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No Nonsense Marathon in Newport News

It’s only 3 days later and I’m sort of still basking in the glow and pain of running a 3:51:16 marathon. Wow is all I can say about it. I felt so prepared for this marathon (#20 by the way) and maybe more so than ever before. I felt as though my training for this one was even better. I ran all of my training miles faster. Ever since I received the Garmin Fenix 5S Plus watch in late December, I pushed myself harder to compete with myself. I love competing with myself. It is why I run marathons. I don’t run to compete with others – although I guess that IS technically what I am doing. But that is so secondary to me. I love crushing my previous best running times. It’s a challenge that I want to meet every time. It is so incredibly rewarding to do it because you KNOW that you are BETTER THAN BEFORE. Life is about being the best version of yourself so why wouldn’t you want to be BETTER? Why settle for anything less than your best? It just doesn’t make sense.

We travelled a lot in the week prior to the marathon. We spend 6 days in Clearwater, Florida, 2 days back at home, and then we spent 2 days in eastern Virginia for the marathon. Leading up to the race, I was always a little nervous about how all this travel prior to the race would impact my race, but I simply took it day by day and tried to get as much rest as possible. We were originally going to go to Punta Cana and then directly to Virginia but it was complicated so we decided to stay in the US and then take a break in between the two trips (which ended up working out pretty well because we had to get some plumbing fixed at home). Plus we desperately needed some time at home to regroup and then gear up for the next leg of the trip.

We arrived in Virginia on Friday and spent some time going to the race expo and taking in the sights around Yorktown on Saturday. It was a mellow day which I love before marathons. I love to take the time to have all of my race gear organized, stretch my body and do all of the right things before the big day. I woke up on race day early at 3am and was hungry so I ate oatmeal and went back to sleep when the alarm rudely woke me up at 4:30. OK, it’s go time! It was chilly (in the low 40’s) but I knew that would be perfect weather for a marathon. Pat dropped me off at the start line at 6am and I hung out with the crowd until the 7am start time. The announcer was telling the runners that we need to get everyone across the tracks before the train arrives and I’m thinking “What?!”…. well that’s not going to be me because I’m going to freaking crush this course. Pat texted me and said he loved me and that I was going to do great. I told him not to make me cry. I get so emotional about these things because I give a shit about how I run. I know no one else in the world cares (except Pat and maybe the kids), but I care and I know the ordeal I am about to go through. It is a huge physical and emotional experience. I would imagine kind of like the Super Bowl for the players. In order to be able to run 26.2 miles you have to have a great deal of passion for it. No other way around it. With that passion comes an incredible amount of emotion and hard work channeled into it. It is no wonder you feel like you could cry at the drop of a hat. There were only 450 marathoners, 300 relay runners at the start so it wasn’t very crowded (compared to Honolulu). The crowd of runners at the start thinned out pretty quick and at the first mile I was in the 7:30 pace range. I felt like I was flying but yet I still was totally within myself. I didn’t feel like I was dying or anything. I was booking along and I felt strong. I was paying attention to my watch and I hit 4 miles in 32 minutes, so hovering at an 8 minute per mile pace. I ran 5 miles in 40 minutes and again, just humming along. I felt like I had to hit the porta potty at mile 6 and change, but I tried to ignore it. (Ran my fastest 10K in 49:80 IN A MARATHON!!) Once I got near 8-8.5 miles I said, “Nope, can’t ignore it. I need to make a pit stop.” I was disappointed because I was cruising but it was important that I stop so I can focus and keep running later on. I worried that this was going to take me out of my rhythm. At the mile 10+ water stop (which I got to in 1:23, I decided to stop and pull over. Unfortunately, I had to stay there for 4 and a half minutes but better there than on the course. This happens to runners sometimes and the more marathons you do, the more it happens it seems. (Dallas, Mad, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Newport News now) LOL! I’m not quite sure why it happens but it’s just your body working overtime I guess. I exited the course at 1:23:29 and was back on just after 1:28. So clearly it was A LOT of time to lose but what can you do? I just needed to regain my focus and run. I knew I would never make up that much time but I was already crushing my previous bests all along the way. I knew I still had a shot at a Marathon Personal Best overall and the sub 3:50 marathon would be tight. But if I didn’t stop, how would that have impacted the next 16.2 miles? Probably pretty poorly. I was concerned that I would become more easily dehydrated so I drank as much as I could (but not too much). I always keep pepto pills in my back zippered pocket and I took one without water and let it dissolve in my mouth. When you are desperate, it’s what you do! Then when I got water again, I took another one. I didn’t want this to be a repeat pit stop. If I had to stop once, that was going to be it.

It took me a little bit to get back into my pace… physically and mentally. My pace had slipped into the 9’s and I wasn’t liking that very much, but I had to be patient and work myself back into a groove if I could. But I will be honest, I was worried about having to stop again. (I hate stopping in races by the way.) Every time I heard the pace was in the 9’s, I would get “mad” and push to get back into the 8’s. I continued taking in a dab of electrolyte salt every 6 miles or so and eating GU. As always, I was doing the math in my head thinking could I still break 3:50? I thought it was possible if I kept hauling ass, but it was going to be so tight. I was getting tired and legs were starting to feel a little tired (OK maybe A LOT TIRED but I couldn’t really admit that to myself then during the race!) You really have to push through the end of a marathon. You don’t feel overly wonderful. You ARE tired! But you have to persevere if you want that personal best time. Other than my legs feeling fatigued (but not the worst ever), I felt pretty good otherwise. Nothing hurt so bad that I couldn’t continue on. I kept thinking about my family and how they would be at the finish line waiting for me and I was trying to run so hard and so fast so I could get there to see them. (Plus we had to haul back to the hotel to take a shower to check out!) As I reached the last few miles of the marathon (mile 24 I was at 3:34), I am thinking can I break 3:50? It meant I would have had to run about a 7:30 mile for 2 miles. That seemed like a very daunting task at the END OF A MARATHON!!!! I could pull off an 8:30 pace now but not 7:30. I was too fatigued for that kind of speed. I saw a lady who obviously ran the marathon and was hobbling and walking in the other direction now and I said “Well, that will be me soon, but right now I have to finish this and I don’t hurt that bad (yet).” Once I turned onto Washington Street, I could see that giant flag but it seemed so far away. I tried not to look at it and focus on running but I wanted it to appear big to me because I would know all I had to do was to take a right and the finish line was right there. I turned the corner and I started looking for my family. I saw them on the right near the finish line. They were cheering and smiled and I smiled back. I knew they were happy for me because I was crushing my previous marathon personal best (3:59:57) from Niagara Falls by 8 minutes 41 seconds. As I crossed the finish line, my calf muscles started cramping up. I don’t know if the finish line was farther away, if my muscles would have waited to do that?! Or if they cramped up because my brain knew it was ok BECAUSE I was at the finish line now. Who knows? I think some older man told me I was a strong runner but I never even looked at him because I was dazed in a way. I heard him say that and Pat said some older man was talking to me. LOL. I didn’t even pay full attention. I kind of feel bad now. But I got a Gatorade and water and “jacket” they put on me and then I just started crying. I don’t know. I’m happy I got a personal best, but I felt sad that I couldn’t qualify for Boston because I KNOW I am a good enough runner now. It was just that damn porta potty break that F’d it all up. It is so hard to run a marathon. It takes everything you have got and I just came up a little short on Sunday. Pat said to me “I hope those are happy tears.” I’m thinking “Yes and No”. I felt like a big baby crying after a marathon as a middle-aged woman but it was kind of involuntary. I gave it all that I had and I was a little disappointed. When emotion is genuine, you can’t control it. It just happens. Then Stephanie (who is the queen of iPhones, apps and results and all of that), says “Mom, you finished 3rd in your age group!”, so then I had to get a little mini medal. I guess that was some consolation. Whoever would have thought I would PLACE in my age group?!? What’s really cool now is that I feel like I am a much better runner than ever before. I have not reached my peak and I absolutely love it. Once I recover, I feel like I should go out and go win a race because I feel like I can do even better. I wish I could describe the feeling of strength I have. It is one of the most incredible feelings and it’s such a gift to be able to channel that strength in a race such as a marathon (or any other race for that matter). It’s something you want to do and achieve. You can’t teach it. It comes from within and you can’t squash it. You have to unleash it at the right time in the right manner. It’s awesome. I wish everyone could understand this concept. It is kind of addicting in away but I don’t care, it’s a good addiction to have. I can be addicted to health and running, while everyone else can be addicted to cigarettes and Big Macs. Which would you choose?

Overall, it was a great race. I enjoyed it. The people from Virginia were so nice all throughout the course, cheering and being supportive. I saw people wearing Patriots and Red Sox hats. They are much nicer than grumpy New Englanders (including myself here!). Although I didn’t like Warwick Boulevard too much. It was long and kind of boring. The times we ran through the parks and Christopher Newport University were nice though. The race was very well organized. There were actually metal street signs in the ground at every mile marker. Even the famed Boston Marathon doesn’t have that!! The swag was pretty good although it was a very small expo (race is only in its 5th year). We received nice dri-fit long sleeve shirts and after the race runners had tickets for a free meal from the variety of food trucks at the post-race celebration. I didn’t want to eat anything yet so I gave the food to Pat. Essentially I selected this race because it was at the end of February school break, it was “closer” to home and it was a faster and fairly flat point to point course, plus I had never been to this area before. We have flown in an out of Norfolk a few times before and spent time in Virginia Beach on our 1st anniversary but never had we drove north to this area so it was nice to see what it is all about.

Post-race: My left leg always hurts more than my right leg so much and I had to take 3 Tylenol a few hours after the race. It got too uncomfortable. Got a few blisters, will lose a toenail I am sure. Hopefully quick so it’s gone before the next marathon! But I must say, 3 days later and I feel decent, just a little sore now. I was able to hobble-jog ¾ of a mile earlier today. Tomorrow should be even better. Bring on the next one!! I have the utmost confidence I will get into the 3:40’s. If I didn’t stop in this one I would have finished in 3:46 and change. Next time, I will do it.

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