Saturday, September 14, 2013


Well.  Time is money.

We've all heard it before.  Sadly, I learned just how true that saying is last weekend in my race.  My "last-ditch" race, specifically.

When I realized the momentum that the hype for Boston 2014 was taking, it was summer.  I was well into my training for a fast fall marathon (the Scotiabank Toronto marathon, Oct. 20).  I realized that although I had qualified in Boston for next year's race, I may need to better my time to ensure I would get in, what with all of the other thousands of people that would also want to race.

I realized that I would have to cut off more than a month of training to be ready for an early September race, if I could find one that still had open spaces.  I found one.  In Pennsylvania.  A mere nine-hour drive between me and the race.  No problem!

The Lehigh Valley Marathon in Allentown would be my race.  If I could get a PB, or even pull in a race close to my current marathon PB, I figured my chances would be good.

I had a very strong summer of training.  I ran, swam, and biked a lot, and I had some awesome long runs.  Some long runs were so great, and some of my speed work made me feel ready.  Papa and the boys were so supportive of my training, and I really couldn't have spent so many long hours out on the roads if it weren't for them!

I knew it wasn't ideal that the marathon fell on the first weekend that I was back at school, but tapering actually worked in well with the other chaos that was happening in our house...phrases like "where's my water bottle?" turned quickly into, "where's my backpack?!"

So.  Here's the race/weekend report, and, as a head's didn't end the way I wanted it to :(

We decided to head to Pennsylvania as a family.  Papa was off that weekend, and there were a few things to do/see in the area.  Our kids LOVE hotels (especially hotels with pools) so we knew they would be excited to take the road trip!

We left Friday right after I was done school.  Our kids were so awesome in the car.  They (generally) got along well, and patiently waited until rest stops for potty breaks and food.  I wish I liked riding in the car as much as them!

Papa and the boys...ready for the long ride

By the time we rolled into Allentown on the Saturday, I was excited to get to the expo and pick up my race kit!  The expo happened to be right next to our hotel, which was in a very nice and cool area of the city.  The Runner's World 1/2 marathon will actually start/finish in the area next month.

The expo was quite small, which I was disappointed by.  I was hoping to buy some new running stuff (as usual) but the only thing I purchased were some gels (albeit at a great price, but kind of a boring purchase).

We bribed them with m&m's to be patient at the expo

Also, the line up for my bib was terrible.  I have a popular "last name" letter (R) but I seriously waited in a line (while Papa waited with growingly impatient boys) for 20 minutes.  There were only max. 10 people ahead of me.  I couldn't understand what the problem was!  Until I got to the front.  The person in charge of my alpha really was having difficulties figuring out the system.  I had to find my bib for her, and I feel bad about complaining, but geesh.

The shirts were nice, and they look like they will fit nice too.  Always a plus at races!

We took the kids to the Crayola Experience in downtown Easton PA (nearby) and, as luck would have it, the finish line was only a block away, so we scoped that out while we were downtown.  The finish area looked quite small, so Papa and I decided that we would forgo having him and the boys waiting for me amongst all of the people, and I would just finish out the race on my own, then call him to come and pick me up.  I know.  Not the most romantic, but when there are 3 kids under the age of 6 involved, you have to go the practical route.  always.

The kids loved Crayola.  They made personalized crayons, markers, and played with all of the interactive displays and play areas.  Definitely a highlight for them.

How cool are these personalized crayons?

We ate a very uneventful dinner (I had some sort of spinache/bruschetta pizza/calzone thing) and called it a night.  I had to lay everything out the night before as we were leaving by 5:45am for my 7am start time.  I checked the weather 10 more times (High of 15--nice!  90% humidity--booo) and closed my eyes.

I slept almost perfectly...Olly shared a bed with Papa and I, so the toddler took up most of the bed...and I woke up 2 minutes before my alarm(s).

Our boys were troopers, and stumbled awake at that early hour so Papa could drive me to the starting line.  The starting line was at a hospital.  They boasted "lots of parking".

As we rolled up the highway to our exit, we started to see all of the brake lights.  Uh oh.  The other 2500 people running this race were arriving at the exit at the same time.  Dang.
Of course, THAT was the moment that I decided I needed a potty break, obviously.  I survived, and I know it was just my nerves.

By the time we got up to the front of the exit lane, it was painfully close to race time (I think it was 6:40am) and I had to jump out of the car at an intersection and run to the starting area.  I needed at least one porta-potty stop, and the line ups looked lonnnnng.

I jumped into line, and hoped for the best.  It was a very short 20 minutes that I waited in line.  All the while, announcements were being made that "the race will start in 5 minutes...2 minutes...please join us at the starting line..."

I was in the porta potty when the gun went off.  Of course.  But with chip timing, I knew it wouldn't make a difference.  Of course, being all flustered and sprinting across the parking lot to the starting area when I was done did not make for a graceful start.  And no, I did not wash my hands!  

I crossed the starting line, in a massive crowd of runners, and tried to settle into a pace.  I think I was too flustered to worry about slowing into a sensible pace.  When I hit mile one, I was at a 7:45/mile, and I thought (although it was way faster than I like to allow myself run the first mile) I would just settle in and figure it out as soon as the big downhill was done. There was a massive downhill in mile 2 that I sped down like it was the only mile I was going to be running that day.  Oops.

Just past mile two, as we were rounding a corner, a man was clapping and cheering by himself.  It was none other than Bart Yasso.  Yep. No big deal.

From that point, we ran into a trail, and I really feel like we stayed in the trail until the halfway point.  Seriously.

The trails were not crazy--they were a mix of gravel, mud and sand.  There were a lot of mini incline/declines.  I really found it hard to fall into a good pace.  I ran a lot of trails this summer, but only for easy runs, so trails to me define easy pace.  Racing in trails was hard as I was either way too fast, or plodding along like it was a recovery run.  :/

We finally came out of the trail at the halfway mark, and I looked at the clock to see "134:40".  Oh, no. Way way way too fast.  This is where the "time is money" thing comes in.  I had "banked" time unintentionally, and that NEVER works in a marathon situation.  I knew right then and there that I was headed for a road of devastation.  A long road that would end in disappointment.

I held on to my pace, and headed back into the trails for the second half.  The trails were nice and shady (yay!) but oh, so lonely.  No spectators.  at all.  I really felt like I was on a training run.  It was becoming a mental game quickly, and (especially because I already knew I had ruined my first half) I was starting to lose my drive.

My fuel intake was going very well in this race.  I really "practiced" liking gels on my long runs this summer, and I planned them out very well.  No stomach issues, and I saved the caffeinated ones until the last 1/4, which was smart.

Mile 22-23 were out on a wider road, so I felt the urge to speed up.  It hurt a bit, but I really pushed and it felt good to push.  Then we headed back into the trail.  I was done for.

I looked down at my watch and realized I was going to have to really push myself to make those last 3 miles to make my 3:30 time goal.  I just didn't care anymore.  I ran up to a woman who was clearly feeling the same way as me, and we started chatting.  She had also been in Boston, and was at this race to better her time, like me.  She was really amazing.  She was 28 years old, and had run SEVEN Bostons in a row.  Her and I chatted the rest of the way through the race (slower than we needed to).  I knew it wasn't the fast pace that I needed to make it to Boston again, but it was the best I could do in that moment.  And sometimes that is just what it is all about.  That moment.

I crossed the finish line, knowing that my 3-minute buffer for Boston (I had qualified in Boston back in April) was all I had this time around.

I was so glad that race was over.  I was so glad that all of the worry, and calculating, and fear of not getting in again was out of my hands.  Not in the way I wanted it to be, but at least I had tried.

The last week has been a bit hard at times.

Hard to hear about the "staggering" amount of people that were registering for Boston.

Hard to sit on my hands and not be one of the people allowed to register yet.

Hard to know that I probably wouldn't get to be a part of the race this year, that changed my life last year.  I had anticipated returning and redeeming that race for myself to (attempt) to round out the emotional healing I have endured over the last five months.

I know that everyone that has run a faster qualifying time and has registered will make it a special race. I know that the people that worked with the BAA to make the field of runners larger has made such an effort to make it a special race.  It will be.  And I will cry this April from the moment of the start of the race, until the last person finishes.  I will probably stay in my jammies and eat popcorn and try to be okay with not being there (it is a holiday that day, so I don't even have to go to work).

I am trying to think of all of the other amazing opportunities I will have in races in 2014.  I will perhaps strive for more distance in the triathlon, I will try my first Ragnar Relay, I will try to make my sub-42 minute 10km that I have been striving for.  There will be so many more races that will be special.

I know that running a marathon is a big deal, in and of itself, sure.  It is just such an emotional and physical investment, that of course, every one of us wants to go perfectly.  That doesn't always happen, but at least I can take this base I have built and try to go fast in some more races this fall!!

*No photos from the race at all.  I even brought my phone with me, hoping to at least get some pics before the start of the race, and, well, I wasn't about to take porta-potty shots, so no pics were taken!

Just this one photo after I met up with Papa.  I have never been so salty/sweaty after a shade-filled race!

Happy running!

I promise not to be whiney about this whole Boston thing again.  Just had to whine it out this once!

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