Part of the job description for being a little boy is to
always make funny faces for the camera.
Smiling is never an option.
The pasta dinner was conveniently located in the same hotel. For $21.95 ($13.95 per child) they offered a do-it-yourself Caesar salad, grilled chicken, lemon butter tilapia, pasta shells with marinara sauce, rigatoni bolognese, and chocolate and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I'd like to say the pasta wasn't overcooked and underseasoned, but then of course I would be lying. The fish and chicken were slightly more palatable than the pasta. I passed on the ice cream to avoid any possible bathroom emergencies the next day.
We went back to our hotel, the Marriott Springhill Suites, in the town of Colonie which is right in between the start and finish. I went to bed early, but didn't sleep much due to nerves and my son suddenly coming down with a fever. The next morning I was up at 5 to eat and digest my bagel. We left by 7:30 and I arrived at the start in Schenectady by 8.
Marathon morning photo shoot in the hotel bathroom.
Now a tradition and a superstition.
It was about 54 degrees at the start. I had a throwaway sweatshirt on to stay warm. I saw only two porta-potties and they were locked up in a cage. Hmmm. I asked an official who said the rest of the porta-potties were down a hill and around a corner. They were not close and the line was definitely more than thirty minutes long. I decided to be one with nature in the woods. I was done in thirty seconds.
I found the 3:45 pacer and decided to line up in front of him. It turned out there were a lot of women who wanted to run at a 3:40 pace. They were all over 40 and hoping to qualify for Boston (BQ) which is sub 3:45 for our age group. I had on my 3:40 pace temporary tattoo, but even still, I am not good at pacing myself. During a marathon, even just a few seconds ahead or behind per mile can make or break your race. I met Kathrine from Atlanta who said she was good at pacing herself and she was wearing a Garmin. I was not.
When I got home, I told my 11 year old that this was my new real tattoo.
She almost cried.
The gun went off at exactly 8:30. I hit the start mat about 30 seconds later. I stayed with Kathrine for much of the first half. We were running consistently between an 8:23 and an 8:24 pace. Perfect. Until I noticed she would announce the pace a couple of hundred yards before we saw each mile marker. She started her Garmin early. She said it didn't matter because it was still a mile distance. I knew this, but she was still off by the race clock. At some point, we would have to play catch up, especially if we wanted to run sub 3:40. At Mile 9 I ran ahead of Kathrine. I passed what seemed like a boatload of people. I must be running at an 8:12 pace, I thought. Kathrine caught up with me at Mile 11 only to inform me we were still at an 8:24 pace. Really?! The people I passed were just slowing down, I was not speeding up.
After the half marathon point, I decided I needed to run faster if I was going to finish in the 3:30s. I picked up the pace and started passing as many people as I could, which turned out to be a lot. I do this while driving on the highway, too. I don't know if this is my competitive nature or just a weird thing I have, but I always feel the need to be ahead. I kept referring to my arm to make sure I wasn't falling behind. Instead, I was hitting the mile markers about two minutes ahead of schedule.
The scenery was pretty. We started out in Central Park, then were quickly led onto the residential streets of Schenectady. The homes were mostly older colonial, my favorite kind. We stayed in the neighborhood for five miles and then headed back onto the bicycle path. The entrance back into the park boasted a gorgeous view of the Hudson River surrounded by the autumn golds, oranges, and reds of the changing trees. We stayed in the park for the next twelve miles. The path was narrow. It never felt crowded, but there were times you had to jockey to get ahead. There was some crowd support at the water stations and on the neighborhood streets, but if you're looking to be cheered along the entire race, some of the bigger events might be more suitable.
When I signed up for this race, all I kept hearing and reading was how fast this course was. I expected it to be 26.2 miles of downhill. I wanted to fly through the race, as I did in Hood to Coast. I guess I wasn't expecting to actually have to work. Yes, flat is definitely faster than rolling hills, but you still need to put effort into it. For some reason, I thought the race was going to be effortless. Not sure why I thought a marathon was going to be effortless. Yes, I was surprised throughout the race that my muscles and bones were aching. In fact, I was tired in the first 10k. I wondered how I was going to pick up the pace and run under 3:40. I found the strength somehow. I didn't get a second wind, but I just pushed along almost on auto-pilot. The more people I passed, the more determined I was to keep going.
Around Mile 17 we left the park and ran on the streets of Watervliet. Once I passed Mile 20 and felt like I could keep going, I felt a bit of relief. If I didn't hit the wall by now, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to hit it at all. We reentered the park after Mile 21. I was passing a lot of people walking at this point. At Mile 25, I saw a guy just stop running. I reassured him that we were almost there. He didn't respond. I never know if I should say something to others for encouragement or not. I, personally, would appreciate the boost from fellow runners. Some people might just get pissed off.
I finally reached the finish line. 3:37:08. This is a four minute PR. The post race party was great. There was plenty of food and drinks. They had some vats of steaming hot vegetable soup. There was even a canoe filled with Hood chocolate milks. It was like a dream.
Overall, the scenery was beautiful, the people (runners, spectators, and volunteers) were all golden, and the post race party was one of the best I've been to. I would definitely change the location of the porta-potties at the start. I also would tell prospective runners that even though it's a fast course, it's still 26.2 miles of running. Well, I guess most people know this. Except me.
I looked Kathrine up in the results. She finished in 3:43:xx. I'm sorry she didn't hit her goal, but I'm also glad I decided to run my own race when I did.