Photo: Tuan, Alia & I getting ready to run Baystate as Carl prepares to cheer us on.
At the end of December 2017, when I first joined the Heartbreakers, I set a big goal for myself. I put it out into the universe that I was going to try to PR at every distance I run. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was willing to put in the work to make it happen. Baystate Marathon was on my radar early in the year as the race where I would take on 26.2 for the second time in my life. My debut at the Boston Marathon in 2017 was a hot mess and it left me not sure that I enjoyed racing 26.2. Click here to read how my first marathon went.
As the year ticked on, I checked off the distances one by one. First to fall was my 5K at An Ras Mor 5K in March (20:37), followed by a Run To Remember in May (1:38.16). The biggest pickup was at the B.A.A. 10K in June (42:55) where I smashed my course record by 3 minutes and 35 seconds and beat my PR by 1:12. I also tried two new distances in 2018, I took stabs at the mile (6:09) and 8K (37:46) distances and secured automatic PR’s that I can build on in the future. The only thing left was the marathon.
Midway through my training cycle, Nike released its latest ad campaign featuring NFL player Colin Kaepernick that still gets me emotional every time I watch “Dream Crazy”. Around this time, I started to really hit the meat of my marathon training plan and was trying to figure out what my goal should be. I knew that my biggest goal for my second marathon was to not leave the course hating the distance. Once I started talking to my teammates though, I had to ask myself “were my dreams scary enough?”.
I remember chatting with Steph Douglas and her encouraging me to make A & B goals. I knew that this was something Kyle Robidoux that I run with did as well, so I decided to follow suit. My A (stretch) goal was a 3:30, which would be an hour faster than my first marathon time. I knew that it was an insane amount of time to PR by and I laughed almost every time I said it out loud. My teammates were so encouraging and said I should go for it. My B goal was to come in sub 3:45 (45 min PR) and if I was having a real tough day, shoot for sub 4 as my C goal.
As my training runs unfolded, I started to believe in myself the way that my friends do. I thought my goal might not be impossible and tried to imagine how I would feel crossing the finish line triumphant. As the race day approached, Alia and I went into a tailspin of taper crazies. The weather looked like it might not cooperate and we were very uncertain about what to wear. Our Coach Dan Fitzgerald, reminded us in our weekly Coach Q&A session that we dress ourselves for runs all the time and this was no different.
Photo: Me about to house some lasagna, bread and cheese puffs in my hotel the night before the race.
After texting with Alia incessantly about possible weather/ outfit scenarios we both decided what we were going to wear based on the weather report. We also decided we’d make a final decision in the morning based on the latest info as New England weather is THAT unpredictable. I tried to go to bed at 10, but literally laid there with my eyes closed and got minimal sleep in per usual. Reluctantly I woke up at 6 and looked at the weather. It was slightly warmer than it had said the night before, but with higher chance of rain. I decided to go with my initial pick and try not to be full insane about my choice.
Photos: Race Day weather report & my kit for the race.
The hotel was .5 miles from the course so we left not long before the race started. I wore a hoodie over my kit (that I planned on ditching) and Alia had a full on sweatsuit over hers. We got to the staging area and met Carl and Tuan and got in a quick bathroom break before we got into the corrals. About 5 minutes before the race, Alia’s friend Kevin took our extra gear for us and kept it in his backpack for later. Thanks Kevin! Before we knew it, we were off.
Alia and I chasing the 3:30 pace group.
Early on in the race I definitely was feeling like a flat 8 minute pace was probably not happening. I could hold close to it comfortably, but when I would push I felt my body was a little stressed. I watched Alia and the 3:30 (8 min mile) pace group pull away and was totally ok with that. I needed to run my own race and not worry about what anyone else was doing. The thing that was messing with me, was the 3:40 (8:23 min mile) pace group was running with or ahead of me the entire first 10K even though I was running 8’s or under. I don’t know what their plan was, but that herd stressed me out so I took a pee break around mile 8 just so they wouldn’t be near me.
On the backside of the course, I really started to notice the wind. I wasn’t too cold, but I felt like I had a headwind the entire time which was really making me struggle. There is also almost no one on this part of the course besides the volunteers, so you feel like you’re just running alone for A LONG TIME. I really was starting to worry I might DNF when I spotted Carl around the 11.5 mile mark which gave me a nice boost. What I didn’t realize was the rest of the Heartbreak Cheer Squad was right down the road.
Photo: Our cheer squad getting pics and giving us a big boost.
This was the part of the course where we went over a bridge and started our second time through the looped section of the course. As I came down the hill on the far side of the bridge there was a huge mob of spectators. Unfortunately, with all the yelling, I didn’t see my family. They did manage to get some great content though.
Photo: My husband Joe, cousin Connie, Baby Jack, Connie’s Husband Tommy & my brother Tim.
Photos/Video: My friends and family showed up big time!
Around mile 16, I always struggle. I noticed this on both of my 20 milers and had noted that I needed to lean into my discomfort at this point rather than backing off. I was just having a hard time with there being no spectators on this part of the course and started to really get bogged down in my brain. I went deep into my yoga practice and slowed my breath down and told myself to relax. The pain and discomfort is only temporary. I needed to picture crossing that finish line and to remember how proud I’d feel hitting my goals.
I slogged through the next few miles and had to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. My pace was decreasing , but the miles were ticking by one by one. Once I hit 20 miles I knew I was going to complete the race. I started to get a second wind and my legs started to feel better (or I just couldn’t feel them). As I approached mile 22ish, the Heartbreakers were there and going berserk. It put a huge smile on my face and I started to try to pick up the pace.
Photo: Cheesin’ hardcore. All smiles as I approach the last 4 miles.
In the last 4 miles, I ran negative splits and increased my pace by almost 45 seconds per mile. The combination of my teammates, my final Gu and a 2 pieces of Run Gum had me feeling like I could do anything. I was slightly euphoric as I approached the 26 mile marker. Then I saw my husband and family. This was the first time since I started racing that anyone in my family besides Joe, my brother, his wife and my Aunt Jane had come to see me run. It made my heart swell and I got a nice little kick to finish the race.
Video: Kirby’s epic WOOOOOOOOO’s and Tim cheering me at mile 26.
Video: I have never been happier to see a finish line
When I crossed the finish line, I knew it was a huge PR. As I made my way through the volunteers who gave me my medal and shiny silver cape I could see Alia trying to get past security to get to me and they finally let her. She came over and gave me the biggest hug and told me she had hit 3:32! I was so proud of her. Tuan had a tough day, but still got it done despite intense hip pain throughout the race. Kudos for not quitting Tuan! We’re all tough on ourselves when races don’t go as planned, but in the case of the marathon just finishing is badass.
Photo: Celebrating with my favorite lil nugget.
My official time was 3:42.36! I had shaved almost 48 minutes off my first attempt at 26.2. I couldn’t have been more happy. Even more surprising, I could walk & talk normally. Anyone who saw me after Boston 2017 can tell you it was not pretty. Severe dehydration did thing to me that I could have never imagined. I was excited for a shower and that I wasn’t limping or nauseated. My family found me and all kept congratulating me on my race. I was on cloud 9.
Celebrating with my family in Alia’s sweatshirt
What a way to wrap up a year of amazing racing. I’m so thankful for my family and teammates coming out to support me on a cold day at the crack of dawn. I’m also extremely glad to have found The Heartbreakers. Thank you for believing in me enough for both of us and for helping me push past what I think is possible. Thank you to Coach Dan for creating a positive space where we can grow as athletes, we’re all so thankful for it. So what’s next? Well I’d eventually like to check off the world majors since I already have Boston done. A fall trip to Chicago sound fun for next year…