way back in january (it seems like so long ago) sarah (and gary) convinced me to register for the great run. a marathon, 6 hour, and 6 hour relay on great cranberry island off the coast of bar harbor. a 2 mile stretch of road... running back and forth, back and forth. i had so much fun last august running 40 miles on a high school track, the loops of rhode island 6 hour in november was a blast... while everyone else thinks this was a crazy idea, i couldnt wait. bring it on great cranberry island! the competitive side of me also knew that i could likely break the female marathon course record (3:49:30), and if i worked hard enough, place close to the top. (gotta love small races!)
fast forward to the boston marathon. my training had been the best its ever been. race day was hot, i ran 10 really good miles, and 16 still semi good, smiling/not hurt/not race ending miles. i was (and still am) proud of my 3:46 finish there. ill look back on that day forever with zero regrets. but after boston i looked ahead to gci hoping maybe i could use the training i had done to carry me to a BQ for next year. take a little break, then jump back in. do some speed work. get in a few long runs.
what i wasnt prepared for, however, was that boston beat me up pretty good. racing a 5k shortly after was not my brightest move. ive been dealing with some lower leg muscle issue, im tired, need a break, etc. but i was looking forward to running at gci and was going to give it my all. i took my sweet time easing back into "training", 20 mile weeks at first, then some 40+ weeks, a few fast runs here and there. my long runs were anything but long. my thoughts of placing close to the top moved to "hey ill just aim to be top 15 female! yay! so fun!" (i think there were 15 females registered haha). i still thought a 345 was not a far off goal to set, but i had mentally let go of the BQ. i really didnt know how i was going to feel, what to expect. i went into this race with fairly negative thoughts... not ideal.
marathon road trip essentials
packing for a weekend on an island proved to be more difficult that i had envisioned (im sure it will shock you all that im not a huge camping type person... is there a dunkin donuts on the island?), but i surprisingly packed very little (we were all going to be stinky and sweaty, who cares about clean clothes ill just wear the same sweatpants all weekend! just dont forget the toothbrush!). theres just something about bar harbor and i love heading up that way so i left my house early and spent the day walking around town, had some lunch at side street, relaxed in the grass watching the tourists. it was a beautiful day and was forecast to be an incredible weekend, with low humidity. perfect race day? my negative thoughts started to change. i felt strong and confident. an "anything can happen, go give it what youve got" kind of attitude. winds of change.
you cant hate this even if you tried
is it october yet?
(the tree along mount desert island marathon course)
i got to the dock way before everyone else, so i just sat in the back of my car listening to music and reading. very calming and peaceful.
despite recent feelings i had been having, arriving on great cranberry island solidified that i was prepared to run a marathon. race a marathon even. i didnt get this far to only get this far. theres just something about this place... hard to explain. it felt welcoming. a step back in time.
the morning was quiet and relaxing. i walked around taking pictures, stretching out the legs, waiting for the runners to all arrive. i took a golf cart ride with greg while he videotaped sarah for her fundraiser. it was a cool 50 degrees, the forecast for the day was a high of 70 something. the humidity was to stay low, however, which was going to prove to be very helpful. and the breezes coming through felt amazing.
i am in it with all my heart. a great reminder.
the smell of lupine beats daves car exhaust
despite not sleeping well and my stomach feeling like junk, i was able to get a little nap in and felt better when i got up and got going again. lets get this show on the road!
ready or not
race start time was 11:30 (i pleaded with gary to start the race at 7am in the cool temps. next year?! its a logistics thing, i get it. but oof, the sun was warm). i had a peanut butter sandwich, banana, some gatorade and coffee, and time passed pretty quickly. before we knew it we were heading to the start line... listened to the national anthem (i cried, obviously). race announcements and introductions of some awesome people... and we were off.
"believe. to look within, to overcome. loving myself enough. i have the will, the determination and the courage to defy the odds... and inspire. my challenges have made me a fighter- a survivor. they will not define me or confine me. i will run my own race. different, beautiful and all my own. i believe in me and my potential. and im going to succeed because im brave enough to think i can"
fellow flowers- turquoise
aaron graciously agreed to run with me... im not sure he knew what he was getting himself into (sara remember all the burping at maine coast? yeah, im pretty sure he thought i was going to puke all over him too! yay marathons are so fun!). i likely hadnt adequately prepared him for all the singing, crying, complaining, ankle popping excitement he was sure to be a part of over the course of the day... but he didnt leave me until after 23 miles (or drop back while i took off on a mad tear), so he obviously was having all the fun! (and hes clearly super lucky i didnt leave him since his sweat was flying off and hitting me throughout the whole race! ew).
we had spoken with michael westphal just prior to the race about his race plan, and thought we might be able to run some of the race with him. (please please please watch the video link... i cant watch it any more, it makes me dehydrated. truly amazing man and i am lucky to have shared that island and race with him). my plan had been to start out at low 8s, high 7s, see how long i could hold out (way sub bq pace but i felt confident in that plan, as opposed to starting out slow and trying to speed up. endurance has never been my forte). mikes plan was first 2 miles at 8:30, then down to 8s. we started out the race just behind him, passed him within the first mile or so, and then he passed me. i stuck with my race plan, he was slightly ahead of his.
mile 1- 8:05
mile 2- 8:02
mile 3- 8:09
the race starts about a half mile up the dock. we ran out just past the 1 mile mark, turned around (sharp cone turn #1 of soooooo many), ran back thru the start, down (literally) to the dock, around the cone (i had yet to have thoughts of keeping on going and just running straight off the dock), then back up the hill on the start of the first 2 mile stretch to the other end of the island. up up up to the start line, then weeeee down. the support through the start line was one of the best parts of the day.
perfectly in stride, setting myself up for some superb arm bend tan lines, still stupid smiling and happy only because i have only climbed one hill and made two sharp cone turns
official time stamp on this photo- 12:01. just short of mile 4
the smiles, sillyness, and all around good ended shortly hereafter
(replaced with delirius alphabet ramblings and all the complaining)
1 mile to go! oh wait, no. theres a lot more. the curse of a course like this.
mile 4- 8:02
mile 5- 8:07
mile 6- 7:59
the early miles ticked by pretty quickly (this is what happens when you are well trained, not injured, and goal focused, right?) i actually felt really good. i dont remember exactly when i started complaining, but i dont think it was within the first 10k. i was slightly surprised i was keeping very evenly paced miles right at/around what i had wanted. i didnt think i would be talking as much as i was, but who am i kidding, i love to talk. one of the best parts about this race/course was the fact that you were out there with marathoners, 6 hour runners, and relay runners. everyone had bibs (front and back), and you passed back and forth all day with each other. you were really never alone (well, there were pockets here and there). we would see the leaders coming at us the opposite way (ahead in the course), relay runners full of energy would pass us, the leaders eventually lapped us... just a really cool race concept.
somewhere after mile 6 and before mile 10 the negative feelings crept in (the miles between 6 and 20 are a blur). the day got hot... there were stretches of cool breezes and yes the humidity stayed low, but heat is heat, especially when youre running a marathon. who gives up in a marathon before mile 10? this girl. cool. i wont say im some pro runner (despite having gotten a pay check for winning a 5k a few months ago! amateur...) but i feel like ive run enough marathons to know its a long day. whether that hurts me or helps me is up for anyone to debate (ill likely win). but feeling not so great before mile 10, when theres still a lot more of the race (day) left to run... thats not awesome. sure i was pulling out good, even splits. but i was feeling dry, tired, sore... any excuse i could think of i thought it. i tried to pull myself together but kept sliding back into the negatives.
photo by scott mason
i obviously said something so funny
(also, scott, you have a great camera that gave me some sick arm muscles!!)
mile 7- 8:06
mile 8- 8:02
mile 9- 8:11
mile 10- 8:01
mile 11- 8:15
mile 12- 8:09
mile 13- 8:37
mile 14- 8:30
mile 15- 8:50
mile 16- 8:39
mile 17- 9:25
mile 18- 9:01
miles still ticked by and i lost track of where i was. another benefit of this course is no mile markers. same scenery over and over. different faces at different places, but all the same none the less. i watched matt pelletier, six(?) time vermont city marathon winner, crushing the course like a boss. leah and maddy racing the 6 hour course. before i would get to a cone at either end of the island i could see where i was in the race for females. the field had separated quite a bit, but the top 5 had been secured early on. caitlyn gained a big lead for first throughout the first half. maria was now in second. rebeccah had dropped behind jackley at some point. and i continued to slowly gain on rebeccah.
after 18, aaron announced only 8 miles to go. "were at mile 18?" "yup!" i was shocked. i hadnt thought we were that far, and only 8 more miles? seemed do able. the next few miles werent the fastest of the race, but my mind was back into it. i got some wind in my sails. sarahs music pumped me up a little (minus a few tears here and there, of course. damn you great big world!). there was one table out on the course with the coldest water ever made. and berries. a bowl of salted potatoes. the little things. it was also around this point that i was told about caitlyn dropping out of the race. she looked strong the times i had seen her, so i was concerned what happened to her. but ok, ill figure out what happened to her later... for now im in 4th place. still doesnt get me that damn mug. who cares. just keep running.
but i cared. i didnt get this far to only get this far.
mile 19- 9:14
mile 20- 8:54
mile 21- 9:15
im not sure when i caught up to rebeccah, somewhere before the cone turn on the far side of the island. there ended up being a good distance between us, which (unless i walked, which was still not out of the realm of possibility) secured my 3rd place spot. id call that a great day! the great run! (shuffle). i still couldnt give myself proper credit, but i kept pushing. approaching the start line again before heading to the dock for the final lap, i told sarah i wanted my last gu (likely too late but i took it anyway). and i decided i wanted my music. i didnt listen to music much at boston, but music fuels me and i know that about myself. i knew the songs i had lined up for my gci playlist, despite never having plans to even wear the thing. get the music on, let it all go. just do it. i didnt get this far to only get this far.
where was this mindset 10 miles ago?
mile 22- 8:34
mile 23- 9:50
but first i stopped to get water. walked to put my headphones on. walked through another water stop. took my salt pill and ate my gu. as i approached the cone at the dock, jackley (2nd place) had just turned. i dont know how many times we had come up this hill, but this was going to be the last time (thank god). get thru the start line, 1 mile to the citgo sign, downhill around the cone (i curse these damned things!). ok, its go time. i saw her ahead of me on the hill, walking. i inched closer and closer and she started running again. thru the start line the cheers were empowering. i had lost aaron at the last water stop... i kept turning around to see him behind me, thinking he would catch back up. eventually i couldnt see him anymore and just pushed on. within the mile i caught and passed jackley. 2nd place now. dont turn around, dont slow down. just keep going. relentless forward motion. i didnt get this far to only get this far.
mile 24- 8:16
mile 25- 8:28
as i approached the last cone turn, i hadnt yet seen maria. there was a left turn that i couldnt see around and knew the cone was around that corner, but i had been expecting to see her earlier. just as i went around the corner, she was coming at me. there was very little road between the two of us. less than a quarter mile? maybe. i rounded the cone and tried to take off, but theres a nice hill placed right there and my legs just didnt want to kick it into the next gear. but hell if i wasnt going to try. i ran into aaron still headed out towards the cone and he gave me a quick pep talk.
i didnt get this far to only. get. this. damn. far.
1 mile to go! for real this time!
when i finally saw the citgo sign (for the last time), i started to cry (shocker). the whole day replayed in my mind. i could see maria just up ahead. "wasted time" by keith urban blared in my headphones. even just the start of that song is enough to pump me up and want to run fast.
mile 26- 8:29
the space between us became less and less, but it was just far enough out of reach. i watched just ahead of me as maria crossed the finish line. gary draped her in the american flag. time seemed to stand still... cue all the feelings. she deserved the win, thats for sure. but i cant say i didnt feel an ounce of race envy. jealousy. im ok to write that because thats how i felt for in that brief moment. sure the tears have fallen this week thinking back on many parts of the day (oh hey 9:50 effing mile 23... wtf?!) but my race was my race alone. the world is full of IF's, and im not going to be stuck on some of those "ifs" because of this one race. it was an amazing day, a fantastic race, on a truly beautiful island. no one will ever be able to take this race, this weekend, away from me. would i run it differently if i could do it again? not likely. each mile made that race what it was. i could have (and almost had) ended my race before the halfway point. but instead, i came back and finished stronger than any marathon ive ever run before (i havent officially checked other race paces, but the way i felt i know that i worked hard and strong those last few miles, which is typically when im broken and slow and just trying to hang on to the finish). some races are a bigger deal to me than others... maine coast was the first time i went for a huge goal, falling short but learning so much about myself in the process. chicago, a huge stage for my first BQ, with an epic breakdown and a mile 25 water stop. MDI, my favorite race, the result of tough, dedicated training for an all around amazing race. and boston. the dream race for many, a memory ill have forever. and great cranberry island... surrounded by friends. fellow crows. giving it everything i had after wanting to give up altogether. this race reminded me about what it is that i love so much about running, about being competitive with others, but mostly about believing in myself.
in the last 3 mile lap i made up almost 4 and a half minutes on 1st place, and placed 2nd, finishing just 24 seconds behind maria.
i came through the stretch of flags, smiling the entire way. marathon #14, completed.
1st and 2nd place females
does your marathon have a lobster trap podium?(sadly you cant even see it but i love this photo)
there we go. also, close to impossible to climb post race.
but totally worth it.
theres truly nothing like this race. this island. magic.
tent city management department maintaining order?
this picture took a very, very long time
(and you sadly cant see gary's purple hair)
until next year...
morning came all too soon and we packed up our tents and headed to a wonderful breakfast (cheesy hash browns!). we waited at the general store by the dock for our boat, i was able to get in a little bit of an atlantic ocean ice bath for my feet and calves, and took in the beauty that was great cranberry island for just a little bit longer. leaving was tough, but ill be back... thats for sure.
jen and i supporting boston
run fast, run long
we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears
we are tied to the ocean
well, except my lack of pink and purple ice pops.