Race Date: May 16, 2010
We headed up to the host hotel on Saturday afternoon and got in around 3:00. We checked in and then hit up the expo to pick up my racing bib, etc. The expo was small, but it was helpful. One of the race coordinators was giving an in-depth overview of the course and what we could expect the next day. He reiterated what I’d already read online – the course has a lot of downhill in the beginning, so remember to pace yourself. He also briefed us on a few uphills on the second part of the course, which I was dreading.
After the expo we went to a local outlet we passed as we arrived for a bit and then stopped at CVS for water, gatorade, snacks and contact solution stuff I forgot. Once we got back to the hotel it was just about time for dinner. We spent a few minutes enjoying the view from our balcony. It was a gorgeous setting. There was actually a wedding happening at the host hotel that night as well, so we watched as the bridal party took some photos.
The pasta party started at 5:30 p.m. and was what was to be expected: salad, bread, penne pasta and spaghetti sauce, as well as dessert. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was free for me and only $7 for Hubby, so understandably generic. We piled our plates and settled at a table. A few minutes later a brother and sister running pair joined our table and we started talking BQ-plans and dreams. We strategized, talked about our previous marathons and then wished each other good luck a little while later as we all headed to our rooms to try to get some sleep.
I laid out all my gear the night before, as well as my morning food and drinks. Around 9:00 p.m. I headed to bed. Hubby decided to head down to the hotel bar to give me some time to get to sleep and to have a few brews to help him get to sleep. After he left, I proceeded to lay in bed wide awake. I’ve never experienced such nerves or had such a hard time sleeping before a race – even my first marathon! I tried counting, I tried switching positions, covers on and covers off, but nothing worked. When Hubby got back to our room at midnight I was wide awake and told him so. He proceeded to hop into bed and fall asleep within 10 minutes. I tossed and turned and think I may have finally dozed off around 12:45 – 1:00 a.m. Not good!
Sunday – Race Day
I woke up Sunday morning exactly one minute before my alarm was set to go off. Anxious much?! I got up and started my pre-race routine. I don’t particularly enjoy getting ready for a race in a hotel room. I’m not usually comfortable or feeling my normal self, and especially not after such little sleep.
At 6:30 a.m. I headed downstairs to wait for the bus to the start. I ran into the brother and sister team from the night before and they shared with me their get-sleep tip: they split a Benadryl pill and slept soundly. Genius! Mental note to give that one a try if I face sleep issues again. We all hopped on the bus and began to head to the start when Louie (the brother) realized he didn’t have his timing chip! As he ran off the bus, two other girls realized they didn’t have theirs either and they went sprinting to find them. So after a slightly delayed start we were off.
We got to the Clear Run Elementary School and I headed straight to the bathroom. Then I grabbed a race-provided trash bag to put my long-sleeved shirt in for transport to the finish. Finally, I hit the ladies room one more time before heading outside. The temps were a little chilly for standing still, but perfect for running. We all lined up at the start and I could kind of hear the National Anthem and then all of a sudden we were off!
From the course overview the previous day, I knew the race wasn’t completely downhill from the start. From about mile 1 – 8 we ran through rolling minor hills. Around mile 4 there was a loop where the leading runners ran by. Then we moved up a slight hill. I was moving at a pretty good clip, but was nervous to hold back too much. I knew this wasn’t the “downhill” section by any means, so I tried to maintain a comfortable pace that was still pretty strong.
Mile 1 – 7:53
Mile 2 – 7:55
Mile 3 – 7:49
Mile 4 – 8:03
Mile 5 – 8:05
Mile 6 – 7:56
Mile 7 – 8:02
Mile 8 – 8:09
Starting at mile 4 or so, I took water or Gatorade at every stop, which was just about every two miles. As we hit mile 8, one of the spectators or course managers said: “Ok guys, it’s downhill from here for a while. Just settle in and cruise.”
And then the downhill began and this guy was not kidding. It was all down hill for quite a few miles. I tried to use it as much as possible, but kept telling myself to “use it, but don’t lose it.” I didn’t want to go crazy and really kill my legs on the downhill by just letting completely loose. From after mile 8 – 13 we went all downhill all the time.
Mile 9 – 7:44
Mile 10 – 8:02
Mile 11 – 8:09
Mile 12 – 8:04
Mile 13 – 8:06
My pace for mile 9 was a little too fast, so I decided to scale back a bit. I also took a Gu between mile 11 and 12. When I crossed the halfway mark I was pretty floored to see that my half marathon time was a PR! The clock said around 1:45:30 I think. This made me a little nervous – I knew I was going really fast.
A few minutes later I was very glad I took that Gu because miles 14 and 15 were rolling hills and my pace slowed a bit.
Mile 14 – 8:11
Mile 15 – 8:13
As I got past mile 15, my adrenaline began to pump because I knew that Hubby was likely going to be at mile 16. That was the only spot that I was able to give him directions for. My pace picked up and I started looking around as we neared the spectator spot.
I heard Hubby cheering me on before I even saw him and started grinning like a fool. (me in the blue tank top)
And then I started waving…
Doesn’t the guy with the number 664 bib kind of look like an older Steve Carrell?
Sorry – sidetracked. Anyway – I saw Hubby and was all giddy and he told me he was on the phone with my best friend and she was cheering me on. YAY! I was so excited I sped up a bit. So I checked my Garmin…
Mile 16 – 8:00
I was feeling good, but that was short-lived. My next mile was my first taste of the dead legs that were to come.
Mile 17 – 8:28
And then there was a lovely and much-appreciated downhill.
Mile 18 – 7:47
But that little spurt was just a tease because then came the hills. They weren’t huge hills, but they were hills just the same and they were tough. I didn’t walk at all, but I was moving slower and I watched helplessly as my split times crept up.
Mile 19 – 8:56
Mile 20 – 8:43
Mile 21 – 9:00
And then after mile 21 things went bad pretty quickly. Call it the wall if you want, I called it the end. The end of my BQ hopes. As I watched my splits get slower I began to prepare myself for the fact that I probably wasn’t going to qualify. I was just moving too slow. There was no way. And then I told myself that this was probably good. I didn’t want to run another marathon anyway – I completely forgot how awful I feel after mile 21. This was a good reminder and was reinforcing the fact that I am not cut out for a BQ. I decided I just didn’t have it in me.
So after this little non-pep-talk, I decided that it would be good enough if I could just finish the race and try to finish without walking. Although at the worst moments I wondered how bad it would really feel to not finish (I decided it would feel really bad), but thankfully I pushed on.
With my non-BQ pace acceptance, I struggled to just put one foot in front of the other. I decided once I got to mile 24, things wouldn’t be so bad.
Mile 22 – 9:25
Mile 23 – 9:29
Mile 24 – 9:32
As I hit mile 24 and saw that 9:32, I also looked at my pace band on my wrist and saw that I was actually a little bit ahead of the pace for a BQ. I didn’t quite understand how this could be, given my sluggish times, but I figured my surprising speed during the first half must have really built a cushion for me.
So this is when I decided that maybe, just maybe, I had a little something left in me. I started trying to push a little harder. As I’m working to build back up some speed, who do I spot and hear cheering for me just before mile 25? Hubby!! He was along Main Street cheering like crazy and I definitely needed it. I start to push a little harder.
Mile 25 – 9:04
I hit mile 25 and knew there was 0nly 1.2 miles left and that I can certainly finish, but if I maintained my speed, a BQ might still be in sight. I push on and on, for what feels like forever and finally I see a school up ahead. I know that this finish is around a school track. Pushing hard, I finally hit mile 26…
Mile 26 – 9:01
And then there is .2 to go. We had to run around the track and I could see the finish, but there was still more to go. Miraculously, my Garmin says I just hit 3:38 and there is a slim chance that I could sneak in under 3:40! I start sprinting – or at least try. It feels more like a slow-motion sprint, but I give it a shot nonetheless. I push and I push and I push and finally I cross the line:
3:39:35!! (official chip time)
I did it! I qualified for Boston. I cut things pretty close, but I finished under 3:40.
In all honesty, this is not how I pictured running this race or qualifying for Boston. I wanted a nice even 8:10-8:15 pace the entire way, but this marathon was not built like that, in my opinion. I think it’s inevitable that you will run this race much faster in the first half. This was a hard race – it was fast – but it was really hard. Compared tomy first marathon, I think I gave more of myself and exerted a lot more energy.
I’m still shocked that I actually qualified based on my splits. I was fully prepared to accept that I wasn’t going to get my BQ. But I am beyond thrilled that I did it and that I’m heading to Boston next April. I hope to maybe even meet up with some of the amazing running bloggers I read regularly. And now I have to cheer on my best friend Lauren as she tries to get her BQ in October at the Bay State Marathon!!
Thank you to everyone who supported me, encouraged me and made me believe I could do it! And thanks again to my husband for coming to the Poconos with me and cheering me on. I did it!!!
The Pocono Mountain Run for the Red Marathon is officially certified by USA Track & Field, and is an official Boston Marathon Qualifier. USA Track & Field Certification Code: PA 06005 WB
Here is the event website: http://www.poconomarathon.org/
Here’s my training plan: Poconos Marathon Training Plan
Details from the website: “This event will raise money to aid our local communities when disaster strikes. Dozens of volunteers have spent the past year planning the event to benefit the disaster relief efforts of the Monroe County chapter of the American Red Cross.
Organizers worked closely with experienced marathon runners to design a fast course that distance runners would enjoy.”