Training for this race included a combination of races and training over the last four years. With the Olympics in 2012, I would think to myself, this is my Olympics. I can’t imagine competing at an Olympic level, and the training it would take to be at that level. But for me, this was as difficult. It would be my fourth marathon, and everything from the 18-week training plan to the race was hand picked to qualify for Boston.
I had handpicked this race for one reason. It was one of the top races to qualify for Boston. The course was flat, has a 250-foot decline from start to finish, and is relatively a small race with only 2,500 runners. It was a long journey to this marathon: 16 half marathons with a PR of 1:33 (Feb 2012 Cowtown), and 3 marathons with a PR of 3:33 (Oct 2011 Detroit).
During my training, I built my base weekly mileage to 60 miles for 5 weeks. I ran 5 days a week, did speed work, pace runs, and of course the long runs. My long runs were 20 miles, 26 miles, 31 miles, and then another 20 miles. I did one half marathon during the training plan. For sure I had trained harder than I had for any other race. I was hopeful I was going to finish under 3:25 (the time I need to BQ). But I have learned from other over-confident goals set in other races that no matter how sure you are that you’re going to reach your goal, you have to run the race and will never know for sure you can do it until you do it.
I signed up for the 5k shake-out run for Saturday. This was a first for me and I was not sure it was a good idea. All the other races I have run, I always rested two or three days before the race. But since I had not BQ’d in all the other races, I figured this might be the missing piece. The 5k was great because my training had been in 80+ degrees during the summer. I was eager to see how it felt to run at 48 degrees. So with the advice from a coach, I ran the first mile in my zone 1 HR (70% of max heart rate). Then I ran 90 second intervals at MP (7:30 min/miles) with 120 seconds RI (rest interval) at zone 1 HR. It felt great to run in the cool weather again. The last interval I figured I would go all out. So the last ¼ mile I ran @5:30 minute/mile pace. My first shake-out run was a success.
I also got to meet 1984 Marathon gold medal winner, Joan Bennet Samuelson. She also ran the 5k (way ahead of me) I asked if she would autograph my bib and explained that I was trying to BQ in the marathon tomorrow. She wrote “Go for Boston” and autographed my bib. I felt like a school kid. It was the last bit of motivation I needed, and wow, what a boost it was.
I tried to get to sleep early, but didn’t fall asleep till about 8:30 pm. I planned to get up at 3:30 am and do a short warm up easy pace 10 minute run to wake up. I was up at 3:00 am way before the alarm had a chance to wake me. I ate a banana and half a bagel with peanut butter. Then I put on my running shorts and shoes and went to the hotel exercise room. Time to the blood flowing and wake up. I figured a treadmill run would be OK for an easy run. Eleven minutes (1.1 miles) later I was done with my warm up or shake out. By now the coffee and shake out run had done its job and I went to the bathroom 😉 Not sure how to add that, but if you’re a runner, you know it is important. Nothing worse than having to stop and use a port-a-potties during a race. I took my shower, and was back in running gear ready to go. At 4:50 am I left the hotel and drove to the finish line to get the bus to the start. (Wineglass is a point-to-point race). I had thought the buses started at 5:00 am, but they didn’t start until 5:30 am. Oh well, better early than late. Another runner walked up and sat down waiting for the bus. I recognized him and he said, don’t I know you? We talked for a bit and found out we were both from Texas
and had met in a race in 2011. Small world, he was also running Wineglass to qualify for Boston. We got on the first bus to the start and arrived at the staging area at 6:10 am. The race didn’t start until 8:00 am.
They had a nice garage set up with tables and chairs with a heater blowing. It was about 48 degrees and even though I had warm up pants, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a hat, I was still shaking from the cold. But the weather was perfect and I would not have wanted it any other way. I made a few trips to the port-a-potties. Then at 7:30 am I took off my warm up pants, shirt, gloves, and hat and checked in my bag. I was ready.
Everyone moved up to the starting line. My plan was to start out slow for the first 2 miles at a 7:45 minute/mile pace. Starting out too fast has been one of my (and most runners’) problems in the past. So I was going to make sure this time that didn’t happen. Giving up 30 seconds was not going to be hard to make up. The first mile was downhill, this made it even harder to start out slow. But at mile 1, I was right at 7:45. I found myself inching to go faster, and at times I did get to 7:00 pace, but I throttled back and at mile two I picked up my pace to 7:30.
The course was breath taking, small towns, rolling hills in the distance, and the trees in full fall colors. In no time Bath (first small town that the race started in) was behind me and the rural road stretched out. I remember passing a farm on the side of the road. Dogs were in the front yard barking, and the family was out and cheering all the runners on. It helped pass the miles. The miles came and went. “Just get to 20 miles,” I kept telling myself.
The next small town was Savona, It seemed like the whole town was out and cheering us on, with kids reaching their hands out for a high five as we ran by. I put my hand out and I could see the smile on the kid’s face. I’m sure I had a smile on my face too. Running is an individual sport, I have said, and no one can run for you. But for those few moments when the town was cheering and the kids were slapping my hand, and seeing the elderly couple holding the American flag, that certainly was helping me run.
I was taking a sip of water with Nuun every 5 minutes or so. I was carrying two 10oz bottles and figured I could go at least 10 if not 20 miles on them. I was also grabbing a cup of water at the water station and drinking what I could without slowing down. The plan was to take a GU at 10k and 20k, and at every hour take an S-cap and a bite of Cliff bar (peanut butter).
At 45 minutes, about 10k, I took my first GU. At one hour, I took my S-cap and bite of Cliff bar. Everything was going to plan. I got to the split, 13.1 miles, at 1:39:45, and was hoping to have a faster time for the second half. I was right on pace and still just telling myself to get to 20 miles. There were a few gradual hills, nothing too bad, and the down hills that followed more than made up for them. The miles continued to pass. I was counting down from 8, breaking the 26.2 miles down into 5ks. Just before the 5th 5k, I started to feel a little tight in my legs (around mile 15). No cramps, but noticed I was starting to feel the run sooner than I had expected to.
But “Only three more 5ks to go,” I told myself. I got to mile 20 and was still on pace. My time was 2:31 (4 minutes faster than my last marathon (Detroit) at 20 miles). I took my 3rd and final gel at 20 miles; it was a Honey stinger with caffeine. I was hoping the caffeine would give me a boost to the finish. If it did, I didn’t notice it.
I’m not sure the exact mile, maybe mile 21, I remember seeing a sign posted on the street that said, “Medical Tent 1 Mile ahead.” I almost laughed out loud as I thought to myself, “If I needed the medical tent; I think a mile of running would be a bit far.”
By now we passed Campbell and were on the way to Painted-Post, the last town before Corning and the finish line. Painted Post was tough.
The course left the street and had two steep drops. At one point we turned north and the 3 mph wind that had been at my back the whole race, was now in my face. It was a tough 3 blocks, then we winded around and over some train tracks and back onto the street. Weaving up and down streets added more turns and I was starting to struggle to keep up the pace. I had slowed to an 8-minute pace, and it was not by choice. I was still OK and figured my finish time would be around 3:21 if I could just hold 8:00. The course was well marked with mile markers and arrows painted on the street. At most mile markers they also had a large flag with the number of the mile on it. The last 6 miles were difficult. The energy to keep an 8-minute pace seemed 10x harder than what it took to run 7:30 for the first 20 miles. There were a few times I looked at my Garmin and I had slowed to over 9:00. I forced myself to get back to 8:00 and knew I could not afford to give up any more time. I had to finish at an 8:00 pace if I wanted to BQ.
I passed mile 25 and had finished my 5k count down. Now was the last 1.2 miles. At this point I knew I just had to make one last push and my four-year journey would be over.
The street seemed to go on forever. “Just don’t stop,” I kept telling myself. As I turned the corner of the last long street, I could see the bridge. I had passed that bridge a few times in the last few days before the race and knew the finish was close. Going up the bridge was tough, but the thought of the finish line and knowing I was going to BQ kept me going.
Just over the bridge I turned left and there was the finish line. Finally!
I gave the thumbs up as I crossed the blue strip. My time was just under 3:23. It was not the finish I had hoped for but I made it under my 3:25 goal. I got my medal, a bottle of water, and some chocolate milk. I started to feel sick. I was happy it was over. I had qualified for Boston and I felt like throwing up. I thought to myself, “Why in the world did I do that? I never want to do that again.”
I drank as much milk as I could without throwing up and tossed the container. I finished the water and wandered around the finish line. They had cookies, bagels, bananas, pizza, even chicken noodle soup. But I could not eat anything else. I found a bathroom; this was the first Marathon I had not stopped to go, I guess the shake-out run worked, after taking care of that, I struggled to walk. First I needed to sit down and rest. I overheard someone saying, “They have massages over there.” I struggled to stand, and move in that direction. I made it to the tent and put my name on the list. By now I was shaking, I could not open my check-in bag and asked the lady at the massage table if she could help. She opened my bag and I got my warm up pants and hat out. I figured, “OK, just take off my shoes and I can put on my warm ups, seems easy enough.” I think it took me about 20 minutes to take off my shoes and get my warm ups on without falling. In a few minutes, I heard, “Bill, are you ready?” I struggled to get on the table, and the volunteer helped stretch out my legs. Then my foot started to cramp, and she let my leg back down. She helped stretch out my IT band, calf muscles, and quads. I crawled off the table. She said, “Don’t forget your medal,” and I picked up my medal, my shoes, and bag. Now I just had to get my shoes on. It was almost harder than taking them off. But I managed to get them on with only a few more cramps. I was starting to feel better, so now I could get some food. The chicken soup hit the spot. I think I went back for seconds. Then I grabbed some pizza and started to feel better. As I walked to the car to head back to the hotel, I passed two people sitting on a bench. One said, “I think I fractured my foot, it hurts so badly.” I asked her if she was ok. She said this was her first marathon and everything hurt in her legs. I told her that’s normal. Her friend was also in a lot of pain, “Everything in my legs hurt.” I laughed, “Yep, now you understand all the advice everyone gave you about running a marathon. You have to finish one to understand.” They both were saying, “Never again, never again.” I laughed, “Yep, that was the same thing I said after my first marathon. This was my fourth. Give yourself some time to feel better and then you’ll want to run another one.”
Now I’m home and I’ve signed up for Boston 2013. I can’t wait to run another one. I will finish in 3:15 this time!