my first second marathon, race day

If you missed it, there is a part one to this story. It tells the harrowing tale of a cross country journey, meeting (and making an ass of myself in front of) Bart Yasso and the bizarre sub culture of elite water bottle decorating parties...go check it out
I woke up before my alarm on race day. The rain and wind beating against the dorm window. It was marathon day! I took a deep breath and tried to calm the eff down. I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the common area where I heated up my little container of oatmeal and ate a banana. 

My second roommate had gone to bed before I came back the night before so I still hadn't met her. She bolted out of her room about 15 minutes after I'd been up. I didn't have my contacts in so I could only read the frantic tone from her blurry body signals as she rushed to and fro. 

Be calm and detach
My other roommate had left her bag for me to take down to the warmup area so she could run down later. Our shuttle would arrive soon. I shoveled oatmeal in my mouth and tried to chew calmly and swallow. Everything was heightened. I tried not to let emotion in. My excitement and thrill over being here, healthy and ready to race was bubbling around inside me. I knew I needed to detach. It was difficult. 

Not only did I think marathons would never be possible for me because of the chronic residual pain from my broken back, but last year during Memorial Day Weekend I had an awakening. Like most awakenings, it was really a wake-up call brought on by a brush with (should have been) tragedy. It's personal, but my gratitude for being alive and well and about to race a marathon was burned pure by the memory. 

I knew that emotions are a waste of energy. I tried to return myself to amoeba state time and time again. Zone out until it's time to zone in. It was impossible, so instead I tried to reach a relaxed state of gratitude.

We dragged all our bags downstairs. The shuttle pulled up. We climbed inside to Lyman's announcement, "The Brazilians are missing." I couldn't help but imagine this piece of strange news as a sort of mystery adventure. A-ha! The plot thickens. I had our van laughing by the time we pulled up the staging area, without the elusive Brazilians.

The elites all camped out on the floor of a physical therapy office. Some nervously glancing around, others seemed relaxed. We stayed there for an hour. I made small talk and tried to relax. After an hour we got in the vans again and headed up the hill to our little tent to wait out the next hour. 

Shit happens... or not
My big morning drama was ... race morning poop! I didn't have one. Where was it!? And more terrifying, where would it show up?! Hopefully not a mile 17. I would have given anything for a little race morning poop. But we were lining up and its chance was gone. 

I saw my sis at the start. Both of us dressed in our trashbag warmups. We hugged and I told her to have fun. I couldn't believe this was it. After months of preparation it was minutes from the gun going off.  No stopping this crazy train now...

We had the two minute warning and trashbags and extra clothes were flying. The rain beat down. I breathed in and out. The air horn sounded and ... this was it!!

The course starts by winding around downtown before spitting us out on the highway for a little out and back then coming back through town and out before turning and driving us into a northern wind for about 8 miles then twisting through neighborhoods before dumping out on the bike path headed to the finish. 

Mile 1 - 6:36
Mile 2 - 6:20
Mile 3 - 6:30
Mile 4 - 6:24 
Mile 5 - 6:29

So far so good. My plan was to go out in 5 -8 in 6:35s. This part was twisty and I was cruising on downhills. So the pace was a little crazy.
So fun! I could do this all day!

Mile 6 - 6:39
Mile 7 - 6:37
Mile 8 - 6:35

Get calm
Around mile 8, my right calf is starting to cramp. I missed a fuel stop. I tried not to freak out. I breath out the word caaaalm, until I almost believe it. 

Mile 9 - 6:42
Mile 10 - 6:18
Mile 11 - 6:24
Mile 12 - 6:38
Mile 13- 6:28

Okay, a few weird miles in there. The highway was 1/2 into the wind and when we turned around the wind was at our back BUT the hill was going up. I hit the half marathon in 1:25:__ This wasn't good news. I knew I needed to see 1:23:__. As I come to that realization we hit the wind straight on. I start laughing and comment on the absurdity of the wind to my fellow runner. He is not amused. Luckily this is caught by the magic of race photography in a series of photos I've entitled: I'm Hilarious, He Just Didn't Hear Me

For the next 13.1 miles we venture into some upper 6:30s, touching briefly on some high 6:50s. This is getting real. Real cold, real crampy, real real. 

Mile 14 - 6:37
Mile 15 - 6:50
Mile 16 - 6:54
Mile 17 - 6:41

The fun is done. 
Somewhere in there "the big hill" happened. Probably where I sped up. I love me some hills. But like I said, it was getting real. My legs were fully cramptastic by mile 18. Robot legs. 

Mile 18 - 6:23
Mile 19 - 6:30
Mile 20 - 6:40

Either I'm crying or trying not to see those shorts...maybe both. But I AM doing a flawless imitation of a grumpy frog.

Passing the shorts, firmly entering the pain place for good.

Mile 21 - 6:46
Mile 22 - 6:56
Mile 23 - 6:46

Anti acid: can't run with it, can't run without it
Around mile 17, I grabbed my water bottle with liquid anti acid taped to the side in a baggie. As one might expect this went horribly. I couldn't get the baggy off the bottle so I ripped into it with my teeth, sucking the Mylanta through a tiny hole in the bag. Then I tried to drink the water bottle as the Mylanta flew in the wind all over my face. Yeah.... luckily I was wearing gloves and did a decent face clean-up job.... I'll just leave it at that. 

Get tough, get tougher, hang on
I could title all these photos 'here I am looking like I'm dry heaving next to random dudes while running'. This is around mile 19? 21? where somehow I'm passing women. I made the fatal error of passing two too soon at mile 22. Yeah that's enough to, two, toos for one sentence. My robot legs weren't ready to fight. I went from 6th to 4th and back again in the blink of an eye.

Mile 24 - 6:36
Mile 25- 6:38
Mile 26 - 6:33

That moment when you KNOW you will make it - 5 feet from the finish line
I ugly-tearlessly-cried from mile 25 on, I'm glad this photo missed it. I crossed the line in 2:54:05. 

My sister charged through the line in 3:02:59. She doubled over and when she looked up at me holding out a water all she could say was, "What WAS that!?" I have no idea. But I think I love it. 

I wasn't sure I was really 6th (the last place for prizes) until a girl handed me my medal and a big plastic card to wear that said 6th. I tried not to cry. I have never been so happy with a 6 in all my life. 

The elites had a little tent with sandwiches and drinks near the stage. I'm telling you ... so spoiled. We changed into warm clothes and waited for awards. I helped my sister over to the tent with me. Her feet were in a lot of pain. I didn't see any of my family, I knew I'd find them later. 

The awards were very special. To have Bill Rodgers, Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso congratulate each recipient was pretty unbelievable. Bill Rodgers is so nice. He told me I had a good race. Unforgettable for sure. Below I think he's just asking why Oiselle doesn't make that hoodie for men. 

Maybe soon, Bill
Cheers to crazy marathoners!
The day was hard and I learned a lot. I was happy with what I brought, I didn't shy away from pain. And now I have a better idea of my threshold. I look forward to digging and seeing how far into the pain I can go. Yeah ... this sport is messed up. 

Thank you to my family who spend their whole morning in the freezing rain to cheer! It made all the difference. Thank you to Owen for the constant support. All the volunteers that made the Vermont City Marathon amazing. To Lyman for taking care of us all weekend. Totally spoiled for all other races. My coach, Tommy Nohillly, for kicking my arse all winter. Nuun for race day hydration. And my Oiselle family, because I wouldn't be running without you.  


  1. AMAZING!! you are an inspiration! Congrats from Scotland (where weather is like that most days!) ;)

  2. WOW! I loved this whole story! It's great to read the inside of the elites. YOU ARE SO AMAZING! I just really loved reading this! Great job Sarah!!!

  3. Congrats. I love your description of telling that man jokes and your quads are literally amazing. Cannot wait to hear about your next race adventure.

  4. Congrats on a great race! What a triumphant second marathon!

  5. Congratulations on your race (and your sister's- speediness is apparently genetic)! Love the race photos, I recently had one taken of me while I was coughing. Race face is the best!

  6. What an epic journey! So, so happy for you! Congrats to your sister, too. It sounds like she had quite a morning as well. Maybe you could have her do a guest post so we could get her perspective? Oh, and I LOVE your pain faces. Lets me feel the race with you!

  7. Congratulations, Sarah!!! You powered through and got yourself an amazing finish time!! You got some really great pictures too :)

    Also, the love both of your marathon posts and learning the inside and outs of the elite atmosphere.

  8. The series of "Hey! 436! Come back here!" are pretty hysterical. Great race recap and congrats on a fantastic first raced marathon. :)

    What are the shorts you're rocking? They look like a lighter, stripped-down stride? Fall 2013?

    1. Oiselle is going SEAMLESS in July with the Flyte line. These shorts are ahhhmazing.

  9. Great recap and great race Sarah!! Your photos are priceless and really show that you gave it all you got that morning...congrats!!

  10. Great insight on the world of elites! I saw you leaving (I recognized the shwings and then looked up to see the oiselle), but didn't want to bother you in case you were in post-race hell. Wish I had now! Looking forward to those pjs as well :)

    1. I think you said hi! I was deep in misery thinking about showering and being peppered with questions from my mama. Haha, next time we'll meet.

  11. Awesome job. I'm going to have to try that mylanta trick in my next race. My stomach is always an issues

  12. Congratulations on such a successful race! Really enjoyed following along; it felt like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing this amazing experience (and photos).

  13. I'm so glad the MIA race poop didn't come back to haunt you! Congrats.

  14. This was so inspiring, hilarious, and nerve racking all at the same time—so well written! Huge congrats girl, you're un-freaking-believable. I have no doubt the marathon holds big things for you.

    And no race day poop is actually one of my biggest fears... glad it didn't make an impact :)

  15. CONGRATS! Super hilarious, real-life and inspiring recap! You're amazing. I can't wait to see you continue to kick ass in the future!

  16. WOW. What an awesome recap. Congratulations on a fantastic race! It's really inspiring to read how you pushed through those tough spots, and kept a sense of humor through it all. So happy to hear there was no poo-mergency, that is seriously my biggest fear in the marathon. Congrats again!

  17. Great time and pace! Wow you are so fast! Great race photos too, even the last ones!

  18. Great recap and I love the story that the photos tell. Congrats on your finish! Love the outfit ;)

  19. Such a great writer you are, friend... thanks for sharing about your experience! You kicked butt... so proud of you! It was an honor to run our first marathon together in Chi (run not race)... I think it's safe to say I'll never be able to keep up with you again in my life (in a race), but I still look forward to many more fun runs (can you say Maryhill?!).

  20. I loved reading about your race. Congratulations on an amazing job!!!

  21. I *loved* this race report- the combination of pictures that speak at least 100 words so you only need to use about 10 and the humor and honesty is so refreshing...also, as a newer runner who is just learning what it means to race vs run, seeing the illustration of pain place and the description is so helpful in understanding that the "pain place" happens to everyone- and the elites are the ones who learn to befriend it.
    And as an aside, super excited about the new stride shorts <3 You are the epitome of everything that is incredible about Oiselle!

  22. Sharing some blogger love today. Thanks for the inspiration.

  23. You are amazing! Fantastic race, awesome recap, funny pictures...the best! I love that you captured everything about a marathon - the pain, the hilarity, the fear of pooping yourself. :) Congrats on a great performance!

  24. You have the best photo captions, seriously laughed out-loud. But really, great race and great finish!


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