It’s been a full month now since my marathon, so I guess it’s about time that I finally write a race re-cap!
My training definitely did not go as planned (largely due to an unexpected 3 week hiatus at peak training time because of a work trip to a remote area in Peru where running was not an option). I got in an 18-miler right before the trip, and tried to get myself back on track as much as possible afterwards, managing one long run of 20 miles. Even so, my heaviest training week topped off at only 27 miles, quite a bit shy of the 40 it was supposed to be.
Despite all of that, I was really looking forward to the race, and to the vacation time in Bar Harbor with my parents prior to the race. You can read about the first part of our vacation in Maine here. We flew up and arrived in Maine on the Wednesday prior to the race and had a nice few days to see all that the area had to offer. On our first day up there we took the time to drive the full length of the marathon course so that I could see just how bad those hills were. Although it was a bit daunting to see just how far I would be running, I think it helped to see the hills so that I could stop imagining how bad they would be, and just accept the reality of it.
Prior to the race there was an “expo”, although it was so unlike the huge expos that I have gotten used to in Philly. This one was literally just one small room with a couple of vendors and a bib pick-up. That was it. No lines, but also mot much excitement. I think there were only a couple of other runners there at the same time as me. I got my bib and free wind jacket, and bought myself a 26.2 sticker, a Mount Desert Island running t-shirt, and a race tumbler.
The day before the race there was a 1.8 mile “fun run” that I did with my 72-year old dad! There were only about 20 of us, and many of that small group were quasi-elite runners. We came in dead last, but he got bitten by the racing bug and is now training for his first 8k!
I didn’t sign up for the pre-race breakfast thinking not much of it would be vegan (turns out there would have been plenty to chose from, but by the time I saw a menu it was sold-out). Instead we went back to the hotel to shower and then headed out to do our own thing for breakfast. Through Happy Cow we found Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast, and what a great find it was! Overall I was very surprised on this trip how vegan-friendly the area was. I ordered a plate of vegan apple oatmeal pancakes. They were huge and delicious and the perfect pre-race carby breakfast
That night we opted to keep it simple and had an early dinner at about 5:30pm in the hotel’s restaurant. I ordered pasta with marinara sauce, broccolini, and mushrooms.
After dinner I went up to my room and spent the rest of the evening setting out everything I’d need the next morning and trying to relax. I also really enjoyed reading the book I brought along, First Marathons: Personal Encounters with the 26.2 Mile Monster.
It helped me to read other first-timers’ accounts of how they made it through their first marathon.
Then, as it was approaching my bed time, I started to panic. I started to get really worried that I’d made a mistake in not signing-up for the early-start option and that as a result I’d be in very last place the entire race. Due to the extreme hilly-ness of this course, it has a very generous time cut-off of 7 1/2 hours (many marathons have a 6 hour limit). Even so, there was the option to start and hour early if you thought you’d need more than 6 hours. The downside to this option was that if you ended up finishing in less than 6 hours you could be disqualified. Having absolutely no idea how long it would take me, I was afraid to risk a DQ and so chose the regular start time. But now, as I was sitting alone in my hotel room, I was doubting that choice. There were only just over 1,000 people running this race, and with all the slow people getting a full hour head start on me, I was seriously worried that I’d be running in last place the entire way. Also eating at me was worries about the weather. The next day was supposed to be high 30′s to low 40′s and rainy all day. I was so upset by that, and to be honest that night I was completely dreading the race the next morning.
I read my book until about 11pm and then fell asleep with no problem. I thought I’d be up all night worrying, but surprisingly I slept like a rock!
At 5am my alarm went off and I was up. Right away I made and drank about half a cup of coffee and half a bottle of orange juice. I ate a Clif bar and a Kit’s Organic bar. This was all by 5:30 and then I cut myself off of fluids and food. At 7am I ate a banana. I met my parents in the hotel lobby a little before 7:30 and we took the short walk (less than a mile) to the starting area. It was already rainy and cold and I was so discouraged I can’t even tell you. “Why can’t it just be dry?” was all I could think. One perk of a small race was that there was none of the chaos that I’m used to at the starting area. I stood in line for all of about 5 minutes and got to use a real bathroom instead of a port-a-potty. I handed my bags (one for mid-race supplies and one for post-race items) to my parents and easily got in line for there start. No corrals here, just jump in wherever!
My only goal for this race was to finish and hopefully not come in last. I honestly had no time goal as I had no idea how the hills would affect me. I’m having a little bit of a hard time remembering now, but I think my plan was to aim for a 12 minute pace for the first 13 miles and then allow myself to ease back to a 15 minute pace for the last half of the race if I was really hurting. This shows where my head was at, totally doubting myself, but I didn’t want to make the mistake of pushing too hard and then not finishing. I told myself I’d jog it nice and comfortable and walk whenever I needed to.
I started the race with my water bottles in my fuel belt empty, but with pieces of Nuun electrolyte tabs already in them. The water stops were very evenly spaced every 2 miles which made planning for them easy. At most of the stops I slowed down to take a cup of water (most had roughly 7 ounces in them) and would pour the cup into one of my bottles which I’d sip on until the next stop. Throughout the whole race I think I ended up taking about 8 cups for a total of about 56 ounces! I have no idea if experienced marathoners would say that’s a good amount or not (it was about 44 degrees out but felt colder with the wind and rain), but I felt good about it as I normally struggle to force myself to drink. I never felt dehydrated or nauseous. I didn’t feel like I had water glurging around inside me and didn’t have to stop to use a bathroom the whole race, so I consider this a success.
As for calories (since the Nuun electrolyte tabs are basically calorie-free and I don’t drink Gatorade) I use hammer gels and took one at the 6, 12, 18, and 22 mile marks. This seemed to work really well for me.
Okay, back to the race. I noticed I was running pretty consistently and effortlessly at a 11:45 average pace so my new plan of action became to stick with that or slightly slower until halfway and then re-evaluate. At mile 9 I stopped to walk and text my mom. The plan was for them to meet me at mile 12, so I let her know that I was roughly 30 minutes out.
There were a couple of rough patches where the wind really started blowing the rain in my face and I started feeling sorry for myself, thinking things like “Why couldn’t the weather have been nice?”, “Why am I out here doing this?”, and “I can’t believe I have 5-7 hours of this ahead of me”, but those moments were very brief, and most of the time I was having a ball! The scenery, even in the rain was gorgeous and I was having so much fun! I couldn’t believe how the time and miles were just flying by.
Before I knew it I had run 12 miles and started looking for my parents at the designated spectator area. By mile 13 I hadn’t seen them and knew I wouldn’t have another chance until mile 18. I got out my phone and tried to call my mom, but only got her voice-mail. I said that I wasn’t sure how we’d missed each other (keep in mind the small numbers of this race- it should not have been hard to find each other), but that I hoped to see them in 6 more miles. I asked her to bring me the race bag with dry socks, dry gloves, and the extra gels I had packed. I was really kind of angry at them for missing me. I was thinking they had just one job, to get to mile 12 and cheer for me, and somehow they weren’t there. I’d really been looking forward to seeing them and getting that boost of support, and now I’d have to run another 6 miles before getting another chance.
Miles 12 though 18 continued to go smoothly and my average pace at the halfway mark was hovering right around 12:00. I made an updated goal of hanging on to that until mile 18. When I reached that point, my average pace was at 12:07. I made a new mini goal to still be under a 12:15 average by mile 20. I figured by that point I’d be hitting the wall and need to slow down. I know 12 minute miles seems slow, …but the hills, plus I really was in no hurry.
Right before mile 18 where I was hoping to find my parents, I passed through the only water stop that had gels. They we Gu’s which I’d never tested on my stomach and wasn’t even sure if they were vegan, but I took 2 and held onto them just in case something else happened and I missed getting the extra hammer gels from my parents.
At mile 18 there they were! I was so happy to finally see them and ran right over to them to get a hug and my dry socks, gloves, and the gels.
My mom handed me my extra gels, but when I asked my dad for the dry gloves he handed me my post-race bag, the one with the flip-flops and sweatpants. Yeah, he left the bag I actually needed in the car. I tried not to get angry even though I had been so careful to explain which bag was which before the race. My mom asked how I was feeling and I told her much better than I expected. She seemed surprised and said they’d been worried that it had taken me so long to get there after that text at mile 9. They’d been waiting for me for about an hour longer than expected and had been worried that there was something really wrong with me. That’s when I realized they thought they were at mile 12, not 18! Somehow they’d skipped the first spectator area and had driven to the other side of the island without realizing it! I knew my mom felt horrible about the mistake so I told myself to let it go and be grateful that they were there at all. It also turns out that due to the bad cell reception on the island that she never heard the voicemail that I had left her at mile 12 wondering where they were. I told them to please just be sure to get to the finish line so that they didn’t miss me crossing. We said goodbye and I ran off. A few minutes later they pulled up next to me on the race course trying to hand me those dry gloves though the window of the moving car. Yes, there they were driving on the wrong side of the road where the runners were supposed to be! “You’re going to hit someone!” I yelled “Just please get off of the course and get to the finish area!” Oh vey. I love my parents, but sometimes…
Before I knew it I was at mile 20 and thinking that every step beyond that point was a new personal distance record for me. I kept waiting to “hit the wall”, but it never happened. In fact, I was feeling great. Like 6 more miles was no big deal at all. With each mile, I tried to see if I could maintain my steady pace, and it was practically effortless. Even with stopping for walk breaks, calling my parents and sending texts, and wasting time at the water stops to unscrew my water bottles and add Nuun tabs, my pace was holding steady.
As I headed into the last mile I actually felt like gunning it a bit. I wasn’t tired at all and felt like I could just keep running. Where was this coming from? As I neared the finish line, Chariots of Fire was playing on my iPod and for a brief second I got teary. And then, I crossed the finish line, 5:16:31, with arms raised and a smile on my face. I had done it! I expected to sob like a baby, but I didn’t shed a tear. I saw my parents with big smiles on their faces, so proud of me.
Since it was such a small race, they announced everybody’s name as they crossed the finish line and even added comments like “this is her first marathon” or “he just set a new PR by 5 minutes”. I thought it was really cool how they knew those details. I was so caught up in the moment (and listening to Chariots of Fire) that I didn’t realize they were announcing my finish at the time.
My final thoughts on the race:
- I had the time of my life, despite the hills and the rain.
- I’m sad I’ll never get to run another “first marathon”. Firsts are so special. There are no expectations, you’re guaranteed a PR, and you discover for the first time that you’re capable of much more than you ever thought.
- I was so grateful to have my parents there to support me. I always go to races alone, have no one to cheer for me, and then leave alone. It was so nice to have someone there for me this time. In my tired state, I got angry a couple of times, but I knew they were doing their best. They stood out in the cold rain for almost 2 hours at that first spot waiting for me. Having them there made the whole experience that mush more memorable.
- The hills really weren’t so bad. Yes they were constant, but I trained well for them and they didn’t bother me. What did bother me was the camber of the road. Since we were running “into” traffic, the left side of the pavement was always a bit lower than the right. This became increasingly uncomfortable as the race wore on.
- I love that I completed this race under tough circumstances. It gives me confidence for future races where the roads will be flatter and the weather nicer. I also really took my time on this race. I walked some. I wasted unnecessary time at water stops. I made phone calls. All this adds up to the possibility for a huge PR on my next marathon!
- I was walking very well in the days after the race- only a little sore.
- I only lost one toenail after the race! That is actually good for me
And finally here are my mile splits. I ran the second half a mere 49 seconds slower than the first half. Pretty damn good. And my fastest mile was the 26th one!
mile 1- 11:14
mile 2- 11:59
mile 3- 12:04
mile 4- 11:48
mile 5- 11:41
mile 6- 12:06
mile 7- 12:26
mile 8- 11:48
mile 9- 12:31
mile 10- 12:23
mile 11- 11:37
mile 12- 12:04
mile 13- 12:17
mile 14- 12:08
mile 15- 12:47
mile 16- 11:29
mile 17- 12:32
mile 18- 13:05
mile 19- 12:04
mile 20- 11:37
mile 21- 12:05
mile 22- 11:48
mile 23- 12:55
mile 24- 11:58
mile 25- 11:44
mile 26- 10:35
last stretch to the finish- 10:46