On May 21, 2017, I ran the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon. As many of you know, my first marathon was back in October. I BQed with a 3:33:27 (the qualifying time for my age group is 3:35 or under). However, the cutoff for getting into the 2017 Boston Marathon was -2.09 and even worse in 2016. Running Boston has been a dream of mine, so I wanted to try again to get a faster time so my acceptance would be guaranteed.
My fiancé, who has been very supportive of my Boston 2018 dream, was kind enough to purchase my registration and book a hotel room in Cape Cod the night before the race. He kept saying he believed in me, but also kept reassuring me that he would be happy with his investment even if something went wrong. Nevertheless, I was extremely nervous the week leading up to the race, probably even more nervous than my first marathon, since I now had a goal besides finishing.
Training: I had to start my training plan later than I wanted due to a rib and foot injury that occurred during a tempo run in early February. Thankfully, the sports medicine physicians at Boston College had me healed in time to do a solid 12 weeks training plan. Seriously, big shout out to them- BC Eagles are in good hands! Each week, I made sure to do 1-2 speed sessions, 1-2 strength training sessions, and 1 long run. I decided to peak at 22 miles instead of 20 to give myself a confidence booster in the final miles of the race. I also decided to see a nutritionist so I’d be fueling better.
Pre-Race: Woke up at 3am (which wasn’t really waking up, I was up the whole night anyway) to drink hot tea to ensure I’d go to the bathroom (sorry to be blunt- but its important in a race!) Bryan and I got on a 6:30am ferry to Martha’s Vineyard where a race bus picked us up to bring us to the starting line at Vineyard Haven. I forced a banana and some protein bar bites down my throat on the ferry (yes, literally forced since I tend to work out before breakfast and I am never hungry in the mornings and YOU CANNOT ALWAYS RELY ON YOUR HUNGER ON MARATHON MORNING- past Kate mistake #1). Due to my paranoia, we were at the starting line very early- 7:25 for an 8:30 race.
When the time finally came, I lined up with the 3:30 pace group with my 4 GU gels and salt tablets around my waist. I was convinced the salt was excess but my nutritionist said they were important, and my fiancé made me shove them in my Fit Belt before the race. I debated going for 3:25, but decided it would be best to start conservatively and speed up at the end. My goal was 3:32 or under to be safe for Boston Marathon registration. I instantly made friends with two fellow graduate students from Boston, one from BC and one from BU. For the first 10 miles, we were having a blast talking to each other. There was a huge group of us. The course was scenic and mostly flat, though the few hills located between miles 8-12 had were short but super steep. I did my first GU gel at mile 7- BECAUSE YOU NEED TO DO YOUR GU BEFORE YOU FEEL HUNGRY AND NOT WAIT UNTIL MILE 13- TRUST ME (past Kate mistake #2). I did my next GU at the halfway point. From miles 1-13, I do not notice that the water stations are every 2 miles instead of every mile. I just take one cup at each station and don’t even worry about drinking the whole thing. At mile 14, I actually drank one half and poured the other over my head. Bad move.
At mile 17, everyone stops talking completely. It is now very hot and I am looking forward to every water station like it is my long lost best friend I have not seen in 20 years. Then, I drop a GU. I see it fall and go to pick it up but there are so many feet behind me, it’s not possible. Not wanting to go back and mess up my time, I keep running but I am panicked. I want a gel now, but since I am down to only one, I need to save it for later. No one around me has any extra nutrition to offer.
At mile 19, I suddenly realize I might be in trouble. I feel really dehydrated and weak, yet somehow do a 7:58 split. At the mile 20 water station, I decide to forgo the normal “Don’t try anything new on race day” advice and drink whatever I can get my hands on, as I realize my body needs all the nourishment it can get! I take a cup of Tri-fuel (which I have never even heard of or drank before) and two cups of water and drink them while running, hoping they will get me to mile 22. I also chew two salt tablets. Damn. I have to admit I was wrong about those things!
Feeling a bit better, I then come to a startling realization- it is just me and my BC buddy- no one is visible either ahead of us or behind us. It’s her first marathon, she is flipping out, and she looks to me to help pace her the rest of the way. I tell her, “its going to be OK, you and me are going to BQ, we got this,” but inside my head I am saying, “Its not OK. We’re in trouble. I don’t want to die before I reach the finish line.”
At mile 21, I already need more water, but there is none. My friend and I yell to random spectators that we are dehydrated (yes, its amazing what marathons make you do) and a nice young man comes out with his water bottle and lets us sip from it. “God Bless you young man! May God Bless you!”
I take my last GU but it does nothing. I am trying to continue with my mile dedications, but its getting hard to remember whom each mile is for- sometimes I do not start praying for whomever I am supposed to pray for until the middle of the mile (though I really did manage to get all 26 intentions in- I promise- just some were waayyy shorter than others!)
My friend and I separate. At mile 22, I am all alone and I do not feel like I have 4 more miles in me. It is here that I decide I am going to pray the Rosary for the rest of the race (while stopping quickly mention the names of the people who had the last 4 miles). “Mother Mary, run with me!”
At mile 23, I am still saying my Hail Mary’s, though I am losing count. I look over and see a beautiful view of the beach. “God is with me. I am not alone.”
At mile 24, I pass a young man and he yells, “You go girl! You got this!” He is so passionate and it really cheers me up- how I wish I could hug that stranger now. “God is still with me. I’m so dehydrated and its so hot, but I’m going to do this.” I look at my watch. My pace has dropped to 8:30, I realize I can finish with a 3:32 even if I do 10 minute miles. “I can do 10 minute miles. Well, maybe…” I know I need to take it easy now so I back off for a bit since I know there will now be no more water until I finish.
Still saying the Rosary, I see mile 25 and speed up. Volunteers are being so helpful with their cheering. They can tell by the look on my face that I am uncomfortable and dehydrated. Mile 25 is Bryan’s mile, which is perfect. I want to stop, but I remember the money and time he has sacrificed to get me to the Boston Marathon (not to mention putting up with my nerves the week before the race). There is no way I am leaving this island without a sub 3:32. “Do it for Bryan.” 8:06 split.
Mile 26 marker. Its sooner than I expect to see him but there is Bryan. He looks worried. There is no “I love you honey” or “looking great sweetie,” just “you gotta start sprinting, you gotta sprint, you still have a shot but you gotta sprint.” Exactly what a severely dehydrated girl wants to hear at mile 26, right? 😉
I keep sprinting, thinking that the finish line will appear any minute- but it is not there. “Did I run past it, where is it?” I start cussing. I realize now that it is a circle. The finish line is not right in front of me like I thought. I have to turn and then sprint another 400 meters to the finish. That might not sound far but at this point I feel so sick that I actually wonder if I will make there without collapsing.
I turn and turn again, and there is Bryan at the beginning of the straightaway. He is filming me, here is where I get to hear, “Here comes Kate- she’s gonna do it! Run, Kate, run! Go Kate!” That’s all I need. I’m so afraid to look at the clock, but I know I need to in order to convince myself to keep running. The clock is only at 3:30 or at least that what’s it looks like! I sprint until right before I get to the clock and I walk over the finish line. Oh God, I want Bryan, I want my mom. A woman around my mom’s age is handing out medals and she can tell something is not right. “Are you OK sweetie?” I want to cry. “I don’t feel good!”
The medic grabs me. I see Bryan running toward me with Muscle Milk, so I tell the medic I am fine. Seriously, I know it is hot and I want him to spend his time elsewhere, since I am now confident I am OK. The medic still insists on bringing me to the tent and making me sit in a chair.
As he was instructed to do before the race, Bryan opens the Muscle Milk and brings it to my lips. “No, no! Don’t give me that! Water! Water, I need water first!” Startled, he takes out regular water and Propel Water. Poor guy. I really did tell him to give me a Muscle Milk as soon as I crossed the finish line, but I did not expect to be so dehydrated. The thought of anything but water sickens me.
Bryan is also concerned because I am not saying anything about beating my time goal. I am feeling so sick that I am not really sure what happened. For the next minute , we exchange a hilarious dialogue of
“Did I do it?”
“Am I going to Boston?”
“Yes, Kate, I told you that 2 seconds ago.”
“Did I do it?”
“Keep drinking, Kate, keep drinking”
“OK, but slow down, I need time to drink what’s in my hand before you shove more fluids in my face.”
Believe me, it sounds worse than it was. Within 2-3 minutes, I am feeling a lot better and know I am going to be totally fine. The medic brings my BC buddy over, who also got a BQ. We might have gone through hell from mile 20-26, but we did it! The medic has long since forgotten about me. There are lots of people feeling worse. Someone screams for salt tablets for her daughter and I pull out of my belt what I argued four hours earlier that I did not have room for or need. So glad I bought them! Nutritionist and Bryan=1, Me=0.
Back to my normal self (or usual self, I should say, I have never been normal), I feel like the biggest asshole. Bryan is wearing a medal. He ran too. “Oh my God, sweetie, how was your half?”
1:48:34. He crushed it! I am so proud! A 2 minute PR, even though he experienced dehydration at the end too but didn’t have anyone to take care of him like I did.
Bryan then informs me that I have won an age group award. Totally unexpected! I pick up my award and then eat a bagel with peanut butter.
Wearing our medals, I ask someone to take a picture of us. I am too tired to write anything long, so for Facebook, I just post, “I’m running Boston in 2018, I love you Bryan!”
We walk to the ferry very comfortably. Thankfully, after this race, I am not that sore. It’s a great improvement given that after my last marathon, my knees were in agony and I could barely get up the two steps to my apartment. YOU SHOULD WALK FOR A BIT AFTER YOUR FINISH A MARATHON EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT- TRUST ME (past Kate mistake #3).
We get on the ferry. Medals around my neck, Bryan’s arm around me, I eat BFresh Homemade Peanut Butter right out of the container with a spoon and take in the beauty of the ocean. I’m so glad to be alive and that I have proven to myself that I am stronger than I could ever have imagined. This time, I make a resolution to take two weeks off from working out (as is recommended by most physicians and running experts) to let my body recover. I know I need to take care of my body, and that I am better off when I do so.
“Thank you Mother Mary.”
Overall Race Review (if you are interested):
Taking into consideration that this was its first year, I give lots of kudos to the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. The course was relatively flat, with a few short, steep hills and the views were beautiful. The DJ was a lot of fun, and listening to him calmed me down at the starting line. He was very positive and motivational. The volunteers and spectators were wonderful. Even when I was running alone, I was never afraid of getting lost and always knew what direction to take. There were tons of people cheering for me at the parts of the race where I needed it most. The medals, both for finishing and for the age group award, were very nice. They provided a truck to take our bags safely from the starting line to the finish line. The swag bag was also pretty nice, it included a gym bag, a visor, and a short sleeve athletic shirt.
However, the water stops every two miles was not enough when it got to the later parts of the race. Also, gels were only offered at mile 12 and I really wish they were available at other stations. I believe my time would have been a few minutes faster had there been more water and nutrition on the course. The finish line food was also disappointing, especially considering how many great vendors are in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod! There were only bars, chips, and water. Thankfully, it was OK for me since I always bring my own bagel. Another complaint was that the Athlete Alerts did not work. My parents and Bryan signed up for them to see when I crossed miles 6, 13, 18, and 22, but never got any messages. However, I could view my splits online and they were e-mailed to me soon after I finished, which was very helpful.
Overall, I would do this marathon again and I would highly recommend it to friends (I am 99% sure they are going to fix the water thing next year!). A lot of people were steered away from this marathon because of the expense of staying in Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, the hotels on the Vineyard are expensive and required a two-night minimum stay. However, Bryan and I saved money by staying in Wood’s Hole. We cannot stop signing the praises of the Sands of Time Motel, which allowed us to stay for just one night. It was clean, comfortable, and a 5 minute walk from the Ferry and Pie in the Sky Bakery (good post-race treats!). The beach was right near by and it was great for walking around the day before the race. The staff could not have been more accommodating. I called ahead the night before and requested a refrigerator for our room so we could store our pre-race food, and they were happy to give us one. They normally start brewing hot water every morning at 6am, but happily started brewing at 5am the morning of the race so we could have coffee and tea before getting on the ferry. They were stocked with maps and tourist booklets, and had ferry tickets available for purchase. We definitely plan on staying there again!