Well, I've done it. And I did it in a much better fashion than I thought possible. I navigated a marathon that I began feeling somewhere between undertrained and unfocused. Maybe that's the secret!
My family and I (including Isabelle, our 19-year-old German house guest of 88 days) headed east to the Tennessee/Georgia border so that I could tackle marathon #9, the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. If you'd like to know why I chose this race, click here. If you'd like to know why I felt so "undertrained," click here. As for the unfocused part, well... that's just my life these days with a 3-year-old, a house guest, and an often-traveling husband. So be it. For the record, though, I did make it through a 20-mile longrun!
The "kids" napped along the way through the long state of Tennessee.
Since Fort Oglethorpe is exceptionally small, we stayed closer to Chattanooga. Our first order of business there on Friday was to visit very scenic Lookout Mountain.
We wound our way up a curvy, steep path all the way to the top (in my car).
Isn't this typical? Chasen is taking in the beauty, Isaac is trying to escape, and I am "on patrol." Hmph.
Here's my big boy and I riding the Incline Railway.
It literally goes straight down the mile high mountain. We rode it both down and back up.
After we went to the bigger-than-expected race expo (in a church gymnasium), we settled into our hotel and then walked across the street to dinner at the Cracker Barrel. Isabelle had her first ever biscuit! That tells me that I have failed her as a Southern hostess.
Chasen tried to teach Isaac how to play checkers outside after dinner.
Thankfully, we were able to get two, adjoining rooms. That way Isabelle and I could room together, therefore increasing my chances of pre-marathon sleep at least tenfold. No, I will never forget marathon #6. That night I laid out all of my race gear and finally had the chance to go through my goody bag. Imagine my surprise when I found two moon pies!
Not only did I get a nice blue tech shirt, but I could choose between a fuel belt and gloves, also.
Yep, 26.2 miles of history alright. Monuments and cannons were everywhere.
Isabelle made this sign for me. Maybe my Southern hostessing isn't that bad after all. :)
I was in a quiet bed for 8+ hours, but it felt like I woke every hour or two, just for a moment. You know, the usual. Both of my alarms went off at 5:30 and I was off like a... cannon! I ate breakfast, showered, dressed, and went next door and gently woke Chasen, as he was my transportation. He dropped me off and headed back to Isaac and Isabelle.
This race is extremely unique in that there are Civil War reenactors from the Battle of Chickamauga there at the start/finish area to fire a cannon to get things going. It's not everyday one waits in line for a porta potty while gazing at tents, campfires, and cannons -- oh my!
See, I told ya. There they all are.
Packing a cannon is apparently a 3-4 person job.
When the race started and the cannon was fired, IT. WAS. LOUD. Trust me. You expect it to be loud, but until you're right there in its presence, you just can't understand how loud it really is. Moving on...
Since I didn't start this race feeling like an Olympian, I aimed to let my Galloway 30:30 method take me as far as possible. I tell ya -- if you want to run a race and feel good (i..e. not set a land speed record) you should try the 30:30.
This was a double-loop course, a first for me. While it wasn't nearly as scenic as marathon #8, it was indeed lovely. Like I alluded to earlier, I ran amid monuments, cannons, countryside, and even a runaway horse!
In the first few miles I saw perhaps the best race sign I have ever witnessed. It said "Any idiot can run, but it takes a special kind of idiot to run a marathon." Well said, stranger.
I made it to the halfway point a bit earlier than anticipated. I was stoked. Go 30:30! My family finally showed up on the course at around mile 19 or so. Of course, it was incredible to feel their support and see my smiling, proud boy.
Here I come! Most of the course was wooded and shaded, like this.
Isabelle thought this was funny. Yes, marathoners talk with their mouths full.
Here is the amazing part. People, I ran those first 19+ miles without hitting the wall. Heck, I still felt great at mile 20! It took running into a woman along the course who was just spent for me to even notice that I still had gas in my tank and strength in my legs. I "counseled" her a bit, having been there all too many times. Then I announced to Chasen that I was running this thing "like a boss." It seemed rather funny to me at the time. Sodium depletion does strange things to a runner.
Terry, who actually set a PR, aimed to finish the marathon and then double-back to help run me in. What a guy! I actually told him, via text, at mile 20 or so that I really didn't need him. I never, ever, thought I'd be feeling that good.
By mile 23 I probably could have used him. I was slowing down, but I still had the fight left in me. Alas, he, now an "ultra runner," was waiting for me at the mile 25ish timing mat.
There's my pal, seated. I would have probably been lying down!
Finally, after being friends for over 5 years, we got to run together. We chatted it up that last, slow mile. It was a joy. He has been so good to me as a friend and a coach for such a long time now. And he was about to finally get to meet Isaac!
There we come (me in green, Terry in yellow).
He peeled off the course so that I could intercept my precious boy, whom Chasen had "worked on" to encourage him to run across the finish line with me.
There we are, albeit a bit blurry. I'm one proud mama!
Less blurry. My official chip time was 6:19:14, faster than anticipated.
There's my cool friend (and fellow Elijah supporter) and I after the race.
How 'bout that medal! Sweet Isabelle said it's a strong woman, like me. Love her!
Fortunately we were able to stay two nights, so I was able to get my ice bath and then some food at a leisurely pace. For some reason I woke every few hours that night, too.
After a great hotel breakfast, we headed home (about a 6 hour drive).
I am still in disbelief over the fact that I never really hit the wall. Because of that I consider this my best marathon ever. I couldn't have possibly anticipated this! Perhaps it is because I viewed it as a training run for my next race. So... after a bit of time for my leg soreness to go away, which is usually three days, I will figure out a plan of attack for marathon #10, which is just eight weeks from now. Here we go again!