Sunday, September 28, 2008


The starting bloop was sounding as I blasted through the port-o-potty door. Somewhere between trouble parking and waiting in the port-o-potty line, I ran out of time and dashed into the starting corral. And as I crossed the line, I clicked on my watch and figured I’d run 26.2 miles today.

First mile: a quick 8:00 fueled by excitement of making it to my first marathon despite some hurdles (i.e., ITB, Friday night migraine, questionable prep, trouble eating). I slowed that blazing train fast—my goal, after all, was to finish the race, not die trying—and started taking quick walk recoveries, as suggested by Galloway, within the first several miles. They were just 20- to 40-second breaks every 1-2 miles that rested my muscles early and held off fatigue… for a few extra miles.

Vincent, Melissa, GP, Emma, Jeff after the raceBecause I missed a pace group at the start, I kept one eye open for the 4:15/30:00 groups and kept the other off my watch as much as possible. It wasn’t about racing, after all; it was about finishing. Still I bounded between 8:30-10:00 miles from one stretch to the next—I sped when the crowds cheered us and I slowed when I noticed the cruising—taking brief breaks whenever my ITB started to kill.

The first 10K flew, though: I crossed the line at 57:21 (9:13/mile) and started desperately looking for the fluid station, which signs around 5.8 miles advertised. My stomach wasn’t right all morning, so I had subsisted on Powerade and water for the first six.

Then it started growling.

I hit a group handing out GU, sucked the stuff down and never hit a water stand! GU without water? Bleh!

So, I fought chalky mouth for a few miles before I finally hit a water stop (I noticed a few teaser signs in this race, which boasted fluid stations long before they appeared… so not cool). My stomach turned and shot with acid reflux for a few miles before settling. And that was the last time I took GU without water in my hand.

But the city miles went fast and smooth when I wasn’t searching for that swig of water. I hit 15K at 1:27:13 (9:21/mile), floated past the break wither halfers at 11 miles and thanked my lucky stars I didn’t have to run that stupid interstate route that ends the half marathon route.

Unfortunately, what came next wasn’t much better.

Nino, GP, Neil after the race... the boys with their beersWe crossed onto the towpath for several miles of trees, trees, desolation and the sound of shuffling feet. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me that I prefer concrete, cheers, smog and streets to the backwoods, but I’ve never been a fan of running in nature (unless I’m with friends). And for miles 12-18, it was all woods, all the time.

It was dead quiet for most miles, aside from a few relay legs laboring so hard they made me tired, and each mile seemed longer than the next. I was happy, however, when I crossed the halfway point at 2:00:00 (9:09/mile) and encountered the several packs of awesome cheerers—the insane party in the park, the nurses and the lady with the pot and spatula—who lifted my sinking spirits. Sure, I was on pace for four hours, but I could feel fatigue setting in.

My ITB pain, however, had set in long before the woods, so I took things easy and tried hard to keep my mind off the clock: it’s better to not get the time I want, I thought, than never have a time again.

After a brief eternity on the towpath, we entered a great eternity in the park, traversing hills and shaded roads that made me feel a little bit like I was lost and trying desperately to run home. Somewhere between miles 16-17 (that mile was at least six miles long!), the 4:15:00 pace group passed. I tried for a few minutes to stick with the group, but my ITB and lack of hill training slashed 9:43/mile off my can-do list.

Oddly enough, things really started going downhill just when the hills really picked up!

What felt like 16 hours later, we emerged from the woods and took back to the streets of Akron, hitting 30K at 3:02:34 (9:47/mile). I saw Greg around the relay exchange and ran with ITB Chris for miles 18 through almost 20, commiserating about our ITB pain.

I was all but ready to tie my arm-warmer around my leg, thinking I had missed the boat on the ITB compression band. Chris assured me, however, his was purely decorative. And, lucky for me, my whole body hurt by this point, so ITB pain, ankle pain, foot pain: what was the difference anyway?

But it was at mile 20 that I hit “the wall” about which everyone had warned me. While I had previously run 21 training miles with some ups and downs, I had never run myself to a true breaking point. Twenty miles hurt.

I walked through the aid station, sucking down GU and drinking enough Powerade and water to make my stomach slosh, before picking up pace again. And it was just in time: I passed Jeff, Vincent, Melissa, Ryan and Emma right after the 20-mile marker, and they couldn’t have been better placed.

The final stretch! My mom took this photo from right around mile 26 markerMy head was pretty loopy and it took me a moment to process that my awesome friends had come out to cheer me. I wasn’t moving fast at all by miles 20-21, but seeing them really kept me moving. Thanks Melissa, Ryan, Emma, Vincent and Jeff!

And the rest of the race? Cake. I just ran from one awesome anchor to the next!

I hit Stan Hywett, where my dad was cheering on his bike. After a loop through the estate, I crossed my dad again, and he rode on the sidewalk and roadside with me, chatting about training and how I was feeling, for miles 22-25. He also told me Neil and Nino were waiting at the stadium and that my mom was cheering somewhere too. That was a rush!

I shuffled one ITB break and walked the aid stations, but really took to my dad as a pacer for these final miles. It wasn’t a fast pace (let’s just say I wasn’t in a hurry), but steady.

And it just got better. Tricia was cheering from a corner around mile 24 and I saw 3:50 pacer extraordinaire E*Speed running up one of the final downhills. My dad took off at 25 to make it to the stadium in time for my finish just as I caught sight of my mom about a mile down the street at mile 26. So, I just kept running toward her.

Point two miles to go!

I had a wobbly moment (Dehydration? Exhaustion? Elation?) right before I turned down the road to Canal Park, so I slowed down, steadied and started to smile. No way I wasn’t finishing now.

My dad was waiting at the gate to the park, cheered me to go, and I sprinted to the end to the cheers of thousands, including Nino and Neil whooting at the finish line. Four hours, thirty-three minutes flat. I finished! Yeah!

While I was only half coherent for the next half hour, I did see Salty as I walked the finishing chute (she anchored the incredible Speed Bumps who finished 26.2 miles 3:57:42—congrats mamas!) and managed to find my top 10 reasons for finishing the race. I downed a sub sandwich and, with Melissa’s helpful reminders, drank enough water to start clearing my head.

Everyone was kind enough to hang around the park, sitting with me and my stink, as I recovered a bit and made them listen to my marathon stories. My ITB was in no condition to step on a clutch, so Nino drove my car (after we found it!) and headed straight to the cupcake shop!

I ate all of these cupcakes. In one bite.I walked into Main Street Cupcakes to a big cheer and joined the gang for some celebratory treats (one warm apple spice and one cassata cupcake, which was Amazing with a capital A).

My head wasn’t really with me until… this morning, so I don’t think I expressed to everyone how much their support meant to me. Just seeing everyone out on the routes, cheering, smiling, clapping was… wow, the reason I made it. And Landon’s congratulatory call this morning was like a call from the president (just not the current president).

Many thanks to everyone who cheered, supported me, gave me advice or just a pat on the back!

Despite the ITB pain, Neil took me for a nice, slow recovery run this morning. I couldn’t actually lift my knees for the first block, but could shuffle a bit toward the end. At least now I can give these legs, these injuries some rest.

But not too much: I bought a cycling trainer as a marathon-finishing gift to myself and I can’t wait to get pedaling.


Charlie said...


Michelle said...

Great job! I couldn't believe that they ran out of water how insane.

GP said...

Some clarification: they didn't run out of water... there just wasn't a water/Powerade table with the GU at all. Perhaps some renegade GU-givers crashed the volunteer gates? Who knows. I just didn't want to give the wrong impression of Akron.

But some of those signs must have been misplaced because they were a good 1/2 to 3/4 mile before the stations. Teases. Either that or I was seeing mirages.

TrainingtoTri said...

Nice job Gina! You are a marathoner :) Sorry the ITB pain was a problem, but it sounds like despite the pain you rocked it!

E-Speed said...

congrats Gina! You did great! Lots of people struggled with the humidity and hills yesterday. So to do so well and with ITB is great!

Now get that ITB healed and enjoy some recovery!

JenC said...

Great job G! You did way better than my first marathon. I also had an injury that by mile 21 (when I broke) mingled with the other aches so I didn't notice it.

Take some well-deserved time off, heal and come back better than ever next year! Congrats!

triguyjt said...

awesome job out there gina...

fantastic job....

you worked past your itb situation.....way to go..

Tricia17 said...

Congratulations, Gina! You looked great at mile 24. If I hadn't known you'd run almost an entire marathon at that point, I would have thought you were out for a nice, easy Saturday morning run. Glad I got to see you breeze by.

Sarah said...

Congratulations!! Awesome job on a well run race, especially with ITB pain. And yum on the cupcakes!!! Perfect way to celebrate. My fave is red velvet with cream cheese icing. Yum.

DaisyDuc said...

Great job woman and nice story. You sure deserved those cupcakes! I am going to have to check that place out here one of these days.

Kim said...

Hey, welcome to the club marathoner!!! Nice finish!!