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July 2020
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Baystate Marathon

Today started at 5am with a peek out the window to see that it wasn’t raining yet. I assembled my gear and headed to Lowell for the Baystate Marathon. Despite a few butterflies and a chilly 41 degrees, I was feeling warm and ready for the race.

My goals, in order of importance: finish, run sub-4 hour, qualify for Boston, beat my 2000 marathon time. I found the 3:40 pace pack at the starting line, and we set off from downtown Lowell in a light rain to tackle the double-loop course.

I felt good getting out at 8:33 for the first mile among the few thousand runners, and decided to position myself a little better in mile two to warm up my legs. By mile 3 I was with the pace pack, but realized the pacer was running 8-minute miles, not the 8:25 pace expected for a 3:40. I thought maybe she was just going out fast early, and would settle down. Turns out this pacer did 8mins until a 2nd pacer took over at 9 miles and set an 8:20 pace (pacer #1 only ran the first 10).

No matter, I was feeling great, the rain wasn’t bothering me, and I was feeling like all 4 goals were possible. I found a running buddy to chat with between miles 5 and 15, which made this middle section very easy. The only tiny glitch, it seemed, was that I hadn’t been able to swallow the electrolyte tablet I was planning to take after an hour, but I decided that sipping Gatorade on the course would be fine, since I was not sweating much at all. At the halfway point, I dropped my fuel belt with Brian and was 3 minutes ahead of the 3:40 target pace at 1:48:03 (I ran what may have been my fastest 10K time at 50:24).

I started slowing a bit after 15 miles, but was still definitely in range. If I had run my target pace for the first half, I’d have been concerned about creeping toward 9-minute pace, but considering all those 8-minute miles to start, I could now ease back to around 9mins without worrying. I held close to 9s through 20 miles. At this point, my strategy had been to position myself to qualify and give it all I had left for the last 10K.

Well, that turns out to be what I did, but “all I had left” at that point was scraping the bottom of the barrel, both physically and mentally. The rain had picked up, so I was completely soaked by this point, and then the wind also picked up to about 15 mph while the temps dropped down to 37. My wicking layer turned into a very cold 2nd skin, which removed heat all too well. I started being pre-occupied with how I could stay warm – especially my hands. The only answer was pull my sleeves over my hands to try to keep them from getting colder, and keep plodding along. Somewhere in there my right pinky was feeling numb, and I started yelling at my legs to “c’mon, I know there’s something left in there, let’s see it!” Of course between miles 20 and 26, no one looks at you oddly when you talk to yourself – or most anything else. My running song had changed from Christina Aguilera’s “Stronger” chorus (modified lyrics – “makes me run a little bit faster – thanks for making me stronger!”) to the Dixie Chicks “It’s So Hard.”

I’ll spare the details of the slow decline – the splits tell the story of my legs slowing blowing up.

By 23 miles I was no longer on pace to qualify, and I just wanted to be DONE. I was determined to keep jogging and not walk, if only because it would be so difficult to get my legs moving again, and because I wanted to get out of my wet clothes and get warm as fast as I possibly could. I crossed the finish line in 3:55:56 and was extremely grateful for a support staff person who threw a mylar blanket over me, took my arm, and led me to the stands where a wet but incredibly supportive Beej met me and let me regroup. (Remember, he was out in the rain all this time too, and he wasn’t running to stay warm!)

After sitting (well, a little bit more like curling into a ball while resting on a seat) a few minutes and putting on a fleece vest under the mylar, we headed up to the concourse to grab food. I wolfed down a cup of chicken noodle soup (WARM! thank goodness for this non-traditional post-race food!), a pb&j, two rolls, and a snickers mini. I also had most of a bottle of water. Every time I shivered, I stuffed something else in my mouth. We made our way to the car, where I changed out of ALL my wet clothes and ate a Clif bar and had some recovery drink. We then headed home with the heat going full blast.

It amazes me that I can go from thinking “this is insane, I hurt, I never want to do this again” at 11:30am to “I think on a warmer day I can really crush this course” at 1pm. The power of endorphins? The difference between a cold wet Susan and a warm dry one? Either way, I still think running in 40-degree temps in the pouring rain and wind was the most insane thing I’ve done this year. On the other hand, I ran today’s race in today’s conditions and did the best I could, so I’m happy to know I met the marathon challenge for a second time. Two out of 4 goals isn’t bad. I also know that I do actually have 8 min miles in me, so that’s an added bonus, which will be great incentive when I get back to training.

But for now, I’ve popped a couple advil, I’m sipping hot tea, and working on just shuffling myself around the house. No running for me for the next 5 days.


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