Marathon #3 is in the books and boy, this was a good one. I’m still finding it hard to put into the words the excitement and giddiness I feel over this race, but I know I owe you all a race recap so I’ll give it a shot. 🙂
I went into this race a little bit nervous after what happened in Delaware – I finished but ended up going to the hospital with heat stroke. Not an enjoyable way to wrap up 26.2 miles.
Back when my mom convinced me to sign up for Baystate, I was excited by the idea of running a marathon in very cool temps (we had frozen our butts at this race in 2015). So I started getting apprehensive when the forecasted temps for Sunday crept up from the low 60’s to a high of 67. There’s nothing you can do about the weather though, so I just promised my parents (multiple times) that I would not run myself into the ground on this race.
I also went into this race with the goal of running relatively consistent splits. I had gone back and checked my training log to see what I had done in Delaware and saw that my mile splits were ALL over the place in that race. Granted, it was a little hilly, but in hindsight, I think I was a little too aggressive in my goal pace for that race. My training for Baystate had been compressed since I signed up late, so I backed off a little on the pace and decided to aim for splits between 8:45 and 8:55/mile. I did not want to fall apart at Mile 20 the way I had before. I figured I would take it a little easier the first 3 miles to let myself warm up as well.
On Sunday morning, my mom and I headed out bright and early to make the short drive to Lowell. My mom had to back out of the half marathon because of ongoing injury problems, but I was SO thankful to have her there with me before the start to keep me company and help keep the nerves at bay. We had no issues getting in and parking. As always, the Greater Lowell Road Runners had things running like clockwork!
We hung out inside the Tsongas arena for a while (which meant I got to use real bathrooms – score) and then before I knew it, it was time to head outside and line up in the corrals. I lined up between the 9 and 10:00/mile pace signs. I knew everyone was going to be excited and running fast, but I wanted to make sure I stuck with my plan. I saw the 4 hr pace group was a bit ahead of me. The National Anthem played and we were off!
I felt good once we started running. The nerves were mostly gone and I was just excited that the race was finally happening (no more 20-mile long runs for a while!!) I clocked my first mile in 9:18 – which also happened to be my slowest split the entire race! Mile 2 was a bit faster in 8:56 and Mile 3 was a 9:01 – very close to my plan. Once the first 3 miles were over, I worked on slowly bringing my pace down to goal pace.
By Mile 6, I had caught up to the 4 hour pace group. They were a huge pack at this point. Part of me was tempted to stick with them for longer, but they were running a very consistent 9:00/mile pace and I knew I could push faster than that. Plus, I knew I wanted to beat my previous 3:57 and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make up enough time if I stuck with them for too long. So with a little maneuvering, I made my way past and just prayed that I wouldn’t see them passing me later in the course.
Going into Mile 7, we hit some AWESOME water stations. Local high schools were volunteering and had gotten so into it! Some had gone with an 80’s workout theme, others were decked out in pretty intense Star Wars costumes – it was amazing!
From Miles 7-11, I focused on making my way to the bridge where the half marathon and marathon courses intersect. The half marathoners are looping back towards the finish at that point and the marathoners are going out for another loop. I remembered it being a really high energy area the year before with tons of spectators and I was excited to get that boost again. Plus, my mom had planned on heading to this spot to watch. 🙂
As expected, it was an awesome spot with tons of spectators with funny signs. I reached the other side of the bridge and saw my mom! Look, I’m actually smiling while running a marathon (didn’t think that was possible)! She was a fantastic course photographer and managed to take a bunch of great photos!
After crossing the bridge, I made the turn to make my second loop. I knew this was when things would potentially get tough. I checked in on my breathing and effort levels and felt shockingly good. I thought about the bit of advice my mom had gleaned from Bart Yasso in the most recent Runners World podcast (that she kept reiterating to me in an effort to keep me from the Fly and Die method) – It should feel so easy that you feel like you could run forever. My pace was hovering around 8:50/mile and shockingly – I did feel like I could run forever. I hit the halfway mark in 1:57. On track for a sub-4 hour finish, but I knew that would be contingent on staying strong even through the last 6 miles (where I really fell apart in my last marathon).
Around Mile 15, I actually started speeding up a bit. My pace dropped down to around 8:46 and stayed there through Mile 19, where I hit an 8:40! I think I was excited to get to Mile 20. I wanted to find “the wall” and kick it’s a$$. Throughout these miles, I also found myself checking in on my form. As marathons progress, runners have a tendency to stoop forward and tighten up as things get tough. I made sure to keep my shoulders back, arms swinging straight instead of across the body, and stay relaxed. By this point, I was passing a decent number of runners. I’ve been that runner before – the one who has gone out too fast only to be passed by someone who looks incredibly strong when you’re thinking you can hardly go another step. Boy did it feel good to be feeling so strong.
My mom called me just before I hit Mile 20. I had called her last year during this race and she had always said it was a great boost for the final miles of the race. This was technically her second time calling me during the race. She had called me around Mile 5 because she was tracking me with the online timing software, which was apparently HORRIBLY inaccurate as it was telling her I was running an 8:26/mile pace, so she had called me to tell me to slow down. Lol, I was so confused! Not a single one of my miles had been at that pace! This call was a better one though and she told me to just stay strong through the finish. We chatted for probably a minute before saying our goodbyes.
Shortly thereafter, I hit Mile 20. I checked in on my effort levels again. Did I have another 6.2 miles left in me? I felt like I did. I knew at least, I didn’t need to walk. Mile 20 I clocked an 8:48, followed by a 8:52, 8:52 and 8:54 for Mile 23. I will admit that around this point, things were starting to get uncomfortable. Around Mile 21, it became clear to me that I was going to lose the same toenail that I had lost in Delaware (that wasn’t even fully grown in yet). I could also feel a couple blisters despite the fact that I had applied Body Glide to my toes.
The last 3.2 miles were easily the most difficult miles of this race for me. Despite knowing I only had a 5k to go, my stomach was beginning to feel slightly queasy (though nowhere near as bad as Delaware, which I now think may have had something to do with the Gatorade I drank at the water stops). This was also probably the least attractive part of the course. Most of it was along a river with beautiful views of the foliage. The final stretch is along a highway in full sun. This was where I finally had to dig deep. Mile 23- 8:54, Mile 24 – 8:49, Mile 25- 8:52. At Mile 25, I checked my watch and knew I had a PR. Even if I ran a 10-minute mile, I would still be finishing in sub-3:57. This was a relief, but I also told myself I couldn’t relax too much – I wanted to finish strong with as big a PR as I could. Just before Mile 26, I was back at the Tsongas Arena where the course began. You make a sharp turn and run down this road, lined with spectators with an announcer reading off the names of the runners as they hit Mile 26 and head around into the final .2 of the course. I knew this wasn’t the finish, but there was a part of me that was confused about how close (or far) I was from the finish. What can I say, it’s hard to think straight after running 26 miles. 😉
The course makes a sharp left turn and then there it was – the finish!! I actually had enough left where I was able to kick in an 8:15/mile pace for the finish and crossed the line, looking and feeling strong. Official chip time – 3:53!! That works out to an average pace of 8:51/mile.
I am so pleased with that time. I feel that I can confidently say I ran the race I was trained for. I ran smart, I never walked (a first for me in a marathon!), and I finished feeling strong. My splits were very consistently in my goal range of 8:45 – 8:55/mile, with my very first mile being my slowest. I also managed a negative split! I ran my first half in 1:57 and second half in 1:56. I’ve heard it’s incredibly hard to negative split a marathon and I am stoked that I managed it on my third attempt at the distance. This was the race I so desperately needed to convince me that marathons aren’t necessarily god-awful. I’m sad that my mom wasn’t able to cross the finish line as well, but I loved having her there serving as spectator, coach, and my own personal race photographer!
I have a thousand more thoughts and feelings to share about Baystate, but this post has already turned into a marathon in and of itself, so I will hold off and share those in a few more posts. For now, time to let my legs rest up and my toenails heal. Again. 🙂
Also, because it’s a funny picture… I looked strong crossing the finish. Here’s what I looked like approximately 15 minutes later –