Week 24: 1st Marathon at North Country Trail

To finish the last week of my training, most days were light runs with one day of biking, in anticipation for Saturday. Friday, Zach and I got out of work early to pack and head up to Cadillac where we spent the night at my co-workers parents house. This helped out tremendously; allowing us to have a nice bed to sleep in before the race, rather than camping out or coughing up money for a hotel. The weather that morning turned out to be beautiful and almost perfect running weather. With much anticipation, I really got out fast the first couple miles...hoping to get in the women's lead pack to avoid getting tramped behind a slower runner on the single track.

Going into this marathon, I really had no idea what I was doing. This lack of experience really became apparent when I hit the first aid station. Since this was a trail run, they couldn't really have that many aid stations, so with seven stations through 26.2 miles, the first was around mile 3.9...or so I thought. When I came through this station, my time was well under what pace I had planned to run at. I was breathing pretty hard and the hills had just begun. I was later told that I should not count on the aid stations being at the right mile markers, which I found out to be true when the second aid station was way off. Frustrated, but happy with how I was feeling at the moment, I kept on my way. The scenery was beautiful when I had the chance to look up, since the trails were pretty rugged and I had stubbed or lost footing several times during the race. The hills (steep inclines and descents) kept coming and they never seemed to end. It wasn't until around mile 15 or 17 where I really started to feel the pain of this race. I knew at that moment that I was not going to be able to maintain my 7:15 pace and that my pace had probably slowed to an 8 minuter. The terrain was something I had never experience before. If this race had been a half marathon, Zach and I would have finished well in the front of our pack since it seemed to be around the half where things started to go wrong.

Hydration was key since it did get steamy after 10am, so I was happy that I had chosen to run with my Nathan bottle. Carrying that helped me fuel up on my own time since the aid stations weren't that reliable. I stored my splits and 2 GU's in the bottle case as well and used only one at the 1:15 point. I think drank about 3 bottles worth of water (pretty sure the bottle is 20 oz), 2 half cups of coke, 2 small cups of lemonade, few M&M's, and a handful of gummy bears during the whole race. I probably could have ate more and drank more during the whole race, but was satisfied with how I handled at least that aspect of the marathon.

I started to really struggle around mile 20. At this point, I was looking forward to each aid station, just so I knew how far I was from finishing since my pace was way off by that point. Few strangers crossed my path that I chatted with briefly and who helped me push on...promising cold beer waiting at the finish line. Half the time I tried to think of things that would make the time pass faster...what my split could be at, wedding plans, how Zach was doing, calculating how many more minutes I might possibly have until the next aid station, and so on.

It was around mile 21 when I saw a familiar racing outfit...Zach. I was so happy to see him since I knew we would pull each other through these last miles. He had went out extremely fast as well and had crashed about the same time I had. Struggling with injuries these past months had put a damper on his training; which definitely played a role in the turnout of this marathon. Aside from the fact that I wanted Zach to do his best, I was glad to have him at my side to finish our first marathon. With a mile left, we started to finally hear the music at the finish line. With all the energy we had left in our beaten up legs, we picked up the pace and ran through the finish line, hand-in-hand. :)

Below are lovely pictures of what my feet looked like after the race. They look like mini tumors on my toes. They might look like they hurt, but they didn't bother me that much during the race. It wasn't until today, the day after, when the pain hit me. My quads, IT band, butt, and back kill. Zach and I can barely go up and down stairs without looking like an old married couple. Hopefully this soreness will subside before to long... got a couple races already lined up already.

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