I wasn’t sure how this race was going to go after the major letdown in Savannah. I signed up for the Thunder Road full on the drive back home, but I wasn’t mentally into it at all. I had a work conference that week along with general craziness and it wasn’t until I went to packet pickup on Friday afternoon that I finally got into race mentality and was actually getting excited about the race the next day.
The good news is that I had done the half marathon the year before as well as preview runs of almost the entire full course, so I mostly knew what to expect. Beth and I decided to meet up before the race at her office uptown which was great because we had a place to get ready inside, easy access to bathrooms and we got to see the sunrise!
About 20 minutes before the start of the race, we headed outside, stopped by the gear check truck and then went to the start line. There are no corrals for this race, so it’s just one big start line area, with breaks in the barricades to let people in. Beth wanted to meet up with her running group and we got separated in the corral as it was packed! I actually started behind the 5:45 pace group, but with how tight the corral was, the pacers were all mixed up for awhile. I passed the 5:45 pace group, then the 5:15 pace group and then the 5:30 pace group within the first mile (in that order).
I planned to do 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking, but I ran through the first set as there’s a pretty good downhill portion to start the race and that helped thin out the crowd a bit. My goal was still to break 5 hours, but I didn’t use a pace band this time. I had the 4:45 band on for Savannah and I realized that it took away one of my major distraction techniques since I no longer had to do math at every mile, plus I didn’t want to get down on myself if I started to fall behind the pace I wanted to go.
The first half of the race was pretty uneventful and I caught up to one of my friends around the 10.5 mile mark, but she was having a rough day and ended up DNF the full, but she did complete the half just two days after her team won the women’s soccer championship and she later told me she definitely would not be playing soccer that close to a marathon again. It’s hard to figure out how to prioritize your commitments when they end up back-to-back like that, so I don’t envy the position she was in at all.
The worst part of the first half was running past Price’s Chicken Shack and having to smell them cooking the day’s food – I could have done without that! But, before I knew it, I was coming up on the dreaded split, where the marathoners come within one block of the finish line before looping around the baseball stadium and heading back out for the rest of the course. I was surprised at the lack of crowd support here – I literally saw 5 people on the backside of the stadium and 2 of them were volunteers working the timing mat – very disappointing for sure! This is where I pulled out my headphones and decided to stop paying attention to my watch for awhile. I ran a good first half and now just had to mentally get through the uptown portion again before I’d be heading out into NoDa and Plaza Midwood.
Around the 15 mile mark, I was trying to figure out my pace and mixed up converting my hours to minutes and thought my pace had jumped up over 13:00 / mile and I had to redo the calculations like three times before I figured out what my issue was. Like I said, it’s a really good distraction technique, especially when you’re getting tired!
I took a quick pit stop just after mile 18 and I’m not sure what happened, but I suddenly felt really nauseous and had to walk for about half a mile before I felt good enough to start shuffling along again. During my walk / shuffle, I got passed by the 4:30 pace group, which I didn’t even remember passing in the first place, but I was excited to see it wasn’t a later group passing me.
After about 10 minutes where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to continue, I got back into a groove and when I hit the 20 mile mark, I knew I was going to be able to break 5 hours – I had over an hour and a half to do the final 10k, so even if I had another meltdown, I was going to do it!
From about mile 24.5-25.5 of this race is almost all uphill, so I did a lot of walking on my second trip back into uptown for the day, but once I hit the top of the hill, I let the hill pull me down towards the finish and picked up some speed before crossing the line in 4:46:42! I finished this race 41:41 faster than my first marathon and couldn’t be happier with how it went – this was definitely the race I trained for!
At the finish line, they were handing out extras of all the food and drinks, so I got a good stash and then went to the grass beside the finish line to check on Beth. She ended up finishing in 5:10, taking almost a full hour off her first marathon time and we promptly set off to take pictures with our new medals and our (finally earned) marathon finisher’s jackets from Savannah.
Just two more races left in 2015 and the next one is the complete opposite direction – seeing how fast I can finish a 5k!