Race: Charleston Marathon
Place: Charleston, South Carolina
Date: January 17, 2015
First race of the year. Why not make it a marathon, right? Right! Actually, I had this one on the radar since last year…so, I was very excited to finally register for it (which I did late…like in December…whoops!). I already had a place to stay (thanks Janet Dailey!) and two amazing tour guides (shout-out to Richie and Amanda!) who spend as much time as they can in Charleston, South Carolina, taking out any sort of travel apprehension because…they know everything! So things were definitely falling into place.
The only thing that wasn’t was, naturally, my foot. It had been doing so well, but the week before the race, my plantar fasciitis decided it wanted to flare up again. Not the foot that caused me issues this past summer. Original foot. The one with the plantar issue to begin with. I think I need to get some new shoes…because I have worn the hell out of both pairs that I am wearing currently.
Anyway, I’d continued to train, easing up on pace and doing my speed work slower. And it seemed that after the first two miles, it stopped hurting. I didn’t tempt fate though…just did what I could while maintaining my training. Foot was no bueno…but it wasn’t knocking me out. Nope. I could still run. Granted 7 treadmill miles is definitely different from 26.2 miles on the road (tready running is VERY different from road running…and I prefer the road!), but for now I’m keeping speed work inside on the treadmill. Most of my runs leading up to this marathon have been indoors due to the extreme cold. Call me a wimp, but once the temps fall below 20 degrees, I don’t consider it safe for my body to be out running, even if it is a couple of miles. My longest run leading into this race was back before Christmas…14 miles…after that, nothing went over 10. Not the best way to train, but I think subconsciously, I was ignoring the fact that I signed up for a marathon.
That’s what happens when you deal with a debilitating injury for 3 months. You get…a little nervous. Nevermind that I ran the TCS NYC Marathon back in November. I have a goal this year to make it out injury free. I’m doing what I can to maintain that goal. So, definitely under-trained for this one, for sure.
On Friday, I got up and did an easy 3-mile shakeout, still babying the foot. I wasn’t worried about speed. I went outside and just did 3 miles. Home, shower, breakfast, finish packing, and then Cathy and I went to work. We weren’t there long. Only for a few hours, to close out accounts and enter as much as we could before the clock hit 10:30 a.m. Then, we were out the door, to the bank, and then on the way to the Louisville airport. Parked the car, headed inside. I checked my bag, praying that it would get to Charleston as it had all my race gear in it (I know…never do that, but I had no choice!), and we got into the security line. I was randomly selected to do TSA Pre-Screen…which meant I got the shorter security line, didn’t have to take off my shoes, my hoodie, or remove my laptop from my backpack. LOVE IT! Cathy was not as fortunate, and it took her quite a bit longer to navigate the regular TSA security line. But, she eventually made it through. We got to our gate and she went to grab some loaded baked potato soup from Chili’s and grabbed me a fruit cup. We ate lunch and polished it all off just before we had to board the plane. Good timing! Our first stop was Atlanta…ugh. We were also boarding in Zone 3…and had a feeling Cathy would have to check her bag due to lack of overhead space. She did…but at least she got to do it for free. It would meet us in Charleston as well. With that done, we hopped on our flight and found our seats.
First stop…Atlanta. Very brief stop at that. We had long enough to get off the plane, go to the train, take it from A to B gates…find our gate…go to the bathroom…eat a snack bar…and then get ready to board. At least we had time for that. We took our seats, took flight…and read until we hit the runway at the Charleston International Airport. The airport was really small for being an international hub, but we made our way to Baggage Claim…got our luggage than headed to Enterprise for the rental car. Longest line ever. For real. It took us longer to get a rental car than it did to do anything else in any of the airports that day. None of the other car rental places had lines, but we had already reserved a car with Enterprise, and we trust Enterprise. So…we stuck it out. Finally, it was our turn and we ended up with a Hyundai Elantra. We went out to retrieve said car, piled our stuff inside, and made our way to Burke High School for the Health & Fitness Expo and Packet Pick-up. It took us about 15 minutes to navigate to the high school, following horrible Google Map directions. But, we made it…parked…and had to walk all the way around the building to get inside the area where the expo was being held.
That being said…we made it. I immediately headed over to the packet pickup for the full marathon. I got out my wallet to show my ID and was just asked for my bib number. This was sent to me via e-mail earlier and was really easy to remember. I replied with “Bib 113.” And they got it down from their system of hanging bibs and handed it to me. No ID check or anything. They said that the t-shirt and bag pick-up were across the auditorium. Awesome. I went down to the end of the table to scan my chip and ensure that it was, indeed, functioning. Then…off I went to retrieve my race shirt and bag. The bag only contained some pamphlets for local businesses and races. The shirt was white with a painting of Rainbow Row houses on it. Gorgeous. I tucked the shirt inside the bag and then went on the hunt for some GU. Luckily the Fleet Feet booth had some for sale, and I snagged 2 Strawberry Banana, 1 Triple Berry, and 1 Mandarin Orange. I had one with me in my luggage…so that would do. After I left, I spotted the rack of CEP Compression Gear…and had noted that I had forgotten my recovery socks…so I went to see if they had anything in my size. They had a pair of black and grey CEP socks…so I went back to the Fleet Feet booth and purchased those as well. HA! They were getting my money for sure. With that done, Cathy went to see where she could get shuttle tickets to get from the start to the finish and then from the finish back to the start (runners got to do this for free)…and I went in search of my NYC Marathon Hard Core Runner buddy, Jennie. We met up near the Community Coffee booth and had hugs all around and discussed how the weather would be chilly, but after NYC…eh…this was nothing. We talked about running, families, training, outfits, and even our injuries. She was doing a run/walk method due to an issue with her back. We hung around and talked and Cathy returned to steal my phone and place a delivery order with the Charleston Mellow Mushroom for a gluten-free and vegan Cosmic Karma pizza for that night. She returned and we talked a bit more with Jennie before we all said goodbye. Cathy and I needed to hit up the local grocery store (and race sponsor), Harris Teeter, for some things for the hotel room (fruit, water, yogurt) and then get to the hotel before the pizza did. So, we left the expo and then headed to the grocery store, following even worse Google Map directions. I got out my cell phone and directed her.
We made it to the Harris Teeter and started loading up a basket with bananas, apples, Greek yogurt, water, and a Sprite Zero. After I run a marathon, it helps calm my stomach. It’s the only time I drink soda anymore. We checked out at the grocery store and hopped back into the car. And went the wrong way to the Lodge Alley Inn, where we were staying. So, we turned around, and just as we pulled up in front of the hotel on East Bay Street, Mellow Mushroom’s delivery guy called. He was outside of the hotel. I told him we just pulled up and he met me on the corner. We did some shady (not really) dealings and I gave him money and tip for the pizza and thanked him very much. Cathy wasn’t sure what to do with the car now that we were there and put on the blinkers and left me standing there with the pizza while she went inside. It took her about 5 minutes…and here I am with a car that was definitely not parked well and all that…just waiting. She returned, said we were good to go, and the valet met us with a cart to put our luggage and groceries on. He then took the keys and went with us up to our room on the third floor. We got inside…got things put down…and gave the valet a tip. He left to go park the car after unloading our stuff. And I put away what needed to go in the fridge. Then, as it was nearing 7 p.m…I said, “Can we eat pizza now? It’s getting SO late.” I don’t like to eat too late when I have a race. I like everything to be digested. So, we went into the living room, turned on Diners, Drive-In’s & Dives, and dove into the pizza. I think I devoured it in record time. It is so much better at the restaurant. With it getting a little cooled off on the delivery and the wait for the room, the crust got a little soggy. MEH. Oh well…I ate it. Fuel for the following morning.
Cathy’s sister and brother-in-law, Amanda and Richie, stopped by after we finished eating to make sure we were settled in. We stood around and talked for awhile, but Amanda said she knew we had an early morning. She said she would try to make it down to the finish, but no promises. I told her no worries either way. Hugs all around and promises of lots of site seeing after I ran. I went to brush my teeth and get into my pajamas so I could climb into bed and zonk out for the night. I didn’t sleep well that night. I kept worrying that the two alarms I set to wake me up for the race wouldn’t go off. And, at some point, Cathy had gotten out of her bed and turned the clock down because it “emitted too much light.” So, as I was tossing and turning, I went to check the time and couldn’t find it. I thought she unplugged it and was now pissed because I couldn’t reassure myself that I wouldn’t oversleep. UGH! The alarm went off a bit later…I got up…did my usual first alarm stuff…then climbed back into bed for less than an hour. More tossing and turning. Second alarm. Up to change and get ready for the race. I never felt so tired and unenthusiastic in my life. I grumbled a bit at her after I woke her up so she could get ready about the clock thing. The next few nights, the clock was left untouched.
We were up…and I ate my serving of cereal, as I often due on race morning. She had a breakfast bar. I filled up my water bottles with my water and electrolyte drinks, tucked my GU packets into pockets, and got pinned up with my race bib. It was 36 degrees that morning and I went back and forth on wearing a tank top or a short sleeve shirt. Given it was in the 30s, I opted for the shirt. I made sure my anklet with wings on it that my mom and dad got me for Christmas was on my ankle, then put on my hat, gloves, and coat. I was as ready as I was going to be. Grabbing two bananas for the road, we headed out. The valet had our car ready and we got inside, heading off to the start line, near where packet pickup was at Burke High School. We parked in one of the nearby parking lots with over an hour in time to spare, so I leaned the seat back and took a nap. Seriously. I was grumpy and tired and my foot had been bugging me slightly, so I said, “Screw it…I’m napping.”
No argument from Cathy, although she took a picture on my phone and put it up on Facebook. HA! She made me open my eyes around 7:15 to get out, stretch, eat my banana, and get acclimated. So…I reluctantly peeled myself out of the car. It was chilly, but not too bad. I walked over to the starting area where runners for both the marathon and half marathon were clustering. Some were being interviewed on camera. Some were talking with friends. I handed Cathy my banana and did some actual stretching. Especially with the foot…although it really didn’t help. Meh. Then, at about 7:30, I ate my banana and then continued to stretch until I decided I was done with that. We then looked around at all the runners, noting that most of them were doing the half marathon. I saw some great running tights that I now need to find and purchase for myself. And I noticed a guy near where I was standing who was going to go running in…sandals. Ouch. But, hey, to each their own.
The announcer said we were getting close to go time and that there were 49 states and 7 countries. The holdout state who didn’t show up…Hawaii. Naturally. Cathy said she was going to go get her spot to watch the start…so she wished me luck and I went to move further back into the pack. My goal for this race was to run it smart, run what I felt, and to run the entire way. With the foot acting up as of late though, I wasn’t sure how much of this I could accomplish. In the end, it’s just about crossing that finish line. No time goal for me…just to run well. I was also dedicating this race to a friend of mine, who I won’t list by name, but simply call her out by her first initial – N – who is going through a rough patch and I wanted to just run this for her.
The Charleston Marathon benefits the arts, so two students of a local school of the arts beautifully sang the National Anthem. And, moments after that…we were told to get ready…and GO!
We were off!
I started my Garmin as I crossed the start line, flashed a wave at Cathy as I ran by, and joined the very crowded start for an easy pace. It had to be an easy pace…which was good. Everything at the start was just crowded with both the marathon and half marathon runners, that it was just a slow start. Perfect. This kept me from going out too fast.
And that sort of set the pace (literally) for the remainder of the race. With one little glitch. After perfectly hitting that first mile, something went wrong. My watch beeped heading into Mile 2…and it was .25 miles further down the road that the mile marker stood. Um…perhaps they were getting a perfect 26 mile marking? I was trying to figure it out, but my brain wasn’t wrapping around it. Ah well…sometimes this happens and it fixes itself later on. I just kept on going. Miles 2 – 3 were spent on the beautiful coat line, with the palmeto trees, the battery, and the gorgeous mansion houses. I was just loving the scenery. Beautiful morning and a beautiful run.
Miles 3 – 9 were all spent on King Street. The first part of King Street being the shops and stores that you would find around most downtowns. There were clutches of people there to cheer on runners. I even noticed a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams shop just before my watch beeped to Mile 5. I love Jeni’s…
The other half of King Street was more industrial and a lot quieter. Once all the people and the shops were passed…and the houses gone…there was only the industrial district. Granted, there were race volunteers, police, and even entertainment scattered throughout, but much of this was definitely out of the way and going to be a bit of a lull in the small crowd that had been spectating before.
Just before Mile 10 there was the split for the half marathon and full marathon happened. This was slightly confusing as the race official said, “Split after the water station.” It meant…right after the water station. I was running along and both half and full marathoners were weaving over to get the water/Gatorade…and quite a few of us thought that the turn was up ahead where the half marathon continued on. But a race volunteer saw my yellow bib and said, “Full marathon turn here…RIGHT HERE!” Sharp pivot and off I went in the correct direction where some orange cones were set up. This was sort of a gravely area that gave way to broken pavement and then made a bit of a turn to an area that was an old Navy base. It was really fun to run in an area where all the signs said that proper identification was needed to enter. HA! This section of the run was pretty brutal…just because there was no one out there. Up until you make a turn to head out to Cooper River Marina. There was a group of cheerleaders out there as you headed onto the marina. This section was hard because about 3/4 of the way up the marina, there was a sign that had you turn around. Pinpoint turn. One of those turns my friend, Natalie, hates. I hate them too. This totally messed with the cadence and pace I had at the time, but I turned…and then took back off the other way. As we came off the marina, our time chips were read off. This was supposed to be around Mile 11.9…but as we know…I was ahead of the mile markers.
As I was around my halfway point, I saw Jennie, heading toward the old Navy base where I had just come from. We high-fived as we passed and I told her she was doing great. She was. And I hoped I would get to see her at another point. With this being said, let me point out that at this point, we have runners running one way and then the other way…in the same area…without cones up to keep the groups apart. In straightaways, like this part…it was fine. But when you’re trying to make turns on the tangents…this made for a right mess. Seriously. You had runners going opposite ways trying to occupy the same area. It was messy. Just before my watch beeped for Mile 15, we rejoined the half marathon route and headed up towards North Charleston.
Just before Mile 16, we branch off once again from the half marathon runners. The half marathon runners kept going straight. The marathon runners turned left onto McMillan Avenue. Now, Cathy had said she was going to try to catch me somewhere between Mile 17 and Mile 18…so I started looking for her as my watch hit Mile 17…and then further up the road…the Mile 17 marker was standing. There were a few clumps of people here and there…but not many. But as I was heading into Mile 18, there she was…under a bridge with a small clump of people. She started yelling, “GO TWIN! GO MY SON!” It was awesome. As she snapped a picture, I flashed some thumbs up and she said, “Come on…look happy!” LOL!! But, it turned out to be a great photo. And as I was heading out she shouted, “SEE YOU AT THE FINISH!”
So started the miles of looping through neighborhoods and schools. No…seriously. It was just this back and forth through turns and twists and it was just mind boggling. As I was heading into Mile 19, I saw runners come back my way, which meant…more doubling back was ahead. I heard the photographers complaining about having a race that criss-crosses like this. And I totally saw the validity in their point. It just became chaotic at points with runners occupying the same space, once again, going different directions. So, we wound up and around these roundabouts, of what I think they call Park Circle. As the miles ticked down, we ran past Academic Magnet School. So many twists and turns and out and backs. It was dizzying. Thank goodness for the arrows to direct us the correct way.
It was about Mile 22 that my pace started to slow. And it wasn’t that I was tired. It was that my foot started to act up. It had behaved for the most part all the way up to that point, but now each step was starting to hurt. I wasn’t going to give up. I was four miles away and hadn’t walked yet. I was doing this thing. So, I gritted my teeth, literally, and just focused on getting to that finish line. Mile 23 was much the same, and I eased up a bit more. Mile 24 felt like it had a bit of a downhill to it, but I slowed up some more, while still keeping with my plan to run the entire race. The course turns back toward the old Navy base and to the Noisette Park. This area was stunning, with views of the Cooper River, huge houses, the old base, etc. We were back on the same course as the half marathon runners. And there were a few still out there. Two miles. I told myself two miles.
Before I knew it, I was making a turn and being told that I had one more turn ahead to the finish. My watch had long since beeped Mile 26. I had no idea how much further I had to go, but I knew I had to be almost to the finish line, which was located in front of North Charleston High School. There was a definite crowd down here. And as I spotted one more final turn, I saw Cathy right on the corner, screaming for me to GO! I dug deep, and pushed it. That finish line was right ahead. And as I crossed that finish line, I threw my arms up in the air and just…took in the moment. I had finished my 9th marathon! Charleston Marathon…done. I paused my Garmin and moved through the chute to obtain my medal. I grabbed some water and made a turn and saw Cathy heading my way. She gave me a hug and told me how well I did. I told her I was hurting really bad. But…I felt good. I checked my Garmin…26.69 miles it said.
We meandered out of the crowd toward where the after party was happening. Runners were given free beer (not my thing…for obvious reasons) and free shrimp and grits (also not my thing, for obvious reasons). I went to go elevate my feet and call my mom and dad to tell them how I did…but as we were heading that way, I said we needed to get my official time at the results booth. We doubled back a little and went to do just that.
And there it was…3:40:54.
BRILLIANT! I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy with the time for my first Ultra Marathon (HAHAHA!). Well, it was my first marathon I went into feeling semi-ready. The only problem was my nagging plantar fasciitis, which I only aggravated in those last 4 miles. But hitting that finish line still feeling strong was an amazing feeling. With my official results now listed, I went to get my feet up and call my parents. Cathy went to claim the free shrimp and grits, which she said were watery and not all that good. She picked out the shrimp and ditched the rest. After I got off the phone with my parents, I was ready to head out. Amanda hadn’t made it to the finish…but after a shower and a change of clothes, we were all heading out for some sushi and then sight seeing. So, Cathy and I hopped onto the shuttle bus to go back to the start where the car was parked. I was moving slow, each step a little painful. But we got on the bus and found a seat. We were near the emergency exit and when we sat down, the seat pretty much sank. Leave it to us. Also, apparently after hitting a hard bump, the lever lifted up on the emergency door and the buzzer and alarm started sounding. Cathy managed to get that turned off eventually.
We were returned to the start line and I hobbled with Cathy’s help back to the car. I settled in, turned on the heat, and she drove us back to the hotel. I got cleaned up, Amanda came over, and we went out for the rest of the day. It was an amazing day. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.
So, the official results of the Charleston Marathon are that I ran 26.69 miles in 3:40:54. I was 112/1230 finishers over all. I was 26/580 females to cross the line. And I was 10/464 in my age division. I am over-the-moon with these results. I felt so good (save for the last four miles) for this entire race. And I feel it’s because I’ve taken a step back on the intensity of my training. I am resting and recovering better. It’s been awhile since I felt I could even do that. It was a great confidence booster.
Later, it came out that the lead vehicle took a wrong turn after Mile 1 and that’s what tacked on the extra .25 miles to the race. The race directors at the Charleston Marathon are remeasuring the race and adjusting everyone’s time to the 26.2 miles. But that might not happen until next week. So stay tuned for a new official time. Regardless…I’m damn proud of my performance and how I did on this run. Long, slow distance. Gorgeous scenery. Not perfect…but not bad either. It was great to run in Charleston. What a fantastic way to explore this historic city.
And N…(you know who you are!)…this one was for you!