i could go on and on about this years training. i think ive recapped it well throughout this blog... probably not as much as i would have done in the past but ya know, life and stuff. two years ago (ok maybe ONE year ago) i never would have imagined i would be writing a blog today about how i qualified for the boston marathon on the streets of chicago (oops, spoiler alert). october 2012- i finished up marathon #8 in the freezing cold rain, in a medical tent, 9 weeks pregnant, having had run the best marathon of my life two weeks before (3:58) and now finishing in 4:34 with an almost DNF. the marathon is a funny race... a struggle of mental toughness and physical ability. a true test of heart, will, determination, and strength. but theres just something about all of the unknown that makes that distance a little mysterious, and keeps it exciting each time you toe the start line.
anyway, i wouldnt say i was a really slow runner, i just never was fast enough. in saying that i mean fast enough to qualify to run the streets from hopkinson to the infamous "right on hereford, left on boylston". a few years ago my qualifying time was 3:40, an 8:20 pace. that changed somewhere along the past few years to a 3:35 or 8:12 pace. that change by 5 minutes really solidified in my head that i wouldnt be running boston anytime in the near future. i was struggling to go sub 4 (took me 5 attempts!), certainly sub 3:35 was far out of reach....
...or was it? something happened after i had henry. i cant really pin point it (although i swore for a long time the small amounts of progesterone in my mirena IUD had acted like some sort of speed steroid... omg am i really writing this?! i really was convinced though. pregnancy does fucked up things to your mind). i ran one mile just three weeks after having hen, and my whole body was different. everything felt different. and my mind felt different. i had a new reason to wake up every day. someone who was going to call me "mommy" and look up to me and be proud of me. i think it all changed ty too... he began training for/ran his first half marathon... shortly followed by his 2nd! but in the months after i started running again, i found i felt stronger. and began getting faster. the best decision i think i made that fall was to drop from the marathon distance at mdi to the half and focus on rebuilding my strength, both mentally and physically.
i ran three half marathons last fall, my final one resulting in a PR. marathon training for maine coast marathon started on jan 5th with a "why the hell not try" plan of 8:12 pace. i PRd races left and right in the new year... a 5k in january, a 10 miler in february (with a half marathon PR in the process with the cool down miles), a huge half marathon PR in april (8 minutes faster with 1:40), and a 10k in april. training for maine coast was spot on for 3:35 and then some. an unfortunate weather shift brought an extremely hot day, but my performance was brave, finishing 3:37, a 22 minute personal best (and a sub 8 minute mile for the last mile of the race... fastest mile that day. who does that?!). i couldnt stop thinking about that race for a very very long time. what if... this? what if i had done that? i cursed the weather. i cursed not having packed more salt pills. but i didnt give myself the credit of what i HAD done. of course i was proud of what i had accomplished, but with that ultimate goal still looming, i just wasnt satisfied. everyone told me i needed to just move on. but i just couldnt.
so i kept training. morning alarms that started with the number "3". long runs faster than id ever run, speed work increasingly faster than ever before. lots of texts to sam about my training paces/workouts that read "barf" and "i hate you". in true danielle fashion i complained a lot, but i kept working. forward focus. it was funny thinking about how my mentality had changed so much over the years... i was close enough to qualifying now, and i wasnt going to give up until it happened. but i wanted it sooner rather than later. lehigh valley marathon was a flop, and maybe it happened for a reason. what would my recovery have been between then and chicago? would it have mattered (if i had gone sub 3:33:57, qualifying me for boston 2015)? i took the 12 miles i ran that day (with 7 at marathon pace) as a solid (and expensive) workout and focused on looking forward. chicago marathon. that was going to be my day. focus. (and because boston 2015 registration had already closed, chicago would qualify me for boston 2016 with a 3:40. a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders, since i was training for sub 3:30).
even still, 5 days later, the whole weekend seems like a blur. im sure i remember more about the race than i think i do, but its almost like it was all a dream. i hydrated like never before. i stayed clear of all pumpkin spice lattes (and really drank barely any coffee whatsoever). if i was going to have problems in chicago, dehydration wasnt going to be one of them. i had felt so crappy carb depleting for lehigh valley, i voted against that this time around, but still made sure i got enough carbs in from thursday on (ALL THE PANCAKES! which is actually a lie. i had two pancakes wednesday at work. i think i ate a muffin, three cinnamon rolls, pasta and about 17lbs of pretzels). in a sick twist of fate, duke ate half a package of baby wipes thursday night and we thought we were going to have to take him to the vet friday morning (we didnt, a whole other story... hes still pooping out wipes). then my flight to chicago got cancelled. this surely wasnt what i wanted to be dealing with! but i made it (albeit pretty late friday night and waaaaaay past my bedtime).... it was almost go time.
meg was a God send this trip, picking me up from the airport friday night, offering up her home to me, driving me downtown saturday am and making amazing posters and cheering us on during the race! i ran a few shake out miles around her neighborhood sat morning before she dropped me off to jamie and family at the congress plaza hotel... which just so happened to be directly across from the corral gates (highly recommend this hotel!!! and a huge thank you to jamie and her family for letting me crash there with you!!!) jamie had come into town earlier on friday and had gone to the expo already, so i walked to the hilton a block away and waited in line for the shuttle to the expo. while standing in line i met elizabeth and carey (shocking i met new friends!) and i swear the girl in line in front of me was lori from "spirit of the marathon" movie!!! (i was too chicken to ask)
meg bought me a "chocolate long john"... never heard of them
(pretty much a huge chocolate covered donut)
dear maine- PLEASE MAKE THESE SOON!
related: im so good at carb loading
seriously, it was her (maybe)
the expo was only a few miles away but man it seemed to take forever to get there! holy traffic! also to say the expo was a bit overwhelming would be an understatement. very well organized and all, but there were so many people and so much to see and do! it was kinda nice to be alone, but i didnt know where to start! we had to check in when we walked in the doors, and after scanning us in they sent you to a specific numbered booth where someone was waiting for you with all of your stuff. quick and easy. the bag and shirt pick up was way in the back of the expo but i made my way back there and again, very easy process. i was also able to meet kelly and her adorable daughter patsy (ive been talking to kelly thru blogging and twitter since we were both pregnant... its so nice to finally connect in person with these friends ive felt like i have known forever!)
i looked around at a few different stores, saw the ridiculously long line for the nike official merchandise store, and ultimately found what i wanted at north face (a hoodie, duh). i ended up missing the brooks booth all together, but later heard they didnt have much anyway. there was just so much to see, i wasnt surprised i missed things. i was also getting tired, so i decided to head back to the hotel. lots of friends were checking on me to make sure i was staying off my feet, asking how my mentality was doing. i really wasnt nervous (ok maybe a little nervous) but i just really knew i was ready and capable. all i had to do was run 26.2 miles! no big deal.
own chicago... yeah, thats the plan!
me, kelly and patsy!
signing the "G" in the OWN CHICAGO letters
we hung out at the hotel for awhile and then walked to the hilton for dinner... jamie and i both had the potato flatbread, ALL THE CARBS! and sooooo delish. while we were waiting for our food we noticed that Joan Benoit Samuelson had walked into the restaurant... we debated asking her for a picture for a minute and ultimately decided oh hell why not, and jamie and i went to talk to her and demanded she take her picture with us since we were from maine (we were a little nicer than that). she was, as usual, extremely nice and talked to us for a while... where were we from, how were we feeling about tomorrow, etc. she even told us that we could drink a beer to help us sleep! (hear that sam and john!!!) we sadly didnt order any beer though, but im totally taking her advice next race (or today. x5).
after dinner we walked through the hilton to see if we could find any more elites, and then went back to our hotel. i went on a three block radius search for purple gatorade (cvs only had orange and green left, no thank you!) and finally found some at a 7-11. i filled up two trash cans and an ice bucket at the hotel ice machine and took a pre race ice bath (never done that before) and jamie and i laid everything out for the morning and got our hair ready (its a girl thing). we were in bed early and alarms were set for 5, i ran through a few more last minute race plans with sam and john, and called it a night.
morning didnt come as early as i had thought it would feel. i just kept thinking (and jumping up and down and screaming at jamie) "holy crap were running the chicago marathon today!" i was pumped!! we got everything ready, race braids were perfect (despite wearing a hat, another new thing), and between jamie and i, im pretty sure we went to the bathroom 10 times (never have i ever been so excited to text sam and sarah to tell them i had pooped! never before had i ever texted that to them to begin with, but after all my issues at lehigh valley, i was very excited. oh the glorious life of a marathon runner!!! #yourewelcome). we didnt have a toaster so i pretty much just dipped bread in my peanut butter (not toast) AND i was able to eat almost the whole thing! i also had zero coffee. all sorts of weird/new marathon morning changes. jamie, her mom and i went down to the lobby to find scissors to cut the bottoms of my sweatpants (easier to throw off over my moon shoes.... oh yeah, bought hokas a month ago. nothing like changing up your race shoes a month before a goal marathon!) and jamie wanted to cut a hole in her sweatshirt so her number was visible (apparently important. i dunno, didnt read any instructions. thats nothing new). we got to the first floor and the elevator doors opened... holy people! the lobby and hallways were a madhouse! we realized it was groups of people probably trying to stay warm in front of that entrance to gate 3, and jamie and i just looked at each other like ok, wow. this is really it. were not in maine anymore. we said goodbye to her mom with big hugs and left the hotel shortly after 6:30am, met up with meg waiting for us on a corner, and found my friend brian before entering our corral gate a few blocks down. security people body scanned us with this wand type thing and herded us towards our corral entrance. everything was very very well organized, and i just remember there being photographers everywhere!
we made it to the bathrooms, dropped our throwaway clothes (the weather was awesome! cool low 50s), made our way into the very back of corral b (where these horribly rude idiots were loudly bragging about being in corral b with their corral E bibs...) and waited anxiously for the start (about five minutes later). the number of people ahead of us and behind us was incredible, but we really werent far from the start. we snagged a few pics and before we knew it the race was underway. before we started moving brian turned to me and said something along the lines of "this is your day. go and get whats yours". we had planned to run together and kinda pace each other, and those words meant a lot to me. before we left for the race i had also put the word "fierce" on the bottom of my left foot, and "henry aaron" on my right. these words were meant to carry me through those 26.2 miles. little did i know just how much those words were going to push me.
pee fence! pee trees! weird.
its go time!
mile 1 7:12
mile 2 7:48
mile 3 8:12
we hit the 5k mark right on target, perhaps even a few seconds ahead of pace. those three miles went by very fast. the crowds throughout those miles were packed... loud... electric. amazing.
mile 4 7:49
mile 5 7:54
mile 6 7:52
at mile 4 i saw jocelyn right up ahead of us and told brian i would be back and sped up to catch up with her and talk to her for a bit. nothing like some early mile speed work during a marathon haha. around mile 5 or 6 my knee started throbbing. awesome. i told brian how i was feeling and he too said he wasnt feeling so hot. i tried not to think about it and just kept running.
jamie on the left (yellow top), jocelyn in the streaky orange calf sleeves on right
mile 7 7:57
mile 8 7:57
mile 9 8:02
at mile 9 i looked at my pace band and my garmin... they matched number for number. i was on pace thru 9 miles to go sub 3:30, a seemingly arbitrary goal, but a BQ-10 nonetheless for 2016. as good as i was feeling, i couldnt help but think about when the breakdown was going to occur. stupid mind.
mile 10 8:07
mile 11 7:57
mile 12 7:59
brian and i carried on side by side thru the next few miles. i had kept jocelyn and jamie in sight, both looking strong ahead of me. i wanted to run with both of them so bad, but i kept reminding myself i had to run my own race. im not sure at what point i actually caught up to jamie, but we ran together for many of the middle miles of the race. the halfway point was beyond incredible... the crowds were so loud! our smiles were ear to ear. we waved at the screens showing us running around the corners. complete strangers were yelling our names like we were besties. we ran over a bridge and crossed the 13.1 mat, knowing our times were at that moment being projected out to fb and the marathon app and text messages to friends and family... 1:45:06, 8:01 pace. omg, im really going to do this today... this is my fucking race (nothing like getting all excited with 13+ miles left to go haha). i felt really good, but jamie reeled me back into reality. then when we got to mile 15 she turned to me and said "oops... our last mile was 7:30". we somehow both missed seeing that our 13th mile was even faster. who runs their fastest mile of a marathon at the halfway mark?! (guess its more likely than running your fastest mile at mile 26, but still...) haha. dont take marathon tips from me folks!! jamie reminded me we had a ways to go, and she told me her coach had always said "break the race up into five 5 mile parts, with a one mile victory lap". she told me "we're at mile 15. we just have two more 5s". well in my head, thats just going to dunkin donuts and back twice (from my house/my training). no problem.
simply put, we were just having a blast. this didnt feel like work (ok, shut up, i was working hard, no i didnt want to run faster, but i was loving each step!) dancing to "bang bang" blaring on the side of the road. laughing at the terrible elvis impersonator. the dancing tranvestites. brian pointing out where wrigley field was and seeing the red chicago theater sign. i remember running thru the chinatown entrance, seeing some really great posters: "its all about the race, the pace, no treadmill", "im really proud of you, stranger!", and "can you guys run quieter, were hungover". the crowds just pumped you up every single mile of the race! as the race motto said, "every mile is magnificent" i cannot speak highly enough to the volunteers and spectators of this race. truly incredible (they had said for each runner of the race there were 4 spectators. thats one hell of a lot of party!)
i dont know what miles these were taken out. one of them was after 17. i think.
i felt like i was doing a good job of fueling up to this point. a GU every four miles. gatorade in my handheld, water at most of the water stops (and holy cow were there water stops! seriously it seemed like every time i blinked there was another endurance station! gatorade first, both sides of the road, green cups, then water in red cups). everything was so well organized. the sun had started to come out and i was feeling warm, so i took a salt pill just incase and started dumping water down my back at each station.
mile 13 7:16
half split 1:45:06
mile 14 7:50
mile 15 8:01
somewhere around mile 16 the doubts crept in. i was holding my pace so i have no real idea why i was feeling the way i was. i think mentally i was so used to the feelings... so prepared and missing boston by 2 minutes in may, feeling even more prepared and dropping out halfway at lehigh valley.... i was just waiting for that moment to come there in chicago. but i kept repeating to myself that i was stronger than i thought i was. my body can do more than my mind thinks it can. i am fierce damnit! i wasnt going to let all of my training go to waste this time. i just wasnt. (and i didnt want to have to try to do this again!) i had looked for my friend dave at mile 14 during the charity block party, but somehow missed him. i knew kelly was going to be with oiselle folks at mile 17 so i anticipated seeing her for a boost.
i dont remember a bunch of the middle miles. i feel like i was just so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that the whole race just seems kinda like a blur. i remember coming into and running through chinatown the most, and the variety of the city... trees in one area, buildings in another... very diverse. along a less crowded stretch in the 2nd half of the race they had taken the "OWN CHICAGO" letters that everyone was signing at the expo and had them out on the right side of the street. it was so cool to see that! when i saw it i remembered what i had written on the inside of the "G". there was also a group playing bagpipes somewhere along the way. that was the first time i teared up the whole race. beautiful.
love love love this picture (in chinatown)
mile 16 8:05
mile 17 7:56
mile 18 8:03
after mile 17 i really thought i was done. again, still holding good pace (wtf stupid mind!). this was when i started focusing on one person per mile (im sorry i dont remember where i read someones blog who talked about doing that and having it help them when the miles got tough, but i sure appreciated it!). i broke through that "wall" at 17 and just tried to keep moving. i was out of gatorade and thought about drinking the lemon lime they had on course (barf!)... i decided against it, not knowing how it would affect me since i only trained with purple (yum), and took water at the rest of the stations and more salt pills. and i was sooooooo sick of salted caramel gu! ugh. as much as my mind wanted to wander to the miles ahead of me, i did a pretty good job of staying in the mile i was in and just kept thinking about one person each mile. i knew i was still way on track for a BQ, but i also knew sub 3:30 was slipping. no big deal. just keep running. with 10k left i had just about an hour to run before hitting 3:40. i could totally do this still. suck it up princess. this wasnt about running brave, this was about being fierce. find your damn strong.
mile 19 7:59
mile 20 8:08
mile 21 8:16
i felt really really bad at mile 22, like really really bad. i grabbed my phone and got a photo... i couldnt pass up that opportunity at what was turning out to be either the best marathon ever or potentially a huge looming breakdown. i sent it to the bff real quick, stretched for a second and kept on trucking.
im not sure why the clock says 2:16... was i on pace with 4 miles left to go sub 3?! clearly not
mile 22 8:12
mile 23 8:43
mile 24 9:11
from the paces above, you can see that miles 23 and 24 werent good. my strong was not something i was finding. i was hurting everywhere. my inner thighs seized up somewhere in mile 23 and i yelled out loud that they werent going to stop me, not this close to the finish. i kinda shuffled along for a little while and walked through a water stop before mile 24. i vaguely remember these miles, only that i was trying to put mind over matter, strength over weakness, fierce over scared. i changed my watch to average pace and saw 8:04, but also knew i was off for my mileage so i really wasnt sure until i got to mile 24 exactly where i stood in regards to overall time. during the days leading up to the race, sam and i had talked about my race plan... "do you feel like you could comfortably pace someone thru a half marathon at 1:45?" "yes". "ok... 1:45 for the half. then an hour of good solid work to get you to mile 20. do not start any sort of kick until mile 23, no matter how good you feel. the last mile, give it all you have. that last mile is your 41 week victory lap". yeah, not quite the victory lap i had planned (and i was sure he wasnt gonna be happy with the speed work at the halfway mark. oops.) id done some strong finishing work during my training, but found out that attempting sub 8 min paces on legs that didnt even want to move wasnt easy. regardless, when i hit mile 25.2 i did math in my head (for once) and realized i had 15 minutes to run that last mile and still qualify for boston (with a solid buffer). there was absolutely zero chance i was letting this sleep away. id deal with my falling apart body after i crossed that finish line.
who puts a water stop along the last mile?! and who freaking stops at it!?!
mile 25 8:36
mile 26 9:02
8:06 (0.62 miles)
i knew the final stretch was ahead... a straight away along michigan ave, a right turn, over "the hill" (it was a bridge, not a hill!!), and a left for the final 0.2 to the finish. my own personal sort of "right on hereford, left on boylston", bringing me in to the biggest finish to date. there was a sign that read "800m left"... two laps around the track, you can do this. i could see the video screen up ahead, i knew the turn was coming. keep running. i just kept repeating to myself those words written on my feet, with each step i took... fierce. henry. fierce. henry. "400m left". once around the track. KEEP RUNNING DAMNIT. FUCKING FIERCE! do NOT walk up this "hill". youre going to fucking qualify for BOSTON (i swore a lot along that last stretch). YOU ARE GOING TO BOSTON! i took the left turn so tight onto that final stretch and could see the finish line. i looked at my watch and saw 3:34:something. i gave it one final push and threw up my arms crossing the finish line. and then the tears started flowing. (kinda like now. shocking).
i immediately texted ty. and i just couldnt stop crying. some guy (another runner) video taped me with his camera... "you are just so happy right now!" "yes! im so happy!" i screamed. somewhere on youtube is that video im sure. ill need to find that. i dont know when i actually stopped crying but it was a while. regardless of the hard work i had put into so many weeks of training, i honestly couldnt believe what i had just done, and i dont even think to this day its all sunk in yet. i got my tin foil blanket and my medal, cameras were everywhere (sweet, looking like a hot mess!) i checked the app and found that jamie had finished already (obviously she didnt walk 10 times like i did during the last 6 miles), and i wasnt sure where brian had ended up. it felt like about 10 miles to walk to the after party area but i finally made it and found jamie! brian came shortly thereafter, having had some breathing problems. its the curse of marathon #10!!! (he finished and was feeling ok). jamie and i had said before the race that we were definitely going to have our free post race beer, but the lines were long and it was hot and it just didnt happen. i also couldnt find jocelyn amidst the large crowd of people, but i was glad i got to run with her for a little bit during the race!
(happy to be old on race day in 2016, those 4 seconds would have killed me!)
meg found her way to us, and we headed back to the hotel to shower and i spent the afternoon with tys cousin, lindsay. (i had the most amazing black bean burger and seasoned fries, and she probably thought i was some kind of freak for peeing a zillion times. no exaggeration... yay hydration!) then we went to a pub for a drink and found a fleet feet sports where i got a sweet finishers shirt before heading for the train to go to my aunts house. she was prepared with beer and cake and chips with salsa (awesome!!) and we watched the cardinals win game 2. i contemplated sleeping in my medal (shut up, youd do it too), and i passed out (sans medal).
the next two days were a whirlwind, seeing family members and my best friends new baby, myles (what a fitting name for the weekend hehe). as I sit here typing this from like 30,000 feet in the air from st. louis to philly, it still seems so surreal. the type A me keeps thinking back on parts of the race... what if i hadnt had a freaking 7:16 mile in the middle? that last time i stopped for water during mile 25... did I really need that? (that stop cost me sub 3:35)... but i ran the race of my lifetime. a world major marathon. me and 45,000 friends. a million spectators. a 2 minute and 5 second personal best. 1 hour and 8 minutes faster than my very first marathon. and im still critiquing. thats what we do, always striving to get better. plain and simple, i love running. and i couldnt do it/wouldnt be where i am today without all of the support i have from my husband, family, and friends. regardless of the time (or the damn water stop), the final mile of sundays race was incredible, as i had hoped it would be. it was by far not my best mile (or overall my best race execution), but similar to how i felt during the last 6 miles of my very first marathon, it is a feeling i will never forget. i fought through things out on that course that i havent before, and i finished feeling proud, accomplished, and fierce. boston or no boston, that feeling was what i had worked so hard for over the past 41 weeks, and there is nothing quite like it.
a lot of this year has been spent reflecting... reflecting on where i am in my life, how far ive come with my running, where i want to be in the near (and far) future... as a runner, as a friend, as a mother, as a wife, and as a writer. i started this blog as what i thought would be just a fun hobby, a phase id most likely outgrow. but five years later here i am, still writing. i dont care if people read what i write (although im amazed when i hear more and more people saying they read it...really? why? haha) and i have met some truly incredible people through blogging, gained some wonderful lifelong friends, and learned a lot about myself through my own writing.
since i started this blog (and started training for/ran my first marathon) in 2009, ive changed my career, got engaged, got married, bought a house, brought home a kitten, lost my brother in law, brought home a puppy, had a baby, gained some really great friends, lost some very close friendships, cried a lot, loved a lot more... and i feel this is just the beginning. the beginning of what? im not entirely sure. ive truly found myself over the past few years, and i have so many people to thank for that. but i also feel that this blogging journey has come to a fitting and satisfying end. im in a place where its becoming increasingly more and more difficult to find the time to write (henry sure keeps me busy these!), but also more difficult to find things to write about. ive found my style of writing to have changed from writing as a sort of journal for myself, to writing in a way that makes it for others to read (kinda what a blog is supposed to be, right? haha). i whined a lot this year about oh woe is me i cant run fast enough for boston, blah blah blah... but thats not what this all was about. this whole journey was about finding out who i was, about finding MY strong... through running, through hard work, with my friends and my family standing by my side throughout the whole way. i dont know what running adventures lie ahead, but i do know there will be more (bradbury bad ass take two? an ultra marathon? boston marathon 2016!!!), and i look forward to what life has in store for me...
"...cuz you cant jump the track, were like cars on a cable, and lifes like an hourglass, glued to the table. no one can find the rewind button now, sing it if you understand... and breathe, just breathe..."