Monday, October 19, 2009

Three hours, thirty nine minutes, and fifteen seconds of joy: Baystate Marathon Race Report

OK, well, since we all know that I write some of the longest race reports around, I would suggest grabbing some food or a tasty beverage to enjoy while reading what I'm sure is going to be an absolutely epic post...but you know, it was my first marathon [so...longest race ever, which probably means longest race report ever :)], and it was absolutely amazing, and I don't want to forget a single instant of it!

Day before the race - 10/17
I got a great night of sleep Friday night and took myself for a little mile jog to shake out my legs a bit that morning. Pretty much all I could think to myself was the next time I put on these shoes, I'm going to be running a marathon which was enough to send my heart rate shooting through the roof. I kept busy packing/freaking out the rest of the morning, almost had a heart attack when I thought I lost my one and only pair of tech socks [Thought process: I will NOT run in the rain in cotton socks!!] but eventually seemed to have my crap together. As I was waiting around, watching the Badgers play a pathetic second half against Iowa, Claire called to tell me she had finished her marathon and that it was awesome! She said it didn't really feel any harder than her 20 miler even though she was going faster, and she had a huge negative split so that made me feel good about my race strategy. She apologized for stealing all the nice weather...of course the forecast was still looking grim for Sunday but I tried not to think about it.

Kelly and her husband picked the BF and I up at around 2:30 and we headed to Lowell for the expo. It was held at the high school which was kind of hilarious...picture a whole bunch of runners milling around in a cafeteria with signs for "Vote for Diamond for Homecoming Queen!" hung up everywhere. We got our packets and bib numbers, and that's kind of when I knew it was real...tomorrow I would be wearing this number...tomorrow I would be running a marathon. There wasn't much to the expo, but we browsed around a bit and then decided to take advantage of the free pasta dinner, even though it was only like 4:45...we figured we could eat now, then continue to snack once we got back to their place. We got to go through what was essentially the high school lunch line which was kind of hilarious [though the guy working promised us it wasn't cafeteria food, haha], got the standard spaghetti with meat sauce, bread, and water [the BF enjoyed the soda option "for the non-runners" haha]

By the time we [when I say we, I mean my running buddy Kelly, her husband, and the BF] left the, the wind had already started to pick up in an extremely foreboding way. We decided to drive the course before heading back to Waltham and I just could not wrap my mind around the fact that I would be RUNNING this tomorrow. It all kept becoming more and more real, seeing the porta potties set up for water stops, lines on the ground for mile marks, and finally, the chute leading into the stadium where the finish would be...I got chills just looking at it. Tomorrow, I will be here, finishing a marathon...

We headed back to Waltham to eat, drink, and attempt to relax. After some Gatorade and pretzels, we all settled in to watch Running On The Sun, a documentary about the Badwater 135 mile ultramarathon. I felt slightly better about having to run a marathon in a frigging Nor'easter after watching these nut jobs run approximately 5 marathons back to back in Death Valley....dear lord. We turned on the weather channel, as if somehow watching the scrolling forecast of doom would change it, but to no was still looking like a cold, rainy, windy forecast for marathon day. But this song had come on my iPod on one of my last training runs..."Everytime it rains...I know it's good to be alive..."

I somehow fell asleep at 9:30...I have no idea how I did it. I only woke up like twice throughout the night, it was by far the best night of sleep I've ever had before a big race. Now, this might have something to do with the fact that I was sleeping on a comfy sofa-bed in a quiet Massachusetts suburb, as opposed to a too-short couch in a 90 degree apartment [CDC 07] or a Murphy bed without pillows on a loud, major street [MMM 09], but either way, I woke up 3 minutes before my 5 am alarm feeling awake, and ready to go.

Race Day - 10/18/09
This is it. It's Marathon Day.

I woke up before my alarm and sat in bed for a few moments, stretching easily and just savoring the last few moments of quiet before I began the pre-race ritual that would culminate in me putting my body and mind through quite possibly the hardest thing I had ever done. Just a few moments to remember all the work that had brought me to this day...and now, here it was. It was time.

And then it was up and walking around, eating breakfast, drinking Gatorade, making sure everything was right with the race outfit. I had a banana and my standard "deconstructed peanut butter sandwich" [two pieces of toast, one with peanut butter...I realize I could just put them together as a sandwich but for some reason I like the peanut butter one followed by just a piece of dry toast...also, I'm a weirdo.]. I started getting race-ready...on with the race outfit, the singlet and arm warmers, hair up in a messy bun [a style I rock for races and only for races], prewrap headband and orange ribbon in the hair, D-tag on the shoe, number crumpled and pinned on the singlet...the next 45 minutes were a blur, just going through the motions of pre-race ritual that I've done so many times before, only this time everything seemed more deliberate, like it would somehow change the outcome of my race if the bow in my hair wasn't tied just right or my bracelet was on the wrong side of my watch [God forbid!! haha]. Anyway. Just the standard weird crap that seems extremely important when you're about to go run 26.2 miles.

We left the apartment at 5:45, by which point it had started to mist, but the outside temperature was apparently around 45 and didn't seem too awful. It could only get warmer, right? [Hint: wrong.]

We arrived in Lowell fairly early which meant we didn't have to deal with much traffic - I realized how amazing this was later when we were headed to the starting line and there were still cars lined up trying to yeah I'm pretty sure that that would be my WORST nightmare! There was plenty of space to relax and stretch in the blissfully heated arena that was acting as the staging area for the race, and once we arrived there, I started to get into racing mode. I munched on some strawberry Gu Chomps since my stomach was starting to feel a little empty, threw on my iPod with the mix I made specifically for this purpose, and tried to get in the zone. The enormous, indoor bathrooms were pretty phenomenal...about 8 million times better than the standard porta potties, and the lines weren't terrible either which was somewhat mind-blowing haha. I honestly felt extremely calm...there was none of the intense anxiety that I've felt in cross country in track was like the calm before a big, big storm. Relax...breathe...stretch...I cued up my power songs [Swim - Jack's Mannequin, Don't Stop Believin' - both the Journey and Glee versions, Poker Face - Lady Gaga, My Weakness - Moby (because it makes me think of this YouTube video which almost made me cry in the week leading up to the race) and How Far We've Come - Matchbox 20], tried to figure out how to deal with shoving 3 Gus into my racing attire [one in the bra, one in the shorts pocket, and one safety pinned to the tag turned out to be the winning combo], more random pre-race self pumping-up...and soon, it was time to head to the start line.

The street leading from the Tsongas Arena to the start line was a sea of adrenaline and humanity with more than one nervous comment being made about the weather. There was a waterfall-type fountain outside the arena and I heard one woman behind me gasp "Oh my God! I thought that was rain!" Little did we know... We reached the bag drop and it was time to strip down to racing gear...maybe it was the adrenaline rushing through my body, maybe it was the fact that the wind and rain hadn't really kicked up yet, but as I stood there wearing clothes that most people would think appropriate for a day in summer, maybe spring, I didn't really feel cold.
Race ready! Wearing that hat = best decision of my life

A couple quick sips from my Nalgene, one last kiss to the BF, and we were off to the starting line. Which was, for lack of a better word, a clusterfuck. The half marathon and the marathon started on opposite sides of the same street, and the only access to the corral was through the front and back, no side gates at all. This isn't some gigantic race, but there were still 1500 marathoners to contend with and trying to squeeze your way through the sausage casing of the corral gates with 5 minutes until race time just wasn't going to end well. Kelly and I decided to try to get in through the front and hope that people would let us move back, as opposed to starting out near the back and risk getting caught up in the slower runners. the end, we were about 5 rows back from the start...yes, definitely much further up than we probably sould have been, but there was literally no way out. People were smashed together like sardines left and right, back and front, so all we could do was own our place in line and wait for the start.

I was so incredibly giddy right before the start of the race - I just couldn't believe I was actually doing it, actually here, that I was really, truly going to run a marathon. I honestly got a little teary eyed during the national anthem...all of the emotion of everything that had brought me to this day and to this place just kind of welled up in me. Then the mayor of Lowell came on the mike and here it!

Miles 1-5: Easy peasy
8:08, 8:16, 8:12, 8:33, 8:13
Remember my plan of going out really slow and easy? Funny how that didn't work out so well, huh? Not that I'm terribly surprised that most of my splits for this section were fast, but I had to kind of laugh when we went through the first mile in 8:08...whoops. :) As we crossed the starting line, I literally got chills, and once again, that sheer excitement and disbelief welled up in me - it's actually starting, I'm ACTUALLY DOING THIS!! I tucked in beside Kelly and just tried to relax, relax, relax. With the awkwardness of the start corral and the fact that the half was starting at the same time, there were people speeding by at various levels of craziness, and it was really difficult not to get caught up in it all, but I just kept telling myself, either a) they're running HALF the distance you are, or b) they are crazy-looking men, obviously they're going to be running faster than you!

I remember thinking that I felt like I was pushing just a little bit too hard for this point in the race, but everytime I tried to dial it back nothing really happened. Kelly and I talked a bit but for the most part we were kind of in our own little bubbles just focusing on moving forward and staying calm and relaxed. At the 4 mile mark I thought to myself "woo hoo, only 22 miles to go! You've run 22 miles before. Just forget that you ran the last 4 miles and just rock it like a long run!" Mind games, how I love thee. Also around that point was when the supposed 3:40 pacer passed me. Now, since I'm pretty sure I was in the middle of my 8:13 mile at that point, I'm not sure what kind of pace those girls were running, and so I decided to put them out of my mind together. Bye bye, neon yellow shirt! [Little did I know I would be seeing them again later...]

We hit up the water stop that was right around 5 miles, and I decided I didn't want to pull off for a drink that point. Kelly did, and she must have gotten caught up behind me because before I knew it, she was gone. I was on my own now, with 21 miles left to go.

Miles 6-10: Let it rain
8:25, 8:30 [10K split: 51:41], 8:24, 8:25, 8:23
And the rain rain rain came down down down, and Audrey kept on running.

So around mile 6, it started drizzling. And then the drizzle became more than a drizzle, and then the wind started kicking up, and soon enough it was just a ridiculous, pouring, mess out there. But for some reason, now that the race was actually in progress, it didn't bother me that it was raining. I actually thought it was kind of awesome. Like, I'm pretty sure this is actually how my thought process went during the race: Wow, it's raining. God I'm glad I'm wearing this hat. These arm warmers are the best. thing. ever. God I love running in the rain. THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!!! The sad part is, I'm actually not even kidding.

So my main recollection about these miles is just how steady, calm, and relaxed I felt. Like I could literally go on like this forever and ever. I got all snazzy with my Gu #1 [Chocolate Outrage] at about mile 7, pulling it out of my sports bra and ripping it open with my teeth before I got to the water stop, taking it down, and then grabbing Gatorade on the run as I ran through. Side note: I LEARNED HOW TO DRINK WHILE RUNNING!! Don't ask me how. It's like something that miraculously came to me during this race. Did I get a little bit of Gatorade on my face? Yeah, but I did not stop running, at any point in time, for any reason. OK, so that was pretty amazing. The water stops were all manned by high school XC teams which was pretty amazing, they were all really upbeat despite the weather and my whacked out mind found it hilarious hearing them yelling things that you would totally hear in a cross country race [my personal favorite: "Look at this pack! Keep working together guys, stay with this pack, you're looking awesome! Cross country all the way :)]

Mile 8 was the bridge that we got to run over twice, basically representing the turn back towards home. The first time I ran over it I was kind of taken by surprise because it was one of those suspension bridges that like...bounces...when you run on it? Now multiply that by a whole bunch of people running on it and was kind of weird. There were a bunch of spectators right near it though, so that was cool...such troopers. At this point in the race, the mile markers seemed to come SO quickly...I would be that a mile marker up there? OMG it is! How has it seriously been another mile? I also dealt with some interesting characters running near me over this stretch. I had two different women and one man who were possibly the LOUDEST breathers I have ever encountered. I mean...whatever floats your boat I guess, but just being near these people was making me feel like I was getting more tired! As for myself, my breathing was about as calm as could be. There was also a dude whose friends me up with him to give him Gatorade and then ran with him for a ways. I really couldn't care one way or another about the "outside help" thing, but what bothered me is that they were running 3 across, kind of blocking my way. The roads were open on a lot of the course and we didn't have a very wide lane to run in, so it was just kind of like....hello? Can these people who are not actually racing get out of my way??!! Not to mention this man was also the hyperventilator so...double whammy of irritation haha. But it was really no big deal. I was feeling cool as a cucumber and my legs felt great. I knew after the halfway point things would probably get tougher, so I was just focusing on the fact that for now, I felt great, and just savoring every step. I was running a marathon, and it was feeling AWESOME!

Miles 11-15: My humps, my lovely lady lumps
8:27, 8:25, 8:27 [HM split ~1:49:50], 8:23, 8:20
Miles 11 and 12 passed very similarly to the previous 10. I was cruising along, feeling great. I remember thinking "wow, I remember when I ran 10 miles and thought I was the coolest person in the world...and I was probably running way slower than this!" Mile 13 was a big bridge that marked the turnaround, where we would go into our second loop. The atmosphere on the bridge was electric - there were pretty much the most spectators I had seen all day, and everyone was yelling and banging cowbells and just generally being rowdy. I was absolutely thrilled [and perhaps even a little surprised] to be feeling as good as I was, and being on the bridge knowing I was halfway there definitely pumped me up. I saw the BF, which made me SO happy - what a frickin' trooper, standing out in the rain and cold for all those hours to see me run by!! I yelled "I love you!!!" and grinned and blew him a kiss, and he actually yelled "Go Audrey!" [which is impressive, because he's not big on cheering haha] And then it was onward into the second lap...and now it was time to race.

As soon as I crossed the half marathon mark it was like my mind was like "now time to pick it up!" I think this was part of why mile 14 was one of the hardest for me, because I just got a little worried mentally since when I tried to pick up just a little bit, my legs felt it. But I mean, hello, I had already run over 13 miles! I took my second Gu [Tri-berry] at the water stop near the 14 mile mark, and did my same eating on the run act. That definitely gave me a little boost heading into the "hilly" portion of the course. There were definitely a few rollers between miles 14-17, and boy, did I ever feel them the second time around! Holy crap! It was like wait...I don't remember there being a hill here? And somehow, my crazy marathon mind followed this thought process: meh, these hills aren't that big...they're just like little humps! My humps my lovely little lumps...check it out...oh god, no, what have you humps my humps...and thus, I trucked on to the tune of "My Humps" for the next couple of miles. Of all the possible songs...dear lord.

I also noticed at this point that the mile markers didn't seem so close together anymore. In fact, I often found myself wondering where in the hell the next mile marker was. But I was becoming encouraged because amazingly, I was starting to pass people. Chug chug chug...I just kept chugging along. Between miles 14 and 15 was the only point in the race where I ever really had a conversation with anyone. I had been running with a woman for awhile, and she asked me if I had done this race before. I told her I hadn't, and that this was actually my first marathon and I had just moved from Wisconsin. She was like "oh, you're used to this weather then!" Damn straight, lady! Then she tried to strike up a conversation about what I was doing here, and while I'd love to detail all the finer points of my PT school application process, in the midst of a marathon was not the time to do it. She told me she was a nurse, and I said something along the lines of "yeah, it seems like most runners I know are really smart people! Although, anyone watching us running in this weather would probably think otherwise..." After a couple more minutes, she dropped back and that was that. I was happy in a way, since I just don't like feeling like I need to "pace" off anyone.

So things were getting harder, but I was still feeling really good, despite the increasingly ridiculous onslaught of rain and wind. I also started dropping the pace just a little bit, so little that I hardly even noticed, but each time I looked at my watch at a mile mark and saw something faster than 8:24, it just gave me a little shot of maybe, just maybe, somehow, I could BQ today.

Miles 16-20: Fish hats and cruise control
8:21, 8:20, 8:15, 8:23, 8:25
I continued on through what I was thinking of as the "backstretch", and surprisingly [to me anyway], I was constantly passing people. Not really consciously, it just kind of...happened! This was also where I kind of started to notice the wind. And the fact that it was kind of cold. And the fact that my feet were starting to get wet. And then, out of nowhere, here is the song that popped into my head [note: NOT the original song, but this version, ridiculous lyrics and all]:

Most particularly, the part involving the "fish hat" and "Angola". Seriously brain? WHY? When I told the BF about it later, he said it was probably because I was cold and I wanted to be warm haha. So anyway, that lovely little ditty was playing in my head for the next couple of miles, but at least it had a nice beat!

I noticed I had pretty consistently started picking up the pace just a little bit, and I was continuing to pass people, which was making me really happy. I kept trying to tell myself that there was still a ways to go, but I couldn't stop myself from grinning when I hit mile 17 and thought to myself, less than 10 miles! And if miles 16 and 17 were good, I couldn't have even prepared myself for mile 18 when suddenly, up ahead in the distance, I saw a familiar neon yellow shirt. Could it be? Was this going to happen?

Yes, yes it was. Shortly before mile 18, I passed the 3:40 pacer. That was seriously the defining moment in the race for me. I was keeping my pace, keeping steady, my legs still feeling reasonably good, and here it was: I PASSED the 3:40 pacer! It was just that moment, I knew. I knew come hell or high water, I was going to do this. I had it in me. It was mine.

Just after this glorious realization, along with the fact that I had somehow thrown down an 8:15 18th mile, we crossed the bridge that represented the turn toward home. 8 more miles, all headed in this was going to happen. Cruise control, I kept telling myself, just put yourself on cruise control and your legs will keep this up. You're cruising. And cruise I did. I did slow down slightly after the crazy bridge mile, and miles 19 and 20 were definitely where things started to get a little hard. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that I was getting COLD! It was getting harder to push my watch for a split with each passing mile because my fingers weren't really enjoying attempting to move anymore. I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to unpin my last Gu from my shorts, so I grabbed one from the Gu stop [Orange Burst, almost getting run over in the process, but you do what you gotta do] and took it right around mile 20. At mile 19, I thought to myself - 7 miles to go! This is the Arb loop - that's it - how many times have you run the Arb loop? And this is way less hilly! No big deal! Let's rock!

The clock at the 20 mile read 2:47:27. I had calculated [based on what, I don't even know] that if I could get to 22 miles by 3:05, I could qualify. So the new mind game was: Can I run 2 miles in 18 minutes? Well yes, I can do that! And I just kept on keeping on, putting my legs into cruise control, still passing people basically nonstop, and thinking - holy crap...6 miles to go. I'm really, seriously going to do this.

Miles 21-26.2: Don't stop believin'
8:22, 8:17, 8:26, 8:26, 8:08, 1:43 [last.2]
Six miles to go.

And I think to myself, this is where you find out. This is where it happens. This is where you really find out what you've got inside you. And a familiar tune started to pulse through my brain, the beat in time with my footsteps: Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'. These 8 words became my mantra for the rest of the race.

I hit mile 21 and saw another familiar neon yellow shirt. There was another 3:40 pacer, WTF? In a kind of hilarious twist, I ended up running in a pack near her for about a mile. It made me laugh. Earlier in this race, though it seemed like approximately an eternity ago, I had told Kelly that "I don't run with pacers because I don't really like running even splits"...and here I was, unknowingly doing both of those things. She later pulled ahead [so once again clearly running faster than 3:40 pace] but I was unconcerned. My heart gave a little jump as I came through mile 22 [where did I pull that 8:17 out of??]. We were in no-man's land now...the distance of my furthest long run was behind me. My legs and training had taken me this far. Now it was time for my heart to take me the rest of the way.

Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'.
4 miles...4 miles...why, that's shorter than even your easiest days! But the mile markers seemed to be getting further and further apart, and the wind was going insane, and dear god was it cold. And this was where the carnage was starting to pile up...lots and lots of people walking, people pulled off to the side stretching, and no more of the chatter that had been everywhere through the first part of the race. People are paying for too-fast starts, or the cold is getting to them, or they are cramping up...and somehow, I am still moving forward. Things are starting to tighten, and God I would LOVE to stop, but I can't. I know walking at this point for me would be a death wish. And so I truck on.

The last 3 miles, hands down, were the most challenging 3 miles I have ever run in my life. I was absolutely freezing, and my legs were starting to shut down. We passed the bridge where we had turned around on the previous lap and headed into an extremely open area near the river where the wind just kicked up another 5 notches from where it had been the rest of the race. I had given up trying to avoid puddles a long time ago since my shoes were already soaked, and I just kept my eyes on the white line stretching out endlessly in front of me [it's like a lane on the track!] It seemed like the closer we got to the finish line the more people were slowing down, or walking, and oh how much I wanted to stop, but inside I just kept screaming at myself those lyrics from "Swim"...I'M NOT GIVING IN!!! I had not come this far, to come this close to qualifying for Boston to give up and slow down and give in with two miles to go. It just wasn't happening. Today was MY day, and I was going to keep on believin' until I had crossed that freaking finish line.

I came to the 24 mile mark and it was just like....OH MY LORD 2 MILES TO GO! 2 miles. 2 miles is nothing! I can do this...I am GOING to do this seriously happening?? It's happening. Oh my gosh. This is about where I started getting a little emotional. I was in so much pain but with two miles to go I knew, with all my heart and soul, that not only was I going to finish this race, I was going to BQ. And I literally thought I was going to start crying...but now was not the time to get emotional. But I did allow myself to think about all of the people and events that had brought me to this place. Of the miles, and miles, and miles, and miles, and running when I didn't want to, and getting up early, and runs in the heat of the summer when I thought I might die, and of Kelly who got me through some of the longest runs in the training cycle and convinced me to do this in the first place, and of all my WTC girls who had made me love running - I've never been so proud to be wearing that club jersey. And just everything - this was me, someone who had never been thought of as much of an athletic person and who was one of the 10% of people in elementary and middle school who didn't play soccer and who finished last in conference in the 300 hurdles twice in a row and who never could have dreamed of accomplishing something like this ever in my life....this was happening for me. I was going to do this, this thing that such a small, small percentage of people can ever say they did. Those were my thoughts during mile 25 - just awe and wonder and so much joy that I was doing this...I was really, truly doing this. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'.

I don't know if there is any sight so glorious in this world as the mile 26 marker during a marathon. A LITTLE OVER A MILE TO GO! Doing some quick mental math, I figured I had about 12 minutes to run 1.2 miles. Oh my God. I was going to do it. For real and for true. There was a "one mile to go" sign located directly across from, of all the possible things, A TRACK. What an absolutely beautiful coincidence. Where it all began for me, and sure enough, there it is, with one mile left to go in my first, amazing, wonderful marathon. Once again, I almost felt like crying, but my emotional mood was quickly changed by one of my favorite things that happened to me the entire race. There was this one, lonely guy standing by the "one mile to go" sign, and when I ran by I happened to be kind of by myself. So as I go by this dude starts absolutely SCREAMING: "THERE IS ONLY ONE MILE LEFT! YOU CAN DO IT! YOU ARE AMAZING! GO GO GO!!" It was absolutely incredible, I have no idea who this man was out there cheering for but there he was, standing alone in the pouring rain and giving so much motivation to every single person going by.

One mile to go. Don't stop believin'. Hold on to that feelin'. Just one more mile. This is happening. You're doing're really, really doing this! In that last mile, the pain and the cold and the fact that I'd been running for 3 and a half was all gone. None of it mattered. The only feeling I experienced that last mile was 100% pure joy. I could not stop myself from smiling as I cruised down this last road, towards the last bridge which I knew was coming. One more mile. One more mile. This is it. This is happening!!!

I was so tired, so, so tired, but it didn't matter. I turned onto the last bridge, the bridge that I had said about the night before "I'm totally going to freak out when I hit this's like a speed tunnel!". I sped up and I could see it, the stadium, there was the finish. 706 miles, and this is what it comes down to, one last push over a bridge with a huge smile on my face, the rain pouring down but I can't even feel it, the wind whipping but who cares, strong and powerful and everything I've ever dreamed of being I am, here at this moment.

Across the bridge, turning a corner, and into the "chute" that led into the stadium. I saw the BF once more, overcome with everything in the moment I couldn't say anything but knowing he was there meant everything. The corrall leading into the stadium was lined with people, cheering and screaming and banging cowbells and holding signs...everything you imagine the finish of a marathon to be. Right before actually turning into the stadium, there it was, the 26 mile mark. Oh my God. 0.2 miles. This is real, this is happening...THIS IS YOUR VICTORY LAP!!!

I turned onto the warning track of this Lowell Spinners baseball stadium, and I don't think I've ever felt so much emotion in my entire life. I wanted to laugh, cry, yell, throw my arms in the air, and grin uncontrollably, all while attempting to run as fast as my legs would go. There was a photographer somewhere on that warning track and I have the feeling that's going to be a ridiculous, yet awesome picture. I passed one last person and there I was, into the home straight. I could see it...the finish line, and the clock with those incredible numbers of 3:39. It was happening. It was really truly happening. As I crossed the line, I threw up my arms into the "W" sign that was such a thing with our club last year. It was a W for Wisconsin...for WTC...and for Win. Because I had defeated every running demon I had ever had, every voice that ever told me I could never truly be great, and most importantly, my thoughts that I couldn't execute in a race when it really did not matter in the least what place I had actually come in in this race...I had won.

Mile 26.3 and onward: Post race
The instant I stopped running was the instant the cold and the pain hit. I was so overcome with emotion that I had done it, that it was over, and most of all, that I had actually qualified for Boston, that I was somewhere between hyperventilating, laughing, and crying. I got my mylar blanket and promptly almost fell over, my legs were shaking so hard. A girl put a medal around my neck and asked how I was...when I responded "AMAZING!" she laughed and was like..."wow, that's the first time I've heard THAT one today!". But how could I not feel amazing? I had just finished my first marathon AND qualified for Boston!

With my newly gained shiny objects, I slowly, painfully made my way towards the bleachers, still in my awkward laugh/cry/hyperventilate stage, although now I had added "shivering uncontrollably" and "hoping legs don't collapse" into the mix. Then, the cruelest of all tortures: we had to CLIMB THE STAIRS to get to food, friends, and bathrooms. TORTURE! Most painful stair climb of my life, hands down, although I'm sure it was quite entertaining to spectators to watch thousands of gimpy runners struggle up the steps of the bleachers. I finally reached the BF and basically fell into his arms. "I did it!!! I qualified!" "I know!" I still didn't really know what to do with myself so we decided to try and make our way up the rest of the stairs to locate the post-race food. On the way I ran into Kelly's husband, who had finished 11th overall and PRed - pretty awesome, and he is one speedy guy! I decided I wanted some food and struggled my way over to the tent...honestly, I can't even think of anything to compare the pain in my legs after that race to. It didn't help that I was shaking uncontrollably, so my muscles which were already in pain were spasming...causing them to be in more pain...and it was just generally awful. This so occupied my mind when I got to the food table that I really wasn't even sure what to do, and ended up with some chicken noodle soup [which I eventually managed to eat] and a peanut butter sandwich [which I essentially stared at for 20 minutes before realizing that it didn't look even remotely appetizing]. Oh, and a Diet Pepsi. Because apparently these race organizers read my mind and know about how much I adore diet soda after a hard run.

I found my way to the bathroom to put on some dry clothes and discovered just how difficult it is to put on pants when your hands are frozen and you can hardly move your legs. I was moving like a granny, that was for sure. Right as I came out of the bathroom Kelly came in, and we were all pretty anxious to hightail it back to the was like half a mile away. A painful half mile, let me tell you. The BF was practically carrying me. Once we got back to the car and warmed up everyone started to feel a bit better and we all swapped race stories and talked about the ridiculousness of the weather and whatnot. I think I was still kind of in shock and amazement over the whole thing, to be honest!! I obviously had to call the fam, and the cutest thing was my sister [who had called Saturday and asked if I was running THE Boston Marathon, which I told her you had to qualify for] who called and was so incredibly excited and proud and was like "and you said it was really hard to qualify for!! You are so amazing!!" Hearing from her actually made me tear up a little bit too to be honest, since it was kind of incredible to see just how huge this is even to someone who isn't at all involved in running.

We finally made it home, and by now it was snowing. I was just in a world of pain, but I wanted one thing and one thing only: an enormous burger. So the BF and I trekked on the train to Joshua Tree and I ate possible the most incredible meal of my life: an appetizer of calamari, waffle fries, and a burger STUFFED WITH CHEESE, and topped with cheese, bacon, bbq sauce [BQ sauce??!!] and the usual veggie fixings. And of course, a Magic Hat #9, because beer was kind of a requirement in my life at that point. We got home and attempted to watch a movie/have a couple more beers. but my legs hurt so badly that all I could really do was whine about it. I went to bed at 9:30 and it was amazing. And there it seriously marathon day.

So I have all sorts of other random ramblings to ramble about this race being the culmination of my running life so far and things...but I think I'll at least put that post under a different heading because I'm sure anyone who has made it this far is probably really sick of scrolling down this page. I've also been writing this on and off for almost 2 hours brain is a little fried, especially with re-living the race in my head. But I will end this post with 3 post-race thoughts:

1. I am so, so, so proud of the way I ran this race. Honestly, I would say it's one of the best races I've ever run in my life. I excecuted exactly how I wanted to [my second half was only 25 seconds slower than my first. Despite the fact that I went out faster than planned. That is almost even splits, people! Remember when I said I don't do even splits??!!], when things got tough I refused to give in and back off the pace, and I pushed myself as hard as I knew how for 26.2 miles, ran my own raced, and finished feeling strong, powerful, and incredible.

2. Today I was riding the T to a job interview, and I looked out the window at this random hotel on Beacon Street. And I suddenly thought to myself: I have run past that hotel so many times in the past month and a half. On short runs, on long runs, good days, and bad. And an even funnier thought crossed my mind: I realized that the first run I went on when I arrived in Boston was the last 4 miles of the Boston Marathon course. And then I thought: Wow. I am going to be running down this street to the finish of the Boston Marathon in 6 months. And I almost started crying right there on the train, and at the same time just grinned. I think that was the moment when I realized that I am going to run THE Boston Marathon. And that is pretty much the coolest thing I can think of.

3. Yesterday, for the first time in my entire life, I finally realized that I am a good runner. And I've been able to come that realization through the training and the miles that have led up to this one, amazing moment, this one race. And now that I know what I'm capable of...well..the possibilities are endless.

Well, I just copied and pasted this entry into Microsoft Word and discovered that it is 11 PAGES to anyone who has reached the end, I salute you.

52/185 AG
572/1561 OA


No Longer Using said...

WOW. i don't think i've ever spent so much time reading a race report but i read every single word and felt every single word. we had such a similar experience at this race and i just kept thinking to myself, yep, yep,... yep... god uh huh. incredible. i wish i could say my heart carried me to the end but you had an INCREDIBLE race, 25 seconds difference between first and second half-- that is amazing. you finished so strong, wow i am just awed!!!! i loved reading this. and i DIED at that "Temperature" Misheard song... !!!!!!!!!!! HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE?!?! that song played at every college party i ever went to, and i absolutely need to send it out to all my friends. lol.

wow wow wow. loved this report. great job writing it all down and really getting the feeling in there too!!!!!!!! i ran the race a SECOND time reading this!!!

and this is exactly how i felt at the end, too:

"The instant I stopped running was the instant the cold and the pain hit. I was so overcome with emotion that I had done it, that it was over, and most of all, that I had actually qualified for Boston, that I was somewhere between hyperventilating, laughing, and crying"-- YES! i also started crying! then laughing! omy. it was intense.

SEE YOU IN APRIL!!!!!!!!!! :)

Lindsay said...

awesomely consistent splits!! congrats, again on a great race! seriously, you ran some great and strong splits, i am in awe.

i also crinkle my race number... it must be magical, right?

Ricardo said...

That a fantastic race report! I am going to run my first marathon in October and I've been reading first marathon reports a lot these days, while trying to prepare both physically and mentally for the big day! Awesome, awesome race report, thanks for sharing!