Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Over the Rainbow (Or better: yet) Kicking that Damn Leprechaun to the Curb and Running Like I Stole His Gold 2009 Georgia Marathon Race Report!

So Dorothy sings: Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue.
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Huh. Who knew? Not me!

But sometimes, I think, perseverance pays off.

And sometimes, I also think, it boils down to a lucky day.

And other times, it is because Silly Lilly calls it (thanks GB!)

I, on the other hand, for not one second before-- or even during-- the race thought it was going to happen until I rounded the curve to the finish and saw the finish line clock flip to 3:30.

And imagine my happiness after crossing and hitting my watch and seeing 3:29:58 and later finding the official chip time and it being faster.

So yep! Apparently 3rd time was the charm. . .

Natalie Fischer #2018

Age: 37 Gender: F


Clock Time3:30:27
Chip Time3:29:51
Overall Place188 / 2076
Gender Place25 / 713
Age Grade66.2%
Division place(W30-39)



Me after I finally found Ryan and right before my lips turned blue because I was.so.very.cold. Always with the pretty after a marathon.

Me being silly after the race with Pookie--she did the half and was unhappy with her 1:53 time--which I have no idea what she was expecting with her yoga-centric training regime that did not include much running.
Me with celebratory Sweetwater at Brick Store Pub in Decatur waiting for my celebratory hamburger. Mmmmmm beer, red meat.

Okay. The long winded blow by blow tale of my race:

This was the first marathon where I had someone else watch the kids the night before. It was great not having to get them ready, make them breakfast and fight with Beau about something inane. So huge thanks to Bubbles and Poppy for having them over to spend the night and keeping them all day Sunday too! Whew! How lucky am I? Those with littles know.

Also, Ryan was even nice enough to let me have the bed all to myself. Mostly because he didn't want to be blamed for keeping me up with his snoring and snuggling. I can't say I slept great but I definitely got more than I usually do before a race. And I won't say I woke up all refreshed like a spring day but I also didn't wake up feeling like Atlas either. So definitely off to a good start.

I got up at 4:30 am. Had coffee and Uncle Sam's and then a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and salt. Water. Then I showered and stretched in the shower (right, naked stretching. No. I will not be going to naked yoga) and got dressed (no naked marathons either for that matter).

Ryan and I left about 5:45. In the car I realized I had left my hat at home. Small moment of control freak freak-out but I decided that it would be okay, that it was probably an unlucky hat anyway.

I reaffirmed myself with my mantra of the day: Positive attitude. It is a great day for a race and I will be happy and take whatever the day gives me. I love running and I am doing what I love.

I know that is pretty zen for me since I am in general negative and pessimistic. But I was channeling the happy for this race so even if I didn't believe it I tried my best to pretend and embrace it. I had to keep reminding myself of the happy a lot though.

Then I found my sunglasses so it was all okay. I have no idea why I thought I would need them. Guess it was my sunny outlook: it was so bright I might need shades????

As it was I did not need them and I wore them on my head until around 23 miles when I finally got tired of readjusting them on my head and tucked them in my sports bra realizing the sun?
It wasn't coming out.
That's right.
was the sunshine!
Hey, on a dark and cloudy day even the pessimistic shine like the sun if they just smile a little.
Or something like that. . .

It was dark and kinda cold and little breezy at the start. We had Lola with us so Ryan wouldn't walk me to my corral so we parted ways and I guess he went over to my sister's.

I found my way to corral two and realized I was at the back end of it. This did not make me so happy and I was all about the happy on Sunday. So I politely as I could excused me and pardon'd myself up towards the front. When I got almost to the front Pookie saw me. I was not happy that we were smack in the middle of the corral as I prefer to be on the sides but we were sardined in and could neither go forward, back, right or left. I noticed that the 3:30 pace group was parallel to us so I figured it would be okay.

I never untie or tie my running shoes. I just slip in and out of them but I must have tied and retied them 10 times standing there waiting for the start. Finally it was go time and we were off. I took this time to embarrass my sister by yelling Go Pookie!!!!! Run Pookie!!!!! Yay Pookie! Pookie is my sister!! And she was like 'shut up asshole.' She LOVES me!

I chatted with her for a few minutes and then out of the corner of my eye I saw the 3:30 pace group catch up to us and was like uh, yeah this is my cue for game on. I wished Pookie a good race and took a deep breath and started focusing on the race.

I turned on my ipod and took in the city. The sun still wasn't up but the lights from the city were bright enough so it wasn't dark at all. As I ran down the road I saw parts of the city laid out before me; framed by the diminishing night sky. The sun was starting to break through the clouds and rays of light were wrapping around and reflecting brilliantly off the glass facades of the buildings. It looked to me like the sun was hugging Atlanta. It was a very peaceful and hopeful sight to me. So I just chilled out and told myself again; it is going to be a great day! I am going to have a great race. And at that moment I felt so happy I teared up a little. Not one for emotion I checked myself and found that I was at the first mile marker.
7:42! Perfect. I was very happy with that.

By the time I hit the split for the second mile marker I realized I really was feeling good! No tight calves, no pain, no lethargy. I just felt good. It was going to be a good day! Oh boy was I happy!

Hit the split for mile two: 7:32. Uhm, a little fast but damn I felt good!

All week I had practiced my super secret never gonna happen marathon pace which was right around 7:40. It had felt good all week--energizing even-- but that was on the treadmill with no incline. No way could I hold that on the hills-- not to mention-- much less for 26.2 miles. I doubted that I could even hold an 8 minute pace. Self doubt found it's way in as I reminded myself that this was my 3rd marathon in 4 months. I had struggled with illness and slight injury since my 2nd marathon in January. Really, I wondered, how much could ask of myself today?

As I pondered this I hit the split for the 3rd mile: 7:32--Holy crap! Two miles in a row exactly the same? 22:47 for 3 miles. Really fast but not impossible.

I tried to reign myself in. It was way too early with way too many hills and miles ahead of me to get excited about anything. I hit the split for mile 4: 7:52. Better!

I told myself right then that I would be grateful for whatever the day brought me. Just run, I said. And I hit the split for mile 5: 7:10. calm down woman! Miles and miles to go.
And I smiled and I ran.
Somewhere after hit the split for mile 6 (7:46) my friend Joe (my shoe guy, see previous post for picture) passed me. My first thought was holy crap what is going on. Joe, who I didn't think was running is a 2:28marathoner. I should never see Joe in a race. But he looked easy and I told him happily that he would see me crawling across the finish because I no business running this fast right now. And he was gone.

7 Mile split was 7:35. I just stopped caring. I toyed with the idea of completely ignoring the watch. Forgetting it. But I was worried that I might end up regretting that in the final miles. As I contemplated this thought I completely missed the mile marker for the 8 mile split. I realized that I had either missed it or slowed a lot on the long hill we had just run up. I asked and yep it had been at the aid station. So I got 8:41 .

As a result I have mile nine coming in at 6:37. Yeah, that's not right but averaging them it seemed that I was falling pretty close to that super secret marathon pace and boy was it a fun pace to be running.

Around this time I saw a pace group in front of me. I thought at first it was the 3:30 pace group. But then I started noticing the stragglers and they had 3:20 pace group signs on their back. Hmm. Yeah that's not gonna happen, don't look at them.

As it was I had to look down because by then I was at the terrible hill that made me lose the 3:30 pace group last year. I recalled the terribleness of that mile and that I had had a horrible hip cramp that stopped me in my tracks and made me think I should quit. I thought all about that as I ran up into Decatur--or where ever the hell it is. When I hit the split at the 10 mile marker--7:54--I was instantly I rallied.

I had made it up the hill still under the 3:30 pace! Boy that was hopeful. The hill still went on and finally at mile 11 I was still happy to see my split be 8:02. I didn't care. I had made it past the part that had darken my race last year and I still felt good. This really, really surprised me.

Okay, so I really don't like this section of the course. You'd think this wouldn't bother me having done a double loop course on an airforce base 2 months ago but it is kinda ugly. You just run along side the rail road track and they have all these "clever" signs cheering you on. But there aren't a lot people so it is just weird and desolate. The signs make you think there are going to be lots of people but there are not. And the signs? They don't make up for up it. In fact, they kinda annoy me. But whatever. Run faster! It is boring!
12 mile split: 7:43

I don't remember the 13th mile except that I was kind of surprised by the mat. I guess it was the 13.1 cause I had 8:27 for that split. The d-tag has my time wrong. I know it is wrong because I crossed the mat, hit the split and saw my watch flashing 1:40 and freaked out a little. I ran 1:41 at Museum of Aviation in January and that race is flat and I thought I had gone out too fast there. Story of my life I tell you (but hey, it works!)

I was feeling the start of side stitch and knew that meant my Gu wasn't going to digest and I needed to get my heart rate down and everything would probably be okay. I saw an empty porto potty and thought okay I'll have a pee break. I knew I risked losing any chance at 3:25ish but also knew that I would have an even worse race if that Gu continued to sit in my tummy. I definitely didn't need to slow down but sometimes a little break is all you need. So I stopped. I did have to pee so at least it wasn't wasted time spent in a porto potty.

As I exited I started running but I think I was too fast because I started feeling a little like hurling. So then I was at the water station and decided I would just sip my water and walk through it. And this what I did.

Even with all that stopping when I hit the split for 14 I had 7:32. Of course the mile was short because I had hit the 13 at 13.1 but obviously I was feeling yucky because I was running too fast to digest the Gu.

I started feeling better but it was not the greatness that I had been feeling. I really didn't care-- I just didn't want to be miserable during the race. I wanted to have great race--whatever that meant.

I've already had my miserable race on this course 2 years ago when I had to go to the medical tent. A pr, sub 3:30 all that would be nice but I really cared more about having a good race and feeling good. So I basically told myself that it was okay to walk the aid stations. And I did. With this strategy I knew that I would still easily run sub 3:37 for my 2nd fastest marathon. And I was happy about that. Really.

Around this time of apparent deep contemplation and walking aid stations I started missing mile markers. So miles 15 and 16 came in at 15:34. That's about a 7:45 pace right? So still on track for a PR even with my aid station walking.

I should also mention that I took sips of water at every aid station but refused the Gatorade. It was the lemon lime kind which I hate. It makes me think I am thirsty which makes me want to drink more. And with my tummy on edge I figured it would be better not to aggravate it. It was a cool day so I also figured I didn't need it so much. I had had 2 Gu's (one at mile 5 and over miles 12-13 I had another. Then later at 19 I had a half a Gu.).

Miles 16-20 you run through Druid Hills. Normally I like this section. Bit rollers. More up than down but you can get a rhythm going. And I still like it but Sunday it felt really hard and much hillier than I remembered from previous years. I was definitely having to work and my pace was definitely fading.
Mile 17 was 8:04
Mile 18: 8:03
Mile 19: 8:14
Mile 20: 8:49
Fading and fading fast. But honestly I didn't care. I was still very happy with my race. Even though I was slowing and it was getting hard I was not in the valley of darkness. I was still walking the aid stations and most of all I was still smiling. At least I think I was.

Mile 21 I guess I was doing better: 8:04 and at 2 hours and 45 minutes.

This made me really happy. The way I saw it I had 50 minutes to do 5 miles and nab a course PR. I was totally fine with that.

But I was also approaching the 3 hour mark and my mental acumen and patience starts waning big time at that point.

So my thinking was this: If I can get to 23 mile in around 3 hours I will let myself walk as much as I want.

This must have rallied me because mile 22 was 7:27.

And then I was running with the half marathoners and it gets a little dicey having to wind around the walkers. If I am at mile 22 of a marathon and they are at mile 9 of a half marathon and we started at the same time, well, we ain't doing the same pace.

I kept looking for the 23 mile marker and never saw it. So that was a little disheartening to be looking for something and not find it. Also the end of mile 23 or maybe the first part of mile 24 you run out of Piedmont Park and up--I guess that is 10th street. That hill totally sucks! And this was the first part of the race where I had a really negative moment. I was running up that hill and the wind was in my face and I was sad and confused because I never saw the 23 mile marker-- but was assuming and hoping I had missed it and wasn't running a 14 minute mile. Logically I knew I had missed the marker but since more than half the people around me were walking a 14-15 min pace I have to admit I was confused and doubting myself. So I stopped and did walk for a few seconds.

Then I told myself come on! Whenever it gets tough at the end of a run or race I always tell myself: The faster I run the sooner I will be done.

I know that sounds very simple and not like something you need to remind yourself of but I get really really dumb at the end of a marathon and it can be more comfortable to walk. So I have to remind myself that by walking I am actually prolonging my discomfort.

So I was running again. The splits for 23/24 were 17:37--3 hours and 10 minutes.

This is the point where math is hard and frustrating. I had 26 minutes to traverse 2.2 miles and nail a course PR and my second fastest marathon. And to run a PR I needed to run the 2.2 in under 18 minutes. Certainly I am capable of that. But it was just too close and I was tired and it was all. up. hill for the next 2 miles. And I just didn't have it in me. I didn't even want to try to fight for it. It would hurt too much and I wanted to be happy.

So I said I am just going to run and however and whenever I get to the finish I will get there. I quit looking at my watch, even pulled my arm warmer over it. And these hills in those last 2 miles? They are nothing. I had already run up all the hard and steep ones but these just wear on you physically and mentally. Not to mention there are all those people walking the half marathon going double the pace you are.

But I didn't care.
I was almost done!
My race had been great and I just had a little left and I knew I would be thrilled once it was said and done.

But then, my right calf rebelled. It was the absolute strangest sensation. It felt like there was snake in there trying to crawl out. It wasn't particularly painful but was just so disturbing and I thought, "well that can't be good."

So I slowed down to walk and waited it out and it didn't happen again. So I started running. And the snake in my calf stirred again. I decided maybe it was an electrolyte thing. I happened to be at an aid station so I grabbed some of that Gatorade and drank it down. I doubted it would work but I figured with how little I had left to go at least it wouldn't make me sick. So I ran on.

The snake in my calf would do its wiggling thing and freak me out and I would walk for a minute. And any marathoner that passed me would pat me on the back and encourage me. And feeling compelled by their encouragement I would start running again. And so on and so on.

This whole run, calf freak out and walk process was very frustrating. My pain was really no different than it ever is at the end of a marathon so I definitely could have done my hang on/get'er done pace but the snake in the calf thing had me very concerned since I had no idea what it was and what it meant.

I started imagining that it would reach a point of no return and completely freeze up on me and I would be one of those people that crawl down the final stretch to the finish. I found the thought somewhat entertaining since it seemed an ironic and humiliating ending to what had been such a great race. I pushed the negativity aside and went back to my zen thinking and told myself: I will take whatever this race gives me.

So I was fine with it. I had made my peace with whatever was to be and would run as much as could, walk if I had to and crawl if necessary but no matter what I would cross that finish line with a smile on my face because damn it! I was having a great race!

Around this time the 3:30 pacers came up on me. They are Floren and Jerry. I know them because I ran with them for 10 miles last year and have talked to Floren a few times since last year's race--whining about my inability to run sub 3:30.

I have to say I was a bit surprised to see them. I had assumed they had long passed me and I just hadn't seen them. I will admit though seeing them gave me a bit of that sad twinge you can get in a marathon when yet another one of your goals passes you by (even if you tried to not have goals because damn it your only goal was to have a great race!)--which actually often is literally the case. As they passed me Floren patted me on the back and encouraged me to "come on." I think I weakly told her that I was trying.

I let them go but then instantly was annoyed with myself and started running.

Floren said something of the effect of "you are awesome" when I caught up to them. And I had a little burst of energy and passed them. But then the calf wigged and I got scared about what it was and what it meant injury-wise and slowed again to walk. I tried not to look at the 3:30 group as they passed me again but I saw Floren kept looking over her shoulder at me.
Oh the guilt!
I was the Pokey puppy!
I looked up as the distance stretched between us and got mad about it and started running again. Floren turned back again and saw that I was running and waved me towards them.

They were probably 100 feet in front of me and I just kept my eyes on Floren and Jerry and the 3:30 sign. I didn't notice anything else but started to hear the crowd cheering and I knewmeant the finish had to be close. And She Was started playing by Talking Heads on my ipod which I had been about to turn off but instead let it play:
And she was lying in the grass
And she could hear the highway breathing

And she could see a nearby factory
. . .

The crowd of spectators began to thicken and the 3:30 pace group disappeared from my sight around a curve as I entered the finish area. I knew I was almost there. So I kept running, ignoring the crazy thing my calf was doing and figured it just didn't matter anymore. I was almost done! I started smiling again. A big smile. At least it felt huge.

She's making sure she is not dreaming
See the lights of a neighbors house

Now she's starting to rise

Take a minute to concentrate

And she opens up her eyes
. . .

And as I round the curve I see the 3:30 pacers fly under the finish line and I see the finish line clock flip to 3:30. I have less than 100 feet to go, maybe even only 50 feet. It is so close. So close that it dawns on me that Holy Crap! I just ran my 3:30 GA marathon!

The world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was)

I throw my arms up and cheer for myself, smiling huger and see that I made it in the 3:30 window as I cross the mat and under the finish arch.

The world was moving she was floating above it (and she was) and she was

The 3:30 pacers rush over to hug me as I hit the stop on my watch and see 3:29:58. I almost start crying.

She was glad about it... no doubt about it
She isn't sure where she's gone
No time to think about what to tell them
No time to think about what she's done
And she was

And maybe if I hadn't been so dehydrated I might have managed actual tears but seeing how I am not one who cries in joy anyway it is doubtful.

But my emotion?
My happiness at that second?

And she was looking at herself
And things were looking like a movie
She had a pleasant elevation
Shes moving out in all directions

I keep replaying it in my head over and over again it was that great for me. Hard to believe there could be so much joy and magic in just a few seconds but there was, is. Whichever. It was an amazing moment for me. Best finish of any race ever!

I had such a fantastic race. And I am so, so very grateful for the experience.

So what is next???

The Twisted Ankle Trail Marathon on May 16th.

My goal?

To not die.

I hope everyone else had as fantastic of day as I did. And if not, all I can say is that eventually they happen: there are good races, bad races, horrible races and then really awesome races that just make it all worth it.


  1. Wow, great race report. I hate the Talking Heads but still LOVED it. Congratulations on a great race - I hope you don't mind if I borrow some of your karma for the NJ Marathon.

  2. Great job and awesome report. Congrats! I am very happy for you. I think you still have some room to get faster...to I don't know...3:20 or so. Throw in some Sax and Violins from the Talking Heads on the next one.

  3. Awesome race and even better report. Great running seems to bring out your best writing. I think I like the new, more upbeat and Zen-like Nat. I may try some of that myself next time around. -ESG

  4. A Great Big Congratulations to you Ms Natalie! You did awesome! I'm soo happy for you and your marathon. It sounds like you definately have some PRs coming to you! Just got to get that doubt from creeping in.

    You did Great!

  5. Love the Talking Heads and the Pokey Little Puppy! Ah, I was on the edge of my seat with the 3:30 group part.

  6. Congratulations on a great race, having fun and staying injury-free!

    Get ready for a butt kicking at the Twisted Ankle!...but you'll have a blast!

  7. Ahh, Nat, you are such an inspirational runner. I'm HAPPY to see things coming together for you (I resisted saying in your old age. You're welcome ;-) You have been working so hard and deserve every bit of this! Congrats!!

  8. Congratulations on the AWESOME time!

    I actually saw you whiz past me going to the front of the corral before the start. It was like a celeb siting because I only knew it was you because of the pic of your outfit on the blog. Kind of funny..

  9. Wow! Congratulations! Here I am trying to come in at a 3:45 marathon with a PR of 3:52. I'm so jealous!

    I tell myself the same thing: "The faster I run, the sooner I am done." Funny - you described what goes through your head in the final miles of the marathon SO well. I completely relate...

    congratulations! Proud of you!

  10. Thank you so much for another great race report. You're such an inspiring runner, because not only are you fast, but you do things like walk, pee and have negative thoughts and you STILL have great results!

    I wanted to break 2 hours in the half and recently finished one in 1:59;49, so I know the feeling of meeting your goal (albeit oh so close) and feeling on top of the world!

  11. I really enjoyed your race report. It kinda kept me on edge like a drama or something. I too am aiming for the sub 3:30 (probably in Detroit). It was nice to read about the thoughts during the race... I can attest. Congrats on the PR and sub 3:30...

  12. I am so thrilled for you!! Not only did you get a sub 3:30, but you also did it on a tough hilly course!!! You've had so many close calls and now you've finally done it, makes me hopeful that I too can eventually get a sub 3:30. Soak in your victory, enjoy it, and own it...you are now a sub-3:30 marathoner.

    I was surprised to hear you don't like lemon-lime Gatorade (now called GU), it's one of my favorites as the taste reminds me of somewhat flat margaritas and I know how much you love margaritas.

  13. Great job, girl! You almost want to make me run another marathon. ( : Proud of you!