Surprise! I ran another marathon.
I myself didn’t know I was going to do it until three days beforehand, when I started perusing a list of upcoming marathons around the country just for fun. I felt so good during and after the Rock ‘n Roll New Orleans Marathon that I was already itching to do it again and even try to get a better finishing time. When I was looking at marathons on Thursday night and I saw that the Galveston Marathon was coming up on February 1, and that Galveston was only a three-hour drive away, I started analyzing how doable this would be. First I had to talk to my husband to see if he would be willing to do another road trip with me and if he thought I was crazy for wanting to do another marathon 7 days later. He did ask me if I was sure I felt up to it, but he said if I slept on it and decided I still wanted to do it by Friday lunchtime, I could go ahead and register and get a hotel for Saturday night.
Well, on Friday I was a tiny bit less gung-ho because I had started analyzing too much and was questioning if my body would break down from too much running or if I was going to wear us out with yet another road trip and marathon weekend or if I should back off and wait another few weeks and try to find a different driveable race instead. I also was checking the weather and there were supposed to be some afternoon thunderstorms in Galveston on Sunday, plus early morning rain. So much rain forecast before and after the race time period made me nervous.
But since the forecast didn’t have rain taking place during the race and because it seemed too perfect to have found this race so close by, and because my body really did feel recovered from the RnR NOLA marathon, I decided to go for it. You only live once and all that. Plus I knew if I didn’t go ahead and go for it, I would regret it.
So on Friday I registered for the marathon and booked a hotel, then on Saturday afternoon, we were off on our road trip. I hadn’t exactly been preparing all week for a marathon again, so I spent all day Friday and Saturday drinking copious amounts of water and eating carbs. I also drank about three protein smoothies by the time we left Saturday afternoon.
We got to Galveston around 5 p.m., an hour before packet pickup was closing. There was no expo, but packet pickup was at a running store in historic downtown Galveston, which was very cute and bigger than expected. After I got my packet which consisted of a bunch of handouts, a protein bar, a long-sleeved shirt, visor and mouse pad, we headed for dinner at a nearby restaurant, the Black Pearl Oyster Bar. There wasn’t much in the way of pasta, but we got an appetizer that consisted of grilled shrimp and pita chips. My entree was salmon, salad, bread and a fully loaded baked potato. So much food! I couldn’t eat it all.
After eating, I was really tired from driving and being stressed about getting to packet pickup on time, so all I wanted to do was get to our hotel. We got one of those secret deals on Hotwire, so our hotel was cheaper but about 15 miles from the race start, with a travel time of a little over 20 minutes. This stressed me out a little because I got spoiled having a hotel in walking distance to the race start last week. With a starting time of 7:30 a.m., I told my husband we’d need to leave by 6:30 to be safe. (Very overly cautious I am). Our hotel room was huge with an extra sitting room, kitchenette and small balcony. Too bad it was too dark to see the beach by the time we got there! I laid out all my stuff and got into bed. We were both under the covers with the TV on by 8 p.m. Old people.
I slept OK but woke up a few times, including a point late in the night where our neighbors were fighting loudly in the hall. My alarm went off at 5:30 but I pressed snooze like 3 times. Finally I got up, forced down most of a bagel and almond butter I brought, and got everything together. We left at 6:40 and had little trouble getting to the race start, so we parked for a little while, and then my husband dropped me off around the corner from the race start at 7:15 on the dot.
When I first woke up in the hotel, my main feeling was of sheer regret. I wished I was home in my own bed and only having to go to church, not run a marathon. But by the time I got to the starting line, the energy of everyone else and excitement in the air got me feeling a little more excited too. The forecast anticipated a 30 percent chance of rain at various points during the race including 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., so I put vaseline between my toes and covered my iPhone in a ziploc bag. I started out by the 4:40 pacer, but I knew I wasn’t going to keep up with her most likely, or at least I wasn’t going to make a serious effort to do so. I just wanted to beat my time of 4:50 from last week.
It was warm and humid at the start, already 60 degrees, so my plan was to drink at every water stop and take salt packets three times throughout the race. I got them from Wendy’s when we had lunch there on Saturday. The race was a double loop for marathoners, so we would be doing the same loop twice, the first time with the half marathoners.
The race began, and we headed out of downtown toward the Seawall, which ran along the beach. This was nice because there was a slight breeze coming off the water and you could smell the salty beach air. We turned right on the Seawall and ran down beside the beach about a mile, veered right across the highway into a residential area, ran around that and then came back onto the Seawall back in the direction we had just come from. Then we proceeded to run down the Seawall for what felt like forever. I don’t remember exactly how far but it was probably more than three miles one way, which felt like longer because there was no shade from the sun.
We turned off of the Seawall and then proceeded into a back area that had condominiums and maybe a golf course or something? It seemed like a lot of private, manicured property with very little people around. That took us around for about 3 miles, then we returned to the Seawall, non-beach side, to head back toward downtown. The last street we were on leads directly to the finish line, which you can see for almost a mile of running. It seems so close and yet so far away.
I was happy to get to the finish line for the end of the first half, because I had been planning a very active water stop once I got past the halfway point – I took a salt packet, three ibuprofen and a gel, all at the same stop! It was very exciting. So half marathoners went to the finish line and us crazy full marathoners bypassed that to go on to the second loop and do again what we had just done. I was still in good spirits and making sure to drink water at every stop, maintain a decent pace but not go too fast, and keep my breathing steady.
It had not even hinted at raining, in fact the sun was out and high and bright. The next several miles on the Seawall were pretty rough, with the sun beating down and no end in sight. I knew that the end of the endless Seawall would mean 20 miles and I could text my husband to give him a head’s up, so I just kept focusing on and looking forward to that. The policemen directing traffic were super nice and would even say encouraging words as I passed by. Maybe I looked like I needed it? Volunteers at the water stop were also very great.
At mile 20 I texted my husband and then decided to try and stay under 11 minute miles for the remainder of the way. I passed several people over the next two miles, and then at the mile 22 marker, some head wind and boring scenery-less road began. This lasted for over a mile, and I hated it so much. I was struggling to keep under an 11-minute pace against the wind with my tired legs, and I couldn’t wait to get back to that dreaded Seawall just to be done with this portion of the race. The one little uphill part of the course came at the end of that stretch, and then finally I got back on the Seawall and was soon at the mile 24 marker. The light at the end of the tunnel was near. I basically just zoned out for the next mile, which took us down the Seawall and then into a residential area connected to the downtown area. I didn’t bother to stop at the mile 25 water stop because I just wanted to finish. It had never rained, but the temperature had continued to rise and my shirt was drenched with sweat. As that last mile dragged on and on, my breathing was finally starting to get labored and I knew that if the race was any longer than a marathon I would have had to start walking.
But besides walking through water stops so I could avoid spilling drink on myself, I never had to stop and walk during the race. I did have three breaks where I basically stopped to complete a task, the first when I had my active water stop of taking salt, medicine and a gel, and then a second stop where I took out my phone to take pictures of the beach and the third time when I texted my husband.
That last stretch where I could see the finish line but was still so far away felt like torture, but I just chugged along and finally, mercifully, approached the end. The announcer said my name and town as I crossed that magic line, and I got handed a medal and water, then stopped my Garmin and immediately sat down.
According to my Garmin, I had beaten last week’s time by 4 minutes! Official chip time confirmed it – 4:46:51 – exactly 4 minutes faster than last week’s 4:50:51. Those four minutes were basically shaved in the first half – last week’s first half was 2:24 and this week’s first half was 2:20. The last four miles of this race had been rough, but I had endured through it rather than give in to the temptation to walk, and it had paid off with my 2nd best marathon time out of four marathons.
I wasn’t really hungry for real food, so we went by this place called Rita’s for a custard milkshake and then headed out of town. I was ready to get on the road back home and get some pizza for the Super Bowl. My loving husband drove us the whole way home.
So it was a very last minute decision to do this marathon, and there were brief periods of time where I felt I’d rather be in the comforts of my own home, but of course, as with every race, I was very glad I went through with it after it was over. I don’t know when my next marathon will be, if I will do another in the coming months or wait until next fall, but I feel like my view on marathons, how intimidated I have been by them, has changed a lot in the past week. I’ve learned how to be smarter during a race, and I can now look forward to doing them with some confidence rather than fear and dread.