Hello hello and greetings from could 9, where I’m riding the incredible high of yesterday’s race! There’s a monster post ahead but TL;DR–I ran by far my strongest and smartest marathon and finished in 3:28:30, smashing my A goal, PR-ing by 7.5 minutes, and qualifying me for the 2018 Boston Marathon with a 6.5 minute cushion.
Let’s take it back to the beginning… when we hit the road Saturday morning for the drive up to Maine. Armed with lots of bottles of water, we scooted up to Portland and got yummy sandwiches at Sister’s Gourmet Deli (amazing homemade bread, both gluten free and gluten-full!) J and I drove my running buddy Denise and her friend Alisa, and my parents and brother caravaned along with us. We then drove another hour to pay a quick visit to our cabin, where J and I are getting married in September! It’s getting a long-overdue renovation and it was so fun to see it coming together. The last leg of the trip took us on backroads up to Sugarloaf, where we picked up our bibs at the “expo”–marathon for the girls, 15k for J. The bib pickup was smooth and easy, which makes sense given that the race is TEENY–just 1600 runners total. The rest of the night we took super easy. We had a little condo for me, J, my big bro Ari, and my parents–complete with a decent kitchenette that we used to cook up some chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, and a simple salad. Extra salt on everything for me, and some pasta for the gluten eaters. I kept this pre-race meal carb-y and simple, which I think was a big part of why my stomach behaved so well during the race.
After a just ok night of sleep, we were up and at ’em at 5 am for a quick gf bagel (with pb, banana, and salt) and coffee before grabbing the shuttle bus to the race start. We were running a couple of minutes late but we made it onto the last shuttle, which was great until the shuttle BROKE DOWN and had to turn back to the hotel. We still had an hour to spare before the race, but there wasn’t another shuttle in sight (cue freak out)–and then in a glorious moment I ran into a friend from track who offered us a ride to the start! Everyone else did make it on another shuttle, but big ups to Steve for the extra few minutes of cushion. The second amazing coincidence was that I walked directly into Denise and her friends Amy and Sarah who were already halfway up the porto potty line!! We did our business and then shed our layers (it was in the high 30s–BRRRR) before dropping our check bags and lining up at the start. One jarring shotgun shot later, and we were off!
The first few miles were gorgeous and slightly downhill, but we stuck diligently to the plan and kept them at an easy 8:00-8:10 pace. It was absolutely beautiful along this stretch–still lakes, mountains, and sweeping forests. Once the feeling crept back into our fingers and toes, we hit the first series of rollers, keeping the pace around 7:55-8:00 through mile 8. We knew the hills would be over by the end of mile 10, so we ran based on effort and actively kept the pace under control, even on the rolling downhills. Mile 9 was a doozy with 178 feet of elevation gain, but all of that training on the Newton hills paid off and we hit the top feeling steady and strong at an 8:26 pace for that mile (by far our slowest of the day, as it should have been!)
Alisa had been driving along the course and we had seen her a few times, but I knew my folks were going to be at mile 11 and it was so amazing to see them after the first steep stretch of downhill. We held it back but let the pace dip to a 7:42 during mile 12 (158 feet of elevation loss), and then settled in around 7:50 until mile 20. Thanks to Coach Laura, I had split the race (in my head) into a 20 mile long run and then a 10k progression run, so we kept joking about the fact that we were just warming up and that the race start was still ahead 🙂 The focus during this section was definitely on fueling every 45 minutes and drinking at every water stop (I ran with my handheld until mile 20, where I ditched it, but I drank whenever we passed a stop and refilled 3 times).
At mile 20 the pain had started to creep in, but my legs had some juice left in them so we amped the pace up to the 7:40s and started to pick people off. It had gotten hot at this point, and I was pouring water over my head at every water stop. I kept repeating my mantras in my head (STRONG. FAST. CONFIDENT.) and Denise and I checked in with each other every few minutes. My knees felt a little bit creaky and I was nauseous, but I managed to hold it together and maintain a sub 7:50 pace through a gradual but deadly uphill climb from miles 23-24. At this point I knew we were safely in BQ territory, but I didn’t let myself get too excited about a sub 3:30 until we rounded the corner into chute. A big perk of such a tiny race was that we finished by ourselves–talk about feeling like a rock star! We decided to grab hands and hold our arms up, and it felt like we flew across the finish at a 7:25 pace.
It was over, finally, and I gave everyone the sweatiest hugs and shed a few incredulous tears when I saw that we had not only BQ-ed (sub 3:35), but that we had broken 3:30 (my A goal) and that I had PR-ed by 7.5 minutes off of my Chicago Marathon time. And oh yeah, we ran a super solid negative split, crossing the first half at 1:45 on the nose and nailing the second half in 1:43:30. Ari finally hit his goal of breaking 3 hours (yup, he’s a beast) and J ran his longest race ever and finished the 15k at a killer 8 minute pace! After the race we showered, snacked, and hit the road towards some decadent burgers and well-deserved beers/ciders in Portland.
I have so much more to say about this race experience, but I have to give the biggest thanks to Jeremy for being incredibly supportive and tolerant, to Coach Laura for her belief in me and her deep well of wisdom and support, and to Denise for being a wonderful friend and for carrying me through the last few miles with grace and strength. I am finally a BOSTON QUALIFIER!!!!!