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Friday, November 19, 2010

Harrisburg Marathon: Race Recap #2

I survived my first day back at work and I'm here to finish my race recap!

My hubby - who insisted on accompanying me to the Harrisburg Marathon and went to mass while I ran! - took this picture from above. Aren't you feeling the short shirt?!

I left off eating Gu around mile 14 and had just decided to suck it up and finish the marathon. Around mile 15 two awesome things happened. I had been slowing down, but then we entered a spectator-filed parking lot and this little boy handed me a pre-opened Gu. Pre-opened Gu is the BEST! Who cares if it was a little gravelly? And then I passed this guy in front of me who was running with a Chinese flag in his compression sleeve. Ok, I am not an imperialist, I swear, but can I tell you that felt like winning the Olympics? I swear I felt like I had just single-handedly re-valued the yen. I sped up. I felt pretty good, and I actually glanced at my pace bracelet to see if I had a chance. Unfortunately, I had spilled on it and the ink had run. It was illegible. Brilliant. I tried to do the math in my head but decided to give up and just run at a pace that felt good.
Then I hit the hills. Now the Harrisburg course is advertised as mostly flat, with one hilly patch. Really, it was not bad - and you can read all about it in my detailed race review to come - but miles 17.5 to 20 or thereabouts are a pretty hilly section. I don't do hills at all. I lost oodles of time here and trashed the BQ idea. I considered a new goal of under 9 minute miles, but I was going so slow that I didn't think I could promise myself that, either. I decided to return to my original under 4-hour goal. I was slogged on, made it out of the hills, and headed towards the finish. I was definitely feeling tired again, and even though I had promised myself no walking (and I ran all the hills), I walked the water stops - until I came up to mile 23. As I approached the sign for mile 23 I read 3:17 and some on the clock. Wait, I thought, that's better than I thought! Could I possibly make the 3:40 cut-off? I tried to read my pace band... and couldn't because it was all covered in pink Cytomax. I roughly guessed I'd have to break 8 minute miles for the rest of the race. Was that possible? Was 3:40 even BQ time? It had been so long since I'd printed the pace bracelet that I wasn't even sure this was the time to beat. But what did I have to lose? I hit the gas and tore past mile 23. I was so tired by now but I basically sprinted the last three miles. As I neared the 26 mile sign I realized I was already at 3:40 - no chance now. I was disappointed, but I shrugged it off and finished in 3:40:50. I felt a little weak and crampy - in fact for the first time I actually felt like my legs might buckle at the finish - but David was there to bring me donuts and water! He was telling me how I had finished so much sooner than he expected and that cheered me up. In fact I started to realize that I'd cut 20 minutes off my marathon time, BQ or no, and I remembered that I hadn't planned to qualify and that had never been a goal of mine. So I decided to just enjoy the faster time. But I DID Google BQ times while driving back to our friends' house, and was distressed to realize that I really had missed the cut-off by less than a minute. I was mentally preparing a blog post about how that was ok, I was happy with my time, etc etc, when a Dailymile friend made a BQ comment. Wait...did Boston give a few extra seconds? I checked again, and they do! So I sort of qualified, if by the skin of my teeth. Personally, I think that's cheating. And it sort of robs me of any feeling of accomplishment. I like to set a goal, work towards, and achieve it - not squeak by and obtain a goal that wasn't even mine to begin with. Does that make any sense? I would have rather decided to qualify for Boston and worked hard towards that goal. Then I would be all kinds of gratified when I reached it. It's just more satisfying.
Thank you all very much for the congratulations, by the way. Not many people in my circle run or understand much about running, so it was so nice to read all those blog comments!
The recap summary (REDUNDANT!!!):
What I did right:
- Running tights. So comfy!
- Rested legs. I resisted the urge to walk all over NYC the day before.
- Perseverance. I always feel better several miles in.
- Water stops. I lost a lot of time at water stops in my past marathons. This time I grabbed two cups and drank as I ran, with the exception of two stops I walked towards the end.
- Gu grabbing. Everywhere there was Gu on the course I grabbed it, plus I had some oatmeal. I usually pass on the Gu and then I'm sorry later!
- Fast finish. Why not speed it up? Unless you're walking 15 miles to your car you might as well use up whatever energy you have left.
- Walking later. Following the marathon with lots of NYC walking practically cured the soreness!
Lessons learned for next time:
- Laminate the pace bracelet. Obviously.
- Plan better if traveling - for food, hydration, pre-race run.
- In retrospect flaming chicken wings were not an outstanding choice of food. In the future I'd bring oatmeal bars or something to eat before bed.
- Bring a starting-line garbage bag to avoid freezing to death.


  1. Great recap. And for the record, I don't think you sort of cheated. I think you totally BQ'd! Nice work!

  2. I can't get over how amazing you did. I agree with Sassy - you TOTALLY BQ'd! And now you know you have a BQ in you!

  3. Girl you are so amazing!!!! Truly truly you are!!! I'm so in awe!!! You're what we call a Marathoner!! Short shirt and all :)

  4. Congrats Gracie. That is absolutely a rock solid BQ. No question in my mind. Heck, I'll take a 3:30:59 this Feb.

  5. A BQ is a BQ, no cheating at all!

  6. I totally think you earned a BQ there. Great job, you are absolutely amazing!!

  7. Lady there is no cheating a BQ.... you BQ'd now be happy damn it! ;-) Sounds like you really turned your race around. Awesome job!

  8. Again, I am uber uber impressed! You def need to pat yourself on the back. Dang you are fast girl!