We stayed at the Host hotel which was the Holiday Inn downtown. It was perfect!! Thursday evening we checked in and then headed out to fin an Olive Garden for a yummy dinner.
The Expo was in the hotel so it was great to be able to just get up have breakfast and then walk down to the Expo. It was pretty small as Expo's go but well organized and one of the vendors had a bunch of great stuff where everything was $9.99. Arland got a few things and I found a new pair of capri running pants. The Packet pick-up was organized by age group which seemed weird but I guess it worked. Of course the 45-49 age group had the longest line!!
After the Expo we decided to go find Fleet Feet and drive part of the course. This is the first time I have ever done that and during the Marathon was so glad we had!!!! Huntsville is very hilly but the race directors did a great job of keeping out as many hills as possible, many times we would be be driving along and see a huge hill and think oh great but just before you get to the hill you get to turn, and it was good to know that while running!
For lunch we went to chix filet and had grilled chicken sandwiches with fruit. We also stopped at Dick's Sporting goods but didn't find anything we had to have!
Bart Yasso was scheduled to speak at the Pasta Dinner which was also at the Hotel. We had not bought pasta tickets when registering for the marathon so at the expo they suggested we get there early to buy tickets. We bought the tickets thinking it was going to be another hour before time to eat but they told us to go on in. They had a buffet set up with spaghetti and a choice of meat sauce or marinara, salad, bread etc. It was really nice nothing exciting but actually pretty tasty. We sat at a big round table and met lots of interesting people. the first ones to join us were a young couple who had trained together for the Marathon. The wife suffered an injury and wasn't going to be able to run, she was pretty sad but was there to support her husband. A little later 2 guys joined us. Not sure if they were freinds or a couple but they had also trained together, it was going to be the first marathon for one of them and the other one had been acting as his coach. Several times during dinner the organizers would ask us to go ahead and leave after we finished eating. We thought Bart was going to be speaking during the dinner but turns out he was speaking afterwards, well we didn't want to leave we had a great spot so we ate really slow I also grabbed a desert just to have it sitting in front of me so it would look like we were still eating. We were not the only ones who stayed put so I didn't feel too guilty.
Bart Yasso was great!! He has great stories and also had a slide show presentation! Afterwards Arland and I stayed behind to buy his book and get it autographed.
Several people had suggested we have a glass of wine the night before the marathon so Arland and I stopped at the hotel bar and ordered a glass of red wine. We struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to us at the bar. I don't remember all the details but he has run 50+ marathons in his life but Rocket City was going to be his first Marathon after surviving throat cancer. He was so upbeat and positive and we had a great time talking to him. Af little bit later Bart joined us, he said he had forgotten to eat at the Pasta Dinner! LOL he ordered a veggie burger and joined in our conversation. I really really admire him and am so grateful to have the opportunity to meet and spend time with him.
The race had an 8:00am start and the start line was right outside of the hotel so we were able to sleep in a little bit and set our alarms for 6:30. I always get dressed first thing and then I headed down to see what I could find for breakfast. I ended up getting some bagels and taking them upstairs. I ran into a girl from Arkansas Carol, I didn't really know her very well but I see her at all the races and she has always been very friendly. She is a Marathon Maniac and is also working on 50 states. She has been running a marathon every weekend!!!
I almost forgot to mention that we had all been stressing out over the weather forecast for several days. The chances for rain, sleet, ice pellets had been all over the map ranging from 20% to 90%. We actually lucked out and although it was really cold low 30's it was not raining or sleeting! When we went downstairs the lobby was full of runners staying warm. I had to make one more trip back to the room to use the bathroom again and when I came down it was time to head to the start line. The announcer was yelling at us to hurry up and line up, he was stressed about starting the race on time.
I really had no real time goals for this race this was my third marathon in 61 days and I have more scheduled so I mostly just wanted to finish healthy. My next goal was to finish under 5:30 hours. I lined up towards the back and was ready to just hopefully find my happy pace and have a good run.
We were barely lined up when the gun went off and so was Arland!
I was content and was just running along when I caught up with a man who had "Tortise" screen printed on the back of his shirt. I really can't remember which of us spoke to the other first but he asked me what my goal was for the race I told him I didn't really have and goal and asked him what his goal was. He informed me he wanted a 5:15 and I said well that sounds good to me I'm going to hang out with you. He was happy to have a running partner! right away though he kept saying he had run the first mile too fast and for the next couple of miles he would stress that we were running too fast. He was very organized, he had on two pace bands, one of them he had marked where all the aid stations and port a potties were he also had his watch set to beep every 12 minutes. We were doing great and were ahead of pace, along the way we picked up another running partner when Todd heard William talking about his 5:15 goal. I was having a blast and was loving running with William. I also met a guy from Little Rock and ran with him for a little bit, he was faster than me so I had to let him go when we got too far ahead of William. Everything was going great, I was following my nutrition plan and so far my stomach was behaving. I guess it was around mile 10 when I started feeling the beginnings of the need to go. One of the only actually probably the only complaint I have about this race was how few and far apart the port a potties were!!! We had passed a couple of them because there was a line outside of them but by mile 12 we both really had to go. When we got to the next port a pottie we lucked out and there was only one person ahead of us. Still with both of us having to use the facilities it took some time and we lost quite a bit of our cushion. I think we lost almost 4 minutes. After the break we were still running strong but William was starting to worry about meeting our 5:15 goal. Around mile 15 or 16 he started to fatigue and slowed down a bit but we were still running, other than the bathroom break we had not stopped or walked at all. Although we were both getting tired it was very encouraging to start catching up with people we had been running with/around before the potty break. Mile 19 we/me finally had to take a walk break. several times William had encouraged me to go on ahead because he knew we weren't going to make his 5:15 goal but I assured him that I didn't care I really just wanted to run with him!!!! Around mile 23 William got ahead of me and I thought maybe I had lost my partner. I took another gel and got a little burst of energy not that it sped me up but it helped me run longer. Mile 24.5 I was closing in on William and he must have sensed I was close because he looked behind him and when he saw me put his hand out and encouraged me to catch up. We stayed side by side the rest of the way and I really wanted us to cross the finish line together but William insisted I go on ahead and have my "special moment" really it would have been much more special crossing with him but he was right behind me so it was all good. The race finishes in the back parking lot of the hotel and immediately you have your own volunteer who wraps you in a foil blanket, gives you your medal, hat, bottle of water and walks with you for a bit to make sure you are ok. The finishing chute leads right into the hotel where it was nice and warm and they had food. William and I found each other he was with his wife I really wanted him to meet Arland but I had no idea where he was. I headed up to the room to shower and change but my key wouldn't work, we had secured late check out so they just gave me a new key but it cost me quite a bit of time. When I got back to the room Arland was there, apparently he was in the shower the first time I came up and didn't hear me.. oh well I took a very quick shower put on warm clothes and we headed down to the lobby to meet the girls. Luckily we ran into William before we left and I was able to introduce him to everyone and get a picture.
I really just can't say enough how special this race was for me. William made this a race to always remember!! William is 65 years old and this was his second marathon, he has only been running for less than 4 years. His first marathon he finished around 5:48 and although he really wanted to finish in 5:15 he still had a huge PR with a 5:23 finish. He talked about his wife and son a lot during the run and I really wish I could have heard the conversation with his son when he told him about his finishing time.
Our other running partner Todd also had a big PR he finished in 5:20.. his previous fastest finish was somewhere around 5:45 so he was also very happy.
I was happy with 5:23 eventually I want to start pushing harder and get back under 5 hours but for now I am really enjoying just being able to run run multiple marathons!!
On the way home we stopped at Red Robin somewhere in Tennesse and we all had big cheeseburgers to celebrate our Marathons!! I was a manager at a Red Robin in Alaska and always loved their burgers and fries so it was an extra special treat for me.
Rocket City was marathon # 9