Marathon from heaven: Clearwater Part III

Yes, we finished!
When I left off, Alyssa and I were halfway done. We had gotten water twice so far, and we both felt pretty good. At Mile 14, we saw a porta-potty and both decided we needed to use it. There was no line (always nice) and it was clean. Afterward, we got water at the station and went over one last small bridge heading inland. 

The next two miles, we went through some neighborhoods with lots of shade. Although we had none before, I hadn't felt overheated. I think the temp at that point just broke 60. I took my first nibble of Shot Blok at the Mile 16 water station.

Just before Mile 18, we hopped onto the Pinellas Trail heading north back toward Clearwater. The full sun quickly warmed us up, but I wasn't too hot. I mean, it was still at least twenty degrees cooler than the last marathon. And all that water I drank the day before helped, I'm sure.

But poor Alyssa was feeling it. I should mention that she didn't really train for this race. After the X-Country Marathon (from hell) in November, she didn't run for a month and a half. Not until two weeks before this race when we did 20 miles together. And that was it. But as I've mentioned repeatedly on this blog, she's special. She's just one of those runners who can get away with not training and still hang out with me at my pace when I've trained to my max.

We got water at the station and she needed the Ibuprofen she had brought. In her back pocket, they had mostly dissolved. This had never happened to her before, and we still don't know why. It wasn't that hot. One pill was mostly in tact, and she took the crumbles of the rest hoping it would help. I nibbled more Shot Blok, and we were on our way again.

For the first time ever, she suggested that I run ahead and leave her. She thought she was slowing me down, and worried about keeping me from getting a PR. I told her, forget it! I loved running with her, the pace was fine, and this was the first time in any marathon where I actually felt comfortable after 18 miles. I didn't know if it was possible for me to feel good during the last miles of a marathon, but now that I did, I wasn't about to speed up and leave her behind and get uncomfortable for a dumb PR.

Instead, I took over talking and she took over listening. That helped her, and by Mile 20 the Ibuprofen kicked in and she felt good again. No surprise that I can't take Ibuprofen while running. My legs went numb the one time I tried it, so I haven't risked it again since. How is it that Lyssi and I are in the same family, yet our bodies are soooooo different, especially as it relates to running? All things I've had to learn about myself after years of trial and error. But that's probably the point. I learned.

Around Mile 19, almost immediately after Alyssa had been getting too hot, a heaven-sent cloud covering filled the entire sky. No more direct sun beating down on us the entire rest of the race. And it didn't start raining until after we were done.

Another marathon from heaven factor: WATER STATIONS APLENTY!

I cannot overstate this benefit. We noticed that after Mile 15 or 16, there were water stations every mile. EVERY MILE! Absolutely wonderful. And Mile 23 had TWO! It's as if the people organizing this race understood some key things (which somehow bypassed the organizers of the last marathon): this is a marathon, this is Florida, this is incredibly hard for some (if not most) people doing it, most of the race doesn't have shade, so water, Gatorade, and food of some kind (in this case oranges) can make a tremendous difference for the way someone's race goes, and Mile 23 should have two stations just because.

For us, it was because Mile 23 was the hardest. And yet, it wasn't so bad because of the two water stations. From station 18 and on, we were in the habit of walking (slowly) at each station. I sipped mostly water, sometimes Gatorade, and nibbled every three stations or so, and that kept my stomach happy.

At Mile 24, we entered early stages of delirium. The person at that station had a watch, so I asked for the time. As I mentioned before, the only race clock was at the halfway point. She said, "12:20," or something close to that. I don't quite remember because I didn't believe her, and I was getting delirious. That meant it only took us five hours to get there.

No, Lyssi and I decided. That couldn't be.

We had discussed the possibility that I wouldn't beat my PR. If I did, great, if not, fine. But deep down, I thought that our pace must be faster than the one we had at Gasparilla in 2010 (where we did 6 hours). But who knew?

Well, God knew.

The last two miles were tougher, but I still felt pretty good considering how I usually felt at this point. Perspective can really lift the spirit. We found ourselves in some lovely neighborhoods (one house with security cameras at every gate took up an entire block). And suddenly, we were in downtown Clearwater again. It seemed so unbelievable that we had passed Mile 25. The road led us toward the bridge from the first mile, and we both had this moment of panic (caused by delirium): do we have to go over that thing again?

No, no we didn't. The route led us down this spiraling sidewalk. A cyclist was going up, and we had to form a line to get by him. Alyssa said something like, "Hey, you're going up there." She turned to me and said, "I meant to say something smart, but it wouldn't come out." Yes, that's what happens at the end.

Almost as soon as we stepped off that sidewalk, we saw Mile 26 and couldn't believe it. And I said, "Hey, where's the finish? It's supposed to be point-one mile away!" No, not in a marathon. It's point-two away.

Around a corner, we saw it, and my eyes were totally fuzzy. I realized this when I couldn't read the clock. Alyssa kept saying my name. "See it? You're doing it!" And I keep repeating, "I can't see it!" And she started tearing up, but I still couldn't make out the clock until we were right under it.


But really all I saw was a five instead of a six, so I knew I had my PR. I thought I would cry, but instead this overwhelming euphoria lit me up like a match. I couldn't stop smiling, and I still really couldn't believe we had done it. "Thank you, Jesus."

"That's like a half hour PR!" Lyssi only slightly exaggerated, but she knew just how much it meant to me.

PR! Chip time 5:35:30

Poor hubby, who I had told not to come until at least five and a half hours passed, got stuck in horrible traffic. He missed our finish, but caught us just after.

It still amazes me that my best marathon ever is still totally doable for untrained Alyssa. For me, it turns out to be a huge blessing.

We did drive over the bridge, but my throw away jacket was gone. Hopefully someone will get good use out of it.

Thank you, Race Director Chris Lauber. This is the best marathon ever!

Here's a link to the official pics of us finishing the race:


  1. Hey Bria - surfing around, just found your race report from the Clearwater Marathon. I always enjoy reading them because I gain so much more insight than from just brief comments posted at facebook or in emails. Really, really enjoyed reading this - especially the part about water stations on the Pinellas Trail - thanks so much for such kind words! MAJOR CONGRATS on the massive PR. See ya next time! - Chris Lauber

    1. Chris, THANK YOU! Your obvious training and experience with race management has made me so thankful to be a participant at any Florida Road Races event. This one in particular was wonderfully planned and prepared.
      And thanks for reading!

  2. My pleasure Bria! All this is truly a labor of love. Such a treat to spend my time in the toy department of life (sports) with so many upbeat, positive athletes. As for the "obvious training" - well, no, not really - just an accumulation of knowledge gained over the last 15 years...Cheers! - Chris

    1. I guess I call all those years of experience "training" then!

  3. I'll go with that Bria!


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