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Vancouver Marathon Recap Part 2-Desperately Seeking Boston

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Disney Wine & Dine Race Recap—-The Race and the Party!

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Just last week, I was down in Disney World for my first RunDisney event, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. I already wrote about the day leading up to the race, so now onto the main event!
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My friends and I went out to the shuttle by the Yacht Club at 7 pm, and were on one of the first buses. The shuttle system was smooth and we arrived at ESPN Wide World of Sports in no time. Now, I was expecting large crowds, as I knew there was anywhere from 12,000-14,000 runners, but I guess it was still a shock to see the large masses congregating in the field that evening. We headed over to bag check and then proceeded to a line up for a photo with Chip & Dale.
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After that, we enjoyed the pre-race DJ and even rocked some dance moves during warmup. While the evening air felt cool for Florida standards, even just dancing around for a few minutes caused me to realize the humidity was lurking. Had to stop! At about 9 pm, I parted ways from Teresa and Kristen, got in the porta potty line up, and then headed to my corral.
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This was a night race, with the first corral starting at 10 pm. There were Corrals from the letters A-L. Runners were placed in corrals based on prior race time submissions. I was fortunate enough to start in Corral A, and was also lucky enough to be positioned right next to the main stage before the race! While I was standing over here for approximately 40 minutes, time flew by as I had tons to watch and listen to. I was just soaking it all in!
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Pretty soon after the National Anthem, the countdown started. Less than 2 minutes….1minute….30 seconds…..Runners, Setttttttttttttt……..GO!
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I barreled out of the corral and my net time ended up only being 4 seconds off of gun time. I had the motivation and mindset to aim for my PR, beating 1:41:07, and even going sub 1:40. Going to say right now, I really thought I could. But within 2 miles I could feel sweat pouring off my body like I was in a sauna with a fan on me. I was still going to give it my all though!

I knew from looking at RunDisney pictures, videos and other blogs online that the entertainment on course would be awesome. Yes, it is a little different on the highway portions since it is pitch black night outside, but as you neared each mile marker, bright lights and music welcomed you. Whenever there was a character meet and greet on the roadways, there would be giant lights by them, and you could see these blocks away. I just kept my head forward and eyes on the next “icon” coming up at all times.

This race goes through three of the four Disney parks—-Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Going through Animal Kingdom at night was awesome as a Disney parks fan, since it is usually only opened each day until 5 or 7 pm! The big loop around the parking lot on our way out was visually tough and deceiving though—-felt like I would never be back on the road! When we got back on out, we headed to Hollywood Studios.

All the volunteers at water stops on the course were so friendly and excited. Since I was dressed up in costume, it was fun to hear the delayed reaction to that I was Mary Poppins! I think some people only got it when they saw my back!
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For as small as Hollywood Studios is, RunDisney really gets you to wind a lot through the park! I was very excited to see the Osbourne Christmas lights, as I have never been to Disney during the season. After exiting this park, in my eyes you were in the home stretch. The reason why—-you hit the path that takes you to Boardwalk, Swan & Dolphin and Yacht & Beach. This pathway is of extreme symbolic importance to me, as they built it when I was in high school, and my parents and I would often walk it to the Studios instead of taking the boat. I even wrote a blog reminiscing how my dad and I tried to “Beat the Boat.” You can find that here:
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With those memories in my mind, I mustered the energy to keep on trucking, even though that by now I knew I wouldn’t be making 1:40. My eyes swelled up with tears as I ran on the wooden walkway in front of Yacht Club, Stormalong Bay, Beach Club, and in around the backside of EPCOT’s World Showcase. As we entered into EPCOT next to Journey into Imagination, I knew I could push myself this last bit. It was very cool to run through Future World, because while running through the other parks and on property was awesome, you didn’t have the spectators there yelling for you. After running past Spaceship Earth I knew the end was near, since we were exiting and heading near parking lots. I couldn’t wait to finish!

Coming down the dark straightaway to the music blaring and the crowds screaming was incredible! The photo below was taken as I crossed the line, and I have ordered a collage from Marathon Foto capturing four on-route moments, two of which I included in this post. I finished with a 1:44:33, which is my second-best half marathon time.

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I was hot, sweaty, tired, shaking and a ball of emotions. My first RunDisney event was complete and I couldn’t have been more impressed. From the Expo, to the transportation between venues, to the entertainment and pre-race fun, the route itself, the medals, the swag…..it was definitely magical!
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The Wine & Dine Half caps off with a runner celebration in World Showcase, deemed as part of the “Ultimate Runner’s Night Out.” I changed in the provided change rooms, picked up my complimentary beverage, and wandered back to World Showcase. Since I was done rather early, I didn’t have much trouble making it to the back of the park, but anyone who ran this race will know that the “crosswalk” created to manage flow of traffic through the race was quite stressful. When I got in the back of the park, I texted Teresa and Kristen that there was no way I would be able to make it back to the front to find them when finished, as I made it to the point of no return. I told them to tell me what country to meet them at when finished.
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I could talk tons about the after party, but instead I will post the video created by RunDisney. As I waited for Teresa and Kristen, I wandered from Canada to France and back, where I got photos with the penguins from Mary Poppins, enjoyed some food and drink at the booths, and was interviewed by RunDisney! They had shot me greeting the penguins, but it wasn’t until after I had gotten a Leffe Brune beer from the Belgium booth and was texting Teresa when they approached me for an interview.

Click here to see my 15 minutes of fame—-my drinking, running and Disney “career” is now basically complete!

So what if the first thing I say is “I love beer!”? I do have to note that this whole “Beer, Disney, Running” mantra was written to me via email from my husband on Friday of the trip. He had said, quote “Booze, running and Disney. This crap really is tailor made for you.”

Cheers to a fantastic Wine & Dine Half Marathon 2013!

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