2017 Steamtown Marathon Recap!

To finish a marathon, you have to respect the distance and do the training.  To PR in the marathon, you have to do better training and commit to your goal.

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This is how I finished the race on Sunday.  Fully committed right up to the finish line.  

This summer, I joined the NY Flyers Marathon Training Program again to work towards breaking 3:30.  I was more determined to reach my goal after missing it by over a minute last year.  I agreed to train 4 days a week (up from 3 days/wk) and only signed up for 1 race during the training period (NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler).  I was tempted to sign up for other races and PR in the shorter distances, but I kept reminding myself of the real goal.  I did not want to risk injuring myself before the marathon.

After the Boston Marathon this year, I developed plantar faciitis in my right foot. I took a few weeks off, but it never went away.  I knew the only way it was going to go away was rest, but I decided to get treatment and run through it (Do not do this at home. Rest and let it heal!).  I saw my massage therapist almost every 2-3 weeks, had my foot taped regularly, and did a lot of foot exercises.  I also had to modify workouts because I figured out the shorter repetition work (200m & 400m) caused a lot of pain in my foot.  Surprisingly, my foot felt better a few weeks before the marathon!  It was not 100%, but it would survive the marathon.

The forecast for race day kept changing from rain to cloudy to thunderstorms.  All three were bad for running a marathon, but there was nothing I could do about the weather!  I could only focus on my race strategy and stay positive.  I hate running in the rain, but I did not let that get to me.  Instead I thought, well, if I have to pee mid race, I won’t need to go to a Porto Potty. No one will know if I pee on myself!  Positive thinking despite horrible weather conditions!  Negative thoughts will only bring down your race.

On race morning, Andrew and I drove to downtown Scranton and found a great parking spot 3 blocks from the finish line!  It was a good start to the day until it started to rain.  The bus ride was about 45 minutes so I took a nap.  When I woke up at Forest City High School, it was pouring!  Gah!  We were greeted by cheerleaders and volunteers, but all the runners ran into the high school for shelter.  Andrew and I hung out in the gymnasium and finished getting ready for the race.

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We got here around 6:40AM! 

Screen shot of the weather from my phone that morning……

After several trips to the porto potty and drawing on my hand, we were ready to run!

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My coach told me to aim for 7:55’s for a goal time of 3:27:37.  I would have been happy with 3:29:59!

We found Coach Stephen at the start.  He was pacing the 3:35 group and I told him right before the race that I did not want to see him until the finish.  Maybe knowing that he was behind me the entire time gave me a little motivation to not slow down.  At the sound of the boom from the cannon, we were off and running towards Scranton!  I positioned myself in between the 3:25 and 3:35 pace groups.  Like the Wineglass Marathon, there was no 3:30 pace group so I was on my own.  I took everyone’s advice and started out very conservatively in the beginning. I let the 3:25 pace group go and let everyone pass me.  It felt like the beginning of the Boston Marathon!  I ran alone for the first few miles and did not waste any energy making friends along the way. By mile 8, I was running alongside this guy who was running about my pace so I decided to be friendly.  His name was Dave and he was also running his first Steamtown Marathon and hoping to run 3:27-3:30.  We stayed together until about mile 15 and then Dave fell back a bit.  I decided at that point to try to run a little faster because I was feeling pretty good.  I knew there were hills in the last 3 miles so I thought I would bank some time before hitting the hills.  I hoped that taking it easy in the first half saved my quads for those hills.

The aide stations were great and well organized.  There were only 14 official aide stations, which I thought was not enough given the weather conditions, but we were saved by all the unofficial water stations set up by the locals!!  Thank you!!  I took water bottles whenever they were available and poured water on my head to keep me cool.  I poured a lot of water on my head.  There were also a few sprinklers along the way, which helped as well.  Needless to say, I was completely drenched by the finish.

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Can you see the water/sweat on my arms and legs?!  I don’t remember what mile this was, but it was really pretty!

I noticed that in 2 of my attempts to break 3:30 (Myrtle Beach & Wineglass), I had 1 mile during the race where I lost focus and ran a very slow mile, which cost me my PR.  In addition to drawing the train on my hand, I wrote “SNAP OUT OF IT!!” on the inside of my wrist.  I would only look at it if I got off track, but the rain and sweat washed my drawings & writings off within the first few miles!  This was going to be a mental race as much as a physical race.

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What my hand looked like after the race!

At mile 19, 2 female volunteers told me that I was the 27th female and that I could be in the top 25.  My focus at that time was not placement, but to get to mile 20 so I could eat my last GU!  You run 1 mile at a time!  I was amused by the comment, but when I looked ahead, I could not see a single female runner so I did not focus on trying to catch them.  I focused on keeping pace and staying cool.  If they told me I was 4th female, then that would have made me run faster to try to catch 3rd place!

Mile 23 to 24 was the hardest mile because of the gradual incline and it was mile 23!  Crowd support was amazing during this stretch, but it did not make my legs run any faster.  I clocked an 8:29 that mile, but when I looked down at my Garmin, the total time said 3:11.  I had 18 minutes to run 2.2 miles!  I knew I had sub 3:30, but I also knew there was 1 more big hill at mile 25.5 so I had to continue to stay focused.

Andrew and I drove the last 2 miles of the course the day before, but all I could recognize on race day was the last 2 turns.  I knew that once I made that left turn, I had 1 more right turn and the only thing between me and the finish line was “Cooper’s Hill”.  There was a nice downhill leading up to Cooper’s Hill so I hammered down the hill and then gestured to the crowd to cheer louder.  It helped power me up the hill and I was at the top in no time.  The next half mile was a bit of a blur (literally) because I could not keep my eyes open.  I pushed down the hill and gave it everything I had until I crossed that finish line.  As I crossed the timing mat, I knew I had broken 3:30 and I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I started crying like I had just won the marathon.  I scared all the volunteers at the finish line and they probably thought I was going to collapse at any moment. Hahah. Sorry volunteers!!

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Eyes closed and leaving it all out on the course!

After I calmed down a bit, I was able to tell them that I was just so happy to have PR’ed!  I got my foil blanket, got my medal, and took a deep breath.  I looked down at my watch and was even more surprised to see that I ran faster than my predicted time!  I also ended up 19th female and 3rd in my age group!

I am super proud of my PR and how I ran the race.  I am proud that I never lost focus and never got negative thoughts in my head about the bad weather. It was definitely a race that required more strategy and focus.  I remember when I ran 3:31 for the first time (Boston 2013), I was more relaxed, smiling, and giving out high-5’s throughout the race.  Maybe I could have run a bit faster, but that was not my focus at the time.  At Steamtown, I was so focused that I did not even wave or acknowledge the volunteers towards the end of the race.  Sorry volunteers!!  You guys were great!

I would love to go back and run the race again when the weather is better.  Could I have run faster in better weather?  We will have to wait and see. =)

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PR jump!

Men’s Champion: Hillary Too 2:23:40
Women’s Champion: Lauren Liuzzo 3:09:34

Andrew’s time: 4:04:13

My Time: 3:26:53

Nutrition during the race: 5 GU Roctane’s, 12 salt tablets, 8 ounces of regular Gatorade (I carried this in a small bottle for the first 4 miles and then tossed the bottle), and lots of water!  My left quad and right foot were on the verge of cramping up towards the later stages of the race, but they never did. Whew!

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10 for 10!!!!!!!!!!

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This year I ran my 10th consecutive (11th overall) Boston Marathon! How did I get to 10? Seems like it was just yesterday when I ran my first Boston in 2005.

As a senior in college at Boston University, I ran on the Boston Marathon course because my apartment was at the 40K point of the marathon. During one of my runs, I thought of applying to run the Boston Marathon for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC)! I did not know that DFMC was the largest charity team and a lot of people applied for the team. I was waitlisted. I did not have another plan, but kept running through the winter in case I got off the waitlist. Good thing I kept running because I got an email at the end of January saying that I got a spot on the team! I was so excited, but also very nervous because I did not have a lot of time to fundraise. I reached the fundraising minimum the week before the race (whew!)! I remember race day being sunny and I made the rookie mistake of not wearing sunglasses or a hat. I finished in 4:07 and was the happiest marathon finisher ever!

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2005 group photo in the corrals before the race!  (This is a scanned photo. I think I used a Kodak disposable camera to take photos that year!)

I made it a goal to qualify for my next Boston Marathon run because fundraising was too stressful as a student. It took me 2 years to qualify and I have to thank my Garmin for my time. Literally. In the 2007 NYC Marathon, there was a period of a few minutes where the finish line timing mats did not work. They asked runners who were affected to send in proof of their times. I was one of those runners!!  I sent in my Garmin time of 3:40:40 and hoped that they would make it official so that the BAA could verify my time after I applied. Back then, the qualifying time was 3:40:59 so I just made the cut!

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I will never forget the effort it took to run my first BQ.  I also secure my name tag much better these days.  hahah=)

New York Road Runners accepted my time and I was officially a Boston Qualifier for 2008’s race! I won’t bore you with race recaps of each year, but I will share with you my top 10 favorite things/memories of the Boston Marathon! In no particular order:

*The Dana Farber Marathon Challenge: I ran with the team again in 2012, 2013, & 2014. I owe a lot to this team and have made so many friends from being part of this team. I also met my husband on this team, so DFMC holds a very special place in my heart.  I ran in memory of my dad who passed away from cancer in 1998 and Andrew was running in honor of his dad who was fighting lung cancer when we met.  My dad never got to see me run, but Andrew’s dad was able to see us both run Boston in 2013.  Andrew’s dad passed away later that summer.  Though no longer with us in person, our dads will always be with us in spirit.

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This is the 2012 DFMC team picture!
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My dad’s “In Memory” card for the pasta dinner.

*Boston College: Everyone raves about the “Wellesley Scream Tunnel”, but to be honest, the Scream Tunnel has not been as loud in the past few years. In 2005, I could really hear them a mile away.  The girls are still there with lots of signs, but there are not as many as in the past.  The Boston College kids at mile 20 are my favorite. They are loud, drunk, and sooooo happy to see you!  Wellesley girls: step it up!

*The Expo: I love the expo. Enough said.

*My family cheer station at Mile 18: My sister has a friend who lives by Mile 18, so she parks at her friend’s house and waits for me to run by to cheer me on. My mom usually comes up from NYC to watch me run and in the past 3 years, Andrew has watched with them too.

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I was so excited to see my niece (in the white jacket) in 2011. This is the year that Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 and it did not count as a world record!
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My sister & niece braving the cold & rain in 2015!

*Seeing my friends along the way: My friends are the best!  I have to give a special shout out to my City Sports Run Club friend, Jan, for sharing miles with me and helping me when I was having a tough time in the Newton Hills.

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2013 Boston Marathon: When I see a friend on the course.  hahaha=) 
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2014 Boston Marathon: Hiiiiiiii!!!!
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2016 Boston Marathon: Same pose EVERY year. haha=)
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2012. Felt like 100 degrees. Jan (in yellow City Sports top) helped me through the heat!  I could not have finished without him.

* Kenmore Square: Running by my old apartments and through Kenmore Square always brings back fun memories of college & post college. DFMC also has their cheer station at mile 25 so that gives me a big boost before the final mile. The Red Sox game is usually done by the time I run by, so the crowds are amazing there.

*Boylston Street: The stretch to the finish line is always special.  Here you can get the crowds to scream louder if you gesture to them and you can soak in all the energy and realize that you will soon be a Boston Marathon finisher!

*I cannot write about Boston and not mention 2013. The weather was perfect that day and I had the race of my life. I was having the best time until I found out what happened at the finish line. I am thankful that my friends and I were safe, but am sad every time I think about everyone who was affected that day. How we came together after that day made me realize how strong runners can be to overcome anything. We will always be Boston Strong.

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2013 pre-race photo with the guys at the DFMC refuge.  I love these guys.

*Meb: I first met Meb after the 2013 BAA 5K at the Fairmont Copley Hotel. Back on my Feet had a team run the 5K and our meeting room was in the same hotel where the elite athletes were staying. As I was leaving with my friend Seann, Meb was walking to get breakfast. He seemed to be in a rush, but when we showed him that we actually knew who he was and asked him about his injury and his plan for coming back, he slowed down and talked to us! We took a photo, shook hands, and let him go eat breakfast! Meb watched the race from the grandstands that year because he was injured. He came back in 2014 and won for the city of Boston. I was at mile 10 when someone told me that Meb won the race and it totally made my day!

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Me & Meb back in 2013!

*Andrew: We met on the day of the 2012 Boston Marathon at the church where DFMC runners gathered before the race. We did not start dating until after the 2013 Boston Marathon and got married last year! Andrew was stopped on Boylston Street in 2013 and he returned in 2014 to finish what he started. He decided to take a break from fundraising and watch the race in 2015. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy in 2015. Terrible conditions for runners and spectators, but he was there again in 2016 and 2017. Thanks love! I will not talk about getting to the Quarter Century Club for a while. Getting to 10 in a row is a huge accomplishment for me. I will take it one year at a time from now! =)

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Andrew escorting me up the Newton Hills in 2016!

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I want to congratulate my marathon sister, Bethany, for also running her 10th consecutive Boston this year!  Here’s to many more!  =)

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