I think summing up this race into words is going to be tough, but here’s my best shot at commemorating the day and my experience.
On race morning, Ryan and I got dropped off at the start around 5:45am. The start area was still pretty quiet. We had a little time to wander around and make sure we had everything we needed for the race before starting our warmup. We dropped off our gear check bags and did a mile warmup, dynamic stretches and some striders. We had just enough time to go to the bathroom and make it into the start area before they sang the national anthem. Perfect timing.
I lined myself up just ahead of the 3:40 pacer. My initial plan was to run the first 3-4 miles easy before dropping down to around goal pace and holding that as log as I could.
The first mile was really crowded. I tried not to weave around people too much and settle into my easy pace. Mile 1 clicked over at 8:26. Right where I wanted to be. The first few miles at CIM are some small rolling hills, but net downhill. In mile two I kept hung feeling easy but didn’t hold myself back on the downhill portions. I ended up running an 8:04. That was my goal pace range already, so I continually thought about keeping it easy and just riding the downhills. Mile 3 was an 8:06. I remember thinking then that since this was where I was settling in, there was no point in really slowing it down. Just keep it going smooth and steady. The miles were ticking by so quickly! I rarely looked at my watch, and just focused on my nutrition every couple miles. I tried to simply observe my mile splits and not overthink them. I crossed the 10k mark at 51:00.
At mile 8 I saw my friend out there cheering. It was nice to have a little boost from someone you know. Right after I saw him, there was a water station and some portapotties. There was no line so I decided to use one. I almost always have to go during a race, and while it didn’t feel urgent yet, I didn’t want to have to wait in a line sometime later. The stop cost me about 35 seconds, but I think that was totally worth it for not having to stop again the rest of the race!
Miles 7-11 had a few more rollers, and other than my bathroom stop, I maintained my low 8’s paces. I enjoyed the cheering and big crowds around the relay exchange points. I tried to keep feeding off their energy and plugging along. I crossed the half marathon mark at 1:47:09. My goal at this point was to maintain my pace through mile 20.
I saw my friend again just before mile 16. I was in the zone then and almost missed him. But it was nice to have another little boost. The miles kept quickly ticking by. I was feeling strong, but was still a little worried about hitting the wall. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to. I felt like I could maintain my pace for a long time. With 10 miles left, I told myself I could do this. I knew I could keep it going. Around when I saw my friend I started picking up the pace just a little bit. I had a few miles click over in the high 7:50s. As I approached mile 20, I could see a big group ahead of me – the 3:35 pace group. I was excited to finally be catching them! When I ran through “the wall” at mile 20, I really knew I could do it! My 20-mile time was 2:42:28.
I was cruising along still. I knew I’d have a Boston Qualifying time now. I was ahead of the 3:35 pace group, and gaining ground. I was feeling strong and controlled. I was picking people off and passing them one by one. One foot in front of the other. Mile 24 was one of my slowest of the race besides mile 1 and my bathroom stop at an 8:14. After that I told myself that even though I could continue that and still BQ, I had more in me. I could gut this thing out. Put everything down on that road.
I saw my friend one last time at mile 26 with 0.2 to go. I sprinted as fast as my legs would carry me that last few tenths of a mile. My official finish time was 3:32:18.
After finishing I was feeling totally in shock. I could not believe that I had done it. Not only did I break 3:35, but by more than 2.5 minutes! I was given a medal, an aluminum blanket, and a water. I stumbled like a drunkard to get my photo taken. I wanted to sit, but to also find Ryan and our friend. I sat on the curb for a minute to get my bearings. My body felt so strange…numb but mind racing in disbelief.
After I found Ryan and sat for a few more minutes, I realized I really needed some food. I wasn’t hungry, but I knew I needed some calories. Even my ears were feeling numb and my hands felt like they were falling asleep. We stumbled together through the food line and I felt instantly better after a banana and some orange juice. Once we got our bags and put on some warm clothes, we were ready to get home and take a nap, and celebrate the day.
Thinking about my experience a few days later, I really can’t believe how quickly the race went by. It’s like I snapped my fingers and I was another couple miles down the road. I also am so amazed that I ran every step of that race. No walking, no shuffling with tiny steps. I am so thankful for a healthy body that brought me to that finish line and for my family and friends for supporting me through training. It was a day I thought was only in my wildest dreams, and now is a reality. Keep dreaming big – you never know what you can accomplish!