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Flooring It To The Finish!

Marathon #18 coming right up. This time it was the Niagara Falls International Marathon, a point-to-point course running from Buffalo, NY to the brink of Horseshoe Falls in Ontario. I love point-to-point courses because you really have to get somewhere and the only way you are getting there is by your own damn feet (or getting picked up by the sweeper bus… um, no thank you!). On the morning of the race, Pat and I walked about a mile to the Crowne Plaza to pick up the bus shuttling people to the start line in Buffalo. It was 6:15am and still dark when we left our hotel. What the heck….what’s another mile walking when you are about to run 26.2? It was only 42 degrees and sprinkling ever so lightly. Once we arrived at the Crowne Plaza, we had a quick bathroom break before we hopped on the first bus to Buffalo. The ride only took a half hour but we had to all get off the bus and go into the US Customs office to show our passports. It was a quick delay and soon we were dropped off at the start line. For an hour, we stood under a tent where the wind was a little chilly and we could see very dark clouds off in the distance. We tried to cuddle and obtain some body heat but it is hard when you are just standing around. You want to warm up but on the other hand you want to conserve energy too. I could easily make my teeth chatter and that’s never a good sign. (I hate to be cold by the way.) Pat was wearing a jacket we must have bought back in 1993 or 1994 and he didn’t want to use it as a throwaway but I said, “It’s been in the basement closet for 21 years and you haven’t worn it, so it’s a throwaway. Stop being a pack rat!” This is me talking from my current “less is more” mentality. Of course, I kept saying during this time, “Aren’t you glad you have this old jacket?” just to validate its purpose and value at that given moment. The sun poked through the clouds for a fleeting minute or two, but that was it. The buses were still rolling in from Canada and it even slightly delayed the start of the race. However, we were ready. Pat leaned over to give me a kiss and we both said good luck. I loved that moment and I loved the upcoming moments I was about experience over the next 4 hours. I love the anticipation. I love that I am going to motor my body 26.2 miles without any help from anyone else. I love the sweat. I love listening to my music and newly prepared playlist. I love what I am about to endure. I love the challenges that await me. I love eating GU and drinking electrolytes just for the sake of fueling my body to propel me this far. I love feeling strong and capable. I even love feeling the soreness and the pain afterwards because it means that I worked so hard to accomplish it. I love absolutely everything about the marathon. And what I especially was loving about today was that I was running this marathon with Pat, the man that I love and in 2 days, I would be married to for 25 years. Pretty awesome! Having him there and running this same course with me means so much. This is the 4th marathon we have run at the same time and I didn’t expect we would run together because we had trained differently. He is naturally faster than me and I like to run my own race, as does he. Sure, if at the end, we happened to end up together at the finish line, that is wonderful but he knew I was going to run the race according to what I could do and I understood he would do the same.

The race started and we held a good pace. We ran together for the first mile (8:04 pace) and it was during the second mile that he started to pull away. Our time at the 2nd mile marker was 16:16 I believe, so a little slower. It was still chilly out but I was ready to ditch my throwaway jacket now. I wondered if we would want to keep it longer especially as we went over the Peace Bridge, but I felt warm enough now. The body is an incredible furnace!! At the 5K mark, my time was 26:03 which wasn’t bad but not my best 5K time within a marathon. Other races I have been in the high 24’s or 25’s. I wondered if I was losing it a little but I had to put it out of my mind and just run as it was still early. I remember looking at my watch at 5 miles and it said 41:47 which is a good time. When we crossed the Peace Bridge, I could see Pat ahead of me wearing his jacket around his waist now. We waved to each other as he turned and could see me on the other side of the road. I thought to myself, “Wow, he’s obviously feeling ok if he is ahead of me.” He had only run 250 miles total this year so I was a bit worried about him going into this race. I crossed the 10K mark at 52:55 and thought, “OK, I’m at a good pace. Maintain it”. Once we crossed into Canada, everything was in kilometers so I was constantly trying to convert to miles. At the 15K mark which is really 9.3 miles I looked at my watch and it was 1 hour, 20 minutes, so that was a good time. Thankfully they did have signs for miles every 5 miles, so I passed the 10 mile mark at 1:26:29 on my watch which was faster than my 10 Miler time in August (again this time I was tapered and rested and there were no significant hills!). I passed the half marathon mark at 1:54:24 which is my fastest recorded half marathon time ever so I knew everything was clicking today. I just methodically ate GU every 5 miles and a dab of electrolyte salt as well. During mile 14, I finally saw Pat’s jacket on the ground and I waved bye to it and laughed. Around mile 15, I was debating stopping at the port-o-potty because my bladder was bugging me a little bit. It’s always a gamble. If I stop to empty out, I will feel better and then I can drink more later on (when I will need it) or keep going, and not intake as much electrolytes. It’s such a dilemma because you don’t want to get dehydrated because then your muscles would cramp up (and that has happened to me before – a year ago to the day to be exact!) So I stopped and sure enough my left calf muscle cramped up while I was in there and I hate that but it is what it is. It’s a risk. I was in and out of the port-o-potty in 40 seconds and then I was praying that those lost 40 seconds didn’t come back to bite me in the ass later on. Soon thereafter, I dropped my container of salt on the ground and had to pick it up in one quick move and keep running. I crossed mile 15 at 2 hours, 12 minutes which still was 3 minutes faster than when I ran Hartford a year ago. I was feeling good and I kept saying to myself, you have no excuse. You went to the port-o-potty and this is all you, the rest of the way. I kept saying to myself, how bad do you want this personal best? And of course, we all know what the answer was. I was constantly doing the math in my head. I’m so far ahead of my previous personal best time and I can do this!!! At the 30K mark or so, we met back up with the walking half marathoners so the next 7-8 miles were about weaving around them. I was constantly saying “On your left (or right)!”, “Sorry, cutting through I’m trying to get a personal best.” It was a bit frustrating because I was booking it and to them, I am sure they are like who is this lady who came out of nowhere as they really were not looking to see if they were in the way of anyone either. I was just trying to run the tangents and avoid weaving in and out of runners if possible. I crossed 20 miles at 3:01 again now 2 minutes faster than Hartford. Come on Cindy, go girl!!! I was cheering for myself even if no one else was. You have to. The marathon is as much mental as it is physical. It’s all about the self-talk. It’s mind over matter and today I was controlling my body with my mind instead of my body's fatigue controlling me. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, I was doing this TODAY! I felt it, it was MY day. During mile 24, I saw a shirt that looked like the one Pat was wearing and then I said to myself, “Wait THAT is Pat! There he is. My husband. Right there. OMG, I caught up to him? What?” and I felt myself get all choked up like I couldn’t breathe for a second. I yelled “Honey!” and he turned around and smiled and gave me a high five. I said “We have got this Honey. I love you. Follow me”. In that second, I made the choice to keep going at my current speed. I felt bad but I couldn’t slow down. I was feeling it and I was in 5th gear! I could tell he was tired and slowing down but I knew in that moment, that he, of all people in this world, wanted me to get a personal best if I could and I love him even more for that. Only someone as good as him would want that FOR ME. He’s like that. Genuine. Selfless. He knows how hard it is to run a damn marathon and to run a personal best on top of it is an incredible feeling because it doesn’t happen all the time. So much has to go right. He knows how badly I would love to run under 4 hours as I have talked about it for 3 and half years and 18 marathons. I was on a mission. This time, I never tired the same way I have in other marathons. I was motivated to put it in overdrive and just go. I can hardly explain it. I was so determined to run absolutely as fast as I could throughout the rest of the race, no matter what. I said to myself “Just push yourself to points you have never gone before. Do it. If you do it, you will be rewarded for it. You can break 4 hours Cindy, just do it.” That’s what I was saying to myself and I was unleashing my body. I crossed the 25 mile mark at 3:49:14 and I knew I only had 1.2 miles to go. Man was it going to be tight though!!! It made me speed up even more. I crossed the 41km and 42km mark and I was just trying to run so fast AT THE END OF A MARATHON. OMG, even though I was booking it, it still felt like forever. I’m asking myself “Where is the finish line?! I should be there by NOW!!” I kept saying to myself, “GO! GO! GO! Every single second counts!” It was one of the most unbelievable and incredible runs I have ever had in my life. I crossed the finish line and the clock said 4:00:06 and I stopped my Nike watch at 3:59:58. Holy crap! I did it. It was so incredible! I felt like I had just won the lottery and damn it, I did because this is MY currency. The marathon. Being your best and giving it absolutely ALL THAT YOU HAVE GOT. This is what motivates me and what I absolutely love the most is proving time and time again, that you can be better as you get older. I just love that! And sure enough, 3 minutes later, Pat crossed the finish line and he was so happy for me, just as an adoring husband should be. I’m so happy he did as well as he did even with not training significantly. It was an amazing run and an amazing time! I love every single race because they are all challenging in different ways. But I especially love when it is MY DAY!! This feels great, but onto the next one!!

NEXT STOP: Honolulu Marathon (marathon #19, state #17) in 7.5 weeks!

Post race I am analyzing all of the different things I did during this training cycle:

1) Most long runs = 15 (2 of these runs were 15 miles)

2) Most mileage in the 10 weeks leading up to the marathon = 445 (includes 100 taper miles)

3) Most taper miles in the 3 weeks leading up to the marathon = 100

4) Most average weekly training mileage = 49.28

5) Most average daily training mileage = 7.04

6) Most weeks of 50+ miles during the 10 weeks leading up to the marathon = 5

7) Most complete rest days (ZERO miles!) = 6

8) Slept just under 8 hours two nights before the race, slept 6 1/2 hours the night before

9) The course was fairly straight, flat and the weather was cool (40's)

10) I mixed in several shorter, faster races (10M, 10K) to fine tune my speed

11) Longest lag time between marathons = 113 days (I am pretty sure!)

12) I often trained "running on empty with little food before the run" so I felt fatigued during training but with being fully fueled on race day, I was completely powered to go!

No major injuries to speak of right now. Yesterday I jogged 2 miles super slow in about 40 minutes. LOL! I do have some pain on the outside of my left knee and left hamstring but I don’t think it’s going to stop me long-term. Just taking it easy over the next week but will still run of course because I can’t jeopardize my goal of running 2018 miles in 2018. Stubborn, I know. Today I ran 4 easy miles at a slow but quicker pace and felt great. I felt like I could have tacked on a few extra miles too but I didn't. I am amazed at how differently I feel 5 days post-race compared to 4 days post-race. I don't know how I am going to do the Four Corners marathon next year.... Current strategy is to take it slow so I am not hurting so bad after the early races and progressively get faster each day, but never try to bust out a marathon. I am going to enjoy the journey!

Check out this ridiculous post-race analysis of my paces within various segments. You can see that I was flying at an 8:16 per mile pace at the end of the marathon. It was so incredibly awesome!!! I wanted to break 4 hours so bad that nothing was going to stop me. I absolutely loved it!

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