Can you believe it? Because I hardly can. The fact that I have two marathons to my name in one year, literally boggles my mind. And I am so excited to share the details of my second race with you. I can't say that it was quite an epic of an experience as running the streets of Paris, but it was certainly a huge accomplishment and incredible weekend that was many, many months in the making.
Last Thursday afternoon I hopped on a to Kansas City from Atlanta, ducking out early and super pumped that marathon weekend was about to begin!
I arrived in KC and waited for my friend Kristen to arrive, who was going to be running her first Half Marathon that Saturday. Kristen is a friend from high school who lives in NYC. You've seen her around here before as she was my cheering buddy for Dani's half marathon back before I had ever even run my own and was with me for some of the weddings over the summer. I was so excited for her to be able to have the experience of running her first distance race, because that weekend in Nashville last year for me was one I will never forget. She has been training so hard as well, and it was a big weekend for the both of us!
After leaving the airport, we checked into our hotel, which was awesome because it was RIGHT at the start and finish of where the marathon would be, and the race expo was taking place at the hotel as well! We decided not to check it out until Friday and immediately after checking in to our room, we changed into running clothes as we each had 2 miles to run to finish off our training plans.
It was a pretty uneventful run, and I was happy that my Garmin stayed alive for the 2 miles of the run, because it gave me hope for the marathon. However, I was still really unsure of whether or not it would survive.
We opted to go the "we're here to run" route and didn't shower or change after our run, but then headed out in our running clothes to find a place to eat dinner and explore the city a bit. It was an incredible sunset as we walked the ~1 mile into the Power & Light district where there were a bunch of restaurants. The city had some cute features too it and we were tourists as we walked snapping photos of the sunset, buildings, and fountains that were running blue for the Kansas City Royals who had clinched a spot in the World Series the night before.
I was glad that we had worn our running clothes out, because it was a conversation piece and you could kind of tell other people who were runners and there for the marathon weekend. We met 3 people in their 50s who had run marathons in every state. One of them was finishing the states with this race this weekend! When we told them that we were from Rhode Island, they immediately complained that they hated Rhode Island because the race that they had run there was through a terrible storm and conditions. Normally, I would have been quick to jump and defend my baby home state that I am so proud of, however, it was the marathon that my college buddies Sarah and Ang did that helped inspire me to even run at all! We used to go to the gym together at times in college, and when the two of them trained for and ran a marathon shortly after we graduated (with a hilarious blog documenting the process), it gave me inspiration.
Anyways, we ended up eating at a pizza place called Pizza Bar and had some delicious pizza and beer, and chatted with the bartender, who was also running the half marathon!
It was a little bizarre because Kansas City was COMPLETELY dead on that Thursday night. Apparently the night before had been a completely crazy and late night with the baseball games so they supposed everyone was still sleeping or nursing a hangover to be out on regular Thursday. However, that was fine with us because we needed an early night and headed back to the hotel after dinner.
Friday was a pretty lazy/casual day that started with carb-loading with bagel sandwiches for breakfast.
After relaxing for a bit in the hotel room, we decided to hit up the race expo. I am someone who personally LOVES race expos. I like checking out the vendors, taking advantage of the photo ops, shopping, and getting hyped for the race. At this particular expo I had a few things on my agenda. I needed to buy a headband, because I had forgotten one. I wanted to check with the Garmin people about my watch. I wanted to grab a pacing band. And I wanted to take lots of pictures with Kristen to document her first race.
I was able to get everything done on my list except for a major lacking point in the expo was opportunity for photos. There was nowhere to take a picture, so I made Kristen and I create our own photo opps.
After the expo we went shopping for a bit, exploring another part of town that was part of the race course, walked around a bit, and bought some groceries that we wanted for race morning (that was shockingly harder to find than we thought) In the early afternoon, I all of a sudden got an incredible wave of panic and anxiety for the race rush over me.
I got grumpy and short, as I tend to do when I am nervous, and really just wanted to be back at the hotel laying down and trying to clear my mind, so we took a cab back to the hotel. I watched a little TV, relaxed, and tried to take deep breathes. I also made an urgent phone call to my running bestie, Jess, who was really helpful in helping talk me through some of the decisions I was trying to make. I wasn't sure if I should wear a long sleeved shirt or a tank top. Should I buy a new Garmin or risk it with my faulty one? Should I try to run with a pacing group? Should I run with a water bottle or rely on the water stops? I had so many nerves and decisions to make about the next day that I was having trouble deciding upon. I ended up going back to the expo for a little bit pacing back and forth trying to make choices, and once I decided what to do about everything (long sleeved shirt, old Garmin, no water bottle) I just stuck with it.
We head out from the hotel to the same area we had been the night before to have dinner at Gordon Biersch. We met up with a friend of mine from work, one of her friends, and then midway through dinner, another very special person to me arrived who had flown in to cheer for me during the race. I was pretty excited for his arrival, and we all had a great meal -- pasta for Kristen and I-- and a beer before heading back to the hotels.
I had a little surprise planned for Kristen, which I hope helped get her hyped for her race in the morning, but besides that, we had a quiet and early night, which was what we needed.
We woke up early, and had breakfast in our room that we'd planned the night before. For me it was Special K with chocolate bits and dried strawberries, with skim milk, raspberries, and later, some banana. The only problem with breakfast was that I hadn't gotten any spoons to eat with, so I had to get creative and ate my cereal and milk the most disgusting way possible with my fingers and dumping it into my mouth from a cup.
I showered in the morning to help wake myself up, and because the race was starting right outside of our hotel, we didn't even really have to leave right away, but we went downstairs to the hotel lobby to feed off of some of the energy of the people there. We stretched and had a mini dance party, which is one of my favorite pre-race rituals.
We eventually went outside and got in our race corral, around the 10:30/mile pace sign. I actually found the 4:40 pace group and last minute decided to run with them. I thought it might be a little ambitious since I finished in 4:37 for my first marathon and I hadn't been running at nearly the same pace. However, after chatting with some of the people around the pacer, I decided to just give it a whirl. It was still dark out when the race started at 7:05 a.m. and before we knew it, we were off.
The first few miles of the marathon were pretty uneventful. I got choked up, with feelings of wanting to cry right away. It's an incredible thing to actually do something that you have been working for, training for, preparing for, and thinking about every day for months. And to be surrounded by hundreds of other people who all have been as well. Everyone around you has the same goal for the day and it's a pretty cool experience and thing to be a part of.
I chatted with the pace group and stayed with them pretty easily. The pacing for this race is pretty interesting in that instead of just dividing 4:40 by 26.2 and running that pace the whole thing, they break up the miles into specific target times based on hills or challenging portions of it. So we were between a 10:30-11:00 minute pace for the first miles, and I had fun chatting or running on my own. I did have one point in talking to someone about our training plans where I got a bit nervous for the race. It was at about mile 3 and I heard myself say out loud, "I just want this race to be done!" and I knew once those words came out -- uh oh, that doesn't seem like a very good sign. Regardless, I felt good at the beginning. The pace group walked through the water stops, but I would keep at a jog, and get a little ahead, then let them catch up.
Even from the very beginning, I hydrated at every water stop along the course.
At around mile 6 I saw Kristen and cheered her on before losing her again in the runners. At around mile 8 the race split, with all of the half marathons going to the left and those doing the full went to the right. I also had been expecting to see my cheer leader at around mile 7 so was looking at the crowds for him. We apparently missed each other at the first part, but it was such a boost of energy and happiness to see him at mile 9. I stopped for a quick hug and then kept going, where I heard him say that he would see me at mile 21. To which I thought, omg, that is SO many miles to go!
It was at this point in the race, that it got significantly harder for me as the race course thinned out a TON and we entered into a hilly few miles. At mile 11, I started to struggle, and I wasn't listening to music at this point, so I told myself to just stick with the pace group until mile 13 and then I could put music on as a reward for making it half way through. The pace group had some interesting people in it. Someone very chipper to be running her first marathon with a T-shirt she had made on saying "Marathon Virgin." There was another first-timer who was checking a box on her "Before Age 30" bucket list. There was a married couple who sang show tunes while they ran. And a few guys who were quiet but steady with the pace group.
At 13.1, I threw on my headphones, which was more difficult than you would have thought because the chilly air had my fingers NUMB, which they had been since the start. I could barely get the earbuds shoved into my ears, and they fell out on my first attempt, but I eventually got into the swing of it and was happy to have music keeping me going.
When I got to mile 14, I decided to try and motivate myself for 2-mile increments. I said, "Get to 16. Then you'll be in single digits left to go. Just get to 16. You ran 16 through the freezing cold last winter, you can run 16 today." and just talked myself from 14-16, not thinking about running the exact mile that I was in.
At this point in the race, I also started to have to go to the bathroom, and I debated in my head back and forth whether or not I should do it and decided to just go for it. I remembered in The Oatmeal cartoon about running long distances, the author makes a joke about how during marathons he thinks, "WALK through the 3-4 seconds through a water break?! That will significantly impact my race time of 5 hours!" and that thought made me smile and also helped me convince myself I should just go to the bathroom if I saw an empty porta potty. At this point, I had lost the 4:40 pace group and the idea of beating my time from Paris was out the window, so I figured at a race time of near 5 hours, what was a 30 second bathroom break really impact? I would be so much more comfortable if I did that.
So at mile 16, I jumped into the bathroom, while keeping my legs moving a bit, even as I pulled up my pants, because I was nervous about my legs tightening up. And in case you guys haven't tried it recently, take my word, it is difficult to pull up tight running tights while running in place and with totally freezing numb fingers.
I was really nervous that I would accidentally leave the porta potty with my pants not pulled up or something, however, it wouldn't be the first time that I flashed people at a marathon, so who really cares, right? Well, I didn't have any problems, and got back on the course pretty quick.
I was also hungry at this point, so I grabbed a banana at the fruit stop we ran through, and also pulled out a Luna bar that I had packed in my bag. I'd wanted it in case I felt like I needed more to eat than just my Gu Chomps, which I was fueling with every 5-6 miles. I had needed food during my 19 mile training run, so I had a feeling it might happen again.
I took like nibbles of my Luna bar as I again promised to just get myself from mile 16 to 18. I told myself, "Just get to 18. Then you'll just have to get to 20, and then you'll be pretty much done." And once I hit 18, I mentally told myself to get to 20, and then it would just be two 5Ks and then I was done.
When I got to mile 20, I broke the race into two 5Ks. I had really like counting kilometers while we were running Paris, so I tried to think of how many kilometers I had to go instead of miles. Miles just seem so much longer, whereas a kilometer goes by quickly.
Mile 20 ran through a part of the course we had run at the beginning so it looked a little familiar and I knew that I was going to be seeing my cheerleader soon, which made me happy and kept me positive for the most part. However, I did get choked up a bit at mile 20 because I was hurting, and when I got to mile 21 and saw my cheering crew, I was pretty much in tears and fighting to keep going.
I knew I was going to make it if I could just make it past mile 23. I had heard from someone in the pace group I had been with for the first half that there were some hills until around mile 23. And sure enough from 21-23.5 was ALL uphill with no break. It was hard. It was really hard.
I talked myself through every mile. At mile 23 the 4:50 pace group passed me and I checked my Garmin (which was still kicking!) to see what I needed to do in order to finish under 5 hours. That was my B goal in the race, and I wanted to still try and get there. However, when I also tried to pick up the pace at all, I couldn't. I just had nothing left, so I just kept telling myself to keep going, and you'll finish when you finish. It doesn't matter if it is 4:59 or 5:01 or anything. You are running a marathon and finishing is what counts.
When I got to 23.5 I had been choking up on and off, and was so happy to see the hill break. I knew once I got to mile 24, I would be able to mentally get myself through the last 2 miles. I knew I could do it.
There were a few people around me that were going back and forth between passing me and me passing them because they were walk/running. I realllllllly wanted to walk, but I also know my legs well enough and told myself DO NOT WALK because you won't be able to start again. Towards the end of the marathon, it will probably hurt more to walk than to keep running, so I just told myself to keep on going. My mind was still in the race saying, "Finish before these people! Don't let them pass you at the last stretch!" but my body was like, "STFU mind, do you realize how hard each and every step is?!"
With 1.5 miles to go, a random man read my name off my race bib and cheered for me by name. When I got to mile 25, I watched my watch until I was at 25.2 and celebrated -- THIS IS IT. FINAL MILE.
Whether it is a 2 mile, 3 mile, 15 mile, or 26 mile race, I LOVE the last mile. I can always get through the last mile. I was expecting myself to tear up a bit for the last mile but it was pretty empty along the course, a pretty nonscenic route, and my body was drained. It was a pretty anticlimactic finish, and even when I was at the 26 mile marker, there weren't that many fans around and I couldn't see the finish line. Oh, and the finish was uphill, because why the heck not?
I saw my cheerleader right before the finish, and when I crossed the finish line, and met up with him, the tears started. I was so relieved to just be done with this race. It was an incredibly challenging course for me and although I had told myself during the run that the time didn't matter, there was a sight bit of relief to see that I finished in the 4s with a time of 4:57.
I grabbed some chocolate milk, a banana, and some water then went with my main cheerleader (whose name is Scott, by the way) and my work friend to check out some of the post-race festivities. There had been a massage tent advertised and that was going to be my first stop. We walked our way over and I went to get in line and was told by a lady that they weren't taking anyone else in line. That they'd been massaging since 6am and there hands were tired.
I'm sorry, what?!? Your hands are tired?! I've been running since 7am, my whole body is tired! And who were you massaging all morning while the race was going on?!? I was pretty disappointed because a post-race massage is always amazing, and these stupid runs are expensive. The vendors and post-race festivities are part of what I feel like I pay for.
You can imagine how disappointed I was when I went to go turn in my beer ticket from my bib and found out that they were also out of beer. WHAT?! How can you be out of beer?? Everyone gets a free beer with their bib and you KNOW how many runners there are!
I was pretty bummed, but also out of energy. So I grabbed the one thing that they did have left, BBQ sandwiches, which were totally unappealing to me at the time, and just went back to the hotel room. Where a little bit of this happened.
Legs up. Banana and peanut butter (with two bent straws as a fork.) Water. Medal On.
Yup, I just ran a marathon!!!!!!!!
After laying like that for a bit, I showered, dressed, and rested until I wanted food. We went back to a restaurant near the Power & Light district, where we feasted on nachos, pretzels, a burger, and beer. However, about half way through, I just crashed. We were sitting on high top tables and my legs were dangling. I was full. I was tired. And for the second time in the trip, I just wanted to be in my hotel room in bed. Which is exactly what we did and I spent a few hours spazzed out and relaxing.
I learned that there is such a thing as "marathon brain" and after you run 26.2, sometimes your mind just forgets to work a little.
After spending a few hours horizontal, calling family, and drinking water, I decided I was ready for a little more celebrating. I had a pretty one track mind with what I wanted -- frozen custard and champagne. And because I have awesome people in my life who support and take care of me and helped make this day incredible, that's exactly what I had.
Oh, and by the way, remember Kristen? Yah, she killed her first half marathon and I was so proud of her! When I finished I asked if anyone had heard from her, which they hadn't, and I got really panicky. However, she had been cold and tired and was sleeping in bed post-race. I introduced her to my rule of wearing your race medal non-stop the day of the race, which I think she was a fan of. Except for the fact that this race actually had HUGE medals and I was a bit concerned it would make our necks hurts.
But regardless, we both achieved major goals that day and I was so proud of myself for making it through this training cycle, completing a random marathon in Missouri, and of Kristen for her first jump into distance running.
The weekend was made incredibly sweet and wonderful by the fact that I had an incredible cheerleader and supporter by my side. His presence made the race all the more special and meant so much to me.
Sunday was a pretty low key day, I felt tired and sore but nothing hurt, which was great. I walked around a bit before flying back to Atlanta. And since being back I have done a yoga class and a short 2-mile run -- in my race finisher's tee, of course!
This is the first time in literally, years, that I don't have any races on my agenda right now. I am not signed up for ANY races.
Now, I know that won't be for long as I need to fill my calendar back up and set some goals. However, right now I am taking it a little bit easy. I am trying refocus on other areas of health and have been tracking Weight Watchers points this whole week to help ease back into a normal eating routine. I have some travel coming up and I want my mind and body to heal a bit from this training cycle.
I've got a number of things I want to write about marathon #2 vs. #1 which I think I will have time to do in the next weeks so this won't be the last you hear of Kansas City Marathon. But for now, I will sign off with a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has asked me to blog about the race, offered words of encouragement, or even just "Liked" a picture on Facebook or Instagram. Your support means so much to me and thank you for reading and following along my journeys here!!
I'm a two time marathoner, people!!!!!