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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meet me tonight in Atlantic City, Part Two

"And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?"

Anyone that knows me, even a LITTLE bit, knows how much I love Elvis Costello (aka Declan McManus).  I love him so much that I have the above mentioned song as a ringtone.  On my cell phone.  Which also doubles as my alarm clock.

I have issues.

If you have to be woken up at o'dark hundred, it might as well be to something that tickles your fancy.  Or, in this case, eardrums.

That is what roused me from my inadequate slumber at 5:30 on marathon morning.  Not that I was really asleep anyway; but I was pretty comfortable laying there all the same.  

I sat up in bed and looked around.  Both of my roommates were still sound asleep (or they were doing a really good job of faking it).  I got myself up, dressed and fed before either one of them stirred.  Part of me thought about banging around the room, making some noise in the hopes that I could wipe the contented, peaceful looks off of their faces but, truly, I was too tired to be spiteful.  

Hard to believe, I know.

Besides, I knew Ted would be up soon.  He was chomping at the bit to race.  Me?  It was all I could do just to chomp on my bagel.  It's no secret that I was a little ambivalent going into this marathon.  My training didn't go exactly as I had planned.  I just didn't feel ready.  However, no one seemed the least bit concerned about my ability to perform.  Not my Coach.  Not my husband.  Certainly not Ted.

But I was concerned.  And truly, my opinion was the only one that mattered.  What I mean is, people can tell you how wonderful and fit you are until they are blue in the face.  It's no substitute for believing in YOURSELF.  I had taken such care in mentally preparing myself for Vermont City and the proof was in the pudding:  I ran a PR.  However, there IS something to be said about physical confidence breeding mental confidence.  When I trained for Vermont, I was at the top of my game, physically and emotionally.  That wasn't the case this time around, at least in my estimation.

As I went through the mental gymnastics, the guys woke up.  After seeing and talking with me for a few seconds,  they could tell I wasn't in the best frame of mind (I don't hide my feelings very well).  I said to both of them, "I don't want to DO this."  Ted and Michael did their best to reassure me, which I appreciated, but they couldn't make me feel better about my preparation, or lack thereof.  That was my job.  Maybe I couldn't replicate my positive mental outlook from Vermont that red hot minute, but there was something I COULD do.

I could make peace with what is.  

In other words, I am where I am.  Good, bad, or indifferent, I trained for a 26.2 mile race.  Maybe it didn't exactly go the way I thought it should have, or the way I wanted it to, but the work was done.  And, not to sound cocky, but I wasn't exactly a newbie runner anymore.  Covering the marathon distance itself was no longer "the unknown".  It was just a question of how fast.  The only way I could really see what I was capable of was to start.  I just had to show up.  

And let the chips fall where they may.

Once the guys were ready, we left the hotel room and headed to the start.  It was a chilly, but clear morning.  The sky was bright and blue.  You could feel a certain electricity in the air, which I always notice on the day of a big race.  I am sure I wasn't the only one in the crowd questioning themselves.  I took comfort in the fact that I was surrounded by other runners who were going on that 26.2 mile journey with me.  And I had Ted until the start, which made me feel calmer.  He told me to keep repeating to myself this simple phrase:  I am here.  


All we have is now.  This moment.  Nothing else matters.  

Okay, Ted.  I am here.

Michael wished us both well and went off to find Michelle and Dan.  After Ted and I hugged and exchanged good wishes, the gun went off and we started running.  We headed down the boardwalk on a beautiful fall day.  

At this point, let me say that if you're expecting a detailed, mile by mile, play by play breakdown of this marathon, you are going to be very disappointed.  My powers of observation and attention to detail are just not that sharp.  But, I'll do my best to outline the finer points.  

And now, back to our story.

After a few minutes, I found myself running with these two older gentlemen who were conversing with each other.  By the sounds of it, they were probably going to run the time I was hoping for, so I decided to stay with them for a while.  Eventually, the three of us started chatting, which made the first couple of miles go by fairly quickly.  One of them shot off ahead, hoping to run a faster time.  The other one stayed behind, so I introduced myself.  He told me his name was Gene and he was running this race as a training run for the Philadelphia Marathon, which was next month.  We talked off and on for the next couple of miles.  After exiting the boardwalk, he decided to try and pick up the pace for a little while, so I wished him well and turned on the iPod.  

The wind really started picking up around Mile 6.  At this point, Gene and I had reconnected and we both remarked how we weren't expecting a headwind like this today.  The wind had been pretty intense the past couple of days in Atlantic City, but all of the forecasts were calling for a much calmer day.

So much for forecasts.

As I ran through Mile 7, we were assaulted by a gust of wind so powerful, it blew my lucky visor completely off of my head.  Thankfully, some nice runner saw it fly off and chased it down for me.  Shortly after that, we got back on the boardwalk and started running in the opposite direction.  Right around Mile 9, I saw Michelle on the sidelines spectating.  She flashed a huge smile and snapped a picture of me.  I was very happy to see her.  At this point, I was also very happy to notice that the wind seemed to be calmer.  

That is, until we got off the boardwalk again.

From Mile 13 to about Mile 18 or 19, it just kept gusting and gusting.  I allowed it to wear me down.  My only solace during this time was seeing Ted run by a couple of times, due to the out and back portion of this section of the course.  It was nice to see a friendly face.  Plus, he could see for himself that I didn't bail.  I don't think he expected me to quit, but at least he could see with his own two eyes that I was still running.

Right around mile 21 or so, I made the decision to allow myself walk breaks, but ONLY at water stops.  I had gotten pretty good at drinking out of those paper cups on the run, so I didn't NEED to walk and drink.  However, I had to make some kind of bargain with myself in order to keep going.  I had abandoned my quest for a PR at this point, but wanted to finish this race as strong as I could.  Each water stop I hit from that point on to the finish, I consumed a cup of water and a cup of gatorade.  Once I finished the second cup of fluid, I resumed running.  I kept the promise to myself and continued to run until the next stop came into view.

After re-hydrating at mile 25, I knew it was only a matter of time.  I had a mere 1.2 miles left to travel.  I stopped looking at my GPS watch a while ago.  Hitting "my splits" wasn't the priority, here.  It wasn't about keeping a certain pace anymore.  Instead, it was just about putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again.

And I did just that.  Right to the finish line.  

Shortly after I crossed, I found Michael and Ted.  I was also reunited with my new friend, Gene, who had come in about four minutes before me.  I had seen him go by between mile 20 and 21, but I didn't have it in me to chase him down.  We all congratulated each other on finishing the marathon and commiserated over the unexpected wind.  It affected all of us, even Ted.  He had hoped to run a 3:10, but ended up turning in a 3:12:xx, which, don't misunderstand, is STILL a stellar time.  But, even he didn't get what he wanted out of that race, and he was feeling much more excited and confident than I was going in.  Gene guessed he came in around 3:44 or so.  I think we all expected a little more from ourselves but, yet, we were pleased with the accomplishment of finishing another one.

We made our way to the food and drink area.  As luck would have it, they already had preliminary race results posted.  Once the crowd thinned out, we went over to have a look.  My new pal, Gene, ran a spectacular 3:43:55.  Not bad for a "training run", eh?  Did I MENTION that he is 62 years young???  Pretty awesome.  Ted was 30th overall and had a chip time of 3:12:21.  Equally awesome.  I scrolled down until I found my name.  


Okay, so it wasn't a PR.  It wasn't the 3:40 that I arbitrarily decided to train for when I got the notion to do this race.  But, it was my third fastest time out of six completed marathons.  Based on the unexpected windy conditions, lack of sleep and my state of well-being going into this race, it might as well have been.  I have always said that I learn something every time I race.  This time was no exception:

** A sub 3:50 is very attainable for me now, even when I walk at a few water stops.
** I can average an 8:45 pace at a marathon.
** I was able to smile and thank the volunteers and spectators when I saw them, tired or not.
** I'm already qualified for Boston because of the 3:43:30 I ran in Vermont this past May.  I didn't "NEED" this.
** I'll be 40 (gasp) in 2012 and am age grouping up.  If I decide to run Boston again, 3:48:56 qualifies me.++

I trained.  I started.  I persevered.  I finished.

Sometimes, that's all you have in you.  Oh sure, it's human nature to play Monday morning quarterback and go through the "woulda coulda's", but the fact of the matter is, you can't go back.  But, you can take what you learned and carry it into the next training cycle.  You can use it to make you better, stronger, faster and smarter.

Which is exactly what I'm going to do.

But, until then...

I am here.

GPS Data for Atlantic City Marathon:

10/17/2010 8:03:56 AM

Total Distance
26.34 mi

Total Time

Avg Pace

Avg Speed
6.9 mph

Max Speed
11.9 mph

Total Ascent
3335 ft

Total Descent
3350 ft

Lap 01 -- 8:42
Lap 02 -- 8:35
Lap 03 -- 8:37
Lap 04 -- 8:32
Lap 05 -- 8:29
Lap 06 -- 8:44
Lap 07 -- 8:32
Lap 08 -- 8:40
Lap 09 -- 8:29
Lap 10 -- 8:28
Lap 11 -- 8:32
Lap 12 -- 8:33
Lap 13 -- 8:35 ** this is where the wind really began to present itself as a challenge ** 
Lap 14 -- 8:37 
Lap 15 -- 8:44 
Lap 16 -- 8:37 
Lap 17 -- 8:38 
Lap 18 -- 8:37 
Lap 19 -- 8:50 
Lap 20 -- 8:38 ** this is where I decided to stop at walk ONLY when getting water/gatorade at water stops ** 
Lap 21 -- 9:23 
Lap 22 -- 8:43 
Lap 23 -- 9:09 
Lap 24 -- 8:48 
Lap 25 -- 9:18 
Lap 26 -- 8:32 
Lap 27 -- 0.35 mi in 2:42 (7:46/mi)

++ That last point MIGHT be up for debate if the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) opts to tighten up the qualifying times after the 2011 race, which they very well may do after registration opened and closed in eight short hours.

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