As I mentioned before... I'll get the pain out of the way early - I didn't meet my goal of running a sub-four-hour marathon. I didn't blow it by minutes, either - I blew it by 10 freaking seconds. TEN SECONDS. A desperately-needed 30-second potty break at mile 22 kept me from reaching my goal. I don't like giving too much information, but I would have gladly peed my pants if that was all it took - unfortunately, that wasn't the issue.
Failure to meet my goal aside, the Air Force Marathon was totally amazing. AMAZING.
My marathon fun started off on Friday at the Breakfast of Champions. Thanks to a member of the AF FB Group for giving away her ticket, since she couldn't make it! I was so excited to have the opportunity to go.
I got to hear from some really interesting panelists - Josh Cox, who holds the AF course record (and who now also holds the 10K record and would hold the Half record had his pace car not lead him down the wrong path), Mark Cucuzzela, the Military's Medical Consultant and winner of this year's Marathon, Danny Dreyer, of Chi Running fame, and Marshall Ulrich, all around badass. Dude has ascended all of the big 7 summits, with success on his first try. Only person in the world to do that. I actually got to talk to Dr. Cucuzzela one-on-one and get his take on switching over to a minimalist shoe - he's all for it. I even got my sister a Danny Dreyer autograph (wanted to get an autographed book, but they had sold out of Chi Running, so she'll have to settle for an autographed AF Marathon poster).
After breakfast, I headed over to the expo to pick up my packet.
Don't you love the "Beer Coupon?" I think that's the best part.
Shockingly, I managed to avoid buying anything but Sport Beans and Gu. I still can't figure out how that happened.
Met my friend Rachel for a carb-filled lunch - thought about ordering fettuccine alfredo, a la Michael Scott. That's what Rachel had, and it smelled soooooo good.
Drove home, found that Charlie was complaining of an earache, took him to the pedi, found out that he had a double ear infection. That meant the Charlies wouldn't be accompanying me to the race. Enjoyed my now-traditional pre-race Chipotle.
The next morning, I got up ass early so that I could leave my house by 4:00. Of course, there was no traffic, so I was easily at the gate by 5:00, when it opened. I got prime parking, which was still a good mile from the start line. On my trek across the base, I walked and talked with a woman who had run more than 100 marathons. I thought that was pretty amazing, until I heard that Running Buddy (hereafter referred to as "RB") ran the marathon with a woman who was on #202! How crazy is that?
It was COLD out! We're talking 40-something degrees. Which is nice, and all, but not when you're standing around in running shorts and a tank. Luckily, I had dug up an old, ugly long-sleeved shirt to use as a "throwaway" shirt, so at least my arms were covered. Still, I nearly froze to death waiting to catch up with RB. I watched a lot of videos on the design and use of several Boeing aircraft while I waited - their trailer acted as a nice wind-shield.
Met up with RB and her husband, who was running the half. We had about 20 minutes until start time, so we chattered nervously and RB showed off her super sweet hot pink KT Tape job. 7:30 was quickly approaching, so we said our good-byes and good-lucks and went off to meet our pace groups.
The start was amazing. I know I already said that, but I'll say it again. AMAZING. To be on the Air Force Base, surrounded by active military personnel, all of who were voluntarily there to support US, the RUNNERS, was totally amazing. Inspiring. Especially when you looked at the 10K-ers who were running with the packs. That's hardcore.
(source: AFM FB page)
Someone sang the National Anthem, and then the B-1B Lancer got us all pumped with a spectacular flyover. I've never been that close to a plane like that, let alone a plane like that flying directly over my head, and I got goosebumps. That thing was a monster! And really freaking loud. The ground shook as the sound wave caught up with us. Holy cow.
(source: AFM FB page)
And then we were off.
I'm going to spare you the paragraphs and paragraphs of detailed race recaps, since it really went very, very well. The pace group was awesome, I enjoyed the camaraderie and the conversation. They did take a few sections a little faster than I would have liked, especially at MileTen, which took us through downtown Fairborn. This was my absolute favorite part of the course - it was a giant town-wide party just for the race. Hundreds of people lining the streets cheering, dressed in costumes. At the end of the main route, there was a giant set-up mimicking Area 51, complete with Alien costumes and blow-up props. It was freaking sweet. I haven't found any pictures yet, but I'll certainly share them when I do. The only thing missing was Fox Mulder. Would have loved to see him right around the halfway point :p
Around mile 12, I found myself running with two random guys from the pace group, Adam and Shawn. We compared playlists, complained about hills, swapped stories about kids and families and life, and joyfully called out each mile marker. I *may* have been a little obnoxious with my forced enthusiasm. I'm very much of the "Fake it Till you Make It" camp, so I was trying my damndest to tune out the tiredness of my legs toward the end. Unfortunately for my new friends, that included singing out loud to my ipod and squealing in delight every time we ticked off another half mile.
We carried each other through miles 12-22, when Adam had to stop to stretch out his hamstrings. I was afraid to stop because I thought I might not be able to start again, so I kept going. Well, that only lasted a few minutes, because I had to take an emergency bathroom stop. It was unavoidable. Thankfully, there was no line at the porta-potty, but it still took me 30 seconds (yes, I timed it). I will forever kick myself for stopping. I wish it had been as easy as just peeing my pants, but it was... something else. We'll leave it at that. I still haven't been able to figure out how to make that problem go away. I managed to push through it at the Pig, but there was no ignoring it this time around. Next time I think I'm going to stick with Sport Beans only and forgo the Gu altogether. It was after I had my second Gu at mile 20 that my stomach really started to revolt.
Anyway, I got back on course and started up the last of the giant hills. Now I had no one to talk to. I turned on the gas to try to reach the pace group, but it just wasn't going to happen. Again, like the Pig, it was a matter of willing myself not to walk. I thought about why we were there on the base, thought about people who were enduring pain much worse than I was, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The 4:00 pace group was *right* in front of me. I still had a chance, but I watched it slip away. I just couldn't close the gap. I knew as soon as I saw them cross the line mere seconds ahead of me that I had missed my goal.
So close. So fucking close. And yes, I should just be happy that I did it, that I ran 26.2 (26.49, according to garmins everywhere) freaking miles, that I have the ability and the health and the guts to go for it, but I was just so disheartened. I shook the hand of the Air Force guy who presented me with a medal and thanked him for his service. And then I cried. I'm not exactly proud of that fact, but I'm willing to admit it.
I stood in the super-slow-moving food line sipping on water (stomach still not pleased with me). I managed to bend over enough to untie my shoes, and that was sweet freaking relief. I wanted to get my flip flops from the bag check, but first I needed to know just how close I came, so I hit up the results tent first. I got my little time printout and saw the 10 seconds dangling off the end. 10 seconds. I may have shed another tear in disappointment. Don't judge me too harshly, it was a very emotional day for me.
Thankfully, while I was hobbling over to bag check I ran into my good friend Rachel and her husband Dave, who had just run the Half Marathon. It was so good to see a familiar face. They had even brought their infant son Julian, so I got to peek at him, too. How can you not smile when you see a baby? Dave did a great job in the Half. I was probably a little bitchy, because I was disappointed and hungry and tired and wanted to puke, so I couldn't even satiate that hunger. So I'm sorry, Dave, that I made such a horrible first impression. But he did friend me on Facebook, so I couldn't have been that bad... right?
I said my goodbyes so that they could get the baby home, and started searching for my Running Buddy. I didn't have the energy to shove through the crowds at the finish, so I settled for watching through the food tent and did actually get to see her cross the line. She looked great, for just having run 26.2 miles! Sweaty hugs for everyone :)
So, all in all, it was a fantastic experience. The course was awesome, minus the giant hill at the end. It was really crazy to be out running on an airport runway. The finish area was the best part, because the lanes were flanked by planes. That was really cool.
The crowd support and organization and volunteers completely rocked it.
The medals? Well, they're gigantic, and detailed, and really, really pretty.
Charlie said it looks like something Flava Flav would wear. He may be right.
What's even cooler is that the marathon was also held at deployed locations all over the world, so that active military members were able to participate.
I'll definitely be back next year.
But then there's that whole issue of the ten fucking seconds. And that's how I'll always refer to them, the f-word-as-adjective included. Sure, cognitively, I know that I did it, because I can just subtract the potty break. But that leading 3 will never be a part of my official time.
And that's why I might be signing up for the Columbus Marathon tomorrow, after I take a test run on these legs tonight. Best case scenario - I officially break four hours. Worst case? I run another marathon. Either way, I come out ahead of the game :)
Clock Time 4:01:18
Chip Time 4:00:10
Overall Place 672 / 2513
Gender Place 125 / 744
Division Place 22 / 120