Tupelo Marathon 2011Posted: September 11, 2011 | Author: Kaitlin | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
I feel a bit like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth this week. It’s not that I’m sick, or hurt, or avoiding writing; I just seem to have come down with a very peculiar form of lazy. All I’ve wanted to do this week is eat and run. And not much else. I’ve been working, of course, and getting what I need to get done, done, but otherwise this week has been a much-needed mental break. After basking in our marathon accomplishment, we’ve spent most of the week eating simple meals, watching documentaries on Netflix, and running how and when we feel like it. I was treated (by James) to my first deep-tissue massage on Friday at Salon 2940, and it was amazing. We made some pretty amazing black bean and sweet potato enchiladas yesterday, mostly from this recipe, but I was still in my lazy mode and didn’t take any pictures. But, it’s time to get back to it. And it’s time to write the race recap that I’ve been meaning to write since last Monday.
We were lucky enough to have our own cheering section and chauffeurs in my dad and his wife, Donna. They picked us up Saturday morning, and we made our way to Mississippi. We stopped for lunch in Birmingham at a place called Niki’s West. It’s a traditional “meat and three,” but it had a huge selection of vegetables, beans, and other vegetarian-friendly sides. It was rated by Jane and Micheal Stearn as one of the best “Road Food” restaurants in the country, and I can see why. I got butter beans, a zucchini-tomato stew, and steamed broccoli, and enjoyed every bite.
When we got to Tupelo, we headed straight to Trail and Treads, the local running store, to pick up our numbers and packets. I was so jealous of James’s number–he got 77, which has always been my lucky number. Unfortunately, they kind of frown on the whole trading numbers thing… no matter how cool it is. I got number 98, which I suppose isn’t too bad. It was a pretty cool little running store, with a good supply of clothes and shoes, and a 20% off sale that I just couldn’t resist. I know you’re not supposed to change anything on race day, but I’ve been running in the same tank and shorts for almost a year, so I talked myself into a new outfit. Plus, I love the bright, eighties colors that Nike has out right now, and they looked pretty cool with my shoes.
For dinner, we went for the traditional pre-race pasta dinner (since there weren’t a lot of vegetarian options in Tupelo). We ate at Vanelli’s, a local Italian and Greek restaurant, and just got small bowls of spaghetti with marinara sauce. I asked for them to add some steamed vegetables to mine, which they did with no problems, and it ended up being the perfect amount of food. After a training season plagued with stomach issues, I wanted to keep things as light and simple as I could. After dinner, we laid out all of our clothes and “equipment” for the race (shoes, garmins, waterbottles, gus, and race numbers), and headed to bed as early as we could.
Even though we went to bed early, the 3:30 alarm seemed to go off too soon. We made our peanut butter sandwiches (peanut butter and banana for me), got dressed, and had a short pump-up dance party in our hotel room (don’t laugh…). Our chauffeurs/cheering squad kindly got up and drove us over to the race start at 4:30, where we introduced them to a culture that they didn’t even know existed: the hundreds of runners willing to meet before 5 in the morning to run 26.2 miles. The weather was perfect; despite being warned that it would be “hotter than hell,” the cold front brought by Tropical Storm Lee gave us a starting temperature in the low 60′s. The sky was cloudy with the threat of rain, but, despite checking the weather dozens of times that weekend, we figured we were going to run this marathon, whether it rained or not. The race was fairly small, with only about 300 marathoners and a few hundred more 14.2-mile runners. When it got close to the starting time, we lined up at the starting line. Unlike other races, there was no gun or yell, or really anything to get us started. At 5, everyone just kind of started running.
That low-key atmosphere continued for most of the race. We started in the dark, and ran on quiet, rolling country roads, which made it feel just like my favorite kind of long run. At the time, I couldn’t really process the fact that I was running a marathon (I still can’t, really), and just tried to think of it as a fun, long run in a cool place with interesting people. There weren’t many spectators, and it was easy to just zone out and enjoy the run. It started sprinkling around mile 4 or so, and continued for the whole race, but most of it just kept us cool and comfortable.
We struggled a bit to find our pace, but for the most part, the first 13 miles flew by. We crossed the halfway point at 2:00:10 (or so), which put us a little bit behind where we wanted to be. While we knew that we shouldn’t set a time goal for our first marathon, we had a super-secret-hopeful goal of 4 hours, so we knew we had to speed up a little bit on the second half. We took our first Gus at mile 13, and we still felt good and strong, so we didn’t really think that would be a problem.
Unfortunately, it was in the second half that we started to have some problems. James hadn’t really used Gus on most of his training runs, and he started to have pain in his stomach around mile 15. He kept running, but in miles 18-on he was in some pretty severe pain. He decided to walk the water stops, which were every 2 miles, and we slowed down our pace, which had been a little faster than our goal time anyway. We decided that the most important thing was that we finish the race, no matter what our time was, and that we finish together. At this point, it also started to rain harder, so that by the end of the race we were running through a steady downpour.
At mile 20 (after climbing the biggest hill of the race at mile 19.5), we saw that we had about an hour to run the last 6 miles, so we settled into our pace, and pushed through it. While I felt pretty good, and strangely didn’t have any of the issues that I faced during almost every training run, I could see that James was in pain. The last few miles were on the side of a fairly busy road, and we pounded out the miles as the rain poured and the cars swerved around us. Despite the way we felt, as soon as the finish line was in sight, we found the energy to sprint (or at least what felt like a sprint after running 26 miles). We crossed the finish line at 3:59:36, with 24 seconds to spare, holding hands.
After the race, we had hugs all around from our cheering squad, changed clothes, and ate some of the post-race offerings. When they posted the times, I saw that I had come in as the thirteenth woman overall, and that I was second in my age group! While I’m generally not a big fan of waiting around after races, there was no way I was going to leave the state without that second-place award. Even though James had the same time, he happens to be in a really fast age group (males ages 29 and under), so he ended up finishing 6th in his.
After the ceremony and a quick shower at the hotel, we made a much-deserved trip to IHOP, where we indulged in some post-race pancakes and waffles. We then passed out in the back seat of my dad’s car as we made the trip back to the heart of Alabama in the pouring rain.
While everything didn’t go exactly as planned, it was one of the best races we’ve ever done. The small, local feeling was exactly the kind of atmosphere we like–we’re minimalists, remember? Not big fans of huge parties or big fanfares. While we’ll definitely do other races (and hopefully other marathons), we’re already planning to run Tupelo again next year. Plus, you can’t get medals much cooler than this: