This was a new challenge for me, only running, and upping my milage to a peak of 55 miles a week (I know, sounds crazy to run for a marathon right?).
So the time was now. Or this weekend, or you know what I mean.
I left for beautiful Scranton, Pa late Sat. morning. Due to logistical issues, Loren couldn't come and I caught a ride with an on line pal, which was a life saver.
we went right to the expo where I finally met long time internet penpal Girl In Motion (also known as Flo). Flo and I have been chatting on line for months, had the goal for the race, and even though had never met in person, decided to give running together a shot.
I also met up with my mom, race support expert. After the expo, we headed to my friend Bob's house. I ran into Bob on a run last Friday, when he heard I was going to running in Scranton, he offered up his house. Totally awesome to have a little getaway.
Finding it however...that's another story. Let it be known Scranton has the worst signage I have ever seen and I really didn't think it was possible to get so lost in a 3 mile radius. Every time you went anywhere.
We went to dinner Sat night, a little meet up of online folks who were doing the race.
Once Mom and I found the house again, it was early to bed.
For hours of tossing and turning. And a dream that I lost my shoes and someone told me "well, there's a reason for you to not finish again". My mind playing an evil trick on my about my DNF in Philly last fall.
I was up at 5:30. I met Flo at the buses to the start at 6:15. We rode over to the high school and did last morning pre race rituals. It was a really nice morning, the temps. hovering in the 40s. A perfect start. Before I knew it, we were lined up and ready to go.
The civil war cannon was fired, and off we went.
Flo and I decided to start together, with the clear understanding of we'll see how this goes and really let's all run our own races.
I did not want to go out to fast. While this course has a reputation of being hugely down hill, and it is, I didn't want to be trying to keep my legs from falling of at mile 12 because I ran the downhills too fast. I already know what it feels like to go out too fast.
So we were off. I kept saying "ok, nice and easy" out loud, mostly for my own benefit.
My goal was to qualify for Boston, I would need to run a 3:45:59, 8:37 pace. I wanted to take the first 3 miles slow then slowly pick it up. Nothing crazy.
All my mile splits are from my Garmin, they may vary by a second or so.
This seemed like a good start. Then we get to some real down hills. I'm all for working the down hills, I just told myself to stay in control
Ok, that's a little much
I was feeling good. I made sure to drink. It was my plan to take 4 gels. I knew there were plenty of water stations, I just wasn't totally sure where they were. I took my first gel between miles 4-5. The amazing this about this race, it had just over 1500 runner, so I think it's the smallest marathon (pure marathon, Ironmans are about that size) I have ever run. And the crowd support was amazing. Everywhere there were unofficial aid stations, people out with water, gatorade, bananas, oranges, candy, hoses, it was really awesome.
My mental dialogue continued. Somewhere around this time, Flo pulled a little ahead of me. Not far, I could always see here.
Things were feeling good. I was focusing on my form, on staying in control. I knew that all the stars would have to align and I'd have to run a perfect race to hit my goal. There were a few things that did linger in the back of my mind that I was trying to keep from coming to the front on my mind:
My ankle. I didn't hurt, but it did cost me a bit of training.
And since this seems to happen when I have big races, I got my period on Saturday. Always a leg drainer.
At half way, I was a little behind goal pace. I didn't panic or worry about it too much. This race would be whatever it would be, I would just have to run the best I could run on the day I had to run. I kept telling myself that, I didn't want to run a great race and beat myself up if I didn't BQ, I was still trying for it, I just want to run well.
Most of the elevation loss comes in the first half, while it is a lot of downhill, there are als a lot of rolling hills. I know there will be hills at the end and I feel like I've trained for them. I live on the corner of 3 hills. I end almost all of my runs, not matter what the distance, running up hill. There's also a section of trails. Now I love trails. I've heard people talk about this race and complain about them, I was actually looking forward to them. When I got there, I felt myself pick up the pace. It was like a mini cross country race in the middle of the marathon. It was cool and shaded and really beautiful. While I'm not one to care about how my surrounds look during a marathon, because, well, I'm busy running, I will say the fall colors were really putting on a show.
Oh boy, my first over 9 mile. I was slowing. Somewhere around 18 I realized I would have to run my ass off to hit 3:45. I stayed calm about it. I didn't calculate how fast I would have to run or if I could. I thought, well, maybe this isnt going to happen today, we'll see. I'm going to just run steady and do what I can do. If nothing else, I will PR.
20 miles. The marathoner half way mark. The point when I tell myself there is a lap of Central park to go. That's it. A lap of the place you have run more than any place in your life, the place where you have logged at least 700 of the over 1000 miles you have run this year.
That's all that's left. I feel myself try to find another gear.
ok, so maybe I have to stay in the gear I'm in.
The thing that amazes me, even though this race has 1500 people and only about a third of them are women, I am never alone. There are always people running near me and most of the time, they are women. And I think that is pretty cool. I read a stat that said last year, only 17% of women went under 4 hours in a marathon. I am surrounded by women who are going to go under 4 hours.
Come on legs. We're getting into some tiny hills. The sun is on full blast. I feel the heat rising, it's getting hot and it's getting hot fast. I take my last gel.
I'm now grabbing a lot of fluids even though I've been taking them all along. I've also had 2 salt pills and I feel the coating of salt on my skin. I'm like a running pretzel.
23 brings up a sharp steep though short hill. I charge up it no problem
I know I'm off pace, I wont hit 3:45, I will finish, I'll finish strong, I'll PR.
24, um, who put the hill at mile 24? Everyone talks about the hill at 23 and the hill at 25, middle child hill at 24 gets completely ignored, and believe me, that is NOT FAIR. We're on a nice residential street and everyone is out cheering, people are going wild.
Now I'm telling myself NO 10 MINUTE MILES.
I am also thinking of Loren and her telling me to run brave and all the other support she has given me. And believe it or not, I am thinking about Matthew Shepard, who has now been dead 10 years to the day.
I am running with everything that's left. I see the long hill that starts mile 25. I say to myself. Ok, this is like the North Hills, this is like running in Harlem, you do this all the time. Nice and steady, I'm pushing myself up the hill. I know when I get to the top, there will be a sign that says 26 and I will have a lovely fast .2 miles to go. There's cheering and yelling and chants of almost there (and this time it's really true).
I crest the hill. I start to fly. I can really push a down hill, something I was worried about doing too much of earlier in the race. I can also kick like hell. I am passing everyone in my sights to get to that finish line. Sometimes I think half way starts at mile 26, that last .2 is really what gets ya.
And boom, there's the finish line!
.2 1:41 (that comes out to a 7:39 pace!)
I hit stop, my watch reads 3:53:04, I bested my time well over 3 minutes. I can live with that. I tell myself, and repeat it several times to others: I ran the best race I could run today. And I totally believe that.
I hear my name and look over to see Flo lounging in a wheel chair. She looks like she just had her ass kicked, and she did a bit. First time marathoner, be glad you only have to be that once. I'm feeling surprisingly good for what I just did. I gather her up and we go to hook up with our support crews.
Then we find Fran, who I rode up with. She also ran a PR of 3:59, gettin under that 4 hour mark for the first time.
Now I'm laying in bed, my quads screaming. I've decided not to make any decisions on what to do next. I have a spot for NYC in 3 weeks. I'm not doing to make that decision now.
Loren and I talked last night about the race, if I want to try and again and when, what it will take for me to hit 3:45, if I can run NYC and really pop one. What happened and when that got me off my pace. Right now, I can't point to one specific thing. I think I ran smart. Like I said, I just need a day when all the stars align. No, yesterday may not have been it, but 3 minutes? I'll take it, it's 3 minutes closer than I was before.