I actually was able to fall asleep at a somewhat normal time (10:00 PM) the night before the race. I only woke up once, albeit in a full body sweat (probably from nerves) but quickly went back to bed until my 5:30 alarm went. I have never gotten out of bed to an alarm as fast as I did right then. I went through my morning pre-race rituals, as I needed to be down to Erin’s room and set to go by 6:45. Her friend Rob was meeting us at this time also, and the three of us would make our way to the closest transit station (a 10 minute walk) and head to the race start. At the expo, they had given all the racers a free transit pass so we didn’t have to drive in the morning; anyone going into the station at this time on a Sunday was all heading the same place, so they didn’t even bother taking the passes. It was a short 15-20 minute train ride, and then a 10 minute walk, and we were at the start in Queen Elizabeth Park. Met up with Bob, dropped off our bags, and got set to head to the corrals.
We were in the front ORANGE corral and had gotten there with lots of time. Even after they had everyone move up to the start I never felt crowded. The elites were let off about 30 seconds before the general runners, and once we started, we immediately had room to spread out. That is positive thing #1—never feeling crowded on the course! I was going to be running with Bob during the race, and we set our goal pace at 7:50 a mile. I was a little uneasy about this, as originally I was training for an 8:00 minute a mile, but my previous races and training runs had indicated that I could perhaps push myself on this course. The first 5 miles were very straight, all business, routes in commercial areas. There were spectators surrounding us in area, and I was happy I was already finding my pace. My first five miles were in 7:44, 7:50, 7:41, 7:33, and 7:44.
At mile 6 we met the “Camosum Hill Challenge,” which was a times 1,230 metre portion of the route up the steepest incline. This was by no means any hill like we were used to in Lethbridge, but it was a challenge nonetheless. There was no use trying to keep my pace at the 7:50 in this spot, so we just kept running comfortably, finishing mile 6 in 8:10. Miles 7-10 then brought us through some other commercial/residential streets, and we eventually wound over to reaching an edge over the water (which you couldn’t see yet as it was lined with trees). There was also a little quick turnaround spot around mile 8, where Bob and I saw both Erin and Rob fairly close behind us. We ran miles 7-10 in 7:52, 7:52, 7:48, and 7:37.
The next portion of the race had approximately three downhill sections, which wound by University of BC, by Wreck Beach, and ended up in more residential areas right before the Burrard Street Bridge. I was feeling very strong, but still hesitant, as there was still a lot of mileage ahead. Bob was constantly keeping conversation with me, which kept my head in the game, and not overthinking if I was going to regret my pace. We ran 11-17 in 7:51, 7:43, 7:34, 7:49, 7:47, 7:40, and 7:46. It is worth noting that my half marathon split was a 1:42.08. I was on pace to run a 3:24.16, if I could run a perfect second half.
While we had met our hill challenge earlier, I would have to say that the Burrard Street Bridge was mentally tougher. It was a highway bridge overpass and was quite long. It felt never-ending. Bob ran into his brother on this portion, who was out watching Bob’s sister-in-law, so we knew she had to not be far behind. Bob had tried finding her at the start of the race but couldn’t meet up. I was nearing mile 20 when I knew I had to just keep staying positive, because everything was lining up perfectly. In Calgary, I bonked at mile 17. Hitting my miles 18-20 all in 7:46, 7:56, and 7:50 was very encouraging. I was starting to get nervous, though, because it was mile 22 that I broke down in Edmonton. On top of this, as we headed towards the beaches and Stanley Park, I lost Bob. Well, didn’t lose him. He told me he had to stop to use the bathroom, and he’d catch up, so I kept on going. But he never caught back up. Turns out, yes….I could see him behind me at parts on the Seawall when I looked back, but he ended up hanging around near one of the beaches to see if he’d find his sister-in-law. Bob said he knew he left me in good shape and he could have caught up to me if need be. I don’t know about that, because I started doubting myself. I quickly got my head back in the game and realized I only had a 10km left…I had ran a 10km race the weekend before. A 10km is nothing! The Stanley Park area was lonely and winding, but flat and had a cool breeze. When I first started on this path by the beach, I honestly shut my eyes for a split second and took a deep breath in through my nose. The smell of the ocean and the sand reminded me of when we used to go to the Gulf Shores in Alabama. I grew up going there as a kid, with my mom and dad, my grandma and grandpa, and the last trip including my best friend Ali. The Gulf Shores holds a special place in my heart, and picturing that beach and taking a moment to reflect was all I needed to push on.
I kept moving down that walkway taking in the surroundings. I passed a few people along the way, as many were starting to lose it, but I kept feeling good. One of the funnier moments in this section was the table two girls had set up with a sign that said WEED! Only in BC, I guess. We rounded near the parts of the Stanley Park Seawall where Erin, Rob and I had had dinner the night before and I was feeling stronger because of the familiarity. I could see the expo building in the distance across the bay, and before I knew it, I was running by Yacht Clubs and heading into the Downtown Vancouver core. I felt so energized coming up this small path in a garden onto the streets of downtown Vancouver. There were more and more people lined up on this final stretch. I honestly did start tearing up during this final half a mile, but I held it together (mostly) as I ran into the finisher chute. I ran miles 21-26 in 7:57, 7:55, 7:52, 7:53, 7:53, and 7:52, and I crossed the finish line in 3:24.56….WELL under my Boston Qualifying standard of 3:35.00, well under my goal pace of 3:30.00, and even more under my prior personal fastest marathon time from August of 3:44.59!
I was shaking at the finish line, I was smiling, and I was happy. I called my husband first, and told him to post on Facebook what I did, as my fingers couldn’t type it. I called my mom and told her too, as she was a nervous wreck since the last timing mat that was posted online was from around 37.5 km, with a time of 2:57.24. My mom was also so confused with the kilometre distances and paces, so she was just anxiously awaiting a phone call. I did not venture too far from the finish area as I wanted to wait for Bob, and he crossed in 3:28.55. I was so fortunate to have him running by my side during the race, and more importantly, convincing me that hitting a 7:50 pace was possible. I did not just hit that pace, I beat that pace! Erin finished shortly after that too, running a 3:30.49, her personal best and a Boston Qualifier! Bob’s sister in law also got a Boston Qualifying time of 3:29.49. It was an overall successful day for all of us desperately seeking Boston.
I met up with Tim and Alex, who had been waiting for me near the finish line. Tim had brought me some celebratory beers and we headed down near the Olympic torch for photos and to find a spot to relax. I eventually headed back to our hotel to get my post race massage, clean up, and we headed out to lunch at a pub in Kitts Beach. I did not want to leave. This day was beautiful weather-wise, scenery wise, friend-wise, and just plain overall one of the best days of my life. Hard work pays off. That’s all I can say. I didn’t give up. I had tried two times before and failed. But I went out more determined than ever to achieve something that has always been a bit out of reach. What’s next….well, I already booked my hotel for Boston, as my qualifying time will allow me to register two weeks ahead of everyone else. I will take it easy for a bit (I am doing the Calgary 50 km at the end of the month though….) and I will enjoy the summer. I am not sure what I want my goal to be at Boston, other than completion, but I am thinking I could challenge myself to shave a bit of time off. Shaving a bit of time off won’t qualify me for the Olympics or become an Elite, but it will give me something to strive for and work for.
I am Andrea Lammers-Pottage. I am 30 years old. I am a wife, daughter, cousin, niece, teacher, and friend. And now I can also proudly say that I am a Boston Marathon Qualified Runner. Je Me Souviens, forever and ever.