The Post-Marathon Post: Part I
(Editor's note: I wasn't planning on making these multiple posts, but I just finished getting to the starting line...and it's already getting pretty long. I would imagine two more posts after this one. Enjoy!)
I'm just about a full week out from the completion of my first marathon. This last week was my time to reflect and relive the experience as I verbally shared parts of it with people who asked. Finally, I'm going to take the time to reflect and recount the experience of last Sunday as a whole.
After having knee issues for the better part of August and into September, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the starting line. My longest training run was only 15 miles. After finding out I was sporting some torn cartilage and a torn medial meniscus in my left knee, I was down to one run a week (the long Saturday run) per my physical therapist's direction. Three days of 6am physical therapy a week. And if I'm being totally honest, those mid-week workouts on the arc trainer usually (read:always) got pushed to the side as my job became overwhelming and I usually opted for sleep over the workout. And yet, there I was last Friday, boarding the plane to head up to "chilly" Milwaukee from Phoenix. It was 102º when the plane took off and 52º when we landed. Literally a 50º temperature swing.
This wasn't a trip meant for seeing friends and family (though I managed to squeeze a little bit of that in), and as I sat on the plane the life I have in Phoenix got shut off. For the entire weekend I wasn't Ms. O., I was Andrea. I turned my job off. The correcting I brought along stayed in my backpack the entire time, and instead I spent the time on the plane reading the chapters in my multiple marathon books about the actual race, mile 26, and the post-race recovery. In my head I mentally rehearsed the final three miles which I had run before I left Milwaukee last July. I looked over the course map, creating mental goal markers for myself to loosely give myself an idea as to where I was on the course route at any given time. And I enjoyed a little of the free DirectTV, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
Saturday was expo day. Walking into that expo building, stuff got real. I'm always in awe of the elite athletes. You know, the people God genetically created to be good at running. I should have taken some pictures at the expo, especially of the display of all the shirts and medals from all 35 years of the marathon. Shopped all the finisher swag. Bought none of it, because, well...I wasn't a finisher at that point! Settled for a pint glass and a coffee mug. (To those of you who know me: Shocking. Beer and coffee. Not.) Saturday afternoon I was able to grab lunch with a friend, I even allowed myself a Spotted Cow. Saturday night I spent with my fam (minus the Minnesota contingency) at one of my favorite places in the whole world, Miller Park. I started chatting with a pair of guys who were sitting behind me about the marathon the next day. They thought I was crazy for being at the ballpark the night before. I was sitting, I was relaxed, and mentally it was one of the best places I could have been.
Saturday night I got a decent night of sleep before the marathon, but my body decided to wake up just about every hour on the hour. It didn't seem to bother me, as I'd just roll back over and go back to sleep. No alarm was necessary, as my body naturally woke up just after 5am. Immediately I started putting on my race day outfit. Stuff was getting real! Pretty soon I was in the car with my cousin and headed to the Italian Community Center to catch the shuttle up to the startline in Grafton (shoutout to Chrysta for taking me down there at 5:30am).
There was a moment on the shuttle where you're about halfway up to Grafton and my mind goes "You know you have to run all the way back down to Milwaukee, right?" Shortly after that the "Am I insane?" moment hit. Before I could even process that information we were getting off the interstate and the doors to the bus were opening at Grafton High School. I had 30-45 minutes before they would start corralling us to the start line. I took advantage of using a real toilet one last time, and reassessing my apparel choices for the umpteenth time. Popped my IB, my Extreme Endurance, one last drink of watch, and ran into two of my former coworkers. It was so great to seem them and talk through my gameplan one last night. Right before Brandon (who has done multiple marathons and runs much faster than me) walked away he looked at me and said, "We'll see you at the finish line." I sarcastically commented that I didn't know if they'd still be around by the time I finished. He very confidently looked at me and said one more time, "We'll see you at the finish line." Those words ran with me the entire 26.2 miles.
I was alone again, standing in the 5:30 finish time corral. I started chatting with three ladies near me. They had all flown into town from different parts of the country to run this marathon together and they had a supporter (Robin) that was their cheerleader/fueler/encourager that met up with them every 2-4 miles on the course. They immediately adopted me as one of their own, including me in every picture they took throughout the entire day. It made me feel like my group of girlfriends that is now spread out all over the country was right there with me. All of a sudden it was 7:25am, and people started moving forward towards the start line. My heart started fluttering a little bit...this was it. The man at the starting line lifted the gun to the air and POW! we were off. Well...about 2 minutes later when we actually got across the starting mats we were off. (Those two minutes become pretty important about six hours later.)