Wow, here we are.
I know I’ve been very quiet on the blog in the weeks leading up to Hyannis and truthfully, it was a combination of things. Like I posted about before, after the heartbreak of Philly, I really was paranoid about jinxing myself. I was also training pretty hard, and between running, working and trying to keep up with everything else in my life, I gave myself permission to let the blog stuff slide for the timebeing (knowing of course that I’d be back!).
But anyway… time to talk about Sunday.
Leading up to the race, I knew I was in EXCELLENT SHAPE – far better than I had been for any marathon I had run previously thanks to my coach. I had zero doubts that I would be able to run a big PR. My previous PR was a 3:53 that I had run at Baystate in 2016. The question was whether I could sneak under the 3:35 mark, thereby securing a Boston qualifying time for my age group. After running the Boston Prep 16-Miler and having a great race, I really allowed myself to start hoping. I was hitting that 8:00/mile pace and feeling strong and comfortable holding it. The big factor was going to be the weather on race day.
So like any lunatic who has been training for months on end, I started stalking the weather (well before there was any chance the forecast would be accurate). At first, it was supposed to be sunny and a high of 50. Then, partly cloudy and a high of 50. Then, a chance of rain. And as race day got closer, there was a 100% chance of rain. ALL DAY. It was going to be rainy and windy from start to finish in Hyannis.
Not ideal marathon weather.
I won’t lie – this made me nervous. But I thought back to the book Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron (great sports psychology book that I highly recommend). In one scene, he talks about how one of his crossfit athletes responded to doing a warm-up outside on a particularly cold February day in New England.
She’d been about to say, “It was really cold,” but she’s conditioned not to complain to the point where something like that – which to others, is simply stating a fact about the weather – physically can’t make its way out of her mouth. Saying it’s cold outside may appear to be simply stating a fact, but it’s actually more detrimental than it might seem in the short term. Focusing on negative feelings or circumstances… brings greater focus to things that are ultimately outside of your control and are potentially detrimental to your performance. In no competitive or life scenario will focusing on negative uncontrollable factors improve your performance or stress levels.
Everytime I found myself concerned about the rain, I reminded myself I was too prepared to have a bad day, no matter what the weather. I told myself that some rain and wind was just going to make achieving my goal that much more special and my goal race more ‘epic’. In the days leading up to the race, I kept feeling that I was on the verge of something special. I’m a big believer in sports psychology and looking back, I’m really proud of how I shaped my mindset going into this race. I truly believe it made a HUGE difference.
The race started at 10 am Sunday morning. I had asked my friend Lis to help pace me in the final miles and she and her equally speedy roommate had decided to sign up for the marathon relay. My friend would run the first 13 miles with me, and her roommate Mckenna would take over for the second 13 miles (it was a double loop course). We made the drive down from Boston with plenty of time to spare and picked up our bibs no problem. The race was hosted by the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center so thankfully we were able to hang out inside and stay warm (and use real bathrooms) in the hour and a half we had till the start.
Before I knew it, we were in the starting corral, waiting for the gun to go off. I had already soaked through my shoes doing a short warm-up and drills and I idly wondered to myself how many blisters I was going to rack up on this race. My friend and her roommate used to run for Ole Miss and they had decided to wear their old singlets and shorts, so there was a lot of joking around with other runners at the start about how tough she looked among the other well-bundled runners. Finally, the gun went off and we were on our way.
My coach had sent me over an awesome, very detailed race plan for what paces I should hit to negative split the race and I was so happy to finally get to work. In the training build-up, my favorite workouts were always the long tempo runs with sections at 8 min pace and faster. Something about these workouts always made the miles FLY by for me. It was time to execute again, just over the course of a few more miles. 😉
Mile 1 – 8:09, Mile 2 – 8:09, Mile 3 – 8:07
This was a hair on the fast side of what my coach had prescribed (8:10-8:15), but I felt very comfortable and relaxed so I tried not to worry too much. The rain was coming down steadily but it wasn’t a torrential downpour, so I was grateful it wasn’t impacting my running. Yes, there were some HUGE puddles and some were pretty much unavoidable, but apart from that I was good.
Mile 4 – 8:04, Mile 5 – 8:09, Mile 6 – 8:05, Mile 7 – 8:07
I’ve never been much of one to talk too much during a race, but having Lis with me on this first lap kept me so relaxed and I was heartened to see I felt fine having short conversations with her. I had one earbud in for a little music but we were able to chat and joke a little which helped me forget I was going to be running in the rain for the next 3 hours. She kept checking in and asking how I was doing and I think it was around mile 7 where I told her that I thought I could do it. No, the weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t negatively impacting me apart from being soaking wet. It was definitely early in the race to be having these thoughts, but I think it was also good that I ran with confidence.
Mile 8 -8:08, Mile 9 – 7:58 (whoops, got a little fast there), Mile 10 – 8:12
The Hyannis Marathon also has a half and marathon relay so there were still plenty of other runners around us at this point which helped keep the atmosphere a little more festive. The volunteers were also AWESOME. We got so many cheers going through water stations and I am so grateful to all those poor people who must have been SO COLD standing there in the rain passing out water. Even on a nice day, I’m guessing Hyannis doesn’t draw a lot of spectators so I was doubly thankful for those volunteers.
Somewhere in this phase, I realized I wasn’t even counting down miles like I usually do in a race. I was generally aware of what mile it was, but I wasn’t thinking much about how many miles to go or how long I had left. I truly was running the mile I was in. I think partly because of this, I was almost surprised when it was Mile 13 and I said goodbye to my friend and hello to her speedy roomie.
Mile 11 – 8:06, Mile 12- 8:04, Mile 13 – 7:59
Right as we set off on the second loop, I had the thought, “Ok, sh*t’s about to get real.” All the half marathoners were gone, there’d be fewer runners on the course, the miles were getting up there, AND it was time to start working a little harder. I felt nervous for a second and then I pushed the thoughts away.
I told myself – ‘Get to Mile 20 and then you can grind it out to the finish.’ McKenna did a great job during this stretch of latching onto a pace and setting the rhythm.
Mile 14 – 7:59, Mile 15 – 7:59, Mile 16 – 7:55
There was a time not too long ago when I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I saw a split with a 7:xx on my watch during a marathon. Part of me still felt a sense of disbelief that here I was, at mile 16 of a marathon and I was actually running FASTER and feeling good doing it.
Right around Mile 20, things got tough. I had been working hard before, but at Mile 20, it got exponentially difficult. Not like I hit a wall and physically couldn’t run – but like suddenly every environmental factor possible conspired to slow me down.
My coach and I had talked about cutting down to the mid to high 7:40s for the last 6 miles, but as she had also said to me, “you’ve got to play it by ear and see what you’ve got in those last 6 miles.” At that point in time, a 7:45 mile was unfathomable to me. But I said to McKenna, “Let’s see if we can cut down to 7:50 miles”.
No sooner had I said that, that we started hitting the hills in the course. Overall, the course is pretty flat with a couple of rolling hills. They hadn’t felt like much in the first 13 miles, but now I was suddenly feeling them. I’m also convinced the wind picked up during the last 6 miles, but it honestly could have been that I was just more tired.
Mile 21 – 8:02, Mile 22 – 7:52, Mile 23 – 7:55
Things were really and truly starting to suck at this point. Gone were the moments of lighthearted conversation from the first half. I could only grunt or throw a thumbs up when McKenna would point out a runner ahead of us and say “Come on, let’s catch the guy in yellow before we hit 22”.
Somewhere around here, we hit my least favorite part of the course. Overall,the course was very pretty, passing by the ocean and crossing quiet neighborhood roads without much traffic. This stretch was a coned off section along a very busy main road. The coned section was extremely narrow and filled with puddles, making it difficult to pass. To make matters worse, the wind along here was BRUTAL. I was desperately trying to hit my 7:50 splits and coming up short pretty much every single time.
It was in this stretch that my mental game wavered. For the first time, I wondered if I was going to completely fall apart in these last few miles and lose everything that I had worked so hard for up to this point.
Mile 24 – 8:09 (I think there was a hill here), Mile 25 – 7:57, Mile 26 – 8:03
Finally, we made a turn into a neighborhood and I remembered from studying the course in the weeks prior, that there was this weird little segment through the neighborhood right before the finish to get the mileage just before turning into the Cape Cod Resort parking lot. I said to Mckenna, “We’re so f**king close” (I don’t usually swear a lot but I was kind of an emotional wreck at this point). She asked what my cumulative time was on my watch but I didn’t even have the energy or courage to click the button on my watch to change the screen and look. Part of me really believed that I hadn’t been fast enough in the final miles and that I would lose all my motivation if I looked at the number.
.4 to the finish – 7:27/mile pace.
Somehow when I realized the finish was actually RIGHT there, I was able to kick as we came up on the finish. I could not believe my eyes when I saw 3:32 on the clock, crossing right then (official time 3:32:01). I nearly burst into tears because I could not believe I had done it. 3:32. A BQ by 3 minutes. A PR by a full 21 minutes.
I think back to how heartbroken I was after straining my hamstring and not being able to run Philly, and it’s amazing to me how it all worked out. I was so depressed to not run the full there, but now I am so unbelievably grateful about how the whole situation played out. I am so thankful that my coach supported me and never stopped believing in me (even when I came to her with the crazy goal of BQing 16 months ago when my marathon PR was a 3:53). Or when I said I wanted to run a full marathon in February on the Cape. I am so glad I have wonderful running friends who were so willing and happy to help me achieve my goal, even when it became clear just how terrible the weather was going to be. I am so thankful to all my wonderful, supportive friends who remembered that February 25th was my race day and took the time to reach out and wish me luck.
Honestly, I think even now 5 days later, I’m still high on running endorphins.
I think there was a second right after I finished when I thought, I may never run another marathon – that was so painful. Famous last words! I’m already thinking about what’s next. I just took 21 minutes off my marathon time. I have taken OVER AN HOUR off the time that I first ran the marathon in. (4:36 -> 3:57 -> 3:53 -> 3:32). I truly feel like anything is possible right now.
So I’ll just be here, soaking in this magic for as long as I can.