Monday, October 20, 2014

Have Your Cake - Steamtown Marathon Recap

Marathon 3 is finished, and I'm so pleased to be able to report that it turned out to be a lovely piece of cake.

I loved the Steamtown Marathon, from start to finish. I haven't written because for some reason, I'm having a really hard time expressing my thoughts about it. It's odd, because it was a fantastic time: a picture perfect fall day, a beautiful course full of natural scenery and adorable Pennsylvania villages, crowd support that included my personal weakness - adorable old men from Lion's clubs and military vets, a surprise appearance by Husband at mile 17, and the company of my Sensei for 23 miles.

It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies. By mile 10, I knew that my SI was going to be a problem - and it was. By mile 21, my left leg (what I could feel of it) felt like a lead weight. From there out, I had to concentrate very hard to maintain decent form and keep moving. Thank God Kit and I ended up running together - if he hadn't been with me, I'm sure I would have stopped to stretch or walk. As it was, I did not walk a step and maintained my pace thanks to pure grit and the determination that I wasn't going to let Kit out of my sight.

Waving at Jason, mile 17

They aren't kidding about the hills. Running down the mountain was, as expected, tricky - but not for the reasons I thought it would be. In my mind, it would be very steep but it wasn't at all. The downhill was subtle enough that we hardly even noticed it. I found myself asking if we were running down the mountain yet (we were) and because it was so NOT obvious, we had to really pay close attention to our pace. But the quiet mountain road was also my favorite part of the course. Fall has truly arrived in northern Pennsylvania, and the beautiful reds, oranges, and golds of the foliage that lined the road were a glorious sight. Paired with the quiet interrupted only by the sound of foot falls, it was a meditative experience that gave me goosebumps.

No - the mountain isn't your worry in Steamtown. The truly challenging part of the course is from mile 23-26.2, not because of the typical end-of-a-marathon aspect, but  because there are some evil, monster hills to take on. As we approached the very steep hill at mile 23, I looked at Kit and said, "Well, this is where sh*t gets real, Sensei." We then did what we do to psych ourselves up - curse at the hill. Kit went barreling up and me with my bum leg followed behind, yelling at him to "make that hill your b*tch!" the whole time. That was just the warm up though - the hill at Mile 25 is what really separates the boys from the men. It is no joke, let me tell you. But it seems like all of Scranton is out there lining the sides of Washington Street, screaming, yelling, and cheering and there is no walking when you have that kind of support.

The trail portions were beautiful respites. It was quiet in the woods and the scenery around us was just gorgeous. The soft surface felt good on our legs after pounding down a mountain on pavement for 14 miles. A lot of people complain about the trails but I, for one, think they are one of the loveliest things about the course.

I didn't cry at the finish this time. I was too focused on the task at hand to feel any emotion. There was no room in my brain for anything other than concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

Approaching the finish

But once I crossed the line and realized what I had done, there were lots of smiles.

Despite that cranky SI, I managed to finish in 3:46:25 - an 11 minute PR from Richmond. My super secret goal was 3:45:00, so I didn't quite make it according to the official clock. However, my Garmin showed 26.5 miles when I finished so as far as I'm concerned, I did run 26.2 miles in 3:45:00. I'll make it official next time, I hope.

Not only did I have a massive PR, I also managed to run the marathon with a negative split. My first half was completed at an average pace of 8:35 and the second half at 8:32. This is precisely what I had wanted to do, but thought it would be impossible given my SI situation and the uphills at the end. That I accomplished it is the perfect demonstration of what you can achieve when you put your mind to something.

My splits, according to Almighty Garmin.
I wanted to run Steamtown for me, and I did. But I am so grateful that Kit and I were on the same running wavelength for so much of the race. Steamtown taught me that even though running is an incredibly  individualistic pursuit, sometimes just the steady presence of a running buddy beside you can make all the difference. Though we both ran our own races, I think it is safe to say that the parts were greater than the whole for Kit and I in Steamtown. We both had some difficult moments; luckily they were not at the same time, so the struggler was pulled by the stronger and vice versa.

Kit finished just before me, and as soon as I crossed the line I started yelling his name over and over trying to find him in the crowd to share our accomplishment. I think the med staff thought I was hysterical, because I was stopped twice and asked if I needed medical attention. "No! I just need to find my friend!!" I told them. When I found him, our celebratory hug was fantastic. We had both achieved PRs and we had done it together.

Don't worry, Steamtown. I fully intend to purchase this photo,
as I think it is the biggest I've ever seen Sensei smile.

Though a completely different experience from Rock n Roll Raleigh Marathon, Steamtown also drove home the point that with enough mental fortitude, I can do anything. You can't see in my splits where my leg started to give out. That's because I absolutely refused to let it stop me. You can't see the hills either, because I was conquering those things. My slower laps (mile 16 and 19) were, I believe, on the trails, where we did slow down ever so slightly as it became very necessary to watch where each foot fall went on the uneven surfaces. Otherwise, it was truly a full steam ahead effort in every way.

My mantra for the day.
"Resolve" is one of my new favorite sentiments.

Not only did Kit and I have a fantastic day, but the rest of our group thoroughly enjoyed Steamtown. We are especially proud of our girl Lauren, who absolutely crushed it and earned herself a BQ. She shared her goal with the group while we were hunkered down in the high school gym at the top of the mountain, waiting for the start. We all knew she'd do it because when Lauren sets her mind to something, consider it done. Whenever things got rough for me, I thought about her up ahead, running even harder than I was to get that BQ, and knew that I had to keep going - pushing her from behind with all of the karma I could muster. After crossing the finish, I found Jason who told me that she had earned that BQ and I was more excited for her than for myself. When I found her, I hugged her so hard (partially hoping some of her greatness will transfer to me, but mostly because I was so happy and proud that I couldn't stand it!).

Our BQ Girl.
Lauren's achievement is even more amazing considering she is a med student who barely has time to eat and/or sleep, let alone train for a marathon. Her natural talent and determination can't be stopped! We are all looking forward to cheering her on in Boston in 2016.

So, thanks Steamtown, for a great day. The Richmond Steamtown Contingent all agree that we'll be happy to come back any time to run your race again!

Kit, T, me, GB, and Will, taking a bite out of our well-earned medals.

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