3 Bridges, 26.8 Miles, 18 Potty Breaks
The day of the inaugural 3 Bridges Marathon arrived to find me under-trained. I had missed more than a few short runs in favor of lifting or spinning and the long runs were interrupted by weather, travels or trips to the urgent care to get Joe’s head stapled because while mountain biking, sometimes rocks happen. Life happens. My plan was to run a little, walk a little, repeat until the finish line even if it took all day because I didn’t want to be too sore to walk down the stairs the next day. But then the woman who talked me into doing 3Bridges after I said I would probably never do a road marathon, showed up next to me at the starting line and the plan changed. Instead, we spent the next 5 hours and 40 minutes jogging at a relatively slow pace, singing, dancing, posing for pictures and stopping at almost every aid station and porta potty on the route.
It was a chilly morning, nerves and cold air were influencing a lot of people to shuffle between the portable heaters and the portable toilets. I practically stayed in line, making 3 visits within 25 minutes. Ashley and I lined up toward the back of the 7 a.m. starters along with a few other friends, like my trail running buds Joshua, Skip and Bill who were all lined up with us. We made it over the first of the three bridges, the Big Dam Bridge at about 2 miles in and I was already prepared to sprint across the little parking lot to the bathrooms. This was not a good omen for the day, it was also one of the things that contributed to my Garmin reading 26.8 instead of 26.2 miles, I went for bonus points! We got back in to the pack of runners, really at the back now and set off to enjoy the North Little Rock side of the Arkansas River Trail together. We managed to make it to the aid station at mile 4 before Ashley had to stop at the permanent bathhouse at Victory Lake, the site of the first of our many dance breaks. Why? Because Girls, Just Wanna Have Fu-un. I soon realized that my water bottle was unnecessary, there were so many volunteers we could get water almost every mile. At mile 7 we stopped to use the porta potty and at mile 8.6 we didn’t stop but did show off our dance moves for the Argenta Foundation volunteers. Once we passed over the second of the three bridges, the Clinton Bridge, we were met with mini snickers bars and tissues from the Black Girls Run cheerleaders and we stopped to pose for my husband Joe, a picture with the library behind us while Ashley wondered aloud what she was supposed to do with the tissue. “Wipe your nose with it!” the laughing volunteer said. “Oh” says Ash, “my nose isn’t running, what do I do with it now?” Humor, it’s what keeps you going when things go wrong, like having to stop to pee every 2.36 miles. Seriously, we stopped again at mile 12 at the same stop we made at mile 7 so at least our intervals were getting longer. I also took advantage of the break to eat some Honey Stinger Chews and take a little anti-inflammatory Ash was smart enough to bring for us. We made it to mile 13, we were halfway there and I stopped to pose for photos with friends and to get a few hugs.
We managed to get all the way to mile 15 before I said, “um sorry, but I need to to” and then because it’s contagious, I had to wait while Ash went too. I took advantage of the time to pull out a few more dance moves for the volunteers from the Hot Legs Running Club and to award their station the best music mix trophy.
Something clicked after that mile and we spent the next 4 miles jogging a fairly consistent pace and getting ready for the challenge we knew was coming: at mile 19.3 we would have to pass the finish line and KEEP GOING! The agony, the cruelty, the inhumanity! Okay it wasn’t anything like that, we were actually feeling pretty great, I think our strategy of stopping every 15 minutes was not paying off in having a great finish time but was paying off in having a great time. I grabbed another mini snickers from a Black Girls Run volunteer and we just kept moving even though we could hear and see the finishers. With 7 miles to go, we lost our minds and really started singing. I would like to personally apologize to the man who passed us on his way back to the finish line while we attempted to sing the theme song from Fresh Prince. We also scared birds, a dog, and made a kid in a stroller cry with our rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Again, sorry! At mile 24 we ran into my HASH friends who provided a cup of restorative beer, a multitude of hugs and a few cheers. We were almost there, I was going to finish my first marathon, albeit slowly, with the best possible person for company. Five hours and forty minutes after we started, we skipped across the line. I can’t imagine what the day would have been like without Ashley by my side. Because as she said so many times during the last 7 miles, “this doesn’t suck.”
Within 45 minutes of finishing the race, we were sitting at a table at Homer’s West with meat and beer in front of us. It was possibly the best day ever.
Truths I learned during my first road marathon and longest road run to date:
Karaoke must become an integral part of training. While singing our best rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, we realized that we needed a deeper bench for our repertoire. Beats the heck out of an earful of iPod.
At 24 miles, a quarter cup of cheap beer and a grocery store mini cupcake are manna from heaven. Seriously. As we walked/ran away from the aid station at mile 24, a hug from Katy and a smile from Elaine, the beer, the cupcake and for Ashley, the pretzels, were just what we needed to turn to each other and say “Let’s get this B@$%& done. I got beer and pretzels! Do you know how great this is? Wait, I have to pee.”
Even if like me, you have a bladder the size of a walnut, try not to stop at each and every bathroom/portapotty/hidden copse of bushes along the way. We figured we spent a good 30 minutes, possibly more, using the bathroom. This is unacceptable and I will become a spokesperson for Depends now.
Bra Chafing. Because God was so generous to me, I know this will forever be an issue. There is a certain amount of assistance to be had from products like Body Glide and a foundation garment that fits properly but seriously, if I could do away with the boob chafing I’d be super happy. But, it leads to great conversations about the invention of a sweat wicking lower back tattoo for women, preventing the all embarrassing “ass sweat angel” situation. I do believe Ashley is on to a million dollar idea here.
Also, I may never run again without Ashley beside me.