Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hartford Marathon: Why can't marathons end at mile 23?

This might seem like a pretty delayed reaction blog post from a race that (by now) everyone knows went well. Know this: I had more than half of a great post written and *puff* it vanished into the interwebs.


I took it as a sign that attempt number one must have been crap, so after taking a few days to allow the pain of literary failure to dull, here is another try.

So. The Hartford Marathon. My first trip to this race and my first trip to Hartford.
Let it be known that traveling to Hartford on the Friday of a Holiday weekend is slow work. If you want more than 28 minutes at the expo take the day off.
Luckily, you don't need more than 28 minutes at this particular expo!

We were in, out, free sampled and on our way with time to spare.
Step two was a slightly sketchy super basic pasta dinner.
Our final stop was to check out the finish line. I'm very glad that we made the short walk because not only was it lovely and peaceful but I absolutely did NOT notice the lovely scenery at the actual race finish..

This is one of the most picturesque finishes. 

I actually slept a bit, but woke up long past when my alarm was *supposed* to go off.  I then proceeded to peer out the window at all the runners making their (early) way to the start and yell at them menacingly.
Weird behavior, yes. But when I wake up feeling race ready I am aggressive. Hah!

The trip to the start and the start itself was quite easy and uneventful. Since we were staying about half a mile away it was quick to get there and you basically walked right up to the corrals with no stops. Because I was a bit late it was hard to get from the 11:00 pace area to the lead corrals but I made it in the nick of time. (typical)

The weather was great. About 50, overcast, damp and foggy. I felt excellent and with the exception of a pee break at mile 2 I ran steadily and happily for the first 10k.

Yay! Running!
Per the usual I had my watch running but just as a watch. There is nothing on race day that my watch can help me with so I worked on steady pacing and all that crap. I hoped that I could locate the 3:35 pace group, stick with them until the half and then try to move up steadily for the second half for a glorious 3:33 damn finish. AS USUAL, I tried to train for a 3:30 but friggin 3:33 seems to be my perfectly acceptable but growing old norm.

At mile 7 or so I saw a pace group and caught them! Friends!!! The crowds were growing thin and after a whole summer of mostly running alone, I enjoyed the idea of a few people to shoot the shit with. "What pace group are you?" I inquired. "3:30" they cried.
OK. A bit of a surprise there but nothing too worrying. A glance at the time told me that they were on pace so I decided to stick with it. After all, those mile repeats had to start paying off sometime right?

Sitting in the middle of the 3:30 pace group.

WHAT A GOOD CHOICE. It was a great, big, fun group of people. There was a little chatter here and there. If you got blocked off from a water stop the person behind you would grab a cup and give it to you.
I felt really great about being in this group of people and essentially shut my brain off and ran steadily for quite a while. Hours actually.

Another GREAT and fun thing was that Isaac, a friend of mine and Eric's and an incredible runner in his own right happened to be in the area. He popped up ALL over the course all day, shooting pics and shouting encouragement! If you ever need someone to restore your faith in humanity call Isaac, I think that everyone who knows him will agree that he is a great person! (and congrats on your recent engagement Isaac! Eric and I will crash your wedding and shout motivational phrases!)
*thanks to Isaac for all on course pics*

Jazz hands,
Until mile 23 I ran the best, strongest and one of the fastest marathons of my life. I felt terrific. I did not have to poop in anyone's yard. My legs felt strong and I was being smart, eating, drinking, and just chugging along.
Around mile 20 I had noticed that we were about 2 minutes ahead of pace per the on course clock, but I didn't think much of it. 2 minutes can vanish fast in the final 10k, especially with one of the largest hills of the course in the final couple miles. At this point, quite a few people had dropped off the pace but there were a decent number still hanging on.

Anyway. As mentioned, at mile 23 I began to have some marathon issues. Nothing horrific but my stomach wasn't playing nice anymore and I was dealing with nasty waves of nausea. Gross. My legs were feeling a bit funky but I was much more troubled by my deteriorating GI. Furthermore, I found myself really falling behind my pace group. Where there were (just a mile before) about a dozen runners left, now maybe 5 were close to the front. Then 3. Then the pacer and one woman, as the rest of us fell back....

Down to two. Chasing the lead pack.
Sure enough, there was a big giant heart attack hill (or, like the onramp to I-84 or something) in the final stretch. Isaac had popped up and was very chatty to which I replied "OOOFFF" and "GRUNT" which is pleasant. Knowing that I was toast, he hollered "WELL, there's only a mile to go. NO POINT IN GIVING UP NOW!!!" A very true statement and one that has been quoted frequently in my daily life since then.

And then I was alone..... "no point in giving up NOW!!!"

Just after that, I saw Eric who I grimaced at (he says I waved and smiled) and I tried to keep on slapping my feet down since, honestly, there was very little race left. My mental capacities had been heading downhill and I was completely confounded every time I tried to figure out how fast I needed to be in order to finish in 3:30. (you don't, after all, run 23 miles to give up the ghost in the final 3.)
I knew I had slowed down and figured that I was screwed since I could no longer even see my pacer.
However, when I could see the finishing clock it still read 3:29:xx so I got my hustle on and scooted under the clock before it ticked to 3:30 (and my net time was 3:29:35 so I probably didn't need to hustle.)

Fucking HUSTLE.

As soon as I walked I felt better. I didn't feel very very smart, but I did feel better. I easily found Eric and kind of cried a bit because I was REALLY tired.

So tired and a little drained and not too smart at this point. 
I also saw the 3:30 pacer who let me in on a little bit of info that I had not been aware of. As a group prior to the start, they had agreed to go for a 3:25, hence the buffer at 20 and the pace increase (for them) in the final 10k. UGH. Good for them, but a 3:25 was NOT in my realm of reality.

I blundered my way to medals, dropping things left and right and trying (and failing) to drink from the bottom side of my water bottle (a blunder that did NOT go unnoticed.)

I collected my fabulous medal for completing the New England double! If anyone wants a May and October marathon challenge there is no better one. We got VIP treatment for picking up bibs, extra swag, and the huge medal to boot.

Nice bling
After about 12 cups of Gatorade, more pics were taken and then some beers (or about 1 inch of beer) was consumed.

Maybe you were supposed to get up on that thing? I couldn't. 

And THAT was THAT.
A good race. It might not have been the "perfect" pre-Boston training cycle, and I certainly had a few insecurities going in but the race reflected my hard work.
I'm very excited to be able to re-join the ranks of people who have a 10 minute Boson buffer. Easy for some, not for me. If I can crack out anything faster than a 3:33 then hard work was done, and it was done in Hartford for sure. I left it all out there, no regrets, no "if only's" no "what if's."
It wasn't easy but it was 100% worth it!

We then drove over to the Boston area where my family was waiting to feed us a feast of food which included cheesecake, give me jars and jars of pickles and cans of the very best beer! What a lovely time!

Post race gifts are always appreciated!

(and thanks as usual to everyone who gets me there- it takes a village for christ sake! Eric, my parents, my extended family, and friends. Marathon training has become no big deal in these parts but the peak weeks and final few days require so much extra food, and dealing with me wearing sweatpants and compression all the time that everyone deserves a HUGE thank you!!!!)


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