On Saturday, D and I headed for Bar Harbor, and immediately broke from tradition: we stopped at Tim Horton's instead of Dunkin Donuts. The results were positive, and a sign of things to come. Remember, kids, it's all about proper nutrition.
Saturday was uneventful, but a perfect pre-marathon day. We picked up our race numbers at the race expo where we bumped into Jamie and his dad and stepmother at the Expo. We made plans to meet up for an afternoon run, then we headed out to drive the course. There was much less cursing by me on this go around, which I guess was a sign that I was ready to go. We ate lunch in Southwest Harbor, and then met Jamie for a short 2-mile-ish run. D's parents arrived just as we finished our run, and we hung out with them until it was time to head to the pre-race pasta feed. The pasta was tasty, and the company was great as we talked with Jamie and his dad about what else? Running. My parents arrived later in the evening, and our official race crew was set. Time to hit the hay.
Sunday morning dawned downright chilly. D and I hid in our hotel room, which was right at the start, until about 10 minutes before the race started. Good mornings and good lucks all around, and we found our place on the starting line...or rather back in the starting pack. At some point, we decided that we would run as much of the race together for as long as we both felt comfortable. We'd done all our long training runs together, so why not run the race together. In the end, this proved to truly be the key to our success.
And we're off...
After standing at the start line, for what seemed like a month, it was a relief to hear the gun go off. A couple minutes in, we commented that our feet were cold. I'm not sure what the temperature was at the start, but it definitely wasn't above 40. The plan was to run 8:45's for as long as it felt comfortable. First mile: 8:42. Nailed it.
Miles 1-6: Just Getting Warmed Up
Not much to report from the early miles, aside from the brilliance of our pacing. We were both feeling very comfortable and warming up as we went. Miles 3 and 4 are hilly, and it seemed like a number of people were passing us. But we just stuck to our plan and stayed relaxed. At 5 miles, I said to D, "Can you believe we're already at 5?" The response: "Shhhhh." Really, the only annoying part about these first 5 miles was all the spectators drinking coffee. Thanks for cheering, but please hide the coffee mugs next year. It was way too tempting to pull over to the side of the road and curl up under a warm blanket with a cup of coffee. Feeling very comfortable, we hit mile 6 in 51:58ish.
Miles 6-12: That Wasn't Too Bad
At mile 6, I had my own form of coffee—Espresso Hammer Gel. Then we hit the hill before mile 7. Bad name, grouchy little hill. In the course description, they say it "runs easier than it looks." I don't necessarily agree, as it was definitely noticeable. We were still feeling good as we ran through the high rent district of MDI. There was also more uphill from mile 7 to 8 than I remembered from our course drives. Oh well, still feeling comfortable. Our amazing race crew (our parents) was at the 8.5 mark in Seal Harbor, and it was great to have some early cheers. The next part of the course was tough. The climbs in this section, up until mile 10, were tough. We managed our way through them comfortably still running the same pace. I hit a low point between mile 10 and mile 11. It felt like it was taking forever to get to mile 11. I was dragging more than I wanted to admit, but as soon as we went by the "11" sign that feeling went away. We saw our parents again just before the 12 mile mark, and it was another huge boost. We hit mile 12 and the aid station at 1:44:50ish. We'd slowed a touch, but we were still right on target. My plan was to stop at this aid station, drink a cup of water and "regroup." I ate a couple Clif Shot Bloks, Margarita flavor, walked and stopped to stretch a bit.
Miles 13-18: Where is Everyone?
D didn't quite understand, when I said I was going to stop and take a break that I was really going to stop and take a break, so she got quite a bit ahead of me. It took me a little bit to catch up, but we were soon together again weaving through the mean streets of Northeast Harbor. We hit the halfway mark in 1:54:02, and now it was time to get serious. Soon after we hit halfway, the roads got very quiet. There were a couple people around us through here, but for the most part we were alone. It was very strange. In these miles, we passed a couple people, but never any packs, and no one was running with us. Just before mile 14, my shoulder/neck started to tighten. I have a "thing" that happens when I carry a backpack and sometimes on long runs, and it can be pretty painful. I spent a lot of time from miles 14 to 15 trying to stretch it out. I was very concerned that it was going to get progressively worse, which I knew would spell disaster since when it gets painful it hurts so much it constricts my breathing. It's an angry thing that I should probably get looked at, but for now, I just hope it lies dormant. Needless to say, it faded away through my stretching and rubbing, and by mile 15, I was cautiously optimistic. It certainly didn't slow us down, though. I don't remember the split from mile 15, but I said, "Well, that was kinda frisky." D agreed, "Yeah, that might of been a little fast." We decided that we were still both feeling very comfortable, so we didn't get too worried about it. I think that the pace I was running when I was trying to catch up to D after the Mile 12 aid station must have just stuck. As we went past the "famous tree" of MDI Marathon logo fame, we were right along Somes Sound, and a stiff wind started to blow in our faces. Not only was it an unwelcome challenge, but it was also cold. I'm certain that subconsciously we wanted to just get through this section, so our pace didn't slow any even though we were starting to get into some hills. At mile 16, I had a GU packet (Lemon Sublime) as we were climbing, and climbing, and climbing. At about 16.5, I heard from behind: "Anybody need a box of wine?" It was Mindy and Pete on their bikes, and they couldn't have shown up at a better time. The hills, the wind, the being alone were starting to be a drain on us, and it was really great to see some friendly faces. Thanks, guys! It was a huge lift, and before we knew it we were at mile 17. They'd totally taken our minds off the hills, and we thanked them as they rode away. Shortly after we hit an intersection, and there were our parents again. This double shot of cheering and good karma was just awesome. I high-fived my Dad, and off we went. It was a good thing we saw them because the next piece of road sucked. It was slightly uphill and into the wind all the way to mile 18. We were able to ride the adrenaline wave to turn off onto Butler Rd.
Miles 18-21: OK, We're Tired
Shortly after the turn onto Butler Rd., D said, "I need to pee." I had been fighting a slight urge to pee for a few miles, so I didn't complain. We were in and out of the woods in a few seconds, and right back at it. By the way, at the other end of Butler Rd. there are porta-potties. After 18+ miles of running, we found this pretty comical. Now, the course gets really tough. We worked hard on these hills. Really hard, but we were holding our pace. The hill that closes out mile 19 is downright mean, but we pushed right through, even passing a couple people. In fact, after mile 14, no one passed us the rest of the way. Our parents once again gave us a lift right at the nasty hill at mile 20. Another great boost. We hit mile 20 at 2:53:30ish...well ahead, of the projected 2:55:00 to finish at the 3:49:00 goal. Everyone says the marathon starts at 20, so I was prepared for something terrible to happen here. Nothing terrible happened, in fact, I was still feeling pretty good. My plan was to use from 20 to 21 to "regroup." I took stock of how I felt, had another GU, and we kept on going. There was a short steep bump as we headed through Somesville, and I thought to myself, "D looks much stronger than I feel. I think she's got me." I told her that she shouldn't worry about me and just go if she felt good. Unfortunately, she couldn't really respond because she was half choking on a Shot Blok, but the message got through and she mumbled the same to me.
Miles 21-26.2: "Release the Hounds!"
Again, since this was my first marathon, I was somewhat terrified of the final miles. Having watched and run with D in the final 4 miles of the 2006 Maine Marathon, I saw firsthand what these final miles can do to people. As I waited for her that year at the aid station at 22 miles, it looked like a mash unit. Downright ugly. Plus, the MDI Marathon has some big, mean, nasty hills in the final miles. So, I think it was prudent to be fearful. That being said, I had hoped in my best case scenario planning of this race, that once I hit 21, no one was going to pass me. That was my hope. We passed someone right after the 21st mile. He tried to run with us for a few steps. We dusted him. It was on. Also at this point, you can see a long stretch of road in front of you. In my mind, I told myself we were going to catch all those people. We did. Before I knew it, we had climbed one of the bigger hills in this section, and we were really moving. At one point, we passed a guy who said, "Wow. Release the hounds!" Yup, we were serious. We were picking people off left and right. I lost count at 15 around mile 22.5. My brain was too oxygen deprived to count any higher. Sometime around mile 23, we started climbing another hill, and I pushed ahead a little bit. As I surged, I extended my hand back to D, which she slapped, and I was off. I yelled back to her at the top of the hill hoping she could catch back up, but I had just a little more juice. For the first time today, I was alone. I pondered this for a couple seconds because it felt really weird. I guess part of me felt bad, but I know she's really tough and would stay right behind me. Of course, I still didn't want anyone else to pass me because I had told myself no one was going to pass me. So, my head was down, and I kept catching people one by one by one by one. Then all of a sudden I saw the "Top of the Hill" Restaurant, which is indeed the top of the last hill. Where were all those hills that were supposed to be so hard? Had I missed them? I had a brief "holy crap, I'm actually going to finish this thing, and finish it well" moment. I pushed that aside quickly, though, because I still hadn't crested the hill and I was still worried about keeping it together. So, after that short celebration, I put my head down again and really dropped the pace as best I could. There's a long downhill after the restaurant, and you pass the 25-mile mark. My quads felt like they were going to explode. I kept pumping my arms, but hands looked they were detached from the ends. The whole experience was surreal. Oh, and it was really starting to hurt...a lot. A whole big pile of hurt. I started to really worry that all those people I had been passing were going to come back and pass me...making me look like a fool. "Hey, there's the guy that went too early." I didn't want to be that guy, and since I'd never run this far before I was still worried that I was just going to melt down. At 26 miles, you can see the final .2. You can see the finish banner. It was the longest .2 ever. Not a single step of this final .2 felt natural. It didn't even feel like running. I'm sure it looked even worse. I can't say I particularly cared because, well, I was finishing my first marathon! Just before the finish, my Mom was jumping up and down cheering, and I cracked a smile the best I could. I ran across the line, staggered a bit, and turned around to look for D. Of course, our parents wanted to know where she was. "She's fine. She's right behind me." And, then there she was. Hugs and congrats all around. Best. Race. Ever.
Me: 3:43:03, 139th overall, 10 out of 39 age group
D: 3:44:29, 143rd overall, 6 out of 44 age group, an 11-minute PR!
After teetering and shaking for a bit under my heat sheet, I was finally able to put on some warm clothes. Mindy was at the finish, so we were able to thank her for her help at mile 17. We also got congratulations from Jamie's father and stepmother. And, we congratulated Jamie, who despite some bad stomach issues, still rocked out a 3:27. Best of all, it was so great to have our parents there. The boosts they gave us along the course were phenomenal, and it was just awesome to have them at the finish. They were the best race crew ever. Thanks, guys...and that's not enough. While walking back to the car with my Dad, he asked me, "So, would you do it again." Without hesitation, I said, "Oh yeah."
Today, I'm sore. Stairs are difficult. Really difficult. Getting into or out of a seated position is difficult. My quads hurt the most. (That last downhill destroyed them.) My ankles and hamstrings are sore, too. Also, a touch in my arms and back. Ready for an easy, relaxing week. We've walked a little bit, which has helped, but I don't exactly look fluid. I also earned an enormous blood blister on the fourth toe of my right foot. (Might have to post a picture of it.) It's gruesome and awesome.
Overall, as I think you can tell, I'm obviously really happy with my race. It went amazingly well. I'm so glad that D and I decided to run together as I'm certain that's the reason we both did so well. I definitely could not have run as well without her alongside. I most proud of the negative split. We ran the second half much faster than the first. Everyone who told me not to go out too hard: Thank you. And, thanks to everyone who supported from a far. Especially, thanks to my awesome grandmother for her awesome emails about me doing awesome...and, yes, I called my grandparents today. :)