I had decided to race the Erie Marathon in Pennsylvania after hearing great things from some running friends. It’s a flat, fast course, and the biggest selling point for me was the relatively small field and low-key race logistics.
I drove up to Erie on my own on Friday (almost 9 hours in the car) and finally arrived at the Glass House Inn around 6pm. It was a nice place to stay and best of all it was only 5 miles or so from the start of the race! I went for a quick shake-out run of 3 miles and was LOVING the chilly weather. My 8:12 pace felt easy and I was excited. Grabbed spaghetti takeout (eh – not great) for dinner and then went to bed around 10pm (had some trouble getting to sleep) and woke up at 7:30 the next morning. I went for a quick 20-minute shakeout (again, the cooler weather and no humidity was AWESOME) and then had a bagel and cereal for breakfast at the hotel. I took a quick trip to the expo with two awesome Richmond runners who had come up and we drove the course as well. Seeing the awesome views of the water and the pancake-flat course got me excited about getting to race the next day.
The expo/packet pickup was small – basically a few tents set up outside of the pavilion – but boasted some awesome cheap gear (technical shirts for $5!!). The shirt that they gave us in our packet was great as well – long sleeved and comfortable, with a beautiful graphic on the front. My favorite part of the shirt was the logos on the sleeve rather than the back.
Besides that quick trip to the expo/packet pickup, I spent the majority of Saturday with my feet up in my motel room, watching episodes of The Office on my laptop.
I was already getting sick of carbs but worked really hard on Saturday to carb up with lunch at Panera plus some bagels & pretzels for snacks. In addition to lots of water I had two bottles of Gatorade throughout the day. That night I went to the pasta dinner put on by the race directors –it was delicious!! They had tons of pasta, several varieties of homemade sauce, salad, bread, and two kinds of yummy cake. I was so impressed with the food and it was fun to sit and chat with other runners. I definitely ate well and went back for a second plate of pasta since the first one was so good!
I woke up at 4am to a fantastic 55 degree morning. I had my bagel & a half plus some Gatorade, got dressed (shorts, sports bra, sock arm warmers and throw-away shirt) and headed out to the Presque Isle state park. It was very close the motel but I wanted to make sure I got into the park and parked in the lot before it got too crazy. I made it there around 5:10am and then just sat in the car and read my Kindle app on my phone until around 6am. Then I headed to the restroom and then sat around for a bit and chatted with others. Most everyone there was there to try and qualify for Boston and I had been talking with quite a few folks the night before at the pasta dinner hoping to find someone my pace to run with. Unfortunately, no dice. But I met some very nice people (lots of them were Canadian - over half the field was!). I hit the restroom one more time checked my bag around 6:30 then did about 5 minutes of light jogging. I stretched a bit and lined up in my corral. Before I knew it, they played the national anthems (both US and Canada!) and we were off!
My biggest fear going into this was that I’d have no one to run with. But I actually ran with several folks on and off through the whole thing! During the second mile or so I found myself with two other guys running about my pace – I asked them about their goals and found they were also shooting for under 3:20. Great! We chatted for a bit but by mile 4 I started to pull ahead. Another guy caught up to me and said he’d picked me out because I was running a steady pace and seemed in control (ha!). He was super nice and I was sad when he decided to let me go on ahead around mile 6 (he was shooting for 3:25). After that it was pretty uneventful until around mile 8-9 or so when I linked in with another girl and a guy and we formed a little pack that knocked out steady miles until around mile 16. Around mile 9 my Garmin had trouble finding the satellites and it gave me one mile at 7:50 (even though I swear I didn’t run that pace and the girl and the guy in my “pack” confirmed we were running faster). We all ran together until around mile 16 when the guy and I went on ahead of the girl. We’d kind of leap-frog a bit but we were always right around each other and helped encourage each other up until mile 23 or so when he finally went on ahead (he finished 45 seconds in front of me). That was so super helpful to have another person around for that long and made the two-loop course much better. I didn’t mind the two loops though I must admit it was pretty awful to see the mile markers for miles 24 & 25 (at miles 11 & 12) on the first go around and know that I had to do this ALL OVER AGAIN. The crowd support was pretty minimal, but having water stops every mile helped to break it up a bit. I got into the habit at every time we passed a group of spectators I would throw my hands up and encourage them to cheer for us – the folks around me actually got a big kick out of that and it definitely helped boost my spirits as well. I felt strong and in control for most of this race with was SO MUCH BETTER than the last one where I was working at mile 15. I guess stuffing my face with carbs over the last two days helped because I didn’t start to feel the fatigue really set in until mile 22 or so. It’s always my quads that go first and this time was no exception. The course is pancake-flat (and BEAUTIFUL – right along the water the whole time!) and that always beats my quads up. I told myself that the pace had to feel comfortable through the half and then I could pick it up. I felt great up until the last few miles when it started to get really hard and I started to get very tired. I’d tried something new with gels this time around and took 6 (!!!!) over the course of the race, plus one before the start. (Miles 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24) I’m glad I got the extra carbs because the “GU Brew” (Gatorade-type drink) they’d mixed was so watery. I took the GU Brew around every 2 miles or so, then took water with my gels. I also swallowed some electrolyte tabs around mile 6 I think? At mile 22 my Garmin also conked out – since we were in a state park with lots of trees I hadn’t had great reception, but at mile 22 I got the “lost satelites” message and from that point on I had no clue what pace I was running or what mile I was at – only the total time. I was frantically trying to do math in my head (I’d accidentally dropped my pace chart a while back) and math at mile 22 just isn’t pretty. J I just told myself to keep pushing as much as my quads would let me. The last few miles were HARD but I felt happy because I was pretty sure that unless disaster struck, I was going to get my goal! Mile 25 was the longest mile ever and I kept wishing for the finish line – when it finally came into view and I saw the clock I gave it everything I had to keep it under 3:19. Success!! 3:18:51 was the official time. I was 4th in my age group (by 11 lousy seconds!! The girl who took 3rd came flying by me around mile 21, but I could see her up until the end – drat!!) and 13th female overall. It was a long drive home right after a quick shower, but the drive was much sweeter with a PR under my belt!
Splits: 7:42, 7:31, 7:29, 7:32, 7:23, 7:25, 7:33, 7:34, 7:28, 7:31, 7:35, 7:32, 7:28, 7:36, 7:50 (watch kept going in and out here - not sure if this is accurate?), 7:31, 7:25, 7:26, 7:24, 7:25, 7:25, 7:31, ??, ??, ??, ??, ?? (no idea on the last few!)