4:30am came pretty quickly – although I felt reasonably awake and ready. The weather was pretty ideal – the temps would be in the 50s for the whole race, overcast, some fog and mist. There ended up being a slight headwind in parts of the race – but nothing serious.
Derek drove me to the bus stop, I hopped on a bus and was off to the start. I had a great time talking with the guy next to me on the bus – I think this was his 45th marathon! Wow. At the starting area, I just milled about until it was time to get into the corral. They didn’t have formal corrals or waves – but they had signs showing expected finish times. I planted myself halfway between the 3:35 and 3:45 signs.
I felt surprisingly calm that morning – perhaps all of the distraction and stress from the day before actually helped me not worry too much about the race. I had a plan – go out at 8:20s (no faster than 8:15s) and see where it goes from there.
The race started and we were off. I actually started out a bit fast – my watch was telling me I was running 8:06/8:10 for those first few miles – but I felt great, my heart rate was low – so I didn’t worry about it too much, just tried to keep it controlled. I did think – man, if Derek and Beth see my 5k split they are going to be worried that I’ve gone out too fast. But luckily for me – there was no 5k split and they didn’t get the 10k split until after they got my half split – so all good!
It is a great course – pretty much one road all the way from Two Harbors to Duluth, MN. On the shore of Lake Superior. Tree-lined, quiet road. It was really foggy – so we couldn’t see much of the lake (nor could we see the bridge which indicates the finish line – lots of people mention how a characteristic of Grandma’s is that you see the finish line bridge with at least 13 miles to go). The road is undulating more than rolling – the uphills weren’t so noticeable except that your pace was a little slower, some of the downhills were a little noticeable.
The road got a little monotonous – so that left a lot of time for thinking, and fractions, and convincing yourself that nothing hurts that bad yet. I felt strong pretty much the whole way – which isn’t to say that it was easy – I definitely wanted to stop running and had to bear down and concentrate to finish it out. But I was running well – pretty easy, good pace, I could tell I had about a minute on my goal time of 3:40 (based on my pace tat) – so I told myself when I had 12 miles to go, that if I needed to, I could ease up the pace by 5 sec/mile and I would still hit my goal.
Derek and my friend Mary (who graciously hosted us for the weekend) did an amazing job spectating. They saw me at miles 6, 12, 19, 24.5, and then the overpass right by the finish. Frank (Mary’s beau) and Patti (another curling friend) joined them at mile 19. It was so great to have them cheering for me at each spot. I really tried hard to smile and wave each time so that they would know I was doing fine.
My feet started hurting pretty early on – so I got worried that I might develop some blisters. But I kept telling myself – that’s another mile down that didn’t hurt that bad and I tried hard not to project how I might feel down the road (which is just wasted worry). Different parts of my body hurt on and off – my right achilles, my right hip, my left knee. But luckily – they each would go away.
I got something to drink at every water stop – generally alternating between water and powerade. And I had my gels every 5 miles. We entered Duluth around mile 19 – so the crowds started getting steadier. I concentrated really hard during mile 19 (as that’s where I fell last time) and after I passed the “spot” – I kept telling myself that every mile now was a moral victory.
By mile 20 – I was pretty sure that I would finish and that I would qualify. I had enough time built up and I was still running well. Lemon Drop hill at mile 22 really wasn’t a bad hill – not that steep or long. I took it strongly and was starting to get excited and emotional. It was still mental to finish – I had some looks of concentration and determination (and perhaps a few grimaces) during those last few miles.
The “this is so easy, I’m sleep-walking through it” photo:
The “Look at me smiling for the photographer” photo, followed by the “ok, this is hard and I need to gut it out” photo and the “must concentrate to finish” photo
When I saw Derek and my friends at 24.5 – I really started getting choked up. Because I knew I would do it, Derek knew I would do it, and we both knew that the other person knew now too. I had to yell at myself to stop getting emotional – because I couldn’t breathe. Time for tears later!
As we turned the corner to head to the DECC, came down a hill and saw the mile 25 marker – I started speeding up. I was feeling strong and determined. I knew I was going to do it. I knew it was just a little bit longer.
Derek and my friends were on the overpass and I was psyched because Derek saw me finishing strong. I saw balloons up ahead and asked the guy next to me – is that the finish? He said yes – I started sprinting (well, what a sprint looks like for me after 26 miles) – but then realized that it was just the 26 mile marker – drat!
But the finish was visible soon and I took it home. As I crossed I was overcome with emotion. I started crying – ugly face crying – and a volunteer asked me if I was ok. Yes – I’m just happy. Really, really happy. I got my medal, a carnation, my finisher’s shirt, some pictures and went to find Derek. When we found each other – he gave me a big, big hug.
Finally – after all these miles, all these days of doubt, the injuries from last year, the uncertainty, the dedication and discipline, all the obstacles – I had had the race of my life. I laughed as I neared the finish – because last year, in preparation for the Lehigh Valley marathon, I had been writing down 3:39 as a motivator in my journal. And the clock, as I was nearing the finish line, read 3:38:56 (I think my final gun time was 3:39:10).
3:37:31 was my final net time.
I PR’d. I qualified for Boston by over 17 minutes. I beat the qualifying time I needed last year (in the 40-44 age group) by over 7 minutes. I even beat the qualifying time for the 35-39 age group by 2.5 minutes. I beat my goal of 3:40. Incredible.
I am going to Boston!