Ride the bus to the startline with my brother-in-law (he suggests I NOT sing kum-bay-ya). Warmest start temperature ever (or so they told us.) Stand in line to use the ladies (aka gross port-a-potty). See one of my running gurus (CPB) and her family - I take it as an omen I'm going to have a great race.
Fall in line with the 5-hr plodders (and the Cliff Pace Team member); and make a pledge to not go out too fast. Feels great to be running with people who are easy-like-sunday morning. No pressure for fast - I feel great. I've had a Odwalla bar, I drink the Gatorade at the Aid Stations and never turn down a piece of banana. Visiting and taking it all in, there's really no need for my ipod at this point. Vow to turn it on once the race gets hard (most likely at the Veyo hill).
I find Brittany. Brittany is a long legged twenty-something blonde college student, who is also a first-timer. She's my running friend for about 4 miles. She uses my chapstick. We bond. We inch ahead of the pacers but keep them within an ear's shot.
Some how 7 miles have passed; and we're already at 'the Veyo hill.' Brittany tells me it's not that bad (she's been training on the course), and I think I'll probably need my ipod. But I don't. The Veyo hill is manageable. There's about 4 more miles of rolling hills after Veyo's 1-mile climb reminding me that whoever said the Saint George Marathon is all downhill has NEVER run the first half of the race (or the Winchester hill.)
My set list is 3 hours long; I figure I'll start listening to it after 2 hours. We (Blonde Brittany and Me) keep inching ahead of the pacers. I check my Garmin watch. We're pacing around the 11 - 11:30; and getting further from the 5-hr pack. I hit 2 hours and keep pulling away. I stick my ear buds in, and push play: CAKE's "Going the Distance" begins my anthem for the race. I turn around. Brittany is smiling, and I keep going the distance. I never see her again.
Before I know it I've hit 13 miles and am still feeling good (about 2 hrs 30 minutes, on track for my 5-hr goal). My pace picks up a little; but I feel pleasant. I pull the Red Bull from the back of my water pack. I flick the lid with precision as I trot along. The red liquid energy sprays all over and makes my hand sticky. I don't really care. It tickles my throat but goes down relatively smoothly. I throw the empty can on the side of the road. It feels weird to litter -- even in a marathon. I turn around to the men behind me and muse "That feels weird. Just so you know, I feel bad about it." They give some slight courtesy laughs and soon after, the taurine and caffeine kick in.
Around the corner (a mile, maybe two?) my boys are waiting. It nearly takes my breath away I am so happy to see them. I feel euphoric. I feel great. In fact, I feel so good I'm almost afraid because 13 miles has NEVER felt this good, but I'm closer to mile 15! I hand off my knock-off camel back to Danny, give Holden a kiss, squeeze both of them and down 4 more ounces of a Red Bull Danny has brought with him. (He later confesses to finishing off the other 4 ounces as apparently tending Holden on race day has made him in need of a little 'pick-me-up' too.)
Before I know it, I'm at mile 17 or so. I've been posing for the cameras, wanting to make sure I have at least one happy picture of my run. But I don't have to try too hard because new people make me hyper, and cameras make me down-right spastic. I pull a 360 and the photographer makes me feel like I'm a paparazzi darling. The other runners around me vacillate between laughter and looks of disgust.
I look at the Garmin; and I'm on track for a negative split! Now 5 hours isn't the goal. I could pul around a 4:45! Is this really happening? Where's the wall? The Winchester Hill approaches and something weird is happening to my body. My feet suddenly have an aversion to the ground. I'm running uphill, but my feet feel like they are skipping on clouds. I look at my watch and I am pacing just over 9 minute miles -- uphill. This is not normal for me. In fact this is downright insanity. Holy Balls Red Bull really does give you wings! And the some. I don't fight it. I just revel in the sublime sensation. I let my feet carry me. At some point my pace slows a little; but I'm still holding around 10-minute miles.
I see another of my running gurus (BBS-one who helped get me into all of this). It's one more lift to my spirits. I keep going. It stands to reason that eventually I'll hit a wall, but it hasn't come...yet. I pass mile marker 22; the furthest I've ever run. I bust through it. People along the course are walking and stopping to stretch; and one guy is on the side of the road with paramedics. I say a little prayer for him and keep going.
Mile 24 is around the corner. I've thought about this point: the causes I would run for. The people I would think about. How I would dig deep into the innermost vault of Sabrena-ness
and find the strength to continue on. Because the wall is coming right? Any moment it's going to hit me. It's almost here...
But instead, I let out a wild yell:
The spectators along the sidewalk don't know quite what to do with me: so they cheer, and I smile and keep on keepin' on. And my race continues... no wall, but the bliss continues (well, as blissful as running 20-plus miles can be. It's a sliding scale, people.)
Someone is passing out popsicles around mile 25. The orange high fructose corn syrup feels cold and fabulous down my throat. I run with the small wooden stick it in my hand and am grinning from ear to ear.
The final stretch, I can see the balloons.
I pull out my headphones to hear the crowd and take it all in.
Another of my running gurus (WHH) is with her husband on the sidelines. She in grinning and cheering, and I babble on about how amazing I feel. She runs me in for a few strides. My emotions are so high I feel like my cells are going to explode. I'm almost in tears. I see my parents and Danny and Holden and my sister and brother-in-law. And they are smiling too. My face probably looks like I got botox at this point because my grin is from more than ear to ear.
I yell again to the crowd:
They erupt in thunderous applause.
I salute a National Guardsman. And then I leap over the finish line.
And in 4 hours and 44 minutes I have had the time of my life
and just happened to run 26.2 miles.
To be continued....