Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Hometown Advantage - The Rochester Marathon

Saturday night I had made my peace with everything - it was time to relax and go to bed. While a bad night's sleep can't ruin a race, a good night's sleep certainly can kick off a good race. On Saturday night, I got 7 hours of sleep, and even when I woke up at 2AM, I rolled back over and fell asleep again. Woke up at 4:30 feeling refreshed and ready to go. Did my quiet morning ritual of tea, hot chocolate, and Kix (and watched Spirit of the Marathon) in my home. So nice to be in my usual surroundings, the house I grew up in and am most comfortable in.We took off and headed to Frontier Field, where the race started. To get in the zone, I did bring my iPod for the car ride. Big psych-up songs: Chariots of Fire, Your Love is My Drug (Ke$ha), and Cecilia (Simon and Garfunkel). All worked their magic, and by time I got out of the car, I started to feel ready to go. Because this was a race in my hometown, I ran into a bunch of people I knew before the race started: old friends, people whom I've met during my running career, people from the area. That helped some of the nerves die down, and when I walked to the start, I saw Manuel, one of my triathlete buds. To get a hug from him helped too.
Hugged my parents too, and that dialed down some of the nerves. Then it was time to run!
The gun went off, and that helped to calm me
down. First mile was slow, 8:30. But first miles of the marathon are supposed to be slow - they're a warm up, you're just getting settled in. I was fortunate enough to start near the front, so I didn't feel like I had to do a lot of jockeying to get into a comfortable position. There was a group of 5 guys running a few steps in front of me, so I just let them lead and block me from the elements. It was drizzling, but that actually felt nice and cool.
Pretended that I was Deena Kastor running with the men in Spirit of the Marathon. I just let them do the work and their conversations just wash over me. I think around mile 5, I realized that I would need to let them go, at least for now. Maybe I would see them later, but I didn't want to press the pace. Let a few women go, too. Saw 2 Wegmans (local grocery store) within the first 7 miles. My mom and dad were at mile 7, which I hit around 0:55.
Was running close to 8 minute miles, and was very happy to see them (this was when this picture was taken). At this point, the majority of the hills were out of
the way, which was good. I thought I should ease up a little, as I am not ready to run 8 minute miles in the marathon (that is a 3:28 marathon), and haven't trained for it. Foot was bothering me, but to an extent that I knew I could handle, nothing overly concerning. Relax, I thought, you've already run more comfortably than you thought, you can do this.
Then at mile 9, the course went on the Erie Canal. Now, I absolutely love the Erie Canal. I grew up on it, biked on it, went for walks on it, and when I started running, trained on it. It is beautiful, and I really enjoyed that 12 miles of the race were spent on the canal. Things grew somewhat quiet at this point. The pack had thinned out, and spectators were every few hundred yards. Things switched over in my mind for a while - I was out on a long run, I was not in the middle of a marathon. I relaxed a bit, knew I could manage my foot, and just took in the surroundings. Things were kind of damp, and had that wet smell of -- nature, and it was very calming. Spectators would pop up here and there. One woman shouted "Go little girl!" and I yelled back "I'm not little, I'm 24!" Gotta have a sense of humor, and I was about having fun. I was starting to get anxious to get to the halfway mark, not as a sign of relief, but because I was feeling antsy. Sarah and I had discussed strategies, and we decided that I would not throw in any surges until the half. So when that point came, I picked things up and passed a few people who I had had my eye on. I knew that I would be seeing my parents again at mile 15, so there was definitely a feeling of anticipation, but I knew I could not speed up again until mile 20. Saw my parents very clearly at mile 15, and they had gotten all of the other spectators to clap and cheer for me, which felt great. Here I am at mile 15 and this was the sign my parents made for me.
Couldn't wait to get to 20, and that never happens. I just kept waiting and waiting, and finally it appeared. Alright! Time to make a move! Normally, there's the "It's just a 10k left" thought, but I actually this time believe that it was just a 10k left, and not find that to be a ridiculous thought. At this point, a bunch of the female runners who I had "let goThe next few miles started to click off, and before I knew it, I had single digits miles left.
People have been asking me what I think about during the marathon. I actually got into some deep reflection at this point in the marathon. The big question that started to run around my head was, What does it mean to run with God? How does faith figure into this? I always race with a rosary in my pocket, because I seek protection and to know that I am running with God. I got into thinking about always running with God beside me and protecting me and guiding me, not just through the marathon, but through life. And to realize that you can run with God, and with God all things are good, is quite a liberating feeling. So I was feeling quite overjoyed at this point, because I knew I was not alone. I felt very much at peace. I had also been thinking about all of the important people who have helped me along the way, and so was feeling very blessed.
People who I had "let go" earlier started to reappear. This was the great thing about the canal - I could clearly see who was ahead. Time to real them in. Passed 3 in one fell swoop. Pretty much from the halfway point on, no one was passing me. But at the 20 mile mark, I was definitely passing a bunch of people, and it was time to be...tenacious. I had opened up a gap between some of the runners, so I had a lot of room in front and behind me. So, a lot of times, I would appear from around a bend, and people were clapping for me, individually, and that felt good. You need to feel good and supported when you're in the 20s, and I did. I knew I could push again at mile 23, so the goal was to just hang on and wait for that mile marker to appear. I kept thinking to myself how much of a paradoxical marathon it was:
*I had never trained so well or hard for marathon. But I had never gotten so run-down beforehand.
*I had never been so nervous in the weeks leading up to the marathon. But the nerves disappeared so quickly this time.
*I had never had such actual pain during a marathon. But the nauseous feeling I normally get in the 20s was not there.
So I contemplated all of this, and finally, mile 23 appeared. Time to push, just over a 5k. Then 2 miles. I knew that when mile 25 came up I would really start to gun it. We were back in town and the people were out. Go, go, I thought. Thoughts of the foot started to vanish away. Then that beautiful 26 sign came up. I knew that .1 would be on one street, and the final .1 would be on another. I took off at this point, no other thoughts, other than go.
I could see my parents as I was heading down the home stretch. I was running along Frontier Field, which was built when I was 11. This was my hometown, my marathon, my advantage. What joy as I crossed the finish line:
I found my parents almost immediately after. They knew I had set a big PR (by 3 minutes), and there was just so much excitement. Not just over the PR, but that I successfully finished, there was no need to back out, and that I finished with a smile on my face.
Got in line for the massage table at that point. Felt so good! Getting up and on the table was a challenge, but the rub down was very welcome. Then it was time to wait for the award ceremony. I knew I had a chance of placing for my age group, but had to wait it out. Then the results finally came in. Here were my stats:
Overall place: 115/573
10th place for women (10/203)
Age group (19-24): 3rd
Victory! I was doubly excited about placing in my age group, and being in the top 10 female finishers. Manuel found me at that point and he wanted to take a picture with the AG trophy (he is so goofy).
Ta da! But it was a great feeling, to know that I ran a tactical race, and didn't do anything stupid. I didn't backfire, I didn't walk, I didn't blast off in the first half, and I was able to reap the rewards later on in the race.
I went home after the ceremony feeling quite content. Then round 2 of fun began: the phone calls. Got to call my relatives with the news, and catch up my friends on the results too. I was so touched with how many people prayed for me or thought about me, and shared in my joy. A friend of mine from home, Jen, even came over to visit (I wasn't up for much other than sitting on the coach). She said I was glowing. I was just so happy at that point, and to be with the ones I loved made the joy that much greater. I then went out to dinner with my parents, which is always a fun part of the marathon day. Prime rib and Sam Adams Oktoberfest never tasted so good. Just relief at that point. I was so grateful that I was able to go home for this, spend some (albeit short) time with my parents, and run this marathon in my hometown. More stories were told, and laughs were had. Went home and got share the joy more - with my best friend Kathleen. Kathleen (now a doctor) means so much to me, so to talk to her on this special day, even when she has all of her doctor duties, meant a lot. Also got to share the joy with Jenny, who will be running her first marathon next month at Marine Corps. And I'll be right alongside her. She knew how worked up I had gotten in the weeks leading up to the marathon. We chatted on webcam, and that was so much fun - we both just smiled a lot. Lots of joy. I had carried her poem in my pocket during the race, and she was right, 26.2 does bring such harmony for me.
Bed came soon after. My mom and I watched one episode of Friends, and that was it. But the day was not quite over. I received a phone call from my other triathlete bud Mark, who had completed his first Ironman on Sunday. He finished in 12:58, breaking the 13 hour goal he had set for himself. What an accomplishment - I am so proud of him. Could go to bed feeling very proud - Rochester was well-represented today. I flew back into DC yesterday and it is back to regular life. Was able to catch up with Sarah, my running coach, and she was very pleased how the race went too.
I am incredibly sore today. As I told one of my professors, it feels like I've been thrown down a flight of stairs, but in a good way. Everything aches, but I couldn't be more happy. I am humbled, overjoyed, blessed. I am grateful for all of my loved ones who helped get me to the start, and celebrated with me in some way at the finish. As always, the marathon is an incredible journey, and this one was a hometown victory lap.