North Face Endurance Challenge Kansas City Marathon

30 Aug

I’m happy to report that I’m now 2 days post marathon, and my soreness is basically gone. Considering how awful I felt during the race I’m surprised I bounced back so quickly.

I intentionally waited a couple days after my marathon to write my recap because I was feeling so many things on Saturday that I knew it would be hard to gather my thoughts. I went from loving marathons during the early miles of the race, to hating them during the middle of the race, to swearing I would never run another race again in my life closer to the finish, and now I’m at the point where I not only want to run another race, but I’m thinking I want to try the 50k at this event if it’s held during a non-summer month next year… kind of crazy how all over the place my thoughts are. I’ll start at the beginning though, since after all, it’s a very fine place to start. Yes, I know that was a totally lame musical quote, but I happen to LOVE the Sound of Music.

My marathon experience started on Friday night when I went to pick up my bib and shirt. It was pretty toasty that evening, so I’d already decided ahead of time that I’d grab my stuff and get home asap to rest up for the next morning. I got to the park where the race was being held, and there were quite a few people there getting their bibs as well. Getting my number was super quick, plush the bib was pink (score!)

I even got to choose between several choices of shirt styles and colors (double score!) There were a lot of cute color choices, and I was leaning towards pink since I like bright colored running gear, but ended up going with a two toned blue and white shirt instead. The shirts were blank when you got them, except for the race decal on the arm.  You then took them to get your race distance screen printed on them after you got your bib. I like the idea of the on site screen printing, but waiting in line for 15-20 minutes in the heat was not ideal. Especially since I had just come from school and was wearing dark jeans, and no sun screen. Not only did I start to bake a little in the sun, but I was super hot in my dark outfit. Luckily the design was cute, so it was worth the extra wait.

We also got arm warmers with our shirts. Definitely not needed for an August race, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate them this fall and winter!

While I’m on the topic of race swag, we also got free hand held water bottles for the race since we were required to carry at least 16 oz of hydration during the race.

Even before the race started, signing up for this race had already ended up being a good deal. I got 2 shirts, totaling $70 in value, arm warmers added another $25, and the water bottle was another $20. While I most likely wouldn’t have purchased these items if I hadn’t run, they are nice to have, and they weren’t the cheap kind of shirts or freebies that other races try to entice runners with.

Enough talk about swag though, back to Friday night. I got my shirt, got the marathon screen printing done, then decided to jump in line to see Mr. Ultra Marathon Man.  I happened to have one of his books on me by chance (or not by chance since I knew he’d be there and remembered to throw it in my purse that morning…) and needed some last minute advice. Did I mention that I felt like I was getting cold, and was feeling kind of crummy that day? No? Well I woke up Friday morning with the beginnings of a cold, runny nose, sore throat, etc. I hoped and prayed that I would feel better on Saturday, because not being able to breathe through my nose didn’t seem like a good thing while attempting 26.2 miles.  Anyways, I hopped in line to see Dean, have him sign my book and get another photo with him. I really appreciate how unrushed the signing time with him was. Even though there were only a few people in front of me, the line was slow, but I didn’t mind. It was totally cool that we could have a mini conversation with Dean without anyone trying to move us on our way. I told Dean it was my first marathon, so he signed my book accordingly.

I finally headed home around 5:30. On a whim I decided to run by the store on my way home and get a new shirt to wear for the race. I am usually a stickler for the nothing new on race day idea, but I already planned to break that rule once I found out that we were required to carry hydration. I’m not a huge fan of my hydration belt anymore, and have been doing my runs with a hand held bottle. I didn’t really want to carry a bottle for that long, so decided to wear my camelbak even though it wasn’t long run tested. Since I was going to be testing my luck already a little I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get a new tank to coordinate with my purple compression socks that I was planning to wear. After my little pit stop I finally made it home, and enjoyed some pre-race pizza. Pizza has kind of been my favorite pre-race meal for awhile. I was careful to limit how much I ate, and drank a big glass of water to help ensure I was hydrating properly, so my dinner wasn’t a total unhealthy feast. I headed to bed pretty early, and fell asleep without tossing and turning. Considering I was starting to feel sick, and knew I was supposed to run my first marathon the next day, I was feeling pretty calm.

I woke up at 5 on Saturday morning feeling pretty well rested, and my cold wasn’t any worse than it had been. I drank some coffee to wake myself up and kind of clear all the cold gunk out of my head. I usually don’t drink coffee before a race, but I was living life on the edge with a new shirt and hydration pack, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add something else new into the mix. I don’t recommend testing your luck like I did during this race, I got very lucky with all my choices…

I got to the parking garage around 6:20, and got to cheer on some of the 50k racers who were already running on my way to the race start. The park the race was held in is apparently a nice place to spend the night if you don’t have anywhere else to go. All of the benches were covered with blankets and sleeping people who couldn’t be bothered by the guy speaking loudly over the speakers on the other side of the park. I felt a little odd during my warm up run when I ran right by the occupied benches.  Soon after my warm up it was time for us to line up and get ready to go. We got to run the marathon with Dean that day, so he gave us a little pep talk before we got started. It’s pretty cool that I can say I’ve run a marathon with Dean Karnazes now. Especially since less than 100 people ran the marathon with him. Finally right at 7 we started our 26.2 mile journey.

I would love to go mile by mile during the race and recall how I was feeling each mile, but I don’t have to mental capacity to remember each mile and what made it special and unique. When you run that long, the miles tend to blur together into chunks, so I’ll try my best to remember the chunks that I can.

First, let me introduce you to the elevation map that I should have paid more attention to during my training. Take special note of the big dip around mile 12. That was my first crash of the race, and my pace never recovered after that.

Miles 1-6 were great! It was still cool out, and the miles flew by. I was running with the 5 hour pace group, and the pace was perfect for me. I know I would have taken off way to fast if I would have been running on my own. The scenery in during the first 6 miles was very nice, but the hills were plentiful. Around mile 5 we got passed by Dean, who was in front of us at the start. I asked him why he wasn’t further ahead because I didn’t remember passing him, he said he’d stopped for a book signing. That man makes running a marathon seem like a piece of cake…. oh wait, it really is a piece of cake for him compared to an ultra.

Miles 7-12 were quite a bit warmer, and most of the shade was gone. The hills started to get bigger and steeper. I remember thinking at mile 10 that I was feeling pretty good, and was surprised that I still felt that good after 10 miles. Too bad that feeling didn’t last…

Mile 12 was my first crash and burn moment. I didn’t expect to hit a wall so early on in the race, and I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have if I would have been feeling 100% physically before the race. I think not being able to breathe through my nose consistently took a toll on my breathing because I started getting cramps in my side really bad. I had to stop and walk for the first time aside from water stops. I’d walk for a minute or two and get rid of a cramp, then I’d run some more until another cramp started. It was really discouraging!

Miles 13-16.5 were okay. I managed to do some running, and the cramping stopped some. The direct sun, with no shade was kind of discouraging. I’d run for a few minutes, then would feel totally wiped out when I stopped. I knew my goal of finishing in 5 hours was out of the window. I texted my husband to let him know that I’d be a little longer than anticipated since  I didn’t want him to get worried if he was there when I told him to be, and I never showed up. He texted back some encouragement, and it helped me get back on track at a slightly slower pace that I was originally going.

Mile 17 I hit another wall. Seriously, whoever said you hit the wall at mile 20 has never run this course. All the muscles in my body were starting to ache, and my back was getting sore. I knew that wearing my camelbak wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows, and my back was definitely sore from the added weight. My body could also start detecting the slightest changes in elevation, although the hills weren’t so slight, I started to laugh whenever I’d think I was at the top of a hill only to see it continue around the next corner.

Miles 18-20 were really boring. I was exhausted and alone. I could see someone in the distance ahead of me, but we never got too close. This was the one part about the size of the race that made me nervous. A little pick me up from a fellow runner when you are struggling is always great. Luckily the volunteers and KCPD were really great at shouting encouragement as I trudged by.

Miles 21-25 were AWFUL! I was so over this marathon thing, and so mad at myself for thinking I could do this. It hurt to walk, and even though running was slightly more comfortable, I was so tired that it was hard to keep running, even on the down hills. I seriously doubted if I could finish at this point. If I would have had any idea about where I was, I probably would have called someone to pick me up. I was that over running by that point.

The Finish- After I passed the final aid station I knew that I was going to do it. I was still in pain, but I kept telling myself that after coming this far another mile was nothing. Once I saw the Nelson I knew I’d made it, and started running at a fairly decent pace. By the time I got within view of the finish line I was running faster than I think I’d run all race. The finish line was kind of sad because the race was small, there was basically no one at the finish line cheering. It wasn’t the end of the world, and at that point all I really cared about was sitting down.

After the race I met up with my mom and husband who’d come out to see me finish. I was pretty worn out, so the pictures are pretty amusing. These were the better pictures…

First order of business was to ice my screaming leg muscles. I must have been hot because the water was FREEZING! I didn’t last too long.

I managed to hobble over near the finish line to take a picture with my medal and my first marathon finish.

Speaking of medal, here’s a close up of the bling!

Next, I went to check my official time in the results area. It was pretty awesome how the tent had several macs set up to check our times out on. My official time was 05:36:20. Not the speediest, but I finished, so I’m happy with it!

When we left the results tent Dean was taking a few pictures, so I decided to get just one more picture post race.

Overall, the race was really great. I was very impressed with the support on the course considering the number of runners. I really didn’t expect the roads to be closed for us like they were, and the aid stations were all well stocked with great volunteers. The course was really tough. I should have taken the warning about this from the beginning and adjusted my training to include more hills, but I’ll take this experience as a learning one. I don’t know if I’ll run the full again next year if the NFEC Series comes back in August. I might consider an August 1/2, simply because I thought the race organization and perks were great. The weather was hot, but could have been hotter. If the event is moved to a cooler time of year, I’ll probably consider the 50k. Even though I couldn’t have imagined going 5 more miles on Saturday, I’m confident I can do it with some better training and knowledge about what to expect on the course.

Finally, I’m pretty proud of my new car magnet. I like to think that other drivers envision some hardcore athlete when they see it, although I imagine a lot of people have no idea what 26.2 even means.

8 weeks until it’s marathon time again… Maybe 7 depending on if I can talk myself into the crazy thought of doing marathons on back to back weekends… I guess time will tell.


13 Responses to “North Face Endurance Challenge Kansas City Marathon”

  1. Maggie August 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Proud of you! Well done, well run.

    • runningechols September 1, 2011 at 11:27 am #

      Thanks! It’s definitely my proudest running accomplishment so far!

  2. Kelsey August 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Congrats on finishing your first full, that’s amazing!! I found your blog from the Endurance Challenge page on Facebook and I’m a fellow runner and blogger in KC! I read through some of your previous posts and it looks like we have done a lot of the same races! I’m running my first full in November, the Route 66 Marathon. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

    • runningechols September 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      Awesome, small world! I’m going to check out you’re blog, I’m always interested in what other KC runners are running. Good Luck with your first full. I looked into that marathon, and the medals look pretty awesome!

  3. ScottyB August 30, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    Congrats on finishing your first Marathon! Being the North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon at that as it will probably be one of the hilliest courses you will have around here. I only did the Marathon Relay (miles 20 – 26.2) but I will say it was a hot one out there.

    Good luck in 8 (and/or 7 weeks)! Congrats again!

    • runningechols September 1, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      I’m glad to know it was a hillier course for KC. It gives me hope that my next full will be slightly easier. I’m trying to change from the 1/2 to the full for the KC marathon in October. I’m sure a lot of the course is the same, but hopefully some of the longer hills are cut out!

  4. Amy September 1, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    Congrats, Heather! Great job! I’ve never done a full, but I can imagine it compares to childbirth – it sucks when you’re doing it, but after a while you start thinking about the next one!! 🙂

    • runningechols September 1, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      That’s a great analogy. I’ve never had a child, but I can imagine that it’s a very similar experience. I’m to the point now where I want to run a few more while I’m trained, but don’t know if I’ll continue after I take a break. Training for a marathon is so time consuming if you do it properly. It was worth all the time, but I don’t know if I’ll want to keep doing them every year. Ultimately there are a few big marathons I would like to run someday, but after I hopefully run those I think I’ll be done.

  5. Morgan @ Becoming Rooks September 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Congrats on your marathon!! I know that the mental endurance to finish these things (especially when you are feeling poorly) is so much harder than the physical sometimes. It sounds like it was a challenging day but you finished and that’s pretty amazing in my book. You did awesome. 🙂

    • runningechols September 5, 2011 at 2:21 am #

      Thanks! It’s definitely a mental race distance. It was especially tough since the race was small and I was alone on the streets of Kansas City for the last 13 miles. I’m looking forward to the bigger races, and especially Disney now. I know I can cover the distance, so I’m excited to just have fun at the other races!

  6. Julie September 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Wow Heather! Kudos. Way to finish and stick it out. You are amazing, truly an inspiration to the rest of us. You know when I first started seeing those magnets, I went and looked in the bible to see if there was some deep meaning I was missing. Again way to finish strong!

    • runningechols September 5, 2011 at 2:23 am #

      I didn’t really notice them before I started running. I think it’s one of those things that you notice a lot more once you are clued in or looking for them. There are a ton of cars around here with 13.1 magnets, and a few with 26.2.

  7. Heather September 11, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Congrats! Call it a mental victory that you finished! 🙂 I despise hills, doesn’t sound fun!

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