A balmy 7 degrees as we headed to Salem, Mass on race morning - March 1. Can you see there is a pattern here with the temperatures I've been reporting? Yeah it's cold. And yeah I'm over it.
And please remind me why I decide to run a spring marathon, which means training through a New England winter. ;)
Oh right ... to Fight Stroke one step and one dollar at a time!
So I end my complaining (about the weather) now.
The ride to Salem takes just over 30 minutes so my wife, my dad and I climbed into the car around 7am to head to the race site. I had to get there nice and early to pick up my bib, t-shirt & water bottle.
We thankfully lucked out and found a spot at a meter on the street just around the corner from the Start, which gave us a spot to hide (aka warm up).
The Black Cat 10 & 20 miler is put on by B&S Event Management and they had a TON of volunteers on hand race morning to help registration and pick-up go smoothly.
Can you tell I was going for Boston Marathon colors ? Blue & Gold
I've shared about the Blue Trailer portable lockers before so I was excited to finally test them out. The 20-Miler was their big debut.
Molly, CEO/Founder, graciously gave me a large locker to store my gear. I had so much extra room in there that I wish I had brought more stuff to store.
My Large Locker = Lucky #6
Once I had my key securely in my pocket, it was time to stretch and get lose for the Start. Blue Trailer was set up right next to the Start so I didn't even have to move.
I was in contact with friends I knew at the run and finally made a connection with the lovely Elizabeth (aka @EJComeau) from Twitter. We have been chatting online for a couple years, but kept missing each other at races and social engagements.
Until this race!
With an out and back course totaling 10 miles, I knew I would see Elizabeth and my other friends out on the course multiple time. This made me one happy camper.
I knew the race would be more a mental tan physical exercise for me. I have put in those miles before, but on this day I would be solo (meaning no assigned running buddies) and zero Disney character stops! :P
I bid adieu to my dad and wife and started making last-minute adjustments to my gear and outfit. While chatting with my Tedy's Team running mate Lisa, the Start horn went off.
Well, it was Go time.
I knew within the first mile that I was going out too fast too soon.
Mile 1: 8:28
THAT would not fly for a 20-mile run ... and I knew it.
I tried to have a mental conversation with myself and slow it on down. Reel it on it if you will. I KNEW there would be hills coming up and I should be using the first 10 miles to learn what was going on. I mean I would be doing it twice.
Mile 2: 8:44
Mile 2 included the first of two BIG inclines. I cursed it the first time and knew I'd be curing it again 10 miles later.
Mile 3: 9:17
Oh you might be thinking, "Wow Dani, you got it together and slowed it down at Mile 3." NOPE!
Since I am lazy with updating my music, I was rocking the same playlist from the Dopey Challenge, which was fine by me. It combines today's hits, musicals (Wicked) and Disney tunes. It was nice to hear those songs again and think about where I was when I heard them last while in Disney.
I was trying to distract myself from worrying too much about pace and time.
I also thought if I worked on taking in the scenery and keeping an eye out for the elite athletes at the front, my pace would slow down on its own.
Ummm not so much!
Mile 4: 8:41 Mile 5: 8:48 Mile 6: 8:50
During Mile 6, we headed back down the large hill to head back towards the Start area ... and another hill. Yeah I was too focused on slowing myself down when we first started that I didn't notice the decline. Because you know what goes down must go up (that's what she said) and vice versa.
Mile 7: 8:59
The route took you past the Start Line to do a 2.5 loop that would connect you to the transition area/Finish Line (more on that in a moment).
This loop kicked off with a nice flat stretch before opening up for more rolling hills, including this BAD boy during Mile 9 (and 19).
I kept my focus on catching the guy in the left corner.
Mile 8: 8:30 Mile 9: 9:12 (hello hill)
Once we hit the top of the hill, we had a great water view before running through a neighborhood for a few blocks before hitting the Mile 10 transition/Finish area.
Mile 10: 8:56
Let me explain. The race was a 10 mile and a 20 mile race. Soooo you ran through the inflatable arch with 10-mile racers going to the left and the 20-milers to the right so we could head out for another loop.
Mental mind game my friends. I saw the 10-mile runners getting their medals, water and banana ... I wanted to be them. But, I knew my training called for 20 so out I went.
Now, it was during this time that I noticed some major pain in my toes. I had doubled up on socks and I think it was a poooooor choice. I had a pair of peds and a pair of knee socks. I think that pairing took up too much room in my sneakers causing my toes to squish on top of each other, which resulted in unfortunate rubbing.
There was nothing I could do about it at that point. There weren't any medical tents on the course. I didn't have any bandaids on me. So I just told myself, the faster you run the sooner you can take your shoes off and figure out what was going on.
The pain was taking over my mental game so I focused on my list of which mile was dedicated to which person = my virtual running buddies! :0)
Mile 11: 9:05 Mike 12: 9:06
That damn hill again. I just channeled my Heartbreak Hill mojo and yelled out loud: "You will be my B^*%ch!" (Sorry I don't have the cleanest mouth especially while running)
Mile 13: 8:49 Mile 14: 9:06
We hit a turnaround point before the Mile 14 mark and the volunteers were handing out a special snack for the runners. I was overjoyed as I knew I'd be missing my swedish fish at the Tedy's Team water stops.
It may have taken me the rest of the mile to tweet and post this picture without losing the Twizzler to the ground. Priorities over time/pace. ;)
The Twizzler gave me the boost I needed in the moment. Plus, I was ready to head back towards my cheering squad. :)
As I headed back down the "big hill" that annoyed me around Mile 2, I saw Elizabeth heading up and took it upon myself to grab a creepy stalker-type photo. Made sense, right?
Just after passing Elizabeth, I knew I needed to take a picture of the beautiful nature around me.
Living in the moment, enjoying the blessings of life ... and distracting myself from the pain in my feet!
Mile 15: 9:18
Morale was getting low and I took to social media to try to find a pick-me-up. Plus I was texting my dad and wife that I needed help. The weather was warming up (to a sweltering 20+ degrees). I couldn't handle holding my gloves or hat any longer.
So after updating my Facebook status at Mile 16 (priorities), I called my dad to see if he could meet me before the final loop to take my stuff. They were in the center window shopping so it was a no go. In the moment, it was the last thing I wanted to hear.
Mile 16: 9:03
I was ready to be done. My spirits lifted as I saw we were heading towards the Start area and the start of the final loop.
Mile 17: 8:48
At Mile 17 I tweeted, "17 miles and not one Disney character stop." Yes, I crack myself up. And as I turned to see the Start area, there was my wife. She hustled down to grab my armband, hat and gloves. My savior! ;)
I was ready to push through the final 3 miles - less than a 5k. I could do that.
Mile 18: 8:48 Mike 19: 8:56 (that damn hill again)
I just kept repeating the faster I moved, the faster I'd be done! I was ready for the post-race water, chocolate milk, beer and Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee - in that order.
And before I knew it - there was the final few blocks to the Finish!!!
Mile 20: 8:24
My initial goal for the day was 9 min/mile pace, which would've been a 3 hour finish. My official time was 2:57:59 (8:54 min/mile pace). The miles weren't as consistent as I would've liked, but without the toe pain I think it would've been a different story.
Now, my wife and dad were right at the Finish. Right where I needed them. But there was one problem. I couldn't take a full breath to save my life. :( I was having a really hard time breathing and taking control of my airwaves. It felt like my throat was burning and closing at the same time. I experienced the same thing after the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Marathon in November 2012, but not really since then.
I tried to walk it off. Nope.
I tried to stop and bend over. Nope.
I hobbled inside to see if the warmer air would help. Nope.
I guzzled water. Nope.
I couldn't find any medical personnel so I just tried whatever I could.
After a good 5-10 minutes, I started to gain control over my breathing again. I was an asthmatic as a child through high school. I also know there is sports-induced asthma.
Once my breathing was back to normal, I chugged some more water and was ready for my post-race beer! :)
First, I had to take my obligatory post-race photo with my bling.
Then we grabbed my stuff from Molly and the Blue Trailer crew. It was great to hear how successful their debut went. It is a great company so I can't wait to watch it take off. Look for them at races around New England.
After feeding the parking meter, it was time for a beer at Salem Beer Works. We walked in to a crowd of runners - people after my own heart. I saw a few familiar faces, which is always a cool experience. Yes these are friends I have met thanks to running and the interwebs.
Mmmm Blue Trailer shades ... bling ... beer!!
Overall, it was a successful race with sweet bling. I love an out-and-back course. Unfortunately, the roads weren't closed to the race so it was a battle verse cars - especially during the second loop. The cops did the best they could, but they weren't at every cross road or intersection. I almost got run over - seriously run over - by three people, including an old lady that apparently needed to get her 24-pack of paper towels home ASAP. They were scary instances, but it is part of the game with races that don't have the means to have the streets closed.
Would I run it again? Sure, the hills were amazing practice for Boston.
A special thanks to B&S Even Management and especially Ashley Stevens for inviting me to run the Black Cat 20-Miler!