Wednesday, October 15, 2014

RACE REVIEW: MOHAWK HUDSON

I am a marathon runner
And my legs are sore
And I'm anxious to see
What I'm running for
~ Yellow Ostrich, 'Marathon Runner'


Back in 2007 I ran the Baystate Marathon, my first, in Lowell, MA.  My goal was to qualify for Boston and then, assuming I could do this, run it right afterwords so I could cross it off of my bucket list.  And then, I would be done with marathons.  Ah ha ha ha.  Go ahead, you can laugh along with me here.  After successfully qualifying for Boston, by a hair (I needed a 3:40 and I ran a 3:39:55), I did end up running it a year later.  I was happy with my time, 3:31 and a solid PR, but I felt I could do better.  So, I ran it again.  Unfortunately, I crashed and burned, which really pissed me off.  So, I definitely wasn't done.  And, then, yes, I ran it a 3rd time because I had something to prove to myself.  I came in at 3:29 and as you can imagine, I was overjoyed.  As you can also imagine, I wasn't done.  Enough Boston, I decided.  It was time for something new.  Fast forward to my 6th marathon down in Albany, GA.  I had ramped up my training, using a plan designed for me by coach Greg McMillan.  I was going for broke.  And I nailed it.  I ran a 3:16 which was above and beyond what I thought I could do.  I remember thinking on the flight home that I just might be done with marathons all together.  But, I had a bad taste in my mouth after Albany, because while I did well, I didn't feel truly happy about it.  Many months and several bad races later, I came to the realization that I was just going through the motions and that, somewhere along the way, I had lost the simple joy in running.  So, after much thought and a reevaluation of my agenda, I hired a coach to help me re-set my goals with the understanding that I would be running and racing, first and foremost, for fun and whatever else happened along the way would just be icing on the cake.  I ran 4 marathons after Albany and they were all pretty good.  Not awesome, not terrible.  No PRs but no disasters.  Times aside, though, I had some really rewarding experiences.  And I was loving the whole training process from day one through the race itself.  So, I knew I was doing it for the right reasons again.  After my 9th, I sent my coach a note asking him to be honest with me as to whether he thought besting my 3:16 was ever realistically doable.  I wanted the straight up truth and if he thought it was too big of a pipedream, I would accept it and move on.  But, he seemed to think I still had it in me if I really focused and put the time in.  Fast forward to 2014.  I am 39 years old and I'm getting ready to run my 10th marathon.  I'm going for the PR one last time and hoping for the best while also reminding myself to be okay with it if my best was behind me.  Here we go.


On Saturday, I headed out to Albany, NY to run the Mohawk Hudson Marathon which I'd heard through the running grapevine was fast, flat and beautiful.  A few weeks prior to the race, I reached out to a couple of my Oiselle teammates who I knew would also be racing and asked if I could tag along with them the night before so I didn't have to dine alone.  They graciously took me under their wings (pun intended) and we met at the expo before heading off to dinner together.

w/ Steph Viloria & Mollie Turner 
#birdfamily

I was really fired up to hang with these gals.  I'd met them the previous spring down in VA at the Shamrock races with the Oiselle crew, but had not gotten to spend much time with them there.  Dinner was great.  We just had to deal with a few minor issues along the way including a major spill on Steph (my fault), some antsyness and a few tears from Steph and Mollie's little girls (ages 1 and 3) who were beyond tired and wanted to go home (which I totally understood) and a falling window frame (not our fault).  Needless to say, Steph will probably wait a while before she goes back there again as we made a lasting impression on the staff.  I headed back to the hotel and settled in for the night, turning my light off at 9:00.  At 5:45am, I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs for a coffee (bless you, Starbucks).  I had to drive to the race finish in order to catch a bus to the start as it was a point to point race.  I had a lovely chat with a runner from Washington state on the way over which was so nice because it pleasantly distracted me for the entire 30 minute ride.  We arrived at 7:30 and we all bee-lined it for the port-o-pottys, which I visited about 5 times because it was 35 degrees out and there was nothing else to do between then and 8:30 when the race would begin.  Longest.  Hour.  Ever.  We started right on time and headed out in maybe the most perfect race conditions possible.  Sunny, clear, crisp, cool with the added bonus of peak foliage to admire along the way.  The route was along a bike path the entire way and the views were stunning.  I settled into a 7:30 pace, keeping the 3:15 pace group in front of me, but doing my best not to go out too fast.  About halfway in, I started to feel tired and felt the group sliding ahead of me.  So, I pulled out a GU (new root beer flavor - awesome) and gave myself a talking to.  It was time to dig in.  I had trained for four months on tired legs.  I could handle this.  I turned up the volume on my iPod and tried to zone out for the next few miles.  At around mile 15, I caught up with the 3:15 group again which was being led by a spritely young colt named Jamie, who could run a 7:25 pace while chatting comfortably, non-stop.  WTF??  I stuck with him for a few miles and then I let go.  Literally.  My mind was up for the challenge and my legs were going along with it so I switched gears and picked it up.  With each mile I felt confident that I could hold on as long as I just stopped thinking about it.  Ha!

High-five?  Anyone?  Hello?

For miles 23 and 24 I was solo on the bike path (see above) which was both strange and tricky.  I was dog tired and I had no one pushing or pulling me along so I could have easily dropped off.  But, then I started to see people up ahead and I knew the end was near.  I had no idea what pace I was running because I had stopped looking at my watch, but I knew it was going to be a PR and I was fired up.  As I turned onto the final strip, I saw my husband and kids cheering for me at the finish line.  Oh my Lord, what a feeling.  I high-fived my daughter (she later told me that I forgot to let go and pulled her a long with me for a bit) and then fist pumped my way through the finish line rolling in at 3:11:05 with a huge smile on my face.  

Wiped and hurting. But smiling.

I was tired.  I was weak.  I was kind of nauseous.  But I was so freakin' happy and that was all that mattered.  I had done it.  And done it well.  And I could not have asked for anything more.  I found my family and cried as I hugged them all.  And then I let my kids eat Doritos, lollipops, Gatorade and granola bars (don't judge) as I tried to gather enough strength to walk back to the hotel.


I have had a lot of amazing days in my life and this one was definitely up there.  Not because I PR'd.  That was fantastic.  But, because I had finished the race with so much joy and with such a love for this sport and all that it offers me.  It was a welcome and gentle reminder to never take it for granted.  What's next?  Who knows.  It doesn't matter right now.  All that matters is that I am still smiling.

Listen to this:
Tidal Wave - Snowmine  

14 comments:

  1. Amazing race! I love your intro story on not being done. Oh how I've been there too. I'm excited to race my first marathon (NYC) as an Oiselle. Fantastic community this is!

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    1. Best of luck in NY!!! And, yes, we are a lucky bunch, aren't we?

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  2. Congratulations again! You're amazing! Totally feel you on the joy this sport brings. Sunday wasn't a PR for me but it was probably the best race I have ever run. I am still overjoyed, Yay! Marathons! ;)

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    1. Amen to the best race you've ever run!!!

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  3. So awesome!! These nearly perfect races are the ones that make all those hard training runs worth it. Major congrats - that's a smokin' time!

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  4. Way to go. Great race report. Loved reading it. So what marathon is next? Or are you moving up to an ultra?

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    1. Ha ha ha. Still chewing on it. But, the wheels are already spinning. You know how that goes, right?

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  5. Congrats on an excellllllent day!!!!! And training cycle, all around! Happy 10th marathon, Rebecca!

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    1. Thanks, lady! Can't wait to see you again this winter.

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  6. I love this! I'm so happy for you. I am completely inspired. You make it sound easy somehow. I'll be thinking of this as I head into 26.2 soon. Kudos to you!

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    1. Thanks so much!!! You are always on my mind when I'm out there. Miss you tons. Go get 'em. All 26.2 of them. xo

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  7. Damn, lady! Way to go on a fantastically fast race. I love the background you gave about your marathon history, though it has me thinking that you're that eternally dissatisfied runner. ;) After 4 marathons, I finally qualified for my first Boston (2015!) and I keep saying that after April, I'm never going to run another marathon again. I'm probably lying to myself. I hope if I ever do get to 10 marathons, I'm as hungry and PR worthy as you. Thanks for inspiring us all!

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    1. Congrats on the BQ!!! And I can tell you right now that you're probably not done. Welcome to the club! GODSPEED.

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  8. Ahhh!! WELL done!!! Beautiful post. Congrats again!

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