The Back Story
As an endurance athlete, my eventual goal (and it may take a while) is to do a marathon in all 50 states. Since I’ve done a couple in Texas (my home state) I didn’t need another one, but that all changed a few years ago.
Those of you who know me, know that I graduated from Texas A&M University in College Station. In 2014, my daughter started her college journey there. At some point I discovered that there is a marathon there and said I’d do it before Madison graduated.
I had recently become self-employed before she went to college, so doing the 2014 race and spending money on race fees and a hotel was out of the question. I think 2015 was the year Kyle Field was being expanded and there was lots of construction on campus, causing the race course to be modified. I ruled that year out as well.
In 2016, my daughter and her roommate decided they were going to do the half-marathon. I asked my daughter if she wanted me to do the race with her or if she wanted me to spectate. “Spectate” was her answer, so I didn’t sign up. Turns out that come race day and probably less than a mile in, my daughter got sick and was done. No race finish for her.
So, if I was going to do it while she was in school, this was the year. I signed up and convinced several of my friends to do the race as well. My daughter and her new boyfriend decided to give the half-marathon a go this year as well.
Training (or the lack thereof)
Being a RRCA run coach, I know how to put together training plans. Once I registered, I got out the calendar and laid out a plan. I knew that I wouldn’t take an aggressive approach for this race – I wasn’t planning on trying to PR and I had several continuing education trainings scheduled for the fall that would make it hard to get in many longer runs. I started off following the plan well, but also struggled with some upper hamstring issues on my right side and some sacroiliac issues on my left side (no doubt, related). And then the fall arrived.
In September and October, I had four weekends of training. Three weekends of pre-natal yoga teacher training that lasted all day and one weekend of Spartan Obstacle Specialist that lasted all day and meant traveling. I was also out of town some in August and September to move my son into his dorm at college and then again for Parent’s Weekend. Add a last minute trip in November to officiate at Ironman Arizona and, well, the long runs just didn’t happen.
While I respect the distance and knew that I wouldn’t have a great race, I knew I could get through the miles, even if it took a long time.
Saturday morning we headed to College Station. We had lunch when we arrived and then went to packet pick-up. As we arrived to the entrance of packet pick-up, I thought this was an interesting entrance.
Little did I know how foretelling that would be. After packet pick-up we headed to Academy to get a few last minute items (like gloves for the new runners who hadn’t thought about things like that).
That evening, a total of 10 of us met for our carb-loading dinner. We had a nice time and chatted about strategies for the race. At this point, I still didn’t know if I would do a run/walk combo from the start or just run for as long as I could and then start the run/walk combo.
When we got back from dinner, I got sucked into Pitch Perfect for a little bit, but at 9:30 made myself go to bed. My daughter let us stay in her room and she and her boyfriend took the couches and air mattress.
Let me also say that my daughter lives in a 4-bedroom house with 3 other roommates. Two rooms are upstairs and two are downstairs. My daughter’s room is downstairs, right by the front door and right by the wooden staircase. The house is not sound proof. One of her roommates is a vet tech at a veterinary clinic and was on call, so I knew she might be going in and out during the night. I knew a good night sleep was probably not possible. Little did I know.
Around 1:30am, I woke up when I heard the front door open and close. I figured it was her roommate going into work. Then I heard some footsteps on the stairs and some noise for a while. I figured maybe another roommate had come home from a night out. A little while later, my daughter came in her room where we were sleeping and got something. Then I could tell the light in the living room had been turned on. I sent her a text message asking if everything was ok.
Well, it wasn’t. Her boyfriend was sick and not in a good way. I knew at that point he would not be racing. Around 3:00, my daughter came in to say they needed to go to the emergency room because he was getting dehydrated and cramping really bad. Our suspicion – food poisoning. My husband went with them while I tried to get another hour or so of sleep. It didn’t work.
At 5am, I got up and got dressed. They were still at the emergency room, but arrived back home at 5:45. Just in time to take me to the race. At this point, my daughter decided she wouldn’t be racing either. If she did, she would have no sleep and wouldn’t be able to stay awake later to study for finals.
When we got to the race site, I hit the port-o-potties and then rushed to find my friends. I found them just before the national anthem. As soon as that was over, I stripped off my extra layers and it was time to go. I still hadn’t decided my race philosophy. Oh well.
As I started running, to told myself just to hold a nice easy pace and not push it. I felt pretty good. No pain in the hamstring, so I decided to just run as far as I could and see what happened. I was actually surprised at my pace when I hit mile 1 in 9:23 because I really felt like I was running slower. I just kept reminding myself to not get caught up in the crowd.
Mile 2: 9:25
Mile 3: 9:28
Mile 4: 9:38
Around mile 4 was where the half marathoners split off from the full. At this point I knew it would get a little lonely. The race only had about 3,000 runners and only about 1,000 were doing the full. I knew a lot of marathoners were already ahead of me and only hoped there were as many still behind me.
At the race start it was in the high 30s. I had on shorts, but three layers on top. I knew I would heat up quickly and want to ditch one, so my family said they would try to catch me around mile 5 or 6.
Mile 5: 9:33
Mile 6: 9:54
Since I was feeling ok, I wanted to keep running until I got to them at least. When I saw them, I started to strip off my top layer.
I knew if I stopped to do it, I wouldn’t keep running. I didn’t want to stop. I chunked it to my daughter as I ran by.
Mile 7: 9:42
Mile 8: 9:45
College Station is a pretty flat town, but we hit the first decent incline as we ran down Villa Maria and under Wellborn. I was able to keep running, which made me happy, as I’ve struggled with my breathing on “hills” lately.
Mile 9: 10:01
Mile 10: 9:46
Mile 11: 10:18
I think I managed to run 11 miles or so before I finally stopped for a walk break, and it was on another incline. I allowed myself to walk to the top and then started running again. At first, I just ran again for as long as I felt ok and then walked for no more than 1 minute. At some point, I started a 4/1 run/walk ratio.
Mile 12: 11:00
Mile 13: 11:02
Mile 14: 10:16
Somewhere between mile 15 and 16, I saw a friend of ours who is also a runner. She was there with her run group to cheer on some first time marathoners and she cheered me on as I went past. That helped a lot, so thanks Melissa!
Mile 15: 11:18
Mile 16: 10:57
It was somewhere around here that the 4:15 pace group passed me. I started calculating if it was possible for me to still break 5 hours. My legs were starting to hurt and I knew I couldn’t keep up a fast pace. Not too long after that, the 4:30 pace group went past.
At this point, we had gotten close to campus and I was running on parts of west campus that I’ve run on or ridden on during the Tri Aggieland.
Mile 17: 11:28
Mile 18: 12:17
Mile 19: 12:17
Mile 20: 13:25
Running through Northgate just past mile 21, I ran past Santa Claus.
Mile 21: 13:51
Running through campus was fun and I knew I was getting closer to the finish line. When the 5:00 pace group went past, I knew I didn’t have the “umph” to come in under 5:00. I wasn’t trying to PR, I didn’t need to prove anything to myself or anyone else, and I figured I’d enjoy the last of the race.
As I got near mile 22, I saw Joel. At this point, I was doing more walking than running. I told him it would be another hour before I got to the finish and I decided from there that I would walk the last 4 miles.
I did manage to smile and look good for the photographer just down the road from Joel.
I was kind of glad I did I decided to walk. As I went past the quad, I got kind of emotional. My freshman year, I actually lived on the quad. The quad is the part of campus where the corps members live. My freshman year, they didn’t have enough corps members to fill up all of the dorms, so they opened one to female students and that’s where I lived. I absolutely loved living there and the friends I made my freshman year. Besides, the corps is such a large part of the Aggie tradition. From there, we headed toward the Albriton tower, yet another significant part of Texas A&M.
Mile 23: 15:08
Mile 24: 16:10
Mile 25: 16:33
I made sure to thank all of the police officers at every corner and to cheer for the runners who were still running and passed me toward the end. At one point, the officer told me “two more turns and you are there”. I was never so happy.
Mile 26: 15:50
As I turned the second corner, it was all down hill to the finish line. I thought about running, but decided to just walk it in. There was no point in running and I wanted to enjoy the finish (although I have to say the marathon finish toward the last runner is a heck of a lot different than the end of an Ironman finish waiting for the final finishers).
The last .2 (or as my garmin shows it because the race was actually a little long – the last .72 miles): 11:56
This morning when my daughter still thought about racing, she put her jewelry on. I asked if she was planning on running in it. She said she was because she wanted a picture with her Aggie ring at the finish. I NEVER run with my rings, but decided she had a good idea. I wore gloves most of the race, so I didn’t worry about losing it and it was cold, so my fingers didn’t swell. I had taken the gloves off a few miles out and as I crossed the finish line, I gave the photographer a big ‘ol Gig ‘Em!!!!
I got my medal and finisher jacket and we headed back to the house. I’m glad I did the race, but I think for my daughter, it’s just not meant to be.