When did I first get the idea about doing two marathons in one weekend? I’m not quite sure, but I think it was shortly after learning about a running club called “Marathon Maniacs”. After perusing marathonmaniacs.com, I quickly knew that I wanted to become a Marathon Maniac!
*Want to read more about the weekend that solidified my “Marathon Maniac” status? Then, read on, but readers beware… it’s a lengthy one! 😉
It all happened pretty quickly. I first signed up for the Pony Express Marathon while at the Davis Stampede half marathon on February 21st. I signed up for the second marathon, the Western Pacific Marathon, three weeks later on March 12th. I quickly headed to Google and typed in “running back to back marathons”. This article by Active popped up. I quickly read it along with an Hal Higdon article and I started training like crazy! Every weekend was spent running two long runs back to back. I even ran back to back half marathons April 9th and 10th!
Finally, the big weekend arrived… Double marathons back to back. After work on Friday, the hubby and I packed our bags and made our way to Fremont, a city located about 2.5 hours from our house. We stopped in Woodland for dinner at Maria’s Cantina, a delicious Mexican restaurant. I ordered a veggie burrito bowl.
Upon arriving at our hotel, the Marriot, I ate a peanut butter cookie, drank plenty of water, laid out my race outfit, and went to bed.
The alarm went off at 5:45am, I took a shower (yes, I like to take showers BEFORE the race because 1) I take a shower every morning and 2) I like to start my day off feeling clean and refreshed 3) sometimes I don’t take a shower after a race), packed my bag, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Starbucks for a Spinach Feta wrap.
We got to the starting line a little later than I had hopped. I was slightly panicked. I still needed to pick up my t-shirt and bib. Fortunately, since it was such a small race, I was able to pick up my stuff and be ready at the starting line all within 10 minutes! At the starting line, I chose to line up with the 4:10 pacer. I was thinking optimistically. My marathon PR was 4:28, I had stuck to my training plan, and was aiming for a PR.
The 4:10 pacer was Joyce Lee. We hit it off right away. She too is a no meat athlete. She shared her journey of running 24 marathons and going from a 5:25 marathon to a 3:25 marathon! She was wearing a marathon maniac headband and her energy was contagious. I ran side by side with Joyce for the first 13 miles. I fell pace when I hit the earliest wall I’ve hit in a marathon.
Why was this marathon turning into such a difficult one for me? Well, first there was the fact the the majority of the course was on a gravel trail. Second, there was the wind. Third, there was the sun (why didn’t I wear a hat/ visor?!). Finally, my stomach wasn’t right. It felt full, yet I was thirsty. Drinking water and eating my Honey Stinger chews just wasn’t cutting it.
Despite all of this, however, I pushed through and finished in 4:34:01, 6 minutes from a PR. The good news too is that the course was long. My Garmin calculated the course as 26.49 miles as opposed to 26.2 miles. There was no raising the hands in victory when I crossed the finish line. No, I was SO done and ready for something cold and to sit down! (Watch my finish line VIDEO here.)
After a few minutes of rest and recovery in the stretching area (and after eating a mint It’s It), I was ready to take a victory shot. Today’s run put me at 200 total miles for the month of April. My first time hitting 200 miles in one month! This definitely called for a jumping shot!
After changing into some dry clothes and grabbing some more post-race snacks, the hubby and I got in the car, and drove 1.5 hours to the race expo for marathon number two… the Pony Express Marathon.
While in the car, I drank 16 oz. of fresh squeezed juice that I picked up at one of the booths at the Western Pacific Marathon and 32 oz. of Nuun, yet I still did not have to use the restroom. Oops… I guess I was dehydrated. Is this why my stomach felt full during the race and I had upper stomach pain (almost like indigestion)? Although I ate an It’s It immediately after the race, I did not feel hungry. I, in fact, did not feel hungry until about 3 hours after the race.
After picking up my race swag at the PEM expo, it was time for some food. (I won’t go into the whole story of the hubby and I getting separated when he dropped me off at the expo, me not understanding his directions of where he parked, and walking a mile in the wrong direction… It’s called active recovery, right?!) We still had an hour of driving until we were back home so we headed to BJ’s Brewhouse. I drank four glasses of water and one glass of Sangria. I ate one dinner salad and half of a mini deep dish vegetarian pizza. It was all SO tasty! Nope, no pizookie for us… we were both too full.
The hubby and I finally arrived home at about 5pm. I took a shower, unpacked my bag, started some laundry, foam rolled, did some yoga for the Runners Love Yoga IT Band challenge, and met my mom for some frozen yogurt.
I arrived back home a little after 8pm, laid out my clothes for marathon number two, and went to bed. It was going to be another early morning. The alarm was set for 4:50am.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling pretty good. Yes, I was feeling a little stiff and sore. Yes, I had a few blisters that I earned at marathon #1. Yes, I was a little tired. BUT, I was also incredibly stoked! I was about to see how my body would handle running a marathon after completing a marathon the day before.
For breakfast, instead of the usual Spinach Feta wrap, I went for a plain bagel with cream cheese. Yes, I would have preferred peanut butter & banana on top, but I didn’t think to grab some before leaving the house. I ate my bagel and sipped some water while on the 40 minute drive to the starting line of marathon number two.
I hadn’t studied the course map nor looked up where to park, but I figured it’d be relatively well-marked and easy to follow others. Sure enough, I found a parking garage close to the starting line, and made my way to the corral with about 10 minutes to spare. (If you haven’t noticed yet, I like to cut things close. No use standing around for too long!)
I wasn’t too sure what my time would be for marathon number two, so I decided to line up with the 4:40 pacer. Once we began, however, I was feeling great (despite the warm temps)! I, in fact, ran the second mile of marathon #2 12 seconds faster than in marathon #1! Sadly, by mile 8 I was already slowing down. (If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see a side by side comparison of my average pace per mile for the two marathons.)
There was a moment where I panicked a little bit. I thought, “I’m less than a third into this race and I’m already slowing down?! How will I ever keep this up for another 18.2 miles?!” It was at this point that I switched off my running playlist and tuned in to the local Christian radio station. I needed strength, the kind of strength that came through Christ alone.
I knew that my pace was slow, but I just kept telling myself, “One foot in front of the other. Just keep moving.” My stomach, thankfully, felt better than during the previous day’s marathon. I stuck with drinking water, refilling my Nathan hydration bottle as needed, and ate my Honey Stinger chews. (One of the culprits of my stomach troubles the day before could have also been the electrolyte drink that was being passed out at the aid stations… Ultima was the electrolyte drink at both races and is not what I normally drink. Could this have been one of the reasons I had stomach issues?)
After fighting through 10 slow miles, I finally saw the sign for mile 25. I only had a little over a mile left until I would become a Marathon Maniac! One of the things that made me feel a little better about my slower pace, was the fact that there was a lady and man who I had been trailing since the race first started. I was glad that they too had started out faster and had slowed significantly over the course of 26.2 miles. In the last 5 miles or so, we went back and forth; I’d pass them, they’d pass me, I’d pass them, etc. I, however, passed them one final time within the last mile and finished ahead of them.
As seen in my splits listed below, mile 26 of marathon #2 was about a minute and a half faster than in marathon #1! I was SO excited to be nearing the finish line of marathon #2 of my back to back marathon weekend! I was so excited, in fact, that as I rounded the final corner of the race and saw the finish line, I was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions. For the first time in eight marathons, I began to cry. I, Stephanie Dunlap, went from an overweight couch potato to a marathon maniac in five years! I did it!
What did I do after crossing the finish line of my second marathon in two days? Well, I grabbed some fruit, a cold chocolate milk, and a water bottle as I made my way to find a shady patch of grass. Yes, although I was having a party in my own mind, no one else around me knew what I had just accomplished. There were no signs, no flowers, and no cheering. It was just me, my chocolate milk, and my tired body.
Although I could have stayed in the nice, cool grass forever, I needed to blow my nose, get a post race picture, get a massage, and finally enjoy a post race beer courtesy of Yolo Brewing Company.
Remember when I said I had parked my car in a parking garage? And remember how I said I hadn’t studied the course map? Well, the finish and starting line were not in the same location. Sure, they were only a few blocks away, but who wants to walk a few blocks after just running nearly 53 miles in two days?!
When I finally located the parking garage my car was located in, I found that the entire garage was locked up… with my car inside! There was a gate, but I and my car were on opposite sides of the gate! How was I going to get to my car? All I wanted to do was get in my car, drive home, and take a shower! I tried not to panic. I tried locating a phone number of parking garage, but there was no phone number in sight! Finally, after walking around the outside of the parking garage, I saw a sign that said, “For after hours loading dock access, please use intercom to contact security.” Yay! A phone!
I picked up the phone, a lady answered on the other end, and I said to her as calmly as I could, “Please help me. My car is in the parking garage and I can’t get to it!”
She replied, “No worries. Just walk to the front and I’ll let you in.”
I walked to the front of the building, the security guard unlocked the door to let me in, and then walked me back to my car. There was another runner who was getting his car out the same time as me. Clearly, not many had chosen to park their cars in the parking garage. At least my car was secure, right? I was so elated to finally be in my car!
I went home, showered, and headed to my favorite restaurant, Costa Vida, for a victory vegetarian salad. I had done it! I had run two marathons in two days! Marathons #7 and #8 were done and over. I had just one thought, “What’s next?”
|Lap||Avg. Pace||Avg. Pace|
|10:21||10:49||Total Avg. Pace/ Mile|
*Remember Joyce, my pacer for the Western Pacific Marathon? She posted this fantastic graphic on my FB page congratulating me. Yes, she’s pretty fantastic! 🙂