It’s been awhile since I really traveled for a marathon, so I’ve been aching for a marathon trip over the past few months. Myrtle Beach doesn’t really count since that’s only a couple of hours away, so the last real trip I took was for Mississippi Blues. Amanda and I left bright and early and headed up to Asheville to meet up with my mom and finish the drive to Indiana. We planned to leave Amanda’s car in the parking lot of a Home Depot that was right off of the highway and convenient for both us and my mom, but we quickly lost confidence in the situation when I noticed used hypodermic needles in the planter right next to Amanda’s car.
Since we didn’t have too many other options, we left the car there and prayed for the best. The rest of the drive was relatively uneventful, and we arrived in Evansville with plenty of time to spare. The “expo” was held in the lobby of the hotel, and it was essentially a table with our numbers and shirt and then a local running shop with some items for sale. It was at this point that my mom began obsessing over all the important details of spectating and started printing what seemed like hundreds of maps from Google to figure out all the different roads she needed to take to get to each location. She was sitting kind of right in front of the little expo area at a computer, so a bunch of people mistook her for the race director or the race staff and started asking her questions about the course – kind of awkward. We headed out to do some pre-race scouting so my mom would know exactly where to go the next day, which primarily involved her telling me to navigate for her and keep track of where we went, me telling her where to go, her telling me I was wrong, me threatening to stop navigating, and ultimately her realizing that my directions were correct. We did manage to find 4 or 5 different spots where we would see my mom the next day, so we headed over to my cousin’s house for dinner. As we got out of the car, we noticed an odd smell – kind of like a combination of dog poop and cow poop, but we couldn’t find the source. It was really strong, but my cousin doesn’t even have a dog. Once the odor got into your nostrils, it was hard to forget, and Amanda and I quickly began to notice it everywhere.
With T-Rex Mom ready to spectate and Amanda and I sort of ready to marathon, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next day. Of course, I did not sleep at all. It might have been nerves about the next day, it might have been the fact that it was hot in the room, or it may have been the children screeching in the pool immediately outside the window. My mom felt compelled to point out that it was only 9pm and therefore not unreasonable for them to be screeching, but those kids got into my head, dammit! Before I knew it, it was time to get up and head over to the race. Of course, as soon as we got outside, there was that smell. It became our mission to figure out what the smell was before the race was over. We made it to the starting line with plenty of time and hadn’t heard anything about a Maniacs picture, so imagine my surprise when we’re just shadily wandering around in our Team T-Rex shirts and we all of a sudden see the Maniacs gathering at the start line and posing for the photo! Of course we would nearly miss the thing, so we sprinted over as fast as we could go – a nice little warmup for the 26.2 miles ahead of us.
As I waited for my heart rate to come back down, we decided to start exploring the source of the odor. Of course, we didn’t want to offend anyone who lived in Evansville by asking why everything, um, smelled so bad…but ultimately we had no choice. It seemed like my friends Lori and Maria would be perfect to ask, because they are very funny and not easily offended, and sure enough, they provided us with an answer. The smell was from…wait for it…a corn tortilla plant. I was really depressed to discover this, because I thought it was like a landfill or a cow farm or something. But no, it was from food. Food. Is nothing sacred? DAMMIT. Amanda and I mutually decided that we can no longer eat corn tortillas because the smell of their creation will never leave my brain. Ugh.
Although I’d like to say I didn’t have any goals for this race, I secretly wanted to finish under 5 hours. Amanda and I decided to try and keep each mile between 10-11 minute pace for as long as we could and just see what happened. The weather was beautiful, if not a little cold at the start – in fact, Amanda and I were freezing with the wind blowing as we ran. The first few miles had some quick hills that definitely got your attention, and it wasn’t long before we settled in and started noticing all the beautiful scenery. Pretty much the entire race was run through farmland. That’s not necessarily everyone’s thing, but it’s definitely mine and Amanda’s because we totally loved it.
I think there were about 1200 participants total between the marathon, half marathon and 8k. Only 200 of us were marathons, so the already-sparse course got more sparse after the half marathoners split off at mile 5.5 My mom was waiting for us around mile 6.5, and she is a fantastic spectator. In addition to wearing very bright colors so she is easy to spot, you can almost hear her before you can see her because she is cheering for everyone and talking to all the people around her at the same time. There weren’t a whole lot of spectators at this race, but my mom made sure she made friends with everyone.
We were running very comfortably and really enjoying the race and scenery, and my mom was waiting for us again at mile 10. She was worried because I’ve developed some blood sugar issues (dumping syndrome, for those who care to know) lately as a complication of my surgery and my body can’t process any type of refined or added sugars anymore – meaning no Gatorade, no gels, and yes…no Sprite and no Oreos. Disaster! I was carrying some crackers with me, drinking water, and feeling good – Amanda and I were continuing to roll on at a solid pace. We couldn’t believe how well supported the race was. Even though there weren’t a ton of spectators, Rolling Thunder had volunteers at every intersection and volunteers at each water stop (every mile) to keep us going. Also, the course was completely closed to traffic! While I’m sure that was annoying to local residents, it was awesome to run on. We could dominate the whole road without coming close to being hit by a car! Quite handy when you start feeling a little wobbly in the later miles of a marathon. My mom was also in full-on spectating mode and kept randomly showing up everywhere, having developed quite the reputation amongst the other spectators, so we were having a great time waiting to see where she would pop up next.
Mile 13 was by far the toughest of the race for us. It had a few big hills, and even though they were rolling, the wind was blowing really hard directly into our faces and it felt like we were going absolutely nowhere. It seemed impossibly far between the two aid stations, and when we reached mile 14, we were wiped out. Nonetheless, we kept going and continued running. Then, all of a sudden, I started feeling really weak. My heart rate started coming up and I felt really fuzzy, for lack of a better word. My blood sugar was crashing and my body was “dumping,” meaning it was forcing all of the sugar out of my system as quickly as possible. Amanda and I started walking for a bit, hoping the feeling would pass, and eventually, we decided to lay down on the grass for a second. As we did, a woman ran by in 50 States Club gear and said “You ladies should join the Maniacs! You’d fit right in…we love stopping to rest along the way!” We weren’t wearing Maniacs gear, but we laughed and told her that we were in fact Maniacs, of course, and then the whole situation made sense.
I was feeling a little panicked because my mom was at mile 18 and we still had two miles to go. I literally had no energy to run, so we just walked. I started feeling really discouraged and sad because at mile 16, we had 10 miles to go, and I really didn’t want to walk the whole rest of the way. My only hope was to get to my mom, who was waiting for me with Juicy Juice – a natural sugar that I’m allowed to have, allegedly. We finally got to her, and she gave me my tiny juice box, which I drank verrrryyy slowly. We kept walking as I drank, finally making it to mile 19. Eventually, I started to feel better and we started to run again. I was pretty disappointed because I knew our goal of under 5 hours was toast, but I wanted to finish as strong as I could, so we did. As we ran, we passed pretty much everyone who had passed us while we were walking! I got an immense amount of joy out of that for no good reason. We even caught up to Mary, who was awesomely wearing a Team T-Rex shirt, and Paul, who was struggling with an injured foot, at mile 23. They had been light years ahead of us, so I was definitely surprised. Of course, my mom was there too, making sure I didn’t die. Fortunately, I was doing much better, even though I was carrying a juice box like a 5 year old.By the time we reached mile 25, it was time for a T-Rex, and although I was nervous, I felt pretty sure we could do it. I told Amanda not to let me quit, no matter what, but she was fairly certain I was going to collapse, so she said something like “well, we can stop if we need to, just not walk…don’t do anything crazy!”
Very, very slowly, we ran the last 1.2 miles towards the finish. Of course, the ridiculous headwind had picked back up and was now blowing the hardest it had the whole day, so we kept our heads down and cursed repeatedly. Ok, that was just me. Amanda is much classier. My mom was waiting for us at the finish, of course, and ready to take a picture. I was ready to stop running.
Our official time was 5:14 and some change, which I was simultaneously happy and disappointed with. We were on pace for about a 4:40 or so up until mile 16, and most certainly would have finished under 5 hours were it not for the 3-4 mile walk break in the middle. Ultimately, though, I can’t be too upset. For my first marathon back, I felt really strong, and although I don’t quite have the nutrition thing figured out now that sugar has been ruthlessly snatched from my diet, I will get it eventually. Amanda and I truly loved the race and thought it was incredibly charming. The scenery and weather were great (ok, we could have done without the wind) and the volunteers were awesome and enthusiastic. I loved having the course closed the entire time! And it was quite a day for Maniac triumph, with my friend Sophia taking 1st overall female and Michelle taking 2nd overall! We also had a bunch of age group winners, and even though Amanda and I weren’t among them, we had a great time. Could have done without the smell of cow poop/dog poop/corn tortillas, but hey, no race is perfect, right? Other than that, this one came pretty close. And with that, it was off to St. Louis!