After much fretting (whining) about the weather, I finally decided to pack a whole lot of possible clothes and just see how I felt. We left Friday for D.C., arriving at the Metro station around 5:00 to ride the train with my parents to the Expo. This makes sense to any parents of toddler boys but possibly to no one else. Our dear little boy talks about trains all the time. When he figured out that he'd get to ride a train on our trip, he started planning: "Meme ride big train? Pop-pop ride big train? MINE ride big train? Together?" It was pretty adorable and a great way to catch up instead of sitting in traffic. The Expo was fine; at this point in the evening we realized that the little one had suspect pants, no change of diaper, and one long Metro ride before anything could fix the situation. Hilarity ensued and we got out of there fairly quickly.
My dad graciously agreed to drive me to the race start so that I wouldn't have to get there on my own or try the Metro, which wouldn't open until 6:00. I didn't really sleep the night before; every hour I woke up to make sure my alarm clock was still working, which of course it was. At 5:00 it went off loud and clear and I bolted out of bed. I had my lovely breakfast of peanut butter toast and coffee and then we were off! The traffic was not pretty. I was so glad my dad was driving so I could just freak out quietly about how close it was getting to 6:45. We finally got to the stadium parking lot, Dad dropped me off, and I went off on a double quest for a potty and pins for my race number. I had gotten pins at the Expo, and they were still in the pocket of my jeans, tucked away safely in my bedroom. Oops. I found the line for the port-a-potties and in that (very long) line I found pins. The race officially started well before I got to the front of the bathroom line, but thanks to chip timing I did not even consider leaving the line. Decidedly worth it.
So, for the actual race! The first few miles were cold and a little sardine-like, but at about 3 miles I settled in and felt good. I could feel my hands and toes, I was thankful for my mom's gloves because I'd forgotten my own, and my music was perfect. I went pretty fast up until the half-way point. Some of my mile splits were below 8:00! I'd look down at my Garmin, see the lap (mile) average, and say to myself oh crap, this is going to hurt me later. I tried to slow down but could not. That 8:00-8:15 pace felt great, conservative even at times. I knew, however, that I could not keep it up. I had not trained hard enough to run that pace for an entire marathon, so I was really scared about how exactly my body would finally implode.
Well, at the half I began to find out. It wasn't dramatic or painful; I simply slowed down. My pace went from too fast to just a little too fast, hovering around 8:30-8:40. Mind you, this is still faster than I thought I'd be running at all during the race. My family managed to catch me right around mile 14 for the first of several meet-ups. They had these great shirts that said Team Margie and DC Marathon 2011 on the front and, when put together in the right order, made26.2 on the back. Little man was the period! Seeing them picked me up a lot. I managed my first-ever race pit stop around mile 15 or 17. It was totally worth it. The only problem was pain in my right ankle, exactly where I experienced it in February. It felt like my laces were too tight across the front of my foot, but they weren't. It hurt but I was pretty sure it would go numb, so that's what I bet on. As luck would have it, it did! (More on that later).
I saw the family (plus a family friend!) again at mile 20. We saw each other from far away this time, and I stopped to hug the little one. The body and the mind are so connected, and I see that the most when something as simple as a wave or a hug from loved ones can literally make my legs feel better. I was tired, a little achy, and worried about finishing strong. Suddenly I saw them, talked briefly with them, and raced away feeling lighter. Magical.
I didn't hit a wall with my first marathon, but I think that's because I didn't really push myself in terms of pace. I found miles 22-25 very difficult this time around. The pain in my ankle came back and my calves were getting tight. The course was flat at this point but windy. Miles 23 and 25 were my only splits over 9 minutes. Even my port-a-potty mile was under 9:00. I am proud for getting through those miles and finishing strong. I picked the pace back up and felt fast and in control as I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 3:44:31, a 6-minute PR and much faster than I expected. I am so proud! I found the family soon after I crossed the line. I proudly wore my medal and my space blanket on the Metro to a glorious lunch of seafood enchiladas and coffee. My right ankle hurt like hell, my left wasn't much better, and I didn't care because I was done.
More later, with pictures, too. Thanks for reading this ramble!