Sunday, November 10, 2013

Another Coast, Another Marathon: Running the Savannah Marathon

After I ran LA, I was convinced I wouldn't want to do another marathon for a while. I was supposed to do Soldier last year but the group I was running with kind of disbanded and I dropped to half because I didn't want to run alone. Crystal then talked me into doing Savannah. So we signed up and booked a road trip situation out there.

I'm going to fast forward to the Friday before the race. Everything was good to go. Only thing I needed to take care of was getting air put in my tires. Jesse was supposed to do that but my schedule was so crazy with school I just figured I'd take it to Tires First since it was on the way. I took it down there and they added air and checked for leaks to make sure "my tires won't explode or go flat on me on my way to Savannah" as I frantically told them. I was a nervous wreck while there. I didn't think it would take as long as it did and by the time they finished, I was set back by a half hour.

I wasn't sure if I would make it to the expo center in time to pick up my stuff or not, so I asked Crystal if she'd be able to pick up for me. I wasn't sure if they'd let her or not because they had this whole no pick ups for other people under any condition policy. Well, it turns out, they didn't really care. She had a copy of my ID and my filled out form and got it. She said they grabbed it and bailed.

Meanwhile, I had drove from Columbus to Savannah non-stop, booking it as Sarah at Big Dog was like, "What are you doing here still!? You're never gonna make it! If you go over 80 you'll get ticket after ticket after ticket in the small towns." I did drive through small towns. Last time we went to Savannah, we went through Macon, this time I was routed through Buttler. Good lord, I was stuck in a one lane traffic area bumper to bumper for I don't know how long. I was so worried I would be lucky to get to Savannah by 7 and maybe I can run in to the expo, get my bag and leave. Even after driving like my native California of weaving and unmentionable speeds, I did manage to get in earlier than I hoped. GPS told me I had an ETA of getting to Savannah in 4 hours, 8 minutes. I got there in 3 hours, 38 minutes. I'm not sure how much faster that would have been if I didn't have to deal with traffic!

Crystal called me and told me she got my stuff, though, and was going to get something to eat. I told her I'd reroute when she got an address of a restaurant. I didn't hear from her and I got to the Civic Center. At that point, she texted me a menu, letting me know a sit down restaurant wasn't gonna happen as the city was crazy packed with the usual lot of residents, tourists, and now 18,000 runner and their families. I rerouted back to the bed and breakfast, driving over the ridiculously huge bridge Jesse and I are going to run over next month during a 5K. While I know I am set to run 26.2 miles the next morning, I am mores stressed out over the massive size of the bridge and not looking forward to that, but definitely looking forward to another trip to Savannah in a month.

When I get to the bed and breakfast, I park around the block and meet up with Crystal. We go in and she informs me that they don't have a cot, but our room has access to a storage closet with all sorts of random goods and I throw together a make-shift bed from the furniture in the sitting room, luggage racks, towels, and memory foam bath mats. I was so proud of my make shift bed.

We ate dinner and spent a little time walking around the city in the evening taking photos of some of some sights. It was brief. We didn't want to do too much walking or too much since we had to be in bed early and wake early.

The next morning we got a somewhat late start to the race and wound up walking into a different corral (we were supposed to be in 21 but walked into 17.)

The first part of the race went by extremely fast. I don't think I have ever ran a race that the miles passed so quickly. It was like we ran a few blocks and the next thing we know we're at mile 4, then 6, then 9. The community support was fantastic. It reminded me very much of Los Angeles with all the spectators out on the streets and on their porches. There were tons of awesome signs and so many great things. There were some guys at mile 9 handing out beer and chocolate. Naturally, I had to stop by and partake in their festivities. I pounded my beer and continued on my quest.

Around mile 10, we saw Bacon. Yes, a man dressed in a giant bacon suit. Everyone loved bacon. It was pretty awesome. You could hear everyone shouting about him. He was with his mom on her 60th birthday doing her first marathon and saw the suit in his trunk. He left in in there after Halloween and thought, "What the heck, it'll be fun." He sure made a lot of people's day.

At that point, Crystal's knee was hurting her and she decided to drop off at the half marathon split. We parted ways at the split and she headed to her finish and I headed to another 15 miles. I was merged onto a highway where I would spend a few miles out, running around a college, a park, and then coming back.

The stretches along the highway felt like they were extremely long. Partially because there was no crowds to cheer us on other than the occasional medic or water stations. I felt like I had got very slow and could feel my pace going down significantly. Much to my surprise, however, I wasn't that much slower and was still very much on target. I whipped out the music to do my running sing along to keep me from being bored. Honestly, I can say that two things really mess with my psyche when I run: boredom and no sense of measure (time/distance).

As mentioned earlier, this was a run where the miles just passed very quickly. Time felt short. I was eager to get to the 13 mile mark as that meant half way point, but hitting mile 16 was exciting because it was the 10 miles left and then mile 17 where it was single digits. Mile 20 was just as thrilling. I was left with a 10K. Everything was amazing. Then at mile 22, the GPS died. The battery life had gone and I was on my own.

Once that happened, I continued but let my mind get the better of me. I kept pushing through the streets, but once I got back to the highway, that was a whole other story. My brain said, "This is it. Once we get to Mile 23, it's a 5K. You can do a nice slow 5K and finish in another 36 - 40 minutes. Just take it easy."

I wish it were that easy. I know you're suppose to run through the suck and own up to your pain. Running is not easy. It can hurt and often. But there's a difference between a pain of fatigue and a pain of injury and the difference is pretty sharp. I stopped at the medic just before mile 23. I asked for some ibuprofen but they only had Tylenol. I wasn't really willing to take my Meloxicam while running (a quick back story: the week after North Face, I twisted my knee in the kitchen while putting dishes up and strained a ligament. I had to rest for 3 weeks and was prescribed an anti-inflamatory. I stopped taking it after the pain was gone for 72 hours and I had some left over and knew I'd want it after my marathon and took some with me just in case.) The only reason I skipped on the Melo is because I had taken ibuprofen at mile 12 and again around mile 18. My hips were very stiff and dull achy (normal), my core was stiff and achy (normal), my left knee, the knee I had just recovered from injuring a month ago was a dull ache that was starting to work up to a sharp ache (not normal). I feared the ibuprofen was masking a return injury but only had three more miles left and was going to say, "screw it, mask the pain, finish the race, deal with injury later." Clearly that's not a good mindset to have, but in my defense, I dealt with 13 miles of a much more serious issue when I ran Los Angeles, so I agreed with myself that I would give a mile to walk it off. One mile passed and I sad, "OK, one more mile, but you're gonna finish strong."

As I explained to a friend, running a marathon parallels childbirth. So many people make these birth plans of how things are going to go when their child is born, but you have to learn to expect the unexpected and prepare for the worst case scenarios and curve balls. I went in knowing what potential risks I was facing on Saturday. I knew I would have a possible chaffing issue. Sure enough, at mile 13, I had the medics get me some vasoline and much to my excitement, I didn't have any chaffing problems that day! I also knew I would have some inflammation issues and I brought my ibuprofen. I also knew the knee could possibly act up and my plan was if it did, depending on how bad it was, we'd play it by ear.

The tylenol didn't work. I wound up walking through the next few miles knowing I had lost out on my sub 6 hour finish. It was moderately heartbreaking for a few seconds before the relentless side of my brain shut that party pooper side up. If I dwelled on that, I would be even worse off and sulk the rest of the way in. Instead, my relentless half reminded me, "You are now less than 2 miles away. You are preventing an injury from coming back. YOU ARE STILL A WHOLE HOUR AHEAD of your last marathon finish time. You finished that marathon with an injury and you're gonna finish this one too. BE RELENTLESS."

Just then, a magical group of people outside of their house were sitting with cups of beer. I was like, "BEEEEEEEEEEEER!!!" and they were like, "C'mon, you look like you need a beer!" I don't think I have ever drank a liquid faster in my entire life. I just needed something, ANYTHING, that wasn't water or gatorade and they had it. And it had calories. Lots of glorious calories! There wasn't any food on the course other than Gu. I was thinking there would be, but there wasn't. At that moment, I felt like Popeye after eating spinach. I told them they were as awesome as the people at mile 9 and one guy was like, "That was my house!" The gal was like, "Here, have some more!" and I drank the next cup just as fast. They cheered me on and the lady was like, "You're our kinda gal! Rock on!" I let out a "WOO, THANK YOU FOR BEING AWESOME!" to them and ran in with new life.

Seeing the finish guide rails was just as wonderful as seeing the pool back at North Face. I could see it, feel it, a personal victory. Beating a previous time. Beating an old injury and preventing it from returning. Beating my predicted finish time. I got my medal and finished feeling strong. I wanted Savannah to be my redemption run and it was. It was everything I was hoping it would be.

When I finish Los Angeles, I was happy I finished, but I felt bad because I was so far from my predicted finish that I felt like a failure. It took me a while to get past that. But I didn't feel like that with Savannah. I felt proud. I spent a great deal of time posting on Facebook about a lot of post race feelings and musings.

After crossing the finish, however, there was still the issue of the knee. I saw Crystal and her mom and headed towards them. I also noticed a giant pile of ice. I shouted, "I'm gonna love up on that ice like a dog on a fertilized lawn!" They laughed. I was serious. I dropped to my knees and drank water. It was so wonderful to sit in the cold ice. It was like I could feel my inflamed knees and calves joyfully shrinking down. I buried my left knee in the ice and sat there for a while. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I finished my race. I got my medal. I got to rest and in ice!

After the run, we went back to the room and I showered and dressed so we could go get a late lunch. Crystal's mom found a real cute place that had sandwiches and that's one of my magic foods. Unfortunately it was a few blocks away. I wasn't really feeling up to walking any more, but I put on my knee brace, took my Meloxicam and went out. I felt exhausted there. Part of it was from running, part from walking, part from being in the sun all day, and then, the other part from digestive issues due to me drinking chocolate milk post race and forgetting how much straight milk/chocolate milk upsets my stomach. These issues were also made worse by the sudden introduction of food to my body.

We walked back after we finished eating and I laid on the chair for a bit taking a mini power nap/rest session that was more of a lay down and post on Facebook and congratulate everyone who did Soldier Marathon back in Columbus. I finally packed up my stuff and headed back home around 5:00pm. It was a long day, but I was ready to be back with my boys and in my bed.

My gps died on the way home and I got lost, but quickly found my way back after a little back tracking and finding a sign to Buttler. I figured if I could find my way there, I could figure out how to get back. Much to my luck, my phone had charged up a bit in that time and I was able to get the gps up again after I got a signal. I had been craving Taco Bell all night and stopped to get some before I got home. There were a few bathroom break stops here and there as well as stretch breaks so my 9:00pm ETA turned closer to 10:00pm.

When I got home, Jesse filled me in on all the details of him and Charlie's fun day. All the things they did. How Charlie ran the Kid's Soldier Marathon all by himself and finished in 10:32. I was so proud of him for that.

 He was very excited to get another medal to add to the rack in my room.

The next morning, he showed me his medal and coin and I showed him my medal. He asked me if I won and I did not say yes or no, simply that I got a medal. He was so excited and said, "YOU WON!" Yeah, I guess I kinda did win. I accomplished everything I hoped to, and that makes me feel like a winner.

So no long runs for a while till my knee heals completely. But I will be doing the full Soldier for sure next year. That is already on my mind. With the splits I was doing at Savannah, I'm pretty sure I could definitely hit a 5:30:00 - 5:45:00 finish. I'm sure I'll probably find another race to do soon...

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