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First Marathon in the Books!

After more than five months of training, I finished my first marathon – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona on January 14, 2018. I had never been more nervous for a race.  I had calls with my coach the day before and morning of the race. His last piece of advice to me was, “Breathe.”

Being around friendly fellow racers helped too. They all had words of encouragement when they heard it was my first complete marathon.

My race bib, shirt, and medal

Spectators Matter and Dogs!
The spectators for this race are awesome. Seeing their faces and hearing them cheer makes a difference. Some set up extra water stations; handed out orange slices, bacon, and beer; and held up signs. Hat tip to the spectators who made multiple appearances along the route. I was happy to see so many people with their dogs along the race route. Each one made me smile.

Your Backside Matters
More racers need to understand that their backside is entertainment for the people running behind them. I want to see more shoulder and calf tattoos and shirts with interesting backs. Several racers during the last 7 miles complemented the back of my shirt as they passed me. One said it was “dirty lie” because we were only at Mile 19. I responded that my shirt doesn’t say, “Last Mile.”

Watching so many people’s backs confirmed my idea of getting a variation of the Ignite Phoenix bird tattooed on my right shoulder blade and wearing t-back tank tops on race day.

How do these People Know my Name?
At several water stations, the volunteers cheered for me by name. I thought, “Do I know them? How do they know my name?” as I examined their faces for something familiar. And then I remembered, “Oh right, it’s on my bib.”

Still smiling after 26.2 miles and walking home from the light rail. Those numbers of my hand reminded me of when to take my gels.

“Coach, It Hurts.”
By Mile 20, I was in pain, and seriously contemplating whether I could finish the race without walking. I was afraid if I started walking, I wouldn’t be able to start running again. A frequent thought that crossed my mind was, “Coach, it hurts.”

During my training, I did a 23.8-mile run. Coach David said my body could handle the 26.2-mile distance, even if I had to walk the last miles.

I didn’t want to walk, or entertain that possibility, so I flipped from thinking about the pain to distracting myself by mentally going through gymnastics routines. (I was a gymnast for 17 years. I’ve completed many challenging runs with this trick.)

Mile 23 – 5K to go
At 5K to go, there was no way I was going to walk. Even exhausted and in pain, I could run a 5K. At the water station at Mile 24, a volunteer cheered, “Looking strong Ruth!” I didn’t feel strong, but appreciated it.

Mile 25 had the steepest hill on the course. I had some choice words for the organizers at that moment, and then I thought, “This is why I train on hills.”

Finish Strong
I had a good end of the race, coming down the hill at the end of the Mill Ave Bridge and turning the corner towards the finish line. I raised my arms and smiled as I crossed the finish line. Despite being in pain, I look happy in all my photos from the race.

I started walking after I crossed the finish line. I didn’t want to stop moving because I knew more pain would set in.

Post-Race Pain
Oh, and did it hurt. I had pain in my hips, quads, knees, and feet. I had been dealing with a sore ankle for the last week and taped it with KT Tape for the race. It did remarkably well during the race; I felt no pain until I took the tape off post-race.

I hurt so much after the race, I couldn’t get comfortable enough to nap after I got home and showered. Instead, I laid in bed for an hour and watched YouTube on my phone. I had Gatorade and chocolate milk after the race, and I didn’t want to eat for a few hours after the race.

The next day I had substantially less pain than I expected. Most of pain was in my quads. Surprisingly, I’m not going to lose any toenails from the race. I only lost one during training.

Got the Bug
I’ve heard marathoners are one-and-done or get the marathon bug. Even before this race ended, I was thinking about my next race. My goal for this race was to just finish. Now, I want to see if I can improve my time and feel stronger.

Here are my stats from this race:
Finish Time: 4:44:37
944/1852 Overall
344/809 Gender (Women’s)
63/141 Division

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – DNF

I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon yesterday . . . well, more accurately speaking, I started the race. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish it. As many of my friends suggested, this was not my race.

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – Probably my Happiest Moment of the Day (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

I needed to have an awesome day on race day to complete 26.2 miles. That’s what I had a few weeks ago when I ran 20 miles and I felt like I could easily run 5 more. Yesterday was a good day, not a great day. I didn’t feel particularly bad when I started the day just after 4am. I got up, made coffee, got dressed for the race, walked the dog, had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter, packed my gear bag, and walked a mile to the light rail station. I had an enjoyable chat with a guy from Minnesota on the rail who was the 3:40 pacer for the race on the ride across town. He said he was going to run the race with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest.

The starting line is pretty uneventful. I met up with my cousin AJ and we lined up in our corral. Just before the race started, I had my usual pre-race 5 Hour Energy and 2 ibuprofens. As our group started the race I tried to be mindful of the advice I heard from so many people – Don’t start out too fast. I tried to tell myself, “We’re just going for a jog.”

I never felt like I found a groove in this race. My music kept me going and I occasionally found someone to pace with. My hands started tingling around Mile 2, and I knew that couldn’t be good, but thankfully a cleared up after a few more miles. My right arch hurt starting pretty early on in the race and I had intermittent hip pain on both sides, but I pushed on. By Mile 9, I was pretty certain I would be losing some toenails after the race.

In terms of time, I had a great first half of the race. My half marathon time was 1:58 (9:07/mile pace). Around Mile 12, I started questioning if I really wanted to finish the race. At Mile 14, I really started to hurt and started slowing down. The 4-hour pacers easily passed me. After the turnaround in Old Town Scottsdale, my chest and my liver hurt so I decided to walk. I was surprised by how much my whole body hurt once I stopped running and how slowly I was walking, even compared to how slowly I had been running. I was done.

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

I promised myself I could stop at the next medical tent, which turned out to be at Mile 19. A friendly nurse gave me a chair, verified my identity, and asked what was wrong. When she discerned that I wasn’t in imminent danger or in need of significant medical attention, she gave me a bottle of Gatorade and called for the shuttle. Another nurse put a towel that had been soaking in ice around my shoulders. I felt like crap.

Gene, my kind shuttle driver, zipped me to the finish line where I pick that my bag from gear check and met up with my family. I sent out a handful of text messages to the people who I suspected were tracking me via my RFID chip who might be wondering what had happened to me. I was bummed I couldn’t finish the race but it was the right decision. I felt so weak, so lightheaded, and my stomach hurt like a bitch that my aunt took me home instead of going out with everybody else. After a few hours of rest, I started to feel human again.

Thank you to everyone who supported me along this journey to do this race and a special thank you to the crew and volunteers who work the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and my friends Karen, La Dessa, Valerie, Dannie, and Bill who cheered me on from the sidelines. You guys made my race a lot less painful.

Will I try another marathon? I’m not sure. The next thing on my to-do list is seeing my new cardiologist and getting my heart fixed. My new guy specializes in my type of heart defect so hopefully he can determine what’s causing my symptoms and how to fix it.