My wife’s friend and fellow running blogger just ran her first full marathon recently. As I am running my first full marathon in December, her journey is an inspiration. You can read her blog at This Mom Runs Blog or follower her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/runnermomx3.
Lessons of a Mountain Marathon Mom.
I have a tendency to be impulsive. I try very hard to rein it in, using my head to make good decisions, rather than my heart. At the beginning of the year, the idea of a marathon popped into my head. Turning 40 this year was getting to me. Not in a midlife crisis kind of way, just wanting to DO something. I was training for my 2nd half marathon at the time, so I was able to push the “marathon” thoughts back a bit so I could focus on that. I came home from the Disney Princess half marathon at the end of February, and those “marathon” thoughts started coming back. The Disney race was supposed to be my “40th birthday celebration” race. It wasn’t really a question of “could I?” but “will I?” do a marathon.
I looked up a few training plans, and found Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. I read lots of reviews about it and though it was perfect for me. When the going gets tough, I will use this method. Easy, peasy. Next step, find a race. I wanted a race that would allow me to continue training where the half marathon left off. This put me into May, but also into the end of marathon season in the south. I had just spent A LOT of money on the Disney race, so it was my one destination race for the year.
I had to find something within driving distance. In the end I found the race I knew I was destined to do. The King’s Mountain Marathon is a small race, open course, and NO TIME LIMIT! I read all the reviews that said don’t make this your first race. (Did you see the word Mountain in that race name?) I also read the one review that talked about how beautiful this course is, and how wonderful the race organizers and fellow runners are. That one review sold me, and I ignored (blocked) everything that said mountain, incline, or hill. Bonus, the race was exactly 1 month to the day from my 40th birthday. It was meant to be! My goal was to finish the race, hopefully under 6 hours, but I would be happy just to finish.
Let the training begin! I knew getting the training in would not be an issue. I work from home, so I can stay home with my two littlest boys. Nap time is treadmill time on the treadmill, when I know I won’t be able to fit in a run before dark, due to my husband’s work schedule.
Marathon Training Lesson 1:
If you ever get the bright idea to combine a 5K race, followed by a 10K race, followed by another 7 miles to get your long run in, just...don’t. My favorite race in March has two races that you can participate in. I figured it would be a good way to kick off training. I wanted to PR my 5k, and just survive the 10k. The PR didn’t happen, but I had no issues running the 10K. I used the Jeff Galloway run/walk method since I still had a lot of miles to cover that day. A friend of mine was triathlon training and volunteered to ride her bike with me while I got my last 7 miles in. I made it about 5 miles, and then my hips and IT band started killing me. Plus, I was just plain exhausted. I’ve never had IT band issues, so I was worried about it getting worse and called it a day. Lesson learned.
Long runs were every 3rd week, and I found it easy to get the shorter runs in between. I maxed out the incline on my treadmill, 3 days a week, for at least 3 to 5 miles. I had to do everything possible to imitate the hills that I would experience during the race, and that was my best option.
For my longer runs, I hit my neighborhood, where there is a decent incline, but for my 20 mile runs I went to Salem Lake. This park is a local runners/bikers fave. It has a 7 mile loop around a beautiful lake, and a couple of pretty steep hills.
Marathon Training Lessons 2 through 11: My first 20 mile run.
2) If you run a trail around a lake in lots of fog, and decide to randomly break out in dance to "Uptown Funk", there may be 2 fishermen sitting in a boat right beside you.
3) Apple pie Lara bars are NOT a good mid run refuel. In fact, you shouldn't eat anything with apples in it while running.
4) A 50 Oz Camelback hydration pack lasts 12.25miles.
5) A Garmin 10 GPS watch can, and will, stop working at 15.94 miles. (Thank goodness for trail mile markers!)
6) Just when you need it most, your phone that is tucked securely away in your running belt, will call your BFF at work, on her cell phone AND send her an email. Talking to your BFF at mile 14 is awesome! (Bet your phone doesn't read YOUR mind!)
7) After you are finished 20 miles, and at your sweatiest and stinkiest, having a 20 year old hit on you is a HUGE ego boost.
8) If you don't need compression socks while running, they will be your best friend for the 40 minute drive home.
9) Ice baths are inhumane.
10) Ice baths are awesome when you're done with them.
11) This distance is hard. So many mental hurdles to overcome. Period.
I survived that day, and I felt SO strong. Knowing I could actually run 20 miles was a huge mental boost. I did hit the “wall” around mile 16 when my watch gave out. My hamstrings have always been my weak point, and they were really tight during the last few miles. But I pushed through it. One step at a time, one mile at a time, until it was done.
Marathon Training Lesson #12: You don’t have to rely on ice baths for recovery. I discovered room temperature baths, with lots of Epsom Salt, along with DoTerra Deep Blue rub. No more torturing myself with ice!!
Three weeks before race day, I had time for one more 20 mile run.
Marathon Training Lesson #13: Training with friends makes the miles fly by, keeps "the wall" at bay, and keeps you going when you need it most. Running friends are the best friends, period. My same triathlon friend rode her bike with me 20.5 miles that day. I could not believe how fast the time went by, even though I ran for close to 5 hours! I hit a “small” wall around mile 18, but K helped me push through it. I knew that if I ever did this again, every long run needed to be done this way. Again, my hamstring was giving my problems, but I pushed through once again.
Everyone tells you about the taper period, and how hard it can be. I did doubt myself several times, and was worried that I did not train enough. I KNOW I did enough, but that self doubt is always there. Then we sold our house, two days after listing it, with no idea of where we were going to live. Thankfully that distraction kept my mind off of wanting to run longer or question the training, and busy enough that I could only do the shorter distance the training called for. I’ve also read to stop the strength training as well. I did continue to do some hamstring strengthening workouts 3 days a week, hoping in the end it would help.
One week until race time, and a few things happened.
Number 1, I was sick, again. Every single long distance race I have ever done has resulted in me getting sick the week before. I’m cursed. Having two preschool age kids, that’s just the way it is. I hit every natural remedy I knew of, and rested as much as possible.
Number 2, King’s Mountain Marathon posted on their Facebook page that the tree line in their logo is the elevation chart for the course. Remember, I was in denial that I was about to run a marathon, on a mountain. I could not “unsee” that. Mile 19 was going to be bad. I found myself questioning what I was about to do several times a day.
Number 3, One of my closest friends let me know that she was going to be there for me, and would run part of the course with me if I wanted. At this point, I was not sure if my husband was coming to the race, due to our move. This was a very big deal for me. I cried. I knew that I was going to need her, so we made plans for her to meet me at the bottom of mile 19. This was just the boost I needed.
The night before, my husband and I dropped the kids off at his parents, and he let me know he decided to come for the entire race, rather than just for the end. Big sigh of relief, since I now knew I would not have to drive myself home for 1.5 hours after running 26.2 miles on a mountain! Ok, ok, I really needed his support, too! Knowing that he was going to be there for the entire race was another positive boost to get me through the pre-race jitters.
I actually slept really well that night, waking up on race morning feeling refreshed and healthy! We left around 5:30 am to make the drive to King’s Mountain in time for race day packet pick up. I was keeping my nerves at bay, but as we entered King’s Mountain State Park, I found myself a bit emotional. In just about an hours time I was going to run a marathon! The reality of it was sinking in. While going through my pre-race ritual I met another girl, J, who was also doing her first marathon and we chatted for a bit about what was to come and our goals.
I also had a friend that was running the half marathon that morning so I later met up with her. Both races started together, so I was excited to start out the race with a familiar face. We made our way toward the back of the start line, so I would not be tempted to go all out when the gun went off. I gave my husband one last kiss, and it was go time!
I was able to run with my friend for the first mile or so, until the half marathon and marathon courses split. We wished each other luck, and went our separate course ways. I decided that I wanted to run a bit without doing run/walk to see how I felt. Once the marathon split, I found myself running with my new friend J, which I met before the race, and one other girl, M. We ran together for awhile and quickly started up a conversation. All 3 of us were first time marathoners, so we had lots to talk about it, as far as our training and previous races. After awhile J pulled away, leaving just M and I to run this race together.
I have to say that talking while racing is not something I typically do. If I’m running a 5k, I am in a zone and doing everything I can to push my limits and finish strong. This was different. Running this race with M was the biggest blessing, and was just meant to be. We were close to the same age, and our oldest children were the same age. We spent almost the entire race talking about anything and everything. Before I knew it we were at the halfway mark, and I had not walked a single time. The hills were bearable, and I was feeling good. I was staying fueled and hydrated. We decided together to do some run/walk for a bit to conserve our energy for the mountains to come. The miles continued to fly by, with good conversation and the constant motivation we were feeding to each other.
I was anxious about approaching mile 19 and the biggest hill of the race. My husband and friend, T, were waiting for us at the aid station just before the “mountain.” My husband helped me quickly change shoes, and T then joined us to tackle the mountain before us. I knew it was going to be bad when my husband bent down and whispered that he loved me, and that he really wanted me to be careful and not overdo it, with what was coming next. The hills were getting steeper, and higher, and it was pretty warm out. There was a lot of walking involved. I don’t know if anything could have prepared me for those kind of hills. We continued to press forward. T ran with us for about 4 miles, and then her and my husband drove to the finish line, to meet me there. M and I decided to run the rest of the race if we could, because we were feeling good, in spite of the hills. But, the hills just kept coming.
The last mile, M pulled forward and was greeted by her family who helped to run her in. I texted my husband and told him I was sick of all the hills, because I wanted to run and was struggling. Him and T drove back to find me around mile 25. I had run out of water, so I got some from him, and handed him my Camelback pack to lighten my load. I told him right then, that this would not be my last marathon. I knew what I was capable of, and these hills would not beat me. I was going to find another race with a flatter course, and show myself what I could do. They went back to the finish line, knowing I was close. I never hit the wall, I just hit more hills. I think that was my biggest source of frustration for this race. My fueling and hydration were perfect. I felt great, my hamstrings never once bothered me, and I had plenty of energy. But, trying to run straight up nonstop was getting old quick.
Finally, the end was in sight. The finish line, the last .2 miles was straight up. Are you kidding me!? But, T and the hubby were there waiting for me and helped run me in. My friend that ran the half had stuck around to watch me finish. Having that support at the end was the best thing ever!
I did it. 5 hours and 42 minutes. I just ran a marathon. I just ran a marathon on a mountain.
One month from that day I turned 40. I am a wife, mother, daughter, niece, and sister. That day, I also became a marathoner. I finished under 6 hours, reaching my goal. I could not have done this without the help of my husband, family and friends that were there for me, in person or in spirit. Now, find me a flat beach course and I'll totally do it again. But, you can have these hills!
Marathon lesson, Number 14: Trust in yourself, trust in your training. If you think want to try this distance, then commit to it. I’m just an everyday girl, running an average pace. I’m not athletic, by nature. I’m still carrying extra belly from my last 2 babies (and because I really like chocolate). I need to tone up, a lot. My point is that, you don’t have to look like a Marathoner to be one. You only need to believe in yourself.
Christine Motsinger, Wife, Mom of 3 boys, Marathoner x1, Half Marathoner x2, 10K x1, 8K x2, Multiple 5ker
Me and my new Sole Sister!
Glow in the Dark Race Bling