I woke up on Sunday morning at 3:30am. The alarm was set for 4:04 (4s and 44s are special numbers in my life), but baby Gus woke me up earlier than that so I nursed him, put him back to sleep and decided it was time to get ready. Though it was a half hour earlier than I was planning to wake up I was actually relieved because it meant I could nurse the baby and not worry about pumping before heading out the door. He went back to sleep in his crib easily and I tiptoed back to my room to get ready for my 8th marathon.
I laid my clothes out the night before and had everything ready to go. It was going to be a cold one – a high in the low 40s at the finish of the race and temps only just in the 30s at the start – so I decided to wear my lululemon capris instead of my running skirt. I also had my Saucony arm sleeves, my awesome new Saucony beanie, and my lululemon tank. It was the perfect outfit.
|race day outfit ready to go!|
Also, my simply AMAZING niece, Ellie, made me an awesome name tag to wear for the race. In years passed I have tried different things: colored duct tape with my name on it, writing on my clothes with permanent marker, and even ironing on my name. But this year I had not yet raced wearing my name because all of the above methods either didn’t stay on or ruined my article of clothing. This year I’ve opted to wear my lululemon running tanks (which I feel strong and comfortable in) instead of wearing my name on a shirt I don’t care about. Ellie came up with a new plan for me. She is 14 years old and very artistic and creative. She used a piece of old white fabric and puffy pens and made me a name tag that I easily attached to my shirt with safety pins. It was perfect. I was excited and thankful especially for this race because none of my family was going to be able to be on the course to cheer me on and I knew it would be helpful to hear my name from spectators.
|purely awesome name tag made by a purely awesome niece|
When I went into my bathroom to get ready for the race, I noticed that Robert had left me a little “love note” next to the sink. He must have made this when I was sleeping the night before. Right away, my race day nerves were calmed and I had a huge smile on my face. Robert has supported me always and he has sacrificed a lot to help me achieve my dreams. I do not know how to tell you how much he means to me – how thankful I am to live this life with him by my side and in my heart. He is the most loving, caring, giving, creative and supportive person I have ever known.
|everyone could use a q-tip love note!|
After getting dressed I headed downstairs for my morning routine – a little coffee, a banana, a luna bar. A glass of water. My sister Jodi texted me: “Hip Hip Hooray, Today is OUR day!” We were both so excited the day we had been training for for months had finally arrived. At about 5:00am our buddy Paul (who was dressed up as Elvis for the race!) picked up Jodi and my dad and then me. We were on our way to the race! All of us were feeling good and giddy with excitement.
We planned to drive to Rosslyn which is right near the Finish Line. This race is an extremely well organized event, but I did not want to deal with the Metro crowds again. There are LOTS of parking garages in Rosslyn with plenty of spaces and you do not even have to pay to park there on race day morning. If you don’t have to check a bag, I highly recommend parking in Rosslyn so your car is nearby when you finish the race. It is easy to walk to the start from there.
|Jodi, my dad and me|
We were the only car in that garage until our friend Justin met us there. When Justin arrived, we all made sure we had everything we needed, took some goofy pictures, and then headed on our way to the nearest Starbucks (a few blocks away) so we could use the bathroom in warmth one last time. I have gone to this Starbucks before race starts before – they are so super friendly there and are happy to share their bathroom. At least they act happy anyways! It is way better than the porta potties, though of course I had to use those before heading to the start, too!
It was cold and dark outside and there were definitely some icy spots on the streets. We were all dressed in warm throw-away layers (I had on an old pair of fleece pants and a sweatshirt, gloves and hand warmers). We met our training buddies and coaches at the Carillon Bells and then by 7:30 we all walked to the race start. The sun was rising as we walked down the hill that we would later have to muster every bit of strength to run up to reach the Finish Line. It was beautiful and surreal.
The energy in the air was amazing – so vibrant yet so calm. I gave my sister, my father and my friends hugs and we all wished one another a great race and then went to our starting spots. This race doesn’t do a wave start or assign corrals, but it works out smoother than most races I have ever run. There are signs with projected finish times. I went to the 3:20-3:40 section. My dream for today was to run to the very best of my ability, which I believed to be under a sub-3:40. Putting myself in the right section to start took courage and belief in myself. I giggled at the thought of knowing that this was where I belonged because I had worked to hard to get here.
I said a prayer and looked up at the sky and smiled. I was going after my dream and I knew in my heart that God was with me. No matter what the time on the clock, this was going to be a wonderful day. At that moment I turned my head and who did I see but my dear friend Dorothy only yards away! I’m sure many of you read Dorothy’s blog and that you find her very inspiring just like I do. She happens to be one of my very best friends in addition to being a runner I admire. Dorothy has encouraged me, advised me, inspired me and believed in me in so many ways. When I saw her before the start I was so thankful – I rushed over to give her a quick hug and then zipped back to my section before the start. A hug and a smile from a best friend who completely believes in you and “gets” you on marathon day is more valuable than words can say!! Also, Dorothy was running the race with a good friend of hers who happens to be a favorite blogger of mine, Lauren from Health on the Run. I was giddy to get to meet Lauren in person! It was so neat to be with them before the race start, if only for a moment!
Minutes after getting to my section again, the start gun went off and it took just about 2 minutes for me to cross the starting line.
My race had begun.
The first several miles of this race are HILLY. That, combined with the fact that I wanted to start out conservatively anyway, meant that I wanted to run the first few miles of the race at much slower than goal pace. I wanted my average pace for the race to be somewhere between an 8:15-8:20, so I should have run the first couple of miles closer to an 8:45 or even 9:00 pace.
It just didn’t happen that way.
8:11, 8:28, 8:04, 7:36, 8:13, 8:02, 8:30, 8:18, 8:04, 7:59, 8:13, 8:18, 8:16
I was aware that I was running faster than I planned, but I was feeling very relaxed and even on the hills my pace felt so comfortable. I was mentally and emotionally so strong and calm. When I arrived in Georgetown somewhere in the 9th mile I was just gliding through the race, soaking it all in. When I hit Haines Point and the halfway mark I decided not to speed it up though. I knew I had made a rookie mistake possibly going out too fast though I felt good and I didn’t want to risk bonking later in the race by speeding it up. I was now going for even splits instead of negative splits. I was fine with that – I knew I could hang on to this. My stomach was fine and my nutrition plan was going great. Things were working in my favor.
The next 5 miles continued to feel great as we ran along the National Mall and around some of my very favorite monuments…
8:15, 8:16, 8:22, 8:19, 8:27, 8:06
Then, we came to the 14th Street Bridge. It was a loooooooong, gradual hill. It is quiet on that bridge. Nothing but the sounds of footsteps and people dropping like flies stretching out cramps, walking. I have run this bridge several times and I always hate it. I was determined to not let it get to me. As I approached it I told myself I would hold strong. I would be in Crystal City soon and there would be spectators and fun happening there to distract me. But when I got to Crystal City around mile 22, I was NOT so excited about it. I do not love this part of the race – there is an out-an-back loop and I could see everyone on my right getting ready to hit Mile 24 and I got quite pissy at them. I couldn’t see the turn-around point and I knew it must be close but it just was not close enough! These miles were hard for me. But I kept going.
8:41, 8:30, 8:40
When I hit the Mile 23 marker I knew I was going to come so so close to hitting my BQ time of a sub 3:40. That every second would count. But I could not worry about it. I decided to throw my handheld water bottle out at that point. It was irritating me. I also decided I would not look at my Garmin anymore. I kept telling myself “The best you can do is the best you can do” and reminded myself to be PROUD of my accomplishment no matter what the time on the clock was, BQ or no BQ I was running an incredible race. I was not going to give up.
8:33, 8:38, 9:01, 8:43
I could feel my pace slowing but I did not stop. My legs were feeling heavy so I just stopped thinking about them. I focused on my arms and my posture and just.kept.going.
My watch beeped at 26 miles a few minutes before I hit the 26 mile marker. I peeked at it and knew at that point that I would not BQ today. I still had more than a half mile to run and I was going to just barely miss my BQ time.
When I passed the 26 mile marker, and saw THE HILL up ahead of me I was determined to give it everything I had in me. This hill is a MONSTER, you guys. It is steep and it is brutal. You can see the Finish Line but it is soooo much farther away than you think it is. My quads were like jelly. Everything burned and everything hurt. As I plodded up that hill I heard my mother’s voice: “Jessica! You are so beautiful honey! You are doing it!!! GO!! I am so proud of you!” Or at least that’s what I think she said. She was right there, I could have reached out and touched her. I wanted to just collapse into her arms in that moment. I could not even say hi to her though. If I stopped there, I would not have made it up the rest of the hill. So I kept going and I crossed that finish line.
I finished the race in 3:41:56. A 28 minute PR. Less than 2 minutes from a BQ.
After I got through the finish chute a very nice Marine gave me my amazing medal. It is the most beautiful race medal I have ever earned. These are not great pictures of it, but it is incredible. The middle part rotates – it is impressive!
I made my way towards the spectator area and heard Robert call my name. I have never been so happy to see him! He was there with baby Gus! My wonderful niece Ellie stayed home with our two older children so that Robert could come meet me at the Finish. Again, another reason I am so grateful for my sweet niece.
As soon as I got to Robert he gave me the biggest hug and told me how proud he was of me. I was so happy, so in awe of what I had just done, and yet to be honest I was also still trying to process the fact that I had come just SO CLOSE to my BQ. I wanted to qualify for Boston so badly and there was this piece of me that was sad that I hadn’t gotten it that day.
I knew though that I could not let that take me down. Just as I had to move through my pain in order to keep going in those final miles, I had to move passed those feelings of disappointment about not BQ’ing so that I could celebrate and enjoy what I had just accomplished! There was no other option in my opinion. I was going to celebrate my race!
Not too long after that, Robert got a text to his phone that my sister Jodi had finished. Jodi PR’d also with a 3:56:23 — 16 minutes faster than her last marathon! When I saw her we were both all smiles – laughing and crying at the same time and jumping for joy on the sorest and most tired legs ever.
|happy marathon sisters|
We made our way over to the massage area – this was something neither of us had ever done before and we both wanted to give it a shot. I had two people working on me at one time, for free. Seriously?!? Thank you very much, MCM.
When I got home I took an ice bath and then a shower. My neighborhood was having our annual Halloween parade that afternoon at 4:00 and my kids were anxious to get dressed in their costumes and have some candy. The parade is a .75 mile loop walk around my neighborhood. This is the same loop I ran on when I first returned to running after having baby Gus. He will be 9 months old tomorrow. I could not think of a better way to begin my marathon recovery than to walk this loop with my beautiful family that afternoon.
After we paraded around the neighborhood we all celebrated in the park for a little while. It was such a incredible day for me, filled with more blessings than I can count. I feel like I have been floating ever since…