Mike’s First Marathon!

How psyched am I?  I ran my first marathon, accomplished my goal time, and love the swag….

Where did this journey begin?  Last September, I strapped on a FitBit with a 10,000 step per day goal.  By the end of that month I started the Couch To 5K (C2-5K) program on my I-phone.  After the St. Brigid School Harvest Hustle 5K on November 1, 2014, Katie introduced me to the magic of the Runkeeper App.  From then I followed the Runkeeper training programs leading to a December PR at the Festivus 5K (Salem, MA) and a New Year’s Day 10K (Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA)

From there, I was hooked.  I purchased a winter running jacket (Post-Christmas $35 Asics was fantastic!) and had my first runs in “running tights”.  Icy streets and sub-zero temps did not hamper my motivation, and in early April I ran the “Race the Runways” half-marathon in Brunswick, ME (1:55:38; under my 2 hour goal).  By the finish of the Portland Sea Dogs Mothers Day 5K, I was convinced that I would run the Maine Marathon.

The next week I started the Runkeeper Sub 3:45 Marathon Training Plan.  It went so well that by mid July, I switched to the the Sub 3:30 plan (a mistake).  Through summer heat and a couple pairs of Adidas Ultra Boosts I stayed faithful to the mileage, but not the pace of the training plan (I did miss a couple workouts, but my mileage was over the prescribed amount due to some Back Bay Series 5Ks)…

Fast forward to Saturday, October 3rd…Marathon training was complete!  Katie and I did a “keep the legs fresh” two-miler in the morning and went to the Maine Marathon Expo at USM that evening.  For a First Timer, the Expo and Pasta Dinner were electric!  It was great seeing my name listed among the race participants on the wall of Sullivan Gym.  It was especially gratifying to be included among the exclusive group of full marathoners.  The Maine Marathon has 3,500 total participants with 850 being full marathoners.  Six months ago, a half marathon was a HUGE accomplishment, but the full 26.2 now felt like Everest!  I felt like a “real runner” putting on the Maine Marathon shirt knowing I would be running the complete course.  Our event budget was well over-spent earlier that day on some Nike Dri-Fit wool running shirts (review coming soon), but I could not resist the bright orange Maine Marathon embroidered jackets.  The pressure was on to complete the race!

I was the beneficiary of a complete 8 hour sleep on Friday night because I only slept two or three hours Saturday night.  I spent the restless hours listening to 80s classics that I planned to play in my head during the race (no headphones anymore for this Road Warrior!).  Finally, at 5:30am it was prep time for Katie and I.  I “super” hydrated the night before, but still insisted on some more Gatorade along with a morning snack of half a peanut butter covered banana along with some V8 juice (I read that the sodium would help to retain water during the race).

Katie and I headed out to the race at 6:45; an hour before start time.  Fortunately, we were able to find parking on the USM campus; not far from the start line.  We both decided that using the indoor bathroom facilities would be a good start to the day.  The indoor heat (it was 45 degrees that morning) and cleanliness compared to a porta-potty felt great.  No doubt a “CC” (“Confidence Crap” -credit to one of numerous run bloggers out there) was essential to my pre-race checklist.  It is surprising how low the level of conversation goes among runners before a race: “That morning coffee is sure kicking in now…”.

We then walked our way to the start.  I was bursting with excitement at the start.  I barley heard the National Anthem as I was psyching myself up for the starting signal.  At the start, Katie and I shared a Good Luck kiss and started our 26.2 adventure…

During the week leading up to the race, I had visions of matching Katie’s pace during the marathon.  I had run stride for stride with her during some [short] training runs and thought I might be able to keep up with her 3:30 pace.  One mile in, I knew this was a pipe dream.  I kept her in my sights, but by the first water station at 1.6 miles Katie and her CamelBak were gone.  I stuck with to stop and drink at EVERY water station along the way.  I figured that I paid $90 for this race and was going to get every cents worth.  Plus, I was paranoid about not having anything in the tank at the end.

Miles 1-3 were great, but as soon as I hit Route 1 in Falmouth, I felt the “trotts” coming on.  I slowed my pace and hoped for some Porta-Potties.   My prayers were answered at Mile 5 or so.  I sped up and sprinted into an open Porta-Potty and had some salvation.  I guess the early morning “CC” had not cleared Saturday night’s Pasta Dinner.  A minute or so was added to my time, but I came out of there like Superman from a phonebooth and sprinted ahead of a group of runners.

At 6.55 miles was the Half-Marathon turn-around in Falmouth.  The crowd there was amazing, including my favorite sign that had a picture of the immortal Christopher Walken with a “No Walken” statement on it!  There was no gong back at the point and I pushed on towards Yarmouth.

I had an outstanding run from the Half-Marathon point up until Mile 12.  After my bathroom break, I pushed my per mile pace to 8:25.  An exhilarating feeling was passing a seasoned local runner along the way.  Unfortunately, I lost that lead, when the “trots” set in again and I had to hit the Mile 12 Port-A-Potties in Yarmouth.  What a relief though!  I had nightmares of a marathon breakdown with runs down my legs at the finish.  After another minute and a half, I burst out again at a Superman from the Phone booth pace.

By the 13.1 mark I was hitting a runner’s high.  My pace was sub 8:30 per mile and I was cheering on my fellow first time marathoners as well as the National Guard ruck-marchers looking miserable during their 26.2 march (BTW…thank you for your service!).  At this point I was beginning to pass several runners and feeling that I might easily achieve a full marathon at 8:30 pace!

By mile 15, Reality started to set in.  Somewhere at that point, we started our ascent up the hill to Tuttle Road.  There were great crowds on that road (route 88) including a “Free High-Fives” guy, but that hill kicked my ass.  From there on, my pace started to slow despite some motivation from the “26 Mimosas” crowd along the road.  I was still thanking the many spectators and volunteers along Route 88, but I was feeling the miles starting to weigh on my legs.

My plan at the start was to bring 8 Gu Energy supplements to carry me through the race.  I adjusted this to six the morning of the race because I did not have the means to carry such a load.  My first Gu was at mile 5 just before my first CC stop and later had one at Mile 10.  I still had four left by the half way point and had even stashed away a mini-Clif bar, in my pocket, from one of the water stations.  By mile 15 I felt the need to start taking in a Gu every three miles.  The Gu seemed to power me up those hills on Route 88, but I still felt that my tank was approaching empty by the Mile 20 mark.

Despite some struggles, I was still at an 8:30 pace by Mile 20.  I was ecstatic and thought I would just “power” it in for the final 6.2.  How naive I was…

My longest training runs were around 20 miles, so the final 6.2 were unchartered territory for me.  Just after crossing the 20 mile mark I was still at an 8:30 pace, but I started to experience Hamstring Cramps.  I was sure that I was about to pull a hamstring muscle, so I just stopped and stretched them out as best I could.  From that point on, I convinced myself that small strides would serve me best and that at each remaining water station I would drink Gatorade only (I’ve heard post-race that this is not the best strategy).  By Mile 22, the mental fatigue started to set in.  Several students and a parent from the school I teach at (Saint Brigid’s) were at that Water Station and I could not even recall their names. I was out of it!  I dumped some water on my salt-stained face and I continued to run, but still had to take another stop to stretch out my hamstrings due to the pulled muscle fear.  At Mile 24, a colleague of mine (Thank You Jackie Caiola!) was there, but I could barely register a greeting.  My pace had dropped to 8:50 and all I could think of was getting this torture over with.

I finally hit the final mile on Baxter Boulevard.  I had dreams of running this in at a break neck pace, but that was not gong to happen.  Between the pain and mental fatigue, all I could muster were tenth of mile jogs alternating with walks.  I was still at a 9:00 per mile pace which would put me under 4 hours, but even with just a half mile left, I cold have easily been convinced to just quit!
Finally, I saw the finish with a quarter mile left.  I had plans of a glorious fist-raised finishing pose, but I just ran by a photographer with a “I don’t give a f*** feeling” hoping to at least cross the finish line with the appearance of running.

I crossed the finish line in a mental fog.  I stood in front of a medal presenter for what seemed an eternity.  Finally she put a medal around my neck and directed me to a Space Blanket.  The most Blessed sight was seeing Katie (she rocked the race with a BQ of 3:29!!) who walked me to recovery.  After about a 10 minutes (an eternity) and a chocolate milk I started to feel the ecstasy of completing my FIRST MARATHON!

It has been a long journey, but there is not much to compares to the feeling of accomplishing this first marathon. Although I crossed in a gun-time of 4 hours, 6 seconds, my official time was 3:58:04.  Many at school and around town have congratulated me on beating the four hour mark.  It is a great feeling and I’m actually excited to start training for my next marathon (Austin in Feb 2016) and even my third (Burlington, VT in May)!

Keep Running!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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