I have been struggling all week to find the words to describe my experience at the Bayshore Marathon. It was magical, freeing, exciting and so.much.fun. I told Molly repeatedly during the race that my heart literally felt like it was exploding with happiness.
I know my words won’t do justice to the emotions and experience of this race, but I will do my best to try…but get comfortable, you will be here a while!
After Eugene, as my housemates were consoling me in my marathon disappointment, Molly told the story of her quest to BQ. She told us how she tried 7 times and when she finally qualified, she ran a 4:10 at Columbus and 3 weeks later ran a 3:37 in Cleveland. Her story spiraled into me brainstorming a quick turnaround for another marathon and right away, she reminded me she was running the Bayshore Marathon in 4 weeks. Molly said she would pace me if I ran.
Driving distance from Chicago. Molly would be there pacing. It was a no brainer.
I got online and quickly discovered the race was sold out, so I emailed the race director to get on the waiting list, then hopped in the shower. By the time I got out, I already had a response: “A spot has opened up for you in the Bayshore Marathon…You must register by tomorrow night to secure your spot.” I read this aloud and the room of 7 girls exploded in cheers! I was in.
I immediately felt better and mentally started to move on. At the Ninkasi post-race party, I shared my plans with friends, but other than that, I kept it quiet. Although I know the pressure I felt going into Eugene was all internal, I still felt like I needed to lay low on social media and just focus on recovery and getting ready to run again. From that day, it was all about focus. In fact, this was my running alarm for those 4 weeks, even on race day:
I got tons of input about how to turn around back-to-back goal marathons from several smart and experienced runners, but I think that deserves its own post, so stay tuned if you are curious.
After a busy morning of work meetings and wrapping up with painters at my house, I finally hit the road around noon. Despite traffic, the 5+ hour drive flew by and I arrived in Traverse City around 6:30. Molly and I went directly to packet pick-up at the local high school gym. While it wasn’t your *typical* marathon expo, I appreciated that it was extremely easy to get in-and-out in no time. We were back at the condo eating by 7 and spent the rest of the evening chatting each other’s ears off, before finally heading to bed around 10:30.
I woke up at 5:44, exactly 1 minute before my alarm went off. I can’t think of a better way to start the morning than a natural wake-up right on schedule. We did race-y, get ready things, debated on what to wear (it was 34*!) and headed to the start at 6:30.
Molly’s husband, Matt (yes, he is absolutely as funny as you think!), was so nice to wake up early to drive us to the start. Although the warm gym was inviting, we immediately proceeded to the porta-potty line and then over to the start. I made one last impromptu bathroom stop down a hill/behind a wall (make-shift bathrooms FTW!) and by the time I made my way back, it was go-time.
As we lined up, I felt nothing but calm and ready. From the time I registered, I had a weird sense of peace about the race. I was never nervous, I was never anxious and only in the couple of days before did I start feeling excited to just run. When Molly told me just before we started running that this was her 13th marathon, I just knew it was going to be a good day. 13 is my all-time lucky number.
The plan was to start in the 8:05 – 8:10 range and reassess at the half. I wore my watch but put it on the “time” screen so I couldn’t seen the pace unless I caught it at the mile splits. This was HUGE for my Garmin-stalking, type-A tendencies, but I completed trusted Molly.
Miles 1 – 5: 8:03, 8:01, 8:01, 8:05, 8:07
We started a little fast, but eventually settled in. The first 5 miles were by far the longest of the race. I felt fine, but kept checking and re-checking in with myself. Legs? Breathing? Stomach? All I wanted was to fast forward to the part where I was working hard. All week I kept trying to imagine myself in a pain-place and I was oddly looking forward to getting there. I kept telling Molly that I wanted to skip the “easy” part and get to the hurt. She just reminded me to be patient and enjoy the miles.
Miles 5 – 10: 8:04, 8:06, 8:09, 8:11, 7:58
We chatted, reminded ourselves to take in the beautiful surroundings and focused on keeping a steady effort on the small rollers. Molly stopped for the bathroom around mile 7, but easily caught back up. I had to pee, but refused to stop and tried to channel Lauren and “let it flow”. It didn’t happen and eventually the urge went away.
Miles 11 – 15: 8:06, 8:04, 8:03, 8:07, 8:07
When we finally hit double digits, I was happy to have the early miles behind me. Molly stopped again around mile 12, but caught me right at the half turn-around. According to the clock on the course, we hit the half-way mark at 1:46:30. I looked at Molly and told her that if we stayed even, I would be ECSTATIC with a 3:33.
I felt really good after the half, but told Molly I wanted to be conservative and wasn’t ready to pick it up yet. I also discovered that even without my watch, I was really dialed-in to the pace and could feel when we got too quick and needed to pull back.
The miles were flying by.
Miles 16 – 20: 8:05, 8:00, 7:59, 8:07, 7:56
It was in these miles that I think I was the happiest all day. My heart truly felt so happy to be out there running, on a beautiful day, with a great friend by my side. Going into the race, I wanted a fighting chance to have a good day and as we progressed past 16, I knew that I was in a position to do that. We continued chatting away with each other and the runners around us. We picked up some friends at different points and heard stories about each one. I love the feeling of camaraderie between runners in the marathon.
I was on a HIGH. I was loving the views, the company and that I was still feeling strong. Molly kept commenting that she couldn’t believe I was still talking!
It hit me around mile 19, that even if I bombed in the last few miles I would still have the sub 3:40 that I had been chasing since 2010.
Miles 21 – 26.2: 7:54, 7:54, 7:59, 7:49, 7:42, 7:27, 6:43 (0.2)
At mile 20, while I still felt great, I was hesitant to pick up the pace. I thought we should get to 23 before finding another gear. Luckily, I wasn’t the one controlling the pace 🙂 Molly tried to get me to ignore the splits, but I would see them and exclaim “7:54?! Too fast!!” But I just continued to let her lead and stayed right on her shoulder.
Somewhere around this point, I finally acknowledged that IT WAS HAPPENING. I was going to BQ. We started saying it out loud to each other and every time I heard it, I believed it more and more. To say I was ecstatic is an understatement.
Around 22-23, I really started to FEEL like I was running a marathon. My right hamstring had been tight the whole race and it was screaming. My entire lower body was tired and ready to be done. I took a salt tab, thinking that my calves were feeling like they may cramp.
Other runners were commenting and cheering for us as we passed, because we were still talking, smiling and waving at the crowds. In these miles, I understood for the first time ever how people get truly addicted to the marathon. It was amazing. Asking my body for more and it responding is something that I have never experienced that late in a race.
We agreed that when we hit mile 25.5, it was all out to the finish. We were pushing hard and setting sights on people to pass. When we finally rounded the corner toward the finish, Molly pointed out that we could SEE the track, but to me it still looked SO far away. As we neared the chute, I started to get emotional. I started to cry, which was also causing me to hyperventilate, as it is really hard to run and cry at the same time. Molly calmly got me pulled back together and as we entered the track, she told me to push past the “old fogies”. We made our way around them and I lifted my arms as we ran down the final stretch.
Then, because I didn’t do it in Eugene, hands over heart for Boston at the finish.
Bayshore Marathon: 3:30:04 (PR by 13 min and 54 sec.!)
When we crossed the finish line, Molly showed me her watch. It said 3:30:02. I was SHOCKED and elated and just kept saying, “We did it. It happened.” I gave Molly the biggest sweatiest thank you hug ever.
At that point neither of us knew if we had squeaked out a 3:29 or not, but we knew it would be close. Looking back, I guess Molly knew in those last few miles how close we would be. She was really pushing me and while I can’t imagine that I had more to give, I still have to wonder that if I had known just how close it was, if I would have been able to dig out 5 more seconds? I certainly don’t want to be greedy and I am thrilled with the time, but ooohhh those 5 seconds would have gotten me an earlier registration date for Boston…
There are no words to thank Molly for what she did for me. The day wouldn’t have turned out like it did without her. Having someone else worrying about pace, hydration and all the details allowed me to focus on just running. That was HUGE. And her job definitely wasn’t easy with the surging and slowing all day! She was running ahead at water stops, filling my bottle and putting Nuun in it for me. She also gave me the last of her bottle and got my salt tabs out for me at Mile 24 when there was no way I could have done it for myself. But the running Gods were surely watching over her because when she saw a volunteer at mile 23 with a bowl of M&M’s and wished aloud that they were skittles, suddenly less than a mile later, a HUGE bowl of skittles miraculously appeared on the course. That’s good karma, my friends.
I would love to be able to return this favor to someone and do what Molly did for me. So please, email me and let’s talk. I want to pay it forward and help get someone else to their goal.
So that my friends, is my (long-winded) tale of marathon magic. All I wanted going into this race was to “run the race I trained for”. But it far exceeded those expectations and then some.