We could not have asked for better marathon conditions. There was very light rain when I got to the start area, but that cleared up by the time we lined up. The temperature was cool, but not cold. I was really glad that I didn't need my gloves this time around. I watched the runners filter into the starting area, separating themselves by their ability and confidence levels at that particular moment in time. I studied the women that lined up near the front, because I decided they would be my competition that day. I wasn't going to "start off easy and see how I feel." No. Balls to the wall. So I found some muscle-bound gals and made plans to use them as rabbits.
The clock ticked down for the last few minutes until the gun. Time always goes slowly in those last few moments. One of the final minutes was dedicated to Boston - we held a moment of silence and the announcer asked if any of the runners were looking to BQ. A roar came up from the crowd - and I remembered that one year ago, I was running my first marathon and I was also looking to BQ. I felt like a member of a special club as I got to see the hope and optimism in the people all looking to achieve very specific and personal goals within the next few hours. It is a beautifully emotional thing to be among a sea of hopeful people.
The gun went off and thousands of watches beeped as we lurched forward. I put my plan into motion immediately: find and follow fast girls. From the first few steps, my legs felt light and fast - some of which could be attributed to adrenaline. The first mile was a blur, because the crowd is so thick at the beginning of the race. First mile pace: 6:47. I knew that was too fast, but I was also unwilling to let the elite women slip out of sight. I could adjust once the crowd thinned out and I settled into a pace.
The miles ticked by. The man with the accordion was playing in his front lawn as always. The spectators shook cow bells and shouted commands like "Keep going!" By the time I reached the 10K mark, I realized that I was on pace to run a 3:00. I started to have a mental freak out, because the goal I set at the beginning of the year was not entirely out of the question - despite injuries and an imperfect training cycle. I crossed Mile 7 in 47:50 (6:50 pace.) Someone shouted, "You're the 5th place girl." 5th? What?! Oh. My. God.
|Representing Oiselle. Feeling calm and fast.
A group of five guys came up behind me around Mile 8. Their pace was very close to mine, so I let them pass and then I matched them step for step. I overheard their discussion and quickly realized their goal time was 3:02. I wasn't tired and my pace had been consistent, so I decided to just shadow them for as long as I could. I ran a mental checklist to see if was bothering me physically at that point in the race and the only thing I even noticed was a little numbness in the bottom of my right foot - the same Plantar Fasciitis symptoms I had been experiencing throughout the end of my training.
I stayed with that group of men until we turned a corner near Mile 12 and ran up a slight incline. Nothing major at all. But simultaneously, both of my calves began to lock up. I could feel tightness over-taking them both. OH NO! Cramps?! I've only had minor cramps in my previous two marathons and both times, it occurred in the last two miles. Almost immediately, my legs could not maintain the previous pace. I forced them - one locked up step after the other - and I crossed the half mark in 1:30:51 (6:56 pace.)
I wish I could fully explain the frustration I experienced during the second half of the race. Mentally and physically (aside from my calves) I was not tired and I wanted to go faster. The cramps made it impossible. I wanted to scream every time a female passed me and as I watched the minutes tick by. My pace dropped. 7:15. 7:30. 8:00. I had to do something I have never done in a race before: I stopped. I walked through all water stops for the last six miles of the race trying desperately to replace electrolytes and water. AND I stopped about five times to massage/stretch my calves. They were like two baseballs below my skin and whenever I stopped running, I could see them twitching below the surface of my skin. It looked like I had two aliens trapped inside my legs. I have never stopped before and I was so mad at myself for it.
Once again, my goal had to be revised. Running a 3:00 had long been out of the question, but a PR was still attainable. I did the mental math to determine what I would have to run to come in under last year's time - 3:18:45. Those last few miles were long and tedious and painful. It made me crazy to not feel tired but to be stuck in the drudgery of a ridiculously slow and arduous pace. The silver lining was that it was an absolutely beautiful morning to be running along Lake Michigan. Perfection.
Once I reached the last half mile, I stopped one final time. I rubbed out my calves on the grass and gave myself a pep talk. Finish strong. I headed for the finish with a smile on my face. My family and friends were waiting there as I crossed the finish line in 3:15:58 - 13th Female - 3rd in Age Group - and a shiny, new PR. A hard-earned PR.
We only have a certain amount of control on race day. We have put the in the miles. We can be prepared. We can be confident. We can't predict the outcome.
I'm going to have to keep doing this until it all goes my way. ;)
- 3:15:58 (PR)
- 13th Female / 1,499 Females
- 138th Finisher / 3,144 Total Finishers
- 3rd in Division