Sunday morning my alarm was set for 3:45 AM so I could get up and do my PT exercises. We had to leave the house at 4:45 to get to the Metro for the train to the Pentagon. We had convinced my aunt to just drop us off at the Metro station rather than go with us and stand around shivering for 2 hours. It was just so utterly cold that there was no reason to be out there any longer than necessary.
Here is my cute outfit:
And here is what we looked like after bundling up for the 34 degree temps we would be battling:
We managed to get to the station in time for the first train, and there was hardly anyone there. From the pictures my uncle took a few hours later when they arrived to cheer, it's a good thing we didn't wait! I'd rather stand in the cold than deal with the stress of crowds and possibly being late.
We hit the porta-potties when we arrived because that's what we always do. And then we searched for some place to huddle and eat our breakfast. We went into a tent and there was a prayer service going on! It was fantastic! The preacher talked about being "Giant Slayers" like David, and when he was talking about the "giants" each of us faced he specifically called out knees and ankles, which is what my BFF and I have been battling the last couple of weeks! It was like a whisper from God. Prayer service ended and we returned to the porta-potty lines!
At last it was time to head to start line... we got lined up in the correct start area and then I looked over and found my aunt and uncle! Couldn't believe that we saw each other! This is what they were looking into... that little pink and blue glove in the air in the middle of the picture is me! LOL
I don't know how it's possible that he saw me at all! LOL But I'm so glad they got this picture! It was soon time to start the race and everything began very well. We knew the first 8 miles would be hilly, and they were, but it wasn't too bad. We train on hills so I wasn't too worried about it. We ran into Jenn from ROTE which was really great! Among all of those people out there, it was neat to run into her and her friend Eric! They took off to do their thing and we continued on.
At this point, my knees were twinging but it wasn't terrible. I figured it was from all the up and down hills. We walked up one pretty steep hill, and at the top, my BFF needed to hit the porta-potties. This was around mile 8 and it's where I made my critical error for this race. I stopped moving. I saw lots of people standing around stretching and figured I would do the same since the stretches seem to help my knees feel better (I guess by loosening up the IT Band). Well, the stopping caused everything to seize up and I felt my knees just start to lock. BFF was still in the line so I told her I was going to start walking again and would stay to the far right until she caught up with me. I was hoping that just walking would stretch everything back out again because in the previous 8 miles, the walk breaks had helped significantly. In fact, right before the porta-potty stop we had walked enough to where my knees felt quite good. Unfortunately the damage was done, and I just had to fight through it.
We saw my aunt and uncle at mile 10 and they snapped a few pictures. Here were are heading back on our way:
We continued on and honestly, sadly, I do not remember much about the course from this point on. I was focused on each step and trying to keep my form good to see if that could spare my knees a little. I kept encouraging my BFF to go ahead of me, since my pace was slowing dramatically, and her pace is much faster than mine even when I'm running all the way! Her ankle had started bothering her a few weeks ago and we suspect it's from changing her form to slow down enough to stay with me. :( We don't typically run together at races but had decided to for the marathons because it was such a long distance/time. She had considered going ahead and the halfway point, but ended up sticking it out with me. She learned that she could run her pace and then slow to a walk and I would catch up to her.
We saw my aunt and uncle again at mile 16. It was here that my aunt asked me if I needed to stop. I told her that I didn't. I was only 4 miles from Beating the Bridge and I figured if I could get across the bridge, then I could do it, even if I walked the rest of the way. Here we are on our way again after Mile 16:
I made a little calculation error about this time as well. I had it in my head that we had 4.5 hours to Beat the Bridge. I don't know why I thought that, because I knew that the bridge didn't open until around 1:15-1:30, but who knows how the brain works when it's tired! Regardless, I kept seeing the time posted at the mile markers and we were getting very close to 4.5 hours and we hadn't even reached the Gauntlet yet. And it really was starting to hurt MORE to begin to run after each walk break. SO I decided to just keep running instead of walking. I ran straight through from before the Gauntlet (which I never did actually SEE) until nearly the end of the bridge (because I thought to Beat the Bridge you had to be OVER it).
Finally I was almost over the bridge (which should be renamed the World's Longest Bridge) when I simply couldn't run any more. We came off the bridge walking, and I tried a couple more times to run but I just couldn't do it. It hurt way, way too much. I again encouraged my BFF to run on because her ankles were hurting her but it didn't feel different with running or walking - but running would get her done much faster! LOL But she stayed. I walked as fast as I could but my pace was diminishing quickly.
At mile 24, I heard someone call my name and I looked up and it was my friend Jill from ROTE (who had done the triathlon with me and BFF). I was so relieved to see her... I gave her a huge sweaty hug and nearly knocked her over! She is recovering from a stress fracture and I hope I didn't do more damage by holding onto her like that! She took our pic and sent us on our way.
I had been praying for strength the entire race but this is the point where I was just doing nothing but praying. It was hurting so much even to walk at this point, and any time I had to walk down hill it was absolutely excruciating. We were coming down what I think was an exit ramp and there was a guy with a mic and I remember him asking "Walkers, are you OK out there?" because I was hobbling so badly going down the hill.
At Mile 25 I started crying. BFF was mostly ahead of me at this point because I was walking so slowly. I didn't want her to see me crying, but I really didn't think I could go one more step. Sherry came back and told me that I couldn't stop with a mile and a half to go. I knew she was right, so I just prayed again! I started going again and before I knew it, we were at that turn. I have never in my life been so happy to have an uphill finish line! LOL It was so much easier to go uphill than downhill! Right before the turn, BFF called out, "You can't cross the finish line walking!! Come on!!" She should be very happy that she was out of arm's reach. I would have hated to slap her! LOL
See her impish grin... she knows she's been ornery!
I'm carrying my knee braces... picked them up from my aunt at mile 16 thinking I would put them on. But they wouldn't fit over my shoes and I wasn't going to sit down and take off my shoes at that point. So I carried them for 10 miles. @@ So helpful.
Here we go up the last hill to the finish line!
I crossed that finish line doing something between a hobble and a waddle... but I made it. I burst into tears and scared some of the waiting marines! They handed me an insulated wrap thing, but all I really wanted was my medal! Finally, we found the Marines with the medals!
And then we found the finisher photographer so we could get a picture in front of the incredible Iwo Jima Memorial!
My knees were absolutely dying by this point and I hobbled to the medical tent. A very nice marine wrapped up my knees (in the same cold bandage that I had bought at the expo the day before) and gave me ONE Tylenol. One?? Really?? LOLOL Anyway, she was very sweet and told me I could sit and rest as long as I needed. But I was freezing and I just wanted to go. I was also starving. So I hobbled back to BFF, since they wouldn't let her in the medical area with me, and we hobbled up the hill to the food line. They were out of gatorade and the bananas were gross-looking. The box of food they passed out was not my style, but I'm so picky that I can't fault them for that. We found my aunt and uncle and headed to the metro station. The line was so long but I guess it moved fairly quickly for that number of people!
We were home before long (with yummy milkshakes my uncle had acquired for us!!) and I broke a major training rule by taking a warm shower. I figured I had been freezing cold all day with ice on my knees for the previous hour at least, so I should be safe. And let me tell you that shower was awesome! I felt SO much better afterward. I was still hobbling and handling the steps at my aunt's house was rather painful, but just being warm was so great. My uncle is a cyclist and he suggested that we elevate our legs for at least 10 minutes to rid the legs of toxins. I laid down in front of the fireplace and plopped my feet up on their couch and ended up laying there for 30 minutes! LOL It felt SO good! We took the traditional race shirt pictures and rested for the remainder of the evening - which wasn't long considering it was after 4 PM by the time we got home! I slept very, very well that night, too!
And that's the story of how I became a marathon girl! :)