I did it! Marathon number seven is in the books! Instead of a regular recap I figured I’d mix it up and break it down by mile the way the S.O. did for MCM. I actually tried very hard to remember each mile as I ran. It was a surprising way to also keep myself mentally focused. Good trick for future races, btw.  
On Saturday we got to the hotel and opened the door and saw a huge conference table. Apparently, with our king bed, came a conference suite. We found this hilarious, of course, and worked on our TPS reports. 
Ummm, yeah, I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday.
Then we picked our packets and met up with Meghan and Caitlyn for an early dinner at Brio (they have a great gluten free menu). The four of us discussed our race plans and due to the less than stellar weather reports, I decided I’d just start with the 4 hour pace group and go from there. I declared that I would not be PR’ing and just wanted to feel better than I did at Miami. I just don’t do well in warm weather and knew in my heart that shooting for a 3:45 would be a disaster. 

I put that conference table to use and set out “flat B.o.B.”

Team Spandits! (Aurora Borealis shorts. NO CHAFING!

Race Day

When we got to the gym to await the start, it was 71 degrees and muggy. Storms were predicted to be on the way. 
Me, the S.O., Caitlyn, and Meghan
We all said good luck to each other, I went to the porta potty for the 2nd time and then found my way to the 4 hour pace group. I saw my friends Hugo & Holly and chat with them. 
Mile 1: 8:52 – I started behind a 4 hour pace group. But it was the Galloway (run/walk method) pace group. As soon as they shouted “Walking!” I thought, “Oh crap” and made my way around them. I can’t run/walk without having trained that way. It hurts. 
Mile 2: 8:51 – Feeling fine and catch up to some running buddies from my old stomping grounds. A guy I know from the old crew named Randy and I fall in step and start talking.
Mile 3: 8:51 – Start feeling really warm. Approach the 5K finish line and think about stopping. Joke about stopping with Randy. 
Mile 4: 9:04 – Pull back a little as Randy and I chat. He tells me about his daughters, who are gymnasts. 
Mile 5: 9:04 – Feeling so-so. Starting to realize that the end of this marathon is going to hurt. Mentally have a talk with myself about working through the pain at the end and running for as long as I can. 
Mile 6: 9:14 – Get nervous. Realize that I have to decide here if I want to drop down to the half. I decide against it, with Randy, and we keep moving. We run into my friend Teresa and she tells us she is dropping down to the half. She’s got the Goofy Challenge at Disney next weekend and it’s not worth the risk. 
Mile 7-9: 9:05, 9:05, 8:57 – Not much to say for miles 7-9. We chat and Randy asks me which hotel I’m staying at. I tell him and he realizes, “Oh yeah. I talked to you in the elevator yesterday.” We laugh and the oxygen deprivation sets in. 
Mile 10: 9:14 – We slow a bit as we chat and I start thinking that dropping to the half may not have been a terrible idea. 
Mile 11: 8:55 – Not sure why this was sub 9, I think we hit a small downhill. 
Mile 12: 9:17 – Randy tells me he doesn’t feel well. I try to think of a question to get his mind off of it. I ask him if he has children. He laughs, “And says, yeah, they are gymnasts.” Damn that oxygen deprivation! I lie and tell him he’ll feel better at mile 13. 
Mile 13 9:13 – The non-Galloway 4 hour pace group catches us. I latch on to them and think Randy is right behind me. I am afraid to slow down and I just stay behind a guy with a big M Dot on his calf. He’s pacing his friend to sub-4 and I listen to them talk like a stalker. I don’t want to talk because I think I’m conserving energy. It begins to torrential downpour. 
Mile 14: 9:05 – I’ve officially lost Randy. We had said this would be fine. I try to hang onto the 4 hour group. M Dot guy and his buddy start to pull away as I slow for a water stop. 
Mile 15: 9:19 – I tell myself to make it to mile 20 and things will be fine from there. I have no idea why I think this. But I keep repeating, “Get to mile 20. Get to mile 20.”
Mile 16: 9:05 – It’s still raining off and on. The Galloway 4 hour folks catch me. I’m losing the non-Galloway 4 hour group. 
Mile 17: 9:22 – Just. Get. To. Mile. 20. I play leap frog with the Galloway 4 hour group. I pass them just as the pacer yells, “Walk!” and then lose them again as she yells, “Run!” 
Mile 18: 9:28 – Things are really hurting here. It’s pouring again and my back is hurting. I’m frustrated because I’ve run faster long runs than this. What is going on? The Galloway folks seem to be sprinting to me at this point. Why are they running so fast? 
Mile 19: 10:04 – I’m almost to mile 20. I think I’m running really fast and realize I’m running a ten minute mile. I swear it felt so much faster!
Mile 20: 9:34 – I made it to 20! Only six more to go! Yay! 
Mile 21: 9:31 – I start thinking about walking. I really want to walk but instead I try to think of Meb and what he would do. Then I think how his not stopping is still a seven minute mile and then I laugh at the thought of that. I run through a HUGE puddle. I consider doing the breaststroke through it. Just for shiggles. But then I think about ringworm and change my mind. 
Mile 22: 9:33 – I am hanging on for dear life. I keep running but my lower back is miserable and the outside of my right leg is killing. 
Mile 23: 10:07 – I break down and walk. I try to only walk for a minute or two but damn it feels great to walk. 
Mile 24: 10:32 – Yup, more walking. I stop and bend over to ease the pain in my back and a nice man tells me to walk backwards, that helps. I start walking backwards and wonder if I’ll bust my ass and then turn around and walk forwards for a minute. I jog again. 
Mile 25: 11:04 – Yeah, this last mile is ugly. I’m so close but I’m so tired! I walk for more than I want to admit. 
Mile 26: 10:04 – I decide I am going to run this whole mile but take it as slow as I want. I know that I’m going to be close to 4:05 and I make my peace with it. I’m so proud of myself for keeping it relatively together up to this point. There was no sobbing, no thoughts of “never running again.” I definitely thought of that looming Ironman and how if I can’t make it through this, I’m gonna struggle with 140.6 miles! 
Mile 0.36: 9:21 – I get to the track, see my friend Karen and run what feels like the longest 400 of my life. I’m so glad to be finished. I see 4:07 and know it’s not been my perfect day but I’m really proud of how I ran and how I got through the tough miles. 
I immediately ask Karen if she’s seen the S.O. and she has. I see Caitlyn passing out medals, learn she dropped to the half (also smart decision for her, even though it’s a tough one) and then I see the S.O. He ran a PR in such crappy weather. I’m so happy for him! 
We decide to get the heck outta dodge, since the S.O.’s hands are white from his circulation issues (as evidenced above) and hop on the bus back to our hotel. As we’re sitting on the bus, Meghan’s finish time comes through and she too has run a PR! Meghan & the S.O. are my heroes!
Thoughts on the Race Itself
Jacksonville Marathon is a very well organized race. However, if you are looking for bells and whistles, this isn’t the marathon for you. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t have an expo. It’s flat and fast and the volunteers and race staff were very friendly and helpful. The first few water stations seems a little chaotic but nothing that would deem this race un-doable. The weather stunk, but it definitely cannot be controlled by the RD’s. Overall, I think this is a good, small marathon. I enjoy the small ones because they are easy to get in and out of. No muss, no fuss. 
Final Thoughts
It’s so funny because after I finished I thought for sure I’d beaten my Miami marathon time by a solid ten minutes. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I finished Miami in 4:06, a minute faster. The difference is in how much walking I did and how I adjusted at the start for the temperature. I also had a better strategy and mental game going in. In Miami I ran hard the first half and payed for it big time the second half. It wound up that running slow and steady for this race meant less walking but a more even time throughout. I still didn’t negative split the half but I am in such a better place mentally about this race and I ran a whole minute slower! 
I learned how to stay out of the “bite me” zone for this race and to take what I could from the course. I’m not done with the stand alone marathon but I will wait until after Ironman Chattanooga to decide which one I’ll try for number eight.
Thank you all for the support and cheers and encouragement and love. This was a great way to close out 2013.