In a nutshell, this was (very nearly) the best day I could have hoped for!!
From the outset, I felt prepared, although I was not totally sure I could sustain my desired pace (8:24) for an entire marathon… I knew I would not be able to do it at altitude, although I also knew I run much faster at sea level… How much faster was not exactly clear. But then again, there is no such thing as “clear” when predicting race pace… that’s what makes it interesting:)
I picked out my outfit the day before the race. I packed many options, to be prepared for different types of weather and different moods, but with my sister’s help, I selected an outfit of my new (-ish) Saucony red shorts and the red t-shirt I had gotten from the Boulder Backroads Spring Half Marathon. I wasn’t sure I was feeling the all-red outfit. Would I look like a big period? My sister assured me I would not. In my mind, I was red hot, on fire, turbo mode…basically anything fast.
Sunday morning came and all I felt was tired. I had forced myself to leave my brother’s surprise party by 9pm the night before (why is it that parties are the most fun when you have to work/run/do anything really early the next morning??) and I was in bed, asleep by 10:30. I slept like a rock but 5:45 am came a little too early. Once I listened to some of my “Get Psyched” playlist and had taken a few sips of a Starbucks drink I found in my parents’ pantry, things started to look up.
When Dan dropped me off near the start line, I was a little reluctant to get out of the car. I was nervous about my race. After lingering and whining for a little while, I got out of the car and watched Dan pull away. I wondered if he would have a hard time with all Providence’s tricky one way streets as I walked toward the start area.
I found a sunny spot in the doorway of a building where I sat and tried to relax for a good 15 minutes and then made my way toward the line. I was shocked to find little signs lined up about every eight feet or so, reading “7 minute,” “8 minute,” “9 minute,” etc… Because that meant I was supposed to stand pretty close to the start line. It felt awfully strange to start a marathon that close to the front, but the last thing I wanted was to wade my way through hordes of people, so I got where I was supposed to be, looked around to see if there was anyone I knew, and waited. With about five minutes till the gun went off, I caught sight of a familiar looking redhead. Almost instantly, I recognized her as someone whose blog I’d read a couple of times… If memory served me, she was also trying to run a 3:40. This was fabulous! I kept her in sight and caught up to her easily sometime in the first mile… It turned out she was indeed the blogger I thought she was, her name was Katie, and she was running with another gal, Shelby, who also was shooting for a 3:40. It was my lucky day! I had been hoping to find someone to run with and here were not one but two willing people!!! Hooray! My mindless blog reading had finally served me in a productive, meaningful way!
Around mile 2, as we approached the Henderson Bridge, there were my sister, her brother in law, nieces, nephew, and Dan, with clever, colorful signs, cheering for me! Katie, Shelby and I kept up a nice, steady pace that hovered around 8:20 to 8:30 ish for the next several miles as the course wound up Veteran’s Memorial Parkway… I made sure to thank all the volunteers, who were great. This was a very well organized race. Around the eighth mile or so we said goodbye to Katie, who was perking up and wanting to go faster. Shelby and I stuck together as the miles ticked by.. We hit mile 10 right at 1:23:30.. perfect! We got the the halfway point at 1:50… right on… Around mile 14, Shelby started to fade and so I went ahead. I missed having her company but I was preoccupied to some extent by my own thoughts… My main one being “Na na na, Come, on, Come on, Come on,” the chorus of a song that I am too embarrassed to discuss any further on this blog, but which I am sure you have heard… The miles continued to roll along and I continued to smile and thank all the volunteers, and encourage other runners, most of whom did not acknowledge me, which I can only assume was due to the fact that they had their earbuds in. By mile 17 I was still smiling, knowing that this was the first marathon I had run where I felt this good this far into the race. At mile 20 my watch read 2:49… I knew I was supposed to have been there at 2:47 if I was on pace for my 3:40 but I was not ready to give up on it yet. Starting around mile 20 I kept telling myself “You’re getting a second wind,” hoping it would come true if I said it to myself.
Miles 22-24 took us right by the water, on the bike path where I had logged so many miles training for Ironman Lake Placid in 2007… the same bike path where I had completed my first “epic ride,” a 25 mile expedition on my pink 10 speed Huffy ca. 1996 with two of my girlfriends…. This was the same ground I had covered at race pace the weekend of my sister’s wedding just two months ago… Could the pavement of this path where I worked so hard so many times before please give me a little strength as my legs started to fatigue and the wind started pushing me back??? The best I could hope for was to tuck in behind any tall person who got in front of me and focus on just getting to the next tree, the next pole, the next anything… I had missed my 3 hour gel, as my stomach was feeling burpy and a little pukey… I wished I had planted another bottle of Nuun for myself somewhere on the course, I was so thirsty! I remembered that this was supposed to feel hard and tried to maintain my pace but my legs were not cooperating as my pace sunk into the 9:30ish range. At the 23 mile mark, my limited math skills told me I would need to run a 25 minute 5k to finish in a time of 3:40, and I was not sure if I could do it but I was not willing to rule it out, so I just kept on running as hard as thought I could reasonably maintain.
As we crossed over the Seekonk River on narrow, concrete footpath of 195, I got a little second wind and picked up the pace some, only to find my breathing coming out in these loud, wretched gasps. The path dumped us out at the Radisson, which is now the Windham, but in my mind it will always just be the place we stayed the night of our wedding. We passed it and took the path through India Point Park, the same path we walked almost a year ago from the hotel to Duck and Bunny for a drink in our wedding clothes, just to not have to end the night… which is what I was thinking about when I was fresh and happy as we went that way on the way out, but on the way back I was not exactly in the frame of mind to reminisce. Some lady came out of nowhere and we ran next to each other for a bit, pushing each other to maintain the pace.
Then there was Dan, cheering for me at about the 25 mile mark. I begged him to stay and run with me a little, which he did. This was good because when I later wondered aloud if I could have run faster, he was able to assure me with confidence that I was miserable and working very hard.
The motivating lady ultimately dropped me… I had just about a mile to go but it felt like forever. Finally, I turned the corner for the finish chute and crossed the line in a time of 3:46! A nine minute PR! My sister and brother in law were there, cheering for me just before the finish line. We waited around a bit and I got to see Shelby finish, too.
Of course I am very happy about the way things turned out, but I am already plotting the demise of those six little minutes for my next marathon…