Ready or not, here I come
I’m about to show you where the light comes from
Ready or not, hear I come
This is who I am, I won’t hide it
I’mma take it all over the world
To the young, to the old, every boy and girl
Ready or not, here I come
I’mma show the world where the love is
Sometimes training cycles end up with a theme song. It’s been one hell of a year and it often felt like the dark times would never end. I’ve still got some health challenges and it’s likely that I always will. But the marathon is one of the best ways I know to let my light shine so, ready or not, here I come.
Wineglass Marathon 2023.
We left for Corning on Friday afternoon when Rose got out of school. The drive was pretty rough with a lot of very hard rain, but we arrived around 8:15, just in time for our dinner reservations at The Cellar. Downtown Corning is completely charming and I’d love to come back.
We stayed at the Econo-Lodge in Painted Post. It was not at all cheap, but it had a peppy and fun manager, another Sarah-with-an-H, who made us feel right at home.
On Saturday morning, I got up and did a short shake-out run and then we headed to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the expo is held. Every single person we encountered all weekend went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. Want to change the project you signed up to make at the museum? No problem. Would you like a cookie before bed at the Econo-Lodge? Sarah’s got you covered. Need to change the time of your dinner reservation? Of course, we can do that. It was remarkable. Friendliest marathon ever.
We kicked off our visit to the museum with glass making. This was a highlight of the weekend. So much fun. Once we’d made our projects, we hit the expo. By then we were starving so we had lunch in the museum café before touring the exhibits. Mervus and I actually put in our wedding vows that one reason we love each other is because we “take a long time at museums.” That’s true, but I also knew, I should get back to the Econo-Lodge to put my feet up before dinner so we breezed through the museum.
For dinner on Saturday night we went to Tanino’s. You could smell the garlic in the parking lot. It was packed but mostly with local families rather than runners. I had my usual pasta with tomato sauce and split some shrimp cocktail with Rose. Then back to the Econo-Lodge and off to bed.
This is when things in Philadelphia started to go off the rails. Last November, instead of falling asleep, I had a panic attack. Of course that crossed my mind at Wineglass, but I was pretty sure I was going to be ok. I felt so much more prepared for this race. My body was a lot more ready to cover 26.2 miles. I had a solid calcium plan. I went into the race with more confidence than I’ve had in a long time. And in fact, I fell asleep, no problem. Thank God.
We got up bright and early for breakfast at 5am. Here’s my fueling report. My general goal was to get my calcium levels as high as might be reasonable before starting.
Night before the race:
430mg sodium [new addition to the regimen]
1200 mg calcium [total]
400 mg magnesium
Morning of the race (5:30am):
1 cup dry oats plus Flavored PB
1200 mg calcium
1000 IUI vitamin D
400 mg magnesium
1000mg powdered calcium at 7am just before getting on the bus
I didn’t want to mess around with transporting a little flask of powdered calcium but for races with a longer ride to the start, I would need to figure that out. One endocrinologist told me that the effect of powdered calcium peaks about 2 hours after you take it.
Every 30 minutes during the race: Maurten gel plus 500mg calcium chew. I am sure I skipped at least one calcium at the end, maybe two.
Back to the race report:
We all left the hotel at 6:15am, right on schedule. Mervus and Rose drove me to Bath, which got me exactly what I wanted: Their company for as long as possible. When we got to the park, runners were lined up for the bus to the starting line. This part took a little longer than I expected but I still made it to the starting area before 7:15. The tent they had set up was already full but the race had opened a second location, a big garage, where they had chairs set up so you could wait sitting down and out of the cold.
Yes, the cold! It was delightfully chilly that morning! After a summer of truly awful racing weather, I finally got a (mostly) better day. So much better than 90 degrees at the start of the Blessing or mid-70s for the start of the New Haven Road Race. Or, for that matter, fog and a hurricane dramatically compromising one swimrun race and cancelling another. It’s all relative! We had three hours of good racing weather at Wineglass.
I sat in the garage for about 10 minutes and then went outside to do my warm up. One last trip to the porta-potty and then I decided to go line up. I didn’t want *any* stress. It was so easy to do gear check that I checked my throwaway clothes and kept my cute hoodie. That delicious chill in the air was already fading as the temperature started to rise.
I lined up near the 4:05 pacer. My race plan was dead simple. Run with that guy, Pacer Paul. Certainly if he was running stupid, then I would do my own thing, but a friend who was also pacing this race reported that the pacers were all good. I met a woman on the starting line who was running her second marathon at age 60 after running her first when she was 18! That was pretty cool. We all wished each other luck, someone sang the Star Spangled Banner, and off we went!
The race starts heading northwest, but quickly turns left onto….Geneva Street! I was so excited when I discovered this. In the lightly-disguised blog pseudonyms, my daughter goes by Rose but I suspect most readers know her real name is Geneva. So cool to run on her street! We had a nice little group around Pacer Paul and we compared notes on our kids – lots of parents of twins, including Paul, whose twin sons were both pacing the half.
I had broken the race into sections based on when I would get to see Mervus and Rose. This first section was only 3 miles long. It was mostly about settling in. Figuring out how the pace group felt. Really paying attention so I could experience Geneva Street and glue it to my memory. Mission accomplished! We wound around a little bit and then came through Bath and there was my family. Hooray! Stage 1 done and I was feeling good!
My word for this section of the race was “control.” You can’t really “win” a marathon in the first 3 miles, but you sure can lose it. I was looking to run about 9:15-9:20 pace. The first three splits came in at: 9:17, 9:08, 9:08. I thought, ok Pacer Paul. That’s a little hot. A 4:05 maration is a 9:21 pace. Then he explained that he needed to have 30 seconds banked and he wanted to have them all by the halfway point. Ok. That might not be my strategy, but it’s not a crazy strategy and I liked the advantage of being with a pace group.
My word for the second section was “rhythm.” I wanted to spend miles 3-13 with my brain turned off, just feeling the pace of the race. Splits here were: 9:13, 9:09, 9:15, 9:09, 9:18, 9:10, 9:15, 9:23, 9:23, 9:09. It didn’t seem like Pacer Paul was going to run the whole race at 9:08 so I decided to stay with him. It did feel like he was surging a little bit, which I didn’t like. It was also pulling me out of my good head space whenever I saw him check his watch because it made me wonder if he was worried. I didn’t like that so around mile 4 or 5, I pulled slightly ahead of the pace group. That felt much better. I didn’t feel alone but no one else was determining my pace. Every now and then I glanced back to be sure I wasn’t getting too far ahead.
This was my favorite part of the race. The course is really pretty. The leaves were starting to turn. I felt relaxed, really good, the running was easy. Around mile 9 I decided to turn on my music and that was excellent. I had made a playlist specifically for this race and I just relaxed into the music.
With a little distance from the race, I’d say miles 3-18 was the longest stretch of flow state I’ve ever experienced with the possible exception of the 2019 Boston marathon. I felt really good. I mostly heard music and my footfalls. I looked at the landscape, which was lovely. But most of it was passing over me. Many mile markers arrived before I expected them, always a wonderful surprise in the marathon. There weren’t many spectators, but I didn’t care. I was “in the zone,” running comfortably, with Pacer Paul just a bit behind me and the open road in front of me. It was fucking glorious.
We passed through the small town of Savona and then at mile 13, I spotted Mervus and Rose again! I had arranged for Mervus to send updates to ChrisNewCoach so I knew he would know I was feeling good.
Miles 14-18: 9:13, 9:17, 9:21, 9:09, 9:52. The magic had to end at some point and for me, it was mile 18. Nothing awful. It was getting warmer and I was starting to feel a little cramping coming on. I decided to take a salt pill. The calcium deficiency I am dealing with can cause horrific cramping so it’s worrisome. For my last 20 mile training run, I had gone straight to the lab for blood work as soon as I was done. Those results showed that serum calcium was fine, which gave me confidence in my calcium supplementation routine. That’s when I decided to start experimenting with salt pills. But since this has been a late-in-the-game idea, I hadn’t really practiced with them and they got stuck in their ziplock bag. While I was futzing with them, Pacer Paul sailed by me. DAMN IT.
I could have collapsed right then in discouragement but I didn’t and I’m really proud of what I did instead. I knew Pacer Paul was running about 30 seconds ahead of schedule. I had a lot of time left to catch up to him. I just needed to keep it together and run a tad faster than he was going. Splits from miles 19-22: 9:13, 9:08, 9:16, 9:18. I passed over 50 people during miles 19 and 20 and then I lost track! More than anything, chasing down Pacer Paul gave me something to do, a task to focus on. These miles were hard, but they would have been much worse without a target.
But then I missed a water stop. And it really was starting to warm up. When I’m running in the heat, I sometimes get a weird “exploding head” feeling, like my head is expanding in a highly unnatural way. It’s not a good feeling and I always pay attention to it. I either have to cool off or slow down. That was starting to happen. Around mile 23, I ducked into a medical tent and asked if they had ice. Ice will save your race on a hot day. They did have ice! But it was in a disposable cloth bag of some sort, not really cooling anything off. I stopped and fussed with the opening to get at the ice cubes. By the time I got the bag open, I knew I wouldn’t be catching Pacer Paul again. I dumped the ice down my bra and started running again. Mile 23: 10:32. Yuck.
The last few miles were hard. Really hard. I was very tired and I wanted to be done. I walked a few times, but each time, only for a few seconds. Each time I thought, no, get moving, start running again, even if it’s slow. Yes, I would have loved to run sub 4:05, which would be a BQ time for me as I am aging up. But much more important than hitting that BQ, I wanted to keep fighting the battle that comes at the end of every marathon. I thought about ChrisNewCoach, who has not been working with me long enough to know that I know how to hang tough at the end. I thought about the motto from High Power Running Mentor #1: This is what I came for. That horrible feeling at the end of a marathon is also the entire point of a marathon. To go to the edge and discover if you can still fight when you get there.
Mile 24: 9:26. I was still fighting. I couldn’t see Pacer Paul anymore. At this point, the course sort of zigzags around Corning. We were running around random parks with no spectators. At least there were more frequent water stops. I dumped water on myself at every single one.
Three miles to go. Two miles to go. I was counting to 100, trying to count people I was passing, just willing myself to be done. Mile 25: 10:11. It was hard.
Then someone yelled out “Just three more turns!” I remembered this race finishes with a Right on Bridge Street, Left on Market so we must be close. On the famous bridge, I walked a tiny bit but then saw the photographer and started running again. Hey, take your motivation where you can get it! Finally onto Market Street and I thought of ChrisNewCoach yelling “Go with her!” at New Haven. I didn’t even care if there was anyone to go with, I just needed to GO!
Mile 26: 9:45, last .2 at 9:02 pace. Boom!
Final time: 4:07:09.
I was SO happy to be done. I spotted Mervus and Rose who were at the finish line! I got my medal, a heat sheet, some water. I found Pacer Paul and thanked him.
I went through the food line, got some chocolate milk and an apple, but nothing sounded that good. I really wanted to sit down. The medical folks found a seat for me and fetched my protein shake from Mervus’s backpack. They didn’t want to leave me alone but also didn’t want to supervise me so Mervus got to come into the runner area to keep an eye on me. I didn’t get into any further trouble. Eventually I texted my mom and called ChrisNewCoach on the phone. I got stretched out by the massage people. I went back through the food line and got some pizza for me and Rose.
We didn’t have any luck tracking down a place for a meal on Market Street so we collected our car – Mervus found parking ONE BLOCK from the finish line! We stopped at the Corning Museum of Glass to pick up our projects. They came out great! Then on to the Corning YMCA, which stays open so runners who have checked out of their hotel rooms to have a place to shower. I got cleaned up and we found some amazing ice cream and headed out of town.
Final Thoughts: I found so much joy at this race! I found myself again. This re-discovery had started to happen at Virginia Beach last spring but then it got shaken by the a-fib incident and strep throat in April and May. It’s been a really long road and I am not the same person or runner I was prior to surgery or frankly, prior to the pandemic. I’m not going to say “It all works out for the best in the end” because I am not sure this is the best and it certainly isn’t the end. But this race reminded me of what I can do. For that, I am grateful. Also for these guys, who mean the world to me.