How was the marathon? AWESOME! Well, that is at least what I started saying about 2 hours after it was over. The race was mentally and physically exhausting, and much harder than I anticipated, but I finished, and what was more important, I finished with a smile on my face.
My weekend in Eugene started early Saturday morning when my mom and I left Seattle, driving South on I-5, hit major construction traffic in Tacoma which we took a scenic detour around some side roads, and finally arrived in Eugene around 1:30. We checked into our hotel, the Red Lion, which was surprisingly comfortable and nice inside despite it’s rather run down exterior. We hit up Trader Joes for lunch then went to the expo to pick up my race bib, t-shirt, free goodies etc. Then it was time to head back to the hotel to relax before dinner.
The TNT pasta party was an inspirational event where we listened to honored teammates speak about their journey with cancer. It was a great way to remind us that we would be running for not just ourselves the next morning, but in memory and support of so many others. Trust me, that came in handy around mile 23 on Sunday.
I managed to sleep Saturday night, thank goodness. 4:15 came really early. I ate a PB&J sandwich and banana, drank some water, and we all loaded the vans to get to the course. It was great getting together with my teammates, all decked out in our purple jerseys ready to take on the 26.2 miles (or 13.1 for the halfers) of road. With a thunderous GO TEAM that gained cheers of support from other runners, we all split out into our different pace groups. The sky was promising a sunny/cloudy perfect-for-running day.
When the buzzer went off for the start of the race, I was so excited and grinning ear to ear. Nervous too of course, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The longest run I had done training was 3 hours, and I knew that my race today was going to be significantly more than that.
The first 6 miles flew by. I felt great, was feeding off the crowd, and had a fantastic group to run with. Mile 9 we managed to find a group of port-a-potties that did not have a line (thank goodness!) and then continued on as our little group of 5 till mile 11 where the half marathoners split. It was about mile 12 where I started to get tired. Not physically tired, but really energy drained and sleepy. At mile 14 I seriously hit a wall. I had to drop off my group which was an emotional experience. It is hard to watch your teammates run ahead as you slow down and start run/walking. I was starting to feel sick around this time too, all those sugary shot bloks and water were not jiving well with my tummy. I ran/walked to mile 16 where my coach Glen found me. He stuck with me for a few miles, and told me stories to keep my mind occupied. This part of the course was beautiful, along the river bank, but I was seriously dragging and still had a long way to go. My calves started to cramp and I was on a mission to find some salt. I eventually found a woman at mile 23 who gave me some salt pills and I took those at the next water stop. I am defiantly going to experiment with different fuel sources for this next marathon. I think that was one of the main downfalls of this race, I stopped eating after the sugar made me feel ill. There was solid food along the course but you don’t start trying it during the race.
Just past mile 23 Glen found me again, this time with some words of encouragement…”You can catch Rod”. Rod is my “running dad” from work. He is the one that got me into this in the first place. He had had a cold the week leading up to the marathon and was cramping pretty bad so was walking a lot more than he should have been. This opportunity was bittersweet, but I was going to catch him. Just after mile 24 I passed him. At mile 25 I really wanted to run the rest of the way, but I was too tired. Some of the other TNT coaches stuck with me until I reached mile 26. From there I was determined to run. I was not going to walk across that finish line! My calves were cramping so badly by this time that I was more limp running than actually running, but I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I did it! I finished a marathon! Me, Lauren Carter, from a family that “does not run”! I saw my mom cheering me on and snapping pictures from the grandstands. I wrapped myself in the silver blanket and headed to the water and food station and collapsed into a chair. The Portland TNT coach came over and brought me a banana telling me I had to eat something even if I did not feel like it. It was really nice to have someone looking out for me since my brain was basically sore mush at that point.
Rod finished not too far behind me, and as soon as I saw him I burst into tears and gave him a big hug. He was so proud of me, and it meant a lot to have his support.
Some genius decided that the TNT check out tent should be located on the far side of the track, so when Rod finished we walked around and signed out, then I headed back to the hotel to shower before the BBQ. It was about this time that I started to notice how sore I was all over from the lactic acid buildup. Every part of my body hurt. And I was sunburned. And still smiling J When I took off my shoes I was shocked to find a massive blister on my big toe…literally a 6th toe had appeared during the race! I had fun showing that off to my teammates!
The BBQ was great, everyone sharing the tale of their 26.2 mile adventure. Some people had great races and PRs, others had awful races and were disappointed but happy they finished. It goes to show that no matter how well you prepare, the day of the race can throw you a curveball.
The next day I was pretty stiff but generally feeling good. No specific pain in my knees or feet like I had experienced during the training. PT must be helping! Mom and I stopped to shop and go to Burgerville (an amazing real, locally-sourced fast food chain) on the way home.
It was an amazing weekend. Inspirational, fun, tiring, but so worth it. They were right, this was the reward for all those months of training. Now I am back at it again for Nike on October 17th…maybe I can PR in this race!
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I wanted to say thank you to everyone who supported me this season with my fundraising, training, injury prevention and the piles of encouragement that kept me going! It means so much to have your support. I really could not have done it without you.