Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The self driven marathon

Three days post marathon and I am able to walk a little easier and the stairs can be taken one step at a time.  Sunday was a day I will truly remember forever for so many reasons and yes the Boston Qualifying time is one of them but not the only thing that made that day special.

weather forecast
Ben and I decided it was going to be a solo trip to Delaware for this race, leaving the kids at home with his mom so they can continue in their weekend activities of all things sports and birthday parties and we could focus on race logistics and traffic as we drove the long drive in the rain.  The weather was something I was checking constantly and when we finally realized it would rain all day Saturday but race day would be cloudy and perfect temperatures I was beyond stoked.  We changed our hotel to be right next to the finish line the day before, figuring this would help with the painful walk back after the race was over.  We arrived late afternoon Saturday and although it was a very small race there was still excitement in the air.  We parked and walked over to the expo and took all required pre race pictures!  

expo pic
heading to start
After a great shake out run a few slices of Grotto's pizza on Saturday night we headed back to the hotel and stretched and talked over race day logistics again.  Ben was going to drive me the one mile plus to the start and then head back to the hotel to park and have his breakfast to then be at the 1.5 mile mark for some cheering.  Sure enough he was there and I ditched my throw away at his feet.  The first few miles always feel good as the adrenaline is in full effect and you are ready to tackle this crazy task ahead of you.   

mile 1.5
I knew this race was small and after a very rainy NJ full last year which  left the streets of spectators fairly empty I was prepared.  For that reason I do like to run a lot of my training runs solo...the only person that will get me to the finish line is me.  I can run with whomever that has had all this great success at amazing paces, but at the end of the day it is up to me and my legs and head to find that coveted arch that reads FINISH.  Well this course was A LOT more quiet than NJ on a rainy day.  There were big sections that were through large parks were the only people for six plus miles were the people at the aid stations.  That solitude is hard but not impossible.  I knew I would see Ben after this long stretch in the park and that is what was keeping me going.  

Again-as this is a smaller race they only have a set number of pacers for the marathon.  In the NJ full they had two pacers for every 5 minute increment.  For DE they had one for every 10 minute increment.  I knew I would not make my goal if I went with the 3:45:00 pacer so my other option was 3:35:00 or try to go it alone.  For my two previous marathons I ran with the 3:35:00 and managed to run 3:40:13 and 3:42:40.  I felt strong for this race and wanted the help from the pacer so I started with the 3:35:00.  By mile 9 I knew I could not hang with him.  Two other women around me said he was going to fast and also were going to drop off.  He had mentioned early on that this course was a bit longer, as they always tend to be...but we were already .17 at the mile 9 mark.  He said he was going to be picking up the pace to make up the difference.  With that I had that moment, and was so proud of myself to realize it, that I needed to run my race.  I decided to pull out of the pace group and just run...trying to say sub 8:20s for as long as I could, it didn't last that.  I knew that 8:23 was a 3:40 and that was my goal for the day.

mile 13-14
We came out of the park and there was Ben by the car with his music blasting, "I am Titanium." It was a very "Say Anything" moment.  He was telling me to stay strong and to keep going.  It was so lonely after the park and here we were again on a very quiet strip.  I was holding well, 1:47:31 for the half, 8:13 pace.  When you are running and trying to do math at the same time things get a little tricky.  I knew I was well under the 3:45:00 time goal but also knew that my legs were already getting very tired.  There was no down hill to hope for on the back half, it was still all me, pushing, tired, and just having thoughts in my head.  There was a little bridge up around mile 17 and the girl next to me started to walk, I said "no you don't" to her, and sure enough she started to run again, and thanked me as she got up next to me.  I was still feeling good and knew again Ben was waiting for me around mile 20 and I had to keep on going to see him.

mile 23
mile 20.5

My nutrition and hydration were good for the race.  I carried two 9oz water bottles on my waist for as needed and planned to drink and dump as I ran from the aid stations.  I would have a gel 45 minutes, 1:45, 2:30, and 3:15 in...give or take.  I had an issue opening up my third gel, pulled it too short.  So I ate my 4th one in that time slot and would hope I could open up the last one when I needed it at mile 22.  We came off the board walk at mile 22 and I went to try to open up my gel.  I remember feeling very light headed and a bit swirly.  I knew I had to eat and I knew I still had four miles left.  Ben had seen me coming towards him and was chanting for me to beat the bus.  In my mind all I had to do was run to school and run home however I knew my legs were not going to get me to the pace of those easy morning runs.  They were tired and I was feeling very off.  I tried to open up that last gel and sure enough, it would not open.  I was squeezing and trying to just pop it and deal with the explosion all over me...I knew I needed food ASAP or something bad was going to happen.  I asked a spectator if she had a gel on her and she did and gave to me.  I ate it as fast as I could and got water and just kept on running.  Ben took a video at that aid station and I look like I am floating and not really there.  I have never had that happen before...I was giving this race everything I had.  With the gel in me and water on my head and in my mouth, I was feeling better.  I don't really remember miles 22-24 but I knew that Ben again would be towards the finish and that is all I had to do...just keep moving.

final stretch
With that final stretch you have some moments of, what are you here for, in your head.  You have moments of, this is not going to happen, you can just stop now, and then there is the moment of you are so close and you are doing this...there is no longer a doubt.  I didn't start to run effortlessly, it didn't start to become easy, but I no longer had a doubt that I was not going to make it. I knew that the months of training leading up to this were for something, something great.  I knew that there were so many people believing in me, tracking me, cheering me on, and for as quiet as that course may have been, it was so loud in my head.  This is only my fourth marathon, I am not a professional, an elite, a girl that knows much about anything real as far as training goes.  But I am a girl that knew I was not going to give up on myself in that moment.  I knew where that 26 mile marker was and I was going to be able to stop soon, I just had to push through a little bit more of the pain.

last turn
Coming into that final turn and knowing it was straight for just a bit then turn and finish at the bay.  I had two girls in front of me that I was really trying to catch and hope to have them help me get to that finish.  I just wanted my legs to stop moving and I pushed and pushed until the curve with Ben yelling the whole time.  At last the finish line was there and sure enough, I made it in under my goal of 3:45:00.  My watch read 3:43:13 and 8:27 pace.  Their official time had me at 3:43:05 and 8:31 pace.  I had made my first qualifying Boston time.  I didn't start crying or that moment I was just so happy to have stopped running.  Ben came over and met me and I don't really even remember what he said.  I didn't feel well and I just wanted water and to sit.  We walked so very slowly to a lounge chair on the beach area and I took my shoes off and just sat.  The pushing and was done and my legs were finally at rest.  I was still in a bit of shock that I had made the time...but if you know me at all by know that I wanted it still to be a little faster than that.  And three days later I can say that on that day there was nothing more I could have given and I am so very proud of my time.  Each race is a different animal and I did my best on Sunday to tackle this one.  I would have loved to have been 25 seconds faster to get me a little closer to last year's time...but my gosh...I raced my heart out and nothing more can be said than that.

me and JB
We walked into the after party, I had some chicken and pasta and the driest chocolate chip cookie ever.  I kept drinking water like crazy and the thought of a cold beer was nothing I wanted a part of.  Ben later told me I had no color in my face and he just wanted to get some salt in me to get me whole again.  We chatted with fellow racers and everyone seemed pretty happy with the day.  I had put on a big sweatshirt after the finish and didn't go into my typical hypothermia conditions.  I was so happy to avoid the teeth chattering freeziness I typically encounter post race.  We headed back to the hotel and I took a nice long hot shower.  There was minimal chaffing so there was not screaming when the water hit my body.  I put on my compression socks for recovery and more warm clothes.  Ben headed back to mile 20 to pick up the car and then we quickly packed up and headed to the boardwalk for some good food.  Not every day do you qualify for the Boston Marathon and meet the former Vice President Joe Biden!  I was in such an emotional place I went right up to him and talked his ear off.  I am sure he thought I was crazy but not crazy enough to say his code word to bring on his secret service agent.  

Our trip home was a quick one with minimal leg cramping in the car.  I was anxious to see my kiddos and give them all a big hug.  I spent the drive replying back to the endless texts and messages from friends who were tracking me along the course.  My heart was so full and I was so happy the day was over, everything happened as it was meant to, and my body was at rest.  When I first tackled my first marathon in 2009 it was just to have the experience.  In 2015 it was to see what the changes to my body and mind would have on my overall fitness level.  2016 was redemption for something I didn't even know I wanted.  Well 2017, although self driven on the course, was a community marathon.  I have never felt so much support going into a race as I did on Sunday and the weeks leading up to it.  To come home and find all of my supporters there ready to congratulate me and share in my joy and excitement for the day...was beyond amazing.  This race was felt by more than just my tired legs on the streets of Delaware...and my finish was celebrated by more than my immediate family.

What's next...well I get to celebrate my love of running throughout Canada next month with my Ragnar team of amazing women, there will be no time to keep on pace with or the quest for the perfect will just be my feet and the endless miles of road ahead and lots of smiles and laughter.  I will wait to see what will happen in September with my qualifying time and if it was enough to be on the streets of Boston next April.  I know it was enough for me on was all I had...all I had hoped for...all I was capable of giving on that day.   

This afternoon I am heading to talk to an elementary school's running club.  My friend asked me to come as a guest speaker.  I have been thinking about what a few of my talking points will be. Pretty sure I will lead with these:

Embrace the suck...choose you...hard is possible...remember the journey.

One happy girl

Splits Delaware Full 2017

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