Tuesday, June 16, 2015

RACE REVIEW:WALKWAY MARATHON

"You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream..."
~ C.S. Lewis


Last Friday, the day before I would be tackling the Walkway Marathon in Poughkeepsie, NY, I gave my coach a ring around 8:30am.  Mainly, I wanted to talk strategy; particularly since the weather was looking pretty brutal for Saturday.  Our conversation went something like this:

Lowell: Hey Rebecca.  How are you feeling?
Me: Well, it's 72 degrees outside and ridiculously humid.  So, there's that.
Lowell: Yeah.  I know.  I just checked the forecast for Poughkeepsie.  It's not ideal.
Me: Well, I suppose it was wishful thinking to race in June and get decent weather.  But, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  How do you think I should approach this?
Lowell: I hate to say it, but a PR is not something you should be shooting for in this situation.  I think you should just focus on running a good race and go for place.  I never tell any of my athletes to bank faster miles in the beginning of a marathon because it's just too risky.  But, I think you're going to have to do that tomorrow.  Try and get out at a solid pace while the temp is (somewhat) lower and you have some shade.  You'll have to dial back when it heats up, but you will at least have a solid base to fall back on.
Me: Okay, so pace-wise, start off around 7:10-7:20, hold that for a while and then let it rip at the end?
Lowell: That pace sounds good.  Realistically, though, it's very unlikely that you'll have much more to tap into for that last 10K.  The heat takes a serious toll.  You're just going to need to try and dig in and hold on for those last few miles.
Me:  Oh.  So, just run hard and steady until I can't run hard and steady anymore?
Lowell: Yea, pretty much.  You're really fit.  And you've got the strength.  But, the weather is out of your hands.  You're just going to have to work with what you've got.  We knew this might be the case with a June marathon.  It is what it is.  Have fun.  And go for it.
Me: Right.  Yeah.  Ok, thanks.  
So, my strategy was set.  Do what I could with what I had and hope for the best.  No problem.

SONG:AWESOME
TEMP:NOT AWESOME
The rest of the morning was a combination of stressing, shuttling my kids around and packing.  Around 2:00pm, I hit the road for NY.  Unlike most of my destination races, this was a solo mission.  It was just me, my music and all the other drivers on the MA Pike.  Turns out, a lot of people decided to cut out early and head West for the weekend.  Shocker.  What should have been a 3 hour and 15 minute drive ended up being about 4 hours and 30 minutes.  Thank the Lord for Spotify.  I did have one minor heart attack about 2 hours into my ride when I looked at my dash and saw that the temperature was 91 degrees.  That seriously freaked me out.  When I arrived in Poughkeepsie, it had just rained and steam was rising up off the streets as I parked my car.  It wasn't good and there was nothing I could do about it.  Deep breaths.  I headed into the expo to grab my number and check things out.  For a relatively small race, I was surprised to see that it was a pretty sizable event.

The Mid-Hudson Civic Center

I quickly grabbed my number and shirt and then strolled through the rest of the expo to see what was what.  There were the typical booths that you see at most expos (ie. running stores, clothing vendors, and sports drinks).  And there were several vendors from the local businesses giving out samples of tasty treats that most runners would not dare try the night before a marathon.  Not for lack of desire.

Strawberry Shortcake?  I think not.

Around 7:00, I headed over to the Hampton Inn, where I would be staying for the evening.  After providing my ID and a credit card, I asked the next most important question...what time did they start serving coffee in the morning.  Her answer?  "We serve coffee 24/7, ma'am."  Brilliant.  Things were looking up.  Shortly after I got to my room and got settled, a thunderstorm rolled in and the sky opened up.  Cats, dogs, fish, you name it.  It was all coming down.  All I could think about was what it meant for the next morning.  So many possibilities.  None of them great.

THE STORM
I decided to pass on going back out for dinner (the hotel didn't have a restaurant) and ate a bagel, a banana and a orange instead.  I'd been carb loading for the past few days so I wasn't that hungry anyway.  I turned out my light around 9:30.  Not surprisingly, sleep didn't come. I tossed and turned and tossed some more.  My nerves were in high gear and the storm had just heightened my restlessness.  I fell asleep with visions of heat and humidity dancing in my head.  Finally morning came.  I headed downstairs, grabbed a cup of coffee and stepped outside.  Maybe the storm had cleared things out.

COFFEE CUP W/ MUSTACHE: AWESOME
WEATHER:
 NOT AWESOME

Or maybe not.  At 6:00am the temp was already in the 70s with 90% humidity to boot.  It was almost laughable.  Almost.  I went back up to my room, packed up and then checked out.  The race was taking place about 10 minutes down the road at Marist College.  I parked my car and headed over to the start area.  I didn't even think about the fact that the very long path I was walking down to get to the boat house, where everything was happening, would be the same path I would be running up for the beginning of the race.  Good thing I wasn't thinking.  I did have the pleasure of meeting Tiffany, a Oiselle flockster, in line at the port-o-potty and enjoyed getting to know her while we waited.  Both of us run for Oiselle and follow each other on social media, so it was nice to put a face to a name.  After that, I checked my bag, did some stretching/dancing, grabbed some water and waited for the the start.  Things were running a little late, which was not ideal given the weather, but we eventually got going a little before 8:00.  As I mentioned, the first mile was uphill which was a pretty serious mental and physical battle.  But, once I got onto the path, I was able to settle down and reset.  For the next few miles I cruised along at a 7:15 pace.  I fell into step with a young gentlemen who was running the half at the same pace.  In the photo below, he's behind purple tank guy, who, for the record, smiled like that for the entire 26.2 miles.  We ran together until mile 6, which was the turnaround point for the half marathoners.  Funny sidebar, I'd had a conversation at the start with the girl behind me about whether or not she should quickly squat in the woods to avoid the lines at the port-o-pottys.  Her friend said not to do it.  I said the opposite.  Not sure what she decided but she did end up coming in 3rd overall in the half which was pretty badass.

At mile 6 w/ fast girl, pace guy and purple tank smiley guy.
Pace guy and I wished each other good luck at the turnaround and fast girl and I high-fived.  I felt a sharp pang of envy as I forged ahead and they headed back to their finish.  For the next 6 miles I was totally by myself.  This was kind of weird and I found it somewhat tricky to stay focused.  I leaned heavily on my music during this stretch and worked to keep my pace on tempo with the beat.  Finally, I reached my turnaround point at mile 12.  As I rounded the cone, I began to see my other fellow runners coming toward me.  Oh, how happy I was to see them.  We were all clapping and cheering for each other as we passed by.  And then someone let me know that I was the first woman on the course.  WHAT??!!  Between learning this info and being with runners again, I got really fired up and back in the zone.  I realized I had a shot at winning this thing and there was no reason not to go for it; weather be damned!  Around mile 15, the crowd started to thin out and I knew I would likely be solo for the next 10 miles or so which was going to be rough.   And then the WORST possible thing happened.  No, not a muscle cramp or gastrointestinal malfunction....way worse than that.  I had been pouring water on my head every 1.5 miles and by the 16th round I had successfully flooded my iPod.  My music stopped.  Total silence except for my very loud, labored breathing.  OMG.  I shouted many bad words and fought with it, on and off, for the next few miles.  I was trying to dry it off, pushing buttons, holding it at different angles, all to no effect.  My worst nightmare had come true.  All I could do was keep fighting.  For miles 21-23, we went over the Poughkeepsie-Highland  Railroad Bridge.  The wind was coming at us from all directions and between that and the loss of my music I was losing energy and could feel my legs getting heavier with each step.  I rounded the second cone to head back over the bridge again and toward the finish and it was here that I discovered I was still in the lead for women.  I didn't sit back and relax, but I did ease up a bit, knowing that I didn't have to grind it out quite so hard to make it across the line. And then, after those two river crossings, a tunnel cut through, a massive downhill and a small and very painful uphill, I could see the finish line.  A huge smile spread across my face as the race officials pulled out the ribbon for me to break through.  There are no words to describe this feeling.  It was beyond amazing.  Final time: 3:13:48.  Not a PR, but pretty close.  Not that it mattered.


Shortly after I crossed the line, I grabbed my bag and some chocolate milk and headed over to the tent to put my feet up.  I was floating....also in pain...but giddy.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could pull something like this off.  I was trying to just bask in the moment and not think about the fact that I had to get in my car and drive myself back to Boston.  I stayed for the awards ceremony and was given a very cool miniature version of the bridge we had crossed made by the SUNY New Paltz students with a 3D digital printer.  Easily one of the coolest awards I've received to date.


I grabbed some more snacks and slowly ambled over to my car.  I was eager to get home and celebrate with my family.  It was a long drive.  But I could have cared less.  I kept replaying the finish over and over in my head.  It had been an incredibly difficult and painful race.  On top of that, it had been a very long and mentally and physically trying training cycle.  And, in the end, it paid off.  All of it.

Lessons Learned:
1. Never pour water anywhere near your music listening device.
2. Never run a June marathon unless you absolutely have to or you live in Florida and are used to the heat and humidity.
3. Always set reasonable goals.  And then set some that are a bit loftier.  Because anything is possible.

Listen to this:
IN MY HEAD - Galantis

7 comments:

  1. Great job! I had a similar experience with the weather, but my results were a lot less stellar. I learned lesson #2 last Saturday. Please check out my review on my blog: http://thepersistentmarathoner.blogspot.com/2015/06/walkway-marathon-2015-review.html

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  2. A nice read. I have shared your blog entry with our local club: Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/111793477715/

    Nin Lei

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

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  3. Congratulations!!! What a great accomplishment, and a great race recap--excited for you, and hope your iPod recovered!

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    1. Haven't purchased one yet, but will be doing it as soon as I hit the road again. Mark my words, I'll never make that mistake again. :) Thanks for reading and for the nice note!!

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  4. damn. we talked some about this race at camp but i don't think you mentioned that you WON the race. holy heck. making a plan to come cheer you (and our other gals) on in boston in april! :)

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    1. Thanks, lady!! Thrilled that you're coming to Boston. Can't wait!

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