** BQ!! ** Race Recap: 2014 Steamtown Marathon

I freaking qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon yesterday!  All that post-IMLP marathon training paid off!  And this finish line picture pretty much says it all. 

Holy crap!  I did it!  Not gonna lie here - I wasn't entirely confident I could do it.  My running has gotten so much stronger and faster (that's what she said), but still ... just 10 weeks post-Ironman Lake Placid?  A 3:45 finish when my prior personal best was 3:56 and change?  Maintaining no slower than 8:34 per mile over 26.2 miles?  But my long runs were feeling really good and my legs were strong and the closer that I got to the race, the more I wanted to just do it and run it and BQ.  And ... I did!

My finish time was 3:42:48.  That's 8:30 per mile!  A BQ time for my age group in April 2016 (which is the next Boston Marathon that's open) is 3:45.  YES!!!  I did it, ya'll! 

Qualifying for Boston has always been one of those goals that I knew I'd work hard to achieve but thought it would take awhile.  At the beginning of this year, I really hadn't planned to even attempt a BQ, but as time went on, I suspected that I would need something big to train for after Ironman.  I worried that I had lost some speed in those last months of training for IMLP, because our coach had us do the run/walk intervals, and it had been a good long time since I ran without stopping.  But, Bill and Amy encouraged me to try, saying you'll be in the best shape of your life - go for it!  I continued to work with my IMLP coach, because I did not want to get injured and I recognized that training for this kind of a goal in such a short period of time after an Ironman might be dicey and pretty taxing on the body.

I picked Steamtown for two reasons: (1) the timing was perfect, as it was smack dab between IMLP and the Philly Marathon (where I'm pacing my bestie Heather at her first full marathon) and (2) the course was supposedly pretty fast with mostly downhill <-- truth.  Steamtown, which is a point to point race from Forest City, Pennsylvania to Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a relatively small marathon (about 2500 racers) and is definitely a net-downhill race.  Before I get into the race recap, I will say that the race is probably my favorite marathon ever.  Yes, the BQ helps, but the course, the race support, the volunteers ... it was all so great.  You essentially run from little town to little town and everyone in those towns comes out and cheers you on.  I have never seen anything like it.  I will absolutely run this course again!  

And another quick aside, Amy came to cheer me on.  With the point to point race, she had to get in the car and drive from viewing point to viewing point and do a little runner scavenger hunt.  I knew generally where she would be and she was there! With cowbell! And signs! OMG the signs.  They were so great.

She also made me dinner the night before and drove me to and from the race.  #TeamAwesomeIsStillAwesome.  

As another aside, just to give an example of how great the area's support of this race is, the local high school where the race start was had these adorable pictures from the elementary school about runners.

My favorite one is "runners are as strong as a tiger."  I am absolutely as strong as a tiger.  

The race starts at Forest City High School.  Before the race, we hung out in the gym, which was nice.  When you got there, you were greeted by the high school's cheerleading squad and a ton of volunteers and were given a bottle of water.  What the what?  This was nice, but after awhile, I was ray to go.  Hence fake-rectangular-smile:

It was 37 degrees at the start.

Weather was supposed to warm gradually to the mid-50s by race end time and was supposed to be sunny.  I knew I would be hot in anything but a tank, but the pre-start was super cold (even for me).  Thankfully Amy and I DIYed these little arm warmers out of socks from the 1980s.  Sweet.  

I wore my new sparkly headband (naturally), my SOAS tri tank (more in a second) and my favorite Nike shorts circa 2002.  I wore the tri tank because the race did not have official nutrition stops and there was no Gu on the course.  I need Gu when I run, and my fuel belt really only holds 4 and I needed 6.  So tri tank it was because of the pockets in the back.  I took the arm warmers off before the race started.  I was a little chilly in the beginning (my hands more than anything) but by mile 3, I was perfectly comfortable.  The DIY arm warmers was a suggestion of the guys at Philly Bikesmith when we were training for Placid.  It is brilliant and no less than 10 people stopped me in the starting chute "Wait. Are those socks??? That's brilliant!". It is.  I am so buying a pack of men's tube socks at Target and will use them as throw away arm warmers.  So much better than wasting a real pair.  

And here we go! 

The race starts with a Civil War cannon, which was so freaking cool.  Mile 1 was kind of a sh*tshow.  So crowded.  So so crowded.  So slow.  However, I am thankful for the slow sh*tshow because it forced me to slow to 8:31 pace.  And that was a very smart [not by me] choice.

Mile 1:  8:31:24
Mile 2:  8:23:24

I kept to the race plan in the first two miles.  Good job, me!  The race plan was to start a little slow - maybe 8:25/8:30.  And then run the remaining 25.2 miles between 8:20 and 8:25.  No faster.  That ... didn't happen.  But it was all controlled.  I knew I needed to hover around 8:31/mile average to BQ, so I set my Garmin's Virtual Partner to 8:31/mile pace and would check it every so often to make sure I was on track or ahead.  

Mile 3:  8:20:90
Mile 4:  8:17:93
Mile 5:  8:15:02

Yah.  See? Yah.  The course is no joke: it is down-freaking-hill for the first 10 miles.  And I am not talking about a la la la little hill.  It is all downhill.  Just down.  At first you are like yes! I am flying like a baby deer on a bicycle!  And then you realize that it only feels that way and baby deer needs to chill the heck out.  I had been warned by countless people about the downhill, so I reined it in (kind of).

Mile 6:  8:23:04
Mile 7:  8:36:93

Miles 6 and 7 I decided to compensate a little for the preceding fast miles.  Around mile 7 was a great sign "this is still way easier than labor and delivery".  Word and I laughed out loud and gave the lady props.

I was feeling ridiculously good and strong here.  So I tried to maintain an 8:20 pace.  I succeeded.

Mile 8:   8:20:69
Mile 9:   8:20:55
Mile 10: 8:18:65
Mile 11: 8:21:33

At the beginning of Mile 12, I decided to break up the pace and give myself a little breather.  Plus, I realized, I still had over half the race ahead of me.  More than once, I calmly admonished myself out loud while running "slow.  slow.  slow."  Mile 12 was one of those miles.

Mile 12:  8:29:46

And then rebound!  The little breather at Mile 12 did the trick because I was RAY TO RACE.  The next miles I can't even describe.  They were amazing and I felt great.  And they were on a packed cinder trail, which was a welcome change for my feet.  I used to train on the Wissahickon Trail in Philly for years, so I'm not unaccustomed to this kind of running.  I got to the 13.1 mark (i.e., half marathon), and my split was 1:50 and change.  I knew I needed to hang on to this pace.  I felt up to it.

Mile 13:  8:15:24
Mile 14:  8:13:08
Mile 15:  8:15:08
Mile 16:  8:20:26

Yay.  I saw Amy around Mile 16 and she was holding the "Hi I'm Shanna" sign.  I literally laughed out loud and it made the next few miles much better because I was still laughing.  Also, somewhere around mile 14 they were handing out ice pops.  ICE POPS.  I have never had this on a race and ZOMG amazing.   The high school kid who handed it to me was like "ice pop?" and I was all GIVE ME THAT ICE POP I CANNOT BELIEVE IT.  He was afraid, and rightly so.  I didn't eat all of it but I must have made an impression because the guy behind me was like "wow, yeah, ice pops huh" and I was like HULK SMASH ICE POP.

Hulk Smash Ice Pop worked.  The next few miles were still really strong.

Mile 17:  8:10:36
Mile 18:  8:15:78
Mile 19:  8:23:23

Once you hit Mile 20, the uphill climbs start.  As with the downhills, I had been warned about some significant climbs at Mile 20, Mile 24 and Mile 25. 

Mile 20:  8:41:27

Mile 20 was my first mile above my targeted 8:31 pace.  This was a hill, but not a bad one.  It was a long, gradual hill that wasn't painful or bad at all.  Honestly, it felt kind of good after all the descending.  

Mile 21:  8:34:77
Mile 22:  8:19:99

Miles 21 and 22 were back to my targeted pace.  I just kept on going.  Running strong.   And then I hit Mile 23 and the final 5K. I looked at my watch, did some quick math and realized that if I ran 10 minute miles from here to the finish, I could BQ.  This took the pressure off considerably, but I have learned the hard way that a race ain't over til it's over.  So I kept pushing.  I'll note that at this point in the race, I had yet to stop and take a walk break.  This was a first for me! On prior marathons, I've usually needed a walk break around Mile 20.  It was also around these mile in the race where I could see the wrecks and effects (descriptions not rap group) from the early 10 miles of downhills.  Tons, and I mean tons, of runners were pulled to the side stretching their quads and hamstrings.  While that did not happen to me at the race or even after the race, because I had controlled the downhills (and I think my body is accustomed to downhills given I live in a super hilly area), I woke up this morning and holy moly cow - my quads were on fire and super tight.  My quads were totally like the "ha ha!" Simpsons guy ... "ha ha! you thought your quads were going to be totally fine! ha ha!"  

Mile 23:  8:44:03
Mile 24:  8:43:97

Yep - slowing down here.  My goal was to run as fast as possible but while still under complete control.  I wanted these miles to be focused and measured and strong.  I knew that I still had a few miles to go and a few uphills and I wasn't about to do anything stupid to mess that up.

Mile 25:  8:55:70

In Mile 25 there was a huge hill and I took my first, and only, walk-break.  I needed some Gatorade, as my bottle in my fuel belt was empty, it was the middle of a hill and I figured that I could afford a 15 second walk break.  This was a good choice. I was able to finish the Gatorade and actually drink it (vs the splash in the face and try to lap it up like a deranged puppy dog and dash that I did at other aid stations when I grabbed the Gatorade) and took a moment to get the legs geared up for more running. This was my slowest mile.  But still under 9:00. Yes!

Mile 26:  8:41:69

Mile 26 had more hills but I knew I was almost done.  There was a huge hill to the finish, but it was lined with spectators who were incredible and you could hear the finish.  They kept yelling, "just over that hill and you're home!".  I ran up the hill, hit the top, saw the 26 mile sign and ...

Mile 26.2:  7:57:00

Yah.  Sprinted like there was a clown car with a handful of mimes and mascots on top chasing me.  I ran hard and then when I saw the finish clock, I pushed harder than I can remember ever pushing at a finish line.  Amy snapped these shots.

When I realized that I had done it, which was before I hit the finish mat, I started to cry and put my hands up and just screamed.  It was surreal.  And incredible.  I crossed the line and when the volunteer put that medal around my neck (possibly one of the best feelings ever in any race, BTW), I grabbed her and then yelled, "I JUST BQed!".   She gave me a huge smile and an enormous hug.  That's the kind of race it was.  Thank you, finish line lady, for cuddling with me a little at the finish line.  Also, thank you Amy for bringing me a Sprite!  I cuddled with that too.  Amy said, "don't open the Sprite fast.  It's been in my pocket for awhile" and I was like WHAT SPRITE OK SPRITE and opened it fast and it was like an exploding fountain of Sprite.  Nice. 

I will absolutely do this race again.  The course (and the variety of terrain and elevation), the spectators and incredible amount of enthusiasm they brought to the day, and the organization of the race itself was truly spectacular.  They even put together a guide for spectators and how to find suggested viewpoints with directions from viewpoint to viewpoint (which came in handy for Amy).  

All of the stars were aligned for a wonderful race: great course, great weather, strong legs, happy runner and happy belly.  I am thrilled.  My running journey has been filled with amazing twists and turns and lots of hard work.  I finished my first marathon in 2004 in 4:39:22, which is almost an hour slower than the one I ran yesterday.  I'm planning to run a handful of (Boston Marathon qualifier) marathons in the early part of next year just to see if I can't go even faster. 

Needless to say, 2016 is a long ways away.  So, while I'm psyched and thrilled to have my BQ, I'm going to keep on running -- trying to get faster and faster and faster.  Nothing is impossible.  Not even reining in your inner baby deer on a bicycle while descending for 10 miles.  :)  

See you swoon, 

Oh, and if you're interested in the absolutely magical tunes that helped me nab that BQ, they are right here below.  Not all of these songs came on, but the shuffle was spot-on perfect.  It was fast when I needed and slow when I needed and just plain awesome.  I admit that I played the theme from the Greatest American Hero twice.  It felt right.  Feel free to take some or all of this playlist for your own use.  It will make you fun fast and happy.  Or maybe it will make you feel rage.  

Ain't No Rest For the Wicked  (Cage the Elephant )
All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor)
All Night Long (Lionel Richie feat. Jimmy Buffett)
All Out of Love (Air Supply)
Annie's Song (John Denver)
Baby, Now That I've Found You (The Foundations)
Baby, What a Big Surprise (Chicago)
Best Day of My Life (American Authors)
Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke)
Break My Stride (Matthew Wilder)
Can't Hold Us (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)
Chiquitita (ABBA)
Come a Little Bit Closer (Jay & The Americans)
Dancing On the Ceiling (Lionel Richie)
Danny's Song (Kenny Loggins)
Diamond Girl (Seals & Crofts)
Different Drum (The Stone Poneys)
Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Misérables Original London Cast)
Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (Dionne Warwick)
Does Your Mother Know (ABBA)
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee)
Double Dutch Bus (Frankie Smith)
Dreams (The Cranberries)
Dynamite  (Taio Cruz)
Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant)
Emotion (Samantha Sang)
Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
Freedom Street (Ken Boothe)
Get Closer (Seals & Crofts)
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (ABBA)
Gloria (Laura Branigan)
Grazing In the Grass (The Friends of Distinction)
Happy Together (The Turtles)
Heart and Soul  (T'Pau)
Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) (Air Supply)
Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler)
I Got a Name (Jim Croce)
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston)
I'm Coming Out (Diana Ross)
If I Had $1,000,000  (Barenaked Ladies)
If You Leave Me Now (Chicago)
It Takes Two (Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock)
It's My Turn (Diana Ross)
Jumpin', Jumpin' (Destiny's Child)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA)
Laid  (James)
Let It Go (Demi Lovato)
Let's Hang On (The Four Seasons)
Long Long Time (Linda Ronstadt)
The Longest Time (Billy Joel)
Love In An Elevator (Aerosmith)
My Way (Elvis Presley)
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship)
Party In the U.S.A.  (Miley Cyrus)
Penny Lane (The Beatles)
Push It (Salt-n-Pepa)
Rainbow Connection (Kenny Loggins)
Reflections (Diana Ross & The Supremes)
Rock Your Body (Justin Timberlake)
Saturday In the Park (Chicago)
SexyBack (feat. Timbaland) (Justin Timberlake)
Shadows of the Night (Pat Benatar )
Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) (Beyoncé)
Slide  (The Goo Goo Dolls)
Sloop John B (The Beach Boys)
Solitary Man (Neil Diamond)
Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)
Stolen Dance (Milky Chance)
Take a Chance On Me (ABBA)
Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
Talking In Your Sleep (The Romantics)
Theme from "Greatest American Hero" (Believe It or Not) (Joey Scarbury)
Then Came You (The Spinners & Dionne Warwick)
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' (Nancy Sinatra)
Unbelievable (EMF)
While You See a Chance (Steve Winwood)
You Are the Woman (Firefall)
You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (Lou Rawls)


  1. CONGRATS!!! That is absolutely amazing, what a huge accomplishment!

  2. INCREDIBLE!! The pictures of you at the finish are pure happiness. And Amy has officially raised the bar in signage creation.