As we got off the towpath I don't think it really hit me that I had less than 9 miles to go. I was astonished that I beat the reflective vest and was still hooting and hollering in disbelief as I approached a monster hill and started walking up.
I was next to a male runner with a long pony tail here and we struck up a conversation. I sucked down a gel with caffeine to make the hill more productive. This was his 4th or 5th JFK I think and he definitely knew what he was doing. He gave me lots of encouragement up the hill and I said I would stick with him until we got on the flat and he had to pull back due to his quads seizing. I wished him luck and trucked on catching a young man with a huge camelback on.
I remarked that he was much more hard core than I was with my handheld and he replied that he was worried with the handheld he'd leave the race with one bicep larger than the other and not be able to bend his arm the next day. This got me thinking and I realized I probably wouldn't be able to bend my arms the next day and especially my right one since I really hadn't switched it back and forth as often as I should've. (luckily I was wrong, my arms were about the only thing that wasn't sore after JFK)
We ran together and walked up the hills and eventually I saw a sign that said 7 miles on it. I asked him if that meant 7 to go and he said it did. I think I muttered some more "Holy craps" here and talked with him about how surreal it was to be running this part of the race in the daylight. I had imagined the last 8 miles in darkness and it was completely unreal knowing I would finish before sunset.
I started running up any small hills and ditched the 20 minute run 1 minute walk plan for a plan of run everything but inclines and aid stations.
I started to do some more math now that I was closing in on the finish and realized I might finish under 9:30. I had a secret goal of beating an ex friends JFK time and I knew then that I just might pull it off. At some point I also realized I could walk and finish under 10 and was just so elated.
I mostly ran by myself through the last 8 miles, passing many runners with orange bibs and only getting passed by a few runners from my start. I stopped for chicken noodle soup and cola at every aid station and watched as the mile markers counted down.
It was getting harder to start up after every walk break so I tried my best to run everything. I kept estimating my time left using 11 minute-13 minute miles and kept chugging along at 10:20/mile pace. I ended up next to the man with the "Size Matters" shirt for awhile and he asked how I was doing. We traded PR stories and he asked me if I had ever run the Steamtown marathon and highly reccommended that I do it. He said I would be treated like a queen and could probably win it. I must say that sounds awfully tempting to me ;) He said it was a fast course and pretty much a guaranteed PR. I thanked him for the tip and pulled ahead just before the second to last aid station.
I got some cola and headed for the portalet and then made my way to the finish. With 2 miles to go I stopped for a cola and started watching for the 1 mile to go sign. I prepared mentally for the finish as my goal was to finish pumping my fists and having a good time. No bewildered race finish photos for me!
I passed the mile to go sign, then turned a corner where volunteers informed me I had less than a half mile to go, just over the next hill and I would be able to see the finish line. Sure enough I climbed a small hill and there less then 800 meters away I could see an RV and a finish line with people lined up on the left cheering runners in. As soon as I neared the spectators I started screaming and raised my hands in the air. I smiled for the cameraman and as I received my medal I shouted "Hell Yeah" then promptly apologized for my language as the volunteers handing out medals were about 10 years old (oops!)
I walked backwords through the crowd to cool down and found some of the fun spectators I had seen at every aid station along the way. They told me I was the best finisher all day and proceeded to offer me hot cider which I gladly accepted, and I also took them up on the rum that they offered to put in it! Yay for awesome spectators!
I found RootsRunner and Dr.Louis and we waited to see B50 finish. She came in with Steph who I didn't see at all out on the course but I must have gone by at some point or perhaps multiple times. Eventually I made my way inside and called my husband and family. I had plenty of calls to make so I grabbed a slice of pizza and phoned everyone. I found Steph and we took some photos and chatted about our races. I finally got my butt to the food table and then into the showers.
I took off my shoes and found that I had stuffed a whole forest of leaves in there along with a few blisters. I finished my hot chocolate and then headed to the shower. I have never seen so many naked runners in my life! The showers were in the middle school locker rooms and bless that school they were hot showers! I laughed as the lady beside me sang "I'm in heaven" and danced around in the shower.
Eventually I found all the friends I came with and we headed out for some festivities. We stopped to pick up some beer and then went to a hotel party where I was greeted by my spectator friends with the cider! We all talked shop for a few hours before hitting the hay.
Before tucking in for the night I managed to get in an ice bath while reading LOTR and then finally went to sleep for the first time in over 24 hours. I thought for sure I would sleep until noon but surprise surprise I woke up at 4AM.
I didn't know what to do with myself so I had just decided I would have to sit in the bathroom and read when my roommate (B50) announced that she was up and hungry. Thank goodness! So we lounged around and got dressed then hobbled the 2 miles in the dark to Bob Evans for a small feast. Our ride was at a hotel across from Bob Evans and we headed over there after our breakfast to find Rootsrunner and friends eating in the lounge and Dr.Louis fast asleep. I quick logged into their free internet for a blog update before getting ready to head back to our hotel to pack.
We made the long trip home with Dr.Louis at the wheel, and I could already tell I was paying the price for my lack of training as everyone else seemed much more limber than me on all of our rest area walks. Dr. Louis and B50 even raced to the rest stop once with a gimpy Rootsrunner and I lagging behind. I finally arrived home that night and my husband and I headed out to dinner to celebrate.
I know this post has not flowed well at all and I guess that is kind of appropriate. I think doing something this big on less than ideal preparation leads to some chaos afterwards. I feel like I am still recovering physically from the race and I never really had a chance to just soak it all in. Hopefully now that I have it all typed out I will be able to reflect better on it and accept my accomplishment for what it was, quite an amazing feat.