(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry this took so long. The telling of the tale is better for the wait though, promise.)
as ramon said, it was starting to get warm. the sun was not yet out, but you could feel the tempurature rising. i was feeling more and more settled in my run, my shin splints not showing up to play, and as nervous as i was, i was now kind of...excited. i'm not sure if it was the pep talk or because there was no turning back, but suddenly i felt optimistic. this *was* possible. more or less.
at mile 14 they had salt packets and i thought that i should pretty much do anything that could possibly safe-guard against any sort of obstacles (that included but were not limited to dehydration, hyponatremia, reoccurrance of shin splints, and hitting the wall). i grabbed a packet and washed it down with a little water. the accelerade was disgusting, so i thought this was a smart move to keep the electrolytes in balance. yummy.
soon after i saw one of our training captains, ross. he ran with me for a bit and offered me more salt (no thanks!), and reiterate the importance of hydration. soon after...mile 15. it think that around mile 15 mentally is pretty tough in a marathon, because you've already run a great distance, but you still have another 11+ to go. i just kept truckin. the crowds kept me going. the adrenaline that i was actually doing it kept me going. remember...i didn't have any music so it was just me, myself and i. every once in a while i would see another tnter out there and we would exchange a hello and a wave and keep on keeping on. we ran through a little neighborhood where a family band was playing classic rock and the kids were handing out orange slices. i was still feeling good when i arrive at mile 16 right around the bay...and gleefully thought "only 10 more miles!!!" as another band crooned the same, changing up yet another bad cover.
mile 16 brought us to the bay for a bit and the sun was breaking through the clouds. before i knew it we were approaching the powergel station at mile 17 (another one down, feet don't fail me now!). they had every single kind (hooray!) and i grabbed another double latte flavor (my favorite! 2x caffine + 4x sodium!), knowing i'd probably need another kick at the end.
indeed it was getting hotter. at each water station i began getting two cups of water, one to drink and one to dump in my hat. mile 18 wound through what seemed like the more...young/collegiate section of town. it was still earlyish (probably around 10?) and there were tons of people out drinking and enjoying the marathon spectacle from their yards and decks. one guy was so rowdy and tossing beer around that i actually felt a little nauseous because i got a huge whiff of cheap beer. ewe. banners, balloons, silly string, music...in fact sweet child o' mine, which was one of my *favorite* songs for a moment in time somewhere around 1988. i smiled, thinking of my mom who often remembers me shushing her in the car when this song was on so i could sing at the top of my lungs.
mile 19...and a little way in...brooke! yay! brooke was a mentor with us for the season but was injured early on and wasn't able to run the event. but she was still out there cheering for us. i spotted her shouting for another tnt person and realized it was her and shrieked! she shouted, dropped her bag and sign and ran with me for at least 1/2 a mile. it was really great to see someone at that moment, becauase i had been on my own for so long and a friendly face and some chatter was a great distraction.
it felt like just after i left brooke, and after a kinda gross bridge hill, and there was steve, the "young coach" at mile 20! he was on his phone and i waved frantically "i gotta go," he said with a big smile, "roxie just got here!" i smiled back and he said "okay, if you feel as good as you look, i am not going to worry about you at all."
"i do have a good game face."
"you look great, seriously, i don't know how but you do!"
"i'm not asking questions, just going and going!"
"okay so, here's how the rest of the course is going to go. in a few miles you'll see lisa so keep an eye out and then there's one more little hill-"
"bigger than the one i just ran up?"
"no! compared to this one that one is-"
"exactly! so then after that there's a bit of a down and back, and don't get freaked out when you see the people coming back towards you, just think that you'll be coming back in that direction soon, it's not that long-"
"okay, down and back, easy easy."
"and then you're just about done."
"okay okay, i can do this."
"i am *so* proud of you roxie, just stay hydrated you're going to be fine!"
he patted me on the arm and i was off again!
the next few miles were kinda gross...off the main roads, there was no more june gloom and the sun was beating down on us, making it really hot and there was no shade in sight. i could definitely feel the heat and dumped a cup of water right on my head this time. i saw a porta-potty with no line and figured i'd better pee while the peeing was good. some people were out with a cooler of beer and i saw a guy run past, then change his mind and go back for one, and for a moment i wished i was that hard core.
somewhere in there was the mile 21 marker...no sign out there...and then yay! mile 22 - a little over 4 miles! less than an hour! even if i was going slowly! i could see the little down and back steve had told me about. there was great music blasting from a radio, tons of people, then a pretty good band, and a guy with a hose spraying it in the air. i dont't think it could have gotten better than that in that moment. i ran directly under the hose and cooled off some more.
i guess you're wondering how i was feeling physically, and really, the answer is oddly good. my feet definitely were bearing the brunt of the pain - part of marathon training is actually getting your feet used to all those miles, and i think they were suffering the most for my lack of running. my shins were fine. my back was a little tense but the man with the big signs that said "relax your shoulders!!" kept inspiring me to draw my shoulders back and keep my arms and hands from tensing up. i was really good about trying to conserve as much energy as possible and being as good to my body as possible, "behaving" as ramon says. not charging up or down hills, drinking tons of water, taking gels promptly, saying loose and remembering to breathe.
the next friendly face was lisa, the brooklyn coach. her face was shocked - happy, but shocked probably 1) to see me so soon and 2) and to see that i wasn't a crashing, broken-down runner.
"roxie! - what the hell!!?"
"i know! i know!"
"what are you doing here so soon!?"
"i don't know!"
"seriously, you're looking great?! how do you feel?"
"i feel okay actually!"
"well, we're still not going to be publishing your training plan."
"yeah, i mean, honestly, i don't know how but i think it's gotta be bouv watching over me a little bit because you and i both know i should not be doing this well!"
"aweeeeeeee don't make me cry now."
"roxie, wait, what was your time in phoenix??"
"do you know what time it is?"
"no...i decided to run without my watch."
"wow! good for you well, don't get too excited but by my watch i've got 4:22!!"
at this point i emitted a high-pitched sound that's probably akin to one of a wounded animal but was all excitement, and i'm not going to try to type it. use your imagination.
"okay, maybe i shouldn't have told you that!"
"pr! a pr?!"
"okay roxie, just keep doing whatever it is you're doing, only a few more miles to go, and before you know it you're going to see ramon with that damn cow-bell."
"thank you lisa! you're the best!"
"kick ass girl! see you at the finish!!"
lisa ran me just about to the mile 23 marker and ran to chat with another participant. and now, visions of pr's (personal records) danced in my head. a pr!? i was on the road to a pr? i laughed a little hysterically to myself. whether or not i made it, i was high off the fact that after all the stress and struggle and decisions of the last two weeks, going back and forth, agonizing over making what was, i think, at the time a wise decision not to run, to my emotionally-driven lunacy in deciding to go for it...and here i was, about 3 miles away from the finish, not feeling horrible, and possibly going to run this marathon in record time. a shit-eating grin that could almost match bouv's pretty much stayed plastered to my face for the rest of the run.
mile 24...2+ to go! less than 30 minutes! i think for me, this is the other difficult part of the race. you are so tired, and yet so happy you have so little left to go that you're trying to run fast, and yet, you're body is not really cooperating...well, at least mine wasn't. the closest thing i can equate it to is in a dream-state when something is chasing you and no matter how much effort you are putting in you are running as though you're in slowmotion or quicksand. i gritted my teeth and focused on my arm movement...nice and light...if your arms are moving your legs are moving, one step at a time, focus on the crowds, cheer for other tnt folks and there it is...mile 25.
1.2 miles!! if i had the energy i might have leaped for joy. instead i had a glass of water. much like in the last marathon, i took these final moments to think about why i had gotten myself here.
i thought about bouv, and how he was probably really laughing his ass off this time at my stubbornness. i know, i just know that he was there with me that whole race, a little angel on my shoulder. i really have little to know explanation of how i could have made it otherwise. you can give me the "you're stronger than you think" bit, and how the rest probably did me good, mind over body and the amazing properties of adrenaline, and i might agree with you to a degree. but even if i did "behave" and all the circumstances were lined up just perfectly for me to succeed, what happened out there was a little bit of a miracle and i just simply know bouv was a part of it.
i thought about anthony, the husband of a former co-worker, who is a runner, and recovering from his bone marrow transplant and what he would give to be out running. we're going to be doing a 4-miler together soon - he is so anxious to get back out there and he really wants to run a Team in Training event. He's such an inspiration. I thought about all the stories of friends' parents and friends and cousins, both happy and sad, all the people who have been touched by these blood cancers. i thought about jill, the woman that spoke before our run and about how elating crossing the finish line will be for her. i thought about all of the people that supported me for the first marathon...all 170 of them ;) and how thankful i am to have such a fantastic network of friends new and old behind me. demps, charlotte, sk8, cap, the rookie...all amazing people who play a part in the story...and then there it was!! MILE FREAKING 26!
.2 miles...probably 2 minutes. we approached the military base that was the end of our race. because it was "a secure area" there were guards making sure everyone that was running in had numbers on. i saw a guy who was running with his girlfriend get stopped and pulled off to the side, and while i get it, it made me ~sigh~ to myself. no time for politics now! run run run girl run! crowds of people on the right hand side...people lounging and enjoying post-run beers, families with signs, balloons...and look an archway! the finish....
no. a tease! that's *just* mean. it's funny how the last little bit is so long, i just wanted to GET THERE already. to see ramon with that horribly annoying bell. and there, finally! THE END. bleachers with hoards of cheering people. and ramon!! he came flying to my side ringing that bell like a madman.
for this "conversation" you can just picture me pretty much giggling hysterically throughout while ramon talked...
"look at you!!! you freaking did it!!! i am so FREAKING proud of you, so freaking proud! you behave and look! you here! you finish! you look AMAZING and SMILING. you learn such an important lesson today, you never doubt you-self again, you hear me? never again! and look! look up at the clock! what was you time for arizona!?"
squeeked through giggles "5:11"
"LOOK AT THAT! 4:55 - FREAKING 15 MINUTES PR! PR! you go finish, i am so so freaking proud of you!"
and those words brought me to tears as i finally cross that balloon-studded finish line, rockin' a 4:56:01 on the clock.