Monday, October 3, 2011

Race Recap: Quad Cities Marathon

Me & Hubby in the starting chute

It's taken me a good week to digest that I am now a MARATHONER.  The Quad Cities Marathon on September 25 will forever be a special race day in my heart.

It was a rough night's sleep, but I awoke that Sunday morning ready and rearing to go.  I wandered down to the hotel lobby for coffee and a weather check, which initiated a last-minute wardrobe change.  It was low 40's and I decided to go with the full leggings rather than shorts.  I downed an easy Marathon bar (appropriate for the day!), and I walked out the door by 6:45am with hubby by my side.

Walking up to the start, the photographer
stops me and says, "You look fun!"
Damn Right!
The starting line area was buzzing and fairly empty for a 7:30am start, but it filled in quickly.  I jogged a little bit, just enough to warm up the muscles for an easy stretch.  We chatted away with runners in the starting chute, finding quite a few from my town.  I joked around with the 4:40 marathon pacer not to pass me today.  (My goal was between 4:35-4:48, a finish under a 11:00 min/mile pace.)

The 5K, half-marathon and marathon all started together, so I got to line up and run the beginning with my husband.  He's been such a vital part of my marathon journey that it was pretty neat to have him by my side as the race began.  The gun went off and it a took a while for the mass of runners to move.  The official race clock had already ticked past two minutes by time we passed over the starting line.

The starting chute (which also doubled as the finishing chute and post party area) was somewhat narrow.  Once past the starting line, our roadway doubled and immediately relieved any congestion.  I was in a super good mood, waving at spectators like I was the queen of the parade of something!  No one could wipe the smile off my face.  We saw a couple dressed up as Elvis, several marching bands and even a little Darth Vader!
That my Big Girl in there!  My mother thinks up the best costumes & signs!
After about a 1/2 mile, I gave my hubby a kiss and off I went.  The 5K runners went straight while the marathoners split to the right to make the climb over the bridge.  As we crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa, I mentally went over my checklist for the day...
  • Have fun!
  • Encourage others along the way.
  • Thank volunteers
  • Take in the scenery and spectators.
  • Don't go under the 10 min/mile pace in the first half.  
  • Enjoy the journey... I've worked 4 months for this day.

Miles 1 thru 3 -  10:21 avg
Mile 4 - 9:40
The first four miles had some gradual inclines and rolling hills through neighborhoods. There was decent crowd support and I chatted away with fellow runners.  Everyone seemed to be in great spirits, joking around with me over my outfit.  It was Sunday and the big Packers-Bears football game was later that day, so my Packers outfit initiated lots of comments and conversation throughout the day.  I remember one guy coming up on my side, saying "You have great spirit.  I like your attitude.  Your outfit is really cute, but you've got the wrong team..."  I'll take that as a compliment, thank you!

Mile 5 - 9:57
Mile 6 - 9:59
Mile 7 - 10:12
Mile 8 - 10:03
Just before mile 5, we came out of the neighborhoods and curved onto the riverfront trail, following the Mississippi River along the Iowa side of the Quad Cities.  This four-mile stretch was by far the best part of the race.  Beautiful scenery - I love running alongside water!  Everyone was finding their groove by now, so not a lot of passing back and forth.  For awhile, I ran with a 9 year old boy and his dad.  It was the boy's first half marathon and by golly, he was keeping pace with me!  Another group of guys kept me entertained, especially when they tried to lube their inner thighs without stopping.  The spectator support through this stretch was nice too. Lots of music and bands.

Mile 9 and 10 - 10:43 avg
Now came the tough part began... the half marathoners split off at Mile 8 and the reality set in that I was in for the long haul.  It suddenly got really sparse out on the course.  I longed to turn right with the half-marthoners (I was having so much fun with them!), but I took a deep breathe and forged ahead.  Today I become a Marathoner. Onward!
I passed under a bridge that was lined with spectators and gave a wave.
This was pretty much me the first half of the race...  I was having a ball!
Inside mile 9, there was a short out and back stretch, which was fun as runners bantered back and forth.  As I turned down the final stretch on the Iowa side, a little yellow jersey caught my eye... my Little Girl! My family was up ahead!  This was the first time I saw them since the start because they waited for my hubs to finish the 5K.  Little Girl came running out to give me high 5's.  I gave a thumbs-up and turned to head over the Mississippi River once again.

I hit the mile 10 marker at the top of Centennial Bridge.  What a view it was!   I downed a GU Chomps, gave some waves to the honking cars, but felt pretty alone at this point.  I remember turning around to see if there was anyone behind me.  As we came off the bridge back onto the Illinois side of the race, I was thankful to see lots of cheerleaders, bands and spectators waiting.

Mile 11  - 12:17
Mile 12 - 10:35
Coming through downtown Rock Island was neat - spectators making lots of noise!  I made my first water stop to refill my hand bottle and drop in a nuun.  My family was waiting for me once again at about mile 11.5.  This time Little Girl ran out to give her momma hugs!  I stopped there to lube up my inner thighs that were starting to chafe.  I hadn't worn these compression tights since last winter and something was rubbing wrong.

Mile 13 - 10:41
Mile 14 - 10:57
Mile 15 - 10:48
Mile 16 - 10:52
Mile 17 - 11:33
Mile 18 - 11:26
Mile 19 - 10:50
Mile 20 - 10:49
We crossed over a small bridge onto Arsenal Island, which is a U.S. Army foundry, closed to the general public.  Almost 950 acres, the island lies in the middle of the Mississippi River between the Illinois and Iowa shores.  I was prepared for this stretch to be fairly lonely without spectators, so until now, I hadn't used my ipod.  I flipped it on and settled into a pace.

The morning had been pretty darn near perfect.  The weather was cool and overcast, but perfect for running.  Suddenly I looked up to see a very dark horizon.  The rain began to sprinkle at mile 14 and by time I hit 16, we were in a downpour.  This was not a fun portion of the race.  Runners were pretty spread out, so it was easy to feel all alone out in the pouring rain.  I slowed to a walk in mile 17 to take a GU and refill my water bottle.  Everything was soaked, my feet got heavy and the chills rippled through my body.  To make matters worse, we had rejoined with the half-marathon course.  However, at this point in the race, most of them were walking, which made it incredibly hard to keep my legs running.  To top it off, the volunteers were yelling, "Keep going, only 2 miles left..." Yeah, right.  

At mile 18, I actually said out loud, "I hate you marathon."  I didn't mean it, but I was really frustrated feeling tired so early.  The only thing that got me through was knowing there were oranges waiting for me at mile 19.  It's so funny as I think about it now, but while I was running, it was the only thing I could think about... oranges, oranges, oranges!  And by golly, when I hit that outstretched plate of oranges, I was in pure heaven.  Then my mind shifted to... only one more miles before we are off this God-foresaken island!  I silently prayed that my family would be waiting at the bottom of the bridge.  In this rain, I really needed my hat to shield my face.

The bridge came in sight and I happily made the climb to exit Arsenal Island.  I could hear the crowds waiting on the other side.  Low and behold, as soon as we hit the bridge, it stopped raining.

Mile 21 - 10:53
Mile 22 - 11:08
Mile 23 - 11:57
The crowds were huddled under the highway overpasses as we came off the island.  My mind was kinda numb at this point... there might have been a band, not sure, but it was really loud.  My family was indeed waiting for me.  Hubby ran out with me for a short while to see if I needed anything out of my bag.  I traded my soaking wet headband for a ballcap, just in case the rain started again.
I was drenched wet, but still managed a smile!
Again, the half-marathoners turned right to the finishline while the marathon went left for a 3 mile out and back.  I can honestly say it was the longest 3 miles I've ever run to reach that turnaround.  It was a boring stretch with very little spectators.  And par for the course, my ipod died right at the time I needed it most.  Another one lost to rain!  My brain was kind of numb at this point.  One step in front of the other.  I had to focus myself and started concentrating on my Mile Dedications to distract myself.  

The 4:40 pacer came up by my side somewhere inside mile 22.  I tried my best to hang with her, but just couldn't hold on.  Glancing at my watch, I knew the 4:40 was out, but thought I could still come under the 4:45 if I stuck with it.

Mile 24 - 11:36
Mile 25 - 11:25
Mile 26.2 - 13:27 (11:13 avg)
Once we hit the turnaround, I had a renewed energy, a second wind.  My pace doesn't show it, but mentally I started to get excited about finishing.  I got this!  I am about to become a Marathon Finisher!!  I pep-talked myself... you trained, you sacrificed, you're almost home now.  You got this!

Now on the way back, I was passing runners on their first stretch out.  There wasn't much conversation - but it was easy to read their faces.  I felt so bad watching some of them struggle.  And then a fellow runner yelled out, "Hey Jess!  I read your blog!"  That felt pretty neat!

At mile 25, they had the best volunteer at just the right spot.  He was yelling at every runner with so much excitement.  One mile left!  I had waited a long time to see the Mile 25 sign and I smiled with silly glee.  As I came into downtown Moline, the crowds and noise got heavy.  Oddly enough, the last 1.2 miles went by extremely fast.  I saw the finish line ahead and had tunnel vision as I tried to give one last push.  
Cruising to the Finish Line!
Little Girl and her bright yellow jersey caught my eye.  Ah, my family!  I tossed them my water bottle and hat and headed to the finish.  Crossing that line felt FANTASTIC!!  It was a long summer of hard work and sacrifices to train for the marathon... but in this moment, it was all completely worth it.  
Today had been the perfect victory lap.

Yes!!  I did it!

Minutes later, my hubby was hugging me inside the post-party area.  I've read many times that people immediately say, "Never again".   It was definitely a challenge, but not nearly as painful as some of the stories I've read.  I turned to my hubs and said... "I'm definitely doing this again!  It was awesome!"

Official Finish Line photo
My wonderful mother thinks of everything and had flowers waiting for me at the Finish!

Official time: 4:43:27
(10:49 pace)
Age Division (F35-39): 31 out of 43
Females: 145 out of 238
Overall:  486 out of 655


  1. Awesome job Jess!!! Love your recap!

  2. That's just awesome.. I love the video!!!

  3. Excellent finishing time, and congrats if I didn't tell you that already. You are among the rare breed who wonders "when's the next one" so soon. It takes me a couple of days to get that feeling, ha ha.

  4. Wow. Once again, you are the inspiration that keeps me wanting to run. Your mom is such an amazing person. I love her signs! I'm scared to death about committing to my first half marathon but hearing about your first full definitely makes me want to do it. Especially since I know you will be there with me. Your mom has to make us some cool signs though. :)

    Love ya, Bekah

  5. Great recap Jess! It's what I needed the week of my marathon.

  6. Wow Jess... what can I say... that brought tears to my eyes... CONGRATS!!! You did so great and that is such an awesome fast pace. WTG girl! So happy for you. So, what's next? ;)

  7. WOW you are a rockstar! I hope my kid runs out and greets me when I run my first marathon and that my mom brings me flowers....I can't wait! you are so totally awesome and you should feel proud. I loved your race outfit btw :D

  8. This brought tears to my eyes. WTG! Isn't crossing the finish line the most incredible feeling and it will last for days!

    Congratulations Jess!

  9. You did it! Wow! Makes me almost, not quite, think about taking that crazy distance on.

    You body glided over your tights?
    Did they drop orange peels in the way of runners? Eugene had bananas (and peels) at mile 9. Kinda dumb.
    Who the $%$# puts a 3 mile out and back at the end of a race?

    Enough looked fantastic. So proud of you.

  10. What a great recap! Now I want to go run a marathon!

  11. Great job, cute photos, super outfit. what more could you ask for? :-)

  12. LOVE THIS!!!!!!! your pics are just awesome...seriously you have so much energy, positivity and inspiring. felt like i was right there with you at the end! ahhhhh! totally why i love marathons as well. the challenge is crazy intense but at the end i cant wait to do it again ;)

  13. What a great race recap! I loved all of your photos and your positive attitude. I can't wait to hear about your next marathon adventure- you will rock it! :-)

  14. I am new to the blog, but WOW what a great recap! You did awesome and kept your smile the whole time. So inspiring!

  15. GREAT recap! I was smiling as I read it. :) I was like you, and said (like Donkey in Shrek), "Let's do that AGAIN!" Hahahaha! Congratulations on the reward for all your hard work and dedication!

  16. I enjoyed reading your recap! Congratulations!!!! I'm glad you said you'd do it again :)

  17. Congratulations! You did an amazing job and provided so much inspiration! I got misty reading your recap and watching the video. Thank you so much for sharing this--I will definitely pull this out of my memory when I need a little extra this Sunday at my first marathon. And the Darth Vadar costume and sign are awesome!

  18. Jess, I don't know how I missed this recap! I cried like a baby during both of those videos - and you were CRUISING at the finish - holy crap! You are AWESOME!!!


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