Mercedes Marathon...breaking new barriers!
Sunday morning I woke up still feeling a cold coming on more and more - but I just masked the effects with 2 "Day Quil" tablets and went on my way to the race. Ate a bagel with cream cheese in the morning with some coffee and then sipped on a bottle of water/gatorade all morning till the race start. Felt VERY relaxed on race morning (still of course had my race morning bowel movement - but didn't happen till I got to the race...really wasn't nervous at home...just tired.) Said my "hello's" my area "Red Clay" teammates and people I know before the race and found Jon (my run buddy) and went over how we were going to feel, communicate and run our races TOGETHER till mile 10 when he would pick it up and go! When the gun went off, I really didn't feel too nervous...26.2 miles is a LONG way and your race can really blow up in the first couple miles if you go out too hard and get caught up in all the nervous energy and ego's of those around you! Jon and I started together and stayed that way mile after mile...it was so peaceful and easy! We really watched our pace and we were finding things that would trigger our instincts to want to "pick it up" once we recognized them, we'd note them to each other and pull on the reigns! We tried to keep pace with Eric, a friend of mine that works with "Fleet Feet" and he too wanted to go under 3:00 --- he's been doing Ultras as of late, so the marathon pace wasn't something to which he was accustomed. Around Mile 7 I told Jon he should take in his last GU by mile 8, he told me he wanted to take it now at mile 7, I told him to go for it, better sooner, than later! I was so proud of him and his patience and ability to work with me. This was his first 1/2 marathon and it was unfolding beautifully. Right before mile 10 he saw someone he wanted to chase down in the final 3 miles, knowing he was going to pick up the pace, I told him to start to go and run his last 5K with everything he had --- knowing myself too well, I know this would be a perfect opportunity to pull over and pee...first and formost, I HAD TO GO!!! and secondly, I knew that if he started to pick up the pace, that I too would naturally want to follow my buddy...this could turn a well laid out plan into a complete disaster within miles. So, right before the 10 mile mark, I found a little pit stop and told Jon to go! The plan was perfect...I lost maybe 10 sec, but, felt as light as a feather and he got a good little cushion ahead of me and although I could still see him, he was far enough ahead of me that I didn't feel compelled to run with him. It went perfectly planned! Going down the main streets of Birmingham thru miles 11-13 I found myself having to really pull on the brakes, I wanted to pick up the pace badly, but I knew that the race still had at least 7 more miles to go before I could really turn up the heat..."the race doesn't begin till mile 20" is all I kept telling myself over and over again! Passing thru mile 14 I saw that I was about 3-3.5 min ahead of my projected time at that point...I thought, "Wow, either I'm going to smash my goal time, or the last 10K is going to kill me...let's see what happens!" At mile 15 and 17 I was so excited to see my husband, daughter and coach...this was going to be a test...was my coach going to be angry with my time? Was I too far ahead of my goal time? He was happy and told me, "Hold this pace till 20 - then run the hardest you can for 10K." Huh, easier said than done there buddy...that's what I wanted to say, but again, I was feeling good! My quads started feeling the effects of the mileage around miles 17-19...at one point I thought to myself, "God, my legs feel like tree trunks" Anyone that knows me knows I have "thick" quads...not manly, just not your typical skinny runner chick legs...they are built for cycling and serve me well in that arena, and definitely know how to manuever a run course, but at mile 19 I would've given anything to shed a little weight off those bad boys! By mile 20 I finally got to "unleash the beast" - however, how much was left of the beast? Miles 20-22 were definitely the toughest miles of the whole race...I kept telling myself only 6 more miles, only 5 more miles, only 4 more miles...once I got to only 3 more miles I was so happy...than again, that is where we got a nice down hill as well and my quads got a chance to stretch out a bit and change direction! By the 24 mile marker I found myself passing a lot of guys...were they relay team members or were they doing the marathon and burning out? The final 1.5 miles took forever...I'm not going to lie...it is a straight shot back into the city and the streets go on FOREVER...I kept looking upward at the buildings I knew would surround Linn Park, and slowly, but surely they got closer and closer...finally I heard more spectators cheering and up ahead was Dana Harmon, a fellow colleague from the YMCA - she was screaming at me, "Jess, you're the first female!!!" I thought, "What, seriously?!?!? How come no one told me?" Unfortunately many couldn't tell who the first woman marathon finisher was due to the half-marathon and relay's going on...so, until I rounded the corner and went into the "Marathon Finish" chute - it was clear only then to many that I was indeed the first female. Pure joy ran over me...first I knew I accomplished my goal of going sub-3 hours...I went 2:54:53, but it was going to be a pay day! I lept up in the air, pounced on the final timing mat and kissed it as if to seal the deal. I was so happy as I got to celebrate that moment with my husband, daughter, coach, his wife and kids and yes, my training buddy Jon was there waiting...he too had something awesome to celebrate...his 13.1 goal time of 1:30 was smashed as he clocked in a 1:27...not bad for your first half Jon, not bad at all!!!!