Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Vermont City Marathon

The day I have spent the last 5 months training for has finally come and gone. Sunday, I finished the Vermont City Marathon, not only killing my previous PR, but also meeting my goal and placing in a position I didn't expect. Not even a little bit. I'll be honest that I truly believed I didn't belong in this group of invited runners. I loved the perks and the experience of it, but I was really nervous about pulling off a race time that I'd never come close to before. I knew that I was capable of it; that I'd trained for it, but I was so nervous of having an off day and blowing it. The pressure was on, and I was feeling it. But this same pressure is what got me to actually marathon train (my own "training plan") for the first time since 2010. I had stopped training for marathons and usually just went out and winged them. My times were decent. I snagged 2nd woman at the Mount Desert Island Marathon in 2012 without any marathon-specific training and then a PR of 3:14:45 at the 2014 Boston Marathon on 20-30 mostly trail miles a week and one "long" run of 12 miles on a snowmobile trail stopping constantly while Paul "I never get sick" Kirsch puked the whole way. :) I just had fun that race. Felt great. No wall. Easy PR. I just didn't care. Until now. I was invited to run VCM, and after I accepted this, I knew I had to train for it. I wasn't going to follow someone else's plan. I knew what I had to do to get myself there, so I just did it. Part of that meant racing every weekend (except one) from the beginning of January right up until Sleepy Hollow the week before. It meant getting on the treadmill for more miles than I had ever done on one. It meant getting on the ice covered roads and smashing my face to put in the miles on the hills in the snow and the cold. It meant going for long runs after being up all night at work. It meant giving the finger (in a nice way, of course ;)) to naysayers with that "taper" crap and "You're racing too much." If I had wanted a coach, I would have hired one. I felt like I had put in everything I had to get me a sub-3 at VCM. And I was right.

After I finished my last blog post, I realized it was midnight. Up way too late. I fell right to sleep, but I ended up waking up ALL night. The hotel room was stuffy, and once I woke up, my mind wouldn't stop churning. I'm not one of those people to whom this normally happens, so it was really frustrating. I hardly slept a wink from 4am on. Needless to say, when I finally got up, I was not feeling so hot. I was so tired; my eyes were puffy. And this just added to the already-building stress of race day coming on. I went out to the continental breakfast at the hotel and realized there wasn't a single thing out there that I would eat. Not even their bagels. I did grab some coffee, but after one sip, I knew that the coffee snob in me was not about to take another sip. So I threw on some pants, stayed bra-less and drove over to Starbucks for a venti coffee. I was feeling like hell, and I just needed some good coffee. I felt a little better after my coffee and decided to hold off on food until I could get something decent. I don't usually eat breakfast until later anyway. I showered and then my parents, John and I drove over to the Expo at the Sheraton. It wasn't crowded yet so that made it easier to maneuver, but as soon as I picked up my bib#, I started to feel dizzy and immediately starving. Need food now. Like right now. So I wandered through the Expo grabbing every single free sample I could find. I stopped at one booth to be goofy and have some press-on nails put on for the race.
Something fun, so why the hell not?
After wandering the expo (at which I hardly ever buy anything), John and I found the Valcour Room for the Invited Athletes. I checked in with Lyman and then John helped me decorate my water bottles for the "Elite Fluids" tables. I don't typically need much water or many gels in a marathon (unless it's over 80 degrees), so I brought 6 8oz bottles in to decorate. This part was kind of fun, like being in a middle school art class. Took my mind off of the stress that was growing as the day progressed.
John helping me decorate water bottles for the water stops
After we decorated them, I placed them in each mile marker box then realized I had forgotten to bring my Nuun tablets and gels to go with them. Duh. It didn't really matter since I was coming back later for our meeting, so I didn't sweat it. I was still on the verge of passing out so I snarfed down a bagel, finished checking in with Lyman and then we headed out. My parents were waiting for us so we met up with them and then made our way out of the expo. I had my mom take some pictures of me with my bib #. I was told it was going to be bib #40, but that wasn't the case. We got special "F" bibs, and I was F10. 

Yeah, no pressure. None at all. What the hell was I doing with one of these bibs? I don't deserve this. All the stupid thoughts going through my head. And this is when I started to get on edge and feel overwhelmed. I was having very selfish moments of being in my own head trying to go over everything, but at the same time I was trying to make sure John and my parents were also being taken care of. My fuse was getting shorter. Now, I realize why my ex-husband hated going to marathons with me; I wasn't fun to be around at all. I managed to hold it together as best I could, but little things were starting to get on my nerves. 

I took them down to the water front to walk around and see where the finish line was and just check out the sites. We were all starving at this point (that bagel didn't do much), so we hit up a deli for lunch then headed back to the hotel. 
John running along the rocks by the boardwalk

My parents on the boardwalk
By this point, I was so tired. I could barely keep my eyes open, so I sat down for awhile until it was time for me to go back to the Sheraton for the invited runners' meeting. I remembered my Nuun and gels and drove over. I walked into a room FULL of people. I didn't know anyone there yet, so I just started working on fixing my water bottles with a half Nuun tablet in each one, except the last one, and taping Accel gels to mile 9 and 17's bottles. I didn't think I would need more than 2 gels, but I decided to carry one extra one in my skirt pocket just in case. I never needed it. I put the bottles away and then sat down in a chair by myself. I spent time checking out the other elite women. They looked so, well, ELITE. I don't know what I looked like, but I felt like a joke. Finally, some people I knew arrived. Denise Sandahl, Apryl Sabadosa, Christin Doneski. I was starting to feel more comfortable at this point having familiar faces to be around. The meeting started. Lyman, Joe and Zeke went over logistics and times that we had to be aware of for the next day. It was pretty short and sweet. I met Diane Senecal on the way out; she had a similar time goal as me, so she suggested running together the next day; I thought this might be a good idea to hold me back a little bit from going out too fast. I gave Apryl the rest of my water bottles to use the next day and then left. I got take-out at Bove's for dinner. Way too much spaghetti with meatballs, but it was exactly what I wanted. I only ate half of it. The fatigue had really hit me at this point, so when it came time to pack, I had a lot of trouble. I couldn't think clearly, but I felt like I had everything I needed for the day finally set and just after 9pm, I was out cold. I didn't wake up again until my 4:20am alarm.

I woke up easily and went right into go-mode. I was feeling good. Still pretty nervous, but overall I just felt really good. I was relieved to have that. I made coffee, got dressed and then my mom drove me over to the Sheraton to catch our van to OnTrack Fitness. OnTrack opened their place to the invited runners so we would have a place to keep our bags and then relax before heading up to the start. It was really nice to have that quiet space. Not everyone took advantage of it, but a few of us did. I still felt odd being there and watched the true "elites" stretching and looking confident. I spent most of my time talking to Diane, Amy and Apryl. I was getting more nervous as it got closer to go time, so I needed to run a little bit, just to get alone and work out the nerves. I ran down the bike path to where the trail turns along the water (where Scott Mason was taking photos during the race), jumped up on the cement wall and took a moment to breathe and take in the view. The weather was perfect. I knew this was going to be a good day for me.

When I got back, it was time to head to the start. Someone gave me a ride. It took me awhile to find our place, and once I did, I only had time to go use the bathroom, drop my sweats and then we were guided up to the start of the race. It felt weird walking up the hill in front of everyone and then filing in, but it did make it easier to start in the right place. The perks of being an invited runner were definitely worth it. I lined up with Diane, Amy Benard and Karen Benway. There were quite a few women who were ahead of us, and it was hard to tell if they were relay or full. I'd learn later on that most of them were relay, but seeing them all made me nervous. I tried not to focus on who was in front of me. It was a long way to go. The National Anthem was played; the hand cyclists started, and then we moved up and started shortly thereafter. It was nice being in front because it spread out quickly. I stayed with Diane and Amy though the first mile. My biggest rival, Narcisi the Younger, passed by; that was the last I would see of him. After losing 3/3 races to him, it's finally time for me to concede. The first mile felt too fast to me; I'm not sure why because it was in the 6:40s on my watch. That had me worried, thinking that if that felt too fast, how would the rest of the race go? I actually wanted to go out a little faster than that. At this point, I just decided to go on my own and not try to stay with anybody. I needed to run this race purely by feel or I was going to mess it up along the way. I stopped focusing on who was ahead of me, even though I made a mental note of who was. The second mile was much faster, due to the downhills, and I felt really good with it. Still a long way to go, but I was feeling extremely confident already. I just knew things were going to go right today.

After leaving the crowds of the downtown area, we headed out on the Beltline (I lost one of my press-on nails here and was so devastated, I almost dropped from the race. Ok, that's a lie.) I thought the Beltline was pretty boring... until we turned around. At this point, I loved it! I got to see and cheer for so many people I knew, some of them I didn't even know were running it. It gave me a huge push. So fun. My splits remained pretty even unless there was a significant uphill or downhill. During mile 8, I started passing people. I went by Diane and then F7. I wouldn't see them the rest of the race. I was passing male racers, as well. I felt good, but I knew I had a long way to go. At mile 9ish, I grabbed my bottle which I had taped a gel to. I quickly downed the gel, and snarfed the water up my nose. I carried the water until around the 11 mile mark.
Just past mile 9. Photo by Eric Morse.
Early on. Photo by Scott Mason.
I liked these early neighborhoods. I remember a group of people cheering for me at a house, and a little girl who saw my CMS shirt turned to her family and said, "But we hate UMass." Cracked me up. After the neighborhood loop, we finally turned onto the bike path and shortly thereafter hit the 13.1 mark. I came through in 1:27:16, 6:39/mi pace. EXACTLY where I wanted to be, and this was all by feel. Hitting this point, I knew how the rest of the race would go. I was only half way, but I knew it was time to start picking people off. Doing that would keep me pulled along and staying on a good pace for my goal of a sub-3. To be honest, I knew by halfway that I was going to get it. I pretty much smiled the entire rest of the race.

The run along the bike path was awesome. I passed one woman (who would be the first master's finisher). I was excited to see Scott Mason as we turned the corner off of the water.
Mile 15ish (I think). Photo by Scott Mason.
We hit the "big" hill by Battery park. Seriously, what hill? I didn't even feel it and passed a lot of people. I even felt good enough to make fun of Eric Narcisi standing in the middle of the course talking on his phone. As I pressed on, I heard a spectator say, "She's just warming up." It was an interesting thing to hear, and I actually thought about it for a second. Then I thought, "Damn right I am." At the top of the hill, the course turned left into the park.
Just before mile 16. Photo by Eric Morse.
I still felt great as the course continued north. At mile 17ish, I grabbed another of my waters that had a gel on it and downed it quickly. It was the last gel I would use. I was still picking people off and was shocked to see F8 in front of me at one point. I thought she would be up vying for a top spot. She looked good, but I passed her easily. The neighborhood sections of the course were a little boring, but it was ok. I just focused on keeping a good pace and looking for the next woman to pick off. The relay women threw me off a bit, but I could usually tell which ones they were. Finally, F2 came into sight. I surged a little bit and passed her. Shortly thereafter, we reached the bike path. And this is where I started to tank. I thought this would be an easy coast into the finish. It was not the case, very deceptive. For the last 4 miles, my pace dropped by about 10 seconds per mile, even though I felt like I was putting in a huge effort. Fatigue was winning, but I knew for sure I was getting that sub-3 and by more than I thought. I knew it would be between 2:54 and 2:56. Right past mile 22, for the first time ever in my life, I felt a slight calf cramp in my left calf. It disappeared as quickly as it came, but it had me worried the rest of the way.

As I passed a spectator, he yelled out that I was 4th woman. WHAT?!!! That wasn't possible. I was a minimum of 5th. I figured he was wrong. 2 miles went by. I was still putting in a strong effort and still seeing splits in the 6:50s. Assured myself that it didn't matter. There was no woman in sight behind me, AND I was getting a sub-3. All was good. Then I passed another spectator. "4th woman!" WHAT?! That meant someone dropped. I couldn't believe it!!! I was going to finish 4th woman?!! I didn't even consider this to be a possibility. I thought it would be cool to finish in the top ten, but 4th?! No way!!!! I kept ticking off the miles towards the finish. It seemed like forever, but then I heard the crowd. It was loud. I knew that I would be there in less than a mile. I started to get so excited. I couldn't help but smile the whole way in passing by everyone. I hit the grass, looked at the clock and realized I was meeting my goal, but the clock was getting close to 2:56. I decided to pick it up just a bit to make sure it stayed under 2:56. I crossed the finish with a gun time of 2:55:55. Net time 2:55:49.
Finish photo by Krissy Kozlosky
Once I stopped running, I could barely stand up, and someone was there guiding me over to the VIP tent to recoup. I was so relieved to be done and ecstatic at the same time. I was so happy with what I had just done. I knew I could pull it off, but I didn't think I would hit the 2:55 range. I was thinking closer to 2:58 and, if I was lucky, top 10. I even won $500. After I had recovered a little bit, someone guided me to our recovery room in the Aquarium where I found Diane and Amy. They both were disappointed in their races, but they still had positive attitudes about it. We all have bad races; you just hope for it not to be certain ones like this. I made my way back to OnTrack to take a shower and saw Christin Doneski. She is just the most positive person; she said she didn't have a great race, but she was also really positive about it and just so nice. After my shower, I met up with my parents and John.

I was planning to hit the beer tent, but I was told it was only Mich Ultra. I'm not only a coffee snob, but I'm also a beer snob. Eric Narcisi texted me that he, Brenna and Scott Mason were headed to the Vermont Brewery, so John and I walked up there to meet them while my parents went to move the car. It felt good to walk. We joined those guys for lunch (even though I could hardly eat my food). I headed back to the hotel after to rest some and eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The no-sugar thing was taking a break that day. Ha ha. They messaged me that they had moved onto the Farmhouse, so I had my mom drive me back over there and drop me off. I was promptly handed a Farmhouse Edward beer upon my arrival, which I enjoyed so much that I had another with dinner. Tom Hooper messaged me saying his group was at El Gato Cantina and threw out the "HT" word. Heady Topper! We made our way there for some drinks with the Six03 crowd. Another group of runners followed us down there, as well, so we had a pretty good crowd that I'm not sure the restaurant was thrilled about. Ha ha.
Only part of the crowd that ended up at El Gato Cantina. Photo by Scott Mason.
After two Heady Toppers I was three sheets to the wind and knew I needed to get out of there. The guys staying at the Sheraton called the shuttle van, so I decided to stow away with them for the free ride. From there, I walked back to the Comfort Inn and quickly passed out. It was a fun night.

My parents were up at 4am to catch the hotel shuttle to the airport to fly back to Atlanta, so I said a quick goodbye to them then went back to bed. When I woke up around 7, I was hungover. I wouldn't normally be hungover after so few beers (well, I guess I had 5 total), but with already being dehydrated, it hit me. Headache, puffy eyes. I looked like hell, but it was so worth it. Coffee and some food perked me up. John and I left around check-out to head home. We made a stop at the Zealand Trailhead to stretch our legs with a short hike on the Hale Brook Trail and then made our way home to close out a great weekend.

This isn't the end of my racing season by any means, but there will be shift in my training. More mountains and trails and less road runs. I'll still be throwing some long road runs in there, but not weekly. I expect my weekly mileage to drop a little bit, but nothing drastic. I still have some long distance races planned for this year. For this week, I have to focus on my race directing for the Dirty Girl Trail Race. I got Salomon coming to demo shoes and give out some swag. Things seem to be coming together ok for it. I have over 130 women registered now, so it is going to be insane. Looking forward to Sunday when I can just yell "go", step back and watch the race happen.


  1. Hope you don't mind a lurker chiming in...

    You write one hell of a race recap. Congrats on slaying sub 3! You trained for it your way, ran your own race, and partied to a well-earned hangover. :-)