December 11, 2012

Rocket City Marathon, December 8, 2012

This was my race. My redemption. My way back from my two-second Boston qualifying fail. But it worked out to be the opposite of all that.

Here we are before my dreams were crushed.

Source: David Christy Photography

My race:

Usually I talk about race logistics first, but I really want to get this part out of the way so that my personal race experience doesn't cast too big of a shadow on the course and my overall experience at Rocket City.

It was a flunk of a race for me personally. After mile 11, I knew something was off. It was a struggle to keep pace, and slowly my stomach, abs, and intestines started to gridlock. It was like a giant Braxton Hicks contraction from my bra line all the way down to my shorts. That's a lot of area to cramp simultaneously.

You can see in my splits when the problems started to happen.

My brother and my friend Kathleen came up that morning to help pace me to my BQ. The plan was to meet my brother at mile 13, and then Kathleen, dressed as Cat in the Hat, would keep us pumped for miles 20-26. 

Source: David Christy Photography

By the time I saw my brother at mile 13, I had already taken a couple of walk breaks. 

In my mind, I kept repeating, just start this race over mentally and don't let this be finished right here. But I couldn't do it. Mind did not win over matter. Every time I started to run, the cramping intensified, and at some point, every attempt to run was closely followed by some hurling.

At first I thought that it would feel great to vomit so that I could clear out whatever felt like lead in my gut and just pick up running again, but nothing of any substance ever came up. Instead, every time I drank Gatorade, it popped right back out again like a liquid fountain from my face. Sorry to the small children I scarred for life by vomiting right beside their spectator spot. I'm sure I recruited a few future runners with that lovely display.

Also two times I tried going to the bathroom to clear the pipes, but that was a fail. Nothing.

I was only able to get in Shot Bloks at miles 5 and 10, after that I didn't take in anything solid. Only Gatorade and water.

So what was the malfunction? Remember how I was all over carb-loading for this race. Lost in all the carb-y giddiness, I skipped out on my final step before every marathon. I outline that step in this post, but basically the step goes like this: I have to cleanse the colon or I'm toast.  I don't know for sure, but my instinct tells me this was my race-killing error. Things are still not back to normal in that area, which is a very regular area for me. I can think of a lot less polite ways to say that last sentence, but I feel like you've seen too much already.

Somewhere after mile 20, I cried for a minute. That's when I really knew that any hope of feeling at all decent during this race was lost. It was possibly the most frustrated I've ever been with running (maybe tied with Nashville RNR), but I was glad to have some friends with me to make the misery more festive. Although I felt super guilty for having them drive all that way with me to hear me gag and vomit for 13 miles. I tried to stay positive as much as I could, but also I kind of just wanted to scream into a pillow.

But I very sweatily gutted it out until the finish, and on this day, finishing was good enough.

Source: We Run Huntsville

Well, finishing plus getting some air at the finish was good enough.

Source: We Run Huntsville

If you're going to screw up a race, you might as well nail the finish line photo. And in case you're wondering, yes my legs did immediately cramp up when I did this. If they had a series of photos, you would have then seen me almost fall over and stumble off like a wounded animal. But it was totally worth it.

My final stats: 4:37:56, age group 41/76, overall 691/1144.

The course: 

A lot of people told me that this would be a great race for BQing because it isn't too hilly. While I agree that the course isn't very hilly, all of the turns make it somewhat harder to stay closer to 26.2 miles. I ended up with 26.54, not too bad, but if I had been close on my time, that could have made a significant difference.

I loved that the course is permanently marked, and I enjoyed running through the quiet Huntsville neighborhoods. That was a great way to get into some wide streets without any traffic issues. The course is out and back with some extra loops, so you see some, but not all, parts of it twice. Although it's a pleasant course, it's not very scenic, mostly residential and a couple of main roads. I think I was hoping to run through a rocket.

Once we got to a stretch of main road, we lost tree coverage, and you could really feel the wind. Supposedly it was at our backs on the way back in, but I never noticed it then.

There was an average number of spectators. It wasn't crazy packed with them, but there was a steady disbursement of people to cheer you on along the way.

The water stops were well manned, but it felt like there weren't enough stops in the beginning. I know they are used to much cooler weather, so that may be why it is planned like that. By mile 5, I started to worry that I might not get enough water out on the course. For warmer days like we had, I feel like adding some water stops would be clutch.

And a special shout-out to the volunteers. Some of them were so extremely friendly that I thought I should be giving them a medal. It was a very positive race environment. Kudos to Huntsville on such an overall friendly race environment.

The weather: 

The high was 68, and the day was mostly overcast. But it was the humidity that killed us. At one point when I checked, it said that humidity was over 80%. So even though it wasn't super hot, it felt very sloggy, and although they forecasted rain in the morning, we got none. I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Rain may have cooled us down a bit.

The travel: 

We decided to drive to Huntsville the morning of the race. That is one of the main reasons I signed up for this race because they allow packet pick-up on the morning of the race, and I knew it wouldn't require an overnight stay. I love this and wish more races would offer this option.

There was zero traffic when we left Birmingham at 4:45 a.m., and we made it to the expo hotel just as they were opening the doors to let people in to pick up packets at 6:30 a.m.

At the expo hotel, we parked at what turned out to be two steps from the finish line. Score.

Expo and pre-race:

The Holiday Inn, where they held the expo, also allowed us runners to lounge in their lobby and use their facilities. Excellent bonus! The weird thing is that I actually preferred using the port-o-potty for some, ahem, privacy. I got in line for the port-o-potties right by the start, and made it through the line in less than 10 minutes. Pretty good for getting into line 15 minutes before the race start.

Packet pick-up was quick and simple. I wanted to trade shirt sizes, so they told me to come back after the race so they could make sure that everyone got their first choice before they made switches. They had plenty of shirts when I came back. Score!

There were lots of good deals on clothes and shoes at the expo too. I'm a little over clothed right now for running (don't tell me husband I said that), so I didn't really look. But they seemed to have plenty of options on the $10 rack if you needed some basics, and they had some shoes for $45.

This is also when we got to meet Suzanne, who is a Huntsville local and awesome blogger. And after Rocket City, she's now a marathoner!


We used our time with her to do some warming up (???). This picture makes me laugh every time because it's so random. 

Source: David Christy Photography

We also met Paige, from The Last Doughnut, and her husband Geno. Unfortunately, the picture I took with all of us was super fuzzy with glowing eyes (very zombie), but here's a cool one of Geno winning the master's division and coming in 6th place overall. 

Source: We Run Huntsville

Post-race party: 

There were volunteers at the finish with water and Gatorade cups, and you could go back into the hotel for a buffet-style snack. You got a paper sack at the start that you could fill with whatever goodies you liked. I just grabbed a banana and saltines. Although they had PB&Js and stew, nothing seemed very appealing to me at that moment. I loved the paper sacks though. Much better than teetering a stack of snacks in one hand while you try and navigate through the crowds.

Again, if it had been colder outside, the stew and indoor party would have been amazing. As is, we could have thrown some blankets down outside in the perfect weather (for picnics, not for marathons).

We took our after party to The Nook.

Source: David Christy Photography. That's the same David (far left) who finished his first marathon that day. Go, David!

It's a little tavern that sells lots of brewery (for the fans of that) with a side of tasty treats, like this jambalaya that I ordered.

They also had Chicago dogs with the greenest relish on planet earth. My guess is that's all natural.

The swag:

The shirts are bright (love) and gender-specific Nike shirts. I like the cut of these, and knowing they are Nike makes it easier to know which size you will need, although I still switched mine out to make room for my carb baby.

The medals were just completely awesome. Big but not too heavy with a great local theme for the artwork and a good quality wide ribbon. I loved them. They also gave us a cap at the finish line when they handed us our medals. An excellent touch.

There wasn't much to packet pick-up, no samples or bags. Just a large envelope with your bib and a lot of ads inside. I liked that they focused on a great shirt, medal and hat instead, although it would have been nice to have a bag to throw everything into as we were leaving.

Did I miss the headphones?

This is the race that has the very strict no-headphones policy. Remember that my big fear going into this race was that I would crash without music to help motivate me when I would inevitably struggle.

I don't think the race would have turned out differently with headphones, but once when a guy ran by wearing a little speaker pack playing some 90s rock, it felt like heaven. After my brother and Kathleen stepped in to help me, I definitely didn't need the headphones -- although my brother did kick out some old school raps on his phone, along with some Gangnam Style. He's a really awesome brother like that.

If I was running this whole race solo, I would have definitely needed some type of distraction and would have turned on my music on my phone (sans headphones of course!).


Extremely friendly race, from the runners to the volunteers. The cost is low at $60 to register, but it does sell out. They cap the race at around 1,200 people, so if it's on your must-run list, don't wait to register. If the weather is hot, you may want to bring your own fluids to make sure you are getting enough. The swag is excellent, and the course is fairly easy, although it's not the most scenic. This is definitely one I would run again, and I would cross my fingers for the more typical cool race-day weather. 


  1. I totally know what you mean about the vomiting. You think that if it happens, you will feel better. That happened to me, but once I vomited, I only felt worse and the vomits kept coming. I'm sorry you didn't get your BQ redemption. You are so close! I'm sure you'll get it the next time around.

    P.S. At least you looked mega cute in your Oiselle duds! :)

    1. I usually wear my distance shorts for races, but the rogas were perfect for hot weather.

    2. I have yet to try the elusive rogas. Maybe some time...

  2. Sorry the race was so crappy for you and I apologize for laughing out loud when I read about you vomiting by children. :) Seriously, though, stomach issues suck so bad in a race. I've now done 2 races without headphones so I understand that issue too...still prefer to have them even if it's a 'just in case I need the boost'.

  3. You did a fabulous job on this recap! I loved reading it, and I am awe of how strong you were to push on through and finish when you were feeling so terrible---and finished with a smile on your face at that! Thanks for the blog shout out! :) Your positive attitude and determination are contagious!!!

  4. I've never barfed after a run, never wear headphones and don't wear any technology (unless you count a watch). I have run Huntsville though. Agree about the course. Not particularly scenic, lots of turns in the neighborhoods, but well organized etc.. The part on the greenway is probably the nicest...When I ran it in 2006 I believe the temp at the start was 19 degrees... gatorade and water froze up at the aid stations and folks were sliding through them... THAT.. was fun!
    Also.. Black hats... No good in the heat, and no good at night... Light/bright colored hats please... especially if they are the "breathable" type..

    1. True on the black hats. And 2006 sounds like last year's mercedes. That's the only race I've run that ice at the water stops was an added obstacle.

  5. uuugghhh! B/c you didn't agonize us enough with the whole "2 second" issue in your last marathon?!
    I'm on to you, lady. You're trying to build up the crazy drama so that when (!!) you BQ, we'll be forced to throw you a fabulous party.

    seriously...A+ recap. A++++ for finishing that horrific race. Your strength is amazing. I would've never had the fortitude to do what you did. Hope you're recovering okay.

  6. Oh, ouchy, that dang race. I'm sorry it wasn't what you wanted it to be (and what it could have been because you ROCK). It all sounds pretty rough (except $45 shoes and that food). I was thinking of you as I watched the weather channel a couple days ago...did you have tornadoes??

  7. You rock! Vomiting and all! I've never vomited during a race, but if I did I don't think I would be finishing it and with such an awesome smile on my face! Way to go! The BQ Gods have no reason to not smile on you at your next race!
    And what a medal! It's huge! No way will miss it if you hang it on the Christmas tree. And if I were you after all that you went through I'd be hanging it front and center! Take care and hope you are recovering well.

  8. Kudos to you for finishing despite the barfing! I'm sorry it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to but, you finished and that's amazing.
    Great race swag!!

  9. A lot of runners would have just quit if they felt as bad as you did. But you ran a full marathon! And getting some air at the finish? That is amazing. You're my hero. :-) Thank you for being so honest and sharing all the highs and lows.

  10. I really hate this wasn't your day to BQ but I'm glad you enjoyed the race as much as you could despite feeling like death. The temperatures definitely could have been cooler for us. That picture of the four of us is hilarious! I can't wait to show it to Allan. It was so good to me you, your brother, and Kathleen. Hope you guys enjoyed your post-race meal at The Nook! It's a neat place. It looks like 13 is going to be lucky for you because I have no doubt you will BQ in 2013!

  11. Sorry that it wasn't your day but I know you have it in you! You will get that BQ so put this one behind you and stay focused! 2013 is going to bring you that BQ! Congratulations on hanging in there even though it was a tough one!

  12. I am so sorry about the lack of BQ although I am very excited that I officially beat you one time at the marathon now ;) But well done for pushing on when it would have been so easy and forgivable to give up. Hats off to you for that! The medal and shirt are amazing though, worth finishing for. And can your friend run 6 miles in that outfit? She's amazing!

  13. A. I adore you attitude. You are da bomb dot com. Do people still say that? Dunno, don't care - you are it.
    B. Your guns are ah-mazing! Bah-bam!

  14. Wow, when carbs attack. So sorry this race was not what you wanted it to be but man you are so tough stickin it out and rockin the crap out of the finish!I hope some of your toughness rubbed off on me. Love that shirt and medal.

  15. SO sorry your stomach felt so bad during this race! But you still had an awesome time!!! And that finish photo is awesome!!!

  16. Sorry you had a bad race, but congrats on another one under your belt. I had a similar problem with my pipes for Richmond, and also had a bad race, so you might be on to something there. Either way, you are still awesome, and I love reading your blog! :)

  17. I cannot believe you were able to jump like that at the end of your marathon! that in itself is a MAJOR accomplishment. Your sense of humor and attitude is ridiculously awesome. It's gotta be rough on the bod to do two marathons so close together like that, you'll get your BQ another day for sure. Also, yay for Chicago dogs!

  18. Ah, I'm so sorry to hear about the race and it not turning out how you wanted..BUT, you fricken NAILED that finishing picture.

  19. Replies
    1. I wish it was all for dramatic build-up! As I cry myself to sleep.

  20. ugh, I feel your frustration. All that training for one day, and to have cramping sounds awful. Humidity is awful, too... I know all about that one. I'm glad you could finish it with a smile on your face! And the Jambalaya looks amazing!

  21. So sorry--and totally get how you feel. The marathon is so hard b/c we put all our eggs into that one basket. Way to tough it out, though, when feeling so bad. You can't be a mental wimp and do that! The next one will be yours!

  22. Sorry to hear that your race was shitty. LOL That's a toughy, I hope that you are feeling better now. If you remember that race that I slept in for this fall and never got to take a was a week before I was finally able to go! I hope that's not the case for you. You'll get that 2 seconds back! What doesn't kill us makes us stronger! You go girl!

  23. So sorry this one went sour. That BQ that eludes you will be all the sweeter when it comes. Great job pushing thru!

  24. You'll get that BQ soon. It wasn't meant to be this time, for whatever reason. The 26.2 is such a challenging distance and there are so many factors that come into play. You'll get that perfect race soon enough. Finish line pic is the shiiiii. Very nice. Yeah I bet those hammies cramped up big time!

  25. IT made me feel sooo much better to read your race recap! I totally bonked at the race, too. It was my first ever marathon and I had trained to be able to finish somewhere around the 4:15 mark, but at mile left knee decided to lock up. I have no idea what the heck was happening, but I was forced to WALK for 3 miles! I completely fell off pace and finished in 5:14. I was bummed and emotional about it, but happy to have completed my first marathon. BQ will come for you!

  26. im not gonna lie, i was so bummed when i saw your post on fb. i just knew this was it. but, your pictures and attitude make up for it. this was going to be my fall marathon race (since the bf is from huntsville) and i really, really want to do it some day. i should’ve told you to put your phone in a fitness belt! thats what i did with the half in november (same rules) and it helped (even though you had a great support). also-your pic is awesome-and that is exactly how i sprained my ankle at htc. i won’t do it again while running- EVER. but you look bad-A! :) congrats on the finish and getting through a tough race.

  27. "and slowly my stomach, abs, and intestines started to gridlock." <-- THIS, I've felt this, it's so hard to describe, but you just nailed it. I hate that feeling.
    Sorry your revenge didn't play out the way you imagined it. But the body knows what it wants, it didn't want 26.2 that day! Fighting it for 26.2 is hard! Way to tough it out to the finish, it would have been very easy to just say "nah, dnf!"
    Great to see your smiling in the post race pics too!

  28. My goodness. I just read all of this. Sorry you had a tough day, but congrats on the finish. After the MCM a friend said to me "No matter how well your training has gone you never know what marathon day will bring you". It was a tough lesson learned. You will get that BQ!! Come join me next fall in Toronto and we will go for that BQ together.:) I will even hook you up with a place to stay. I love your finish photo. You jumped in the air!! LOVE IT!! Keep on smiling!!


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