HILLS ARE A BITCH AND SO AM I – NH/ME DOUBLE WEEKEND, PART 1 – NEW HAMPSHIRE MARATHON

Sometimes I feel like my life motto could be “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” I say that to myself on pretty much a daily basis, and I was about to say it a whole lot during my first ever double marathon weekend. You see, “doubles,” as they are called, are very popular among the 50 States Club because they a) cut costs b) save time and c) help you accomplish your goals more efficiently. Ever the master of efficiency, I wanted to get done with my states as inexpensively and quickly as possible without sacrificing the quality of the races along the way, and that’s the tricky part. I refuse to do doubles just for the sake of doing them and checking off two more states. I want both races to come highly recommended. I’m high maintenance like that.

With those goals in mind, I signed up for the New Hampshire/Maine double way back in the early spring and promptly booked tickets for AJ and I to fly up to New England for the weekend. This of course was back before he had ever actually seen me run a marathon and had any idea what it entailed, so at the time, he thought this was a great idea. Sweet, naive boy.

20120928_172750 We’re so good at self portraits.

Of course, in the world of T-Rex, anything that can go wrong does go wrong. So upon arriving at the airport, we overheard that our flight was going to be delayed by an hour and 45 minutes. Obviously the airline staff did not feel the need to actually tell anyone this, so when I went up and asked if it was true and if we would miss our connection as a result, the response I got was “Oh…well yeah.” Um. I ended up using my problem solving skills to wrangle a direct flight into Portland, Maine instead of Manchester, New Hampshire, arriving at an earlier time and ultimately allowing me more sleep before the race. Sure, we had to drive 2 hours from the airport to the hotel, but this was really no big deal as I successfully negotiated a rental car on my smartphone on Priceline while powerwalking through the airport to our new gate. You can imagine the scene.

We made it to Maine in one piece, aside from the fact that AJ and I had been squished into middle seats about 12 rows away from each other, but it seemed like a small price to pay. We headed to the hotel and made it to New Hampshire about the same time as our original flight would have landed, so we waited for Kate to show up while chatting with her friend Jackie, who was sharing the room with our little clan and running the half in the morning and had been kind enough to pick up our packets. The first hint that this would be a very small race was revealed by the t-shirt.

2006_814489743933_1915894560_n The shirt was cotton. I tried to think of the last time I got a cotton shirt for a marathon, and I could not think of one. Because it has never happened.

The race started at 9 the next morning. I’m going to give that to you one more again. The race started at NINE. This is practically unheard of in the world of marathons except when you’re talking about races like Boston or New York. I am used to waking up ungodly early for races. So imagine my shock when I woke up before my alarm for the race, and Kate and I had so much time loitering about at the start that we not only made it to the Maniacs picture, we organized the Maniacs picture. This is one for the record books.

p1000738 The race was so small that more than 1 out of every 4 runners was a Maniac! Love it.

I had heard this was the most beautiful marathon in New Hampshire, so I had to do it. I love a great course and good organization, and just knowing how many Maniacs would be doing both races was exciting! At the starting line, Kate and I found Patty, the awesome group leader I ran with in Little Rock who has since become a good friend. Ever the consummate run leader, Patty gave me and Kate a goal time and decided to stick with us the whole way, and she promised to pace us. Sold! Kate and I really had no idea what to expect since it was our first double, so we were pretty much willing to do anything that sounded like a good idea from someone who appeared to know what they were talking about.

This race was very small, but we were quickly overwhelmed by how absolutely gorgeous the course was. The fall leaves had about halfway changed color, and the course ran around a giant lake and through some small little New Hampshire towns that were mostly likely built by Pilgrims. True life: while running through the little towns and past the churches, I envisioned Pilgrims building them with their black pointy hats on and everything. It was a very quaint little scene in my mind.

37183 There is nothing better than fall. Except winter.

Patty, Kate and I pretty much had the time of our lives during the race. We chatted about anything and everything and laughed at the near absurdity of some of the hills on the course. I told them the story of Maricar, who I ran with at 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut, who yelled “Oh we’re walking this bitch!” every time we came to a hill of any substance. So we walked a lot of bitches in New Hampshire.

p1000743 We are about to walk up the bitchy hill in the background, so we figured it was time for a photo op in front of the little island. If you look very closely on the island in the lake, there is a tiny house where I will someday live. p1000744 Kate finally got to meet Larry Macon, who is pretty much one of the most badass (and nicest) people I have ever met.

The course had a few different out and back portions, which is always fun for screaming like a crazy person at fellow Maniacs. Other runners probably find this phenomenon to be extremely disturbing, but we don’t care. It’s real fun. My legs and heart were feeling great during the race, and I could definitely tell I had picked up some endurance from my first month of Ironman training.  We were able to see AJ a few different times along the course, creeping people out on the side of the road by lurking in the rental car and only emerging when we ran by. I told Patty that she would know it was him because he would be very tall, wearing a black jacket, and holding a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee right up to his face, no matter what race he is at – and she laughed when we saw him and I was exactly right. AJ is so presh.

One of the best/funniest/weirdest things about this race was how many people seemed to recognize me when we were running by. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “T-Rex!” or “Go T-Rex!” when we were on the out and back portions of the course. Some of the people I knew, of course, and some I didn’t, which was so cool. Then of course I immediately had fears that those of you who recognized me would be totally unimpressed since I’m, you know, not fast, but then I realized that if you read this blog, you are clearly very aware of that. That being said, we were on pace for a blazing 4:48 for the first 15 miles, until the dark times began. Because, you know, when was the last time I ran a marathon without dark times? A long time ago.

292867_10151136685634681_1072014312_n-9 Anders had to take this picture no less than about 8 times, but it’s one of my favorites ever.

My angry stomach reared its ugly head (what would be the stomach’s equivalent of a head? serious question) and there was no turning back. I had done pretty much everything right for this race – I took my myriad of medications on time the whole week. I ate the right foods. I fueled appropriately pre-race and during the race. The weather was nice and cool. But still – mile 15 and there I am, throwing up on the side of the road again. I felt pretty bad throwing up on this really beautiful part of nature, but what can you do? I’m pretty used to this by now, but honestly, come on. There we are on perfect pace and all of a sudden, I’m incapacitated. Annoying doesn’t begin to describe it.

p1000745 Pretty sure I threw up right before this picture was taken. Kate is lucky like that.

Somewhere around mile 21, I saw a little dairy bar on the side of the road. I was in tears at this point, with my stomach so upset I couldn’t run at all without wanting to throw up. There were a bunch of people sitting at the little picnic tables outside the restaurant cheering for the runners, and I’m sure they were wondering what the hell I was doing when I walked up to the counter. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money, but I’m really sick. May I please have a Sprite? It’s one of the only things that helps,” I said, choking back tears and feeling totally pathetic and weak.  She must have been a mom because she looked quite alarmed and then totally calm and gave me a can of Sprite and told me not to worry about it. I tried really hard to find a picture of Frosty’s Dairy Bar online, but I can’t, so just do me a favor and make sure you pay them a visit the next time you are in Bristol, NH.

I had to walk a good bit as I drank the sweet nectar of the gods known as Sprite, so I told Kate to take off and leave me because I know she hates walking at the end of races. I told Patty she could go too, but she wasn’t going to leave me sobbing on the side of the road apparently. I felt a bit better after drinking the Sprite and decided to try and run as much of the rest of the race as I could. She informed me that we were going to run the last 1.2 miles (formerly known as a “Cupido,” then a “Hastings,” and now a “T-Rex” because let’s be honest, my last name changes too often for that to be a suitable title) and she was going to go into run leader mode and be mean to me. I don’t typically respond well to people motivating me by being mean, but I would have taken pretty much anything at that point because I really just wanted it to be over. I told her that I really wanted to beat my time from the Sioux Falls Marathon a few weeks earlier because I knew I was in better shape this time and I should be able to, so that was our new goal.

60162_10151076786332916_1109668604_n Look, Patty is so mean that I’m smiling at mile 25.5. She’s totally awful.

A great deal of discussion went into whether we would be jumping across the finish line or not. It was decided that we would try. Then we got to the finish line area and realized there wasn’t really a finish line. It was just kind of a chute with a clock, so we didn’t know where to jump. We did jump, but there’s pretty much no way it was captured on film since we think we jumped about 10 feet before the actual finish line. Oh well.

3413_4160771111705_2024630624_n Deep thinking about when to jump.

We ended up beating my Sioux Falls time by over 7 minutes, so that mission was accomplished. Even though the T-Rex of early spring would have been totally embarrassed by my 5:16 finishing time, I decided to look on the bright side of this one. First, we were on pace for well under 5 hours for most of the race. Second, even though my stomach gave out on me, my legs felt better and I felt faster than I had in Sioux Falls. Third, the course was probably one of the toughest I have run, and I still went faster than I have in any race since the end of April. I can’t complain about that. I’m on the right path.

As I laid on the little cot thing in the medical tent waiting for my stomach to stop hate-spiraling, Kate looked up at me from her spot on the grass and said “Hey Danielle – you know we get to do this again tomorrow, right?” and laughed. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.