Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marathon Weekend

I am sorry this has taken me so long to get up on the blog. We drove back to Atlanta Monday and I had a sore throat. Thinking nothing of it I ran 6 miles Tuesday morning. By the evening I was totally congested and by Wednesday bedridden. Completely. All day. I went to the doctor Thursday and I have bronchitis and a sinus infection. Let this be a lesson as to why maybe it is not such a great idea to run 26 miles in the rain.

But, I am not a quitter.
And not being a quitter means I sometimes do things that defy logic and good sense.

Mostly though, I am not a quitter because I am ridiculously stubborn. Like when driving back from the Outer Banks Ryan stopped at 7 Eleven to get coffee. Gross, I told him, I don't want coffee from here. Yes you do, he said. It is the best. Trust me, he said. No, I'll just have water, I said. Well, lucky that he bought a big ole giant thing of coffee because it was damn good--- you know, once I finally caved and had a sip.

Anyway, back to the subject of quitting. I want to say to people that there are definitely times when one should quit and one should be okay with that. But for some people it is just really hard to let things go. See, that is the type of person I am. And because of this I sometimes I have to suffer a bit. I think this is where people often say you are "building character". I think I've got lots of character.
Yes, I know this is my marathon post and no I don't have any regrets nor I am talking about quitting because I think I should have quit but rather as an explanation why it never really occurred to me when it was a pretty obvious and understandable choice for some people. But I'll get to all that. Let me start at the beginning. Let me start with the weather.

They say people from the Outer Banks are obsessed with the weather. They watch it all day long. I can understand that because it changed drastically-- almost minute to minute-- the 4 days we were there. And to think, I thought Georgia's weather was a crap shoot. I am telling you, Atlanta: we've got nothing on the Outer Banks. Nothing.

It was a long drive to the Outer Banks, a very long drive and we arrived late Friday afternoon. We were greeted with calm, pleasant weather with the sun streaking through the clouds at sunset. Just gorgeous. I was immediately enamored by the landscape and was reaffirmed in my choice of location marathons.

We went to the Expo and picked up my chip and shirt. Then enjoyed a yummy dinner at theOuter Banks Brewery Station. We also sampled some of their very tasty beer. I need to remember to stay away from the IPA's because even though I only have 2 they totally toss me-- not enough for hangover-- but definitely make me sillier than 2 beers normally do.

Saturday we got up early and went to Jockey Ridge-- the largest sand dune on the east coast. It was pretty neat but it seemed like never ending sand so we gave up on it and headed for Hatteras Island. Okay, so there is one instance I did quit but I am just not all that interested in sand.
It was a surprisingly hot day. Sunny and temperatures in the 80's. Silly me didn't pack shorts (it being November and all what could I have been thinking). So Ryan-- you guys are never going to believe this-- let me go to the Outlet Mall and buy a whole new outfit. He hates to shop. Hates it. But he was actually quite pleasant to be with. He even got into it and picked some stuff out for himself. I really, really love my new shoes. They are even flats and you know I hate flats. Flats let people know I am not really 5'8. But these are great and very comfy.
After an outfit change we lunched on Hatteras and saw the famous light house. Then we took a real live ferry over to Ocracoke Island. I kind of thought the ferry was going to be much cooler than it was. I do love boats though so I was pretty excited that I got to be on one this trip.

On Ocracoke we wandered around and bought souvenirs and finished by having dinner at the Back Porch. Yummy but I was really tired. I had to drive back since Ryan indulged quite a bit. It was very hard for me to drive. The road was long and flat and very dark. My eyes were very tired. I kept getting hypnotized by the road. I was so relieved to be back at the room.

Before we had left that morning I had laid out all my clothes and pinned my number on my shirt. I already knew that it was suppose to rain so I didn't bother to look at the weather. I was asleep before 10 pm.

I got up promptly at 4:30 am. On the nights prior to races I am always like a kid on Christmas. I wake up every hour paranoid that I am going to miss my start or over sleep. I am a morning person. I don't know that I have ever over slept. It is a ridiculous worry on my part but I have yet to figure out a way to conquer it. Glass a wine does seem to help though.

I had coffee, water and ate my Uncle Sam's. Then I showered and shaved and dressed. I did my yoga. Then I went outside and saw that it was not raining and was calm. I was hopeful. At 5:35 a.m. I left for the shuttle. It was there waiting for me, well not just me. I chatted on the ride to the start with a woman from Denver. This was to be her 5th marathon and she told me about her others. I never asked her name. Actually, I always forget to ask peoples names. At any rate I hope she had a good race.

I don't know what time we got to the start but the darkness was fading into light. A man was we got off the bus asked me about skirt and if I liked it. I told him about utilikilts and all the handy pockets. He didn't seem too keen on it saying he liked skirts for girls. Oh well. No male converts to the skirt yet.

Then I waited in an enormously long line for the bathroom and worried about missing the start. I chatted with a woman and her husband. It was her first marathon. He wasn't really entered and was just going to run parts with her. I thought that was very sweet of him. I wonder if he ran the whole way because I saw him running with her when I was leaving Roanonke after finishing. She only had few miles to go so I think she finished in probably around 4 and half hours. I was glad to see her hang in there.

I got to the start with 10 minutes to spare. I didn't really talk to anyone but placed myself with the 8 minute pacers. I checked Garmin. I had set us to race for a finish of 3:37. Very optimistic, I know, but I was feeling pretty confident.

The gun went and so did I and all the other runners. The day was calm and quiet looking. In my head was Coldplay's "Clocks." I start almost every long run and definitely every long race with this song. It helps me get focused and to that running place.

I was amazed that already there were tons of spectators out cheering the runners on. I cannot tell you amazing the Outer Bankers were throughout the race. And once the rain hit I made certain to thank them as they cheered me on or handed me water. There were even kids out there and cheerleaders with their sad wet pom poms cheering the runners on. As a runner you don't often feel welcome everywhere and in every race but in the Outer Banks I felt like a valued guest. It was nice. Very nice.

I should add here that I wore my "Run Like A Girl" shirt so from the women I got compliments and go girl go! And from the men Run Girl Run! It was nice to be singled out and noticed. I think I will try to wear a shirt that has some sort of saying on it for all my marathons.

The first few miles were in residential backroads and you weaved around a view of the sound. We headed into the Wright Brother's Memorial at Kitty Hawk. There we ran on a concrete path past an airstrip with some planes and then around the hill with the monument and then we ran through some grass. I may have that a bit backwards but we did something like that. At some point around this time we had to cross a busy road and there was a gap between me and the runners ahead and behind me. A police officer stopped me and wouldn't allow me to cross. Other runners piled up behind me. I was very confused as to why he wasn't letting us cross. I scanned the road thinking maybe an accident had happened. The spectators booed him and said "let the runners go! It is about the runners!" As the pack around me grew a really pissed off man bolted out and effectively stopped traffic and I and the rest of the runners followed him. He and another guy and I exchanged some choice words about the incident as we ran on trying to make up time.

Ryan, I think, snapped this picture sometime in the 8th mile or so when we ran into the Nag's Head Woods. The woods were quiet and beautiful and the rain that had started fall I no longer felt because of the heavy tree cover. We ran on what looked like an old logging trail or a dirt road. It was wide and the dirt packed. Actually it was pretty nice terrain if I had been more confident of it. I was a bit worried as it looked like it could get really muddy and thus slippery but it wasn't a concern for me since I was early on in the game. I am not sure how long the course was in the woods, maybe 3 miles but after a couple of miles I noticed a head of me a runner make a sharp left and was going up a definite hill. Ugh, what they heck, I thought this was a flat course except for the bridge around 22 miles? When I reach the turn I see that it is a hill but worse it is a trail. A real trail with signs that say watch for exposed roots. Ugh, I didn't plan for this. I have never run on a trail. I like my roads. I have tendency to roll my ankle in unpacked terrain. They had covered the trail with mulch and pine straw and it was very difficult for me to run on. I felt like I couldn't get my footing. The trail was also very narrow so we were single file and it was very difficult to pass. I don't think this part was actually very long but it seemed like an eternity and I cannot tell you how happy I was to be out of the woods--or so I thought.

Ryan was waiting for me when we exited the path. I had entered the woods doing a 7:40 pace and exited doing an 8:06 pace. I was not happy. My feet were hurting really bad too. Not sure why but I guess from me trying to compensate on the unstable terrain I must have done something funky with my feet. They have never felt like that before. Everything else though felt okay.

At this point the rain started to fall--lightly though, and it felt nice. We turned off the main highway and ran back into residential neighborhoods. Here the road was awful and did nothing for my already suffering feet. It was paved bumpy rock. I almost had a collision with another runner trying to find a more worn area of the road. I tried to distract myself with views of the sound and the cheers from the very enthusiastic Outer Bankers.

I was relieved when we turned back on Croatan Highway because of the smooth pavement. We soon passed the half way mark and I was doing okay with a split of around an hour and 44 minutes. Just as I was getting my groove on the rain started to fall harder. And here is where the miles just blur. We weaved back into the residential and back out onto the highway several times so I am not exactly sure which mile was when. The rain was at it's absolute worst out on the highway though somewhere around miles 16,17, 18 and 19. Ryan has that he saw me sometime then around 9:15 and then he saw me again at mile 20 around 9:50 am. So 35 minutes for 4 miles is pretty crappy for me but considering the conditions I think understandable.

Those were the most miserable miles of my life. The rain was awful. The sky was black and the rain pounded into my face and the wind gusted from the sides. Thank God for my visor as it offered a little reprieve from the driving rain. I just ducked down and focused on not falling. I kept telling myself less than 10 miles. I can do it. I've run in the rain for 10 miles before. Only an hour and half tops more. Go. Stay with it. Go. Do not waste all your hard work.

While I was giving myself my motivational pep talk I realized others were dropping out. There was guy I passed who was yelling back at his brother for bailing. He looked to me and said "My brother is ditching me!" And all I could think was I can't exactly blame him. I couldn't be anyone's cheerleader other than my own. I had to laugh when "Beautiful Day" by U2 came fell into rotation on my iPod. It was funny at how horrible the rain was. It was just a joke how bad it was.

A little ways later I ran up on two men. Two very fit looking men, I should say. I watched as they shook hands and then the one on the right stepped off the course and just quit. I couldn't believe it. We had less than 7 miles to go and the weather was easing up. Why quit now?

I just kept telling myself that if I made it over the bridge I would be home free. I could struggle those last 3 miles however but I would finish if I could make it over the bridge.

By the time I hit the bridge the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to peak its way out of the clouds. It wasn't blue but grey skies with light again, and I was thankful for that. But now the temperature had dropped into the 40's and the wind would hit me with hard gusts every now and again as I climbed the hill that was the bridge. The view from the bridge was breathtaking and carried me over it as if it was nothing. And compared to the previous miles; it was nothing.

My hips were aching. I guess because the shock absorption of my shoes being rendered useless by the gallons of water each shoe now contained. It felt like I was running barefoot with little lead weights tethered to each leg. But I didn't care because I only had 3 miles left and I can do a 5k on tired legs. I imagined myself stepping on the treadmill the day after a long run loathing the speed workout head of me. Only instead of the loathing that I normally feel, I was filled with hope and with the knowledge that I have run hard on legs this tired before. That I could do it. I looked at my clock and almost started crying with joy that I would most definitely qualify for Boston. I had almost but let that goal go in the rain focusing instead on just finishing and getting it done.
Leaving the bridge you make a right onto Roanoke Island. It was beautiful and while I didn't really have the energy to enjoy the sights of downtown Manteo I didn't suffer those last miles because it was so picturesque. I ran them strong and on pace. The only thing that I did not enjoy was weaving around the half marathon walkers who would at times be 3 or 4 abreast.

The course weaved through the back roads of Manteo to the high school and then through the parking lot to the track. It was a bit weird and convoluted but whatever. I haven't ever really run on a track so I kind of enjoyed making that round to the finish. And I was very happy when I saw the time clock reading 3:43 and knew that my chip time would be even faster.
I have to say that race was the hardest thing I have ever done except for giving birth to my first child and that it because I had a 42 hour labor with a botched epidural and I was scared to death.

I certainly wasn't scared during the race but I was very frustrated. This race confirmed for me, after seeing many runners fitter looking than I struggle and sometimes quit, that 90% of running is mental. I am proud that I got myself through it and met and surpassed my goal. I am a little disappointed that I didn't finish faster as I think I could have run it 5 minutes faster had it been a "perfect" day.
But it is what is.
And I will say for myself that I ran every single mile; as there is no walking in the rain. I stopped only at the aid stations long enough to down the water and Gatorade. But other than that, I ran the whole way-- which is a huge success in my book.

After I cleaned up and had some water and a Clif bar that tasted like dried leaves and chocolate we went back to Roanoke and walked around Manteo and lunched at a fabulous restaurant called theFull Moon Cafe and enjoyed a few celebratory beers (psst,shrimp and crab enchiladas are to die for). The day had cleared up to be cold and with clouds and sun and the occasional light shower. How much I would have preferred that during the race.
After lunch we went to the Elizabethan Gardens and roamed around those for a bit.
We finished off the day at The Weeping Radish Brewery and then went for dinner at the Outer Banks Brewery Station one last time. There were lots of other race finishers there so it was great to chat with them and hear their race stories. It was a great close to a very long and eventful day. Oh, and by this time it was again a deluge outside.

So would I do this race again?
Will I?
No, it is too far for me to drive.
But I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a beautiful course with great spectators and great place to visit with lots to do. So go, make a long weekend out of it. I just hope you have better race weather than me.
One last thing--if you can even stand to read anymore-- rather than make this a separate post about my missing time I'll get it out here. I mentioned here that my time had gone MIA. Well thanks to the hard work of Kevin Hupp at Kalerunning he was able to recover my finish time. I have no recorded splits because, as he determined, the "guts" or transconder or whatever the brains of it is called fell out at some point. So I am very appreciative that he took the time to find it and rectify the problem (unlike my other chip incident.)

So what's next?
The Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving. I just checked the weather and it is suppose to be in the 60's and sunny. I can't tell you how tempting it is to do the full. I know that is crazy and I'm not going to do it since I want to have great time on Thanksgiving on legs that don't lock up.

And after that?
The GA ING Marathon in March. I will not be doing Boston this year. My qualifying time is good for 18 months so I will do Boston in 2008. I just really don't want to miss out on the inaugural run in the place where I have lived my entire life. Just seems like I should be here for it.


  1. Great post, Natalie. The part about looking at your watch and realizing about your qualifying time made me tear up too. : )

    Good for you.

  2. What a great person you've turned out to be! I happen to know your Mom is so proud of you she can't quit telling people how you run marathons. It is truly a miracle to her as she had lots of worries when you were younger. Little did she know that stubborn headstrong personality would go in such a possitive direction. She is SO glad she didn't do the Angela Yates thing back then - though she admits it crossed her mind a time or two.

  3. Thank you for sharing your OBX experience and congratulations on your successful Boston Qual! Hopefully I will get mine this spring.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. HEY! Congrats on the BQ~ Even though the weather could have been better, sounds like you did awesome!
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Happy Holidays and have fun at the half!

  5. Thank you all for the compliments. I appreciate it every much.

    And a warm welcome to all the newbie readers or to those just coming out of lurkdom. Nice to hear from you and thanks for stopping by and reading!

  6. You absolutely fucking rock! I worship you. Big hug of congratulations - we all knew you could do it.

  7. I'm VERY impressed, I had no idea how much suffering and tribulations you went through getting your BQ!! Gosh, between the dumb cop, exposed roots, tough footing on trails, rain causing wet & heavy shoes, walkers walking abreast,etc. I'm not sure if I would have the mental strength that you possess of succeeding with the BQ! You are one fantastic runner and my hero. I'll remember your lesson on maintaining mental strength during my upcoming marathon. Happy trails, Bruce