault. He ran the half, and quickly. Jimmy John’s should have planned for back of the pack runners. My husband’s response is: “I’ll never run the full Columbus Marathon. I’ll run the half so I can get my Jimmy John’s.” Smarty pants.

Race Feedback

I have very little negative race feedback. The race itself is extremely well-organized. The social media is off the charts. The expo was lovely, and if I’d had more money to burn, I’d have bought all the things. The shirts, while colored by gender, are a great weight and fit. (And yes, I do like pink. I just want one shirt for everyone so it looks like I ran the same race as my husband. Don’t pinkify my stuff just to make it “girly.” This is a current race trend, not just in Columbus, and it needs to end.)

Here’s my negative note: Someone needs to do something about bikes on the course. I know there’s a bike tour for spectators, but between the spectators ON THE ROAD WITH US and the coaches biking ON THE ROAD WITH US beside their runners and random people just trying to bike around the city, things got dicey more than once. I was more annoyed with the coaches biking next to their runners than with the spectators, though a number of spectators were NOT looking where they were going and nearly ran into runners when they would start moving again. The coaches, offering everything from water to salt to chews to fresh shoes, really bothered me. I get it. Some dude paid for that dude to follow him. But hey, I’d like some water, too. I’m dying over here. You could tell me how much fat I’m burning, too. That’d be nice. Can you offer me a “good job” or something? If it had been just one coach with one guy, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so annoyed. But goodness.

Other than the bike/coach problem, I still feel this will remain my favorite course. They’ve done such a good job with the course itself, making the entire weekend a special event, and staying involved on social media. If you’re considering this as a race, I can assure you it’s worth it.

I wish I could adequately explain how I adore this race. It will forever hold a place in my heart, and, for now, holds my PR in both the half marathon and the full marathon. Not too shabby, Columbus.

 

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Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

My Pittsburgh Half Marathon experience didn’t go quite as expected. While I never stated a goal other than wanting to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I hoped to run well. I didn’t think I would PR and beat my 2014 Columbus Half Marathon time, but I thought I might come in between my 2013 Columbus Half Marathon and my 2013 Cleveland Half Marathon. Cleveland was my first and, prior to this race, my slowest.

When I checked the weather at 5:20 as we prepared to leave the Omni William Penn for the VIP Start Area at the Westin, the temperature was already 54 degrees. I should have known. I should have realized what that meant for my run. I should have taken the whole morning very conservatively.

But hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Miles 1-2: I ran these two as a “warm up” with my husband as he hoped to pace between 10:30-11:00

Miles 3-4: I ran too fast, but hear me out. After I left my husband, I felt good. I felt great. Everything you hope to feel for race day I felt. My goal was to find the 2:10 pace team, but it was going to be a hard find as they started ahead of us in the corral and we’d been pacing slower the first two miles. But I caught ’em. I then slowed into their pace and planned on sticking with them for the duration of the race. I grabbed a water at 3.6 miles, managing to choke-jog through the fluid station without much issue.

Miles 5-6: I ran with the 2:10 pace team without much issue. Both miles paced at exactly 9:51, and I felt great. I grabbed a Gatorade and a water at mile 6.1. I started to take note of the heat, but still felt strong.

Mile 7: Up the West End Bridge, I fell off the 2:10 pace team just a bit. I took notice that the sun was really starting to beat down, but once up into the West End, the shade cooled me down. I came out and around the bend toward Station Square…

Mile 8: …and my wheels just didn’t fall off; they exploded. The sun was relentless coming down into Station Square. I ended up walking for a bit, doing some math, and realizing that not only would I fail to PR but I ran a big risk of running my slowest half marathon ever. Then I cried for a bit. Then I ran for a bit. I walked through the mile 8 fluid station. I thought about pulling my phone out and canceling my full marathon registration for Columbus in October. I felt like I disappointed everyone, including myself.

Mile 9: I attempted to run a bit, walk a bit, but I was still too overheated for much progress. I started to get cold chills. My ears started the throbbing thing. And, whoa, my hands started to swell—not just a little bit, but painfully so. And then! My husband caught up with me. At least he caught up with me during a section that I was attempting to run again, but I felt so embarrassed. And then I felt even worse. I sent him on ahead, returned to walking, and cried a bit more. I finished up the mile with a run section and a stop at the fluid station at 9.9. I went with two Gatorades, three cups of water to drink, and two cups of water over my shoulders/front/back.

Mile 10: I started to cool down a bit due to the extra water, so I went back to running. Very slowly. Shortly before the water station at 10.6, I ran into BurghBaby, 3Weasels, Mila, and Alexis. I spotted them before they spotted me, but I knew they would be hanging out round about that location. I stopped for a brief moment to show them my sausage fingers and give hugs. They reassured me I could do it, and while I didn’t quite believe them at the time, I ran off anyway. I walked the water station and continued running.

Mile 11: You know, the Birmingham Bridge is a Jagoff. I saw a sign right before we crossed it that read, “I got 99 problems but a bridge ain’t one.” FOR REAL. Anyway, I ran most of the way to the top, walking for a series of steps when the sun felt like it was too much for me, and resuming when I felt okay. As we crossed the top and started down the other side, two EMS officials were helping a downed woman. They already had an IV in and were giving her fluids. It was at this point that I started to realize my walk breaks weren’t the worst thing in the world.

Mile 12: Uphill. I staggered walking with running up the hill. I struggled a little, but I knew that taking it easy was the only way to survive the still rising temps. A young group of happy marathon spectators offered free beer to runners at this point, but I decided I would throw up five feet from drinking one and opted not to accept. Bummer. Instead, I just hit the water station at 12.2 and repeated the drinking and pouring.

Mile 13 and Point 1: After cresting the seemingly un-ending but not-as-steep-as-the-marathon-course uphill, the finish line was immediately visible. As I headed toward the finish line, I made a choice to speed up just a little but not too much. I picked a point in which I would then surge to the finish. I crossed the finish line strong and a bit overheated, but cooler thanks to the water I chose to pour at the last two water stations.

Time: 2:27:00

I walked through the amazingly secure and organized finisher’s chute very slowly. I accepted Gatorade, water, a banana, and a Smiley Cookie. I saved the cookie for my kids, but consumed the rest myself.

As I accepted my medal, I thought about how hard I fought for that medal. The winter of doom training. The long hours away from my kids. I thought about the hard year I had; the loss, the challenges, the surgery, the difficulty. I thought about the people who supported me through all of that, the ones who donated to my race, the ones who held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up, the ones who believed in me.

And I deemed the race a success.

I went and changed, ate a little something, and charged my phone in the VIP Experience lounge. Then I went to wait for my husband at the finish line. His shared location through our iPhones had him pinging all the way to Shaler, so it was hard to know exactly when he’d be coming across the finish line, but I timed it pretty close. Thankfully I had a little extra time, because I realized I left our car key, which I’d carried in my running skirt, in the VIP bathroom. When I went to find it, I found Kim, but not my key. The front desk had it, however, and I still made it back to the finish line to meet my husband.

What’s the first thing he said when he finished his first full marathon?

“I don’t know how you did that.” And he hugged me hard and tight. And I cried some more, but tears of pride. For him. For me. For us both. I felt so full of pride I could burst.

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

I got him into the Wyndham, bought him a beer, got him some food, and sent him off to change. After heading out of Pittsburgh via Ohio River Boulevard (no 376/Green Tree detour! no traffic!), we spent the rest of the day at The Farm with friends and family, celebrating the finishing of two big races, my birthday that just passed and my husband’s which is about to arrive.

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon
Hot tub and a drink? Yes, please!

Today I worked, picked up the dog, helped out at LittleBrother’s baseball practice, and ran a recovery mile in the rain. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to run my own race.

I want to thank Our Clubhouse PA for the work they do for families dealing with cancer, P3R for the great event and for having me again as an Official Pittsburgh Marathon blogger, my friends and family for their support, and my husband for training with me, pushing me to be my best, and loving me like whoa.

Will I run another Pittsburgh Half? I guess we’ll see! Or, as they say, #GameOnPGH!

 

Please check out the rest of the Official Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers to see how their races went.