It started with a road trip like it has so many times before, but this year my traveling companions were some of the cutest! We set off for the hotel I always stay at in St George where Corey would meet up with us after spending the week at his parents house a few hours north. The Van Wags were a few hours behind us, and all of my family would be arriving the next day.
The next morning we all met up over at the expo. We picked up our bibs and goodie bags and posed for some pictures, like we always do.
I was so excited to have so many of my favorite people running the race. In addition to Corey and Reed, Shelley was back (thanks to a surprise entry from Reed) and Tara, Billy and Janelle were all running it too! The four siblings have all run the race before, but never at the same time. Tara almost didn't make it and she definitely didn't train for it, but thanks to some peer pressure from Shelley and I and a lucky visit from her Clovis babysitter she made it work at the last minute! She was on her way down while we were perusing the expo. Janelle and Peter took a red eye in from Hawaii and were beautifully tanned, and totally sleep deprived. Still we were all excited to just be there!
We made our usual stop at the sign making booth where these cute girls made signs for J-homes or Jensif, C money, Shell-Shell or Jelly, and Reedsif, their "little fools"!
My darling nieces made a sign for Billy
Of course I did a bit of shopping at the expo and was happy with my new finds. You'll notice in the bottom right hand corner two strips of paper. They are timing bracelets that you can wear during the race to help keep you on track for your goal finish time. The day before the race I still had no idea what kind of time I could do, so I grabbed two.
Post expo, I lunched with the Greenlaws at Cafe Rio. I was not about to make last years mistake and not get enough food into me the day before the race. Kirsten and I did a little more shopping at the outlets and hit Tai Pan and then spent some time by the pool. The traditional dinner at Golden Corral included all of my family, the Greenlaw and Van Wagenen families, and an old friend of Reed and Shelley's.
Our group was so big we sat at two tables.
After dinner we all ended up in my room messing with music playlists and discussing strategy for making it through the 26.2 miles at hand. I think all of the nerves were starting to settle in.
Those who weren't worried about the run, watched a bit of the BYU football game that was on TV
Mom usually finishes watching the game at the restaurant next door over a plate of onion rings while we go to sleep. This year was no exception.
Jason and Billy tried out my "stick" I had picked up at the expo while hanging out on the tiny hide a bed where Tara and Jason would sleep that night.
Much of this trip had been like every other one I had made to run this race, but this year I was hoping for a different result. I really wanted to run it, to give it my all and finish exhausted knowing I couldn't have done it any better. I slept fitfully the night before and woke with a stomach full of nerves.
I did my best to fit a bagel into my stomach with all those nerves, (in this pic it's mostly still in my cheek!) and washed it down with a Celcius. I was "all wound up" as Shelley would say, and being with my siblings only made it worse. We have way too much fun together!
Even though all of us had different goals and would be running at a different pace, somehow just all of us being in this race together made it special. Who knows when the timing will be right in all of our lives that we will all be able to train for and run in the same race again. Likely it will be years from now, but I sure hope it happens again!
The four of us plus Corey, Shelley and Reed all piled into Reeds truck on the way to the busses. Tara and Shelley were super cozy!
This picture from the race is one of my favorites. I crack up every time I look at it. You can see how hyper I was with my nerves and lack of sleep. Tara is armed with her Celcius and trying to get excited about running with a bum knee and only a 10 mile run under her belt. And then there's Shelley, as always just keeping it real! So real! It was way too early, too dark, too cold and we were about to be running way too far to be considered fun!
Still we all talked and laughed on our way to board the busses.
Here we all are at the starting line at O'dark thirty, after a 30 minute ride in a school bus into the mountains above St George.
Tara in all the scurrying to get fed and out the door left her knee brace back at the hotel. While I had been sticking to my usual St George routine, Tara was trying out all sorts of new things on race day no less! Looking as glamorous as usual she modeled her new compression socks and KT tape. She decided she'd just run as far as she could just so she could participate in the race with all of us. After finishing a half marathon at the beginning of August, Shelley decided she had no interest in doing any more long runs and stopped training. Reed who had signed her up in the first place, was set on getting her to run it. Two weeks before the race they put in a 16 miler and decided to run the race together. Tara was going to try to stick with them as long as she could.
We all made a million trips to the port a potties, got in trouble for attempting to use some pretty potties, and then moved over to the fire pits to try to stay warm.
The trick was trying not to get burned at the same time.
The fires were huge!!! Corey was trying to beat his previous time and shooting for 3:45, Billy was hoping for 3:05 but realistically shooting for a 3:20. Janelle wanted to just beat her previous years time and come in under 5 hours, but really she'd been training much faster than that. I was guessing I could finish anywhere between 4-4:30. All of us were a bit anxious.
Everyone but Tara, Shelley, and Reed who were also going to be joined by Reed's friend Curtis. I was envious of how relaxed they all were at having no pressure but to go out and finish. A task I had come to really respect after the last two years where I stopped short for different reasons. I had to get out there and just run my race. I had finally done all of the training and I wasn't injured. I remembered how desperately I had wanted the bottle of Coke left at mile 21 for another runner last year. I practically begged for it. This year my friend Robyn said she would be somewhere between 21 and 23 with a Coke. I knew if I could make it past that 22 mile mark I'd finish my race. Knowing the Coke would be there was a great motivator.
I was determined to start slow. Way slower than I ever run so that I didn't burn out. Janelle decided to start with me and we tried sticking with the 4:30 pacer. It was painfully slow and we kept getting too far ahead and then making ourselves slow it down a bit. After we got past the dreaded Veyo hill and I was still feeling good I let myself go a little faster. Janelle was having issues with a calf that she had strained while hiking two days before in Hawaii and slowed down a bit, so I was on my own.
I stayed pretty consistent between 13 and 19 miles and maintained an estimated finish time of 4:10. At 20 miles I slowed down a bit and walked for the first time during the race. I was getting tired, but still I was plugging along. At mile 21 I started a little bit of the walk for a bit then run for a bit, but was still mostly running and keeping a decent speed. At 22 I was dying for that Coke, and at 23.3 I got it!!
I can't even begin to tell you how great that ice cold Coke tasted. I couldn't stop smiling, even when I was drinking it! Robyn expected I'd have a few swallows and toss it and keep running. I kind of thought I would too, so I surprised us both when I asked her to take a picture of me with my coke. It was the highlight of the run for me so far and I wanted it documented dang it! I gave her a smelly sweaty hug ( I hadn't even seen the girl in at least 7 years) and walked away. Yep, walked. Still smiling and holding my coke. I decided it was my race and I could run it however I wanted. If I decided to walk with a big stupid smile that I couldn't wipe off of my face while I drank a big gulp, then that's what I would do! In fact I even posted my soda pic on FB while I was walking along drinking and smiling. Have I mentioned how thrilled I was about that Coke? Oh, okay good...The bystanders who were there cheering us along called out to me "Way to go with the big gulp Jenifer!" (my name was on my bib) "Thats the way to get through the race girl!"and other runners looked on with envy as they passed, some telling me just how jealous they were.
As I walked and drank I finally checked my phone and saw all the encouraging text messages that had been sent to me. These were my favorite by far... My dear friends who I had been training with aka The Runners had made me this sign with all of our fun inside jokes that came about during our training.
They got together for an 18 mile training run and sent me these pictures before they set off. This made me smile as much as that Coke did!
I had lost a ton of time walking, smiling and drinking and determined to toss the coke at the 24 mile marker and finish my race. I hadn't thought about the way that about 16oz of soda would slosh around in my stomach, yikes! I was slow moving after that, and that made it even more painful! But I was soo close to that finish!
I had gotten a text telling me that Billy had finished in 3:23, 30 minutes faster than he had ever finished a marathon, but not as fast as he had hoped. Still a DANG fast race!!
We missed any real pictures of him but below you can see Jen out there running with him for a bit along that last little bit before the finish line.
I was all smiles when I finally came through. I knew when I stopped and walked and enjoyed my Coke that this wasn't going to be my fastest marathon ever. I can definitely do it faster, but I made choice to enjoy that moment and I am so okay with that. It remains one of the highlights of my race.
After one hobbling limping finish, and two attempts finishing around 22 miles, this fourth year I was finishing this marathon on my own terms. That was exactly what I had been wanting!!
I even shed a few tears as I crossed the finish line! My official time was 4:27:36....and I beat the 4:30 pacer!!!
Afterwards the Greenlaws came over to the finishers area to congratulate me and give me the sign their little guy Aidan had made for me. Too cute! I have no pics of Corey coming thru, my mom had totally missed him, but he made his goal time of 3:45!
Janelle had had a really rough time with her calf but didn't finish too far behind me.
She beat her previous time by at least 20 minutes, and she came in at 4:54:06. Still she knew she could do faster and went home and promptly signed up for a second marathon just two weeks later when her calf had time to heal up. She took first place in her age division and came in with a time of 4:45!
But the real story here is stinkin' Tara!!!! Her second ever marathon finish and she has NEVER trained all the way for one. She ran 10 miles once back in July and had actually stopped running all together for a few months. She had recently run 6 miles with Billy and done two other 3 mile runs. Then she came out to St George and finished her second marathon! Who does that?!!
Shelley probably could too. She got up to 13 then stopped running for a couple months and two weeks before decides to just knock out 16 miles and then run a marathon. I am in awe of both of them! Their little foursome had such a great time on their run. It reminds me of the quote, "The joy is in the journey".
Reed and Curtis have both finished marathons in well over two hours faster than they finished this one but I'm sure they've never had as much fun as they did this year! They stopped for candy and popsicles along the way. They waited for Tara to get her knee wrapped up a few different ways. They walked when they felt like it. They stopped for pictures and for the bathroom. They laughed. And then the four of them held hands as they crossed the finish line. Totally fun, and quite impressive.
Oops she ran another marathon...and how does anybody look that good after running for 5 hours and 45 minutes when you haven't even trained? Seriously?! Only my sister!
We snacked, stretched and just sat for a while afterwards, just enjoying the finish. At least that was my excuse. Really I was just way too exhausted to go anywhere!
It was a good day for the Van Wag clan. Reed and Shelley had a great run together.
Kylie and Lauren had run in the mayors walk earlier in the morning wearing their crazy new tie dyed swirly spandex and then cheered their parents on to the finish.
Receiving that finishers medal meant more to me the second time. Not only had I learned to really respect that distance and the determination to finish, but this time I felt like I had earned it. I did it on my terms and I can't tell you how good that felt! Almost as good as my post race salad tasted...
I finally feel like I've conquered the St. George Marathon, but rest assured, I'll be back! Now I've got a time to beat...