Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Asheville Citizen-Times Marathon -The Race

For pre-race details and drama see 'twas the night before the race
Crossing the start line, it was time to put all my nervous energy to good use. I ran at a fast but comfortable pace trying not to go out too fast or focus on catching my pacing group that were now 4-6 minutes ahead of me.
I wasn't sure what to expect of the first half of the course having only run the second. We ran through residential neighborhoods as we headed north out of Asheville. Hills and more hills. Thankfully I was finding it easy enough, with none of them providing any more of a challenge than the rolling hills Columbia sits on. 
I passed the 5 hour pacer early in the race and then another one for the half-marathon. At some points it was really dark and I was glad of the glow bracelets provided. Especially considering one half of almost all the roads we ran on was still open to traffic.
At three miles I caught up with the 4:30 pace group. I must have been running faster than I thought oops. They were running 10 min 19 sec miles which felt unbearably slow but I had many miles to go. I felt good chatting away for the next few miles to the nice people in the pace group. My right leg was slowly demanding my attention but I ignored it. 

Every hour or so I was taking Sports Beans with water, and in between grabbing Ultima Replenisher at the aid stations. I also tried to eat a piece of a Bonk Breaker bar for a different flavor but I had to spit this (and at one stage Sports Beans too) as holding it in my mouth to chew was making me nauseous. The aid station were spaced 1-2 miles apart and were well stocked with all sorts of stuff including drinks and Gu gels. I also passed about 3 medical stations so all in all we runners were very well looked after!

Somewhere around 7 miles (after the half-marathon split) the real bad boys came out to play, a.k.a what seemed like a f'in mountain. I think it might actually have been part of a mountain. We climbed and climbed and climbed, steeply. Every time the course turned onto a new road or came to a bend I thought it has to level out or go downhill. Noooo more uphill. I fought my way up them keeping on pace but it was a hard ol slog. 
After around 3 miles of hard climbing we had a few steep downhill sections which I really wanted to run all out on but held back. Then the smaller individual hills just kept coming. At this stage my right leg hurt really badly and was tight from hip to foot. I hung on to see my best friend and puppy at the 12 mile point, what a pick me up. 

At this stage even the smaller hills were becoming a struggle but I clung to the pacing group as best as I could. I knew a flat section was coming up so I used the pacing group to get me there. I hung with them for about a mile of flat. 
Physically could I have stuck it out with the pacing group til the end?, unknown, but mentally I needed to run my own race. I took a bathroom break at mile 19 ending my run with the pacers, this also marked my first walking break (yay). I had a few shaky moments (ok minutes) when I got going again, dizzy and shaking with chattering teeth (the wall?). Mile 19-20 seemed like the longest mile ever until I realized there was no mile 20 marker when a lovely person at an aid station shouted that I was almost at mile 21. Hallelujah!
I started to feel a bit better overall (with the exception of my stupid knee) so I consistently ran the flat and downhill sections. Hills now began to make a reappearance (looking a lot bigger than I remember) so I quick marched up them. 
22-24 miles were a loop section for the most part so once I got out of that I knew I could walk the rest if I wanted and still make it in loads of time for the 6 hour cut off. Having not yet been passed by a 5 hour pacer made me pick up the pace a bit to try get over the line before 5 hours. The last 2 miles except for one or two small sections were up steep hills...have I not earned my medal by now!!

 I made it tho 4:49:10 (chip time). Slower than I wanted. Especially considering my half-marathon split time was 2 hours 13 mins.
 I'm now gonna put this into perspective for myself. People who have run tons of marathons (30+ including Boston) have been quoted as saying this is the hardest course they've ever run. I not only did this for my first marathon but I did it with an injured knee. I ran up and down a frickin mountain as well as a butt load of other hills. I'll take my time and be proud.

I enjoyed every bit of the race even the worst moments.

Back of medal lists all the neighborhoods we ran through.

 A few things stand out in my memory:
The buzz from the crowd at the starting point.
Running in the dark with only glowing bands stopping me from ploughing into other runners.
Passing and being passed by the wheelchair (bike) participants, and watching their struggle up the hills, not only dragging their body weigh but a great big bike, very inspiring and humbling!
A girl bald from undergoing chemo cheering us on from her garden...I felt like I should be applauding her.
Being told I looked strong in the first Half and believing it, being told that in the last 8 miles and knowing they were lying lol.
The hundreds of volunteers and supporters along every mile of the course...thank you, you made me smile and laugh the whole way through!
Seeing a cross covered in teddy bears along the roadside..this may have made me cry.
Taking to a man more than twice my age about Chi running as we both walked up a hill....he eventually left me behind.
Knowing I was going to finish.
Cheering back at the awesome drummers at the start of the finish chute.
Being able to pick up the pace and run hard across the line!

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