Pre-Marathon - Preparing for the Battle
The alarm went off at 5:15, but I was wide awake by then. I always have a fear of oversleeping for really important events, and that fact alone usually wakes me up a half and hour prematurely. Combine that with the sheer terror I was feeling, and I was wide awake by the time it started to get light at 4:30. Of course, waking up to the pacific ocean isn't so bad.
I started drinking one of my water bottles I had prepared with my GU Brew because I knew that eating anything would probably be difficult given my extremely nervous stomach. I did manage half a banana and about 1/8 of a multigrain bagel with peanut butter, but even that was a struggle. Janna, my roommate for this adventure, was just excited, not nervous. She's one of these people who doesn't get nervous for these races like I do, but on this morning, her excitement wasn't rubbing off on me.
I can't even really tell you why I was so nervous. I certainly wasn't competing to win. I was only really competing with myself, with my mind. Maybe that's why I was so nervous. I wasn't sure it was a competition I'd win. I also didn't want to finish last, and in a marathon with only 150 people, there was a better than even chance I might.
6:15 - Waiting for the Bus to Tofino
There were six of us outside the BlackRockResort waiting for the bus. Mea, Tara, Janna and me, and two men who must have thought we were crazy. Let me explain. As I mentioned above, I was nervous. And during the course of the trip, we discovered a little song/video that sort of became the trip mascot. In order to relieve the tension, I decided to play our song and got us all dancing. At 6:15 in the morning. To Baby Monkey.
7:30 - Start Time for the Slow People, but Where is the Start Line?
So we arrive in Tofino, and there are a handful of people around, but I'm not really seeing a start line or any evidence that a marathon is about to take place. Now to be fair, I was starting in the unofficial early wave start, but I expected there to at least be a start line.
Finally, we saw a lady with a clipboard and a pace car, and we knew we were in the right place. And then we saw the start line, before
Time to get this party started. On island time, of course.
Miles 1-5 - Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me Where to Turn?
So the horn goes off, and I take off with about 25 other early bird runners and walkers. I get off to a good start and am planning to follow my "run a mile, walk a minute" plan. But I'm slow, and soon, I'm at the back of the pack with about 5 others. This is nothing new for me. I run at a pretty slow pace normally, and with having to go 26.2 miles, I'm definitely pacing myself.
Now, the Edge to Edge marathon is an open course, meaning you share the road with cars. This isn't a big deal leaving Tofino because there is a bike path we ran on. It's also not incredibly well marked at this point because a) we're starting at 7:30, and as evidenced with the start line, they're not quite set up yet, and b) it's Tofino, which gives laid back a whole new meaning.
I don't know the course, but I know that at some point, I make a turn onto the beach. I just wasn't sure where that was, and with some turns in the road, there wasn't really anyone in front of me to watch where they go. So I jog on, figuring there would be a person or a sign. And I was right. There was a person. Unfortunately for me, he drove after me, stopping me about 1/2 kilometer past the beach turn, telling me I needed to turn back.
Yes, I went 1K out of my way. It was pretty discouraging, but that feeling soon went away when I got to the beach and was running along the surf. I didn't get my camera out to capture the moment, but luckily for me, Janna and Mea did.
Miles 6-12 - The Lonely Open Road
Running on the beach was definitely the highlight of the marathon. Unfortunately, it wasn't a long enough stretch, and soon we were back on the road where most of the run takes place, the road between Tofino and Ucluelet. And it was long. There were aid stations about every 2 miles, and it took me until the final aid station to realize they were all themed. The volunteers were all really great and put a lot of work in. A big thank you to them.
It was about mile 8 that the fast people from the 8:30 start time began to catch up to me, but until then, there were times when I couldn't see anyone in front of me. It was a little weird. This was also the point that the bear warning started to dance around in my head. Were they in the forest along the side of the road? Were there other animals? Hey, it kept my mind occupied.
At about mile 11, Janna and Mea had caught up to me. They were going strong.
We spent a couple of minutes jogging and talking, but soon they were off. But not before they gave me encouragement in the promise of much beer at the end. It definitely kept me going.
Somewhere Between Mile 12 and 13 - Heartbreak
About 10 minutes after Janna and Mea ran off, I approached the next aid station, and I saw a welcome face, but not welcome under the circumstances. It was Tara, and she had her knee brace hanging off her right knee. I was at first surprised to see her because when we started at 7:30, she took off and I lost sight of her quickly. I had figured she was at least a mile ahead, and it took a minute for it to dawn on me that seeing her here wasn't good news. And I was right.
She started to have knee pain around mile two and bravely continued running for another 10 miles! By mile 10, the pain in her knee had become unbearable, and by the time she got to the aid station we were at, she had to stop and end her marathon early. She put on such a brave face when I saw her, but I could see and feel how disappointed she was. I stayed and talked to her for about 10 minutes, and then I had to continue on. It was really hard to leave her there, and I kind of knew at that moment that this wasn't going to be my last marathon. Between Holly's knee that kept her from even starting and Tara's injury, we still had 2 team members to get through a marathon. Edge to Edge 2012, here we come.
Mile 13 - 20 - Let the Mind Games Begin and the Second Wind
Miles 13 to 17 could also be called the dead zone. You're over halfway, so that's promising. But it took me more than 3 hours to get to that point, so I knew I had another 3 hours at least to go. That is not a pleasant thought. My legs are already feeling fatigued, and I just left one of my friends who couldn't finish. This was probably when my confidence was lowest. I just had so far to go, and I was running on the fumes of GU Brew, Powerade and water.
After 18 miles of running and walking on a nearly empty stomach, the last thing I expected was a burst of energy. But it happened. After about a steady 30 minutes of walking, I suddenly felt ready to run again. And at this point, it becomes a mental game more than a physical one. I knew I had some energy to run, so I started to. But I was afraid to hit a wall I just knew was coming, so I played mind games to get me through. Run until the next car comes. Run to the next beach turnoff sign. Run to the next water station. Anything to keep myself running.
Mile 20 - 23 - Where Did All These Fu#%ing Hills Come From?
Ahh...the home stretch. The road to Ucluelet. It won't be long now. Except...what the hell is this? Hills? At the 20 mile mark? Whose idea of a bad joke is this?
At this point, it's me, an injured couple and a woman in a red jog bra. We're all in close enough proximity that I can hear faint conversation from the couple, and the woman in red isn't too far in front of me. Like me, she's walking up the hills and running down. So I'm pacing her pretty well. Until I summit one hill, and I see her at the bottom, thumb out, looking for a ride. Is that an option? I mean, I know this is my first marathon, so I don't know all the rules, but I'm pretty sure hitchhiking to the finish is frowned upon. I don't know for sure that she ever got a ride, but I do know that after the next hill, I never saw her again.
Mile 23 - Tears
There it was. The only 5K to go water station. Just to be sure, I asked the wonderful volunteers at the peace themed water station how much further. "Only 5k to go!" I drank my water and a cup of Powerade and continued on, and then it hit me. Only 5k to go. I can do that! How many 5k's have I done? Piece of cake. And then tears. A few at first, and then they started flowing. It was the first moment I knew for sure that I'd finish. I was going to do this, and all the training and effort was worth it. And given the injuries that hit two of my friends, it was never a foregone conclusion that I would finish. Until that moment. And I jogged and cried. At least until I got to the next hill.
Mile 24-25.5 - More Fu#%ing Hills?
Now I'm officially in Ucluelet, and more rolling hills. Seriously, for the last 6 miles. Rolling hills doesn't sound bad in theory. I mean, what goes up must come down, right? But by this point, going uphill makes every muscle in my legs burn, and going downhill, I can feel each toenail pressing against the front of my shoe, separating from my toes with each stride downhill. I had vaguely heard of this losing toenails thing, but it wasn't on my list of pre-race concerns. Maybe it should have been.
Mile 25.5-26.1 - Where is the Damn Finish Line?
About this time, I'm beginning to wonder how big Ucluelet really is and if they're going to make me run through all of it. I mean, I entered the town about a mile ago, and I just didn't remember there being this many side streets. Every time I saw someone and asked how much further, it was just one more kilometer, then 500 meters. Will this thing never end?????
Mile 26.1-26.2 - The Finish Line, All My Friends, and the Sprint to the Finish
Now I'm headed down hill, and I can see it. The finish line. And because there isn't really anyone left out there with me (not sure if the hitchhiker finished or not), I can start to hear my friends before I see them because they can see me. It was one of the coolest feelings I've ever had. I felt this surge of energy (a combination hearing my friends cheer me on and my overwhelmingly intense desire to be done with this thing), and I started to sprint! Seriously!
And finally, after 6 hours and 45 minutes, I crossed that finish line. My first words? "THANK CHRIST THAT'S OVER!" That made a couple people at the end chuckle. Next, a medal, and then hugs from all my friends, my support, the people that got me through this. Janna told me when I sprinted across the finish line, it made her cry. It makes me cry just to type that, to know what great friends and great support I have.
After lunch, a nice hot shower and much wine, it was time to bask in the accomplishment and tend to the sore muscles. And to celebrate what an amazing experience the whole thing was. Not just the run, but the training, the injuries, the strategy dinners, the email chains about which anti-inflammatories work best, the post-training beers, the pep talks, the physical therapy, the friendship and the support.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I finished 126 of 126. There were a couple of people who crossed the finish line after me, but they were either from the 8:30 start time or relay people. I was dead freaking last. And I've never been prouder of myself.
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