This marathon thing (and this blog too, actually) started way back in the day.  I cooked up the blog to document my first marathon, which also ended back on a different day.  Fast forward through a couple half marathons, Warrior Dashes, a kiddo and a few (four) years of a busy but fun life, and here we are again.  Recapping another marathon.  No, it wasn't the one I was expecting to run, but the organizers of the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte were kind enough to discount the rate to those of us NYC marathon runners that had nowhere to displace all this training in our legs.

After some thought, "Coach" Mike Swaim and I decided to pull the trigger and run a marathon this year after all (his first).  Go check out his account of training and race recap (here) for a really good take on the experience, as this guy will inspire you, and he kicked this race in the face.  IN. THA. FACE.  We finally (I think) got over the disappointment of NYC, adjusted/extended our training plan for a couple weeks to try and deliver ourselves to the start line ready for 26.2 (I ran a personal best 13.1 miler to blow off the steam), and looked forward to Thunder Road.  We headed down to the Queen City on Friday to pick up our packets (and a sweet sale on a new pair of my JAM New Balance shoes, holla!), carb up on copious amounts of pasta, drink lots of water, and try to get some rest before the big day.

Neither of us slept great.  I fell asleep with the TV on and was awakened at some point in the night by Treadstone operatives trying to kill Jason Bourne.  That was fun, and I consider it a success that I didn't wet myself given all the water I've been drinking (TMI?).  I ended up popping back up before the alarm and proceeded to force down some more carbs, and more water.  Then it was time to suit up (I'm skipping all the bathroom talk that any other runner knows I'm skipping here) and head out to the start.

Our hotel was a block from the finish but a bit further to the start, and it was CHILLY.  I was happy to find the convention center open to runners when we got there (which I don't remember being the case back when I did the half in 2010), so that was a very pleasant and warm surprise.  A little warm-up time, then we trekked into the starting gates, waited a little longer, heard the roar of a NASCAR and we were off.

Magic Socks, a lil leg

Waiting for the green flag...

I didn't have a true time goal in the race, other than to beat my Big Sur time of 4:45.  Based on how I'd been training, that shouldn't have been a problem.  Best case I'd even push 4:15.  Well....Saturday wasn't best case for me.  I started out fine, great really.  I didn't push too hard and turned out the first half of the hilly course in 2:01.  All the half marathoners took a right while us 26.2 mile idiots went left, and the course got much quieter.  That's OK, I'm a fan of zen running on my long runs anyway (quiet, no tunes).  I just kept slugging away, feeling as good as someone who's halfway through a lengthy endurance event can feel.

It was around Bank of America Stadium and mile 16 when I started to feel a little off.  I blame the current state of the Panthers franchise for this due to my proximity to the field at the time.  My magical compression socks weren't working and my calves were feeling a bit tight.  Cramps aren't usually my thing, so I pushed on.  With the stadium, and a couple great "that's what she said" signs behind me, I turned the corner into the NoDa neighborhood and by far the best spectators of the course.  Energentic, loud, and offering free beer (I should have partaken in retrospect).  They built a wall for the runners to break through, and had more chalk on the street than asphalt.  Thanks, NoDa, for giving me a last blast of pep.

Once the boost of cheers wore off, I was into mile 20 and a world of trouble.  I started walking.  A lot.  My calves just wouldn't let me go too far before they requested some PTO.  As I walked along, wondering what the heck was going on, the 4:15 pace group passed me.  NOOOOO!  I tried to get in gear and stay with them, then just keep them in range, then in sight, then...I was walking again.  Oh well, still surviving and still well ahead of my goal.

Fast forward to mile 26, and the final turn to the finish line.  There was the slightest of incline and at about mile 26.1, my right calf had had enough and locked up on me.  Being the gracious runner that I am, I took a side step to my left to get out of peoples' way so I could walk it out, at which point my left calf joined the "no more" party and I took a tumble to the pavement.  Right in front of some cheering fans.  Lovely.  Aside from the one lady who tried to get me up immediately, these people were great.  They were encouraging, they helped me stretch out my legs and someone even rubbed my calves, which felt like I imagine heaven might.  Then I was back up to finish gingerly.  But finish I did.  Stupid last .1.

You can almost see the knots tied in my calves here.  I think I'm smiling, somehow.

Hardware and oooo-weeee, that orange

Stats, and for you number heads, here are the gory details

And that's how I got the marathon out of my system.  We have one more half marathon and a 5k on the schedule this year, then I plan to hang up the shoes for a while to regroup and recover, and maybe do another round of P90X to mix things up a bit.  And then next year, 26.2 in NYC.  Who else is coming with me?