Monday, 30 September 2013

Asheville Citzen-Times Marathon---'twas the night before the race

Last Friday the 27th seen me leaving Columbia shaking in my boots (just as I had been for the days beforehand). I took that day off work to head to Asheville and good thing I did.  The level of organization and packing it took to make sure I had everything I needed, including the toaster, had my nerves frayed. In fact I think at one point I may have just sat down and let my best friend take the lead on the packing. 
After several stops, including walking the dog and returning due library books, we were off! It took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Asheville, in my newly repaired car. Our destination was a Best Western on the East of Asheville. I was a bit worried when we pulled up...the hotel didn't look the nicest from the outside but I was pleasantly surprised. The room was clean and had a fridge, tv, internet, microwave and best of all the dog only cost an extra $10 a night unlike the $100+ per stay other hotels wanted. A lot more comfortable than the usual camping expeditions we go on!!

After unpacking and making it feel a bit more like home I headed off to the race expo. Easy to get to with lots of public parking nearby. I picked up my bib, t-shirt and an extra 'bib' for the back of my shirt to let my pacing group know I was with them. I was simultaneously happy and disappointed with the t-shirt. Happy cause it was a technical T, which doesn't seem to be the norm in the US, unlike Ireland. Sad because it was a mustard yellow. I hate yellow clothes (with yellow as the main block color), I know I'm shallow!  The half marathon T was a nice teal color....better in my book any day. But I shall wear it with pride anyhow!!!

The expo itself seemed to have the usual race stuff (as well as some cool speakers), a good mix for a smallish race, but not feeling too flush with cash I decided my money was better spent on essentials like food!

At this stage of the week I would have been happy if I'd never seen another carb heavy, starchy food in my life, but I soldiered on and got some French Toast for lunch No.2 (1 was an early one at Subway). Feeling full it was back to the hotel for a nap. I didn't feel at all guilty knowing I'd get very little sleep that night. Dinner consisted of a kids portion of spaghetti with a plain tomato based sauce..nothing risky there.

Everything laid out ready for the next day, I think I fell asleep at the late hour of 9:30pm. I passed out. I don't know if was being so nervous all day but I slept great, walking up 5 minutes before the alarm went off at 3:30am. Why so early, you ask. The race started at 6am and I had to be there an hour beforehand. I also needed to eat etc before that. The tried and tested burger bun, PB and jelly combo was washed down with a little coffee. It seemed to take ages to get ready but we made it out the door, my two best supporters braving the ungodly hour with me. 
The kid in me kind of loved the fact that the first hour of the marathon would be run in the dark...I got to wear glow stick type bracelets for the first time in my life.

The race was supremely well organized so I had a printed list of road closures (and their times) as well as a printed map of parking garages, offering $5 all day parking for the event. We went to the first one we came across and easily got a space, from there it was only a 2 min walk to the start/finish line. 
Lots of sleepy runners and supporters were hanging around. Knowing my stomach as I do I was trying to visit the port-a-johns as often as possible and ended up feeling silly lining up for a single one when there were 30 or so the other side of the starting corals, oops. 
I ran around the parking lot they were in to warm up. I bent down to do something, stretch or pet the puppy (I can't remember), and I felt something 'shift' in my right knee. A knee that had been a troublemaker with ITBS for 8+ months, but hadn't troubled me in the last 11+ weeks of my training.
Trying to ignore it I went into my starting corral (H). I looked ahead and in the next corral I seen a pacer with a 5 hour marker on her sign. That can't be right, is exactly what I thought, I changed my expected finish time to 4 hours 30. Even if I wasn't in time to change it to that, I should have been with that pacer group in my original time slot 4:45-5 hours. So somehow, either through my own fault/someone else's I was now 3 corrals behind my pace group. 
For the next 20 minutes I sounded crazy as I alternated between ranting about the screw up and my now persistently aching knee. I knew I was freaking myself out, so with some deep breathing and encouraging words from my best friend I let it all go and tried to soak up the atmosphere and excitement from everyone around me.

More about the actual race soon...

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