RnR Savannah Marathon = Selfies, @Run8va, Beer & Survival!

Welcome to the goal race that wasn't!

For those that might be scratching your head and saying: "Ummm Dani didn't this race happen November 7?"

You would be correct. Why yes yes it did happen on November 7. But since then I have had a really difficult time putting that race into words. 

Why? I never seem to have trouble before rambling on about miles, selfies and fun.

Well, I have. I didn't recap the 2014 Boston Marathon or 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon - both of which took place in April - until June. They were two races that while fun, didn't go as planned. They were emotionally, mentally and physically draining. So I let myself take as much time as needed to digest the feelings and feel ready to write.

The same happened with Savannah. I went into Savannah aiming for my second sub-4 hour marathon. I was physically ready AND knew the course. It was the site of my one and only other sub-4: 3:58:49 in 2012. 

But guess what. Not everything goes as plan. Savannah decide that on this particular Saturday morning in November it needed to be 80+ degrees plus 100% humidity. Yes my friends you read that right. 

 Weather warning at the expo!

Weather warning at the expo!

On Friday I was still mentally playing around with the idea of a sub-4, but my heart of hearts was ready for the truth - it wasn't going to happen. Not with that weather. 

Thankfully my mind was completely distracted by having a complete freakin' blast with my amazing blogger friends (blends if you will). 

I knew in the end I wanted to walk away from this weekend with fu memories, smiles and BLING! I had three races on the agenda. The marathon on Saturday and the 5k and 1-miler on Sunday!

The crew and I did a great job of carbo-loading the night before. Ummm hello delicious pizza and headed back to our hotel to rest up for an early morning. I was staying with my roomie for life Larisa and the one and only BamaGirlRuns (Kristin) and her mom were crashing with us the night before the race.

Now I had grabbed a bagel and cream cheese from the continental breakfast that morning to use before the marathon. Perfect plan until the morning of the race I realized the cream cheese had fallen out of our mini fridge.

In a nervous state on Saturday morning, I opted to eat it anyway. Enter mistake #1 of the morning. Upon finishing it my stomach was NOT feeling well. Thank goodness for port-o-potties my friends. I was trying to drink as much water as possible, but unfortunately getting sick more than once will leave you feeling dehydrated. 

As Larisa and I made our way to the VIP area (sorry I forgot to take pics), I tried to eat some pieces of a plain bagel to settle my stomach. In my focus of rehydrating myself, I gear checked my fuel. Mistake #2 of the morning.

 chocolate milk teammate brian & i in VIP

chocolate milk teammate brian & i in VIP

At this point I was thinking the race wouldn't be happening. Honestly I thought I had come all the way to Savannah for nothing. Hello negative mental spiral. Can anyone relate?

But with Run8va (Joe) waiting for me to run, I was making it to the Start Line no matter what. Joe and I planned the run the marathon together. Original goal was or him to pace me to sub-4. New goal? Enjoy the crap out of the race and finish.

After having a discussion with myself and one with Larisa, I was off to Corral 4. But first, a quick pic with some of the other Rock N Blog crew. 

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It was awesome seeing familiar faces and meeting new bloggers from around the country. 

Once in Corral 4 I found Joe and Kristin. The race start was delayed due to course clearance so I was able to sneak in another port-o-potty visit before we started.

And yes the race hadn't started yet and we were already a sweaty mess!

We finally had the go ahead to start and we were off. Alright self let's do this. Focus on the fun and the experience.

Now for those wondering - Joe and I had never met in person before, but thanks to the interwebs were ready to spend 26.2 miles together. What I didn't know was Larisa made sure Joe would stick with me throughout the race. So thanks for that friends! :) 

GO TIME!

Once I hit the Start Line, all the worries and nerves vanished. Like Tedy Bruschi said: the training is the race and the race is the after party! So I made sure I was ready to party for 26.2 miles.

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The course winds you through many different Savannah neighborhoods including the historic district as well as Savannah State University. Despite the temperature, the crowds - on the first half in particular - were enthusiastic.

We even took a hydration gift from some of the spectators. Caloric water anyone? ;) 

As you can tell it was clear from the beginning that slowing the pace down was important for us making it through the marathon. I think I would've had a different approach had I been doing the half. 

Joe, also a Rock N Blog member, had written a post on the 5 spots to selfie during the race. So of course we had to make sure we made them happen.

Mile 1: 9:21
Mile 2: 9:23
Mile 3: 9:41
Mile 4: 9:58
Mile 5: 9:27

The bands on the course were doing a great job keeping the spirits of the participants and crowd up. It was scary and shocking the number of folks we saw go down during the race. Too many ambulances and EMTs were needed on that day. It was the reminder everyone needed that life is precious and you HAVE to listen to your body when battling this type of weather on race day. 

Since I had gear checked my fuel, I had to rely on the GU on the course. Let me tell you GU is one of my least favorite ways to fuel. The consistency just isn't for me. But when it is GU or nothing - you go with GU!

Now this sign doesn't really mean much to me since most of my friends are early risers to get their own races/fitness activities in, but I am always happy to stop and selfie. ;) 

But let me tell you the truth in this sign. This belongs on way too many of the courses I have been on. Haha.

I applauded the folks rocking costumes in that sticky weather. Even KISS made an appearance. ;) He actually asked me to redo the sly selfie I had taken. :) 

I did love the random strangers looking to crash my photos. This lady jumped in then apologized. I thanked her. I loved the cameo. :) 

Savannah is truly a beautiful city and the trees were a gorgeous backdrop for the race.

Special thanks to Rock 'n' Roll for adding misters along the course. 

Mile 6: 11:18
Mile 7: 10:17
Mile 8: 9:44
Mile 9: 13:08
Mile 10: 11:37

By Mile 10, we had seen at least 8 participants go down and too many ambulances and EMTs leap into action. BRAVO to RnR for having extra help on-site knowing there would be tough race conditions. 

Just as we were passing through the misters in a lovely Savannah neighborhood, I lost Joe. Joe had spotted two girls drinking a mimosa and had veered off course. BRAKES ON Dani! Time to join. So I chatted and shared a mimosa with those two girls. "Don't worry I don't have cooties," said one girl. "Honey we are WAAAYYY past cooties this far into the race," I replied. Haha. 

After sharing the mimosa with the girls, I was ready for my own. Joe was actually in this gentleman's driveway checking out the other goodies he had. He was cooking up eggs, sausage and bacon. QUITE a spread for his family... and the participants. That's right! He shared his goodies with us.

Folks I cannot tell you how much my body and heart appreciated that bacon. It settled whatever uneasiness was still floating around from the bad cream cheese, nerves and GU. After a few minutes, we bid him adieu with a mimosa in hand and continued the party.

What amazing treats would the next mile have to offer we wondered. 

A photo stop? HELL YEAH!

How adorable is this? It was the cutest set-up run by some amazingly motivating kiddos.

With smiles on our faces, we returned to running only to be greeted by two women and two kegs. Well excuse us Mr. Race we need to veer off for a second here.

The women were completely shocked that so many people would be stopping during the race. Oh lady you don't know some runners. ;) The beer was cold and delicious.

The brew was from the local Moon River Brewing Company and as any good #beerrunner would do. We stopped, dropped and selfied.

We grooved and high-fived the band just before hitting the biggest turning point in the race. The dreaded split. Marathoners to the left and Half Marathoners to the right.

Oh friends did I envy those half marathoners. Looking at those happy faces of folks with 2 miles to go. But I came down here to finish Marathon #9 and I would do everything I could to make that happen.

Mile 11: 14:18

It was finally time for us to head on to the highway and make our way towards the back half of the course, which included Savannah State University's campus.

As we made our way past Mile 12, we saw the lead vehicles coming back towards us. DAMN! Those leaders were cruising. It didn't even look like they were breaking a sweat in that weather. 

We took the opportunity to cheer on the leaders and offer words of encouragement. I think I might have been saying them out loud just so I could hear them as well. 

We took advantage of the cold sponges available on the highway in between the waterstops.

The sun was grueling, but especially tough on the very open and vulnerable highway. Without shade in sight, we were sure to keep the pace in check and get water whenever possible.

RnR had a water cooling station set up on the highway, which was an air-conditioned bus. Neither Joe nor I felt like we needed to step inside it. We just needed to keep moving forward.

Mile 12: 11:13
Mile 13: 10:30
Mile 14: 11:06

 oh hey friends! You were us a few minutes ago... 

oh hey friends! You were us a few minutes ago... 

After Mile 14, we were finally off the highway and ready to make our way towards Savannah State University. The spectators on the second half were few and far between. I remembered that from the race in 2012 as well. It is a little tougher for tourists to get to the back half, especially if they don't have a car. 

The motivational signs definitely meant more at this point in the race than I think the people that made them could imagined. It was time to dig deep. We had a whole lot of race left.

Mile 15: 9:46
Mile 16: 10:35

Mentally I knew I needed a boost. I wanted to just sit on the side and stop. It wasn't as though my body needed to stop or felt like it couldn't keep going. It was my mind. And out of nowhere a kind stranger started handing out popsicles. Oh sir I could kiss you! It was the little pick-me-up I needed.

There was Savannah State University!

The students were out cheering folks on and handing out water. I was sad to see that this time around we didn't run through the football stadium. It was such a cool experience in 2012 that I was sad I couldn't share with Joe this time around. I will say waiting in the port-o-potty line during Miles 18-19 was tough on the legs. I wanted to keep moving, but I knew I needed the pitstop. Trying to keep them from cramping up so late in the race was my main priority. Thankfully folks were moving at a decent clip through the line.

We completed the circle through the University campus and started making our way back towards the highway.

Mile 17: 10:51
Mile 18: 12:59

After emerging from the campus, we stopped at the medical stop and were greeted with full bottles of Gatorade! YEEESSS! Joe and I grabbed one and took the break to update social media on how we were doing/feeling. I can tell you that the guy running by us was not planned, but an absolute perfect mistake. :) 

It was time to focusing on hitting Mile 20. The course was pretty bare of spectators so it was all about keeping each other pumped and distracted. Thank goodness we fell into easy conversation throughout the race. You never know when you run with someone you have never met before. :) But Joe was a great running partner and the race was full of smiles and laughs.

As we approached Mile 20, the runner math started kicking in. Okay so just 6.2 miles left ... that is like 5 miles with a 1 mile cooldown ... that is like 2 5ks ... that is like 6-ish 1 mile runs. 

As you see the hill behind us, this is when Joe dropped some wisdom. We opted to walk up this hill as to not "fight gravity." It is something he had learned early on in his short running career. Something a wise runner once told him.

Running uphill is like fighting gravity.

Well neither of us felt like fighting gravity at that point so we opted to walk up the hill and run down. :) I don't normally walk up hills, but that that point I wasn't about to fight it. :P

Mile 19: 12:57
Mile 20: 9:08

We were ready to hit Mile 21 when we looked up and saw the Mile Marker said 23. Ummmm wwwhhaaa??? We had gotten a text from Larisa (who was running the half) earlier in the race saying the course was getting cut short, but we hadn't heard anything about it near us.

I quickly tweeted to Rock 'n' Roll who confirmed that the course was in fact cut. But why cut that 1.5 miles off of the marathon when folks were already past Mile 20. Did the 20 minutes mean that much? Why not tell us? I was so confused. 

As we ran on I got upset, but this wouldn't be a complete marathon. I can't take the medal if I don't complete 26.2.

It was around this point, while back on the highway heading towards the Finish, that we saw people running back towards us. Hmmm if the course was cut where are these folks going? I didn't think much more about it as I saw this motivating man in front of us.

Thinking back we figured out where they had replaced a turn signal with cones and it didn't even look like we missed a section of the course. 

Mile 21: 13:27
Mile 22: 11:32

We emerged from the highway right around where it should've been Mile 25. The water stops and aid stations were almost empty of volunteers and supplies. We could see then why they were cutting the course. You want to make sure you have enough supplies for the participants.

As we headed toward the Mile 26 marker, we saw a ton of people running back towards us. OOHHHHHH they were making up the extra mileage that we were shorted. Oh you smart folks you. We didn't see any volunteers or police stopping people from doing that so we opted to do the same. 

Why did we do this?

1) We were both feeling healthy enough, 2) We had enough snacks if we needed them and 3) We wanted to cross after completing the full 26.2

So upon hitting the Mile 26 mile marker, we tapped it and turned around.

Mile 23: 11:42
Mile 24: 10:10

It was once again time to make a little video update. We knew we were feeling okay enough to continue. I am glad the people that didn't feel 100% would listen to their bodies and stop. You have to do what is right for you in a race.

We just wished the cutting of the course was better relayed to the folks running especially those past Mile 20.

Once we were back at the Mile 25 marker, we turned around and were ready to run into the Finish. There was a great beer stop during that last mile so we both took a solo cup of PBR to bring across the Finish line.

Mile 25: 11:32
Mile 26: 11:39

I couldn't believe we had done it. It was surely one of the most mentally exhausting and toughest races of my life. But we had done it. We slowed when we needed to. We walked when necessary. We hydrated. We smiled. We selfied. We won!

And as we came across that Finish Line we heard Rascal Flatts playing "Life Is A Highway!" We had missed the entire concert as we were out on the course, but Joe had promised we would finish in time to hear that song... and we did just that!

 Thanks again chocolate milk for the entry into the race

Thanks again chocolate milk for the entry into the race

 beautiful medal

beautiful medal

FINAL: 4:52:43 (11:10 min/mile pace)

 Slightly off the expected finish time ;)

Slightly off the expected finish time ;)

After grabbing chocolate milk, it was time to head over and grab our Finisher's jacket and then head into VIP.

Oh this mimosa was freakin' heaven. Unfortunately since I took so long to finish, I missed out on the VIP massage. :/ I made sure to take extra advantage of the mimosas to make up for it. :0) 

Larisa and I headed back towards downtown so we could meet our crew for celebratory beer and food. 

Overall the race was an amazing time thanks to my running mate Joe. It could've totally sucked, but keeping each other laughing and entertained during a tough time helped us to come out on top.

I would recommend the RnR Savannah marathon to others. The weather was rare and unfortunate, but the course is still a great mainly flat one with beautiful history and scenery all around. I hope to make it back someday! 

I am proud of how I dug deep and pushed through some tough mental spots to finish marathon #9! That experience made me a better runner and reminded me I am stronger than I think I am.