Just a forewarning, this is a long post. But there are lots of pictures! I kept attempting to trim pieces out, but ultimately decided that I wanted to capture all of my memories. It will be great to come back to read this post before my next marathon!
The day started early, but after 6 solid hours of sleep I was up and at 'em. Lucky for me, Kate was willing to get up that early, too. Getting ready was a breeze, thanks to all of my pre-planning. I ate my breakfast in silence, but I really wasn't that nervous. I knew deep down that I was prepared for this race, and as long as I showed up on time and fueled properly during the run, I had done everything I could do.
I met up with the running group at 6:30 for a couple of photos and to wish everyone good luck. This running group was the best thing to happen to my marathon training!
It was chilly before the start, but I knew better than to change my clothing choice at the last minute. I had practiced 2 long runs in similar weather and knew I'd warm up in no time. I wore a long-sleeved shirt until I lined up at the start, where I handed it to Kate.
It was crowded! There were over 3000 runners between the marathon, half marathon, and 10k...and we all started together! (That's me bent down tying my shoe.)
I had received a text from my parents at 6:20 saying they were on their way down to the race. Since the race started at 7:00, I decided not to stress about trying to find them before the start, figuring they'd have a hard time parking. I sure was surprised to spot my Dad holding a giant sign that read 'Go Lizz!' right after I crossed the starting line! A few feet away I saw my Mom with the camera. I shouted "Dad!!" and jumped up in the air to wave at them. Everyone around me could tell how excited I was, and I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking of it now...
Hold signs, people, it's totally worth it!! See how easy he is to spot?
The first 6 miles flew by. Most of the time I had gone further than I'd realized..."did I just pass mile marker 4 or 5?" I hate to make it sound easy, but it didn't even feel like I was running. Racing just gives me such a high. I don't actually try to be faster than anyone else, I just love the atmosphere and being surrounded by other runners. I love watching the fans and seeing people's faces light up when they spot someone they know.
My plan for the race was to try to stay under 10:00 miles, leaving some wiggle room for the ultra-hilly parts and the warm-up. The piece of advice I hear the most is "Don't go out too fast", which is rarely my problem. I just tried to be comfortable and didn't even look at my Garmin for the first couple of miles. Once my muscles were loose, I focused on getting into a 9:50 rhythm.
Section 1 Memorable Moments (miles 1 -6):
- Being surprised to see my parents at the start
- Warming up in 50 degree weather within the 1st 5 minutes
- Spotting a co-worker cheering on his son during the 1st mile (It's amazing how clearly you can see people while you're running!)
- Seeing a guy holding a baby and a sign that said, "Run fast, Mom. I'm hungry!" which I thought was funny.
- Being spotted by 2 members of the the running club who said 'hello' as they passed.
Section 1 Splits:
- Mile 1 - 10:00
- Mile 2 - 10:02
- Mile 3 - 9:54
- Mile 4 - 9:49
- Mile 5 - 9:44
- Mile 6 - 9:53
The 10k-ers split off right around the 6 mile mark, so it was a little weird to be so close to the finish line. However, I wasn't even a tiny bit jealous of them for being finished. I was all eyes for that 26.2!
Next we ran past the Qwest Center, which is Omaha's giant event center. Apparently there was some sort of rodeo or something going on this weekend, because there were cows all over the parking lot! We ran past and could hear the moo-ing...it was quite strange. The girl next to me and I had a little chuckle over it. She pointed out that everyone who is from out of town and not familiar with Omaha probably thinks this type of thing is normal for us. (It's not.)
At this point I started getting really excited because I knew my family would be standing somewhere between the 7 and 8 mile markers. I turned the corner onto Conagra Drive and saw Kate, Laura, and my parents shouting, holding signs, blowing air horns, and taking pictures. It was awesome!! Unfortunately, I was zooming down the hill so I only got to see them for a quick second!
After I passed my fans, I pulled out my first gel. To be honest, I waited until after I saw my family so I wouldn't have horrible gel-eating pictures like I did in Richmond. Plus, I knew there was a water stop right around the corner - which is good for rinsing.
I needed the energy boost, because here came the hills! This section of the course was the part I had practiced many times in training. I told myself, "You know these hills. Don't let them intimidate you, but don't get cocky." Then I reminded myself of the tips from my coach about hill-running: head up, shoulders back, slight lean forward, shorten your stride, and pump your arms. Once you go through the list a couple of times, you're done!
Halfway up the first big hill, the half-marathoners split away. It was amazing how much quieter it got!! Later I found out that more than 1700 runners did the half where only 600 ran the full...no wonder it got quiet!
Then, at the bottom of the hill, I got my second big surprise of the day...I don't know if I heard her voice or noticed the sign first, but there was MY SISTER!!! I was NOT expecting to see her there and it was such a nice surprise! I got a little choked up, blew her kiss, and then rocked it up the next hill to clock one of my fastest miles of the race. Awesome!!
I saw my sister just a couple of miles later, after looping around the zoo and Rosenblatt Stadium. Then I tackled the hills in the opposite direction to bring me back to where the rest of my family was waiting.
Section 2 Memorable Moments (miles 7 -13):
- Seeing my family and friends...you guys rock!
- Being surprised by my sister
- Conquering the hills I had practiced so many times. I felt strong and they felt like a breeze.
- The shocking quiet that came over the race course once the full and half split.
- Seeing 4 members of the running club
Section 2 Splits:
- Mile 7 - 9:30 (saw my family and friends; ate gel #1)
- Mile 8 - 9:58
- Mile 9 - 9:49
- Mile 10 - 9:37 (saw my sister)
- Mile 11 - 10:16 (ate my dried apricots)
- Mile 12 - 9:56 (saw my sister again)
- Mile 13 - 9:20 (not a bad way to wrap up the first half!)
My sister drove over to meet up with the rest of my family, and I ended up finding her on the sidewalk just a few yards from my parents. She ran up the hill with me while we chatted for little bit!
Then I saw my parents, Kate, and Laura again as well as our friend Cathy. Their signs made me laugh and I was feeling so good that I actually stopped for a kiss.
I turned the corner and waved good-bye, knowing I'd see them in just 5 short miles.
Miles 15 - 17 were not very exciting, but I didn't feel bored or like I was struggling. I just kinda ran along, being happy that I was having no trouble keeping my pace under 10:00. I ate my second gel around mile 16 and picked up a GU that was provided near mile 18 (but I didn't eat it until mile 21).
After a few quiet miles, mile 18 was full of fun...there were bands playing, large crowds, and my mobile cheering section. I was so happy, I practically danced by them. Just look at my big ol' grin!
There was a small loop at this point in the course, putting mile markers 18 and 20 practically on top of each other. It was nice and flat and pleasantly populated with runners, since we were going in both directions. I fell in line with another runner for about a half mile, and we chatted for a bit. Little did I know he would end up helping me out just a few miles later...
My knee started aching, but nothing too concerning. Right before the mile 20 marker I passed my family again. My mom caught a little video of me saying "See you in a few!" and I just look and sound so happy!
At mile 20 there was a chip tracker that recorded our 20-mile split. I crossed at 3:17, which made me ecstatic! I could totally make it under 4:20!
Section 3 Memorable Moments (miles 14 - 20):
- Crowds, music, and a cheering squad = lots of fun
- After being spread out for several miles, it was nice to be surrounded my runners again
- Seeing 2 more members of the running club - that's a total of 8 that I saw on the course!
- Knee started aching around mile 19
- Awesome 20 mile split
Section 3 Splits:
- Mile 14 - 9:24 (saw my family and friends)
- Mile 15 - 9:50
- Mile 16 - 9:55 (ate gel #2)
- Mile 17 - 9:57
- Mile 18 - 9:47 (saw my family and friends)
- Mile 19 - 9:54 (saw my family and friends)
- Mile 20 - 9:53
My knee was still bothering me a little, but I made it through mile 21 without missing a beat. However, right after I passed the mile marker - BAM.
My knee locked up.
I knew this pain, and that's what scared me. This was the pain that caused me to take 4 months off of running to recover from my last marathon. This was the pain that left me inching up from 1 mile to 2 mile runs in the Spring. This was the pain I felt after my first long run with the running club...where I could only make it 5 miles.
I entered total panic mode. There were tears. There were thoughts of not being able to finish. There were thoughts of never running a marathon again.
I stopped and rubbed my knee, adjusted my knee brace, and started running again hoping it was all a bad dream. I think I made it about 1/8 of a mile before the pain forced me to stop. Walking didn't hurt, so I tried that, but the thought of throwing away a new PR had me anxiously checking my Garmin. I would run while wincing the whole time, stop in pain, try not to cry, and try running some more.
I was visibly in pain. I ducked my face from the other runners and volunteers. When I stopped, it was jarring, I was wobbly, and I was afraid of crumpling to the ground. Then I heard someone say "Are you ok?" I looked up and saw my friend from mile 18. "Yes," I lied. "It's my knee," as I pointed to my knee brace. He took a few steps further, paused, turned back and said, "Stretch your legs. Just hold for 10 seconds, release, hold for 10 seconds more. Loosening your legs will help your knee."
Yes, of course!! I knew this. I knew that my knee pain was caused by a tight IT Band. But in my panic I forgot about stretching.
I was shuffling more than running, bending my knees as little as possible. When it hurt too much, I stretched and massaged my IT Band. I forbade myself to look at my Garmin. I knew I was doing everything I could do in that moment - moving as fast as I possibly could. Obsessing over my finish time would only make me feel worse. Any time I started feeling depressed again I told myself, "No pity party right now! Finish the race, then you can cry." It worked surprisingly well.
I got into a rhythm. I put in my headphones and zoned out. I didn't feel like myself. I stared at the ground so I didn't have to make eye contact with the people cheering for me. And I didn't smile. Those last 5 miles felt like an entirely different race in every possible way.
I made it to the top of the finish chute where one of my running buddies was waiting for me. "You've got this! You're right on pace!" I could hardly look at him, I was so disappointed. I think this is the only race I've run where I didn't (couldn't) sprint to the finish. I shuffled across the finish line and made an effort to smile, telling myself, "They're going to take your picture no matter what. You may as well smile."
Section 4 Memorable Moments (miles 21 - 26.2):
- There was a point where I thought I might not finish.
- There were many points where I worried I'd never be able to run another marathon.
- Most of the time I was either worrying about my time or telling myself not to worry about my time.
- What can I say? I was absolutely miserable.
Section 4 Splits:
- Mile 21 - 9:52 (still strong; ate gel #3)
- Mile 22 - 10:48 (oh no...)
- Mile 23 - 11:28 (tears. panic. friend from mile 18.)
- Mile 24 - 11:42 (roller coaster of emotions. constant pace/finish time calculations in my head.)
- Mile 25 - 11:30 (finishing is possible. injury is likely.)
- Mile 26 - 11:40 (almost there. one foot (barely) in front of the other.)
- Mile 26.2 - 2:09 (darn you extra-long course!)
- Extra 0.14 - 1:20 (relief. more tears.)
My running coach was waiting at the finish with a huge smile on his face. "Good job!! That's right about where you wanted to be!" "My knee..." is all I could get out before I felt the tears well up. I just kind of nodded my head. I hadn't even paid attention to what the time clock said as I passed underneath it. I took a quick look back and it was at 4:34 something...wait a second. What was my time?! My previous PR was 4:32:47. Did I make it? Ohmygod if I missed a PR by a few seconds I will be SO MAD. Ok, don't think about that.
I took my time at the finish line, chatting with my coach about his race and talking about our medals. They celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Omaha Marathon with a 'Going Green' theme. All of the medals were hand made by local artists using recycled glass.
I happened to know a couple of the guys handing out the medals, so they brought over the most colorful ones for me to choose from. (Running Club rules! )
Then I met up with my family, who were all waiting for me at the finish line. I was so emotional that I burst into tears while I was hugging Kate. (Yes, my face is a little swollen from crying, but I also had huge piece of bagel in my mouth!)
I was so disappointed at having come so close to a stellar race and having it taken away from me just like that. It was like the feeling of acing a test you had studied really hard for, only to have your pencil break 3/4 of the way through so you still got a C.
My family was all smiles and hugs but once I started exclaiming how mad I was they kinda looked at me like I was crazy. "You just ran a freaking marathon! You are amazing!!" Then I felt a little silly. It's true, sometimes our emotions get the best of us.
I made myself snap out of it and then realized that my brother in law and nephews were there. My nephews had made signs for me and brought me gummy bears and were eager to ask me all sorts of questions. I can't believe I almost missed that!! (ok, I'm totally crying again)
While we were standing around deciding where to eat, I saw my friend from mile 18 (I wish I would have gotten his name!) I walked up to him and thanked him for his advice. I told him that I was so panicked that I couldn't think straight. He said he almost didn't stop, figuring I already knew to stretch, but then decided it was better to say something than to not. I am so grateful for him and that I got a chance to thank him afterwards!!
While walking to the car I said "I'm sorry, I know I should be happy with what I accomplished, but I'm still mad." Laura said to me, "No, don't apologize. You can feel how you feel." I really appreciated that. I worked hard all Summer and it's ok that I was disappointed! I needn't wallow in it forever, but it is important to acknowledge my emotions. They are part of who I am!
So, I suppose you'd like to know how I did, right? Well the official results are finally in and I'm proud to announce that:
I have a new marathon PR!! 4:31:17
This is exactly 1 and a half minutes faster than my previous PR. It doesn't align perfectly with my Garmin output because my Garmin was set to 'auto pause', which means it didn't record time when I stopped to stretch.
As I mentioned earlier, my 20 mile split was 3:17 - or a 9:51 pace. That means it took me 1:14 to run the last 6.2 miles - or an 11:56 pace. That bum knee really slowed me down!
I would have loved to break 4:20. But now that I'm a bit further from the situation, the fact that I was in agony for nearly 6 miles and only ended up 11 minutes from my dream goal doesn't sound so bad! I'm feeling much better about it, and am working on a plan to get my knee rehabbed ASAP. Sounds like some swimming and strength training are in my future!
Thanks to everyone for their support - both during the race and throughout the long training season! And thanks for letting me mope and boast on my blog. This community is so supportive and it means a lot to have you behind me!