The marathon went better than I could have imagined. I got to hang out with Amanda and Sean all weekend, see San Juan Island, eat lots of delicious food, soak in a hot tub, get a massage, and basically just thoroughly enjoy myself for two days. Oh yeah, and I also ran my ass off on Sunday and PRed with an overall time of 4:40:40, laying waste to my previous PR of 4:53:17, and on a more challenging course!
San Juan is one of the prettiest places I've ever been, I think. After one particularly gorgeous downhill stretch during the race, I was so blown away that when I got to the next aid station, I spluttered a breathless "You have a beautiful island!" to the guys handing me Gatorade. They laughed, but I was serious. Not only was the place beautiful, the people were, too. The night before the race, the owner of the inn where we were staying took pity on us for not having a car (we'd had to schlep our luggage from the ferry to the inn on foot, which was a good twenty blocks or so) and personally drove us all to the Italian restaurant in town for carbo-loading good times. And I called the race organizer, Paul Hopkins, twice with questions on Saturday, which was probably the busiest day of his life, and both times he made time to return my call. How cool!
Mostly, the reason I ran so well is because I didn't take as many walking breaks. I had trained to take a break every three miles, and I took them at the three-, six-, and nine-mile points as planned. (Most runners weren't taking breaks that early, so a few people were concerned if I was okay. It's funny -- as far as I can tell, a lot of people run the race without taking any planned breaks. Then they end up being forced to walk when they're too exhausted to run. I think that would suck.) But shortly after the nine-mile break, I realized that I was a bit closer to the back than I wanted to be. It was hard to tell what place I was in since we were all so spread out, but from what I could see, I was about 50th of 60 runners. Then, when I hit the aid station at mile 11, which was the turnaround point on the west side of the island, the volunteers seemed impressed by how not-tired I looked. One of them yelled something like, "Wow! Totally unfazed!" I thought to myself, "That isn't cool. I shouldn't seem unfazed. I can run harder than this." The race wasn't even half over yet, but I remembered my usual racing mistake of saving too much for the end and decided that this time I wasn't going to make that mistake. So I skipped my 12-mile break. And then my 15-mile break. And, incredibly, it worked! I actually passed a couple people, and I wasn't dying. I took a break at 18 because I was afraid not to (I don't think I've ever run more than 10 miles consecutively without walking, and definitely never at race pace), but then I picked up again and ran straight through to the end. I realized around mile 20 that I might PR, and so from there until about 23, I just hauled ass. The moment of triumph was when I passed a guy in a yellow shirt who had been ahead of me the entire time. He had been way ahead of me earlier in the race; as soon as I got to the top of one hill, he'd be just bobbing out of view over the next one in his bright yellow shirt. Drove me crazy. I finally caught him around mile 23, and as I went by, he turned to me and winked. It's almost as if he knew.
Photos of the winners are up on the race website. I saw the male winner during the race; the course doubled back on itself for a while, so he was passing mile 13 in one direction while I was at about mile 8.5 in the other. (I didn't feel disheartened to see him -- at that point I was excited to be only five miles away from the leader!) He looked even more muscular in real life than in the photo, by the way.
So, now what? Now that she's seen me run a 4:40, Amanda believes that I could eventually run a 3:40, which is a Boston-qualifying time. I'm not sure if that's possible, but I definitely think that 4:30 is in reach now. Also, marathoners often don't reach their peak until their mid-30s -- the male and female winners of this race were 40 and 30, respectively. In fact, I was the youngest female runner in the race. So I figure I have about ten years to improve, if I decide that it's something I want to go for.
I'll have lots of photos later, including some that Sean took of one of the most inspirational things I've encountered in all my running: a blind athlete and his sighted training partner who did the race together. (They ran holding onto the ends of a short plastic rope.) They were ahead of me nearly the whole time. When I finally got close to them, it looked like they were really tired since they were having to walk frequently, but still, I didn't catch up with them until nearly 25.5. They ended up finishing about four minutes after I did, and I made sure to congratulate them -- because, damn, they're amazing.
In summary, yay! My third marathon, and probably not my last! And now, sleep.