The Hogeye

More like The HogWASH, but we’ll get to that.

I knew I would only have one First Marathon. Heck, I might only have one marathon. So I wanted to be sure it was memorable. I’m a sucker for a race with a story and atmosphere, and since I couldn’t go to Vegas for my first 26.2 (and I was getting panicky about how hot it might be two weeks later for my originally planned OKC Memorial Marathon)  I thought a hometown race would be perfect — hometown, familiar territory, home field advantage. A good portion of The Hogeye runs on the Fayetteville Trail System which is where I’ve done almost every mile of my training.

So I felt good. The 36th Annual Hogeye Marathon it would be. I registered, finished my training, tapered, rested, and waited for race day.

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Before

I’ve read that marathons are as mental as they are physical – especially the last 6 miles – and I definitely learned the truth of that sentiment over the course of my longest training runs. 16…18…20 miles. It’s hard. And it hurts.

Physically, you have to be tough – and prepared. But mentally, you have to be just as tough – and just as prepared. I walked to the start line that morning hoping I was any of those things.

I’d spent the morning eating the same oatmeal with the same scoop of peanut butter as every other long run morning. I added a banana seeing as this was a particularly special day. I paced the house, as per my usual race day routine, and it was finally time to head to the square.

I sang the Star-Spangled Banner with tears in my eyes, met up with Jennifer, said hello to a few friends and fellow runners, and hugged Jeff.

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The gun went off.

Here we go.

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During

I always, always, always need a few miles to really settle in. All these months of running and I’ve never learned to warm up properly – so I just use the first few miles for that. Sometimes I feel good by mile 3, sometimes by mile 5. That morning, I just couldn’t find my rhythm. I remember finally feeling good for a few minutes in a row and I looked down at my watch — 7.5 miles. That’s a long warm up, my friends.

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The rough first few miles probably had plenty to do with the infamous Hogeye hills. This race is notorious for being tough. And that reputation is well deserved. Check out the elevation for the first 3 miles:

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THAT’LL wake ya up!

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Our shirts. I’ve written a bit about it before, but Tom is part of what inspires me to run and push myself. I wear his name on my wrist every day (and during every run) and it seemed appropriate to wear his name during this race. Jennifer was so sweet to wear it, too. Here’s a close-up:

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When Tom was in Ranger School in 2006 he had an attitude about it that I wanted to channel for our run — “Make them cart you out.” It seemed a little dramatic for us, but the sentiment is the same — NEVER QUIT. I thought of him many times during the day and race volunteers would see our shirts (designed by my friend, Justin) and cheer, “Never Quit!” It was perfect.

Jeff and Luke (Jennifer’s husband) are such good sports. Since the race was local and the course was familiar, they were able to sneak around town and meet us throughout the course with water, GU and encouragement. It was nice to have that to look forward to. They were our Pit Crew.

This was around mile 5.5 — right in front of Sam’s Club. I’m eating a GU and am about to notice that my little guy had made it to the race! I started to hear “Go Mommy! Go Mommy! Go Mommy!” and I got a good surge of energy after a spirited high-five. I thought the threat of rain would keep Colt and Becky at home, but they made it!

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That might be the only photo of me with sunglasses on, too. I wore them for about 12 seconds as the weather stayed overcast most of the morning. The wind got a little crazy and I almost lost my hat a few times, but that would eventually prove to be the least of our worries.

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I felt terrible the first half of the race because I could tell Jennifer was feeling springy and she kept having to check over her shoulder to make sure I was still with her. I just couldn’t figure out why I felt so sluggish. Eventually, it occurred to me that I may have sabotaged myself.

I’m convinced I only really learn things the hard way and this was no different. Last week, as I gathered everything for race day, I was still panicked about the potential for warm weather so I bought two additional water bottles for my fuel belt — making four total. No way I would run out of water now! Well… on top of breaking the cardinal rule of trying NOTHING new on race day, I was now also carrying an extra POUND of water on my back. Stellar idea, yes? I almost always run with the front two, so that wasn’t a big deal, but the additional two bottles. Idiot.

Conveniently, my new friend Nicholas caught me on film as I made the easiest decision of the race — ditch the water bottles!

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Becky, they’re all yours!

There were PLENTY of aid stations along the course and I didn’t miss the extra bottles. In fact, I felt great! Literally, a weight had been lifted! Just think how much better I might have felt if I’d been carrying one less pound in the middle of my back for the first 11 miles…

Because of the weather I didn’t bring my music, and I really missed it. Jennifer and I joked that it’s not as if you get tired of talking to the person you’re with — it’s that you get tired of your own thoughts. It’s so true. As the race went on I kept trying to make mental notes to myself of things I felt sure I wouldn’t forget — details meant both to share with you and as part of my own nostalgic indulgence. There’s just entirely too much time to think during 26 miles.

There were times I felt like an absolute celebrity — between the volunteers at aid stations, fellow runners and spectators there were so many familiar faces and encouraging friends, and I was being reminded — THAT’S why I wanted a hometown race.

When we’d set out that morning the forecast called for severe storms, but we’d made it well past the halfway point and still nothing more than sprinkles. Miles 12 through 19 are on the trail around Lake Fayetteville, but the trees are so thick it’s tough to see much of the sky. We could tell it was darker than it really should have been at 10am, but still no rain. Around Mile 15 – at the Botanical Gardens – there was a clearing and we could finally see the storm clouds in the distance. We asked a volunteer about the weather report and she answered, “well, the tornado warning has ended.” Umm, tornado?? Hadn’t even been worried about THAT!

We saw our pit crew again before Colt and Becky headed home to escape any weather.

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That hug and high-five would have to last me the rest of the day!

And it was just about to get interesting.

Around mile 17, it started to rain. Our weather luck had officially run out. For perspective for you Fayettevillains — we were halfway around Lake Fayetteville and had to get all the way back to the town square. In the rain.

It rained. And then it rained harder. And it didn’t stop.

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In some ways, it was distracting. What can you do? It’s raining and you have 9 miles left to run. Let’s do this.

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In an attempt to mentally minimize the miles, we split it into chunks of 5 mile stretches from the very beginning. It’s a lot more manageable to get from 1 to 5 or 5 to 10 than 1 to 26. And eventually we started counting back down.

10 miles to go.

I never really hit “the wall”. I actually felt better during the last 10 miles than I did in the first 10. Go figure. I was getting cramps though — during the last 10 miles my right calf would seize up for a second, every 10 minutes or so, then relax. The first few times it happened it took me by surprise and I almost fell over. It didn’t hurt, but it was pretty unnerving.

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6 miles to go – that’s a 10K, we got this.

This is the part I’d been dreading. The miles where everything starts to fall apart and that “it’s all mental” idea comes into play. But it was already pouring rain – and we couldn’t help but laugh. Of COURSE it’s raining. Because this isn’t hard enough already!

3 miles to go – 5K, easy.

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Somewhere around mile 22 it started to really, really storm. Thunder, lightning – the works. We decided we’d be fine unless it started to hail – that might make us find cover. But until then, we kept moving. Never Quit.

There had been talk early in the race about diverting marathoners to the half marathon course or removing them from the course altogether if the weather got bad enough. I assumed during the last 5 miles that this was the weather they had feared — and there was absolutely no way I would be leaving the course at that point. Nowhere to go but the finish line.

2 miles to go – you could do that in your sleep.

It was so, so wet. My fingers were getting pruny. There was standing water on low-lying sections of the trail. We were soaked to the bone and sloshing through more water with every stride. But we kept on moving. We actually passed several other runners/walkers in the last 5 miles. You get to a point that you’re honestly not feeling your legs anymore. Just. Keep. Moving. Forward.

1 mile to go – give it anything and everything you have left.

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We turned off the trail and onto the street — so close to the square and the finish line — and a truck pulled up next to us and rolled down the window. A young guy shouted at us, “are you guys running the Hogeye?” We nodded and yelled, “yeah!” He looked up at the sky and back to us. “Y’all are badass!”

Yes! We are! That was exactly what I needed for that last push to the finish. The final stretch is uphill (cruelty!) and then one last loop, around the square.

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And across the most beautiful finish line I’ve ever seen.

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After

The kind and dedicated volunteers that stuck with us through the rain were there with a smile and a medal at the finish line. Honestly, Fayetteville should be incredibly proud of the way it hosted this event this year. The race was well supported by volunteers who literally weathered the storm.

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This would be my new friend, Glen. He’s 69 years young and he finished right behind us. As we were huddled under a tent scarfing bananas and Gatorade I noticed his Marathon Maniac shirt and asked him, “so, how many is this, Mr. Maniac?” He smiled and said, “72.”

Holy cow, take my picture with this man!

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The rain kinda killed any Finish Line party that had been going on so we grabbed a few snacks for the road and headed to the car. We left in such a rush that I didn’t even have anyone take a picture of us with the boys!

We got to the car and I started peeling off my soaking wet clothes. At least it wasn’t cold outside!

Once we got home I thought I would want to shower then collapse into a day-long nap, but I was wide awake. Jeff left for the gym, Colt was napping, and Becky had fallen asleep on the couch. So everyone in the house was asleep – except me. Honestly, I did some dishes. I had all kinds of energy. Adrenaline? I have no idea, but it was weird. And it didn’t end for almost three days. I NEVER have trouble sleeping. But I only slept for about two hours Sunday night – then got up and read a book. My body was tired – obviously – but I couldn’t stay asleep.

Physically, I fared really well. I had been afraid of knee and ankle pain which I’d had quite a bit of in training. Race? None to speak of. And somehow, I escaped all that running in crazy rain with not one single blister. Explain that one. I was really, really sore. Back, quads, calves. It was tough to walk Monday, a bit better Tuesday and much better by Wednesday. I swear by my super sexy compression socks — and after this deal I wish I had compression ARMOR. My calves felt pretty good and I wished I had that kind of recovery for every muscle in my body!

Another aspect I’d worried about was fueling, and I feel like I nailed it – somehow. We ate a GU every hour and drank water and Gatorade all day. I feel like I had 3 gallons of water that morning, but my stomach never felt upset or heavy. It worked. What a relief.

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So the big question — will there be a next time? Definitely, yes. There were several moments during training and even during the race that I felt certain I would cross the finish line and have one of two feelings — either I would be ready to sign up for another one immediately or I’d be so relieved to be done and ready to swear off marathons altogether.

It was incredible. I just keep staring at the word “marathon” on my medal. I feel a little like I’m in some sort of club. I already identify myself as “a runner”, but now I feel like I’ve crossed some sort of threshold and now that I’m on the other side – I can’t ever go back. Even if I never run another marathon in my life — I know what it feels like to push through 26.2, cross that finish line and feel that medal around my neck. I am a marathoner.

Hogeye 2012, thank you for an undeniably memorable first marathon experience. I couldn’t have scripted a better one.

It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about. — Lester Burnham (American Beauty)

Keep calm and marath on

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5 Responses to The Hogeye

  1. Tina Rischbieter April 20, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Very proud of you! The picture of Colt along the trail brought tears to my eyes. I can only imagine the excitement that child feels as he sees you run by. I know he is so proud of his Mommy….. his BADASS Mommy!

  2. Amanda C. April 20, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Sarah, I LOVED reading about your first marathon experience!!! And holy cow, girl, it feels like we had the exact.same.race. I always use the first few miles of my runs to warm up, and exactly like you, it took me 7 or 8 miles on Sunday to get there!! It was BRUTAL!!!! I’m so excited for you on this big accomplishment – and I hope I keep seeing you on those Saturday morning runs on the trail!!

  3. J-Fro April 20, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Fantastic, Sarah! I have always thought you were a rock star. Now it has been confirmed for the whole world to see. Well done.

  4. Amy April 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Sarah,
    This blog literally brought tears to my eyes. I think it is all of the emotions of next week for me. Scared, excited, nervous… You are so amazing. The pictures and story are priceless.

  5. Kelly Chaney April 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Looking at your pictures I can tell that rain was pounding down! You are one tough cookie to stick it out! Nicely done.

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