We trained hard for this race. After recent PR's in the half marathon and 5K I felt like I was in good shape for a PR. Denise, Evan and I arrived in Virginia Beach to near perfect weather. 48F and light winds. We headed right to the expo to get our bibs and then decided to play it safe with food and go get food from Whole Foods and relax at the hotel. For a Mom of 2 young kids the idea of relaxing at a hotel is bliss! I fell asleep watching a movie.. Woke up, ate again and went right back to sleep. I have super-ability to sleep the night before the race.. and in pretty much any situation!!
Race morning we woke up ready to go! The race start was literally a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we decided to stay warm as long as possible and then walk to the start. We found our 3:15 pacer scarily near the front a long with a group of very fit looking runners! It was very intimidating, I was waiting for a marshall to come tell me to move back to the correct coral! The wind was cold so we huddled as we waited and then just like that we were off!
We stayed very huddled in our group, actually tripping on each other a few times because we were so close. Our PACER Tom was great! He explained we might be a bit quicker on miles with the wind but that we would be a bit slower in to the miles in to the wind. We started right on pace 7:26 per/mile but then there were a few miles were I saw a 7:12 and even 7:09. I was worried that it was going to take a toll on me the last few miles but decided that staying tucked in the pace group was a bit of an advantage both mentally and with the wind on the open stretches. All of a suggen I looked around about mile 11 and Denise is gone! I had no idea when she had fallen back. I asked a guy that had just caught up and joined our pace group and he said he had seen her (we had on matching outfits!) and she seemed OK. I continued on. We have trained together for 10 years but we have an understanding that on race day we race!
About mile 15 or so I started falling back. I pushed a few times to catch up but in the end decided to do my own thing. I put on my iPod and cranked it as loudly as possible with Linkin Park.. hoping to block the pain! We coninuted up a wooded road. The pacer had told us eventually we would turn and head east to the beach again and kept fairly on pace looking forward to that turn as it meant homeward bound! Once we did I wondered why I had looked forward to it! It was right in to the wind and I was now totally alone. I passed a few guys that were walking with leg cramps.. and I had a couple of people pass me. My pace had definitely slowed down now. I kept telling myself I had not worked this hard to get to this point to give in this late in the race but I just could not make my legs go any faster! It was a 2.5 mile stretch thru a military base with just the occasional soldier standing watching but not cheering.
FINALLY we turned on to the beach. One of the leg cramp guys and I were playing tag. As I pasded him the first time I gave him a "come on dude" and he stuck with me. A few times his legs cramped up and he would walk but then catch me again, run with me and then cramp up and walk. We didn't speak at all but it just helps to have someone else suffer along with you! Eventually I see the 23 mile marker. A 5K left. I can do that!! I started trying to figure out what I could aim for for a finish time and realzied I was stll in with a chance of my sub 3:20 goal. It was close but as long as I could stay at or just under 8 min miles I could still make my goal. I kept reminding myself that the McMillan calculator said I could run a 3:19 based on my recent times.. And tried to think about all the training and races I had done leading up to this. I really think it helps to be positive about what I am trying to achieve.
I have run quite a few marathons now and they are never easy. The last few miles are always a mental battle. I kept telling myself, nothing hurts, I just need to keep going. Eventually I start seeing familiar buildings. The crowd support started getting bigger. I see the turn up ahead and someone yells out that I am almost there, just turn the corner and thats it. Well she LIED! You turn a corner, and then another corner... and then it is WAY down the boardwalk! I knew I was really cutting it close now and no matter how hard I ran it didnt seem like that finish line is getting any closer. It was like being on a treadmill ! Then I see Denise cheering for me? How did she get there? I was so confused! I later learned that she had dropped out. Her first DNF (Did not finish or Did nothing fatal as some people like to say!). She was OK just not feeling good and 26.2 miles is a LONG way to run if you are not feeling 100%.
Finally the clock is close enought to see and I see it click over to 3:19. I knew I was literally seconds off the clock being that i started so close to the start line. I wish I could say I sprinted across the finish line but I think my arms just pumped harder.. My legs were toast. I crossed in 3:19:53 on my garmin! I DID IT! I was so happy to stop running and SO happy I made I sub 3:20 which was what I had wanted to do. As runners we set ourselves goals. We train for weeks and often beat ourselves up when we don't succeed. It is AMAZING when it all comes together and goes right! Just a few years ago I would have said I could never run this time but today I did it! They had a PR BELL at this race. You can ring it if you get a PR (personal record). I rang that bell loud and clear, my friend Evan too for his 9 minute PR and then we headed in to the post-race party tent! Yeungling beer was flowing along with Irish stew and live music cranking. Probably one of the best post-race parties I have ever been to.
Hmm.. so what is my next goal?