Well folks, it was another hot and slow marathon, and an overall awesome experience.
Skyler sent me off to my 4th marathon with this motivational drawing. The size of the sun in the upper corner and the smile on my face turned out to be very accurate depictions of the race.
Saturday I drove with Amy and my student Ashley over to the western mountains of Maine. It was a beautiful drive watching the mountains appear on the horizon. It was just totally sunny, green, lush, and rolling driving through one small, quirky Maine town after another.
Amy and I met up with friends Pam and Kristy, had a pizza and pasta dinner in town, and then drove the marathon course. After dinner, I had my very first moose sighting since living in Maine. On our way into our condo for the night, she was chomping away on something in the road and let us watch her for a good long time. What a beauty.
I slept beautifully from 9 pm to 4:45 am, and then started my day with coffee and breakfast and a surprising lack of nerves. I was as calm as I've ever been before a race. I knew it was going to be hot (forecast expected to reach 80 by finishing time) so I had no self-induced pressure. I was just excited.
Living in Maine and running a spring marathon means that all my training runs were done in weather between below zero and 50 degrees. And then in May, you gamble with the weather and end up with a hot, sunny day that your body isn't used to running in. So I had to adjust my expectations for the day.
The Sugarloaf marathon course is described as being 5 miles of flat, 3 miles of uphill and 16 miles of downhill and then 2 more miles of flat. Driving it in the car, that seemed kind of accurate. On my feet, not so much. 16 miles of downhill? Uh, in my dreams. The marathon does have a net loss of elevation so technically it's downhill, and there are some really blessedly welcome downhills, but I didn't feel like I was just effortlessly cruising down a mountain, no I did not. It was up and down most of the way, and as it got hotter and hotter, the downhills were just not downhilly enough for me.
On marathon morning, here are the Mainely Running girls plus Kristy and Pam ready for the day. Jen and Christine, on the ends, were our unbelievable road crew for the race. More on that later. Amy was running her 4th marathon too. Kristy was running her FIRST, and Pam was running the 15K.
|Amy, Kristy and me: Let's do it!|
At the starting line, I met up with my other student Mandie running her first full (she killed it!) and my friends Brooke and Maggie. Brooke is my high school friend who just moved from Arizona to New Hampshire so I am psyched that she is close enough to run Maine races and to get together for visits. I have no photos of her from the race, but here we are last summer the night before Beach to Beacon.
Brooke is a speedy runner and I had no hopes to see her during the race, but it was great to reunite for a minute.
We were all standing around chatting under the super tall pine trees when the gun went off. Okay! Time to go.
Miles 1-3: Feeling good, enjoying the shade, knowing it's not going to last. Tried to get my legs to wake up. Wondered if it was a good idea to wear the compression socks on such a hot day. (It wasn't).
Miles 4-7: Feeling awesome, finding my stride, drinking and fueling perfectly, happy but getting hot. I saw Jen and Christine in their van for the first time with cowbells, posters, and offerings of food and drink. They had a poster on the van that said: "TOMORROW YOU WILL THINK THIS WAS FUN." So true, so true. That blue mini-van became the holy grail for me, and I was always looking ahead for my next sighting.
Miles 8-10: Feeling a little less awesome. Almost all uphill and starting to get really hot. I walked up the first steep climb with the hopes to preserve some energy for the hot miles ahead. Halfway up the 2nd big hill, I heard from behind me: "Hey! Nice socks!"
It was Brooke! Brooke had started slower with Maggie who was injured and ended up dropping out at mile 8. (She passed us later in a cop car. Poor Maggie). Brooke and I walked/ ran the next few hills and chatted and caught up a bit. It was a hugely awesome surprise to have a few miles with her.
Miles 14-18: Kind of a blur. I was feeling tired, hot and sorry for myself. I took walking breaks when the sun was too much for me. Jen found me around 18 or 19 and I sat on the tailgate of her van and ate some of the MOST AMAZING orange slices that I've EVER had in my life. So sweet, so cold. I was moaning in pleasure between complaints of how hot it was. Jen pep talked me, refilled my camelbak with COLD water and Gatorade. I was so thirsty and couldn't make my mouth feel non-dry. Even when I had a mouthful of water, I was thirsty. If I could detect any shade on the opposite side of the road, I'd cross the street to get a few seconds of relief from the heat. It was maybe a little pathetic. I was no longer sweating, just covered in salt crystals. Isn't that a bad thing to stop sweating?
Mile 19-20: Great music, got into a better place mentally. Enjoyed a nice downhill or two. Started seeing Jen in her van more like every mile. More orange slices. Another banana. I knew I could do it at this point, but I was just growing plain old tired and my feet hurt like nobody's business. I ran into Brooke again who was in a ton of pain in her left hip. She was limping and struggling and we stayed close together the rest of the way. I hated to see her hurting.
Miles 20-24: I don't really know? My feet hurt. My hands were so swollen. Somehow I was still happy, though. I just like being in the 20s because you know you're getting there.
Just. One. Mile. At. A. Time.
Hot, hot, sun in my face. Hot, so very hot.
Mile 24: ASHLEY! My student Ashley who ran the 15K that morning made her way to me to run me into the finish line. She was a vision in pink and turquoise. I had warned her I may be crying, bleeding, or dying by the time she saw me so she was pleasantly surprised that I was in good spirits, albeit so hot that I was a walking salt-lick.
We walked a bit and ran when I could. When we got to Mile 25 I said: "Sweet Jesus. Just one more." People were wilting all around me. Ambulances were buzzing past. Did I mention it was really hot?
"WHERE?" I could not see the end! I think I was moaning a little.
Oh, there. At the sight of the 26 mile marker, as hot as I was, I got chills and the hair stood up on my arms. God, I love that. Almost there. Almost there. Almost there. My feet hurt so badly and I could not wait to rip off my shoes and socks. I could see the cones leading to the finishing chute. I could hear people cheering my name. Jen kept saying: "You are not stopping. No stopping." .2 more. I could see the finish. Why is .2 so very long?
Finish line! Finally. Hot. So hot. Done. 83 degrees. 5:24. All done. Huge smile.
I made a bee-line for the only shade in the finish area which was the medical tent. A medic got me one bag of ice and Ashley got me another. My shoes and socks were off and the ice on my neck and my legs was the most divine thing ever. I just sat there staring quietly for a while, spent and happy.
Marathon #4: Well, it seems that I'm not getting any faster thanks to my last 2 marathons being so very hot, but I will say that it is definitely getting easier. I had some low moments along the course, but I was mostly in good spirits the whole way and never let myself get overwhelmed by the distance. I didn't get in under 5 hours like I know I someday can, but I truly did the best I could do AND I enjoyed myself. This has all been a good lesson for me: the heat may slow me down (I kind of wilt in direct sun and heat), but it has also done wonders for my perspective. Why do I run marathons? Certainly not for prizes or record times. I love the challenge and the camaraderie and the sense of total accomplishment. I love how I feel after. I love the medals. I love the crowd support and the friendships. I like knowing people I love are with me stride-for-stride even when they aren't physically there. I like how my body feels for the rest of the day, even though it hurts.
After we went back to the condo and showered, I sat up on the couch with a bolt and said to Amy: "I DIDN'T CRY!" I always cry. I didn't cry at the finish line, or on the course at all! What does this mean? I think it means that while I'm a slow marathoner, I'm a marathoner. I think it means that a marathon is now within my body's limits and that if I pay attention and remain realistic about my pace when the weather is hot, that I can cover that distance without any trauma or excessive suffering. I won't pretend I don't feel frustrated that I seem to be stuck in the same time zone for this distance. But...it is now well within my capacity to run 26.2 miles. I guess that's pretty cool.
Big smiles and sunburns with Ashley. Talk about student-teacher bonding; she ran me to the finish line of a marathon!
Another one for the books, another medal for my medal rack. I ended the marathon on Sunday with a feeling of total satisfaction AND a drive to work harder for the next one. I love my little running life.