I wanted to write about my experience and takeaways from my most recent marathon. But I’m finding it hard to put into words. I’m still trying to process all the emotions and larger context of this race. But, if you’re interested you can read my full race recap here!
The Early Miles
I went into this race with more confidence than I’ve ever had before. This was all thanks to my coach, Nick @prprojectkc. He has believed in me since day one and knew exactly how to get me to the starting line ready to go. Thank you, Nick!
My training indicated that I was fit enough for a 7:40-7:50 pace on the right day, but given the insanely windy and humid conditions, we scaled our expectations a little to an 8:00 pace, which would still give me a solid BQ cushion. Ultimately this is right about where I ended up overall, but on a somewhat bumpier road.
I started out with the 3:30 pace group, but dropped them at the first water station because I had my hydration vest on, so I just kept rolling. I tried to keep my pace and my effort level in check, and was constantly looking at my watch to make sure I wasn’t going too fast. I felt really good though, ready to cruise.
The first half of this race was a net downhill with an awesome tailwind, and soon I was hitting paces closer to the 7:30s, which for the grade of the downhill and the help of the wind was to be expected and not crazy outside my fitness zone.
I felt really relaxed and comfortable here, and was actively trying not to push too hard. I also had a feeling that the uphills into the wind later would come back to bite me in the ass, so I was ok with making up some of the time here while I could.
At about the 8-mile mark, we turned on to the bike path, and I was still feeling really good. This section was an out-and-back, still with a net downhill. I passed two women here. And because of the out-and-back, I also saw the lead female and second place as they were coming back in, so I was pretty sure I was in 3rd place at this point.
This section is also where I saw my work family @empowered_pt. I was in the zone, so I almost didn’t realize it was them, but I got so excited when I figured it out! They have been a huge factor in building my confidence, and seeing them out there just really lifted my spirits even higher. Thank you Alli and Kristin!
At this point, my watch was telling me I was on track for a sub 3:25 finish, or about a 7:50 pace overall.
Shortly after this is when things started to feel just a little harder, and I had to start focusing on keeping a positive mindset. Heading back in on the out-and-back was net uphill straight into the wind.
It was tough, I’m not gonna lie. The wind was 20-25mph on average with gusts up to 50mph. I was getting pushed sideways and at times felt like I was running in place.
I started to question my strategy a little bit when I felt my quads start to fatigue on the uphills. Especially since it wasn’t quite the even pace strategy my coach laid out for me. Whoops. So from mile 13-14 I was in a little bit of a slump, and didn’t come out mentally until the course was back down hill around mile 15 or so.
Physically I was bouncing back and felt pretty good, even passing someone on an uphill. But I soon hit another mental low. This section of the bike path wasn’t very well marked, and because it was a relatively small race, I couldn’t see any runners ahead of me. I began to freak out that I was supposed to have turned around or made a wrong turn entirely.
Thankfully, another runner came up behind me and we decided we were still on the course. Mentally it was a disruption that took me off my game for a bit.
Around mile 18 we were back out on the streets and even more exposed to the wind. But I was just so happy to have been on course, that I started picking up the pace again. This is when it also started to rain.
We turned into a neighborhood before hooking back up with a different bike path. And HERE is where the wheels began to totally fall off. We entered the bike path shortly after the 20-mile mark.
At this point I still felt really good. Mentally, yeah, I wanted to be done - but when I would check in with how I was feeling physically, I realized I felt really strong, I had no aches or pains, my breathing was under control, I was fine … except for the little bit of fluttering I was feeling in my left calf. I knew it could spell trouble, but I tried not to let the fear of what could be ruin anything that was actually happening in the moment.
That worked - until it didn’t.
The Final Four
Around mile 22 my calf began cramping in earnest and man was it freaking brutal! I’ve had charley horse cramps just drop me to my knees before. And this was like that, except in waves one after another that caused me to involuntarily stumble several times. They were so strong, I couldn’t control my stride. Around mile 23 I was caught so off guard by a cramp that I stumbled over to the rails of the bridge I was on to stretch out and walk just a few steps.
I was really struggling and began to question how the heck I could run 3 more miles on legs I couldn’t control and that hurt so badly. At this point, my adductors and quads started cramping too. I decided all I could do was keep running at whatever pace kept me moving forward faster than walking - if only so I could be done and get off my feet.
I had to keep running because now my overall pace had slowed enough that if I didn’t push myself to the finish, I might not BQ. At this point, I was estimated to finish in a little over 3:30. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t slow down any more than I had. I had to push.
The rest of this race was the biggest mental and physical battle I have ever faced in any race. I so badly wanted to give in, but I wanted to BQ even more. Lo and behold, my coach was out there on the course at mile 25. A huge lift and welcome surprise! He kept in step with me long enough to reassure me that I could do this. This was a hard day, a hard race, but I was so close.
Just 8-ish more minutes of this hell before I could finally. stop. running!
In the last mile, the 3:30 pacer ran by me. I felt a little deflated, but knew I could finish. I turned the corner to run behind the school and was so out of control of my legs that I almost ran into a lady on a bit of a sharp turn. I apologized profusely with whatever breath I had left! And on the next straightaway, I saw my husband and two little boys. My oldest was cheering for me so loudly that I could hear him clearly over the music in my headphones. I could see that my littlest wanted to badly to cross the street and walk up to me. And I could hear my husband cheering. I knew I was going to make it. I started pushing a little harder.
And then I saw the clock.
It read 3:29:44. I could still make it! I surged the final uphill with absolutely every ounce of strength and energy I had left in me to cross the finish line in 3:29:53. The pacer had pushed the finish as part of his race strategy! I wasn’t as far behind as I thought!
As soon as I crossed the finish line I collapsed to my hands and knees, then immediately rolled over onto my back just writhing in cramping pain. A guy next to me was also laying down screaming from the excruciating discomfort of what I can only assume was also severe cramping. I was finally able to speak and told the volunteers that it was just cramping and I would be ok. (I hope the other guy was ok too!)
After I finished, I was ... tired! I was proud of my effort. I was happy to have placed 3rd female overall. I was glad I didn't give up. But most of all, I was overwhelmed by the love and support of my friends and family at the finish line!
3 days after this race, the participants received official notification that the course, though originally USATF certified, had been mismarked on the day of the race. A cone on one of the out and back sections of the race had been inadvertently placed in the wrong spot. Unfortunately this caused the race to be 0.34 miles short of 26.2 miles. The Boston Athletic Association rules state that they will not accept adjusted times due to "unusual circumstances" including mismarked courses.