First Timer Freak Out!
It has been 22 years since I was a first time marathoner and 14 years since I was a first time Ironman. I have since replaced those initial memories of angst, fear, "one and doner" and self doubt with drive, grit, accomplishment and mind over mileage attitude after successfully completing 77 marathons and 2 Ironmans. For the past 6 years, I have been coaching first time marathoners and half marathoners. Since so much time has passed since I had been in their shoes, I forgot what it was like to commit to something I had never done before. That was until this weekends race.
On Saturday, November 19th, I toed the start line of the Tunnel Hill 100. I was a first timer again and boy was I freaking out. I was actually freaking out the week of the race as "some day" was becoming "today!" On Friday night, I showed up at the Vienna High school cafeteria to pick up my race packet and grab pasta with fellow racers. I could have busted a heart rate monitor if I was wearing one. I seriously was searching for any scraps of advice from someone who was a surviving first timer. The only advice I remember was from the race director. He said to make sure I have enough warm clothes to get through the night so that being cold doesn't prevent me from finishing. Check! I have an extra pair of running clothes and shoes to change in to once it gets dark.
Race morning, I had no more time to worry. The band-aid was coming off! I had to just go with the flow and see what happens. I knew I could at least get to mile 51 since I had run a 50 miler back in 2011. I ended up doing an interval of 6 minutes of jogging and 4 minutes of speed walking. For the 50 miler, my interval was 7 and 3 respectively. I had a lot of fun out on the course. I took in the scenery, talked to fellow runners, captured some pictures and even told myself, I just might be able to do this!
As I advise my first time marathoners, the marathon doesn't start until mile 20. So stay reserved until then. For the 100 miler, the race doesn't start until mile 80.. It was about mile 79 where I could not warm up no matter what. The temperature had dropped to 28 degrees. My clothes were sweaty and my packaged hand-warmers from last year were defunct. At this point I told myself, I am NEVER doing this again. From now on, I am only going to do one mile races. That was the furthest I ever wanted to race again. I don't think in my 200 plus races, I ever ran a 1 mile race. Going forward though, that was going to be my goal race distance!
At mile 85.7 and 19.5 hours into the race, I turned in my bib. For the first time in my racing career, my mind was weaker than my body. I was at peace with a DNF. I just wanted to be warm again. I got back to the hotel at 3:30 in the morning. I showered and crashed as best I could. I woke up around 8:00 AM. It hurt to walk. It hurt more than post Ironman morning. I think Frankenstein walked better than me. I knew the more I moved around the better I would feel.
Some sunshine and reflection on what I had just accomplished brought me back to my first marathon finish line. A huge sense of pride, empowerment and the itch to become a second timer! On Monday, November 14th, I was already surfing the internet to find my next 100 miler race!