Microwave some popcorn, sit back and get ready for a novel!
Let’s rewind to the Monday prior to the race – woke up with a sore throat. Really?! I rarely get sick or deal with allergies and of course it would happen race week. Then Tuesday, I woke up with poison ivy! I guess when I was taking photos of friends at Chick-fil-a Dash for Diabetes, I must have leaned against a tree with ivy on it. Crap. Now I could barely breathe and was itchy.
On top of all of that, reduced mileage for a taper and my body wasn’t feeling all that great. Ran a solo 10K in the rain Wednesday morning and felt okay. Wednesday eve, added a little streak of blue for Boston luck.
Thursday, met up with Shane for an easy 4 and ended up running into a few other running friends along the way.
Friday around 9 a.m., the nerves started. I was running a marathon in 2 days – yikes! Still wasn’t feeling 100% and was running out of time.
Before I continue, I need to go back a few months. When I first said I would run Erie, Mario said he was thinking of coming along to run with me. A couple months later, he showed up to a group run and presented me with a piece of paper – proof of race registration!
So, Saturday morning, woke up ready to roll. John, Mario and I piled in Mario’s car and we were off on our 5 hour journey.
We stopped a few times along the way and arrived at Presque Isle just as packet pickup and the expo began. The process was quick and the expo was very small as expected.
We walked over to the lake shore, took a photo and the drove the course. Flat, shaded and beautiful.
Next, we headed back to check in at the hotel and got ready for a shakeout run. Since the hotel was around a lot of shopping, we headed back to Presque Isle to run. I was feeling a little better, but still felt a few niggles here and there. Tried to just get myself into race mode. After our run, back again to hotel and took a dip in the hot tub. Felt great!!
Off to a pasta dinner – of course so many runners there, and Boston jackets all over!
With a 4 a.m. alarm set, I was in bed at 8 p.m. after a nice rubdown. I thought I would have a tough time falling asleep, but was asleep fairly quickly. Unfortunately, woke up around 2:45 a.m. My eyelids flew open and my neck was stiff. Great. I tossed and turned for the last hour, uncomfortable and ready to get out of bed. Finally, 4 a.m.
Dressed, ate my pre-race breakfast, gathered my things and we were out the door.
We parked just in time for the shuttle buses to arrive and jumped on board. It was DARK! We got flashlights in our race bags and now we understood why. No lights in the bathrooms, around the pavilion or starting line.
The weather was absolutely perfect. Just about 50 degrees and no wind. After a few trips to the Portapotties, the sun began to rise and it was time to head to the starting line.
The starting line was fairly crowded, yet a couple runners in front of us were from Loudoun County; not too far from Winchester. We had a few last minute race instructions, the anthem was played and then we were off!
Getting off the line was slow going; congested through a narrow path. Mario and I had to weave through and around runners until we caught back up with one another maybe 200 meters off the start.
Now Mario is a sub 3 hour marathoner and here he is running my pace. During one of the early miles, he jokingly yawned at the pace and then mentioned how this would be his slowest 10K ever. Thanks Mario.
We locked in pretty well at a good clip. Felt easy; wasn’t breathing hard and was enjoying the tree-lined path and lake to our left. Around mile 7, we hit one of the only (tiny) hills we would see twice on the course. We passed a man playing the accordion and several very energetic spectators.
The Erie marathon has a water stop at every mile, which is great not only for hydrating but for helping those miles go by. In addition, local sports teams man the stops and everyone votes on who was the best. One had a moonbounce and yet another around mile 10 featured young men in Speedos!
Still feeling great, we were headed to the halfway mark. I knew I’d see John soon. Around mile 12, I heard people yelling for a Becky with signs. I thought to myself, “I’m going to pretend they are cheering for me.” As we got closer, Mario yells, “Look who it is!!” Our running friends who are family, the Ilnickis. They surprised me by driving all the way up just to cheer us on! Wow.
Mario turned to me and said, “There’s some motivation for you.” Uh yeah. So much so that I dropped two fast miles in a row accidentally. I knew I’d see them after I passed the halfway mark again, so made sure I was close to the side for high 5’s and I even blew a kiss.
Off we continued; still plugging away at pace and feeling great. Fueled for 3rd time and kept hydrated. Around 19, I started feeling a couple of twinges in my calves. Crap. Up until now, was feeling absolutely on point…and then the cramps set in.
If you’ve never experienced these before, the only way I can explain what I felt was along the lines of something crawling under my skin, up and down my calves. Then, extreme tightening and straightening of my lower leg. Ugh. I stopped and stretched, drank more, etc. Whatever I could do. Poor Mario was concerned but did such a great job keeping me moving. At each stop, he’d grab extra drinks for me and would run holding them until I needed more.
This continued for 5 miles. Mario kept looking at his watch. I knew he was trying to calculate our pace and what we needed to do. I also knew what we needed to do and his constant watch checking was stressing me out. Finally, I said, stop looking at your watch! I was angry and frustrated with the situation but never felt like giving up or felt like I wasn’t going to qualify. I knew I’d make it to the finish one way or another. Mind over matter. I knew I wanted this BAD.
At mile 25, I gave it all I had. It felt awful and it felt slow. Calves were still seizing up and I was so close to the finish line. Mario was hooting and hollering; so excited that we were going to finish soon. Somehow I ran the last mile in a 7:44 even though it felt like the longest and slowest mile ever.
We crossed with a clock time of 3:26:05 (chip time 3:25:24) – I qualified for Boston and PR’d by almost 20 minutes. Wow. Surreal.
I was so excited to tell my family, my friends and my coach my results yet I had no service at the park. Finally was able to get the word out to all who had been impatiently waiting. So many people played a role in helping me achieve this goal and I was ecstatic to share my success. It truly has been an adventure filled with highs and lows.
Looking back at race photos sure makes me smile. Having Mario run this race with me will always be a great memory. Thank you Mario – for your time, encouragement and support every step of the way!
Thanks to John for the pre-race massage and encouragement, Ilnickis for surprising me, Jeremy for coaching and running with me, TRD for all the training support, and all of you friends and family who sent lots of well wishes. I thought of so many of you along the way.
Today, I get to submit my registration for the Boston Marathon! I will definitely keep you updated on Boston as well as the next adventure…what’s next?! I’ll share one tidbit with you – it involves this pretty lady!