Official Race Report
**Warning – Long-time readers know that my race reports are epic in length, with sporadic verb tense. This one is no exception.**
Last year, about seven weeks before my second marathon, I decided that my dream goal for the race would be to run my Boston Qualifying (BQ) time of 3:45. It was a crazy idea, since I hadn’t trained towards that goal, but I set the bar high anyway, interested in seeing what it would feel like to reach for it.
I missed the bar, by about nine minutes. I didn’t let any disappointment seep in to my attitude, because my overall race experience was awesome, and I knew in my heart that I had raced with everything I had, especially given the conditions of the day.
Here’s what I wrote last year about it:
“And I’ve promised myself that I will not obsess over the 3:45. I really enjoy the challenge that the marathon presents, and I love the fact that I can actually SMILE when I’m out there. I refuse to let the joy get sucked out by a silly number. I’ll train harder and smarter for the next marathon, but I refuse to let the 3:45 overshadow the experience for what it really means to me. I always want to be smiling when I cross the finish line.”
Here’s how the day unfolded:
From the instant the alarm clock sounded, every thing went ‘according to the plan.’ I managed to eat, digest, drink, pack the car and get both hubby and myself out of the door at exactly the right time.
We picked Charlie up, at exactly the agreed upon time.
We got to the race site and the temperature was already *up* to 38F at 7:00 a.m. – Charlie urged me to change in to shorts, and I reluctantly agreed with his logic. It was chilly waiting for the start, but it ended up being the perfect choice of clothing for the weather. As a bonus this year, I was treated to sunny skies instead of a steady down pour of rain.
We got to the portapotties with 40 minutes to go before gun time, and had to wait maybe 3 minutes in line. We walked around the park, trying to keep the blood flowing, and visiting with various adorable dogs (a little good-luck tradition I have is to visit with at least one doggy before a big race.)
We pushed our way in to the start area, and I welcomed the body heat of all the runners huddled together. There were the typical thanks-you’s, National Anthem and prayer, plus special recognition given to one of our local runners, Bekkie Wright, who will be running 7 marathons in 8 days, joining Dean Karnazes!
The gun sounded and we were off!
Within the first half-mile, my watch starting beeping. I looked down and it wasn’t receiving data from the foot pod…the foot pod with the *new* battery in it. Not. Working.
Could I do the pacing ‘old school’ with just a stop watch? Would my pace be all over the place? Panic sets it…and just as I am adjusting my attitude…the watch starts working again.
Phew. Back on track.
The goal for the first 5K was to keep the pace at 9:00 m/m. I crossed the 5K line in 27:26, average pace 8:50. I blame the quicker pace on the cold weather, the downhill and the fact that I needed to pee.
Once we hit the 5K mark, I looked at Charlie and said ‘Time to get to work. Up to 8:20’s.’ The only problem was there was still quite a crowd, and we were having a tough time manuevering around everyone. I didn’t want to expend too much energy weaving and surging, but I was anxious to find my pace-groove and settle in. Once the half-marathoners split off from us, things cleared up and it was much easier to control the pace.
Mile 4 – unknown
Mile 5 – 8:11
I had warmed up enough to take my gloves off, and had them tucked in to my belt. I kept obsessing about whether or not I had lost them, and when I mentioned this to Charlie, he took the gloves and carried them for me.
Mile 6 – 8:13
One house had little kids playing their instruments in the front yard. I recall seeing a flute, a guitar and possibly a keyboard. They still need A LOT of practice, but you can’t help but smile when kids are playing the Olympics anthem.
Mile 7 – 8:13
Jason appears at this point and made sure we’re all gu’d up and hydrated. There were typical
comments from him about how fat I am, and how his grandmother can run faster than me. Heh.
Mile 8 – 8:09
Mile 9 – 8:02
Mile 10 – 8:07
Mile 11 – 8:08
Mile 12 – 8:43
Jason was waiting to swap bottles with me, and I totally missed him. Rather than turn back, Charlie offered to get the bottles for me, and doubled back to retrieve them. And I finally found a porta-potty with no line, no waiting, and took 22 seconds to take care of business.
Then Jason rode up along side of me and handed me the phone. I got to be one of those annoying runners who chats away on their phone while running in a race. I gave Coach a quick update, and pushed on.
Mile 13 – 8:09
I hear someone yell ‘Hey Running Chick!’ and look over my shoulder just in time to see a woman pass by…was it the Running Red Sox Fan?!
Mile 14 – 8:13
Mile 15 – 8:11
A Team in Training guy wearing a green fuzzy ‘luck of the Irish’ headband (Melisa! I thought of YOU!) falls in pace with us. His headband got A LOT of cheers, so it was nice to capitalize on the positive energy being thrown his way.
Mile 16 – 8:06
Where’s Jason? He was supposed to be here. Is he OK? Did he crash the bike? Did he get a flat tire? Is he lost? Did he have a heart attack?
Mile 17 – 8:16
Mile 18 – 7:50
Caught some downhill and tried to get the legs to relax. Passed by the bagpipers, who fired up a new song just as we approached. Then passed a guy with 52.4 miles written on the back of his shirt – he was running the marathon course for the SECOND time today. As we passed by him, we came up on a woman with this written on her shirt: “$81 registration fee. 1 promise to my dad. 8-8-06 Miss You.’
I looked at Charlie and said ‘I can’t cry now, it’s too early to start crying!’ He gave me a stern “Focus, Dianna!’ as I tried to shake it off.
Mile 19 – 8:07
Somewhere during this mile, there was a sign on a bridge for me, from the Running Chicks…It said ‘The RBF ‘Flips’ for the Running Chick!’ However, I totally missed it, as I was mesmerized by an incredibly good-looking spectator standing at the end of the bridge. And no, it wasn’t my husband.
Mile 20 – 8:00
Across the timing mat (2:45:32) and there they are – the orange-shirted, oranged-hatted cheering section comprised of my parents, Michelle and April-Anne. How lucky am I? I give them my best smile and push on. Again, I’m wondering where Jason is, and I begin to worry even more…’Something happened and they didn’t want to say anything and upset me.’
We push up the stupid, stupid hill. At the top, I am rewarded with one of my favorite Springsteen songs, Sunny Day. I sing at the top of lungs, even though I am beginning to not feel so good. (Charlie didn’t even flinch when I started signing. That’s a good friend.)
I eat the last gel of the day (four total).
Mile 21 – 8:00
The world gets quiet, as the runners are very spread out and everyone is fighting the demons. This part of the course has the first real hills of the day, and lots of turns through a residential area. There is no fun being had here…none whatsoever.
For the first time since the halfway point, we get passed by another runner. I quickly peek at his bib and congratulate myself when I notice that he’s a relay runner with fresh legs.
Mile 22 – 7:53
The dark clouds are gathering at the edges of my mind. I’m using every trick I’ve got – repeating motivating things to myself: ‘trust in the training’; ‘you worked hard for this, don’t give in now’; ’smooth and strong’; ‘Sgt. Ely in Iraq’; ‘make them all proud’.
Charlie has grown quiet too, with an occasional word of encouragement or a ‘Head up!’ reminder. We’re working hard. At this point, I know I’ve got the BQ but I want to finish strong. I don’t want to give in this time…I have to beat this stupid course once and for all, so I can move on to other marathons.
Mile 23 – 8:02
Tired. SooOOooo tired. And so sick to my stomach. Very, very close to letting go of all that fluid and all that Gu. Blech.
My lower back starts to ache…which means my form is falling apart.
Muscles are starting to cramp, especially the feet and the calves…which is new to me. I get sore, I get blisters…I don’t cramp.
Mile 24 – 8:06
Jason appears finally, to my great relief. I think I mumbled three or four words to him, and then sent him on to the finish line. I didn’t want him to see me suffering. His departing smile and thumbs up lifted my spirits just enough.
Mile 25 – 7:59
The Hill. That. Would. Not. End. This is the other side of the hill I had to push up after I crossed the 20-mile timing mat. A runner-friend Rich B. is cheering for Charlie and me as we pass by…he looks at his watch and says “Looks like you’re going to Boston.” I could not stop the huge smile that took over my face. Charlie told me to pretend that I had a rope tied to his waist and he was pulling me up the hill.
I just needed to get to the top of this hill so I could head down to the finish line. Allez!
Mile 26.2 – 9:38 (8:01 pace)
‘I can do anything for one mile. I can run a mile in 6:13 if I really want to….or 7:00…maybe not today, maybe not right now…but right now, I *can* crest the hill, and fly down the other side to the finish line.’
The crowd support is awesome…and it was just what I needed to push through those last few steps, even as my body was begging me, with every ounce, to please. just. walk. already.
I look up, and the clock says 3:35:xx and I smile. I hear people yelling my name, and spot the Running Chicks cheering like crazy.
Official net time: 3:35:12, 10th in age division out of 83. Ten minutes faster than my BQ needed to be. And TWENTY-ONE minutes off of my PR from last year on the same course.
As is typical, I start hyperventilating as soon as I stop running. Happens after every marathon. I’m so overwhelmed with emotion, by body forgets how to take oxygen in.
There are hugs and smiles and photos at the finish line. I’m handed a phone to tell Coach the final results, trying not to cry and get all mushy. As I’m on the phone, my college roommate (from 1988) comes up to congratulate me – I haven’t seen her in a couple of years, and there she is, saying ‘You’re going to Boston!’
The gang heads to the party-van while Jason walks me over to the massage tent. The lines are so long, we decide to head back to the van and I start to take off my shoes to walk barefoot…except my right calf muscle has other ideas.
As soon as my foot is out of the sneaker – BAM – the muscles balls up in to this tight little mass, and I have to sit down. In the wet grass. Jason tries to rub it, but I’m howling in pain. A medic comes over and manages to get the muscle untangled. He asks me if I want him to get me on to a massage table (I said no…I didn’t want to cut in line!), then asks me if I’m dizzy and did I want to go to the medical tent? I said ‘no, that’s OK…my mom’s a nurse and she’s waiting at the car.’ He made me walk around with him a bit to make sure I was really OK before he sent me on my way.
I hobble back to the party-van and we wrap up the day sipping champagne (thanks Michelle!) and swapping stories about the race. I could not have put together a more satisfying day, nor could I have asked for a more amazing race-day crew, with special thanks to Charlie for running every step of the way with me.
Everything went even better than ‘according to the plan’ because I didn’t plan it alone.