Yup! I finally did it...3:58:40!!! I finally broke 4 hours!
Anyway to back up a bit, I haven't written in forever. I got caught up in enjoying the end of summer and training and life in general and just have had a hard time sitting down to write lately. To catch up quickly, the end of training went very well. I even PR'd by 10 minutes at a half marathon 3 weeks ago (1:49:19) so I felt confident and ready going into this race. I knew I had a sub 4 hour marathon in me I just needed to go out there and get it.
On Sunday morning, Joe and Mia dropped me off at the start. It was great. The race started at 8:30 so we stayed home as long as possible that morning and he dropped me a little after 8. I walked right to the start and found some of my friends. I didn't have time for my usual pre-race jitters and million trips to the porta potties. I wish every race could start so close to home like this.
I found my friends Jenny and Lois and we started to line up. I've trained a lot with Jenny this cycle and we run a very similar pace and her goal was also sub 4 so we started off together. Once again, I made my usual mistake. We started off flying. We were with the 3:35 pace group for several miles and were ahead of the 3:45 pace group until mile 10! I was feeling great, but in the back of my head I was nervous. I had done this before in NJ and fell apart in the end. Jenny was behind but every so often she would catch up to me and we would run together for a bit before going our own way. At one point I got stuck in the middle of the 3:45 pace group and saw my friend Sheila. Her goal was 3:45 and she was running strong. We high-fived and wished each other luck and she flew by. I found myself stuck in the 3:45 pack and not able to get out and I was getting tired. Somewhere before the halfway point I got out of them and settled back into a more comfortable pace.
While I was tiring, I still felt really strong. Mentally I had broken the course up into chunks and I think that helped me a lot. I just kept focusing on completing each section. The other thing that helped keep me going was my amazing husband. He is the best spectator and supporter. After dropping me off at the start he had planned to drive to a spot somewhere between the 6 and 8 mile mark so he and Mia could see me. I knew that traffic and parking would be difficult so I wasn't sure exactly where I would see them but I knew the general area to watch for them. Well we passed one of the parking areas off the path and I saw his truck driving, it looked like they were trying to park. I was so bummed. I thought they had missed me because I was faster than they expected. I was surprised about 2 miles later when I saw them waving at me from the road. They could not park where I saw them so they drove to another spot. They had just made it to see me at that point. I didn't expect to see them again until close to the finish. Joe told me his plan was to drive to the finish area and bike back with Mia in her seat and watch for me so they could give me a boost in the last few miles. Well they surprised me! I saw them 4 more times on the course! I cannot explain how much it meant to me and helped me to have them out there cheering for like that.
The hardest section of the race for me was the home stretch, the 4.5 miles on the bike path that goes from Watervliet to the finish line in Albany. This should have been easy for me because I have run this section a million times and I know how close to the end it is. When I hit the bike path I was on track for a 3:55 marathon but I was starting to struggle. I just wanted to be done. While I didn't have any major aches or pains my body was tired and my mind was playing tricks on me. I was having a hard time shutting up the voice in my head telling me to slow down or just take a rest. Thankfully, I saw my friend Tami running down the path towards me. She wasn't running this race but she came out to support all the Strong Running Mama's that were running the half and the full. I waved her down and told her to talk to me, tell me anything to keep my mind off of this. She started filling me in on how the half-marathoners did and kept telling me to stick with it. I am sure I was not pleasant company for her but she was awesome and just kept talking. About 3 miles from the finish we saw Joe and Mia on the bike. Joe asked me if I needed anything and told me to hang in there. Mia was sound asleep on the back of the bike, at that point I wished I could trade places with her! He cruised along a little behind and let Tami and I keep running together. It was nice just knowing he was nearby.
As we got closer and closer to the finish, Tami kept reminding me that I was going to accomplish my goal. It seemed like the those last few miles were longer than the first 22! But eventually we got to the boat launch and the finish line was right around the bend. Tami told me to go for it and when we could see the clock she told me to look at it (it still had a 3 on it). Somehow I picked up the pace and ran towards it. I heard someone cheering for me and saw my Aunt Pammy and Aunt Jeanne cheering me in and I did it! I finished! They had a computer screen in the finisher area that told you your official time and when I saw 3:58:40 I was so happy. As I came out of the finisher area, I saw Tami again and she helped me make my way to food area. This part is a blur but I think I probably hugged Tami a million times, I was so grateful for her support those last few miles. My family found me and we somehow found Jenny and her family.
While I am so proud of this race, it was bittersweet. Jenny missed her goal by 50 seconds. She had worked so hard and for some reason it wasn't her day. On one hand I was so happy for myself but I felt bad about her missing her goal. I am so proud of her, she is an amazing runner and will get that BQ!
Afterwards my aunts took Mia to the playground near the finish line while Joe and I watched more runners finish. I was wiped out but on a crazy runner's high that still has not gone away. I am pretty sore today and taking a few days of rest but I am already thinking about what's next...Tami half jokingly/half seriously reminded me as we were running that we are going to do an ultra next year (50K), and I can honestly say I am seriously considering it. I am also thinking about what it would take training-wise to get into BQ shape. My current BQ time is 3:35, in 2014 when I turn 35 it will go up to 3:40. Do I have those kind of times in me? I'm not sure but it's fun to think about.
For more immediate plans, Joe and I have a trip to Hawaii scheduled in 3 weeks. I'm looking forward to enjoying some time away and relaxing.