On Saturday the husband became an official marathon finisher. Over the past 18 weeks I documented our training ups and downs on this blog. We had some great runs and some challenging runs. We ran in the negative temperatures of the polar vortex, indoors on treadmills to beat the chill, in rain, in sleet, in a foot of snow, in gorgeous spring weather, and everything in between.
Training for a marathon through all these types of weather builds your confidence and teaches you you can do difficult things. Marathon training prepares you for the difficult miles ahead not unlike those of life. Training teaches you there will be miles that hurt and miles that take your breath away. There will be miles that are lost and miles you want to lose it in. All of these miles add up to the distance we completed on Saturday and sometimes are experienced all in one race.
Friday evening we left town to stay in a hotel just outside of Kenosha. We stopped at an Olive Garden in Madison for some pre-race fuel. We had been saving our Olive Garden gift card we received for Christmas and used Hotwire to get a deal on our hotel room. We arrived to our room at 9:30, laid out our outfits for the next morning and got to bed around 10:30. This may be the most rest I’ve gotten the night before a race in a long time.
Saturday morning we were up by 5:15. We quickly showered, got our race gear on, and packed the items we had laid out that we’d need for the race like Gu’s. I’d carefully packed everything and laid it out the night before. My race outfit had been chosen three nights earlier. We double checked the weather, loaded directions on the phone, and were off. As we walked down the hall to the car, I thought about all the emotions Ryan must have been feeling and about how I felt on the day of my first marathon. It made my stomach flip just thinking about it.
We arrived to the race and parked a few blocks away. Parking was a breeze and we arrived to the start with plenty of time to visit the bathroom, snap a few pictures, and enjoy the emotions of the start line.
It was around this time that I ran into Stacy from In it for the Long Run. We had both ran at the Wisconsin Marathon and Half Marathon (her the full, me the half) last year where we’d hoped to meet, but it wasn’t our day. Today was. She was originally hoping to BQ, but was dealing with a “setback.” Check out her blog post about her Wisconsin Marathon experience.
Immediately upon seeing Stacy I noticed her purple Garmin 220 watch. I noticed this because I have the same one and it wasn’t on my wrist. I had forgotten the freakin’ watch in the car. I have been so forgetful lately that this shouldn’t even surprise me. I was immediately upset. This was Ryan’s marathon and I wanted to make sure we were running a smart pace the entire race. I told Ryan if the race course took us within a couple of blocks of our vehicle, then I’d run to the car and get the watch. I still couldn’t figure out how I’d left the watch in the car.
With the start only minutes away I didn’t have too much time to worry. The national anthem rang while I silently freaked out. I’d never run a marathon without knowing my pace. I decided I’d start the stopwatch on my phone as I knew from experience the RunKeeper GPS would kill the battery around mile 17-18, and I also wanted to be able to take a few photos. This is sick irony in a way as Ryan is a math teacher. The mental math we did during this race was crazy.
Finally we were off. We quickly learned that the course was not going to go near the car so it was time to suck it up, buttercup. The first miles took us through downtown Kenosha. This area is cute and kitschy in its own way. The next few miles looped out along Lake Michigan. The views were beautiful. The houses huge, and the miles fast. Around mile two we peaked at the stopwatch and saw we were running near nine minute miles. We were okay with this, but had a goal to run around 8:45 pace. This pace was conservative, but allowed us to bank some time, too. Around mile two Stacy caught up with us. We chatted about the forgotten watch, her “setback” and goals, and running races in general. Around mile five we separated and I wished her well. I knew she would do great considering her alternative race plan as she was rocking some awesome fast paces in her training earlier this year. I know a BQ is only a race away for her. Take care of yourself though, girl!
Miles 5-7 took us back into the downtown area, along Lake Michigan (above), and looped back past the start. We checked our pace at mile five and we were just under nine minute mile pace. As you loop past the start and the half marathon splits from the marathon we naturally checked in with ourselves. How do we feel? Are we fueling right? What is our plan? We both felt good, felt the pace was manageable, and decided to keep on keepin’ on.
It was around this time that we caught the above awesome view and ran up on a hilarious group of runners. They were so funny and we “drafted” behind them for a mile laughing along the way. At one point we came up on a mile two marker. Someone from the group commented, “WTF we are only at mile two. Son of a bitch this isn’t going well.” When running long distances things make you laugh easily (and other times nothing makes you laugh.) Next they were joking about making jigsaw puzzles out of the view and how you definitely had to start with the horizon line. A moment later they were singing I’ll Be There For You…cue Friends. Still one of the best shows ever.
Around the halfway point we moved around the funny group and double checked our time. We came through the half way mark at 1:54:30. We were running an 8:45 pace at the half way mark and we were pumped. It was around this time that I hit a mental funk. I just felt ugh. I can’t really explain it. At mile 14 Ryan had to take bathroom break at the port-o-potty that appeared out of no where as were due to enter the Kenosha Sand Dunes area. Excellent choice on his part as I don’t recall a bathroom for miles…err till the finish.
I stretched it out and snapped a picture while he port-o-johned it. Ryan came out asking if something was moving the port-o-potty. Some nearby girls played along with me as I thanked them for shaking the port-o-potty. In reality, I have no clue what he was talking about. The thing didn’t move an inch.
The break and the laugh found me in a better mood. We also headed into a packed gravel road. Reviewers complained about the second half of the course, but I thought it was peaceful and beautiful. I enjoyed the marshish feel, the sounds of birds and frogs in early spring, and the seclusion. If you love rows of fans this isn’t for you. If you don’t mind you, your thoughts, and you then you wouldn’t mind.
As we approached mile 19 Ryan started to have muscle pains. We came through mile 20 at 2:58:30. We were doing awesome in pacing for Ryan to finish under four hours (his goal.) Around this point however Ryan began to experience muscle cramps in his hamstrings, calves, and behind his knees. In all of his training runs he never had cramps once. I attribute this to the warmer (but so gorgeous-near 60) temperatures on race day. He also drank no water before the race because his bladder is similar to the size of a small child’s. I did not tell him to skip out on all water, but he took my suggestion to limit his water before the race to mean drink nothing. Lesson learned.
The next miles were hard. Mile 22 our time was 3:20. The past two miles took us 21:30. Not good. I was nervous. I helped us devise a plan. At each mile marker we would walk a minute and then run until the next marker-no walking. We carried this plan out almost perfectly. We had some intense exchanges as Ryan felt terrible despite never feeling bad in a 22 mile AND a 20 mile training run. I waffled between cheerleader and keep your damn mouth shut, he’s in pain. I felt terrible that he was feeling rough.
Near mile 25.5 I told Ryan he could not slow down. We needed to keep the pace to achieve his goal. At mile 26 he told me his whole body was cramping; I told him he couldn’t slow down or he’d miss his goal. As we came down the home stretch I spotted some of Ryan’s family with a big sign that said Happy 30th Sarah. My family and some of our friends were on the right. We came through the finish holding hands in the air. Our finish time 3:59:35. My stopwatch was 14 seconds ahead of the chip time. We did it. Ryan did it. And boy did he.
I didn’t make the connection about why everyone was at the finish until later because I was so excited and proud of him for finishing in under four hours. I wanted him to soak it in, enjoy every moment, and feel prouder than ever.
It was part of a surprise birthday party he had planned for me. He kept telling me he was running the marathon for my 30th birthday. I didn’t get what he meant. What he meant was he wanted to plan a birthday surprise that was all about the things I love, that was personal and special to me. He nailed it on the head. Running together and training was ultimately an awesome experience. To culminate it with family and friends was even better.
Little did I know there was more. He had reserved a block of rooms at nice hotel (I heart!) in the Historic Third Ward (my favorite part of Milwaukee) where everyone met after the race for drinks, then we bar hopped along Milwaukee’s river walk, and finally he had a reservation for the 25 in our group at the Water Street Brewery for dinner. Then it was out with friends for the night. The day was me to a T. He combined my favorite things (friends and family, marathons, swanky hotels, Historic Third Ward Milwaukee, craft brews, breweries, and awesome food.) What an awesome husband I have. He took a day that should have been about him and made it into the perfect birthday surprise. He gets me. And for that I’m so grateful.
Time: 3:59: 34 (Ryan) and 3:59: 35 (Sarah) He won between us!
Overall: 284/847 (Ryan) and 285/847 (Sarah)
Gender: 199/463 and 86/384
Age Group: 31/58 and 18/71