I had two goals for this marathon: 1) To enjoy it more than I did the Cleveland Marathon, and 2) To finish under five hours.
I will spoil the ending, and tell you that I accomplished both of those goals today! I was pretty much guaranteed to enjoy it more than Cleveland, since everything seemed to go wrong in Cleveland (the race was "red flagged" because of the heat, my knee was absolutely killing me through the whole race, I had stomach issues around mile 22, etc.)
I felt like a sub-5:00 finish was pretty much in the bag, because that's about an 11:20/mi pace, and I've been training at a 10:30/mi pace. But I didn't want to set my goals too high, because then I'd risk being majorly disappointed, and God knows I never want to do this again.
I got up at 2:58 this morning (my alarm was set for 3:00). I didn't want to have to rush out the door, so I took my time getting ready. Jerry was running his first 5K in Detroit today, so he got up and ready as well. Then we went and picked up Rik, his wife Cynthia, and Angela from my parents' house, and we headed up to Detroit. We got there and parked by 5:15. I had to pee SO BADLY before the race, and we had to walk what felt like miles to get to the starting line, and I didn't see any porta potties the entire way. I was seriously in pain from it. But finally, I spotted some porta potties and there wasn't a line. Whew.
We made it to our corral, and smushed our way into the section near the 4:40 finish time pacer.
I wasn't sure if I could actually stay with that pacer the whole time, but I felt a whole lot better starting there than I did with the 4:30 pacer, so that was the plan. But I didn't care who paced me, I just wanted to finish with a "4" in front of my time.
Once the race started, it took a while for our corral to get to the starting line. We inched our way forward, and then finally, we were off. It was hard to move, because there were still a lot of people, but eventually it thinned out a little. We actually were ahead of the 4:40 pacer for a while. The first big landmark was the Ambassador Bridge, which goes to Canada. That was a looong way uphill, and I actually ran the whole way, without bitching!
The scenery was GORGEOUS once we got to the top. The sun had just peeked up over the skyline of Detroit, and I thought it looked amazing over the river. The border patrol people were actually really cool! They were looking at all the runners, making sure we had our bibs visible, but a lot of them were giving high fives and cheering.
I was very impressed with the Canadian cheer stations--the Canadians definitely know how to show some enthusiasm! I think running through Canada was probably my favorite part of the race (of course, I was still feeling good at that point). Just after the relay station (there was a relay marathon as well--5 runners per team), I saw Jessica ahead of me (she was on a relay team). I wanted to catch up with her, but I knew it would exhaust me, so I didn't make a huge effort. She looked like she was going pretty fast, too.
Then we had to go into the tunnel for the "underwater mile". At mile 7, you run downhill into a looong tunnel under the river, and then uphill at the other end to come out.
The tunnel was scary. It kept getting hotter and more humid as we got deeper in there, and all the runners were shouting and cheering, which echoed and was really loud. I was so glad when I could see the light at the end of the tunnel (literally), and then to feel the cool air as we came out was so nice.
Just after that point, there were tons of people cheering, and we knew to look for Jerry, Cynthia, and Angela there. We saw them (well, heard them first, because Jerry is LOUD), waved and smiled, and kept going.
At mile nine, I heard someone say "Katie!" and I turned around to see my little cousin, Kaitlin. I knew she was running the half-marathon today, but I was shocked to see her in that kind of a crowd. I gave her a hug, and she ran along with us for the next four miles or so until the half and full marathoners split. Talking with her passed the time quickly, and before I knew it, we were halfway done!
We were still ahead of the 4:40 pacer, so we were making good time, but after about mile 15, I started to really feel my legs slow down. My calves tightened up a lot, and my legs were just feeling tired. I told Rik, "Man, an ice cold beer would be SO good right now!" And poof! At mile 16 or so, someone was handing out little Dixie cups of beer. It totally hit the spot :)
At mile 17, the 4:40 pacer caught up to us. We ran with him shortly, but he passed us, and I was okay with that. We were still going great on time, and I was sure we'd still hit a sub-5:00 finish.
It was shortly after that, however, that I really started feeling awful. I was just so tired, and I wanted to be DONE already. We saw Jerry, Cynthia, and Angela at mile 19, just before we went onto an island called Belle Isle. I was really upset, and was trying my best not to cry. Angela was filming us, so I really didn't want to cry on camera! I sucked it up and kept going.
Belle Isle was really pretty, but I couldn't fully appreciate it, because I was just feeling crappy. It was all I could do to run until the next water station so that I could walk for 10-15 seconds while I drank. My calves were still feeling SO tight that it was hard to run, so I suggested stopping to stretch. It felt wonderful! We stopped for maybe a minute and a half, and after stretching, I felt a lot better. Well enough to keep moving on.
When we came back off the Isle, we were at mile 23. I knew then that I would finish, but 3.2 more miles felt like FOREVER to me. My legs were so sore and stiff. We stopped and stretched once or twice more, and that enabled me to keep going. I was glad that I had banked enough time in the first 17 miles or so to be able to go more slowly at the end and still finish under 5 hours.
Someone else was handing out tiny little shots of beer at mile 24ish, and that was a total tease. I knew I wanted a cold beer at the finish! We chugged along, and when the finish line was in sight, I was SO relieved. The last quarter mile felt like forever, but I saw Jessica's relay team cheering from the side, and then we saw Jerry, Cynthia, and Angela. I love seeing familiar faces when I feel like crap!
I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:51:51, and was very happy with that! I'm happy enough with it that I don't ever feel like trying to beat that time, so I am DONE with marathons :)
It was hard to walk after that, but Rik and I got our finisher's photo, and then met up with Jerry, Cynthia, and Angela. Cynthia very conveniently happens to be a yoga instructor and personal trainer, so she stretched me out on the grass. It felt SO good!!
We had to laugh at the medals, though. We each got the same medal, but mine was much larger and heavier than his: