We woke up the morning of the marathon to thunder and torrential downpours. Before I left for the trip I had checked the weather and they were predicting sunshine and warm temperatures, so I had packed my race gear accordingly. Meaning that I had no rain gear :(. I put on a pair of tights to wear under my dress and debated wearing my husband’s big coat.
After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we boarded our bus to take us out to the marathon start in Medoc. It was about an hour from Bordeaux to Medoc and it continued to rain for most of the drive. At this point, they were predicting rain for the entire day so I was trying to mentally prepare for being wet and cold for 6+ hours. We arrived to the race start and unfortunately both of our buses had full toilets so after taking a quick group picture, I got into the porta-potty line. Thank goodness I jumped in then because there were 2 porta potties and one outdoor urinal for men, at the start line (we later saw a couple more as we were heading towards the start, but these were kind of hidden) and that was it! The line moved very slowly and I had heard that there was no toilet paper in them from the day before (race expo) so luckily had brought my own.
Our Group Photo Pre-Marathon and getting ready to start (note the interpretation of ‘Dressed to the Nines’)
By the time I got through the line, it was close to the start time so we headed towards the start and tried to get as far forward as possible. Unfortunately we were met with a wall of people and we ended up pretty far back. I was really nervous because I already felt like we were going to be close to the cutoff time and I really wanted to finish this marathon. They had an amazing trapeze group performing at the start and the whole atmosphere was like a party…it was a far cry from the usual start line where nerves are taking over and most people are keeping to themselves. We made friends around us, exchanging smiles and pictures (I wish I had the one of Santa kissing me :)) and waited for the countdown. We thought we heard the countdown and the line eventually started moving so we walked with the group to what we had thought was the start line, hit start on our Garmins and started walking very fast. We couldn’t believe everyone walking slowly around us and figured we were just far enough back in the pack to not have any runners around us….until we made it 1/2 mile down the road and saw another line with a chip mat and people running. So then we were really confused! We quickly restarted our Garmins but still weren’t sure which was the start line. Now we were really worried about how much extra time we had just lost because the official time was based on gun time, and we did not want to get swept off the course by the sweeper crew.
The Acrobatic Aerial show at the beginning of the race and making friends at the start line.
By this time, the sun had broken through and it was now getting really hot. I was so glad I hadn’t worn the coat, and was seriously regretting having the tights on. We were pretty far back in the crowd and when we went through the more narrow areas, we ended up stopping a lot as the group funneled through. There were also a lot of really big mud puddles that would slow the race up as people tried to go around. We were finally able to get into a little rhythm with me walking as fast as I could, and my friend jogging alongside me. We got to the first wine stop around 3k but we had already decided we would wait until at least the halfway point before we starting enjoying the wine. We were already worried enough about the time and didn’t want to start the party too early ;-).
This was the Sweeper Cart we did NOT want to see on the race route (see the brooms at the top?)
It really was just as described, a rolling party. The theme this year was ‘Dressed to the Nines’ and people’s interpretation of that was just funny. Some men and women were in full suits and floor length dresses, while many a men were wearing nothing but thongs! There were also a lot of groups pushing themed carts. We learned pretty quick the French words for “look out” or “cart coming!” Or maybe they were just screaming at us ;-).
We made our way from Chateau to Chateau and I barely even noticed the miles (or kilometers ;-)) going by because the scenery was so beautiful. And I don’t even mean all of the butt cheeks! Check out these vineyards…
We were not enjoying the wine, but we were enjoying some of the food. Belgian waffles was our first ‘taste’ and then we discovered a type of bread with fruit or raisins in it. I have a sensitive stomach but I figured those things should be fine. And they were….until they weren’t :(. I actually don’t know if it was because of the food, because I was nervous about not finishing or because there was no type of electrolyte drink on the course but around mile 8, my stomach began to hurt. I was also still really hot and I don’t think that was helping my situation. Around this time we got to the stretch of the marathon where there were no Chateaus, less crowd support and the race crowd thinned out because we were on a big road parallel to the water. It was starting to turn grey, and the clouds were rolling on and my mood started to shift. With my stomach hurting and not knowing where we were at timewise, I began to think about the possibility that I wasn’t going to finish.
At this point we were almost to the halfway point and I knew we’d see our husbands and I’d have the opportunity to take off my pants if I wanted…that sounds really bad, but remember that I’m wearing a dress too ;-). I kept telling myself that all I had to do was walk. After all of the races that I have “raced,” this should have been easy. So, I kept walking….and eventually we got to the halfway point and saw our husbands. And it had begun to sprinkle a little so I kept my pants on and took off my gloves. We asked them to start timing and wait until the sweeper crew went by so we’d know how far in front of them we were.
Seeing our husbands at the halfway point
Right after we saw them, it went from sprinkling to pouring rain. I was worried now about getting too cold! I have Raynaud’s and once my hands get cold, my body starts to shut down…. I was regretting dropping my gloves. We started going through the beautiful Chateaus again and after a couple of pit stops in the vineyards, both my friend and I were feeling better. The rain continued off and on but it never got too cold so I was able to keep warm enough.
We kept on going and eventually heard from our husbands that we were about 40 minutes ahead of the sweeper crew. This and the kilometer signs going by, lifted our spirits and renewed my confidence that we’d be fine. We got to mile 20 which is generally the point in the marathon that I think no matter what happens I’ll be able to finish, so I really started to imagine the finish line and the after party :). We still hadn’t done any wine tasting and by this point we were both feeling better and feeling confident so at mile 23, we had our first taste…and it was so good! So good in fact that we had the next two tastings too (making up for lost time ;-)).
Finally wine tasting….and a sign just for my birthday 🙂
There were a few points along the race where I decided to try and “run” a little. I figured at this point that I didn’t have much to lose and it had been my dream after all to “run” this marathon. It definitely didn’t feel right and it wasn’t something I could do for long…it felt like my knee had been sawed in half and a board had been placed in between. I don’t know if this is the lack of cartilage or scar tissue (or something else?). I think another contributing factor is that my quadracep (it has atrophied and is barely noticeable when I flex it) never fired back on after the surgery so I essentially have no supporting quadracep for my knee.
As the race neared the finish, I was pushing all of the boundaries by wine tasting, eating ice cream and jogging. We were back in town and the crowds were heavier so we knew were close to the finish line. We turned a corner and knew we were close to the finish line. I wanted to be running across the finish line, so we started jogging and soon we were on a very long, red carpet which led up to the finish line. This was the first finish line where I wasn’t thinking about my time at all and was enjoying the experience. Most of my finish line photos are with me, with my head down turning off my Garmin. Here are our finish line pictures….pure joy at crossing the line at 5:58:39 gun time- my Garmin time was 5:47:37!
Finishing on the red carpet and trying not to lose a shoe
After going through the chute, we funneled into a tent area where they handed out a rose, a bottle of wine, our finisher’s bag and our medal. We left the finishing area, met up with our husbands and went to work on trying to find a glass of champagne to celebrate. We took a few photos and headed back to the bus to meet our group and head back to Bordeaux.
Photos from the finish line, finisher’s area, on the boardwalk with my goodies and finally that celebratory glass of champagne! 🙂
If there was ever a marathon worth repeating (besides Boston and New York :)), Marathon du Medoc is it! I hope I can do it again some day…..and as long as I’m dreaming, I hope I can do it again and RUN it :).