I have no idea where to start, but I feel like I have a lot to say. Please just bear with me because this is gonna be a long one. This is as much for me as it is for you and I really just want to get all of my thoughts about the race out there.

After a frustrating issue with my car and a waste of $80 on 2 bus tickets, we were finally off to NH in my car on Thursday night. We stayed with my sister and brother in law for the night and then headed up to Burlington on Friday afternoon.

Friday

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We made a last minute decision, which turned out to be the BEST decision ever, to stop at The Alchemist Brewery. It was on the way to Burlington and right off the highway. We were on a quest for Heady Topper! We literally got there just in time. Derek bought a case and minutes later, they were sold out for the day!

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Derek was ridiculously excited after this! If only we had more money, we would’ve bought 3 cases. In case you were wondering, the beer definitely lived up to the hype! We hadn’t tried it before, and it was delicious and flavorful and all around amazing. I know, I’m a great beer reviewer, but trust me, this beer is not to be missed!

We got to the expo around 6:30, I went in and grabbed my race bib, my shirt, and I also bought a Run Vermont shirt before quickly heading out to grab some food. We stopped at this diner style restaurant called Al’s French Frysย and we got a burger and fries and it hit the spot!

Finally, we arrived at Lauren and Evan’s around 9:30pm. It was a long day of driving!

Saturday

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I slept in Saturday morning and felt nice and refreshed when I woke up. We hit the road for lunch and stopped at Moon Dog Cafe, this cute, hippy-ish cafe/shop. I ordered a burrito with egg, salsa, and cheese, but I ended up having a bit of regret, when I saw everyone else’s food. Derek ordered the equivalent of a Thanksgiving sandwich and I wish I had ordered that. Oh well, it was still good, just not amazing.

We snacked on this popcorn before our sandwiches arrived.

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Salted Caramel Popcorn. Sounds perfect, right? It was delicious and I couldn’t stop eating it! We were then off to the cheese shop to pick up some Grafton Cheddar because obviously we can’t leave Vermont without stocking up on this. The 3 year is the best all around cheese and don’t worry, this wasn’t ALL for us. We shared once we got back to NYC.

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We left the cheese shop stuffed because obviously we have to try every single sample that’s available and pretend like we’ve never had it before. We got back to Lauren and Evan’s and Evan got to work on making homemade pasta sauce for our dinner. We were spoiled all weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

Derek helped me make a trash bag dress to start off the race in.

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This is what the weather had in store for us. It rained ALL WEEKEND, all day every day, definitely a bummer, but since it wasn’t a surprise come race day morning, I had been mentally preparing myself for it all weekend. I’ve never run a race in the rain and when it’s raining for a training run, I almost always retreat to the treadmill. Oops.

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Evan made us linguine, topped with homemade sauce, and Grafton cheddar. We also had bread with olive oil and vinegar on the side. It was such a good pre-race meal!!!

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I wrapped up my ipod in saran wrap to prevent it from getting wet and spoiler alert, it worked really well and luckily my headphones were fine too.

Sunday – Race Day!

The four of us left for Burlington at 5am, we had about a 2 hour drive ahead of us and we entertained ourselves by quoting Arrested Development and deciding that I would yell “Steve Holt!” when I crossed the finish line. The rain was off and on at this point, but I was already mentally prepared to be running in rain, so I felt pretty calm about the weather.

We made it just in time for Lauren to be able to pick up her race materials, even though she wasn’t running, she still wanted her shirt! This is also where we ran into Sarah and right before I got denied the real bathroom because I wasn’t elite. Damn. To the porta-potties we go!

The start was a bit confusing, but only because there were so many umbrellas, it was hard to see where the corrals were. We snapped a quick pic in our ridiculous garb and I headed to find the 4 hour pacer. Everything happened so quickly and I just didn’t have time to realize what I was about to do.

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While I was waiting to start, Sara found me and introduced herself! It made me happy to meet her, as I always enjoy having someone to run with. We lost the 4 hour pacer almost immediately, probably before we even crossed the start line, so I gave up on that plan pretty quickly.

Before I even knew what was happening, the race started! I didn’t even know we had crossed the start line until we were already a few minutes past it. I didn’t start my watch and when I did, I realized it wasn’t even cleared out from my last run, so I stopped it, reset it and decided to wait until mile 1 to restart it. Man, way to be unprepared.

I was running with Sara during the first few miles and they felt good. I threw off my garbage bag, my amazing Christmas sweatshirt (courtesy of Lauren) and was feeling comfortable despite the rain. I really had to hold myself back, which was new since most of my races lately have been starting off terribly, as well as ending terribly, so I figured this was a good sign. My legs felt great, and I had a huge smile on my face!

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Between miles 3 & 4

The race course is a spectator’s dream! You basically can stay in one general area and see your runner at least 4 different times.

I loved running on Church Street! There were drag queens, tons of spectators, and there was a point where I felt so wonderful, I couldn’t stop smiling. It felt like my day and I knew everything was going to be great!

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The miles were ticking by and I couldn’t believe I had already passed the 10k mark. This race was going to fly by. I was feeling so positive and happy and was still feeling really good. I found Sara again at this point and we ran together until the halfway mark before we lost each other once and for all around the halfway mark.

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Around mile 8-9

I was starting to feel slightly fatigued at this point, but I purposefully slowed down a bit because I knew there was a MONSTER HILL waiting for me at mile 15. I just kept telling myself to conserve energy and if you can make it over that hill, you are good to go!

Well, the hill came and barely went. It was like a giant wall in front of me! I kept repeating to myself to just get to the traffic lights because that’s where it ended. I put my head down and shuffled on up. It was never ending, I kept looking up and feeling like I was making absolutely no progress. The crowds were amazing going up this hill, but I embarrassingly decidedly to stop and walk. I remember wishing that no one could see me right now and I was happy that the hill would be over before I saw my group of spectators.

Soul. Crushing. I started that hill as one person and finished as someone else completely. I figured I could use the rest of the mile to recover before meeting up with Lauren. Mile 16 came, Lauren jumped in and gave me a hug and was super positive and peppy and here I was, feeling like shit already with a whole 10 miles to go.

I was a bit worried about how I was feeling, but I was fighting through it and focusing on staying positive and just making it to mile 20, that’s where I was allowed to fall apart if I needed to.

But, things just kept getting worse, I was slowing dramatically, and running like 11 minute miles. It was really hard not to feel defeated and slightly embarrassed. This is not what was supposed to happen. My training was better than this. Why is my body falling apart?

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You’re not supposed to start hurting at mile 16.

Lauren was amazing to run with! Even though I probably grunted and complained a lot, she was so supportive and knew all of the right things to say and do. I tried to have a few conversations with her, but they didn’t last long. She was helping me count down every time we saw a new mile marker. Each one was a small victory.

At many points, my stomach was feeling full and sick and I thought I might puke. I became slightly obsessed with finding a coke to drink. It sounded so refreshing and I needed something to help me burp. At one point, I swear I had a hallucination and spotted a stack of coke cans on someone’s table and stared back at it while I ran by. Lauren probably thought I was going crazy.

I knew I just had to keep going. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to finish, I had to keep pushing and pushing with every bit of energy I had. My training felt non-existent at this point. My hips hurt, my legs were heavy and I felt like I was barely making progress.

There was a giant downhill at mile 22 and I literally started to sprint down it. It felt amazing and I dropped Lauren a bit (sorry about that!), but it felt good to actually run again, but unfortunately that didn’t last long and I took yet another walk break.

A little before this, the 4:15 pace group crept up on me and I tried to hang onto them several times, but eventually they got away, probably around mile 23/24. I walked one last time at the start of mile 24 and I decided that it would be my last one. I was going to power trudge through these last 2 miles without stopping.

I always hate the point where I decide I’m happy to be running a 10:30 mile. I remember that same exact point during Rehoboth last year. Although it happened a lot later into that race.

Finally we emerged from the bike path and Lauren said goodbye, since the finisher shoot was about to start. It was right before mile 26 and the shoot was lined with such amazing spectators. We had our names on our bibs and people kept screaming for me over and over and it really lifted my spirits.

Finally the mile 26 sign came and I gave it every single ounce of energy I had left in me to keep going. I saw Derek and he threw his arms up and yelled “Steve Holt!”, so I did the same exact thing, that was our plan, kind of our theme for the weekend. We thought it would be hilarious if I yelled Steve Holt as I crossed the finish line. But, this was the perfect opportunity since everyone was right there.

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So, I threw my arms up and screamed Steve Holt and had a huge smile on my face for the first time in a while.

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The grassy finish line area came and it was so slippery and muddy, it was really ย hard to run any faster than I was already going. There was a kid in front of me who lost his shoes in the mud, he picked them up and finished without his shoes on while everyone cheered for him.

I WAS SO HAPPY TO BE DONE. It felt like I was never going to finish. I wanted to legit quit so many different times. I was physically done so early on and hurting way too soon that it felt like I was going to run a 5 hour marathon. I was pretty thrilled when I crossed the finish line and the clock said 4:20. Not so bad, I guess.

I know you’re supposed to keep walking after a marathon, but I absolutely had to stop moving and sit my ass down. Some guy was cracking jokes next to me, trying to talk to me, but I just was so delirious and overwhelmed, I couldn’t really respond to him.

I found my group right away and gave my husband a huge hug and everyone congratulated me. They told me my final time and I was oddly okay with it.

I don’t know when it was that I realized a PR wasn’t even going to happen, but I know that when you feel like a 5 hour marathon is happening and you still manage to finish 40+ minutes before that, you are happy. I was also relieved to see that my overall average still had a 9 in front of it. It’s the little things, people. And I also finally got my can of Coke ๐Ÿ™‚

For reference, I fueled at all of my planned spots, which was a Gu every 5 miles up to mile 20 and I continued to drink water and gatorade until about mile 24. I tried to eat an orange slice in the last few miles, but once I put in it my mouth, I immediately took it right back out, my stomach wanted none of that.

I definitely PRed in mental strength, if that’s a thing. My thoughts over the last 10 miles were insane, I really had no idea how I was going to finish, it seemed impossible. If Lauren wasn’t there, I don’t know if I would’ve made it. She seriously helped me so much and I am so grateful and thankful for her being there for me.

She earned some amazing race day karma, that’s for sure!

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Official Time: 4:18:55

Average Pace: 9:53

And, you know, I managed an impressive positive split, so there’s that.

Splits:

  1. 9:20
  2. 9:04
  3. 9:02
  4. 8:55
  5. 9:17
  6. 9:08
  7. 9:04
  8. 9:13
  9. 9:22
  10. 8:50
  11. 9:21
  12. 9:20
  13. 9:23
  14. 9:32
  15. 9:54
  16. 10:56
  17. 10:03
  18. 9:41
  19. 10:57
  20. 11:02
  21. 10:56
  22. 9:44
  23. 10:48
  24. 10:29
  25. 10:55
  26. 10:38
  27. .2 (9:39 avg. pace)

We went out for pizza and beer after at a place called American Flatbread. It was recommended by Laura and I’m so glad we went. The pizza was brick oven and they brewed all their beer on location. Perfect post-race meal!

A huge thanks to my sister and brother in law, they came out from NH just to cheer me on! It meant so much to me to see them there along the course. My sister in law even brought her friend, Kayla, who snapped so many amazing pictures for me, which is a running blogger’s dream, right? Ha!ย They stood in the cold rain for hours, just for me ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks guys, I owe you big time!

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Also, a huge thanks to Lauren and Evan, they went above and beyond this weekend with their hospitality and cheering at the marathon, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

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And my husband. He’s the best race husband ever! He’s my biggest fan and supporter and I love him. We had a fantastic weekend in Vermont and we may already have plans to go back. Hopefully it won’t be raining next time around.

It was pretty grueling at the end and toย say that I am proud of finishing is an understatement.

There’s obviously a huge part of me that wishes I finished with a faster time and I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong, what I could’ve changed either in training or during the race. The difference I felt between miles 15 and 16 was incredible and I’m really not sure what triggered it.

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The race was really well organized and I think I will definitely be back for some redemption! ๐Ÿ˜‰

10 Comments

  1. I know exactly how you feel about a race feeling like it would never end – that was me in Richmond. Actually I also nearly cried during miles 23-26 of VCM because they felt never-ending too. You definitely rocked in head strength and LOVED your Steve Holt! I was going to stay and look for you at the finish but was so cold and miserable and in semi-shock that I had to leave. Marathons are brutal! But let’s run together soon, training free happy runs ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’m so sorry that you didn’t have your best race, but I am so proud of you for staying strong and finishing! I was just in Burlington on Tuesday, when it was sunny and warm, and it is SO worth another visit. I definitely want to be there to cheer next year, so hopefully you run it again and this time I can be there to cheer you on to a fantastic race!

    Also, maybe that whole “pouring rain and being terrible weather” thing played a part in the mental and physical problems?? Because Sunday was miserable.

    Also also, STEVE HOLT!!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Nice job powering through, especially in such miserable conditions. I don’t think I could manage a full marathon in the rain (a half was bad enough for me!!).

    And hey, if you’re hoping to chase sub-4 at NYCM like me, you should think about running it with me and Emilia! Especially since we can do many training runs together!

  4. Beth @RxBethOnTheRun

    I’m so incredibly proud of you for pushing through on a tough day. You amaze and inspire me every day, Steph! You never gave up, even when you wanted to! Congratulations on finishing another marathon strong!

  5. Reading this race report, all those feelings of pride for what you accomplished this past weekend came rushing back! The marathon is a beast of a race, and you powered through in tough conditions on a day when things just weren’t going your way. That alone has already made you a stronger runner (I definitely think there’s such a thing as PR’ing in mental strength!). I know you’re going to benefit in your future training and races because of what you pushed through on Sunday. So even though the race didn’t go the way you wanted, I hope that you feel proud of what you did.

    I loved every second that I got to run with you on Sunday — even when you were simply grunting back haha ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so thankful things worked out the way they did.

    We miss you guys! Can’t wait for your next trip up to VT (speaking of which — I can’t even believe I was wearing my winter coat on Sunday and now today I’m sweating in 90 degree summer heat. WHAT is with this crazy weather??).

    STEVE HOLT!

  6. You’re a rockstar and pushed through to finish a tough race! So proud of you. Congrats!

    Also, can you share some cheese with ME!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. New reader! ๐Ÿ™‚ Congratulations on your race! It takes a lot of mental toughness to finish when you want to quit so kudos to you! VCM is a tough course and that monster hill is brutal! I also found the start to be confusing and it wasn’t even raining the day I ran it! Two of my favorite things about Vermont are beer and cheese. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Wow – I ran the VCM last weekend and had a very similar experience. It felt like I was reading a report of my own race! I also had a crash between miles 15 and 16. It was like night and day – I had felt pretty good up until that point, but the last 10 miles or so were a death march. My legs also felt dead and my joints hurt. I had similar feelings during the run and afterwards as well.

    Regardless, congratulations on the marathon! Finishing is always an accomplishment, especially when you get the kind of “mental PR” you mentioned.

  9. ahhhhh!! I have so much to say!! First, congratulations!! You pushed through on a tough day and on those days, finishing is a HUGE victory in itself (trust me…Eugene was that day for me). And sub 4:20 is a GREAT TIME. You should be so proud of pushing through, when your body just wants to stop.running.

    Also, I couldn’t help but smile reading the part about your family, husband and friends that were there supporting you. I have so much love in my heart for the fans that support us in our endurance races. It is the most boring thing ever, yet they stand around for hours just to cheer for us for seconds as we go by. It melts my heart every time I read about someone who does this for their loved ones.

    You got great pictures!!! There are some killer, beautiful run pics of you here! So lucky!

    Finally, this damn race is such a beast. It is so unexplainable why things happen the way they do. It is so frustrating to KNOW you trained for a different race than what you got, especially knowing that you EARNED more and you DESERVE more. All I can say is that I am now convinced that everyone gets their day and it means more when you do because of those days you didn’t. But of course we learn invaluable lessons on the tough days and the motivation lights a fire like no other to go train for the next one.

    I am SO proud of you! Congrats again! xoxo

  10. Here’s the point……. You finished what you started.

    You Finished.

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