Tyngsboro Bridge – miles 8 and 18
On Sunday October 20, 2013 Scott and I ran the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA which as promised by many turned out to be a super marathon! From our friends who have run this one in the past, we only heard good reviews. This is a small and well organized marathon and half marathon put on by the Greater Lowell Road Runners Club. There were only about 1,300 runners in the full marathon and 493 women total. It’s a fast race course with very pretty views of the Merrimack River. And with the colorful fall foliage and crisp fall temperatures, it’s a great fall marathon for those looking to run in New England. I highly recommend this marathon for a great overall experience as well as trying to qualify for Boston. While I’m already registered for Boston 2014, this marathon safely qualified me for Boston 2015 (with 36 minutes to spare).
New Marathon Personal Record: 3:07:56, pace of 7:10, 4th woman overall, Top Master Woman (I was awarded 1st Masters for prize money)
Five weeks ago I ran the best half marathon of my running journey. I was healthy and feeling well trained and very fit. A couple weeks later I completed a successful 26 mile training run with 6 fast miles at the end. I was stoked and very pleased with my fitness levels. I was happy with the 26 miler even after having to work that Sunday morning for our Fiscal Year End. However, it can be daunting just how quickly training can unravel with unexpected bumps in the road. About two and a half weeks before the marathon my soleus muscle on the outside of my Achilles stopped tracking properly and caused me a lot of pain to run. I couldn’t believe it! Why now? I had to take off a few days from running but luckily with a good massage from Kelly and some work done from Hank, I was fixed up pretty quickly. But this setback did cost me my important 16 miler two weeks from the marathon. I had to run 11 miles on the Alter G treadmill (anti-gravity) at 20% of my body weight and then run 5 sore miles outside. And I also missed my last crucial speed workout session which my shin was finally able to tolerate. So my 3 week taper period had a little too much rest and it also lacked the needed intensity to keep the legs sharp. Why do I say this? You’ll read in my race report how painful the last couple miles were for me. While it was my fastest marathon, it was also my hardest marathon! My last 1.26 miles cost me around a good minute!
Nice cool temperatures at the 8:00am start
On Saturday morning we headed down to Massachusetts for an easy 3 hour drive to Lowell. I had been carb loading a couple days before and was still working diligently to have my glucose levels well fueled. We stopped in Andover, MA for a lunch at WholeFoods Market. We can always count on Wholefoods when traveling for great healthy and filling vegan buffet foods. With some pasta, fried tofu and veggies, we completed our most important meal before the marathon. We then headed to the Lowell High School to pick up our race numbers and marathon shirt (which was a really great shirt!). The Expo was also held there. It was small compared to Philly, but there was plenty of good running gear. Scott found 3 running shirts including one with the Baystate Marathon logo. He made out well! Luckily I can order some in my size as I love tech gear with race logos!
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot 4 miles from the race start. The main hotel right in the downtown was already booked many months ago. But the Marriot was adequate and the service was very friendly which goes a long way for me! My only recommendation is to stay on the 3rd floor since it’s an old hotel and easy to hear the people above you walking around. We had to change from the 2nd to the 3rd floor as I am a light sleeper! Once we settled into our new hotel room we did a nice easy 2 mile run from the hotel. Everything was feeling good and I was excited to run the next day. We then headed to dinner for a nice meal at Life Alive which I’ll talk about more in my food and beverage report. Once again, a good night’s sleep alluded us before race day. Both of us had trouble falling asleep and probably got about a couple hours of sleep. I wasn’t too worried as I have been sleeping well this training cycle and had made sure I got plenty of sleep that week. I have always read that it’s OK if you don’t get much sleep the night before the marathon. And that seems to ring true.
Thanks to Coolrunning for this photo of runners descending from the Vurgaropoulos Memorial Bridge and heading toward Rourke Bridge.
Parking in the garage near the race start was a successful mission with plenty of time to use the porta pots, do a warm up run, stretch, and do a few drills. We both ducked into the 7:00 per mile corral and waited for the start. I was nervous and very excited to be there once again at the start of my third marathon. Scott was especially nervous for his first marathon. In a few minutes we would be on our own individual journeys. We both trained hard and the “hay was in the barn”. The marathon is never forgiving and there are no short cuts. No matter how fast the course may be, it is still 26.2 miles and this distance must be respected in order to have a favorable outcome.
My goal this year was to run a little faster than my 3:09:09 time last year at the Philadelphia Marathon. I was originally thinking a low 3:07 would be realistic and conservative since I wasn’t able to do dedicated track workouts with my shin this training cycle. Even though my modified training served me well and made me strong, I learned that track workouts are key to running stronger at the very end. And with my set back just before the marathon I felt that perhaps a minute better than Philly would be good enough instead of shaving off 2 minutes. I was happy with my 3:07:56 even if it was almost a minute slower than my original goal of a low 3:07.
Once the gun went off we were running speedily and it felt so good to be in a marathon again! However I quickly settled into a smart pace and made sure this first mile was conservative. It was a nice cool sunny morning and I was enjoying everyone around me. I did most of my training with Scott or alone so it was a novelty to be surrounded by oso many runners in colorful clothes and shoes. And the energy of everyone was contagious! I was thrilled to be there that morning! I was having fun and that is why I do this!
During the first 3 miles I felt strong and well prepared. I was running a pace of 7:06 to 7:10 minutes per mile for these 3 miles which felt very comfortable even with a few small rollers. I felt like I could have been running much faster but knew I had to stick to the plan. You actually save energy and run a faster time by holding back in the beginning. This is much harder to do when you are out there, believe me! It is too easy to run too fast in the beginning!However I held back and knew my coach would be disappointed in me if she saw my pace was too fast in the beginning! Mile 4 had more down hills so that one ended up a little faster at a pace of 7:03. Mile 5 had two short and steep rollers that I had learned about from my research. They weren’t bad at all the first time around and I ran them well keeping a conservative pace. I knew mile 6 would be flat and straight but decided to be more conservative on that one too. Mile 7 had some small rollers out in Tyngsboro before the bridge. They weren’t strenuous either but I had read they would feel worse the second time around. This stretch of the race was where I was feeling fantastic all around. Before the Tyngsboro Bridge at mile 8, I was thinking about how strong and I was feeling and how my hard work was paying off. I was on the borderline of being overconfident, but I still decided to stick to the plan! Here is a look at my pace from miles 1 to 7:
Once I crossed the Tyngsboro Bridge at mile 8, I was back on the other side of the river heading south towards Lowell. I knew it would be 5 nice miles that were flat, straight and shaded in some parts. It was also very scenic running on this side of the river with pretty views of the Merrimack River for most of these miles. I was happy to be at this point of the race. I had a couple guys who were running near and around me for most of the time. While I was running my own pace and constantly watching my Garmin, I was happy to have the silent company. It was around this time before mile 9 where the 5th place woman caught me and ran right by me at a pretty good pace. She looked younger than me and very fit. I wasn’t worried since I was running my own race and not going for placing. That wasn’t even on my mind or a part of my goals. I saw her in the distance for a good while but then forgot about her. I had my own worries starting to creep into my head. My quadriceps muscles were starting to get a little tired after 8-9 miles which seemed odd and way too early but it wasn’t bad and I just kept running at a good smart pace.
Besides the minor fatigue in my quads, miles 9-12 went well along the Merrimack River. I was still feeling strong and in control of my race. I didn’t want to run too fast the first time around this stretch, so once again I remained conservative. I had been taking my GUs at my planned times and feeling nourished. I was also drinking at all the water stops which I always do! It was on mile 12 where I noticed once again that my quads were getting that early lactic acid buildup and fatigue. I was a little concerned as this didn’t happen at Philly until mile 14. I ran a very fast half marathon a few weeks ago at an average pace of 6:47 without much lactic acid buildup or fatigue. So I was very surprised this was happening at a much slower pace! It had to be my setback with my soleus muscle and loosing some key workouts. But I soldiered on and decided to not let this fill me with too much worry. Marathon running is very mental and having the wrong attitude can totally dismantle a race. So I stayed positive and thought about how the rest of my body was still going strong. My engine still had a lot of fuel and that brought me comfort. Mile 13 took us over the Rourke Bridge which was a gradual incline and then a nice gradual downhill. I enjoyed running over this big bridge and seeing the half marathoners running the opposite direction. Mile 14 was back on the other side of the river for a second time around the loop. It also had that extra downhill so it was a little faster but not enough to cost me later on in the race. Here is a look at miles 8-14 for pace:
Miles 15 through 18 ran back up towards Tyngsboro (heading north). I liked running the loop twice as I knew exactly what was in store for me! However it was tougher the second time around. The sun was bright with not a cloud in the sky. It was a lot more windy with the temperatures slowly rising. It was only in the high 50s F but the sun and wind made it a little harder. I had to make sure my hat was on tight enough so it wouldn’t blow off my head! Mile 15 had those two short but steep little rollers but I was still running strong and maintained a good pace of 7:07. However I knew I should be conservative on mile 16 so mile 17 wouldn’t feel that badly and it was a good plan. Mile 17 had those small rollers in Tyngsboro which did feel more challenging the second time around especially as my quads were slowly getting more fatigued. At mile 18 my quads were definitely hurting. It felt like mile 20 but I still had 8 miles to go. I crossed the Tyngsboro Bridge for the second time, but I wasn’t feeling as confident I as was the first time running over it.
Once I was back on the other side of the river for the second time I knew I had 7 good miles of road which would be mostly flat and fast with a lot of shaded areas. The wind was also more favorable and refreshing. My legs were tired but I was somehow still running pretty well at a good pace. At mile 20 I took a serious inventory of myself and thought about how I would approach the last 6 miles. After all, mile 20 is where the race truly begins in a marathon. Everything was feeling OK except for my sore and fatigued quads. They were definitely a troubling factor and I was very concerned. However I decided that I was still in the game. My engine was tired at this point but there was still gas in the tank. I knew that I could suffer through the next 6 miles and took it one mile at a time. That was the game plan. Here is a look at my pace for miles 15-20:
Mile 21 turned out to be a little too fast at a 6:58. I’m not sure what happened here as I was usually paying close attention to my Garmin. I still had the company of a couple guys who would sometimes be in front of me or right in back. I would later talk to Tommy after the race and explain how I am a slave to my Garmin and apologize for my sometimes erratic pace which would speed up or slow down if I wasn’t around my target pace. It was in the next couple miles I would loose these guys. (Tommy finished up a couple minutes behind me with a personal record so he was happy with his race). So I was on my own and suffering in silence for the next few miles.
Miles 22 through 24 were very tough which might be an understatement! My quads were screaming and my heart rate was slowly climbing to it’s maximum rate. I’m not sure how I managed running a pace between 7:03 to 7:05. I was digging deep and living in the “pain cave”! Somewhere on these miles I passed the 4th place woman who seemed to be having a tough time like myself. She said “great job” and I could barely get the words out to express gratitude and let her know she was doing great. But I did and probably sounded like I was in dire straits. (we chatted a little after the race) Mile 25 was also excruciating! But I still managed a respectable pace of 7:09. This mile was a blur but I remember there were more spectators cheering us on and this was very welcome.
Rourke Bridge – Mile 13
Mile 26 was a very rude awakening. It was mostly a gradual uphill which was quite a surprise. I knew there were some rollers at the end but I wasn’t prepared for how grueling this would be. While this small climb was nothing like the hills here in Vermont, it was enough to derail me and shatter my poor screaming quads. This is where I fell apart. While it felt dramatic, in reality I wasn’t doing that badly. What felt like a 9 minute mile was still a respectable 7:32 pace. My Garmin clocked 26.43 miles and the last .43 of a mile was like a death march for me. At this point I had a limp in my run and my heart rate was maxed out. I couldn’t continue on for much longer. I have never hurt this badly at the end of a race. I was sailing in uncharted waters! To make maters worse, the 5th place woman had made up some time on me and was closing in fast. This last section felt like an eternity of suffering! But alas, the finish line was just ahead. I gutted it out and ran the best I could for the ending. The 5th place woman took a fall and never caught me but she was close behind! After I crossed the finish line in 4th place, I fell to the ground as my legs gave out on me. Thankfully two volunteers helped me up. I knew I had broken the 3:08 time and was satisfied with my race after all that I had been through. One volunteer helped me walk for a little while as I was feeling slightly dizzy. He was kind enough to listen to my story of how I almost didn’t make it. Afterward I walked around, got some food and waited for Scott to finish his race. Here are my last 6 miles:
Living in the Pain Cave just before the finish line
Scott finished up with the 3:45 pacer who encouraged him to keep going!
Scott had a very different marathon experience! This was his first marathon and he set a very high goal for himself: to qualify for the Boston Marathon. While he is a talented endurance athlete, it was a tall order. I didn’t want to discourage him as I was so proud of him for training so hard all summer. He was on target for for the first half of the race but stomach problems changed the game. He suffered severe cramping and nausea for the second half of the race. He wasn’t able to get down his GUs and had trouble drinking water or Gatorade. Without proper nutrition during a marathon it is impossible to maintain a planned pace. I am not sure how he even ran as fast as he did that second half. He is so tough and finished with a respectable time of 3:44:44. Most people don’t come close to running that fast for their first marathon! At age 45, Scott’s accomplishment is impressive. He is determined to train again for the Vermont City Marathon next May! He will get to Boston when he is ready!
Food and Beverage Report:
For dinner on Saturday night we ate at a very fun vegetarian restaurant called Life Alive. They have three locations in MA with one right in downtown Lowell. We ate at their Cambridge location a couple years ago and it was fantastic. So we were thrilled when we learned they have a restaurant in Lowell. It has a very hippy and crunchy vibration and atmosphere which we love. We are hippies at heart! And we are also vegans! A picture says a thousand words so here are some photos of our dinner experience:
Most of the food on the menu is vegan. There are a few dishes with cheese where you can ask to have it left off. I had a veggie curry dish with brown rice and veggies which was delicious. Scott had the miso noodles which was also tasty. It was also a treat to have fresh juice with the meal. While I was a bit tired of eating at that point, it was still yummy enough to get down. Carb loading is hard work for marathon, but good tasting food makes all the difference.
After the marathon we drove about 15 miles south to Lexington, MA for a really great vegan friendly restaurant called Nourish Fresh Grill and Bar. While we were tired and very sore, it was worth the trip! They have several vegan options on the menu where they designate the meal with a V. You don’t see that very often! We both were starving and couldn’t wait to try their vegan Black Bean Burger which was pan seared and topped with chipotle vegan mayo and fries. I chose the sweet potato fries which were so yummy! It was an epic post marathon vegan dinner! We both had these with an Allagash White Ale which was very refreshing! It’s great place with a classy sports bar vibe. Scott was happy to watch a little football on a big screen. We don’t really watch much sports on TV so it was nice to relax, drink beer and feel like normal people.
Epic vegan black bean burgers and beer for a post race reward!
Post Marathon Glow!
Overall it was a great marathon weekend. We both learned a lot while running the Baystate Marathon. It didn’t go smoothly for each of us, but we both discovered how strong and resilient we really are. I am so proud of Scott and myself for working so hard and crossing that finish line when things became difficult. Marathons are one of life’s greatest teachers. And I’m so glad they are a part of our lives.
The good news is that neither of us had any injuries resulting from this marathon. Last year I tore a foot tendon at Philly and had a few other complications with my shin. After this marathon my shin feels fine which is great news! My quads and calves were extremely sore after the marathon but that is normal when you run fast. They are recovering nicely and I’ll be running tomorrow morning which is very exciting And I look forward to getting back on my commuter bike for some chilly morning rides into work next week! I also look forward to a new training cycle for the Boston Marathon, swim clinic all winter, yoga classes at work, and of course skiing and backcountry! It’s going to be a great winter!
Again, I highly recommend putting this marathon or half marathon on your “list”. They do a great job with this one! It’s a running race put on by runners. And Lowell turned out to be a great little town. It has a very nice downtown area with cobblestones, coffee houses and good restaurants. I kept hearing it wasn’t that great of a place. This is not the case! We plan on going back someday to run this one again when the time is right!
“But I also realize that winning doesn’t always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself.”
― Meb Keflezighi