Wow, just… wow. I was completely, yes, wowed, by how the entire Dallas Marathon turned out. How great the race itself was, and how supportive the spectators on course were. How great our spectators were. How great I felt, despite the weather not being my “ideal” race conditions. How great Gina, did, at her first freaking marathon (not really surprised there, hee hee)! Woo hoo!
Gina signed up for the Dallas Marathon on National Running Day (June 4), and I didn’t have any plans to run it with her. I was thinking we would come down to cheer, and help out with Luca, so Steve (Gina’s husband) could run the half. The truth is, Gina was having a stellar racing year, and I really wasn’t. I didn’t want to ask her if I should run it with her, and hold her back, at her first marathon. I knew that’s how it would be – our paces were WAY off (me being slower, ha ha).
But then we hung out in the middle of June, and had a great time on a few runs together (of course). And Gina asked, after that trip, if I would run Dallas with her. “Are you sure?! I don’t want to slow you down!” I remember asking. She told me not to be silly, and of course she was sure. Okay! And yay!
So I signed up on June 30th. And knew I had to get my ass in gear. Which took, um, some time for me to start doing. I didn’t start seriously training for Dallas until three months before the race – September 14th. But in that time until race day I put in 626.15 miles, ran a marathon, ran four 21+ milers, tried to average 50 miles a week, and dropped 16% of my body weight. I felt amazingly ready for race day, and felt like I could complete my number one goal, which was to be completely supportive of Gina during the race, and not have any “issues” of my own. I didn’t want to break down at all during the race. I wanted to be able to help Gina, if she struggled. I wanted the focus to be on it being HER first marathon, not a PR for me (even though I was pretty sure that would happen).
Tl;dr (too long; didn’t read): and that is exactly how it went down!
A lot of people were asking me about what the weather would be like in Dallas, for the marathon. Ha. I was trying really hard not to look. What good does a 10-day forecast do, but make me worry (especially when it changes so darn much)? The only frustrating thing with not looking (until I packed a few nights before), was that Gina and I couldn’t plan out Matchy McMatcherson race outfits. I mean, we both did not expect it to be rainy, in the low 60s, with 87% humidity. Barf, right? I had been training my long runs in the 30s, sometimes colder! Even Gina and her friends in the running club were not too excited about the warm weather conditions, and they’re a bit more used to it than me! Really though, it could have been much worse – the days before and after the race were even warmer (70s) and so sunny. The race weather turned out to be not so horrible. Sure, we had sweat running down our faces in the first few miles, but the wind (10-20 mph) actually cooled me down. As did the rain. And thank HEAVENS it was overcast.
So obviously, we wore tanks and shorts (in black – we went full ninja). No need for the arm warmers and gloves and hat I brought “just in case.” Ha ha. I wore my Nathan backpack, too. And was completely surprised I drank the entire two liters of water in it (along with 16 ounces of Vitamin Water) by mile 16! Craziness. Bringing the backpack was a smart move. And yay, that they actually allow you to wear them!
The race starts out in downtown Dallas, and goes through commercial areas, then through some swank neighborhoods, back through commercial, back through swank neighborhoods, along a lake, on to a path, through swank neighborhoods, and back downtown. That description makes it sound incredibly boring, but I enjoyed the variety. I was a little concerned about the out and back portion along the lake – I just don’t dig seeing people going the opposite direction on a race, and wondering how long it will be until I get to turn. But it worked out alright.
Doesn’t your house have a statue like that in the front?
I asked Erica how hilly the race is, as she’s run it a few times, and she said it wasn’t too bad. The course changed a little since she ran it, and another blogger I read (Pirate Bobcat) posted that the course was hilly and he felt bad for the people doing the full (he was doing the half, which drops off the full course at mile 9.5ish). Hmm. I compared the elevation map to Milwaukee, and they looked really similar to me. Milwaukee didn’t feel that hilly, so I just made sure to run hills once or twice a week (as part of my runs, not hill repeats). And the hills didn’t bug me at all on this course. Score!
So enough generics. Let’s talk about the actual race! We arrived early enough to find a good parking spot – about an hour and a half before. We met up with Gina and Steve’s running club, and it was really fun to see them wishing all their friends good luck and hearing everyone’s goals! I also met Amy‘s mom and sister, who recognized me in the hotel lobby! Ha ha, I totally had pre-race runner brain, and was not making the connection that they were her mom and sister – it was so nice of them to say hi! I kept pretty quiet before the race and tried not to get too pumped up – I wanted to save my energy for the course. I also tried to go poo three times before the race with no luck. Sigh. You know what that means!
This race is fairly big – maybe 20K runners in the half and full? There were three corrals, and we were in the middle one, which closed twenty minutes before the race start. The race announcer did a fantastic job getting everyone pumped up and introducing the elites there (Deena, Meb, Ryan and Sara Hall). Fireworks went off to signal the start of the race at 8:05, and we started around 8:10! Not too bad!
Steve was running the half and was in our corral. We ran the first few minutes with him then went ahead. We had a 9:45 minute mile/4:15ish race goal, and Steve had a 2:20 goal. Gina and I kept the 4:15 pacer in our sights!
The first few miles were mostly flat and we were chatting away. And like I mentioned before, already sweating like crazy. I had lubed up big time (ha ha) and wasn’t worried about chafing (didn’t at all) but gah, that feeling of sweat drooping down your head! Right away, I said to Gina “let’s not talk about the weather.” I knew I just had to keep pushing through and NOT dwell on it.
Surprisingly to me, the humidity and mist was making the roads slippery. There were times I was worried about slipping, and was no where near a water stop (where you’d think it would be slippery)! Luckily I never did!
The first few miles were pretty chill, minus coming up on railroad crossing gates that were coming down! It must have been a joke, because they went right back up. I was not ready to stop that early in the race (nor was I planning on it…)!
Steve and Steven mapped out spectator spots the night before the race, so I knew we’d see Steven, Gina’s dad and his wife, and Gina’s brother and his wife and daughter, and Luca, around mile 6, 14, 17, and at the finish. I sent Steven a Glympse so he could track me on the course, and had my phone on me so we could text. Right before mile 6 I got a text that they were up ahead, on the left!
It was really exciting for us to see them! Gina’s SiL and her dad’s wife had made a “touch here for power” sign that was a huge hit!
They also had “smile if you have to poop” sign (foreshadowing for me, ha ha) and brought Gunther!
It felt like we passed by them so quickly! Gina’s dad ran with us for a minute, which was really cool!
Gina’s Dad on his way back from his run.
They also saw Steve at this spot!
And on we went. We had a little boost from seeing them, and kept chatting. I tried hard to look ahead for turns so we could run the tangents as best as possible, but really early in the course, we had already added on two tenths of a mile. Darn! Probably didn’t help that it was a bit crowded. Not too crowded to keep pace, but crowded enough that you couldn’t just run tangents without running in to someone.
I welcomed the half split at mile 9.5! I also hoped to see a porta pottie there. Um, nope. Sigh. We kept running, and I told Gina I had to stop at the next one and for her to go ahead and slow down so I could catch up. The night before we had talked race strategy and I told her that may happen, so I was happy we had a plan.
We kept going and ran through a gorgeous neighborhood with a boulevard between the homes. Two men dressed as devils were on either side (The spectators were SO fun! Lots of music and costumes! One person had a “touch here for power” sign and some sort of device in their pocket that they would have make a “beep” noise each time someone touched their sign!) I asked “is it this way to hell?” Ha. They laughed. And I knew the answer was yes. I was still clenching my gut at that time and feeling sick to my stomach. I looked to the other side of the street and saw a “mile 22″ sign. “We won’t be back here for 11 miles?” I thought. I almost told Gina not to look on that side of the road, but just hoped she wouldn’t see that (she didn’t, phew).
I finally saw a porta pottie with only one guy waiting at mile 11. Yay! Unfortunately, runners came up and jumped in when it was my turn to go. Ugh. One finally opened close to me and the guy coming out said “you don’t want to go in there.” Ha ha. I told him I had to go. Right meow. I can hover. I laughed when the guy went in after me and was like “ewwwww.” I did NOT leave that mess, dude!
I felt so much better (and lighter) after my pit stop! It took me just a few minutes to catch up with Gina (10:22 minute mile followed by a 9:17, ha ha). She had previously told me she was a feeling quiet (but didn’t mind if I talked) so I was trying to come up with things to say. I encouraged her to get some love from Hello Kitty:
And we had fun running by the Dolly Parton cross dressers in the Dolly Parton “hills.” One told me to touch his water ballon “breast.” I sure did! Ha! (Sorry, no photo!)
But we both started to get really quiet and I could tell Gina was feeling a bit meh. Around mile 13 I announced I was bored. How rude, right?! Poor Gina said she was sorry she wasn’t talking and that the course was boring but it was neither of those! I felt bad I couldn’t come up with anything to talk about. Darnit! We talked too much before the race (kind of hard to cut back talking with your bestie).
Luckily, I had a text from Steven saying exactly where to find them around 14.
We enjoyed seeing them, and they handed me a new Vitamin Water. My vest felt heavy again! Ha ha. Groan.
Gina was jokingly saying this is going to be her new Facebook profile photo. Ha ha.
At that point we were in the out and back portion by the lake. Every now and then I’d see runners going the other way (Gina actually saw people she knew! Fun!) I just kept looking for the turn around and was sooooo happy when I saw it (and when we turned)! At 16, Gina told me her legs were tired and her phone (in her hips-sister) was bugging her. I told her to ignore her legs and focus on pumping her arms to keep her legs going. “Your arms aren’t tired, right?” And I told her to give me her phone, and that we’d drop that, and her hips-sister, with our crew at 17.
The night before the race, when Gina and I talked about our game plan, I asked if she wanted drill sergeant Kim or nice Kim. She asked for nice Kim. Sorry, Gina! You got a mix!
The second picture is because I know you guys want to see my janky supination.
Gina felt better after ditching her stuff (still had her hand held), but was still struggling (the wind from the lake was really bugging her so I ran between her and the lake to try to block a bit of it (plus, it felt good to me – I teased her for not “sharing” it)). So she got my logic speech: 1. You can do this, you trained faster than this, 2. This is supposed to hurt, you’ll be proud you pushed through, 3. You want to make YOU proud (and your husband and son, family, and friends), 4. You only get to do your first marathon once, 5. Pain is temporary, glory is forever, and so on.
The truth is, I knew exactly where she was. I bonked at mile 16 at EVERY marathon until Milwaukee this year. It. Sucks. More than anything, I wanted that not to happen to her during her first marathon! I felt sad it was.
We left the lake and got on a trail (there were speakers along the trail and they played my power song (I also heard it at the start and later on the course)! This trail also had Jell-O shots. And beer. And the second clif station. Needless to say, I was digging this trail. But I don’t think Gina was. Her legs were still hurting her. She wanted me to go ahead. To PR. “I saw what you wrote on the banner!”
There was no way I was leaving her. I knew we were a bit off pace (we’d lost sight of our pacer around mile 14/15), but I knew we’d still have a good time and I’d PR. Also, I knew if I left her, she’d slow down and walk more and be upset about it later. “Remember how upset you were about that rough 16 miler?!” I said to her. “I DON’T want you to feel that disappointment after this, because you can’t just go redeem a marathon like you can a long run.”
Yes. I was that annoying. I was also the walk break police. “You only get 30 secs!” “Your 30 secs are up!” “Nope, you don’t get to walk again for 3 minutes.” Hey, to my credit, she had told me she wanted to walk as little as possible.
Around mile 18, it started to rain harder (it had misted on and off before). The rain felt gooood. It cooled me. It took away some humidity. I filled up my bladder and put my visor on (had it hooked around my backpack until then) to keep water out of my eyes.
We finally got off the trail and had to do some neighborhood running before starting to go back to Dallas. Gina’s back started to hurt her, which really worried me, after that back pain I’d been having, but she pushed through.
I congratulated her when she hit her new PDR (20.01!), but we were mostly very quiet. Ahh, the long end of the marathon miles. We passed that 22 mile sign from before and saw the devils again. That made me happy because I knew we were almost to the last straight-away on the course. No more looping and as we got closer, I could even see the skyline, where the finish was.
Gina continued her walk breaks and I’d slow and run ahead (and she’d catch me). She tried telling me again, to go ahead, at mile 23. “After being together this long?! No way.”
Focusing so much on her really made me completely ignore my body. Not in a dangerous way – I followed my fueling plan and checked my posture a lot. Just that I didn’t even give my body a thought as to whether it was in pain. I didn’t allow it. The 9:45 pace was still attainable, and when Gina would get back to me after a walk break, I’d push us back to it (I also kept us around it at the beginning instead of not going too fast). And Gina could run it just fine.
At mile 24, the rain picked up. Not a downpour (that happened two minutes after we finished!!!), but enough that it was getting tricky to text Steven through a wet plastic bag! I let him know we slowed and would finish in 4:20. It was really important to me to see him at the finish, since it upset me so much when he missed me at Milwaukee.
At 24, I also welcomed Gina to the “longest two miles of her life.” Ha. I felt great, but I’d be lying if I said the last 4 miles of marathon don’t feel long! I was happy to hear “Thunderstruck” again! I chatted with other runners (as I did in other parts of the race). We saw a “touch here for power” sign on the other side of the road and didn’t feel like running over there, so another runner did and transferred the “power” to us with a high five. How fun is that?!
I encouraged Gina to finish strong. I quite often told her to fake it for the camera and “look strong for your family” and “they say smiling makes you feel happier!” It was so fantastic to see the mile 25 sign, and to know our spectators were at 26.1. When we saw them, I just lit up! They were so excited for us! And I could just feel the electric energy of the crowd and felt so proud I got to run Gina’s first marathon with her!
I grabbed her hand and we ran toward the finish line, with an official time of 4:20:36! A new PR for me by four minutes and twenty seconds, and a SPECTACULAR first marathon time for Gina!!!!!
We got our medals, and the finisher bag (I really like the medal and shirt!).
Then the pouring rain started. We waited for an official picture, walked and got our food and finisher bags, and went to gear check. Then the happy/overwhelmed waterworks started for Gina. No surprise there! She worked so hard, and through A LOT!
We found our (soaked!) spectators quickly, and they had nothing but wonderful sweet things to say to us about how proud they and impressed they were, and how much they enjoyed the day.
Our spectating crew, from L to R: Steven, Susanne, Joe, Luca, Colette, Eliana and Anthony
One of the best parts after the race was sharing our stories with each other – how much they loved having people touch their sign, how they laughed when someone confusingly called Gunther a deer, their parking adventures, the different runners they saw, how Luca was giving out high fives, but pulling his arm back to do them higher and confusing the runners (hee hee)… really, spectators work so hard! And Gina’s family was so awe-struck, and so sweet and welcoming to me (I had met them before, but this was Steven’s first time! They said they loved having him lead the spectating way!). I immensely appreciated having them there, and was so happy Steven helped them and still took photos!
It just makes me laugh to see the kids walking, and Gunther in the stroller!
And Gina’s Dad’s wife, Susanne, is such a sweetheart. She gave me this bracelet the night before the race for good luck, and wrote a really nice letter to me and Steven!
After the race we split up – most of the spectators went home to dry off, and the runners (Steve enjoyed the half, and took selfies at every mile, ha ha, see below) and Steven went to Red Robin. We loaded all the photos on to my computer that night and played them over Apple home share so everyone could see them. And ordered a ton of Chinese food and had Gina and Steve’s good friends come over (they brought champagne and cookies!) and Gina’s training partner, who also ran the marathon. It was a perfect way to celebrate a spectacular day.
One of Steve’s mile marker selfies!
Phew. This is so hella long but I wanted to remember the details of the day!
I’m so proud of Gina. I told her I don’t know many people who’ve run their first marathon in the 4:20s. And really, keep in mind, she really only started distance running this year, and ran her first “half” in February. She’s done A LOT this year. I told you she was on fire!
I do hope she’s not disappointed in her performance. The struggles she went through are SO typical, and she really powered through them. We only lost a bit of time in the second half, and ran strong strong strong. Our last half mile was at 9:00 minute mile! Gina has speed in her! And she already is talking about her next marathon and knows what she wants to work on – more endurance. She trained well for this one, and included two 20s (and cross and strength training), but would like to do more, and longer, next time. I wonder if I’ll get to be a part of next time?!
As for me, I’m extremely pleased with how this race turned out. I met my #1 (support Gina) and #2 (PR) goals. The heat and humidity didn’t phase me (WHAT?! So shocked by that.). I never felt tired. I never felt sore. After the race, my legs were good (tender quads, but they’re fine). It was my blistered toes that bugged me (from the rain). I feel like I trained right for me (high mileage, easy miles) and like my fueling was right. I… just can’t believe I’ve had my two best marathons this year. I actually never thought, during this race, “I’m never doing this again.” I thought, “When’s the next one?! This rocks!”