Grand Rapids Marathon 2009

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Cheri & I after the race

The morning of the marathon, I woke early.  I drank some coffee and continued deliberating in my mind what pace team I was going to try to stick with.  The pace teams are separated by celebrities marathon race times.  If you’re only doing the half marathon, you can divide it in half to see your ending time.  I was stuck between Will Ferrel’s time and P. Diddy.  Will had finished in about 3:58 and Diddy 4:14.  My goal was 1:59 (just under 2hrs).  But was that realistic?  I would have to run 25 seconds/mile faster than I had done the Bridge run to accomplish that goal.  Was that feasible to start out that fast or would I burn out?  I still hadn’t decided as I met up with Cheri to drive downtown.

Parking was harder this year.  It seemed that there were a lot more people or we were a bit later than the previous year.  Cheri and I finally found an empty spot at a meter.  We put on all our gear and headed to the Burger King across from the start of the race to use the facilities.  Let me tell you, what a great idea that was!  I don’t even think it was 30 degrees that morning and it was nice to warm up our muscles and wait out the time inside a warm building.  The BK employees seemed unbothered by the flock of runners in their restaurant and the people that were eating watched in amusement as all of us in tight spandex stretched out.

It was nearing race time and I found the P. Diddy pace team to line up.  I figured it would be better to run with them and if I felt strong enough to pull away, I could later.  We stood in the cold waiting and anticipating the starting buzzer.  Nervous butterflies flew and fluttered in my belly as I bounced in place, trying to warm my legs.

If you’ve never ran in a race, let me tell you that the start is a little anticlimactic.  Unless you’re super fast, you’re going to be further behind and when the buzzer sounds, your heart flips but you just stand there.  A moment later, you might begin your walk to the starting line and eventually (in our case 1min later), you actually cross it.  Finally, we were there and we started running. 

The first 4 miles were through downtown this year.  We’d loop around and cross the Grand River a couple of times before heading to the trail.  It was a nice contrast of city/nature and the change of scenery was pleasant.  The morning was cold and we were layered.  Dan & the kids would be waiting at mile 4 and we could toss our top layer to him at that time but I was warmed up and ready to shed at mile 2. 

I wish I could say that I felt amazing running that day.  I would have loved to be in the same euphoric state that the Bridge Run held for me this year but honestly, I wasn’t.  The pervasive illness that had started a week before was plaguing me.  My body didn’t really hurt but it didn’t seem to be appreciating the strain I was putting on it.  I tried to focus on seeing my babies faces at mile 4.  Surely, that would change everything. 

Running is such a mental game and flipping the switch in your brain can really change it all.  I saw Dan standing there, Emma laying on the grass and Gerrit sitting on the ground all waiting to watch me run by.  I couldn’t help but smile and wave like an idiot as I approached.  It warmed my heart and gave me a boost of energy to see them and know that they were cheering me on.  Like a shotblok to my soul.  I tossed them my vest and continued on with determination in my step.

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The trail was a couple of miles up the road and I looked forward to a fall color show as the sun lifted into the cold autumn sky.  Cheri and I continued on, commenting briefly on how the scenery was beautiful.  As the trail curved and rose, we could see a long line of runners ahead.  It’s amazing to see that many people all striving together, working towards their goal.  We kept our talking to a minimum and focused on staying with our pace team.

By mile 7, we were really wondering where the heck the GU was!  The course was relatively flat, with just some small hills.  Still, the pace we were keeping was quick and we were looking forward to that pick me up.  Finally, we spotted the GU just before the half marathon turnaround at the 8.5mile marker.  The full marathon runners kept on and we turned around.  Somehow, during the transition, I lost the pace team. 

I picked it up a notch, trying to locate them.  How had I lost so much time grabbing GU?  The turnaround was awkward and I had to change my gait while doing it.  Where was the pace team?  I left Cheri behind me in my scramble to suck down my GU and widen my stride.  It was nearly mile 10 when I came up on them and I knew it was decision time.  If I stayed with P. Diddy pacers, I would finish 2:07.  That would be much better than my time from last year but not the goal I had in mind.  As I approached the red shirted pacers, I knew I would regret it if I hung loose with them and didn’t push myself harder.  It was do or die time.  I passed them and braved the rest of the race alone. 

Back to the city I ran.  Passed the loud speakers and strangers cheering us on.  You can do it!  You’re awesome!  They clapped and gave us a thumbs up sign.  A lady rocked out on a fake guitar to the music blaring and it made me laugh.  I passed the water stations, I passed trees, I passed people.  What a difference!  Last year, I felt passed by so many and now, I was charging ahead.

I checked my Garmin for my time and mileage.  I had 1.5 miles left and a little over 10 min to accomplish my goal.  It seemed impossible.  I quickened my pace.  I reached mile 12 and I hit a wall.  My legs were tired, my determination waning.  I felt discouragement that I wasn’t going to hit my goal time but tried to remain positive.

1 more mile, Chris, 1 more mile.  You can always run 1 mile.  1 mile isn’t anything.  You can always run 1 more mile.  You can do this.  Keep going. 

I find sometimes always that trash talking helps me during a difficult time and I tried that for a while.  Suck it Wealthy street!  You can’t stop me.  Go to hell street light.  I ain’t stopping.  I’m almost there.  My mind started singing the line from Yes, Anastasia… we’ll see how brave you are, we’ll see how fast you’ll be running.  Yes, we will see won’t we?

Finally, I saw the finish line.  It still felt so far away!  I checked my Garmin again and struggled to keep my pace.  My eyes scanned the crowd looking for Dan & the kids.  I knew if I saw them, I could do it.  I heard my name and my heart lifted. 

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Scanning the crowd for Dan & the kids

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I see them ahead!

When I heard them cheer me on, I pushed it.  I gave it all I had and finished as big as I could.

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Big finish time

As I crossed the finish line, I checked my time…

2:05:29
Distance HALF MAR
Clock Time 2:07:08
Chip Time 2:05:29
Overall Place 690 / 1444
Gender Place 319 / 869
Division Place 72 / 167
Age Grade 52.6%
Total Pace 9:35/M

I was surprised at the emotion that I felt when I finished.  I found Dan and hugged him.  I was proud of my time and what I had accomplished.  It choked me up for a second.  My results last year were

2:20:47
Distance HALF MAR
Clock Time 2:22:49
Chip Time 2:20:47
Overall Place 901 / 1168
Gender Place 484 / 687
Division Place 81 / 106
Age Grade 46.8%

Quite a difference!  It felt good to smash it and I was so proud of Cheri for her time as well.  We both took a tremendous amount of time off and that feels good. 

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Emma, Gerrit & I after the race.

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About Chris

These are the pieces of my life and those that make it worth living
This entry was posted in Becoming, Cool as ice, Half-marathon, Me, My family, Other Peeps, Running, Shout outs, The kids, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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