Monday, February 2, 2009

RACE DAY (Part II)

I went to bed feeling excited but nervous (what else is new?). Woke up at 1:30 because I was so err....hydrated.....and couldn't go back to sleep until 3:30. Alarm went off at 4:30 and I was up. I had laid out everything the night before (per the advice of my coaches) and went into "game face" mode. Methodical and deliberate, checking and double checking- gels, body glide, timing chip, etc.
I tried not to cry leaving the hotel room- Todd gave me a hug and a kiss and walked me to the door. I opened it and found a good luck sign taped to my door signed by all of my coaches wishing me good luck, and Lifesavers candy (because we're saving lives!). That sent me over the edge- I cried a little in the elevator, then met up with my team in the lobby. Met up with Jennifer and before I knew it, our shuttle had arrived. The Tucson chapter was one of the first to leave, and as we stood up and left, the lobby erupted into applause and cheers of "Good Luck!" and "Go Team!".
It was still dark out, and very eerie as we approached the starting area. We did some looseners, checked our gear bags, then stood in the port-a-potty lines multiple times until it was time to get in our corrals (Moooooo). We just entered our corral when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Todd and my parents and was SO HAPPY to see them. They had coordinated to pick up Todd from the hotel and ride around together and try to find me along the course.
Oh hai- I'm about to run 26.2 miles. (My mom is in the pink)





My awesome face tattoos (the other side is a Block A to represent my U of A roots. The finish line is on enemy territory aka ASU, so I needed to represent)

Me and Jennifer in our baggy warm up clothes and "Holy Crap" smiles. I look scared because I am.

Then (and I admit, it was a BIT anti-climactic) the race started and we were off on a very slow jog. It only took us 4 minutes to cross the actual start line, which we later found out, was because the Cardinals were playing the Eagles in the NFC championship game, so a few thousand people who were originally going to run the full ended up running the half (different starting time and line).

The early miles were crowded but exciting- several cheers of encouragement and lots of "Go Team!!!" to go around. Then? The (in my eyes) unexpected and worst happened. My knee started to hurt as bad as the day I injured it. I could not believe that this was happening. I'd been running 10-12 miles with no problems since the injury, and then on race day at mile 2 it feels like someone's sticking a steak knife into my knee?? What is THAT? I tried not to let on that something was up, because I didn't want to slow down.


Coach Rick caught up and ran with us for a little bit. He could tell something was amiss and told me to listen to my body and take some Tylenol if needed, then he was off to find more of our teammates. See, the thing with the coaches is that they aren't running the race, they're running to coach US, so while we think 26.2 miles is awesome, they easily put in over 30 on a race day, cutting the course, doubling back, finding every one of us to make sure we're doing ok.



Then came mile 5 and look! It's my fan section!



The bands every mile were a godsend, as were the cheerleading squads all over the course. They'd read the fronts of our jerseys and then cheer us on by name which was so awesome. For every "Go Elsbeth" I got three of "Go Elizabeth!!" but I didn't care. Seriously, the fact that they were trying and recognizing ME made me feel so amazing.


Me knee was still hurting, and I realized that we were on a tilted part of the road, so once we moved towards the middle (DUH) where it was level I felt like a million bucks. Then we flew. Seriously, we flew. I looked at my watch and we were pulling 9:30-10 minute miles. I felt great.


Fast forward to mile 16 and that's when the wind and heat started. This strong STRONG headwind and it stopped us in our tracks, and the miles started to go by very slowly. We were hitting all of the water and Cytomax stations, taking salt packets and gels just trying to keep up our strength for the last ten miles. The cheers were still there and we kept going, but it just felt like it was taking FOREVER.


Then at mile 19, there they are again!!!




Then came the 5 hour pace team. You can sign up to run with a team in order to stay on track for a certain time. The team leaders run the whole time with a sign on a wooden dowel, so that the teammates can see their leader and stay on track. Because we were doing a run walk combo, we started to play leapfrog at about mile 22. We'd pass them, walk, get passed, run, pass them, lather, rinse, repeat. Then at mile 24 they passed us and I *knew* that we wouldn't see them again. I had worked so hard and had faced so many challenges, and was so disheartened that I wouldn't make my goal time.

But then I kind of realized, that even if I wouldn't make 5 hours, I had still accomplished a hell of a lot, so suck it up, and keep going.


At about mile 22, it really started to hurt. That was the point that I realized that even if I WANTED to go faster, I couldn't. My legs and feet wouldn't let me. It was simple as that. I was going as fast as I could.

We crossed the river and saw Sundevil Stadium (aka Scumdevil Stadium!). 2 miles to go. I don't remember them. I was that tired. Then we reached mile 26, we are SO CLOSE, and we saw Coaches Brian and Lauren. I wanted to cry, I was SO happy to see them. Brian stuck with us and ran us in, and we saw Todd and my parents again.

The reason We're laughing is because my dad had just cheered "You're more than halfway there!!!"





And there it was, the finish line. They announced our names as we crossed the finish line and then it was hugs and tears. We'd just run a marathon. Holy. Crap.


The end was neat because we got our finisher's medals, pictures taken, and then tables and tables of food. Bananas, Popsicles, chips, you name it. I couldn't look at ANY of it, I felt so sick, so I went to the Team in Training tent to check in and there was Todd waiting for me. I was so relieved to see him. We found my parents and I got my gear bag to change my shoes (it felt sooo goooood to put on my sandals!). At that point, I practically had to be carried around- my feet hurt so bad.



We got back to the hotel, I took COLD ice bath, then a shower, then Todd took me to a bar for some GREASY food and a beer. Nothing had tasted so delicious.....After that we went to the victory party for a great dinner (hey, I ran a marathon, I'll do what I want, ok??) and then retired to the lobby with a few teammates to have drinks with the coaches. I've never been more proud of all of us, it was so great to bask in the victory glow (while wearing our finisher's medal!!!).



And now, it's done. (For the time being). I'm resting my knee and taking it easy and looking forward to running Nike in October.



So, thank you AGAIN for your support! I'll still be updating about this and that, but stay tuned!



3 comments:

Katie said...

Congrats Elsbeth! You really powered through the pain - impressive!

Bummer on the Cardinals - I was cheering for them since I now feel more connected with Arizona! :)

Racn4acure said...

Elsbeth - I enjoyed your race report. Way to go, Marathoner! It brought back memories because I was there a year ago - what a blast! I remember reaching milepost 26 in Tempe - such a great feeling. Everything hurts, but you litterally just have a few hundred more yards to go. It is a fun course. You will never forget this day. Art

PS: I spoke at kick-off for our summer team last night as a lymphoma survivor, and it just reminded me again for being grateful not just to be a survivor, but for all the people like you who are trying to make a difference. So, THANK YOU!

Katie said...

Enjoyed reading about the rest of your run!! The photos are great, too. Now I'm wishing I got the tee instead of the singlet!