Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cowtown 2014 Recap - My first MARATHON!


If you learned anything from last year's Cowtown recap, it should be that I am not a brief recap kinda girl. So if you are just looking for the highlights:
  • I ran my first marathon Sunday.
  • I have the greatest cheer squad in the world.
  • Finish time - 4:19:40
  • Marathons HURT.
But if you're here for all the juicy details, sit back, relax, and get comfortable. Because here. we. go!

On Friday during my lunch break, I headed up to the Cowtown Expo to pick up my race day packet. I was in and out in about fifteen minutes, I managed not to buy anything (hello, planning a wedding over here) and did NOT get my car towed. So overall, 2014's expo experience kicked last years ass!

Something about staring a race day bib in the face makes me want to puke and cry all at the same time.


I would like to go on record as saying that perhaps my favorite thing about Cowtown is the fact that they are sponsored by Chipotle and each packet comes with two of these bad boys. 


Can you guess what we had for dinner Friday night?
NOMNOMNOM.

Friday carried on as normal with me going through different ranges of emotions such as PANIC, EXCITEMENT, HYSTERIA, NERVOUSNESS, and NAUSEA (not an emotion, I'm aware) before I finally headed out of work and over to Taylor's house. But my evening was MADE by sitting in traffic and talking to my favorite person in the world. 

I call it multi-tasking.
Saturday, Taylor and I had lunch with my family and did a little wedding registry related shopping which isn't exactly staying off your feet but I can assure you it was hella fun (for me at least). Afterwards we headed back to my house where I assembled my massive marathon playlist while Taylor napped. It's a rough life he leads. 

After he woke up from his nap we decided to head over to Olive Garden for the early bird carb loaded dinner. Turns out everyone in Fort Worth had the same idea. 40 minute wait for two people? UM, NO. I would rather eat my own hand than wait 40 minutes for food. So I dragged him across the parking lot to La Madeleine, cause, you know, BREADS.


And PASTA 


And CAKE.


Because I take carbo-loading VERY seriously.

After dinner, Taylor forced me to watch two more episodes of The Walking Dead before finally letting me go to sleep. I laid down at about 9:30, but probably didn't fall asleep until around 10:15, but I slept pretty soundly until my alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning. 

I woke up with the "I'm so nervous I'm probably going to puke" feeling so I went downstairs, made myself eat a banana, and attempted a couple pieces of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin toast that honestly tasted like cardboard. As I was trying to eat, Sydney walked into the kitchen and said, "How are you feeling?" To which I replied, "Like I'm gonna THROW UP." She made me feel wayyy better when she said, "ME TOO!" 


PS She ran her first half Sunday and totally rocked it!

Sydney, Taylor, and I piled into the car just before 5:30 to pick up another one of my training buddies and then head over to the race. We hung out, made a few bathroom trips, and then finally headed into the corral and waited for the start. I think stepping into the corral made most of the nervousness fade away. More than anything, lining up at the start line just made me ready to RUN. 



Just a waitin'. The woman in front of me is not amused.


My strategy for Cowtown was to start out slow, between a 10:00-10:30 pace for the first few miles, and then gradually pick up the pace, and end feeling strong. I knew that it was going to be a hot day (It was 60 degrees at the start, and warmed up to 70 while we were running), and that the second half of the course would be brutal, so in my mind I was hoping for anything under a 4:30. I also knew that Taylor planned to be waiting for me at the 9 mile and 19 mile markers, and then at the finish line.

My plan the entire time was to walk every water stop and get a GOOD solid drink in. Last year for the half, I wanted to fly through the entire race, so I brought my own water bottle and didn't stop once. It's obvious that stopping for water has a major effect on my time, but I also knew that my hydration was going to be super important and carrying a water bottle for 4 hours had absolutely zero appeal. 

The first corral took off right at 7am, and our corral (4) took off right at 7:10. 

video

We knocked out the first mile in 9:25, so I had to make a conscious effort to slow it down. Cowtown has the GREATEST half marathon course ever, and the next eight miles flew by. I felt good, strong, super positive, and also excited when I realized I'd hit the big hill at mile nine, because I knew Taylor would be waiting at the top. What I DIDN'T know was that my awesome friends (and bridesmaids!) Emily and Alli would be there too! 


The thing I'm probably most proud of from this entire race is how good I felt going up THE hill. Y'all. Hill training WORKS. My coach lives in a fantastic/awful hilly neighborhood, and we met up for multiple hilly runs during our training. I also ran up the exact same hill with my roomie a couple times on a training run. I also think I'd conserved my energy really well up until that point, because I ate that hill for breakfast. Once I saw Taylor, Alli, and Emily, I shot up that hill to them and said, "Y'ALL! That wasn't even HARD!" Everyone around me probably wanted to push me off the bridge, but I consider that a little victory.




And then I threw Taylor my spibelt because I was DONE running with that thing around my waist. 


I held the rest of my Accel Gels in my hand until I needed one. Then I'd just rip it open with my teeth and suck it down. Super glamorous, I know. I ended up taking one around mile 5, 10, 15, and 20 right before I came up on the water stops.

After you make it up the big hill, you're rewarded with about a mile and a half run through downtown, which is full of awesome spectators, full streets, and tons of energy. BUT, once you make it through downtown, you hit the split. Half marathoners go right, marathoners and ultra-marathoners go left. A VERY lonely left.

The thing about training with such a fantastic group of people and coaches mean that I had literally run every step of the Cowtown Marathon course beforehand. Part of that course I'd run many, many times. At certain points in the race that felt like an advantage, and at other parts, it felt like a disadvantage. I knew, full well, that after we split from the half marathoners, that shit was going to be TOUGH. It's a really depressing feeling to be running with this massive group of people with such high energy, and then split from them after eleven miles into your lonely, hilly, HOT 15 mile future. I was running through downtown when I had a minor panic attack realizing how lonely things were about to get, so I ripped my phone out of my sleeve and called my mom.

"Hello?"
"Hi Mom."
"Are you running???"
"Yeah...."
"Soooo....what's up?"
"UM, can you try to come to mile 15? PLEASE."
"Uhhh, I'll try."
"Mmmmmkay. Well I gotta run a marathon, so BYE."

Turns out, Mom was still IN BED. In DUNCANVILLE. An HOUR away from me, in Fort Worth. I'm really glad she didn't tell me that. Anyways, I ran along for a little bit cranking my music up really loud and trying to stay positive and ignore the fact that the temperatures were rising quickly and the tiny little breeze I'd once felt had died down substantially. Then after about two miles I passed a spectator handing out tootsie rolls and a little girl holding a sign that said "If marathons were easy they'd be called YOUR MOM." Chocolate and inappropriateness for the WIN.
Around the 15 mile mark, I came up behind the 4:25 pacer. I started to freak out because I thought, "I can't be running that slowly can I??" So I stuck with him for about two miles before I heard him say he was three minutes ahead of schedule, so that gave me a little bit of my confidence back and I made a conscious effort to stay well ahead of him. 

It was around the 17 mile marker that I realized exactly how hot it was. I was already covered in a thick thick layer of salt, and no matter how much water I drank I couldn't seem to quench my thirst. Finally, after another hill, I came up on mile 19 and my favorite cheerleaders again!




Please do NOT be fooled. I strategically picked the least awful pictures of myself, but I can assure you, I looked, and felt, like death. I ran by my buddies and shouted, "I'M SO THIRSTY!" Luckily I was within a few feet of the next water stop. 
   

About a mile or so after I saw Taylor, Alli, and Emily, I was running through one of the gorgeous neighborhoods showcased on the course when I saw a crazy lady with curly hair and a green t-shirt come lunging towards me out of nowhere carrying a Subway cup.

"NATALIE!!!!!"
"Mom?!!??!??!!?...Are you RUNNING?!"
"Oh yeah! Yeah, this is easy! I could totally do this for 26 miles!"
**Insert evil stare here**
"I'M SO THIRSTY!"
"Oh, you want some of my watered down unsweet tea from Subway???"
"YES!"
**Sip.Sip.Sip**
"Well, see ya."

Let me just say, if there is one thing I've learned from running a marathon, it's that you can't be held accountable for anything you say from miles 16 through 26. You just can't. I mean, I turned down DONUT HOLES. I would never do that in my right mind. Plus, I'm 97% certain that I talked to myself at multiple times during those last ten miles, but I couldn't tell you one word of what I had to say. 

Also after a certain point, EVERYTHING is going to piss you off. On Saturday I meticulously created the greatest playlist possible to get me through an expected 4.5 hours of running. On Saturday, I loved each and every one of those songs. On Sunday, during mile 24, each song that came on my shuffle made me want to rip the Ipod off of me and smash it to a million bits and pieces until it was as dead as I felt at that time. 

My legs were hurting. I was annoyed with my lack of ability to run any faster. My water stop walks were getting slower and slower. The lousy part about stopping to walk when you've been running for 79 hours straight (I'm exaggerating for dramatic effect) is that walking provides NO relief. Walking hurts more than running, so you might as well get over yourself and keep going.

On a more positive note, I'd also like to say that nothing feels better in those last few miles than when a stranger takes the time to cheer for you by name. There were a few freakin' awesome people who helped me more than they could ever know just by saying, "Way to go Natalie!" One lady said that to me at mile right before the 24 mile marker, and I hysterically screamed back, "I'm almost done right?!??" I'm pretty sure that took her by surprise because she laughed and said, "You are so close!" Thanks stranger, you're the best.

The last three miles of the race were on the Trinity Trails, where I've logged more miles than I could ever ever count, and also where Taylor proposed. It was actually right by THE bridge that I saw my awesome running coach, Karen! I was in a state of deliriousness and didn't even recognize her until I was just a few yards away. But she shouted "There's my girl!" and I almost burst into tears and realized I could NOT give up with her watching. So I just kept trucking (slowly) forward.

In the last half mile, when it felt like I had slowed to what can only be described as a speed walk/wog hybrid, some peppy SOB guy came up beside me and said "Come on, keep going! We're almost there!" Even though I still think he deserves to be punched, he brought me back to reality where I realized that if I just kept going, I would be able to make it in under 4:20. 

I have no idea how I managed to do it, but I crossed the finish line on two feet. 
In 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 40 seconds exactly, with an average pace of 9:55.

 


video


And then just like that, it was done. 26.2 miles.

And then we took pictures, DUH.




PRESENTS!


Emily is the sweetest, and most ridiculously creative person I have EVER met. 


My sweet soon-to-be mother in law even made an appearance!

I can't get enough of these hilarious signs.

I love these girls!! I dont know how people can run races without a support system. 
I'm spoiled rotten. 


After the race on Sunday, I found myself comparing the way I felt after finishing the half marathon last year with the way I felt finishing the marathon this year, which Taylor pointed as being ridiculous. I kept saying, "I didn't hurt this bad last year, I don't remember it being this hard." I didn't feel the immediate ecstatic joy and glee and excitement and pride like I did after I crossed the finish line last year. You wanna know why? Because I was too damn tired. 26 miles is far. TWICE as far as I ran last year. And 4 hours is a LONG time. All my happy energy cells had been hijacked by my body and put to other uses such as not collapsing, not dying, etc. But here I am 48 hours later, and I've got to say, I'm pretty happy


My response when asked, "So, would you do it again??"


And then, I ate. Like a marathoner.


After lunch, Taylor took me home, and helped me into a very wimpy five minute ice bath and then rolled my hamstrings and quads with the stick, because he's an angel like that. Then I took a warm shower and tried to nap, but honestly my legs hurt way too bad. During training, I was really good about going to get a sports massage after really long and especially cold runs, so a few weeks back I made an appointment for the afternoon of the marathon. BEST THING EVER. I hobbled into that appointment, and walked out an hour later feeling like a MILLION bucks. I can't even explain to you how much better I felt. After the massage, I swear, I have barely been sore at all. My hamstrings and calves are a little tight, but I've just  been stretching and foam rolling like normal and I feel GREAT. To celebrate, I treated myself to a GIANT Freebirds burrito and Dr. Pepper for dinner and was in bed asleep by 8:30. 

So, what now?? 

I'm determined to try to always stay in "half-marathon" shape. But I don't have my sights set on any long distance races until the fall. I definitely plan on running Dallas this year. I'm really interested to see if I incorporate speed work, and get a cool weather race day, if I'd be able to break 4 hours. One day! 

But really, the next BIG thing on my list is to get MARRIED!

59 DAYS!

LOVE&HUGS,

Nat

PS: I love love love when people ask me questions about running. I started from ground zero, and everything I've learned about running has come from me asking other runners questions or through my own trial and error. If you have any questions AT ALL, please feel free to contact me at twentysomethingtalk{at}gmail{dot}com

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your first marathon!! Reading this recap made me feel emotional bc when I see people (strangers) finishing marathons I honestly cry bc i'm proud of them. So I guess I'm trying to say I'm proud of you lol. I have run 2 half's and I need to sign up for a full one of these days. Great work!!

    Ps your friends signs were amazing.

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