After seeing my name and corresponding bib # (377 for those that are interested) and having the brief convo with my new pal, Curtis, I went over to the registration table to get my shirt, # and pins. I caught up with John and Ted. After saying hello, we had a good belly laugh over my driving snafu (they may have laughed a little harder and longer than me but, I can take it). I also made one of them promise that they wouldn't leave without me so I could have someone to follow back to the highway. Being cute, blonde and female does have it's advantages from time to time.
We got ourselves race ready. You know, the typical stuff: shed the warm-ups, pin the # on to your shirt/shorts, liberally apply body glide and/or vaseline to all potential chafe zones, etc. Lubrication IS a runner's best friend. I challenge anyone to tell me differently.
In true Cyndi fashion, I successfully evaded the "what's your time goal for today?" question by saying, "Eh, it's just a long run. I'll see how it goes. If I feel good, I'll pick it up." In other words, if I don't tell you what I want to do, then whatever the result, I can make it sound like I planned it that way. It's that whole "fear of failure" demon that I was aware of, but hadn't made friends with yet. I'll get to that later.
I should also mention that this was about the time that the fuel belt and I parted company. You see, for the first four marathons I ran, I wore a fuel belt, which held four 8 oz. bottles. I figured I was being smart bringing my own fluids using the whole "not getting stuck in the crowd at water stops" rationale. However, 32 oz. of water was not enough for a marathon, not enough for me anyway. Philadelphia had taught me that. I figured, why wear it if I'm just going to need the water stops toward the end anyway? Besides, it IS extra weight and this chick will take all the help she can get in being "lighter". At Stu's, I knew there would be water and gatorade every three miles. That would be enough. It's not like this was the dog days of summer where you have to chug a lug every 10 minutes. I hadn't yet mastered the fine art of drinking out of those cups while running but that's okay. Lots of people walk as they drink. It's a good mental boost too, because it breaks up the race in little segments. And you really don't lose all that much time.
So, no belt.
We all lined up together, exchanged wishes for a good run and prepared for takeoff. At the gun, we started to run (hey, that rhymes). I hit the button on my iPod and started running to the inspirational sounds of "Gonna Fly Now". I wanted to focus on being relaxed and ease into a rhythm. I had averaged about an 8:30 pace when I ran this race before, so I figured that could be my baseline. John was slightly ahead of me as we approached the 1 mile marker. Then, I see him turn around and jog back to me. I looked down at my watch and instantly knew why. We had run a 7:54. Oops.
"Too fast," he said. I agreed.
Time to reel it in.
Mile 2 was an 8:31. Perfect. Way to bounce back.
At this point, I didn't want to look at the watch anymore. I love my Garmin as much as the next runner, but you can drive yourself nuts looking at it every 5 minutes (and I have a tendency to do that). I decided to run by feel. Radical concept, isn't it?
"What????" You say? "Run by feel? You mean listen to your body???"
I had planned on walking the water stops anyway, so what if I just focused on running strong and steady in-between them? Hmmmmm. I could be on to something here.
That's what I did. I ran. Saw the water stop. Walked. Drank water. Walked more. Drank gatorade. Resumed running.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Whenever I encountered a hill, I would silently tell myself how much I loved hills and how strong my legs were. I repeated it over and over again until I crested each one of those suckers. It became my mantra. I love hills. I love hills. Breathe, Cyndi. I love hills.
I'm about 13 or 14 miles in when I hear a car beeping it's horn and a man's voice calling my name. I look over and it's my friend, Marc, who ran the race with Jeremy and me in 2007. He decided to take the path of least resistance this year and do a drive by while offering me a shout out of encouragement. I guess once was enough for him, as far as running the 30K goes. It was a nice gesture and I appreciated the thought. I pressed on.
I took my last walk/water/walk/gatorade break around mile 15 or so and saw two guys running side by side ahead of me. I decided to sort of draft off of them for a while since they appeared to be keeping a good pace. One thing leads to another and we started chatting. Being the social butterfly I am, I introduce myself to these two lovely gentlemen. The guy on my left says, "are you the same Cyndi that I talked to in the gym?"
Is that you???
Well, whaddya know?
We couldn't believe we had actually caught up with each other. There was well over 500 runners and I hadn't seen him since looking for my #. The three of us were amazed at how we found each other. I completely blanked on the name of Curtis' friend, so I'll refer to him as "Buddy".
Turns out, Curtis and Buddy had run this race before too. They were doing this as a training run for Boston and, I believe, they ran for the club that organized this race. We knew that a monster hill lay ahead around mile 17. We mentally prepared ourselves for what was to come. Let's do it, boys. That hill is ours. My watch chirped as the mile 17 marker AND the mini-mountain came into view.
Only 1.6 miles to go.
We kept putting one foot in front of the other and focused only on "just getting to the top". It seemed like it went on forever. Then, you turned a corner and it went up some more. Just run. Keep going. You're so close.
Breathlessly, we congratulated each other as we approached mile 18. Curtis and Buddy encouraged me to go.
8:41 on the monster mile.
No need to tell me twice. I'm gone, daddy-o.
I pushed as hard as I could on the last .6 miles. Worst case scenario, I told myself I only had to run 6 more minutes. That equaled a 10 minute mile pace. It doesn't matter how tired I am...I KNOW I can do a 10 minute mile. I just can.
I see the finish line. I see the chute. I dug down and sprinted toward it. Well, it felt like a sprint anyway. I averaged an 8:02/mi during that final stretch. After running an 18 mile warm-up, it's fair to say an 8 minute mile is like a 4 minute mile to the Kenyans.
I crossed the finish line and looked at the clock.
A big smile spread over my face. I PR'ed by almost three minutes!
(PR=Personal Record for my non-running reader friends)
I was panting like a dog and walking like I had a pole stuck up you-know-where, but I could care less. I felt like a million bucks.
I turned around and saw Curtis. I squealed in delight and gave him a big hug, congratulating him and thanking him and Buddy for running with me. Then, I saw John and Ted. I rushed over to them, giddy with excitement. I couldn't wait to tell them how I did and hear their stories. Ted came in with a time of 2:26:46; John ran 2:33:02. Translation: we all kicked major, major booty.
After our euphoric reunion, it was clear that we needed food and drink before we either passed out or threw up, so we made our way inside to refuel. The post-race fare at Stu's is an interesting hodgepodge of culinary delights, ranging from hot soup to Hostess pastries. You start off at the beginning of the line with water, soup, bagels and bananas. Towards the end, they have donuts, cupcakes, twinkies and soda. I find the contrast quite amusing. After running 18.6 miles, however, I passed no judgement on any of it. In fact, I think I had one of everything and still could have gone back for more. Cyndi is a slave to her bodily urges, particularly when it comes to hunger.
Once we started feeling semi-human again, we headed out to the parking lot to make our way home...but not before I reminded my pals that they promised I could follow them back to the highway. Ted volunteered.
And they say chivalry is dead.
Not in Cyndi Lou's world, anyway.
See you next year, Stu. And, save me a twinkie.