>Race report and reflection: ILLINOIS MARATHON 2011

>Let me start you off with some stats:

Location: Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; only my favorite place in this state!
Weather: started out at 50* and windy, topped out around 75* and still windy
Chip time: 4:53:02
Goal time: 5:00:00
Average pace: 11:11
Water consumed: well over 64 oz
Gels consumed: at least 6
Celebrities spotted: Abraham Lincoln (guess they had Asics back in the day.. who knew?), orange-clad Darth Vader, Superman
Funny signs: “Don’t stop!” followed by “That’s what she said!”; “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking butt!”; at mile 23 “You have no other option but to f’in finish!”

This week, I was not nervous. I was anxious to just get it over with, but not nervous or worried. It was a great way to go into a race, especially a marathon!

I met Gabi at gear check at 6:15. The 45 minutes until the race started seemed to go by fast. There were less than 3,000 running the full marathon, so we got across the start line quickly. Very different from my races in Chicago!

We started around the 5:00 pace group, and ended up speeding up to a pace of 10:45-11. We really took it easy, but we didn’t go too slow. Honestly, the miles flew and I felt great. The wind wasn’t too bad in the beginning.

Around mile 8, we ran through Meadowbrook Park, where Aaron and I had spent quite a lot of time when he lived down there. Good memories. At around mile 11, we ran past Stone Creek Church. I was so hoping to see Pastor Grogan, but I saw his wife and Ricky, one of the other pastors. I also saw one of my former students who attends U of I. It’s so energizing and exciting to see people you know, even if it’s for a second! Hannah and her sister were at quite a few mile markers with signs. That kept me motivated too.

I started taking gels around mile 5, to be on the safe side. Some people have stomach trouble with all the sugar in gels and Gatorade, but I have no problem. I was not going to let myself get dehydrated or “hit the wall”. I drank my entire Camelbak of 50 oz, and towards the end I drank at every stop. We tended to walk for a few seconds at the stops to make sure we drank enough!

There was a band called “Shark Domain” or something at mile 8. It’s funny because our friend Aaron B. asked me if I had added “Eye of the Tiger” to the playlist. I hadn’t, but this band was playing it right as we passed by! They were all wearing bright pink shorts, too. Funny.

We saw someone running barefoot, someone with a huuuuuuge Afro hair-do, a lady driving her car down the race course.. seriously, WHO let her by?? I tried to say “thank you” to as many volunteers and policemen as possible… we could not do it without them!

Mile 18-19, courtesy of Hannah

At around mile 20, we sped up a little bit to around 10:45 pace, I think, and soon after Gabi took off. Looking at our 20-mile split, we hit it at 6 minutes faster than our last 20-mile run!! I don’t know how she made her legs keep that pace up after that! I didn’t hit a mental wall, but my legs felt like lead! The last two were awful because of the wind. I’m guessing it was around a 20mph wind right in our faces. At that point, though, I didn’t sweat it (figuratively, because literally I was!) because I knew I wouldn’t finish before 4:45, but definitely before 5:00.

The last .2 were soooo loooong. It was great though to see the finish line in the stadium! I sprinted the last .1 or less. I couldn’t believe I really finished. I started crying as I crossed the line. We got a medal, which is actually very nice. (I can’t say as much about the shirts.. ugh.) I drank a one-liter and sat down to stretch. Um, dumb! I could barely get back up!

Sprinting to the finish! Courtesy of Hannah

Whhyyy did we sit down? Ouch! Courtesy of Hannah

Walking was painful. It was more painful that running that last little bit. However, this afternoon I tried to move around. I went upstairs at Hannah’s to take a shower, MUCH needed. I could feel and see the salt from sweat caked on my face. Anyway, I survived the shower and for some reason had crazy energy. I’m sure those endorphins and adrenaline last a long time, but I guess I thought I’d be so tired!

I ate some chicken and dumplings Hannah’s mom had made, had some cream soda and ice cream, too. Then it was my idea to go to the running store to look for a marathon shirt that I liked (picky, I know) and unfortunately they didn’t have any women’s back in the store from the expo. I did get a 26.2 sticker for my car.

I have to say, besides knowing Jesus, being married, and graduating from college, running a marathon is the coolest thing I have ever done. I love that runner’s high; I was “high” throughout pretty much the whole race! And I am being honest when I say that I never once thought, “Oh my gosh, why am I doing this?” or “I’ll never do this again!” I’m already asking Aaron when we’re going to train for the half in December in flippin’ New Mexico.

I have to give all glory to the Lord. This simple act of putting one foot in front of the other has saved my sanity, kept me mentally healthy, made me physically fit, and tested my trust that God has indeed created me with a healthy heart!

I have to also thank everyone who has encouraged, inspired, and prayed for me throughout this process. I especially thank my husband, who has been incredibly supportive even from halfway across the world. And OF COURSE, my training partner Gabi who made those early Saturday morning runs worth it! We did everything… wind, sun, snow, rain… everything. We did it, girl!

Amazing day!

As she said, this has been an incredibly unique experience.. you get to know someone really well when you spend three hours every Saturday morning running with them in the country. I will never forget it!

Yay for ZERO WEEK!!