I'm going to Boston

Sunday at 3:40 a.m. I was up and at'em. Tim thought I was going to torture him with three -four taps on the snooze. He begged, please “No Snooze.” I didn't. Not on race day. On race day I do everything in my power correctly. (It’s the 350 other days of the year that my behavior is in question.) The gun would go off at 6:30 and I needed to absorb my coffee before then.
We caught the shuttle and were on the way to race start near Balboa park at 5:00 a.m. It was kind of cold and rainy but great for racing a marathon.

Once at the park the nerves kicked in despite ceasing drinking my Cytomax and I used the porta potty at least twice. Just before the race started I was exactly where I was two years ago at this race: half way down one of the canyons, behind a bush squatting. The ground was slippery from the rain. My feet slid as I peed and I peed on my left shoe. Must have been good luck.

I went to turn on my Garmin 305 and it was dead. Oh fudge, my plan, my plan, my plan. What to do about my plan? 8:30-8:40 miles 1-10, 8:15-25 miles 10-20. With 10K to go: all out. How would I pace that without my Garmin? Stacy ran 3:30 with no Garmin. Marathons have been done for years without Garmins. Tim and Bruce cracked up. Typical. I know the Garmin said ”Battery Charging in Process” I checked it 5 times before bed last night. Crap. It was dead. It stayed dead for two days after the race. I guess it got tired. Tim in usual selflessness took off his Garmin 405 and told me to wear it. I should have insisted he keep it as I hate the 405. The 405 and I don't sync. He said he didn't need it. There was a pace group and he was just going to hang on to them. I didn't know if there was a 3:40 pace group. The brochures said there was but at the expo the San Diego track club said there was a 3:45 group. I could run with the 3:45 and step it up at the half. Without a watch it would be tough. I selfishly accepted the 405. Tim and I made sure it was set to go and locked the bezel so it wouldn't inadvertently switch modes if I bumped it.

Bruce, Tim, and I headed to our corrals. Tim was in corral 2, Bruce and I in corral 4. In corral 3 was a man holding the 3:40 pace sign. I'll call him Mr 3:40. I looked at Bruce with eyes that must have been as big as saucers. I would have dissected the options a million times and been paralyzed with indecision. Should I or shouldn't I? It's not my corral, maybe I should negative split. Blah, Blah, Blah. Before I had time to think (I’m not sure thinking is the right word), Bruce told me to go, get up there, hang with the 3:40 group. He said “Jen, you're going to run 3:40.” There was no doubt in his voice. He was planning to run 3:45 and not one minute faster. This was a training day for Coeur D'Alene. Knowing this I didn't ask him to come with me. It’d be selfish of me. It was nice that I had him running sweep. If I had a rough day he would help me salvage things. Without allowing time to change my mind I ducked the rope and moved myself up to corral 3and tucked in beside Mr 3:40. I must have looked liked I belonged enough not to get sent back to coral 4. (Note: there were something like 50 corals and 20,000 people racing. Your official time was based on your chip not your corral. Just so you don' think I cheated. :)

When the gun sounded, I started my Garmin. It was working correctly and switched to auto pause. Perfect. I thought it would start as soon as I started moving and crossed the start. I tried to run just behind Mr 3:40. He was tall and I figured if I could draft him for 26.2 miles. It would save a lot of energy and marathons are draft legal :O) Also I would not, I repeat NOT go out too fast this time. (Although it is kind of fun to blast out really fast. It's just that at the end of the race my results look more like the long road to the dessert table;) Tucking in behind the pace guy sounds boring but it was wildly exciting. It was like the swim of a vicious triathlon. About 6 times I felt my feet lift up as they tangled with somebody behind me. Mr 3:40 was a popular guy. I am 5'3 in my running shoes. Rather than being shoulder to shoulder I was nose to armpit with most of the other runners. Deodorant and showers prior to a 6:30 a.m. start are not common. I decided to move to the side and front of the pace group. I wasn't going to get very far if I tripped or passed out from fumes. I looked down at my Garmin 405 and saw that the screen had changed to a digital compass. Well what do you know, I had a compass to help me navigate the marked coarse. Bonus, I was wearing my,oh so comfortable, plastic heart rate monitor that would provide me NO data for future training. Sorry Mom, but I gave a mental middle finger to the Garmin 405. I vowed to kick butt despite it. After DNF’ing a club race due to my battle with the Michelin tire I wasn’t going to say, "I didn’t make my time goal because I had trouble working my Garmin." That would prove me stupid and lame.

Running in a group made the miles go by quick and the leader just kept reinforcing not to go zipping off. I fell into step next to Kathleen, another member of the tri club. We used to ride in the Bellas together and I hadn't seen her for a long time. It was great. We were both shooting for the same time goal and started chatting it up. She seemed really comfortable with the pace but I lost her as we headed towards Friars road. She mentioned she had a leg injury prior and was going to call it a day if the pain came back. I guessed that was what happened (and it was) & I was bummed to loose her. She seemed very mature and reasonable about the injury. I was impressed. It’s great that in this sport we can share out experiences and learn from how others handle things. The thing about racing, training, and distance events is that injuries happen. You have to figure out when it's smarter to cut your losses. Nobody wants to drop out but sometimes it's a lot smarter to exit the race. Better to start the healing vs. hanging in and making things 10 times worse. I'm lucky I haven't had any significant injuries since the "Phantom Foot Pain." They happen. So here is a shout out my friends on the injured reserve list. I feel for them and am grateful for them showing me how to handle injury without being a crazy head (like me when I was injured) and showing you can come back and really kick butt. So thanks ladies.
Soon after the separation from Kathleen, I found Stacy. Yee Haw. Stacy, the super star runner, was doing the relay for her office. She was able to do her warm up with me. I wished she could have run with me to the finish. I was lucky she found me in the sea of 20,000. I told her to look for me with the 3:45 group. I said I would just be starting to step it up when I saw her. I worried she would think I went out too fast since I was with the 3:40's. We connected and the next 3.5 miles went by really fast. We had to be careful not to go zipping off from Mr.3:40. We hit Linda Vista and I said good by. Stacy was at her relay start.

I was happy the miles kept going by so quickly. I allowed myself to run a comfortable pace but made it a point not to get in front of the first runner with a 3:4o bib on their jersey. I didn't want to waste any energy. Around mile 15ish, I ran into Nikee and James. Yeah…more company. I chatted with them for a few minutes. James was recovering from an injury and said he was shooting for a 4 hour. I told him he was well ahead of schedule. He laughed and said he was going to need it. He did it though. We headed up Morena Boulevard. I noticed it was windy. Crap. The one spot I am alone and there is a head wind. I knew I was fine pace-wise. I could see the 3:40 sign a ways back but I worried about the wind. Visions of the group flying passed me went through my mind, I worried I would fall into the depths of despair. I read something recently about hypnotism and athletes. I'm not going to score high on any intelligence test while racing but I figured it was my best shot at avoiding negativity. Yup, I had to hypnotize myself right then and there. A girl was running ahead of me. She was super cute, like those ones in a magazine ad. It floors me how some women can race fast and pretty. I'm jealous. Have you seen my race pictures...nasal flaring, red face, hair sticking up all over. I'm ok with my nasal flaring race pictures. I'm just impressed that others can race fast while looking like they're not even working. Wow! She had on a bright orange sports bra and knee socks....super hip. Not only can I not have pretty race pics....but I can't race in hip clothing either. I was wearing tri club hat and tri club old school jersey (because it is bright enough for TCSD members to see and give me a pepping up if needed, and so Stacy could find me.) I wore tri shorts too, although not fashionable, they have pockets on the side. I am very impressed that I was able to carelessly shove both of my arm warmers in one packet. I didn't even lose one of them. I don't know where I would put all my stuff if I chose a more fashionable outfit. I realize it must seem excessive. Maybe the title of this blog should have been Costco shopper takes on marathon. I accessorized my outfit with my lucky Amphipod water bottle.
Back to my self hypnotizing techniques. The orange sports bra girl looked so effortless. I thought, I want to run like that. I stared at her shoes and watched them turn over. "Run like that, run like that," I inwardly chanted. All of the sudden I caught up. I guess hypnotism failed. Instead of "running like that" I ran faster. Score...who needs a Garmin. Then in honor of my pink bike, I drafted the guy she was running with. He was tall like Tim and I knew Tim would be so proud of me for saving energy. Then the guy turned around and said, "Do we have somebody drafting?"
Busted. I don't think he was mad, but I was in the hot seat. Rather than to explain I had been using his girl's shoes to hypnotize myself I said, "Well it was a little windy back there all alone so I thought we could switch off…paceline for a bit." I stepped it up and moved in front. I didn’t even jump off the front of the paceline, but I soon lost them. I heard the girl say she was struggling. Wait a minute....this was the girl I assumed things were so easy for. I guess things are sometimes deceiving; I felt a little bad I didn't have time to give her an inservice in self hypnosis....she could have used my shoes. Maybe another time.
We were approaching mile 20 and the Mr. 3:40 announced we were 37 seconds ahead of the 3:40 mark. Sweet and I wasn't even in trouble. The final 10K was going to be tough in my mind. I was prepared to put up a darn good fight. The bump they call a hill in Crown Point passed in a hurry and so did the bridges. At 20.5 something happened. I thought maybe I was starting to fail. The leader started to pick it up and I had a hard to staying up, much less being a few steps. I also got this wicked toe/foot cramp in my right foot. My right middle toe felt like it was sticking straight up and giving me the bird. I guess I should have peed on my right foot too. The left foot was behaving just fine.

We rolled through 21 miles and the clock said 2:56. A portly man, self appointed coach type, yelled, "3:40 runners: you are on pace for 3:43."
“NO, WE'RE NOT.” Mr. 3:40 said softly. I have a strong sense of injustice. One man is willing to run 26.2 miles carrying a heavy wooden sign to help other runners, another man stands on the side lines and says he did a bad job and is off pace. Now I'm fired up. "NO WE'RE NOT!" I said. My voice....it carries. There were probably 7 of us running together at this point. They all said "yeah" and started laughing. The self appointed coach probably didn't realize that was the gun time on the clock. We started a minute back. I don't know where he got the 2 minutes from but I was not going to take it. He got defensive. He said we weren't going to go to Boston if we didn't make up 2 minutes in the next 5.2 miles. Now I was fired up. From mile 5, the crowds were cheering to our group, "You're going to Boston." I didn't even know if I wanted to go to Boston, other races considered and the "pain" of running a marathon. I certainly wasn't going to celebrate victory until the end. At mile 21 of a marathon, no man on the sidelines will tell me I am two minutes down (if I’m not). I don't care if I don't have a working watch or if my toe is giving me the bird. So (hands on my hips) there. I AM GOING TO BOSTON. I'm pretty chill, but when I get fired up....there is some red in my hair (before the chlorine and Cali sun bleached it....and the help from my stylist). Maybe that man was my angel because I forgot I had to dig to keep up and my toe cramp seemed to have passed.
Just after mile 23 our group had splintered. It was very crowded now with the fallen and wounded vicitims of the 3:20 and 3:30 group:) Mr. 3:40 seemed to really surge and slow now, which just isn't my style. He's probably a track star or interval king. My background is the Ironman shuffle, so I was going to run along at a steady pace. I let him go as despite having nothing to tell me what pace we were running or what our ETA was. I didn't think the surge/slow method was going to be good for me. He surged and I didn't. I know coach said "at 10K go with everything you have left" but I am sure he meant go efficiently with everything you have left. I could see a big explosion on the horizon with the surging. I was at 5K, which is so close yet so far away. I didn’t want to risk it now.

I keep Mr 3:40 in my sight. The toe cramp resurfaces and I hear my breathing now. A guy in a purple jersey jumps out from the sidelines when he sees his friend/teammate. He is wearing a purple headband with green three leaf clovers attatched to the top via springs. They are bouncing. He is bouncing. She sounds teary, says she is struggling. Trying to qualify for Boston but out of gas. He slows to help her. He says "I have got news for you. You are doing great, on pace for a 3:50." Not again, a miss informed man trying to bring me down. I may have one failed Garmin and another I can't work but I was smart enough to check the time clock at mile 23. I was still on time for arrival. He says she is doing great. She'll reach the finish line. He's going to help her. It's time for a "Mission Moment." She's crying now. She thinks she has fallen off the 3:40 pace and lost 10 minutes. He slows and reads the “current” pace he is running off his Garmin. She slows. He slows in front of me with his bouncing headband. I have to make my way around him. It is crowded. I am so mad for her sake. He's not derailing me too. I say excuse me, I work around him and for her sake mention we are on pace for 3:40. We are fine. The girl doesn't listen to me. They are having a mission moment. I am sure his heart was in the right place. The injustice issue again....in my mind he messed up her race. Worse case scenario she could have started a minute ahead of me. I'm fired up again and I have forgot about my unruly toe.

I am out of the there and headed for mile 24. I am working now. Mr 3:40 sign is in my sight but a ways ahead. I feel like I am running hard. It's hard to say what my pace is because at this stage a 9 minute mile could feel like 7:30. I just go, with everything I have. I focus ahead looking for mile 24. I run for what seems like too long for one mile. I start to worry I have slowed. I pass a lady and ask her if we have passed mile 24. Not sure she says. How could she have missed the sign too? Oh this doesn't look good. Am I slowing and I don't know it? I just run on, with everything I have. It is supposed to be hard. I have run strong for so long. I am not giving up without out a fight. I will fight an ugly battle until the end. I will NOT run pretty. I'm ok with that. Somebody else says after a pregnant pause we did. Whew. That was close I relax a little.

I hit mile 25 and according to the clock I have plenty of time to get in under 3:40:59. We are entering the Marine Recruit Depot. My father was stationed in the Marines here when he was 18. I mentioned to him earlier about how great it was the race finished here and how pretty the buildings were as if he had fond memories of the place and me finishing a race there would elicit the fond memories for him. I didn't though because his life was really hard there. (Unlike my run where only the final 10 k was hard and I chose a marathon as my recreation.) He replied:

"That race finish would be the Marine Recruit Depot (MCRD) with the large parade deck and the fancy Spanish inspired buildings for the administrative buildings. Unfortunately, I stayed in a tent or a Quonset hut half barrel type building. Maybe they tore them down but knowing the Marines probably not. Good luck with that race."

At mile 25 I felt good about my run. I could have backed off a bit and still finished in 3:40:59 or something close to it. Respectable. When I left home this morning I didn't know if I would want to run Boston even if I qualified. I didn't know how much it meant to me. The last 1.2 miles through the MCRD I dug as deep as I could. It was in honor of and inspired by my father's nights in a Quonset hut. (and maybe fueled by his hint of sarcasm).... Dad if you are not impressed with only getting 1.2 miles of a 26.2 mile race I promise you the last 0.2 were the LONGEST 0.2 miles of my life. I didn't give up one second early. I could see the numbered on the clock turning....the people in the bleachers didn't know I started one minute back so everybody was cheering wildly for me (and the other in the chute) to break 3:40. I crossed in 3:40:05 but my actual time was 3:39:19. Once across the finish line I stood in shock. I couldn't beleive I had done it. After two open marathons and two Ironman marathons I had finally broken the 4 hour mark. Finally. I stood there for a second and blinked back tears, not since Arizona had I been so pleased with my efforts. I came back to reality when a guy asked me if I was alright. I headed to the med tent for some ice and set off to find Tim. I saw something that looked like a dead body lying on the ground after the finish line. Oh good, I found Tim!


tim said...

Nice job! How'd you get so fast?

Stacy said...

I got all misty eyed reading this! Enjoy Boston!

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

Thanks Stacy. Truth be known Tim wrote the part about me finding him looking like a dead body.

Bruce Neuschwander said...

Very smart race, Jen. And, you have decided to go to Boston; you chose wisely this time.

Age grading?

Well, my Garmin worked. I started it at the start pad and it said we ran 26.4, an extra .2.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Congratulations! I LOVE your race report - really felt like I was there. I didn't know weather to laugh or cry at times - I can totally feel your emotion... and that really hits home. I couldn't be happier for you!

Okay - a few funny bits... who hasn't peed on their shoe before a race? I TOTALLY give the garmin 405 the middle finger. Completely... Yeah, I never look pretty when I race. Just not in the genes...so I can totally relate. As for the cute outfits? Um - do not do anything for me. AND, as one short-ish person to another - have to agree on the personal hygene before a race. People should definitely use deoderant (and trim their nose hair).

Great RR! CONGRATS!!!!!

Mary said...

Ahh, just catching up on blogs. I am so proud of you! Congrats girl. You've worked hard for this. How exciting!