Thursday, December 11, 2014

Space Coast Marathon Recap

Better late than never right?  It's been almost two weeks since I headed to Florida for the Space Coast Marathon on Sunday November 30th...and I think it has taken this long for it to actually sink in that I ran that far and lived to tell about it.

If you are looking for a more race review without all the personal info, head over to BibRave and read my review there.  If you like all the personal info, welcome aboard.

I will admit that I was a bit of a stress basket leading up to this race and I was the party pooper on Thanksgiving.  I also left the party early so I could go home and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Rather than getting up early to go Black Friday shopping, I got up early to make the 8ish hour drive to Cocoa Beach, FL.  I am usually a non stop road-tripper and only take breaks when I need gas.  Drinking sufficient water to hydrate my body for the marathon ruined that approach and led to many more stops.  The weather just kept getting better and better as I went though, so I wasn't complaining.

I stayed at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, one of the recommended hotels, and had a great room with a fabulous view.
As a general rule I tend to think Hiltons act fancier than they are, but I had truly great service at this one and the private beach access was very much appreciated.
Friday night there was also a mingle event at my hotel for all runners in town early.  It had gotten a little chilly out so I didn't stay outside too long.  I was also tired from all the driving! However I did meet some really great ladies from Jacksonville and really enjoyed chatting with them.  One of my main concerns going into the weekend was that I was traveling alone and I was totally convinced it would make my first marathon less special.  I was so appreciative of this event because it gave me a reason to get out of my hotel room!

The next morning I woke up bright and early to grab breakfast and head to the expo to pick up my packet.  I had intended to go watch the sunrise on the beach, but it was cloudy so I watched fro my room.
As a Hilton Honors Diamond member I got free continental breakfast which made me very happy.  Sadly the whole Hilton ego kicked in and I was only able to get the cold breakfast and oatmeal. I would have to pay for the hot options.  So much for feeling special right? That said, the greek yogurt bar and croissants were fantastic. And really as long as breakfast comes with coffee I won't fuss too loudly.
I really meant to get to the expo right at 9 when it opened.  Then I started watching HGTV and left a little closer to 9:30.  The expo was held at the Radison just a few minutes down the road.  I had driven past it the day before so I was very excited to be able to drive there without needing my GPS. One road there and back for the win. The line to get my bib was non-existent and the line to get my shirt was also pretty short. Unfortunately they were out of my shirt size, but I was able to go up a size and it still fits pretty well.  They did have the option to have a shirt mailed to you, but I am a big fan of instant gratification so I went with the bigger size.  From what I heard later, they ran out of a lot more sizes as the day went on.  The expo itself was jam packed, especially in the licensed merchandise area.  I think they could have spread it out better to solve some of the problems, but the people working it were doing their best to manage the situation as best they could.  There were things that were selling out pretty quickly but I got a Tervis tumbler and a Brooks short sleeve shirt with the race logo so I was more than happy.
There were also local running clubs and area races at the expo which I enjoyed. I also had to stop by the My Soxy Feet table to pick up some new socks.  I was between sizes so I was excited that the vendor had samples I could try on.  I ended up picking a cat pair and a dog pair that benefit animal rescues.
Another highlight, for me, was seeing all the medals for the upcoming years.  I can't wait to go back next year and grow my own collection
The one downside to traveling alone is the lack of a photographer, so I was not able to make use of the photo ops.  I am sure one of the super friendly runners would have taken a pic for me, but I honestly wasn't that dedicated to wait in line haha.

After the expo I stopped and did a little souvenir shopping at Ron Jon then headed back to the hotel.  The road the hotel was on also had great sidewalks and plenty of other runners, so it made it easier to go out for my easy two mile shakeout run.

I wish I was more exciting, but the truth is that after my run I just took my textbook to the beach and studied in the sand and sun. As far as studying goes, it could be much worse so I was ok with it.

I got a fresh mex bowl from Chili's for dinner (because rice=delicious carbs!) and laid out sorta flat Jess.  It was another early night followed by a very very early morning.

The first shuttle bus was scheduled to leave Sunday morning at 4:30...I was puttering around getting ready and happened to look out the window around 3:45 and realized the bus was already there so I got hustling.  That was lucky since the first bus was full and leaving by about 4:00.  Parking directions had been provided, but the bus made everything much easier since I had no idea where I was going!

When we arrived, I sat on the swing set and ate my bagel and peanut butter for breakfast, put my Nuun in my water bottle, checked my bag, and got in line for the restroom.  There were lots of porta-potties open at the time, but I really wanted to be able to wash the vaseline off my hands as well.  By the time I got through the line it was almost time for the Half to start.  The Full started half an hour later so I worked my way over to the starting area gradually.
 It was pretty surreal to stand there and realize that this was actually happening.
 I started way to the back with the 5 hour finish group. Time would tell how optimistic that was.  The national anthem was sung beautifully and we started off to a countdown and a video of a rocket launch.  I was off and rolling with no idea what to expect.

For the first few mile everything felt great.  It was very exciting but pretty uneventful. I was beyond thankful for the gorgeous view and the wonderful volunteers at the aid stations.  I knew there was no GU until mile 9, so I was carrying one of my own which I took at the water station just after the 4 mile marker.  So far so good.

By about mile 8 my left hip was starting to give me trouble.  I had honsetly expected it, but had hoped it would hold off a bit longer.  Apparently luck was not on my side.

At mile 9 I took a GU from an aid station and for some reason my gag reflex kicked in immediately.  I trained with GU for most of the summer and fall with no problem. I had taken it on days hotter than this with no problem. I have absolutely no idea what went wrong, but it was very very wrong.

I kept plodding along though I very nearly called it quits at the half mark.  It would have been too easy and I would have just gotten my half time and all that jazz.  I think my ego kicked in a bit and I kept going.  According to the results, my half time was 2:48, which I am pretty happy with.

By about mile 16 my ego was nowhere to be found and all I wanted to do was sit down and cry.  I tried another GU around that time and had the same awful reaction and my stomach would just not settle. My back was also starting to remind me that this was a terrible life choice.  I was suddenly very aware of how completely under trained I was.  I was convinced I would never ever run another marathon again. I think I was even convinced that I would not finish this one. Up until then I had kept adjusting my goals slightly, aiming for just slightly slower times.  At that rather soul crushing moment I gave up on goals other than just making it to the finish line.

Then I met up with another runner who I am convinced is the only reason I finished.  She was going at it with a run about 10 steps, walk about 10 steps approach and I asked if I could just stick with her.  For the rest of the race I let her set the pace and just focused on keeping up.  We ran when we saw photographers and walked a lot more than I had originally planned.

The road seemed forever long, but when we finally got to mile 19 and turned back towards the finish line (with the sun FINALLY to our backs rather than blazing in our faces as it had since mile 7) I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It was still a struggle but it suddenly seemed possible. When we got to mile 25 I ran ahead as much as I could manage and told myself I would run at least the last .2 miles and give it all I had.  I had no idea if I had anything left to give, but it was worth a shot I figured.  Starting at the mile 26 marker, the road was lined with people cheering you on all the way to the finish.  My name was on my bib and it was so surreal to have all these people encouraging me by name and telling me not to stop.  I ran.  It may not seem like much to some, but in that moment it was like my entire world was narrowed down to the sound of people telling me I could do it and my legs doing everything they could to make that true.  I started crying somewhere in that time and didn't stop completely until I was probably halfway home. I got my medal and beach towel then headed over to the beer truck. Given my messed up stomach this was perhaps not the best plan, but I really like beer. The pancakes also looked amazing and I had been ready for them since I signed up to run! Unfortunately one sniff made my stomach nix that plan immediately. I was very thankful that the nice man at the Publix tent gave me a couple bananas which did help settle my stomach so I didn't repeat my post half marathon experience. That was a big relief.
When people think of major, life changing moments I doubt sitting on a towel in the grass, covered in sweat, a little chafed and nibbling on a banana tops the list. But that was exactly when I started to realize the scope of what I had just accomplished. It was also the moment I started to plan my next marathon primarily because I want to see how much better I'll do if I just train properly.
Then of course I tried to stand up and adjusted my thinking a bit ;)

The moral of the story: I ran a freaking marathon and I can't wait to sign up to run Space Coast again next year!

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